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FAQs about Bacteria in Marine Systems

Related Articles: Marine BacteriaMarine Microbes, Marine Virology, Marine Mycology, Marine Protozoans, Invertebrates, Marine Plankton Taxonomy & Biological Classification, Establishing Cycling

Related FAQs: Marine Microbes, Marine Virus, Marine Funguses, Marine Protozoans, Marine PlanktonPhytoplankton, Live Rock, Establishing Biological Cycling

More life? Generally more microbes.

Bacterial Bloom In Sump 10/04/2007 Thanks for the response, I <PLEASE, all would-be queriers, capitalize your "I"!  Not only will I not have to capitalize them for you, but you can be proud of representing yourself with a capital letter.  Exciting!  -SCF> thought I'd just update you on the situation - I came home from work yesterday and found my sump absolutely crystal clear. I have yet to do a water change, so once again I am at a loss to explain what was happening. Would just like to say a BIG THANK YOU for taking the time to give your advise freely. Many Thanks. <No problem, this cloudy water happens a lot with bacterial blooms. It is possible you had a large enough food/carbon source in the sump to create a bacterial bloom that lasted as long as there was available nutrients to sustain the bloom. I use Vodka or sugar to cause a heterotrophic bacterial bloom in my tanks that usually last 48 hours to help increase these bacterial colonies. This technique is known as "carbon loading" and is a very risky endeavor. The bacteria produced in the bloom feed on nitrate ions thru respiration until the ions are no longer available and then they die back and are no longer visible.  It is possible that some type of bloom took place in your sump and ended it's life cycle with nice clear water. Continue to monitor water quality and good luck with your overall system! Rich-aka-Mr. Firemouth>

Bacteria and old LR I read one of Bob's postings in which he stated that even under ideal (I assume for the present state of the art) conditions a great deal of all the bacteria that was originally on saltwater live rock will have disappeared after 9 months to a year. <Mmm, not the bacteria... more the macro-life, surface area, soluble components of use (biominerals)...> Thus necessitating live rock replacement. Why is that? <Loss of biodiversity, alkaline reserve... all that goes with these> The disappearance of the original bacteria that is! Scarcity of their food, bad h2o conditions? Perhaps a lack of a host(s)? Thanks Much, Benjamin <As stated, not microbes as much as other, larger life. Established aquatic systems have plentiful nitrifiers... on all substances... unless these are killed or their metabolism altered... e.g. by chemicals, changes in water quality, competition... Bob Fenner> 

Lost link to Nitrobacter? Hi, You emailed me an article about your encounter with marine macrobacter (I can't recall the name of it now) a long time ago.  I thought it was a very interesting story and one I had not heard of even from people who work in aquarium stores around my area.  I bookmarked the email for future reference and it was safe there for a long time until one day about a week ago my computer suddenly "erased" all of my book marks! I was really upset because I can't get a lot of that stuff back or wouldn't recall most of it unless I could see it.  I was wondering if you can send that story to me again so that I can reference it in the future and send it to my friends if need be.  It was a story about possible diseases one can "get" from having an aquarium and what to be aware of or beware of.  It was a very enlightening and informative article.  Do you remember it?   If you do I would surely appreciate it if you could send it to me again.  Thank you very much! Sincerely, Leslie C. Wilson <Perhaps Tim Hovanec's pieces on cycling posted on Marineland.com's site? Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/estcycfaqs.htm Bob Fenner>

