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2012 Project #2: OatyFruityBar

Discussion in 'MASC Science Fair Competition' started by hurrafreak, Jan 9, 2012.

  1. hurrafreak

    hurrafreak Orca M.A.S.C Club Member

    Oatyfruitybar, please post:

    What your project will be
    How/where you will research this

    Any other relevant information or questions you feel the judges will need to know or answer. Any posts that don't come from judges or entrants will be deleted.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 11, 2012
  2. oatyfruitybar

    oatyfruitybar Copepod

    What my project will be: I want to do a comparison of the effectiveness of different possible ich treatments on saltwater fish. There's two ways I was thinking about going with this, suggestions on which way to go would be helpful.

    A: Copper (chelated or otherwise) is often regarded as the best method of destroying ich, but has major drawbacks in that it is often impossible to catch sick fish for quarantine, and if sick fish are treated in the display tank the copper nukes all invertebrates and makes live rock and sand completely useless. The other methods I wish to compare to copper are UV filtering of the water, hyposalinity of the water, and Kordon's Ich-Attack (supposed to be a 'natural' 'organic' method).

    B: Alternatively, I would like to consider the effect of different copper treatments on ich-infested fish. Cupramine (activated copper), "ionic" copper sulfate, and chelated copper are all possible alternatives.

    How/Where I will research this:

    A. I would like a group of five fish, from the same store and if possible from the same hatching. One is for a control, the other four will be tested with copper, uv filtering, hyposalinity, and Ich-Attack. I plan to use the water from a pet store (possibly water from another person's tank if they're experiencing an outbreak of ich) in the tank and to stress the fish out (which hopefully will make them catch ich). After all fish show signs of illness (white spots, scratching themselves) they will be moved to separate quarantine tanks and administration of each treatment will begin.

    B. About the same procedure, just with different copper treatments instead.

    1. How nitpicky do you want us to be with measurements? For example - I could make a count of white spots observed on a fish and fish behavior/body weight as a measure of their illness, or I could try to borrow a microscope, do slime coat scrapings on the fish and count parasites observed in the lens field. Which would be better?
    2. Cost: I need to find a fish that is susceptible to ich (if they're too tough and don't catch ich, I can't test treatments on them), yet one that isn't too expensive. I know tangs get it easily, but at $30-40 a fish that is way out of my budget. Any suggestions would be extremely helpful.
    3. I'm contemplating how to get around equipment needs/electricity costs right now. I have decided that simple fishbowls will do for the quarantine tanks, and I can get away with Hydor mini 7.5 watt heaters. My problem is filtration. I have to have separate filter systems for each tank, and was thinking about merely doing very consistent, small water changes (although that wouldn't be in keeping with a 'real' fish tank). Not sure if there's smaller filters that I've overlooked for some reason, or if that would actually be a viable suggestion.
    4. Given all the difficulties with measuring, the only small chance that the fish I get will actually get sick, and the ethical concerns about purposefully making animals ill, do you think I should even pursue this idea? It seems not only costly, but I would probably be responsible for at least one fish death (the control will receive no treatment whatsoever, and will likely perish).
  3. Thales

    Thales Copepod

    I think you would need to be very nitpicky here, and you would need to go with a scrapes/microscope. Only counting spots is a notoriously ineffective way of tracking the parasite.

    You could use sponge filters...at the same time keeping tangs in a fishbowl for any length of time (how long are you proposing to run the experiment?) might be problematic.

    I think I may agree with you here, and am interested in what the other judges think.

  4. spracklcat

    spracklcat Copepod

    I agree wtih Rich, which is why I thought about it a few days before posting.

    People at universities do research making fish sick all the time, but I imagine they have to pass through an internal review board first. I don't know. Ethics aside, I agree with Rich--If you do the project, it is going to be difficult, skin scrapes will be necessary. I'd recommend buckets over fishbowls, preferably painted black--will be less stressful for the fish, and will make seeing the parasites easier.
  5. mpedersen

    mpedersen Copepod

    I have to agree with the others - you'd have to actually intentionally infect fish with Cryptocaryon and then do the tests. This one is probably out of the realm of a realistic science fair project.

