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Old 06/08/2010, 07:46 PM   #1
PowermanKW
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Solid carbon biodegradable polymer pellets craze.

So more and more pellets are hitting the market. "N and P Biopellets" started it off. A lengthy thread insued with some good info and results. Warner Marine was the next to step up with "EcoBak". Warner Marine has said that it is a totally different poymer than N and P with patent pending. Now many others are coming to market. Some using the same formula as N and P and others claiming other superior pellets than the pellets manufactured in China. Reefing Evolution, NXP, and SWC are just a few hitting the market now.

So I thought I would start a thread to discuss all the various polymers in use. The science behind carbon dosing is well documented. A "solid carbon source" is not going to be any different, but does offer some advantages over "liquid carbon sources" in achieving a ULNS with fewer complications.

Yet the big question still remains....

What exactly is this polymer?

Does the pellet breakdown or release anything in saltwater on it's own?

Does carbon leach into the water column?

What are the long term ramifications to introducing these polymers into our tanks?

I am currently running WM EcoBak. So far I have had good results and believe these pellets have a lot of promise. I just thought I would start a common thread to discuss the various products and not muddle up manufacturer specific threads already running.

I also want to discuss the science behind these biodegradable polymers. Something I know nothing about.


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Old 06/08/2010, 09:28 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by PowermanKW View Post
1 What exactly is this polymer?

2Does the pellet breakdown or release anything in saltwater on it's own?

3Does carbon leach into the water column?

4What are the long term ramifications to introducing these polymers into our tanks?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthet...adable_polymer

thats the easier version. It gets more complicated when you try to figure out which polymer that each company is using and what each are made of.

Some are made with natural ingredients, others use plasticizer with natural ingredients, others use non-natural ingredients, and others use non-natural ingredients with plasticizer.


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Old 06/09/2010, 01:33 AM   #3
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I could put my hands on 3 litres of BHT polymer (raw material) and made a try with 30 galons of water in static arrangement. Result was that skimmer ended up with a slime of plastic, and bubbles could not be formed because of the polymer disolved. Water stayed clear.

Many people informs of redox falls, cyano break out, and skimmer under performance with small quantities of pellet. I´m sure that polymer leaches into the water column, its just a new way of dosing carbon to aquarium water.

I think that adding hidroxyacids in liquid form would have same results as the pellets.




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Old 06/09/2010, 07:40 AM   #4
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If what we have is an easy form of Vodka dosing, That's fine with me as the less I have to remember to add to my tanks the better. As a user of the Eco-Bak product so far so good and if all i realize from the product is what i stated above then IMO it's a success.
I have been successfully Vodka dosing for many years with little to no issues at all. The hardest part is remembering if i dosed or not on some occasions, Getting old is not Golden.
Of all the items listed in this thread the one I'm most concerned about is long term effects on the system? What chemical the product is made of is an interest but not absolutely necessary to have that info.
If the carbon source leaks into the system (Most likely) as a product that dissolves in a flow type reactor will leave that reactor in the water column JMO most likely.
I guess all these questions will be answered in time and hopefully these products are going to be a great addition to your system's health.
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Old 06/09/2010, 09:17 AM   #5
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What would be of interest to me would be a comparision as to how effective varying polymers were at providng a means to export both nitrate or phosphate. Different polymers in theory should encourage the growth of different bacterial species just as the addition of different more traditional carbon sources, live vodka, sugar, vinegar, etc., promote the growth of different bacterial species. Therefore, it stands to reason that these different polymers may not all be equal in terms of how effective they export nitrate and/or phosphate. These differences would be of great interest to me.


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Old 06/09/2010, 03:13 PM   #6
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Testing the different carbon sources available on the market and others which one can purchase such as vinegar, vodka, sugar.......etc. would have to be completed under controlled experimental conditions to try and eliminate as many possible interferences as possible, such as number of fish, fish food used, GAC, GFO, mechanical filtration used, other supplements added....................etc.

Simply comparing one tank to another would not really offer much critical information with all the differences found between two tanks.