Bacteria In A Bottle? Crew: <Scott F. at the keyboard tonight!> I noticed Scott F's post about bacterial starters. I wanted to point out that Bio-Spira is strictly for FW. It also must be kept constantly refrigerated until use. Because of this, it is relatively expensive and it can be hard to find. PetsMart and Petco do not currently carry it in my area (SLC, UT). It is available at one independent LFS. Bio-Spira claims to be the best FW product because it contains the "right" bacteria. They seem to have good research to back this up. <You are right about this product just being available for freshwater at this time. I jumped the gun a bit...I spoke with the Marineland folks at MACNA last weekend, and they told me the marine version of this product will be available in the next few months(!)...> Cycle claims to be for SW and FW use, with the dose doubled for SW. BioZyme is a convenient powder. The FW version cones in a yellow container and the SW is in a red container. Fritz-Zyme has two versions also:  FW is #7 and SW is #9. These do not require refrigeration. I have only been able to find them online (got mine from Inland Reef in Nashua, NH). They also have research they claim shows theirs is the only SW product that works with any rapidity. <True in my experience...I like FZ9, myself...> They also make TurboStart 700 (FW) and 900 (SW) that are much more concentrated and thus faster. However, they require refrigeration. They can therefore be hard to find. I got TurboStart 900 online form Poseidon's Realm (shipped FedEx with cold packs-nice and chilled on arrival). I am encouraging my independent LFS to carry this since he already has a refrigerator for Bio-Spira. I was very satisfied with the Fritz-Zyme products' apparent efficacy. Of course, there's a lot to be said for patiently letting nature take it's course with regular cycling without additives. It costs less too. I just didn't have the time due to my need to get things up and running quickly while taking a few days off work. <I Can relate! I agree, these products have their uses, and they are no substitute for patience and time...But they do work in a pinch!> Here are some links to evaluations of these products: http://www.bioconlabs.com/bacteval.html http://www.fritzpet.com/nitrifying_bacteria_lab.html http://www.marineland.com/science/nspira.asp Best Regards, Steve Allen <Thanks very much for sharing your experiences/information with our readers, Steve! Regards, Scott F>

Bacteria Infection Questions ( possible solution? ) Bob,       Thanks for your reply. I have been using a "Red sea" PH tester and have check my tank once a week, in which it reads at 8.2 - 8.4. I decided to switch to a "tetra" ph tester, and this one would read 8.0. This test was done towards the end of the light cycle, so I expected it to be a bit higher. With this in mind I decided to check the alk, and it was at or close to nothing. <As I suspected> I then added a small amount of extra buffer to my top-off jug, and let my doser add it over night. The next day my French has came back very well. Swimming & eating well, but still had cloudy eyes just a bit. <This will clear in time>  I am hoping to have this problem now resolved. Do you agree that this brought on the behavior? <Likely so> How long roughly should it take till his eyes clear up? <Probably a few weeks> All and all, I did learn that even with a 32 gal. 1 - 2 week old buffered water change pre-mix , and a change of 8% weekly, you still need to supplement with additional buffer ! Any other thoughts would be appreciated.  Thanks - D. Mack <Bob Fenner>

Re: liquid bacteria? Hello to all.  First and foremost, thank you for all of your info. Much appreciated! I'm in the process of setting up my 120gal FOWLR.  I currently have to tank filled with R/O water.  I have a Wet-Dry filter/ Turboflotor Protein Skimmer/ JBJ 4 x 65w PC lighting, etc. I'll be ordering 80lbs of live rock from Tampa Bay Saltwater in about a week. Meanwhile, I've been hearing about these quick start liquid bacteria products. Do you think it would be a beneficial to add this bacteria to my water now to give my filter a head start? Or, should I just wait until the live rock arrives? thanks in advance <Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and the Related FAQs pages (in blue, at top). Bob Fenner>

Bacterial Bloom Hi About 3 months ago, my rather tall tank had a bacterial bloom (2.5' deep) total volume is 50G.  I had 2 powerheads for circulation and a skimmer.  Because it's a seahorse tank flow had to be kept to a minimum...  So a few people put it down to a bacterial bloom due to lack of oxygen (low flow).   <it just happens sometimes too> It also has a DSB and 15 pounds of LR. <very good... although a little more rock would be nice and a fishless refugium for the seahorses is critical for plankton> I added a canister filter a couple of months ago with a prefilter that reaches the bottom so there's some flow down there.  Also, an air driven uplift, which is basically a piece of PVC pipe with a wooden airstone.  The skimmer will be hooked back up today.  I'm also wanting to remove the DSB, bring it back down to 5cm or so..  which I will do gradually over a month or so. <leave the DSB in for the natural plankton and nitrate reduction for the seahorses. Deeper the better as you may have noticed at successful public aquaria breeding seahorses> Please let me know how my new setup sounds. Thanks, Simone <all fine except leave the DSB in... best regards, Anthony>