    I'd personally suggest seeking out another hypothesis to test.
  6. oatyfruitybar

    oatyfruitybar Copepod

    Mmkay. Going to ditch that idea then, but I have another one, about deep sand beds (DSB).

    Project will be testing different depths of sand beds and their denitrfying effect on the tank's water. The variation in recommended depths for DSB's seems to be a result of people reporting what works for them, but I want to find out how deep your sand bed needs to be to achieve any significant (testable) denitrification, and testing whether increased depth proportionately increases the amount of nitrate that the sand bed can process.

    I will be using four ten gallon (maybe smaller) tanks, giving each a sand bed of 0", 3", 6", 9", 12" respectively (the 0" will be the control). Each sand bed will be seeded by X ounces (I'm looking for a recommendation for X, what you think will seed the tank and start a live sand bed in the tank ASAP) live sand from my own 20 gallon reef tank. I'm unsure whether I should run filtration on the tanks or not just because nitrifying bacteria can exist in filters too and may skew the readings. Opinions? I won't be keeping any live fish in these tanks - rather I will be dosing with ammonia so I can control the exact amount each tank will get (probably about 4 mL per week, as that's about what it takes to raise ten gallons of tank water to about 4ppm ammonia). Maybe I should filter until the cycle on the tank is done?

    I will be using API test kits daily to determine where the cycling process is in each tank, as well as a way to test how fast each DSB processes nitrates - the latter being my measure of efficiency for each sand bed.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 18, 2012
  7. mpedersen

    mpedersen Copepod

    Much improved. My only concern now would be can you get measureable results in the timeframe you have to work under?

    You need something to at least circulate the tank. And I wonder, if you're just using live sand with nothing else, will you even "seed" the nitrogen cycle to be "broken in", or will you be providing too little surface for nitrification to occur?

    I wonder if maybe, maybe, a better way to test this might be several smaller samples - i.e. using a number of 2 L bottles, circulated with air perhaps (this is how many peopl culture phytoplankton - using a 1/4" hole drilled in the cap, with rigid air tubing running in a set distance)? That way you could repeat each variation a number of times. You'd need a good strong air pump (like a luft pump) and good needle gang valves (look at Florida-Aqua-Farms) and you'd have to make sure the flow of air is consistent so, presumably, circulation is consistent. And yes, having bubbles exit the same exact point in all bottles would be an important variable to control...

    Another question that I don't have an answer to - sand displaces water volume. So adding a set amount of ammonia into an overall uniform volume should create a higher initial reading in the tank with the most sand than the tank with no sand. HMM. How does this skew / affect the results?
  8. oatyfruitybar

    oatyfruitybar Copepod

    I really, really like the idea of 2L bottles. Saves on space, and I'd only need one pump to feed the whole system. Really saves on electricity, so thank you for the idea. Having the bubbles exit at the same point in each bottle wouldn't be super hard - just mark the tubing, and maybe use some rubber washers on the inside and outside of the cap to make sure that it doesn't go anywhere. If that blocks airflow I am sure that there are other solutions. The luft pump looks good, and like it would supply far more air than I could possibly need. I looked on Florida-Aqua-Farms and found the needle gang valves as well, and those look like they would suit the needs of the experiment too. Thank you for drawing my attention to this equipment.

    Well, the problem of ammonia is the easier question to answer so I'll start with it. Rather than adding a set AMOUNT of ammonia to each tank, I will instead figure out how much ammonia I need to add to how much water to make the concentration equal a set amount. I was considering starting with a concentration of 4ppm of ammonia in each tank, for several reasons. 1. I have had good success with fast fishless cycles in my own tanks using that concentration and 2. It's my understanding that any higher will possibly kill the very bacteria I'm trying to culture. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, creating a particular concentration of ammonia in any volume of water should be a simple matter of math.

