Fish Tanks and Air Bubbles

February 28, 2014

Ive always been fascinated with fish since I was a young child.  For hours I would sit infront of our tank at home, thinking about how I could make the environment inside it more beautiful, exotic and fun for my fish.  It was when I turned around 23 when I started working in the world of wastewater treatment that I really began to appreciate the synergies.   I was no longer seeing a fish tank as just a tank, but more of a live-in septic system.  The fish produce  the waste and if the ecological system is good it should clean that waste and maintain healthy living conditions for the fish. 


One of the things I noticed were air bubbles.  As kids we were fascinated by the scuba man bubbler, or the treasure chest that would release a large bubble of  air when it could no longer hold the building air bubble within it.  Yes, the air bubbles were fun to watch.  Now, 10 years older I was looking at my bubbler in a differnt light. It was the life support for my fish.


Of course for them it wasn't the bubble shooting to the top that was so important, but air that would dissolve in water during its trip to the surface. Since they had not died with my little scuba man bubbler I could make the assumption that they had had enough dissolved oxygen to live comfortably.  The next thing I began to think about was the invisible members of the fish tank, the unseen heroes who were working behind the scene cleaning my rocks, and keeping my glass clean.  How were they doing, and if they were doing ok, could they be doing better?  


I decided to test a theory.  If micororganisms, much like us and fish need air to survive and be productive, what would happen if I increased the amount of air they received, and would there be an impact if I changed the location of that air and how long it stayed in the tank?  The results were rather impressive.


By pushing air from underneath the rocks at the base of my tank and using smaller, bubbles, as opposed to just the large bubbles that typically found in any tank that zip to the top, my whole tank became clearer.  The rocks we trapping tiny airbubbles and resulting in them becoming cleaner and the overall look of my tank was better than before. Why?  I decided to stick my hand in the tank to see if my reasoning was correct. It was. The smaller bubbles were sticking to my hand!  It turns out when you use smaller bubbles they act differently, sticking to surfaces, and staying in the water body longer.  Why is that important?  It is important because when air bubbles stay in water longer, they allow for longer diffusion time. A single bubble of air trapped in water is far superior to one that zips to the top of the tank and disapears.


At the end of the day what did I really discover?  What is it really something ground breaking? I though about it and realized that its what rivers, oceans and lakes already do.  It made me appreciate that creating an ecosystem in a tank needed more thought than just designing a beautiful underwater environment.  I had to think like mother nature, and mimic her to the best of my ability.  Only then would my tank, my fish, and the invisible heroes living in my rocks meet their fullest potential.



- Kaan Gencer



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February 28, 2014

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