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carbon cycle lab- Photosynthesis and respiration

Students know the carbon cycle of photosynthesis and respiration and the nitrogen cycle

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This tutorial introduces the carbon cycle

When an organism dies, nitrogen is moved from plant or animal into the inorganic chemical ammonia by the process of bacterial decay. Ammonia is also produced by bacteria in the breakdown of protein. This process is called Mineralization and is the end result of the metabolism of food.
However, ammonia is produced from both metabolism and mineralization. The decomposition (mineralization) process produces large quantities of ammonia (NH3) through the process of ammoniafication.
Heterotrophic microbes (organisms that require organic substrates to get its carbon for their growth and development) utilize the organic compounds of decomposing matter as their carbon source. Ammonia (NH3) is the byproduct of this consumption.

The process of nitrogen cycle was once thought to be a complete linear process, however newer scientific evidence (2008) indicates otherwise.

Newer research indicates that there are three more dynamic processes involved in our aquarium nitrogen cycle, in particular marine aquaria.
I have noticed this in my many both anecdotal observations as well as tests I have performed where many variables were changed, especially during the establishment of a new tanks bio filter (adding plants early on being one), so this new science based theory really helps explain this:

Reference:

What roles do cellular respiration and photosynthesis play in the carbon cycle?

Many associate fishless cycling with the pure ammonia method, however fishless cycling is ANY method that does not introduce fish immediately or until the aquarium has gone thru the nitrogen cycle. In other words, the ammonia and nitrites have gone up then back down which can take from 10 to as long as 45 days depending on method tank size and temperature. I will note that method one (if done properly) rarely results in an ammonia and nitrite spike, this is why it is my preferred method WHEN possible.

I do NOT recommend adding “starter” or cycling fish to start your nitrogen cycle for either freshwater or saltwater.

Finally, before I jump into different cycling methods, I would like to note that testing your and keeping a journal of your water parameters during the cycling process (as well later on, but not at as frequent of intervals) is important in my opinion and will help you note subtle changes. The frequency is a mater of preference/experience, but I would recommend at least every other day for beginners (generally more advanced aquarists can recognize signs and perform cycling as a routine that requires less testing).
These tests include the more obvious ammonia/nitrite & nitrate, but almost as important is the testing of KH/pH as carbonates are used up during the cycling process and this can result in pH drops that can seriously slow the growth of nitrifying bacteria.
Reference for further information:

Carbon Cycle - University of California, Los Angeles

The key processes involved in carbon cycle are photosynthesis and respiration

*Effect of plants on Aquarium Cycling:

As mentioned earlier, many plants such as Hornwort also remove nitrogenous waste.
I usually do not add all the plants I desire until the aquarium is fully cycled (regardless of method used), which is usually 2-3 weeks.
The plants will help carry the waste load vs. an aquarium without plants, in fact in a heavily planted aquarium, it is quite common for the plants to remove all nitrogenous compounds before bacteria can act upon these, thus neutralizing any bacteria based bio filter.

I personally like to see at least some bacteria establish it self before a full load of plants are added (but there are others with have no problem with such a method). Having plants in the beginning does help keep the dangers of ammonia (NH3) or Nitrites (NO2) from building to toxic levels, which allows for a quicker addition of fish to your aquarium.

What heavily planted aquarium keepers should be aware of is that if the plants suddenly shut down their photosynthesis and all nutrient uptake, this can result in sudden ammonia spikes. This includes light failures, medication or certain medication combinations, or any other factor that neutralizes plant bio functioning. For this reason, having a seeded bio filter, even if in another aquarium that can be moved over is important. The AAP Hydro Sponge Filters are excellent for such a use.

This lab fits in great because it shows that plants not only do photosynthesis, but cellular respiration as well.
~ Ecology unit: During my ecology unit, we cover the 3 major biogeochemical cycles (water, carbon, and nitrogen).

