Turbo Start from Bay Bridge Aquarium
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16oz and 32oz bottles ship free via FedEx 2-Day nationwide.
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Turbo Start 900 Saltwater
Turbo Start 700 Freshwater
Our Nerdy TurboStart FAQ:
We are here to help you, and have experience shipping TurboStart tens of thousands of times and dealing with every setup and special or difficult to cycle situation. We get a lot of questions and concerns about shipping Turbo Start, how it can survive; how it works. Any questions, please call or email us, we can give you expert advice and suggestions for your specific use and can figure out issues nearly every time.
It smells really bad! Is it dead?
This is normal, and a good thing, too. Smells can vary from almost nothing to dead rotting sewage, and it does not tell you anything about the state of the bacteria. But Turbo is a super concentrated culture, and when they break down and decay organic compounds, this is the end result. Rotten things smell this way because they are loaded up with bacteria! Decaying things smell rotten because of them, and this means it's alive.
My package arrived hot! Are the bacteria killed or non-viable?
No! They are still OK! While fragile compared to some types of bacteria that can stay as spores for many years, nitrifying bacteria are not super delicate either, bacteria are very tough organisms. They don't have to stay cold every minute, and they don't die. The colder the temperature, the slower the metabolism, and it's just the opposite for heat. Truly bactericidal temperatures don't even begin until the 120-130 range, and must be for extended durations - just like cooking food. The faster the metabolism, the more the shelf life is reduced, but this is accounted for in the product. In 99% of cases, the temperature on arrival will have not any impact on the product or amount needed to cycle the aquarium. We have tested 120F for 12 hours and it did not have any effect on performance from the identical batch prior to heat exposure, and a week in moderate heat does not cause any issue either. