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Thread: Using zeolite on a new setup

  1. Using zeolite on a new setup

    Hi,
    I am following the suggestion to use zeolite in my new 32g uncycled planted tank to avoid algae outbreaks by removing NH4. But I'm wondering, after the month is up and the media is exhausted, will I suddenly start seeing ammonia readings? Does the zeolite prevent the cycling bacteria from forming at all? My tank currently has 4 mollies, a medium size pleco, and a neon in it, and after three days I'm still at 0 ammonia so it's good so far!

  2. #2
    I believe that a 0 reading on your test kit simply means that the concentration is such that the kit is unable to detect the ammonia level. It doesn't mean there is zero ammonia. The bacteria colonies will still develop even though they are competing with the plants and zeolite. I suppose it could be argued whether the speed of the colonies' development is affected by the presence of these competitors.

    Cheers,

  3. #3
    A bacterial colony Will establish on the media itself. So if and when the media is exhausted you will have likely achieved your cycling as well. In your case I'm sure it wouldn't hurt any to periodically refresh 1/3 to 1/2 of the Zeolite. HTH. Prof M

  4. Thanks. After doing some research it appears that zeolite also will trap calcium ions if available and even prefers calcium to ammonium. Will this affect my plants? I don't actually add calcium to my water but I have natural sand as a substrate which undoubtedly adds a small amount of calcium due to broken seashells etc. (the sand has increased my KH from 60 to 100). If the plants need it, and the zeolite is absorbing it, perhaps I should be adding it? How badly do plants need calcium?

    Also, after only four days of having fish in the tank, I'm already getting a nitrite reading even though I have had no detectable ammonia yet. Evidently the bacterial colonies are already getting established somewhere!

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Carissa View Post
    ... If the plants need it, and the zeolite is absorbing it, perhaps I should be adding it? How badly do plants need calcium?

    Also, after only four days of having fish in the tank, I'm already getting a nitrite reading even though I have had no detectable ammonia yet. Evidently the bacterial colonies are already getting established somewhere!
    Hi Carissa,
    Have a read of the Newsletters that cover each of the nutrients. Assuming you are a subscriber, the Calcium Newsletter can be found at:
    http://www.barrreport.com/barr-repor...5-calcium.html

    A review of paragraph 1 reveals that:

    "...Calcium activates enzymes, is a structural component of cell walls, influences water movement in cells and is necessary for cell growth and division. It is highly important in cell and plant signaling, acting as a
    type of “nervous system” for the macrophyte. Some macrophytes
    must have calcium to take up nitrogen and other minerals (Ca˛+ and a NO3- are used at ion balance in the vacuoles)..."

    It think it's unlikely though, that the zeolite will remove all of the calcium. There haven't been any reports of calcium deficiency from people using zeolite so I think you ought to be OK.

    Bacteria will colonize not only the water, but any surface that the water stays in contact with; filter media, tubing, tank walls, gravel, wood, rocks, ornaments as well as the plants' surfaces I believe. That's why if you read the advertising claims of filter media vendors you'll see that they normally give an estimate of the total surface area of a given quantity of the media. The more surface area, the higher the possible bacterial population, enabling the processing of more ammonia and theoretically raising the efficiency of the filter.

    Cheers,

  6. #6
    BTW you can recharge the Zeolite via strong brine solution of NaCl, good old salt.

    This will replace the Ca and NH4.

    But the goal here is to remove the NH4 in the start up phase.
    If.......Bacteria, water changes, Zeolite have all done their job for the first 1-2 months, then you should be home free.

    The levels and measure of NH4 is tough at low levels like these and must be done every few hours to see the production rates.

    Even my lab grade spectrophotometer has trouble reading low NH4. I'm still considering other methods to achieve even lower readings. NH4 probes are available for samples(not in tank measures) and I can take the samples from the tank, freeze them, then test using the calibrated probe several hundred at a time.

    Then plot that over the time series.

    I'd like to do this for about 4 days for:

    NH4 dosed planted tank(established/stable)
    Urea dosed planted tank (established/stable)

    and

    3 weeks for New tank set up
    3 weeks for a progressively (shrimp) Overloaded tank

    I need to be able to measure to about 5 ppb or 0.005 ppm.
    Quite low and as NH4, not NH3.

    That's pretty low.

    I think I can gain a lot of good information that will support the theories and observations with good data this way. I need better testing than the pilot studies I've done thus far to answer the NH4 questions I have.