Source of Nitrates Hi. I was wondering if my elevation in nitrates (200 ppm) can be the result of my 200 watt UV sterilizer on my 55 gallon aquarium? <Nope> Is the UV light killing off all the good bacteria to get rid of the nitrates? <No, UV's only kill what is passed through them. Denitrifying bacteria only occur in low oxygen environments; deep sand beds and deep inside porous live rock. They would never be free floating and going through the UV. Nitrates accumulate from overfeeding, overstocking, poor nutrient export, not large enough or frequent enough water changes, from low grade salt mixes, from source water, etc. Please examine these possibilities and take corrective measures.> Thanks, JPK <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Looking for (high-res pix) of fungus among us Bob, We received this e-mail. Maybe you can help her. Thanks, Sue Hello, I am a photo researcher working on a college Microbiology book, and am seeking to obtain a high resolution image of a fish with fish fungus (Saprolegnia or Oomycetes) growing on it. I am wondering if you could recommend a photographer of source for such a photo? Please note our deadline is early next week, if you can help could you please advise ASAP? Or recommend someone who can? I thank you for your help on this project. Maureen Spuhler seelevel@attbi.com <I will post this request on our sites... and folks who shoot whatever they are referring to as "high resolution" (down to showing mycelia?) may respond directly... I principally work with marines that rarely have these genera involved. Bob Fenner>

Re: bacteria or parasite? I put a black ribbon eel in my tank, 2 days later my fuzzy and radiata lionfish died. It looked like hey were not getting enough oxygen based on how hard they were breathing. A few days later the eel died.  <bacteria generally do not act that fast. Symptomatically, it could be many things. One possibility is that the eel brought in Oodinium or another parasite that infected the gills. It is really important my friend at any rate that every new fish and invertebrate be quarantined in a proper QT tank for 4 weeks prior to entry into your display. Adding fish right from the store to your tank is like playing Russian roulette with living creatures. Please do read the archives of WWM for guidance on the importance and setup of a proper QT tank> I have 1 Valentini Puffer, 1 Marine Beta, 1 Achilles Tang, 1 Damsel and 1 Picasso trigger in the same tank that were not affected in any way.  <you have mentioned a lot of fish... is this a large tank? Over 100 gallons? I would hope that it is also fairly mature to be able to support all of these fishes (over 1 year old? Else we may be looking at overstocking instead/in addition to a possible pathogenic problem. Too much or too fast on the fishes is a possibility> I have a wet/dry filter system with carbon added. I did appropriate water changes,  <how old is this system my friend?> and about 2 weeks later added another lionfish. Well, 2 days later it died too, the same way.  <arghh... you definitely need to read about the importance of a quarantine tank. It will save money and fishes lives> A few weeks later, assuming that whatever it was must have been cycled out, I added another lionfish that appeared to begin breathing hard like the others after a day so I took it out and put it in a different tank to save it. A few hours later it looked much better and remains in the other tank but it can't stay there because eventually it will eat all my community fish!  <have you tested water quality parameters? Ammonia, pH, Nitrite, etc> Prior to adding the eel I had my 2 lions for quite a while so I am convinced that it was something the eel brought in.  <possibly, but I doubt it know. Very strange that the other fish showed no symptoms in between additions but the new fish suffered promptly. Sounds like a water quality problem that the established fishes got used to slowly but the new fishes cannot adapt to quickly> I have basically changed enough water in the tank throughout this whole thing that should have gotten rid of it unless it is in the substrate or rocks and requires medication to kill it. The only problem now is what do I treat the tank for so that I can add another lion? I am assuming it is either a bacteria or parasite.  <almost certainly not bacteria> And, the other stated fish are doing fine. I am not sure what to do! Lisa <we need so much more information dear. Tank size, water tests, fish sizes/load, etc. Help us to help you by providing such info. And do explore this page and its links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/quaranti.htm kindly, Anthony>

strange things in my marine tank Anthony, I was looking at my tank today and I noticed around the area of my heater, I found what to be hundreds of white bacteria or some type of microorganism? <yes... something other than bacteria seen with the naked eye> they look like white hair thin about the length of 1/2 mm. I am concerned that this is something bad or good!  <likely neutral or good> can this be algae?  <nope <G>> any info you have on this strange microorganism will be greatly appreciated. thanks Jason <tough to say from the general description. A pic would help. Else, do look over the following links: http://www.rshimek.com/odd_critters.htm and: http://www.reefs.org/hhfaq/pages/main_pages/faq_rock3.htm best regards, Anthony>