    As for not providing enough surface for nitrification to occur, that's a tough question. Maybe that's so, but I'm not sure what solutions could be implemented to fix the problem. If I add any rock to add more surface area then I have no way of knowing precisely how MUCH surface area I've added. I could use bigger tanks I guess to try and maximize surface area but that not only tacks on costs but space that I just plain don't have right now. But you said '"seed" the nitrogen cycle to be "broken in", I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. Were you talking about the seed sand I was going to use from my own reef tank or is there another method of seeding that I'm overlooking...?

    EDIT: So if I did use 2 liter bottles, would it matter if they were clear or tinted? I assume that a mix of both would be unacceptable as it introduces another variable, but I don't see how light would have too much effect on the nitrogen cycle. Again, please correct me if I'm wrong.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 19, 2012
  9. hurrafreak

    hurrafreak Orca M.A.S.C Club Member

    I've had multiple people ask me about timelines for their projects. Here is the timeline copied from the original science fair thread. All project need to be finished by the meeting that takes place in June. This gives the judges a few weeks to collaborate on who they think will be the winner, plus gives the sponsors time to book everything for the winner. I will copy this in all of the science fair project threads.

    1. There would be a 2 month period for people to submit to the judges what their experiment will be about. This will also include a detailed report about how they plan on researching and doing the experiment. This should end at the end of January.

    ------------------The judges would then give them ideas/comments on what they are presented with, at the end of the period. Basically, to guide/coach them to do things that will make their projects successfull. This is probably the biggest and best change. Last year, the special judges were not there to help coach you along the process, and thus were not able to give a concise opinion about what they were looking for. This process would immediately began after #1 and would take about 1 month. This should take us to the end of February

    2. There would then be another 4 month period for you to actually get the experiment done. This would also give you the opportunity to create your formal project, as well as your formal project packet, including pictures, reports, etc. This should take us to the end of June.

    ------------------The judges would then judge all of the final projects and pick the winner. The winner will NOT be announced until all of the RHM and MACNA details are worked out.
  10. oatyfruitybar

    oatyfruitybar Copepod

    So is waiting until the end of February to start the experiment mandatory or optional?

    Also, another question for the judges - I've read that the temperature for optimum nitrifying bacteria growth is above 77 F. The room where I plan on doing this experiment may be only between the mid 60's and low 70's during the rest of the winter season. I understand that nitifying bacteria can certainly survive at those temperatures, but do you think that their growth rate will be slowed so significantly that it will make it difficult to achieve any result at all?
  11. hurrafreak

    hurrafreak Orca M.A.S.C Club Member

    The end of February signifies the end of the judges "coaching" process. Please do not wait until then to get your experiments going. SO, what this means is if you have any question, or comments about your project that you would like to get an opinion on from the judges, it needs to be soon! The judges have asked a lot of questions, hopefully you all are answering them, and taking their opinions/comments into consideration as they ultimately will be sending you to MACNA 2012 with $500 CASH in your hand!!

    I also have had a few requests from the judges so I'm her to oblige.

    Please come up with an "elevator pitch" for your project. Basically what that means is that they would like to see 1-3 sentences on what your project is, and why (nice idea Rich :) ). Short and sweet.

    Also let's try and see if you can get started on your official format.


    I understand that some of those things won't be able to be filled out until the conclusion of the project, but it may be nice to fill it out with what you do have at the moment. (thanks Christine :) )
  12. oatyfruitybar

    oatyfruitybar Copepod

    "Elevator Pitch": My project will be examining the relationship between the depth of deep sand beds (DSB's) and the speed of denitrification of the water column. I want to look at this because there is currently disagreement in the aquatics community about the recommended depth of a sand bed for maximum benefit, and while it is generally considered that more sand is better for denitrification, there appears to be no one who has tested this hypothesis.


