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Inputs and Outputs of an Ecosystem: Algae Growth in the EcoQube C

Posted by Team ADI on

Inputs and Outputs of an Ecosystem:

Algae Growth in the EcoQube C

In essence, an ecosystem is a series of nutrients passing through a series of biological mediums in a cycle. The nutrients inputted into the ecosystem give the biological mediums, plants, animals and bacteria, the energy they need to grow and thrive in their environment. Every ecosystem on earth follows this pattern, from the rainforests of the Amazon to the garden in your yard to the EcoQube C on your desk. Having too much or too little nutrients in any ecosystem creates an imbalance and causes problems, so understanding the inputs and the outputs of any ecosystem is key to creating and sustaining a clean and healthy environment for the life that within it.

In aquariums, input comes from three sources, fish food, minerals in the water, and light while output comes in the form of fish and plant growth. All three nutrient inputs are required for healthy fish, plant and beneficial bacterial growth, but too much or too little will create an imbalance. The most common issue from such imbalances is algal blooms.

Ecological imbalances can happen at a macro scale as well. In 2011, Lake Erie had an extreme excess of nutrients from man-made fertilizers running off into the lake.

Algal blooms are most often caused because of an excess of food in the ecosystem. In the ideal ecosystem, your fish will eat all of the food you put into the tank and use those nutrients to grow. The fish will then 'output', to put it politely, leftover nutrients and nitrogen that the plants will use to grow. However, uneaten food in your tank or more fish 'output' than your plant/s can absorb creates an opportunity for algae and cyanobacteria to grow, and when there are enough nutrients, they will grow at an exponential rate. To avoid overfeeding, we recommend only feeding your once a day or every other day, and only as much as the fish can eat in about 30 seconds. You can also read more about fish care for our post, The Fauna of the EcoQube. Algae eating invertebrates are great for curbing the development of algae (you can order Amano shrimp and Nerite snails from our online shop, but once it has bloomed, replacing the water in the tank and rinsing off the existing algae should reset your ecosystem.

Excess light over your aquarium can also give algae enough energy to grow rapidly. To avoid this, try to limit the amount of sunlight your aquarium gets either by placing it away from windows or closing blinds. Your plants need about 7-10 hours of light a day for optimal growth, so turn the light off when it's not necessary and save a little on your energy bill.

This EcoQube has a build of diatoms. These microscopic organisms thrive on an overabundance of silicates, often present unfiltered tap water.

Even the purest water you add to your aquarium will contain some amount of minerals, and this is good. Aquatic plants and beneficial bacteria will use these minerals to grow. However, your standard tap water will contain far too many minerals for your aquarium, particularly heavy metals like copper or lead which is toxic for any aquatic animals in your tank. Additionally, tap water or other less pure water may contain harmful bacteria that could flourish in your tank, at the expense of the aquatic life. For this reason, the water you add is very important to the health of your tank. Water filtered by a reverse osmosis filter is the best water to use, but high quality bottled drinking water will do in a pinch. Products like water clarifiers (also available to order from our online shop, can be added to less clean water sources to purify them for use in your tank.

-Kevin Land, Team ADI

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