30/04/2011 · Carbon cycle definition, Ecology

What roles do cellular respiration and photosynthesis play in the carbon cycle

Denitrification is the process by which microorganisms convert nitrate (NO3) to nitrogen gas (N2). In terms of the global nitrogen cycle, denitrification serves to balance nitrogen fixation by removing fixed nitrogen (rather than supplying it) to the biosphere.
Most denitrifying bacteria are heterotrophic (such as Paracoccus denitrificans and various pseudomonads), utilizing organic carbon, hydrogen or hydrogen sulfide as electron donor and nitrate as electron acceptor. The electron donor is oxidized (to CO2, water or sulfate) and nitrate is contemporaneously reduced to dinitrogen gas (N2).
Denitrifying bacteria require a source of reductant (energy) and a source of oxidant (nitrate).
Reference:

This process can take place in an environment of very limited oxygen by anaerobic bacteria. This process is more common in Marine aquaria and takes place in fine #00 sand, live rock, or “aquarium mud”.
In freshwater aquariums this process often produces potentially dangerous Hydrogen Sulfide, but by maintaining an oxygen level above 1 ppm, this can be avoided. Plants roots are great for maintaining this balance of oxygen in the gravel for proper Nitrate removal by allowing very small amounts of oxygen into the substrate which promotes nitrogen reduction over sulfur reduction (which occurs in substrate with 0 oxygen).



are an organism that requires organic substrates to get its carbon for growth and development. Some are strictly aerobic, but many are facultative anaerobes (they can survive in either the presence or absence of oxygen).
Heterotrophic Bacteria are generally found in most over the counter aquarium cycling products (especially "Sludge Removers") due to their portability and quick activity.
Heterotrophs can be either gram-positive (ex: Bacillus) or gram-negative (ex: Pseudomonas) which in the case of Pseudomonas many gram negative aquarium treatments (such as Kanamycin) can be effective against Pseudomonas while not harming true Autotrophic nitrifying bacteria.

Another point is growth (which is why Heterotrophic bacteria are favored for cycling products); nitrifying (Autotrophic) bacteria will double in population every 15-24 hours under optimal growth conditions. Heterotrophic bacteria, on the other hand, can reproduce in as little as 15 minutes to 1 hour.
Unfortunately research has shown that up to one million times more of these heterotrophic bacteria are required to perform a comparable level of ammonia conversion that is attained by true autotrophic nitrifying bacteria, in part due to the fact of Heterotrophic Bacteria to convert many organics into food.

The use of Heterotrophic Bacteria to cycle an aquarium (or pond) can result in a bio environment that does not contain the necessary Autotrophic nitrifying bacteria to rapidly adapt to changes in bio load either from added fish, wastes, or similar; thus often resulting in sudden spikes in ammonia or nitrites when these Heterotrophic bacteria cycling products are not added in a timely or regular schedule!The other danger is cloudy water.

For this reason products that contain only Heterotrophic Bacteria such as "Hagen Cycle" or even the popular Eco-Complete planted substrate SHOULD BE AVOIDED in some aquariums!

Low pH and Nitrification ;

Nitrification involving AOB & NOB bacteria is different at pH levels of above 7.0 versus below 6.0.

Toxic Ammonia (NH3) changes to ammonium under 6.0 and ammonium (non toxic NH4) switches back to toxic NH3 over 7.0
until the nitrification process re-establishes itself at the higher pH

The cause of this change in the nitrification process is still not clearly understood.
From:


From the above article and quote, I would postulate that a change in Heterotrophic bacteria along with possible Redox Reactions or lack there of (a low pH below 6.0 is very oxidizing with little/no reduction which for this reason alone is not a healthy environment.
As well, Autotrophic bacterial adaptations may be part of this process and why there is an interruption in nitrification from changes in pH and between NH3 & NH4.
Since typical real world aquarium environments invariably are going to contain Heterotrophic bacteria (from fish food waste, etc.) and these tests seemed to lock out these Heterotrophic bacteria (using only ammonium chloride), this bacterium might be part of the cause.


During the nitrification process carbonates are used by the aquarium or pond to counter acids produced during nitrification (or other organic breakdown), however without an adequate KH (even for Amazon River Fish such as Discus or German Rams), subtle or even sudden changes in pH can occur that affects the nitrogen cycle
References:


Keeping a low pH/KH can be a double edged sword where by a simple procedure such as a water change with slightly higher pH water can result in an immediate conversion of ammonium (NH4) to deadly ammonia (NH3) with disastrous results.
This low pH, poor nitrifying environment also easily allows for the growth of pathogenic Fungi/Saprolegnia and a depressed Redox balance.

See References:

Respiration and photosynthesis are the driving forces of the carbon cycle
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  • BBC - GCSE Bitesize: Carbon cycle

    The oxygen cycle and the carbon cycle are closely related as they both involve photosynthesis and cellular respiration

  • The element carbon is the present in all living organisms

    photosynthesis and respiration is the main mechanism to maintain the natural balance of the carbon cycle.

  • Carbon Cycle Processes - Pennsylvania State University

    The carbon and oxygen cycle needs photosynthesis, respiration, combustion and decomposition to function.

