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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I read a comment awhile back and I've tried to get it out of my head, knowing that dosing sugar into the aquarium is probably a bad idea, but I just can't shake it. :loco: So, I decided to post the question, or rather, questions.

What happens if you put sugar into your aquarium? Will it break down into simple carbons? Can plants utilize it as a carbon source? Will it release CO2? Will bacteria break it down the same way yeast does and release not only CO2 but ethanol as well?

I would guess it would eventually break down after dissolving in the water once bacteria get to work on it, but what would be the by-product?

I thought I did well in Chemistry in high school and college, but I really have no clue on this. :noidea: Anybody care to take a guess or share some thoughts/info?

-Dave :rolleyes:
 

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davemonkey, my experience with this comes from when I had my mixture from my DIY CO2 bottle spill some sugar and yeast into my tank. This was before I had an empty soda bottle between my DIY CO2 bottle and my tank (others may suggest a check valve, but this is what has worked for me).

The effects were NOT good.

Someone explained to me that what I had was a bacterial bloom and that this competed with my fish for O2 in the water. My fish were gasping for air. I was lucky that most of my fish were still alive at that time when I came home at the end of the day (I did lose some smaller ones..) and that the person helping me on APC suggested that I immediately put an airstone in the tank with an airpump going FULL BLAST. From what I saw, my opinion became that this is what saved my fish at that time. I saw my fish immediately swim back and forth specifically through the air bubbles.

I will not say that doing a water change right away would not have been effective, but from that experience my opinion became that - when time is of the essence an air pump going full blast with an airstone will save the day.

I think I may have done a water change right afterwards, but this happened a while ago and my memory is not perfect on what I did in the following steps.

I do wish I had become involved in this hobby at the same time or before I took Junion High School, High School and College Biology and Chemistry. I think I would have absorbed it more effectively or I would have asked more application questions of my teachers and professors at that time. All I have now is faded memories of academic subjects that I do not believe ever approached the topics we explore once we are in this hobby.

I would love to hear a reply from a Junior High School, High School or College student on whether their classes taught them what would happen.

And of course, we have many biologists, chemists and environmental scientists on APC that are not just hobbyists, but rather professionals that handle this subject as part of their day to day work.

Let's wait to see what either side of the spectrum reply with. :smile:
 

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What Jimbo205 says is exactly what will happen---bacterial increase leading to cloudy water, lowered oxygen and gasping, dying fish. With a good oxygen supply, bacteria will convert the sugar to CO2 and water, using up lots of oxygen. With a poor oxygen supply, bacteria will convert sugar to alcohol or lactic acid, but all the fish will be dead.
 

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See, I knew someone would actually have the answer to your question. :smile:

I think what kept most of my fish alive at the time before I got home was the fact that I had a BIO-Wheel Hang on Back Filter. That normally keeps an aquarium well oxygenated. (Not normally recommended for a planted aquarium though.) The fish were swimming at the top of the water right next to the out put from that filter.

Learn from my experience: don't do it.

HeyPK, that is one awesome gallery and profile that you have. Wherever is appropriate (in this thread or not in this thread), please let me know where the sticky is to add photos to our gallery and if there is any limit to it. (Back in the day, the limit I believe was 2 or 3. I am encouraged that that may not be the case anymore.)
 

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If a veterinary opinion counts (along with the biochemistry I had to take to get there), I would expect fermentation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermentation_(biochemistry))

As with all toxins the amount of sugar added to your tank is also important.

1. At an (unknown) minimal level -- unless you want to experiment, probably nothing will happen -- the bacterial populations will handle the sugar without causing a significant change in water chemistry.

2. An increasing amount may cause a significant pH drop and/or ethanol toxicosis for your fish which could lead to drunkeness and/or death. Sugar when completely broken down does become carbon dioxide and water. The problem is the intermediate products that will get into the water during the fermentation process which could include lactic acid and/or ethanol. The amount and types of acids produced depends on how the bacterial populations typically present in a fish tank would handle the sugar. I have no idea what byproducts would result and in what quantity, but most of them are acids. The more sugar added, the more acid produced.

3. A very large amount of sugar would kill all the bacteria, fish, and plants, and basically make a fish tank syrup. Sugar is an osmotic and will draw all the water out of the bacterial cells, as well as the fish and plants. They will all die of dehydration and your tank will be sterilized.

I wouldn't recommend ever adding sugar to your fish tank intentionally.
 

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please let me know where the sticky is to add photos to our gallery and if there is any limit to it. (Back in the day, the limit I believe was 2 or 3. I am encouraged that that may not be the case anymore.)
I don't know if such a sticky exists. You can find instructions for adding photos by going to the User Manual, clicking on "search user manual", and entering "photo album" in the search box. Then you get instructions on using the photo album to upload pictures and display them in your post. (Note: That is the ONLY way to access these instructions. If you browse around in the user manual, you won't see them:noidea:) I doubt that there is a limit of two or three, because many members have lots more than that. If there is an upper limit on picture size, I have not found it yet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for all the great replies! I don't know why I kept thinking about it, maybe because it's something I didn't know and I JUST HAD TO KNOW! :rolleyes: And I certainly was not willing to try an experiment on my aquarium to find out "the hard way". If I were a cat, I'd probably be dead by now from all my curiosity. :sick: And I never would have figured it for reef tanks.

