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Hi,

I have a vivarium that has been setup for about 3 months with several plants now having well established root systems and a good amount of microfauna in the vivaarium. I periodically siphon out some of the excess water and usually it is just regular brown water. However, today I siphoned off about a quart and it smelled strongly of sulphur. It has probably been about 2 weeks since I siphoned any water out and there was no smell then. A regular aquarium test kit is pretty much useless because of the brown tinge of the water and I thought about buying some strips. Reading this thread made me wonder if that was even worthwhile:

http://www.dendroboard.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=5245

In short, the plants are great, there aren't any frogs in the tank yet, and the spirngtail population has just exploded in there. I hope to chock it up to just regular decomposition, but wanted to make sure before I put some frogs in there on Wednesday. Should I worry about the smell?

Thanks in advance,

Marcos
 
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Hi Marcos,

Yes you should be concern about the smell. I hope you have a false botton in your vivarium. The flase botton is use mainly to separate the water and the soil. If the soil is seating on the water for a long period of time it will start to decompose.. Check your water level.

Cheers
 
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I have just changed my viv to a better set up. My first set up did have a false bottom. However I had a leaky water feature, which drained directly to the false bottom, and created such a stench. Now I have used a better substrate and I keep a better eye on the water feature.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
All,

The water is pretty stagnant. The vivarium is a LECA bottom with about 2" of LECA and about 3" to 6" inches of coco-fiber soil seperated with window mesh. The water isn't incorporated into a water feature or run through a pump. It was pretty saturated though and saturating some of the soil in places where there wasn't as much LECA. I siphoned out a bunch of the water and was going to lay off the misting and keep the humidity a little lower for a couple days. It had been running at 95%+ RH for a while (at least the springtails seemed to enjoy that nasty water). The smell is undetectable except for in the water that I siphoned out. You can't smell it in the enclosure (at least as far as I can get my head in :) ). I've been in plenty of stinky natural marsh areas and my biggest concern is harming the frogs. Should I just keep pulling out the excess water or should I run a bunch of freshwater through? Are the bacteria even a problem down there? Should I aerate the water?

Sorry about the million questions. Thanks for the help!

Marcos
 
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Arklier said:
Sulphur smell usually indicates the presence of anaerobic bacteria. Is the water stagnent?
Yes and how is that bacteria created????????

Magic????????

or is it because the soil goes spoiled.
 
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Marcos I would get as much as you can of that water out then somehow raise the soil a bit more soo it is well separated from the water. aeration is good if you can do that, it would help keep the water in better condition.

Cheers and good luck
 
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Hey Newt (go flames go) - I sort of agree with you. Or so I think I do..... I find soils to be very difficult to deal with if your not familiar with this lifetime hobby. Until you understand the importance of proper inviroment care with soil, I think going to a different substrate or ground cover with a false bottom, works better for first timers. Only my thought.. Sorry for the hijacking of the thread.
 

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Newt said:
Arklier said:
Sulphur smell usually indicates the presence of anaerobic bacteria. Is the water stagnent?
Yes and how is that bacteria created????????

Magic????????

or is it because the soil goes spoiled.
They are always in the soil, especially soil that doesn't get enough air and has a lot of moisture. But even in healthy, well aireated soil anaerobic bacteria are still present. If the condition of the water and or soil gets to the point where the anaerobic bacteria are favored over aerobic bacteria, then they will flourish and it will start to smell. Note, they do not need soil to grow, dry soil will have none. They only need nutrient rich water with low oxygen levels. Anaerobic means 'without air', aerobic means 'with air'. While most anaerobic bacteria are killed by oxygen, which is to them a deadly poison, some can survive low levels of oxygen. Since in most cases oxygen levels are not the same throughout water or soil, a few of them manage to eke out an existance almost anywhere. They even survive in low oxygen areas of our bodies, such as the mouth, digestive tract, and other moist cavities not involved with the respitory system.

The interesting thing about anaerobic respiration is that in some cases tissues that normally use aerobic respiration can switch to anaerobic respiration. Muscle tissue, for instance. When involved in strenuous activity that requires short but intense bursts of energy or long extended output, muscle cells switch to anaerobic respiration because there's simply not enough oxygen coming to them over the short term. The more you exercise the more efficient the oxygen delivery system becomes, and the longer before the muscle cells have to switch to anaerobic respiration. That's how you get sore muscles, the buildup of lactic acid through anaerobic respiration. Now that I've gotten totally off subject, here's a statement from a FAQ on water pollution:

Why does water sometimes smell like rotten eggs?

