Posted 5 years ago by Jill Frey

Nitrifying Bacteria

Level: Junior Apprentice

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Ideal Conditions for nitrifying bacteria:

  • Temperature range is 68° -86° F
  • pH 7.2-8.5
  • Dissolve oxygen (DO) of at least 2 mg/L

As the fish digest and metabolize their food the proteins are broken down and it produces nitrogenous (nitrogen containing) waste. These wastes are processed into plant nutrients through the nitrogen cycle.

Fish excrete this waste as ammonia in their urine or from the gills. Ammonia is extremely toxic to fish; however it is actually used as a food source for a nitrifying bacteria. These bacteria live in the water and also produce a slime or bio-film that will coat the mechanical components of a system; this will protect the nitrifying bacteria that attach to it.  You will be able to see a brownish film develop on the system components.

Nitrosomonas: These bacteria process this ammonia as food and create a new form of nitrogen waste called nitrite. Nitrite is extremely toxic to fish, but luckily not to nitrobacters.

Nitrobacter: A nitrifying bacteria uses nitrite as a food/energy source and produces nitrate as a waste.  Nitrate is exactly what a young growing plant needs to build proteins. Could it get any better than that?

Nitrifying bacteria can tolerate a range of environmental conditions.  Temperatures can be low as 50° F and high as 95°  F. However, you want to provide them with the ideal conditions listed at the top of this page so that they are reproducing and you have a reliable population.

This information is provided by Sweet Water Foundation.

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