A big factor in how well these different carbon sources will work for a hobbyist, may very well depend on the species of bacteria, symbiotic algae in coral, regular micro-algae, cyanobacteria, dinoflagellates present in one's aquarium. For example research has demonstrated that certain dissolved organics can effect these micro-organisms differently depending on the bacterial species found in coral. In some cases, some dissolved organics will cause bacteria to grow in coral which produce poisons that eventually kill the coral, whereas under non-dosing conditions other species grow which are beneficial to coral. This aspect is very complicated. Little research has been completed in the area, but the future holds many promises. So to summarize this situation, one hobbyist's coral may not have the same bacteria or symbiotic algae that another hobbyist's coral will have, even with the same species.

The average water column found in a reef tank can contain 10's of thousands of different bacteria alone, not to mention the other microbes present. The type and amount of dissolved organic matter present on one tank is quite different then another tank due to what food, vitamins, amino acids, carbon sources, coral warfare chemicals............etc are added to a tank. The chemical interactions between all these different dissolved organics is mind boggling, much less the interactions of microbes with the organics present in a system.

In short, a reef aquarium is a very complicated system which we have no means to measure all these interactions going on and one can only base the amount and type of chemical dosage on our visual observations, which is not all that reliable. If we see negative results in our coral, there can be many factors that can cause this. Limiting the number of changes we make to a tank should therefore be reduced to the minimum while experimenting and ample time is needed to see the results.

The questions that scientists are trying to answer now:

How do these different carbon sources interact with coral at the cellular level?

What combinations of organics cause synergistic effects resulting in increased disease of coral?

How does temperature interact with the equation, since temperatures over 82 degrees can cause problems for some coral and not others?

How does lower pH result in disease in some coral and not others, especially when the pH drops below 8.0?

Why do some bacteria and symbiotic algae become dominate over other similar micro-organisms which result in chemicals produced that kill the coral?

How does increased levels of heavy metals kill or cause problems for coral? They know they do, but how does this work at the cellular level? Is it in the coral tissue or in the symbiotic algae or both? Some of the latest research indicates both in some coral and not others.

How do some known adverse conditions such as high heavy metal levels interplay with adding high levels of dissolved organics? Both situations cause problems for coral, but does the combinations of these situations increase problems synergistically?

The list goes on for unanswered questions.


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Old 06/09/2010, 07:54 PM   #7
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So has any body tried mixing the different polmer pellets For example like when you dose VSV?


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Old 06/09/2010, 08:15 PM   #8
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So has any body tried mixing the different polmer pellets For example like when you dose VSV?

Yes I have mixed NP Bio-pellets which have been running for 4 months with the new NPX-Bio pellets today. My reason for doing so was to have a diverse Bio-pellet bed for the bacteria to populate on.


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Old 06/09/2010, 08:21 PM   #9
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Thanks guys, great discussion.

As far as combining different pellets, I do not think there is enough long term results to even begin to figure out what you would want to combine for what result.

Thanks Highland for the perspective of just how complicated interactions are in our artificial eco systems.

One thing I am most concerned with is if pellets leach carbon... not bad necessarily, but keeping the carbon source isolated in a reactor is one of the big advantages over dosing the whole tank. So if that is not a benefit... that sort of sucks. I do belive there is some indirect loss of carbon to the water column by the bacteria breaking it down, but would imagine it is small and there is really nothing that can be done about that. Something like "messy eaters".

The other thing brought up that is a big question mark..... just what type of bacteria colonize the pellets. I have read other articles about the well known uptake ratio of NO3 and PO4 of bacteria.... and that while different carbon sources may vary well benefit different strains of bacteria.... the NO3 PO4 uptake is not going to be significatly different. Please, somebody correct me if that is wrong.


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Old 06/09/2010, 08:22 PM   #10
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Yes I have mixed NP Bio-pellets which have been running for 4 months with the new NPX-Bio pellets today. My reason for doing so was to have a diverse Bio-pellet bed for the bacteria to populate on.
But how do you know what the pellets are made from and if indeed they are different?


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Old 06/09/2010, 08:34 PM   #11
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Yes I have mixed NP Bio-pellets which have been running for 4 months with the new NPX-Bio pellets today. My reason for doing so was to have a diverse Bio-pellet bed for the bacteria to populate on.
I run WM pellets dose anyone know the difference in these pellets ( WM NP NPX-BIO) OR can someone post the short version of what the manufacture claims For each one


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Old 06/10/2010, 06:20 AM   #12
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One thing I am most concerned with is if pellets leach carbon... not bad necessarily, but keeping the carbon source isolated in a reactor is one of the big advantages over dosing the whole tank. So if that is not a benefit... that sort of sucks. I do believe there is some indirect loss of carbon to the water column by the bacteria breaking it down, but would imagine it is small and there is really nothing that can be done about that. Something like "messy eaters".