When water is enriched with nutrients, eventually anaerobic bacteria, which do not need oxygen to practice their functions, will become highly active. These bacteria produce certain gasses during their activities. One of these gases is hydrogen sulphide. This compounds smells like rotten eggs. When water smells like rotten eggs we can conclude that there is hydrogen present, due to a shortage of oxygen in the specific water.
 

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Listen to Arklier. If you are only smelling the sulphur when you siphon or disturb the water, then you system is working like it should. You can not eliminate all anaerobic microsites from a vivarium and you wouldn't want to even if you could. Denitrification is performed by facultatively anaerobic bacteria and only happens under anaerobic conditions. Denitrification is the process of converting moderately toxic nitrate into N2 gas that then disipates to the atmosphere which is the final step in getting rid of nitrogenous waste fro the system. The sediments that settle under water form areas that become depleted of oxygen and that is where the denitrifiers live. This also creates conditions for sulphur reducing bacteria that are responsible for the smell. When you stir up thos sediments, the sulphuric gases produced by the bacteria are released. That's the way things are suppose to be. If the sulphur smell was contant and you could smell it all the time, then you would probably want to aerate your water some how but if you only smell it when the sediments are stirred, you have the signs of a healthy and diverse aquatic ecosystem.
 

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Brent,

That is what I figured and I am grateful for this informaiton from Arliker and everybody's feedback. In all honesty I probably did let the tank get too saturated, but it sounds from what I've read so far that both of the bacteria are beneficial in their own way as long as the sulfur dioxide levels don't get out of control. I have about 1/3 screen ventilation which allows for good airflow and even if I pull soil right from on top of the mesh, I don't smell it. It is only in the water itself.

Most of the information about anaerobic bacteria seems to come from the aquarium folks who have to worry about the bacteria suffocating or poisoning the fish (from what I could tell online). Didn't really see anything about anaerobic bacteria and vivariums on Google except some cursory mention about making sure that you soil is somewhat porous so that they dont reproduce too out of control.

I will continue to let the tank cycle and keep some gap between the LECA and the soil and introduce the frogs in a couple of days.

Thanks everyone!

Marcos
 

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Blort said:
Brent,

Most of the information about anaerobic bacteria seems to come from the aquarium folks who have to worry about the bacteria suffocating or poisoning the fish (from what I could tell online). Didn't really see anything about anaerobic bacteria and vivariums on Google except some cursory mention about making sure that you soil is somewhat porous so that they dont reproduce too out of control.

Marcos
Yet the aquarium folks have developed some neat plenum systems that allow a substrate to cycle between anaerobic and aerobic so the facultative anaerobic denitrifiers can thrive but the obligate anaerobe sulphur reducing bacteria can't. Denitrification is actually more important in an aquatic system than in terrestrial.

But to be clear, the obligate anaerobic bacteria are not beneficial AND anaerobic conditions can breed pathogenic organisms like botulism and several others. However, the key here is that the anaerobes are isolated in those aquatic sediments so they aren't coming into contact with anything and cause harm. Bad things kept in their place are okay. They can't hurt you and you can't eliminate all bad things even if you wanted to. The perc you get is that those same anaerobic conditions support the denitrifiers that ARE beneficial. Like you said, the sulphur is mainly a nuisance unless it gets too concentrated. I did have a large false bottom viv that got unbearably stinky with sulphur. The solution was to throw a minijet pump in the bottom that wasn't hooked up to anything. The pump circulated the water enough to aerate most of the water and de-stink the water.
 
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Basically the smell your expiriencing is Hydrogen Sulphide. You only expirience this in an Oxygen free, denitrifying bacterieal colony, where the hydrogen sulphide is part of the final denitrification process ultimately producing nitrogen gas.

Somewhere you have a air tight pocket which is leaking. Hydrogen sulphide will kill fish quite quickly, be carefull. Id think your substrate is proably too dense, and is creating oxygen free pockets inside it, which is then leaching the sulphide into the system.
 
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