Why does everyone argue about nitrifying bacteria?

Meet Bob.  Bob is an avid aquatics enthusiast and purchased a true nitrifying bacteria culture to cycle his aquarium.  He used the product as directed and it worked as expected.

Larry, another aquarist in another state, purchased a different product with the same language and claims.  His experience was very different.  Larry got no results.  Larry tried brand after brand and again no results.  Now Larry is angry having wasted money and now refers to any and all products that have the words “nitrifying bacteria” on it as “snake oil”.

One day, Bob and Larry meet on a discussion forum where another aquarist is asking about bacteria products.  Bob recommends his product that worked great.  Larry insists that these products don’t work and replies “just wait six weeks and save your money”. Bob reaffirms his stance that the product he used works great.  Larry, conjuring his past anger attacks Bob for being so naive as to believe these products work.

Bob, with ego in flames, begins calling Larry names.  Larry retaliates and the two go back and forth until the thread is 180 pages long and nobody has learned anything.

Done with the whole thing, Bob suggests Larry try the brand he tried but Larry doesn’t bother.  In fact, he now doesn’t want it to work because he has invested 180 pages in his stance.  If he were to try it and have success, Larry would be forced to either admit his error or claim that it didn’t work.  Since neither option is appealing to Larry, he declines the challenge.  So much for the scientific method.

The above has played out day after day, year after year.

So the question is how can two different aquarists have two completely different experiences with “nitrifying bacteria”?  What Bob and Larry don’t know is that they not only used two different brands, they used two different  kinds of bacteria.  Put on a pot of coffee because we’re just getting started here!

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