The other thing brought up that is a big question mark..... just what type of bacteria colonize the pellets. I have read other articles about the well known uptake ratio of NO3 and PO4 of bacteria.... and that while different carbon sources may vary well benefit different strains of bacteria.... the NO3 PO4 uptake is not going to be significatly different. Please, somebody correct me if that is wrong.
I don't know how the actual polymers interact with the different chemicals found in a reef aquarium. Perhaps some of it is acted on by certain chemicals found in a tank's water and brake the molecule down into smaller chemical compo nets and it slowly dissolves into the water column. As the bacteria feed on the polymer, the same can happen (brake the molecule into smaller compo nets). Some may sluff off as molecules of the actual polymer. I suspect that the answer is all of the above, but what degree I have no idea and how long components of the polymer which have been broken down last before they are reduced to smaller components may come into play.

There can be different bacteria which feed on and reduce the different parts of the molecule as it brakes down. So there may be a variety of species involved in the total process of braking down the polymers to the final products. Usually the bacteria that are most efficient at braking down the components are the dominate ones. The chemicals produced by the bacteria in the process, can act as a chemical warfare agent to kill off other bacteria also. So these chemical warfare agents come into play in the total process also. Kind of complicated.


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Old 06/10/2010, 07:03 AM   #13
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Big can of worms, can this even be evaluated on a simple level as to weather it removes No3 and Po4 as this IMO is the main objective as far as I'm concerned. KISS would be nice in the process of comparing the results of the different brands out there.
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Old 06/10/2010, 07:19 AM   #14
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Well to me that is not much in debate. The pellets do not remove anything, and according to the manufacturers are completely inert in saltwater.

It is the bacteria that take up the NO3 PO4 and that is well established. The pellets just feed the bacteria. As long as the pellets sustain a colony of bacteria, NO3 and PO4 is being reduced. That at least has been established from liquid carbon dosing, and so far seems to be the case with pellets. Certainly seems to be the case in my tank, but only short term so far.


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Old 06/10/2010, 03:30 PM   #15
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Choice of words

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Originally Posted by PowermanKW View Post
Well to me that is not much in debate. The pellets do not remove anything, and according to the manufacturers are completely inert in saltwater.

It is the bacteria that take up the NO3 PO4 and that is well established. The pellets just feed the bacteria. As long as the pellets sustain a colony of bacteria, NO3 and PO4 is being reduced. That at least has been established from liquid carbon dosing, and so far seems to be the case with pellets. Certainly seems to be the case in my tank, but only short term so far.
I'm well aware of how the process works, I've been Dosing Vodka long B4 it became fashionable to do so. And have had great success in doing so, I want to be able to use the pellets in place of the dosing regiment if they are viable and have no adverse long term effects. Plain and simple.
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Old 06/10/2010, 04:24 PM   #16
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Here's an interesting patent that shows tests completed with results when using PCL as the solid organic compound for nitrate reduction in aquariums. Some of the info may prove helpful to some hobbyists who want to DIY. It's interesting that they achieved good results by placing enough of the PCL in a filter bag. It's also interesting that placing the PCL in a course bed medium works well and the PCL only needs to be added once or twice per year into the bed. Maybe crushed coral will make a comeback.

Denitrification of aquarium waterG Ritter - US Patent 7,244,358, 2007
http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7244358.pdf





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Old 06/10/2010, 04:54 PM   #17
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FWIW, the above is the patent for the Instant Ocean Natural Nitrate Reducer polymer by Dr. Günter Ritter.


