“Hey Kid, Ya Need A Watch?”
Now that we’ve learned about impostor nitrifying bacteria in the marketplace, let’s investigate why these products are able to make such misleading claims. After all, the first question that comes to mind is “how do they get away with this?”
When these companies package anaerobic and heterotrophic bacteria and claim to contain “nitrifying bacteria”, they technically aren’t lying. The fact is they are accurate when they say they have “nitrifying bacteria”. Nitrifying bacteria, after all, are defined as bacteria capable of nitrification.
But now let’s define “nitrification” as the act of oxidizing a nitrogen product to a different nitrogen product. Then, because some heterotroph and anaerobic bacteria can, under rare conditions, utilize ammonia as a secondary energy source, they can technically be called “nitrifying bacteria” and BANG! We have a “nitrifying bacteria” product.
But let’s hold our horses. In an aquarium we want a completely different kind of nitrifying bacteria that is referred to as “true” nitrifying bacteria. These bacteria are the ones that utilize ammonia and nitrite as a primary energy source.
To give you an idea of the performance gap between secondary and primary energy sources, it can take up to 1,000,000 heterotrophic or anaerobic bacteria cells (depending on the species) to remove the same amount of ammonia as one (1) true nitrifying bacteria cell. These other bacteria will generally not utilize nitrite period.
Some products claim to have “nitrifying bacteria” that perform in any and all parameters, unlike actual true nitrifying bacteria. In hopes that you don’t know the difference between the two, these products stand to present a case that you will create a bio-filter that is invulnerable to any and all changes in pH, alkalinity, temperature, and oxygen levels.
Ladies and gentlemen, our bio-filters take on the characteristics of the bacteria that form them. That our bio-filters crash when pH, alkalinity, or temperature plummets is the smoking gun that these bacteria aren’t impervious to changes in water parameters. If those other bacteria were truly better, then they would have risen to dominance in the system to create the principle bio-filter. Common sense can be a real pain in the butt.
And this is that “uncomfortable moment” we discussed on the opening page. If you’re starting to feel like you’ve being conned you aren’t alone.