Where Did the Fins Go? Howdy, I've got a black blenny in a 75g fish-only tank that is definitely in trouble. A few weeks ago he looked as though he swam through the pump (he didn't). When I came back from 8 days of vacation his dorsal fins were completely gone and the pectoral fins were mere nubs. <Could be physical damage or bacterial infection.> I've been treating the tank with Rally <This medication is marketed for the treatment of Amlyoodinium, which is very different than the symptoms you have described.> for 5 days now, but I don't see any improvement (turned of the skimmer and took out active carbon). Maybe I'm expecting/wanting instantaneous miracles. None of the other fish have similar symptoms and I don't think they're too aggressive towards the black blenny who was the first fish in the tank. Other fish include powder blue tang, blue tang, Sailfin tang, tri-color wrasse, bi-color blenny, scooter blenny, yellow angel, Singapore angel, coral beauty, percula clown, horseshoe crab, 2 blue leg hermit crabs, red leg hermit, olive snail and my latest addition for fathers day a flame angel. I'd appreciate your best guess as to what's going on, if I'm doing the best thing and how long I should continue or start new treatment. <Definitely try a different treatment. Removal to a separate quarantine tank would be optimal along with feeding a medicated food for bacterial infections.> Best Regards, Patrick <Good luck. -Steven Pro>

The first loss...... (Naso) Evening Bob (and crew), <crew member Anthony says, Hi! Bob cannot come to the phone right now... he won recently won a jalapeno pepper eating contest but lost the reconciliation with his colon> Unfortunately, this email brings sad news, as the Blond Naso Tang I so desperately attempted to save, moved on to the GBR in the sky this evening. <I'm truly sorry, my friend> He looked a little darker this morning, but was still moving about the tank, although a little more sluggishly than usual. Yesterday he was quite active, and was playing with the Ocellaris for a couple of hours after feeding. After I got home from work, I found him hidden, propped between the sand bed and a rock. He was extremely dark and drawn, and the white 'scarring spots' were extremely visible.  <AKA night pattern or "fright" pattern> (He was relatively plump yesterday) I prepared to get him out of the main tank. Before I could grab a net, he drifted out onto the sand, and one of the cleaner shrimp aggressively began to "pop" the Tang's gills open and shut. A small cloud of white stuff (not a mucous, more like a silt) came out of the gills, and before I got the net in the tank, the discharge turned red. I knew right then, there was absolutely nothing I could do to save him. My big concern, and reason for being so graphic, is should I worry about any possible contamination to the rest of the fish in the tank?  <at least some concern about pathogenic contagion (bacterial) from discharges> I'm pretty certain this was no parasite (unless internal), but if it is an infection, is there anything in particular I should be on the lookout for?  <most bacteria are slow progressing symptomatically and prey on the weak. Just maintain very good water quality (aggressive skimming, normal or slightly extra iodine may help, extra water changes for sure, VERY stable temperature, etc)> As a precaution, nothing new will be introduced into the main tank for a good 4-6 weeks.  <a must> I just finished up the standard full-battery of tests, and nothing has changed with the water parameters. I appreciate any insight you may have into this. Thanks again!! -Jim <best regards, my friend. Anthony>

