Priming – This is a very significant element of aquariums, which must be given special attention. Soil is simply necessary in aquariums, exceptions are nursery, quarantine or spawning aquariums, in which the soil is not required.
The value of aquarium soil is not limited to a decorative function in the formation of a natural underwater landscape.
Aquarium soil and biological balance
Soil for aquarium has a very important role in the formation of biological equilibrium, as well as the creation of systems of biological regeneration in aquariums. In addition, the soil in the aquarium is important, first of all, for aquarium plants, for them it is a place for the development and rooting of the root system, a source of nutrients. Also, the ground is necessary for most aquarium fish in order to dig, dig, search for food, or spawn in it.
Some fish use it as a refuge, as a place to sleep or rest. The soil in the aquarium performs the function of a mechanical filter, on which large particles that are suspended in water and a biological filter settle, because colonies of nitrifying beneficial bacteria appear and develop in it.
Some soils can also perform a specific conditioning function, changing for example the hardness, salinity or pH of the water in an aquarium.
As already mentioned, the soil is the habitat of the simplest organisms and beneficial bacteria, which is why it is due to him that vital processes take place in aquariums. Gradually, the soil for the aquarium begins to fill with organic particles, become populated with microorganisms, turn into an active biological environment, where waste is processed (mineralization of organic matter) and nutrient soil is created that is favorable for normal development and growth of plants.
Such bacteria dispose of nitrates and ammonium in the process of processing and splitting biological waste that accumulates in the aquarium: fish waste products, food debris, and dying off elements of aquatic plants.
Bacteria settle on the surface of soil particles, which decompose organic harmful compounds that accumulate over time in the aquarium water, and an experienced aquarist will certainly take this into account when arranging and maintaining the aquarium. It is for this reason that those novice aquarists who often make general cleaning in aquariums and wash all the soil in the aquarium again and again make a mistake.
Even if you often change the water, still part of the sludge that accumulates at the roots of plants, do not touch.
The nitrate cycle is one of the most biological cycles that occur in aquariums. However, it is most important for understanding the procedure for purifying water from toxic ammonia dissolved in it.
The cycle here is depicted in its simplest form, and only the main elements are demonstrated. The formation of ammonium and ammonia occurs during the decay of plants, the breathing of fish and other organic matter.
As a result of the activity of bacteria, ammonium is converted into non-toxic nitrates absorbed by plants. Plants along with nitrate absorb nitrates and ammonium / ammonia, preferring more ammonium / ammonia, because it is less energy cost, but this process can only be relied upon in special situations when aquariums are an overgrown garden, which is why this filtration method is very complicated. for novice aquarists.
In aquariums with a lack of oxygen, the reverse process begins to occur – anaerobic bacteria begin to extract the necessary oxygen from nitrate molecules. A similar procedure is used for biological denitration to reduce the nitrate content in water. These processes in aquariums develop, for example, in the ground, where oxygen deficiency is often present.
It is necessary to note that bacteria extract oxygen from sulfates and at the same time the formation of H2S gas, which has the smell of rotten eggs. This gas is highly toxic to fish, and if it is present, it is necessary to do a thorough cleaning of the soil.
“Live”, well-organized soil for an aquarium is a complex community of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and the rest of the little things that reside on particles of the substrate. It is their activity that allows the primary processing of organic matter, through which it can be used by vegetation.
It should be noted that due to the high-grade processing of organic materials and the ability of the soil ecosystem to self-tune and respond adequately to frequent changes in the conditions of aquarium life, can only be achieved through the harmonious implementation of various types of microorganisms. This requires that everyone can occupy their ecological niche in a given community, so that everyone can find suitable conditions for existence.
In this case, it is primarily regarding oxygen conditions in the ground.
A “suitable” substrate should provide an opportunity to live as anaerobes, which do not tolerate the presence of oxygen and provide a deeper processing of decomposition elements, as well as breathing organisms. At the same time, it is important that these conditions in the soil be in balance so that there is a place for everyone so that the suppression of each other’s microorganisms does not begin.
Practically, it looks like this: a thicker upper layer of soil in contact with the water in the aquarium and its inhabitants, aerates normally, and not such a powerful bottom remains without oxygen.
The traces of vital activity of small fish and other inhabitants of the aquarium in such cases, falling through the ground down, undergo primary processing in the upper layers. Some of the products of such processing assimilate the plants, the other – passes below, completing the decomposition process.
The result is the formation of new compounds, which are also partially absorbed by plants, and some of them are water and gaseous products.
Aquarists can observe the stages of this processing. Fish feces first look like “sausages”, roll on the ground. If you dig a little aquarium soil, it will be seen that these “sausages” broke up into small fragments, which, if carelessly converted, form a fast settling dregs.
At the bottom, finely dispersed sludge begins to accumulate, which clogs up in large quantities the particles of the substrate and prevents water and air exchange in the soil. This sludge is a product of incomplete decomposition of organic matter.
In those cases, when a lot of fish feed begins to enter the aquarium, the aeration of the upper layers of the soil is bad, and there are few aquarium plants — sludge quickly accumulates in the soil, the oxygen zone decreases. Due to the abundance of semi-decomposed organics, the anaerobic flora is rapidly developing.
At first, this colony of bacteria performs useful denitrifying activity, that is, it translates excess nitrates into neutral nitrogen or its nitrous. But with the uncontrolled rapid growth of the colony, a shortage of nitrates begins, then they use sulfur compounds, which also stand out from the remains of fish. As a result of this activity, hydrogen sulfide is formed and accumulates, which is dangerous in itself, in addition, its participation in chemical processes that reduce the oxygen concentration in water is dangerous.
Aquarian soil begins to turn sour. Plants wither, their roots rot or blacken under the influence of hydrogen sulfide.
Its bubbles begin to rise from the bottom, and gradually the aquarium is demolished by a swamp.
And so, it is now clear that the soil in the aquarium is a source of prosperity for vegetation and a potential gravedigger. To increase the duration of the existence of the aquarium in the normal state, it is necessary to minimize the amount of organic matter accumulated in the soil. To do this, it is necessary to balance the number of plants and fish, that is, to contain the minimum number of fish in aquariums with plants.
The number of fish depends on the qualitative and quantitative composition of the underwater flora, as well as the conditions of its livelihood.