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The carbon dioxide molecule is linear and centrosymmetric



The aquarium nitrogen cycle is simply put the method by which diffusion from the gills of the fish and their wastes, as well as other decomposing organic matter (such as uneaten fish food) is converted from Ammonia or Ammonium to Nitrites to Nitrates.
Then Nitrates are then either converted to free nitrogen (which is a gas that will not remain in the water) by plants or de-nitrifying anaerobic bacteria, or you remove/lower your nitrates by way of regular water changes, or by using chemical absorbents such as Purigen.

Without this process going on in your aquarium/pond the keeping of fish or other inhabitants would be nearly impossible as ammonia is highly toxic in even small quantities (ammonium is not, but is quickly converted to ammonia at higher pH), nitrites are also toxic although not as much as ammonia. Nitrates are not toxic to most freshwater fish except in high amounts with long term exposure (this is not the case for many saltwater inhabitants though).
So with this in mind it is important to have an “established aquarium nitrogen cycle” in your aquarium or pond.




Nitrogen is an element vital to all life processes on Earth. Nitrogen is very important in our biosphere, where nitrogen comprises 78% of the atmosphere, and is part of every living tissue. It is a component of amino acids, proteins and nucleic acids. With the exception of carbon, nitrogen is the most universal element of life. Life could not exist without nitrogen. .
Nitrogen is essential for organic development; nitrogenous compounds are also required by some organisms for metabolic functions and respiration. Unfortunately, free nitrogen in the atmosphere is not in a form that is usable by plants or animals. Because of its stable structural formula, it is relatively inert and does not combine readily with other elements.

All living organisms, from fish to plants, have great quantities of assimilated nitrogen in their tissues. Nitrogen is a fundamental ingredient for the formation of proteins and nucleic acids. Every organism you place in your aquarium adds nitrogen based compounds; from fish to coral, to live rock, to plants.
The introduction of food also adds nitrogen. Dead or alive, they are organic masses, and possess the same nitrogenous attributes as the fish, plants, invertebrates you added to your aquarium.
Inorganic nitrogen is added two ways: the atmosphere and new water. Atmospheric nitrogen (N2) is incorporated into our aquarium water by way of nitrogen fixing bacteria and by Cyanobacteria (bacteria that obtain their energy through photosynthesis) as ammonia (NH3). Some Cyanobacteria fix nitrogen gas, which cannot be used by plants, into ammonia, nitrites (NO2-) or nitrates (NO3-). Nitrates can then be utilized by plants and converted to nucleic acids and protein.
Inorganic nitrogenous compounds from our tap or well water also enter our aquarium, often as Nitrites or Nitrates. Reverse Osmosis can remove much of this.
For more about tap water, please see this article:

Photosynthesis - definition of photosynthesis by The …

Nitrogen is an element vital to all life processes on Earth. Nitrogen is very important in our biosphere, where nitrogen comprises 78% of the atmosphere, and is part of every living tissue. It is a component of amino acids, proteins and nucleic acids. With the exception of carbon, nitrogen is the most universal element of life. Life could not exist without nitrogen. .
Nitrogen is essential for organic development; nitrogenous compounds are also required by some organisms for metabolic functions and respiration. Unfortunately, free nitrogen in the atmosphere is not in a form that is usable by plants or animals. Because of its stable structural formula, it is relatively inert and does not combine readily with other elements.

All living organisms, from fish to plants, have great quantities of assimilated nitrogen in their tissues. Nitrogen is a fundamental ingredient for the formation of proteins and nucleic acids. Every organism you place in your aquarium adds nitrogen based compounds; from fish to coral, to live rock, to plants.
The introduction of food also adds nitrogen. Dead or alive, they are organic masses, and possess the same nitrogenous attributes as the fish, plants, invertebrates you added to your aquarium.
Inorganic nitrogen is added two ways: the atmosphere and new water. Atmospheric nitrogen (N2) is incorporated into our aquarium water by way of nitrogen fixing bacteria and by Cyanobacteria (bacteria that obtain their energy through photosynthesis) as ammonia (NH3). Some Cyanobacteria fix nitrogen gas, which cannot be used by plants, into ammonia, nitrites (NO2-) or nitrates (NO3-). Nitrates can then be utilized by plants and converted to nucleic acids and protein.
Inorganic nitrogenous compounds from our tap or well water also enter our aquarium, often as Nitrites or Nitrates. Reverse Osmosis can remove much of this.
For more about tap water, please see this article:

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