I am looking for assistance for a project that I am completing. Dear Mr. Fenner, Here is a written plan of my experiment. I have gone through my teacher and the ISEF board and have been approved to go ahead and start the experiment. the problem is is that it has to be done within a lab, and not at home, and that I also only have limited resources. If you could reply, it would be appreciated. Thank you, Tiffany Wagner Procedure: Go to a health food store and buy powdered kelp. Weigh out 20g and place in blender or mortar. Add 5ml of distilled sterile water and mix thoroughly. Pour liquid into a screw-cap tube for temporary storage. Saturate a sterile antibiotic disk with the kelp and place it on one of the E. coli culture plates. Place a second saturated disc in the other half of the plate using a sterile pipette or eye dropper and tweezers. Repeat this with two other plates so there are three plates in this group. Repeat this with the three Bacillus subtilis plates. Seal all plates shut with adhesive tape. Be sure to label all the plates. Place all plates in an incubator at 37 degrees Celsius for 48 hours. Remove from incubator after time. Use a millimeter ruler to measure the zone of inhibition around each disc (areaaround disc where no bacteria colonies grow. Record your observations. Discuss with mentor the proper way to dispose of plates. <Mmm, last things first. If your school has an autoclave, pressure-steam the culture plates and Bacillus subtilis. This will assure the bacteria (though benign) will be killed. If your school doesn't have an actual autoclave, ask your instructor there to have someone bring in a pressure cooker and use this (these two devices accomplish the same ends in the same way). <Your methods and procedure above sound fine, complete, clear. I strongly encourage you to standardize the "saturation of discs" with a standard eye-dropper, or pipette (am sure you intended to do this, but it is not stated). For a control group, I would make up two filter paper discs w/o algae mix on them and culture them alongside your algae testing plates (who knows, maybe the discs themselves have antibiotic properties?). To the end of your methods and materials I might add some notion of how you intend to interpret the data. Perhaps a chi-square test, analysis of variance? Bob Fenner>

the slime I'll echo what I generally read in your FAQ section: Thanks a lot for all the help. The site is extremely easy to navigate. I usually get what information I need via a quick Google search of your site. But this time I'm stumped on my 5 month old 55 gallon reef. I have this transparent slime accumulating on the glass, on the tubes feeding my foam fractionator and anywhere else of more significant circulation. Two weeks ago I began seeing cyanobacteria on the substrate. That has now subsided but what appears to be brown diatoms cover the bottom even though I stir it up ever other day. My nitrate, nitrite and ammonia are all zip. My pH is 8.2 on the button and my temp is 78. I don't test for phosphate.  <You might want to start> I do 10% weekly water changes, though I missed a week two weeks ago. Now my green star polyps have retracted and haven't come out for four days. They're on the bottom as they have been for 3 weeks. I moved it from midway up the water column where it sat happily for 2 months. But I added a finger leather and needed the space. I tried moving the polyps back the other day but they didn't like the old spot this time around. It's obviously something besides height in the column. Other corals are doing well. Mushrooms are 10 inches away. The finger leather is 8 inches away and a condylactis is a foot away. I thought maybe the clear slime was some kind of chemical warfare, but I don't think that's the case anymore. I did loose a condylactis (my only casualty) to a power head a month ago and did an immediate water change. I have a football sized mass of caulerpa racemosa growing like a huge unicellular vine. I still haven't put in any activated carbon. I'll try that next. I could bump up the flow a little also, but I figure if the finger leather is doing well the star polyps should be fine. I only have 2 Clarkii clowns, a Cryptocentrus leptocephalus (pink spotted shrimp goby), scooter blenny and Lysmata amboinensis. I don't think any of those are picking at it. It doesn't look like any kind of annelid infestation, either. I understand it's a good idea to change out live rock every once in a while. I've got 60 pounds curing in another 55 gallon tank. Would that help? <Maybe... I would switch it nonetheless> I don't dose but think maybe some iodide might help the star polyps. Reasonable? Thanks for your time and thoughts on this. <No supplement use? Not even this and that "vital"? This situation sounds just like a simple sugar overdosing event... I would add/change the rock, and see how it goes from here. Bob Fenner>

Re: the slime Bob, Quick follow up question for you: I looked up sugar overdoses but this seems consistent with systems that get suppliments. I don't use any.  <Sorry about the obscurity... the "Vital" product line is what I am/was referring to. Do you use/misuse any of the Weiss sugar solutions?> How could sugar have accumulated in my tank? Metabolism? How do I rectify the situation and prevent it in the future? Would a sugar overdose create this heavy slime and affect the star polyps? <A bit involved, but by overstimulating anaerobiosis> I beg your pardon for taking more of your time and I really appreciate your help, not only immediate through e-mail, but also through your tremendous resource here and in CMA. Regards -Dan <No worries my friend. I am apologetic for not being more clear. The carbohydrate "answer" seemed the most likely cause of your stated circumstances. Bob Fenner>


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