    I think stability of the other parameters that modulate NH4 play a huge role.
    So stable CO2=> stable NH4 uptake or stable NO3/PO4 = stable NH4 uptake etc, or large water change after pulling up lots of plants/trimming etc=> reduced NH4 after removing all the plants that had been prior taking up all the NH4 and are now gone.

    The large water changes allow the tank about a 1-3 days before the NH4 build back up and that gives the bacteria time to recolonize to a larger load for NH4 while the plants grow back.

    Obviously, 2-3x the plant biomass will be far more effective at NH4 removal.
    So a big hack/prune can cause issues if you do not do a decent water changes afterwards, higher light exacerbates algae and issues with NH4 also.

    So CO2/light are large players in the role of NH4 also.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr

  7. I'm not sure I follow why higher light will exacerbate NH4 issues. Wouldn't higher light theoretically increase the plant or algae's ability to use NH4 (assuming other parameters are ideal)?

    Unless you mean that higher light without enough plants/nutrients available to take up the NH4 (as in after a large pruning) will lead to algae growing in and taking up the slack so to speak.

  8. Quote Originally Posted by ceg4048 View Post

    It think it's unlikely though, that the zeolite will remove all of the calcium. There haven't been any reports of calcium deficiency from people using zeolite so I think you ought to be OK.
    The reason I was concerned was that I was reading about how zeolite has caused huge problems in saltwater tanks, due to taking in the calcium rather than ammonium, and thereby killing the corals. Evidently now they have produced zeolites that are more selective in which ions they prefer for the purpose of using them in saltwater tanks, but I don't really have any way of finding out exactly which type of zeolite I am using, since it is not made specifically for saltwater I am assuming that it is not that type. The article I was reading said that in freshwater tanks the zeolite's preference of Ca+ to NH4 wouldn't make much difference, but even though it wouldn't necessarily affect the fish to remove the calcium, I would think that it would affect the plants, unless you had a calcium producing substrate.

    I should be dosing calcium too anyway irregardless of if the zeolite is affecting it. I have heard that you can get something at pool supply stores for this but I can't remember what it was exactly, does anyone know about this?

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Carissa View Post
    ...I should be dosing calcium too anyway irregardless of if the zeolite is affecting it. I have heard that you can get something at pool supply stores for this but I can't remember what it was exactly, does anyone know about this?
    I really don't think we need to worry too much about zeolite stripping the water column of all calcium. Depending on your tap water's hardness you may already have adequate amounts of calcium in the form of calcium carbonate and other calcium compounds (if you get crusty deposits on your faucets it's probably a calcium compound). If you are using RO water, or DI water or rainwater and wish to reconstitute the water, or if you want to make sure, there is no need to buy from a pool shop. You can order online here:

    Greg Watson's Aquarium Fertilizer: Aquatic Plant Food

    Barr's GH booster contains Potassium Sulfate, Calcium Sulfate and
    Magnesium Sulfate. You are spoiled for choice because you can just get Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Sulfate, Calcium Nitrate or Calcium Chloride, each for less than $3/LB plus shipping if you live in America. When Greg Watson was running the shop he would ship international but I'm not sure if the current proprietors (The Kaufmanns) do. If you live in Europe there are online shops where you can find these products as well.

    Cheers,

  10. Quote Originally Posted by Carissa View Post
    The reason I was concerned was that I was reading about how zeolite has caused huge problems in saltwater tanks, due to taking in the calcium rather than ammonium, and thereby killing the corals. Evidently now they have produced zeolites that are more selective in which ions they prefer for the purpose of using them in saltwater tanks, but I don't really have any way of finding out exactly which type of zeolite I am using, since it is not made specifically for saltwater I am assuming that it is not that type. The article I was reading said that in freshwater tanks the zeolite's preference of Ca+ to NH4 wouldn't make much difference, but even though it wouldn't necessarily affect the fish to remove the calcium, I would think that it would affect the plants, unless you had a calcium producing substrate.

    I should be dosing calcium too anyway irregardless of if the zeolite is affecting it. I have heard that you can get something at pool supply stores for this but I can't remember what it was exactly, does anyone know about this?
    This is not an issue in FW aquaria, Irregardless of substrates used. The chemistry is vastly different between FW and SW. If you are predisposed to worrying then I would focus on your tap water. HTH, Prof M

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