Kotonga, Destroyer of Earth

"Roy!  Roy!  I can't see you!"  "Just hold my hand, Jillian, the shelter is five parsects ahead!"

The Cthulhu-esque horror in my living room.

This is the long-promised post about live rock and biological filtration.  I wish I had some better pictures of the rockwork in my own tank, but the murkey sandstorm has yet to settle in any managable way and every time I start to aquascape the rocks I just stir the silt up again.

Sure is a pretty color, though.

I’ve been talking about purchasing live rock from Blue Zoo Aquatics, but the recent purchase of a new powerhead has slashed the live rock budget.  Instead of spending (*cough*cough*gak!*) on live rock imported from Bima, I’ve decided to go with about 125 pounds of dead rock and seed it with 30 pounds of live rock from three different aquarium stores.

Why three different stores?  Live rocks provide biological filtration, which is the science term for “things that eat poop.”  An aquarium is a closed system; besides sunlight and air and the occasional bug, the only things that enter into the aquarium are what the hobbyist puts into it and the only things that leave are what is removed by the hobbyist or by the hobbyist’s mechanical filtration equipment.  The successful reef tank is a copy of a natural ecosystem, and this includes the tiny organisms that live in the ecosystem that eat the leavings of the bigger organisms.  These organisms are amazingly efficient conversion machines that take waste and break it down into much smaller waste, which in turn can be used by other microscopic organisms as a source of energy.  In the reef aquarium, we want to create a self-sustaining food chain where these tiny organisms eat other tiny organisms, all the way down to bacteria…

Wait, you guys are all familiar with the nitrogen cycle, right?

Okay, you know how you set up a brand-new fish tank and chuck in a fish and a few days later it dies?  Well, you’ve basically chucked a fish into a pool of toxic waste.  The fish will probably survive those first few days because the water starts out as fresh and gradually becomes contaminated from the fish’s poop and from decaying leftover food.  These waste products create a form of un-ionized ammonia, which will accumulate in the water until it becomes poisonous.

However, a few days later the ammonia reaches a tipping point and is consumed (oxidized) by bacteria.  These nitrosomonas bacteria devour the ammonia, which cleans the water.  But wait, there’s more!  Then the nitrosomonas bacteria begin to “poop” out nitrites (technically, they convert ammonia to a different compound and one of the by-products of the process is nitrites, but whatever), and these nitrites are also extremely toxic to most species of fish.

Then, after the nitrites have reached a tipping point, they are consumed by nitrobacter bacteria.  The nitrobacter bacteria produce nitrates as a by-product of consumption, and small amounts of nitrates are generally okay for most species of fish and invertebrates.  Nitrates are also used as a food source by some microorganisms and many types of micro- and macroalgae.

While you can attach a mechanical filter to an aquarium, it removes some of the solid waste and does some rudimentary chemical cleaning and might have a biological filter attached to it, but a mechanical filter typically does not play a large part in the nitrogen cycle.  Marine aquarium hobbyists have found that adding live rock to a tank creates biological filtration through introducing the bacteria and the microorganisms that are active in the nitrogen cycle.  The more live rock, the greater the number of these organisms that participate in the nitrogen cycle, and the greater the overall stability of the aquarium.

Not that there's anything wrong with being a skilled banjo player...

Not that there's anything wrong with being a skilled banjo player...

For the 65g, I added live rock from three different stores to increase the biological diversity of the organisms.  I’m of the “Stronger, Better, Faster” school of evolution, as I believe that the introduction of different strains of genetic material helps promote growth and reduces “You Got A Pretty Mouth, Boy” syndrome.  The tank would have been just fine with live rock from only one store but, hey, I had access to three suppliers so why not take advantage of it?  I also have 20 pounds of grunge and grunge plus (similar to crushed live rock) coming from GARF in the next few days, so this will add to the biodiversity.

Anyhow, today Ursula and I went to the distant LFS to pick up the last piece of live rock.  Kotonga, Destroyer of Earth, weighs slightly less than six pounds.  I wanted to pick up a few more pieces of rock but they were covered in pests and Kotonga, Destroyer of Earth was the most pest-free…

… what, you don’t name your live rock?  Shame on you!

Technically Kotonga, Destroyer of Earth started out as Murrey.  I placed Kotonga, Destroyer of Earth (nee Murrey) in the cooler and started driving home, and we somehow began making jokes at Kotonga, Destroyer of Earth’s (nee Murrey’s) expense.  Just… use your imagination.  It’s fish humor, we’re very weird women, there’s a joke for everything.  While we’re cracking jokes at Kotonga, Destroyer of Earth (nee Murrey), we heard Kotonga, Destroyer of Earth (nee Murrey) start to roll around his cooler like a rock possessed.

He was promptly renamed.

The rolling stopped.

The rolling stopped immediately.

~ by KBSpangler on April 7, 2009.

17 Responses to “Kotonga, Destroyer of Earth”

  1. *comes over from Urusula’s LJ and admires hugely!*

  2. Here from Ursula’s LJ and also because AGAHF (which I learned about there) is awesome. It has not escaped my notice that there may be a connection.

    I realize that this is the fault (if that is the word) of the English language, but I am hugely amused by the fact that “unionized” (as in “create a form of unionized ammonia”) can be read as either “union-ized” or “un-ionized”. (Maybe that ought to be ‘deionized’? No, that implies that it was ionized and now isn’t any more, which might be true here but not necessarily in general.)

    Anyway, so, you’re setting up ammonia strikebreakers. Awesome! 🙂

    • Huh, I hadn’t noticed that. Thank you for pointing it out! I’ve added the hyphen just to make sure that my ions don’t walk out on their jobs.

      • Just to clarify, I wasn’t criticizing. I was thanking you for (apparently inadvertently) bringing an amusing linguistic quirk to my attention. I’m actually a little bit sad that you added the hyphen, but I’ll get over it somehow.

  3. I would like it known that I blame yourself and Ursula for a great deal of my capitulating and deciding to go ahead and try reef aquariums. My birthday gift from the hubby was a 29 gallon BioCube, and I’m already well into my addiction.

    This hobby is so much fun! ‘Spensive, but fun! ;D

    • Oh dear. I’ll tell you what I tell Ursula each Monday… I am so, so sorry.

      I’m not sure if you’ve looked into skimmers yet, but Sapphire Aquatics are excellent! When (if) I redo my Oceanic 30g I’m doing it with one of their sumps and skimmer combos.

  4. You can blame Ursula for me being here!

    Reading this, it occurred to me that an aquarium is really just a life-support module for aquatic life forms…a spaceship without engines from a watery world.

    Kinda of a weird thought, but very cool. Thanks.

  5. Did I already see this on one of your (w/Ursula) sites?

    Check this out if I didn’t:


  6. What did you rename him TO??

  7. Obviously, Kotonga, Destroyer of Earth did not appreciate being called Murrey and made the butt of jokes! I hate to think what would have happened if you hadn’t realized this and given him his rightful name!

  8. This particular post has me cracked up! I’ll definitely be reading more of you!

  9. Also here via Ursula. Baaah.

    Hey, you learn new stuff every day! I’m in no way able to and have never desired to set up an aquarium (aside from the small ones I had as a kid) but reading this and ursula’s journals kind’ve makes me want one… and the “You Got A Pretty Mouth, Boy” syndrome thing made me giggle.

  10. Informative and fun to read. Thank you. It also hurts my brain that the system has identified an item about “The Rolling Stones” as possibly related.

    • THE Steve Jackson? Oh my goodness, you just made a whole bunch of us over here squeal like little girls.

  11. Actually, ammonia is not an ion. Ammonium is

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