-Dave
 

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Do the experiment on a small scale. Get a glass jar, put some soil on the bottom, fill with water, plant a plant, put in a snail, let it spend a week or two on a windowsill, and then put in some sugar.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Do the experiment on a small scale. Get a glass jar, put some soil on the bottom, fill with water, plant a plant, put in a snail, let it spend a week or two on a windowsill, and then put in some sugar.
I've got a 1/2 gallon jar I can use. If I figured right, 0.05 tsp sugar would be the same as 1 tsp in a 10 gallon tank. 0.05 tsp is 0.25 ml. I think I can get close to that.

I might even have two of these jars. Then I can do one with sugar, one without. I'll start tomorrow and update after a week or so. I have a sneaking suspicion this won't go down in history as one of the greater studies conducted. :delete:

-Dave ;)
 

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I've got a 1/2 gallon jar I can use. If I figured right, 0.05 tsp sugar would be the same as 1 tsp in a 10 gallon tank. 0.05 tsp is 0.25 ml. I think I can get close to that.

I might even have two of these jars. Then I can do one with sugar, one without. I'll start tomorrow and update after a week or so. I have a sneaking suspicion this won't go down in history as one of the greater studies conducted. :delete:

-Dave ;)
Well i dont know about FW, i have used Sugar in a SW tank, the results were, well Bad very very bad. The water looked like Milk it caused such a Large bacteria bloom, and everything in the tank died, which at that point was a few snails, and a couple hermit crabs, so not a huge loss. It will cause a Massive Bacteria Bloom that much im sure on, but the effect on plants i couldn't tell you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Hey, Ohio. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't turn out good at all for fish. It's like one of those things that sounds good in theory, but really isn't. Except, in this case, the theory isn't all that great either. ;)

Just for kicks, you don't happen to remember how much sugar you put in, and how many gallons water? I've decided to test it out on Ludwigia and Bacopa cuttings.
 

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Hey, Ohio. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't turn out good at all for fish. It's like one of those things that sounds good in theory, but really isn't. Except, in this case, the theory isn't all that great either. ;)

Just for kicks, you don't happen to remember how much sugar you put in, and how many gallons water? I've decided to test it out on Ludwigia and Bacopa cuttings.
Yup 4 tablespoons in 20g long tank, im guessing about 16 to 17 actually gallons of water. Make sure you use pre-cycled substrate and Water change water to fill your jars, that way it will be faster than waiting on it to cycle lol.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
And so it begins...:clock:

I am using 2 rubbermaid half-gallon containers. They're about 5" in diameter and 8-9" inches tall. Don't check the math for volume, I didn't actually measure them. ;)

I used soil from the yard because..., well..., it was there and I didn't want to dig around in my tank's substrate. It's a clay loam, but I rinsed it to get clearer water faster, so what's left is mostly silty sand. It is a naturaly highly fertile soil, so hopefully some nutrients stayed with me. I placed 2 Ludwigia repens cuttings and 1 Bacopa caroliniana cutting in each jar. I filled them each with water from the aquarium and sat them in a window (hopefully they don't get cooked) and put about 0.7 ml of sugar in one. That should be pretty close to the equivalent of 1 TBS per 10 gallons. :blah:

Anyway, I'll let you all know what happens as it happens. If anything significant comes about, I'll get some photos.

Oh, and I put a couple snails in each.

-Dave
 

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Should be interesting Dave.

If we can find a safe dose of sugar to use and it does cause a significant bacterial or algae bloom, I could try it in a daphnia culture.

I've set up one in a 20 gallon container outside, and there's only about 10 of them in there from a local pond. If I could speed up the process with some sugar without killing them, that would be cool.

I'm going to wait and see how your experiment goes first.

It might be interesting to see also if the nitrate levels get consumed quickly indicating that the bacteria and algae use it up while proliferating.

~Peter
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
update:

3 days in and a notable difference. J1 will be the sugar-jar, J2 will be the non-sugar jar.

J1 is notably hazy/cloudy, the water has a noticeable film on it, one snail has some slimy/white/fungus stuff growing on it's shell. Snails seem happy and plants look healthy.

J2 has cleared up nicely, some surface film, but not much. Snails look happy and plants healthy. Neither snail has any fungus-stuff on it.

We'll call Tuesday "Day 1", even thought I started this that late afternoon.
-On Days 1 and 3, I dosed sugar to J1...est equiv to 1TBS per 10 gallons.
-On Days 2 and 3, I dosed micros and macros, respectively...est eqiv to Seachem's recommendation on the bottles.

It appears that one of the ludwigia stems in J1 is longer than it's respective counterpart in J2, but I will not assume or measure until more time has gone by.

So far, I will say that sugar in the aquarium would be a disaster aesthetically.

More updates in a few days.

-Dave
 
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