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Old 06/10/2010, 05:51 PM   #18
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Here's a good general article on the available biodegradable starch polymer out there. These starch polymers resins are used make our biodegradable plastics that are just starting to become more popular. They are biodegradable because bacteria can use them for fuel and degrade them over time. They are essentially chains of either Polylacticacids (PLA) or Polyhyroxybutyricacids (PHB). Simple sugars are used to make the building blocks for these polymers. The discussion of their use really doesn't belong in the chemistry forum since the process that happens in the reef environment is that the bacteria colonizing the surface of these pellets break down these long chains of carbon for fuel and in the process consume N and P from the tank. The bacteria sludge is then removed from your tank by a strong skimmer. The process is the same as when you dose other forms of long chain carbons like ethanol(vodka), sugar, or vinegar. You can buy PLA resin that comes in pellet form currently from distributors for about $2 a pound. If some of these new pellets are essentially repackaged PLA or PHA resin pellets then you are talking about a huge mark-up for essentially the same product.

http://www.mirelplastics.com/imagesu...%20(Cover).pdf



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Old 06/10/2010, 06:02 PM   #19
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Some guy on the Dutch forum thinks that NP biopellets may be resins made by Mirel/Metabolix. NatureWork makes most of the PLA pellets in the market. I can't seem to find a distributor for Mirel. They just opened a huge plant a couple of months ago so the resin should be available in large quantities in the near future.

There seem to be a confusion on carbon here. When we talk about carbon-dosing in this setting, we are talking about biofuel or organic carbons. These are long chain carbons that living organism use for fuel by breaking the bonds that hold these chains of carbon together. We human and other mammals use glucose as our primary fuel. Various bacteria can use different forms of chained carbons for fuel. Something is biodegradable if you can find a bacteria to eat it. That is why plastic from fossil fuel does not degrade because bacteria cannot use it as fuel and break it down. The final product of carbon biodegradation is CO2 which has only one carbon left. This is also not the same INORGANIC carbon that are in activated charcoal we use to clean our tank water with. So when we talk about carbon leaching, it's with inorganic carbon and totally unrelated to this discussion.



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Old 06/10/2010, 06:43 PM   #20
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Where can you order these products at $2.00 per pound and is this a bulk purchase?


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Old 06/10/2010, 06:48 PM   #21
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Thanks Aurora.

This is what I mean by leaching......

That one, these polymers do not breakdown in saltwater at all. Which seems to be the case. Bacteria is need to break the chains and "degrade" it. So that is cool.

while bacteria can break it down to it's final form.. 100% consumption... I think of leaching as the bacteria breaking off chains and then those are released to the water column to be further degraded. I mean is 100% of the carbon consumed on the pellet surface by the bacteria with no escape of usable carbon? My guess is that it is small, but understandable if some gets away.

It would seem to me that aggressive tumbling would allow more carbon to get away and as a result some of the increased skimmer out put being seen with some pellets may very well be more carbon chains and not just bacteria.


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Old 06/10/2010, 07:07 PM   #22
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Excellent thread PowermanKW. Ive been lurking in the various pellet threads and am about to pull the trigger and give them a shot. I have not decided that on a specific brand yet.

The science seems solid,... pun intended


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Old 06/10/2010, 08:24 PM   #23
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Where can you order these products at $2.00 per pound and is this a bulk purchase?
+1 on this question


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Old 07/09/2010, 06:20 AM   #24
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I've been kicking around the idea of achieving the same process by just using white rice and started with a cup of rice in a sock where my overflow water enters the sump. This is also close to where the inlet to my skimmer is located. I've been doing this for the past 2 weeks. The rice grains are getting a nice brown coating of bacteria and not falling apart at all. I'm think I'm essentially getting solid carbon dosing at about $1 a lb. I've stopped my usual alcohol dosing and still getting very good skim like I was when dosing alcohol.


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Old 07/09/2010, 10:16 AM   #25
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I've been kicking around the idea of achieving the same process by just using white rice and started with a cup of rice in a sock where my overflow water enters the sump. This is also close to where the inlet to my skimmer is located. I've been doing this for the past 2 weeks. The rice grains are getting a nice brown coating of bacteria and not falling apart at all. I'm think I'm essentially getting solid carbon dosing at about $1 a lb. I've stopped my usual alcohol dosing and still getting very good skim like I was when dosing alcohol.
I don't see it being the same thing. The whole point of the polymers is to provide a carbon source yet not break down in salt water. The rice may seem intact and provide some food, but it will most definitely break down in saltwater. The problem being that the carbon is released to the tank and potential overdose of carbon and associated bacteria bloom will result.

Sounds pretty interesting. Yet right now it seems the polymers offer the most benefits. A carbon source that is not released to the water column.


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