Dosing bacteria into reef aquariums have been a thing for a long while . With the introduction of live rock and its bacterial benefits sited this trend petered off somewhat but steadily rose to become a popular product of choice . In a nut shell ( Austin Powers , " hey this is me in a nut shell , this must be the worlds largest nut shell ) , we are typically dealing with 3 main groups -
Bacteria in the rock and sand
This is what most bacterial additives focus on . These types of bacteria will develop naturally and be imported into the system with live rock , coral etc but the thinking is adding lab cultured bacteria speeds up the process and introduce better , stronger strains . Aquarium literature will describe their role as reducing ammonium through ammonia into nitrite and eventually nitrate , well at least those that are aerobic , living in oxygen rich areas , like the upper layers of the sand bed and outer surfaces of the rock work and are called nitrifying bacteria . In the anaerobic zones , where oxygen is at a lower concentration , denitrifying bacteria develop that reduce nitrate into harmless nitrogen gas that bubbles out of the aquarium. There are other types of refractory bacteria that exist somewhere in the middle of all of this but we don't bother much with them . Important to note is that these bacteria types are autotrophic , if they using a chemical energy they would be referred to as chemo - autotrophic , if they using light energy , photo autotrophic etc . ( I don't know what the etc's would be )
These are more recent to the world of reef tanks. They are heterotrophic , meaning consumers , they take in organic matter and hence are able to lower the concentration of nitrates and phosphates in solution , they also need a carbon source , and this is where carbon dosing ties in . So more carbon source , more bacteria , equals less nitrates and less phosphates . The bacteria then become a food source for coral and other organisms in our little eco systems and the uneaten bacterial mass get skimmed out , simple , easy , problem solved , well so many thought until strange shit started going down .... Corals exploding , delaminating , unexplained stn , coral bugs appearing that were never an issue for two decades prior .... The dawn of the Third Right ....
In another nut shell , carbon dosing stimulates a lot more than just heterotrophic waterborne bacteria ( HWB ) , it stimulates other bacteria too , including the bacteria living on and in the corals themselves , this could potentially create major havoc as the balance in the holobiont is a highly tuned set of inter and co dependent relationships. Super charging the bacterial end of the holobiont sends metabolic tremors throughout and could subject the zooxanthella and the coral itself to pressures that are unnatural . Bearing in mind that symbiotic-ecto-coral-bacterial masses are in turn connected to fields of ecto - ecto - bacterial - bacterialivores , and these are in turn preyed on by even larger bugs like protozoans . So what the flip does this mean ? Bacteria that are part of the coral and live on its outer surface are fed on by bacteria that is not part of the coral but feed off these outer bacteria , and other larger types of bugs feed on these in turn and that this entire system can be screwed with under the influence of alcohol ....
Does this mean I'm anti vodka ? NO WAYS !! " Now let me welcome everybody to the wild, wild west
A state that's untouchable like Elliot Ness
The track hits ya eardrum like a slug to ya chest " , Tupak Shakur . So all the terrible potential side effects aside .... Have you seen some high end sps tanks running on juice ???? They make me want to curl up and cry , colours that look like they come from another dimension ! So it's silly to say NO to carbon dosing when indeed the world over some amazing sps systems utilize carbon sources and HWB's as both nutrient reductive , and food input devices .
Am I pro juicing then ? No , not really . I'm quite comfy sitting on this fence , from up here , ( " Y'all gon' make me lose my mind , up in here , up in here , Y'all gon' make me go all out , up in here, up in here , up in here " DMX ) , I can look down on both the dry , vermin infested lands , as well as the grassy green pastures . While I toy almost daily with the idea of dropping some acid ( acetic acid ) , seems I always just chicken out , and maybe that's better , regarding real acid ( LSD ) a great friend of mine in high school once told me " there is no need to understand things from a completely different perspective , not when loosing your mind is the required price " , that was enough to convince me to refrain , from micro dots at least , but that dudes words often come to mind when I'm one syringe a way from a carbon fix.
( For the record , I do run carbon on my systems , but locked in a plastic matrix that makes it extremely slow acting and in an environment that drops the Mv's , but this is a topic for another day . )
I've thought about liquid carb dosed systems for a while now , and realize that their users history too , has been through somewhat of a " un-evolution through natural stupidity ".