    To determine if the depth of a deep sand bed (DSB) has an effect on the denitrification of the water column.

    The deeper the sand bed, the greater the magnitude of the denitification.

    I will be using clear, 2 liter soda bottles as containers for the experiment and filling each one with varying depths of new sand combined with one quarter cup of sand from my own reef tank's established sand bed. Each bottle will have an airline running to an air pump in order to create water circulation. Each bottle will be filled to the same depth with water (volume to be noted), and a 10% solution of ammonia will be added to each bottle in order to bring the water column's ammonia levels up to 4ppm. Each bottle will be tested for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate every other day, and each week more ammonia will be added in order to maintain a concentration of 4ppm of ammonia so the cycle may continue.

    Depth of sand bed in soda bottle.


  13. melev

    melev Copepod

    A thought comes to mind... what if you could get water from an existing system that currently contains high nitrate? If you got enough of the water for all the bottles, then your test would show which one lowered the NO3 level the best.
  14. oatyfruitybar

    oatyfruitybar Copepod

    I was looking over my draft and the question and I'm not sure that I'm getting this right. Am I mistaken in thinking that adding ammonia is the right way to go to kick off the cycle? I thought that the bacteria that converted ammonia -> nitrite, nitrite -> nitrate, and nitrate -> nitrogen all lived together in the sand and that in order to kickstart the growth of the latter, you had to grow the former. Could I skip all that by adding system water with high nitrates? Or, even if that would work, would that hold less true to the sand that might be found in a real aquarium?
  15. melev

    melev Copepod

    Yes, that will start the cycle, But I thought you were focusing on denitrification.
  16. oatyfruitybar

    oatyfruitybar Copepod

    I am focusing on denitrification. But without establishing a true sand bed, I'll just be measuring the denitrifying effect of the one handful of my own tank's reef sand that I'm going to put in. I figured that through cycling the tank that would give the seed sand time to turn the rest of (or a good portion) of the rest of the sand into live sand as well. Am I wrong in this thought?

    Also, if I am wrong, could I borrow live sand from people to START with a live sand bed which would then develop anaerobic zones? Because I don't know how to establish a DSB in an experimental setting, just a live tank one.
  17. hurrafreak

    hurrafreak Orca M.A.S.C Club Member

    Everyone remember to be taking LOTS of pictures and to document EVERYTHING!!! We will need all of this information later!!
  18. spracklcat

    spracklcat Copepod

    Couple of things:

    Not sure how temperature will affect this other than to slow it. Try keeping a trial bottle on a heating pad and see if that works.

    Add nitrate instead of ammonia for sure. You want to look at denitrification only, so if you add ammonia, you are now looking at nitrification and denitrification, so that's more variables than you want. Simple is best.

    Color of bottle is not important. I'd use clear if you have only because it makes it easier to see if the water gets turbid or not, and if any visible stratification occurs in the sandbed.

    Do yourself a favor and if you haven't already, find a good reference article or text about nitrogen cycles in marine systems.

    Cool project!
  19. oatyfruitybar

    oatyfruitybar Copepod

    Okay, you have a good point. I'll add nitrate instead of ammonia. I have a heated blanket that I can put all of the bottles on to keep them warmer.

    About using existing water with higher nitrates - yes, I could get quite a bit of used water, enough to fill all the bottles. The only concern I have is that it would be from my freshwater tank. I could add salts to it in order to bring the salinity up to reef tank levels, but would that be considered 'cheating' for the sake of the experiment because the water and all the fish wastes in it come from freshwater fish instead of saltwater?
  20. spracklcat

    spracklcat Copepod

    1. Someone else had a good idea which may work better than the heating pad--put all the bottles in a water bath made form an old aquarium with a heater in it.

    2. I wouldn't use FW and salt it--this process is dependent on microbes that may not work the same way (or at all in FW and SW.

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