When the ' originals ' developed their highly sophisticated and near perfectly balanced protocols for " bacterial driven methods " ( BDM ) , it was exactly that . Thanks to The Third Right ( yes , I'll be explaining this some day soon ! ) , it's been watered down , deconstructed , and effed up .
It's really taken me a long time to understand BDM and again I really have to thank my friend Dominique Naidoo for being an ongoing pillar of support and access to insights . If we cut out all the marketing hype and what I now see as ' deliberate exclusion of component emphasis ' eg : USE OUR STRONTIUM AND YOUR CORALS WILL LOOK LIKE THIS " , and then in tiiiiiiiiiiny print , " this tank also employs 50 x T5 tubes and receives 100% daily water changes , " DUE TO XYZ STRONTIUM KEN'S SYSTEM IS SO AMAZING ! " So if we include the subtly mentioned core components and the full extent of ' the originals ' ( founders ) methods , products and practices I think we could generate a mezzos view that looks something like " and it goes a little something like this .... " , let's not unpack the entire BDM but speculate further on its relationship with bacteria and phosphates .
Massive protein skimming
Regular large water changes
Low organic start point ( boiled live rock , super washed aragonite )
Super low fish loads and feeds
Low water hardness levels
Low levels of other elements
Excluded use of calcium hydroxide
Excluded use of phosphate binders
Excluded use of ozone and UV
Rigid daily programs
Additions of liquid coral foods
Additions of amino acids and vitamins
So why don't purest carbon dosed systems crash ? Well , some do . But the risk and rate of things going wrong I suspect is considerably less . It's the devil in the detail , the smallest instructions have important effects on the system . Regarding malfunctioning systems with relevance to suppressed phosphate and run away bacteria , I think , ' The Originals ' had it nailed down proper . Super low dissolved inorganics with controlled , balanced organics and leading into a near particulate phosphate saturated environment , the BDS , is bacterial driven , not with reference to lowering of inorganic phosphate , but bacterial driven in terms of how food and phosphates are maintained. The lowering of inorganic phosphates is a merely a precursor to food production , as bacterial plancton , and is a favorable result of this .
With such a high available food mass , the bacterial plancton ( BP ) is likely responsible for providing the required phosphate to the zooxanthella as a byproduct of coral polyp active feeding. Can we assume further that is a clean form of phosphate input stream to photosynthetic side of the holobiont and that from the moment of particle capture until the final expulsion of unusable material , the bacterial ecology of the holobiont , is adapted to and benefiting from the transport and transfer of BP . While there is real scientific evidence to show BP will remain the favored form of nitrogen source to coral , will it not stand to reason the same must apply to holobiont bacterial societies ?
Perhaps , in some ways , it is this clean source of phosphate ( including N and C ) that allows the holobiont bacterial societies to maintain a homeostatic balance with surrounding water dwelling bacterialivore bacterial plancton , as the constant output by both coral and zooxanthella are able to stream sufficient quantities to allow for the constant regeneration and regulation of the holobiont bacteria ( HBO ) .
It is also worth noting that The Originals had accounted and made allocation for the reintroduction , and , addition of both labile and refractory organic material ( Dr D Naidoo , personal commentary ) . This could have a series of benefits to both phosphate dynamics , in a sense maintaining a rich ' phosphate gene pool ' by acting as a direct nutrient import and a further dynamic BP food source . How this prevents runaway BP that leads to the destruction of the corals themselves could be a complex set of considerations for later investigation. That this input , including the amino acids and vitamins assured a high resistance factor by ecto bacteria , to fatal attacks by their predators and establishing a safe , non permeable membrane as it were , between endo bacteria and ecto protazoa might not be as a long shot as the length of this sentence.
The Originals had never seen , organic binding / ammonium binding , high surface area materials divorced from carbon and bacteria dosing , to them it was an integral component of a larger complex system. Perhaps the removal of the stones was critical mistake , laying down a foundation of destruction that would later manifest , during the rule of The Third Right.
With the removal of localized , substrate dwelling HB in a preferred super chemically charged environment , the Third Right essentially set up a super massive HWB mass and by fueling them with concentrated labile organic matter either directly or indirectly the fatal end to the corals were sealed .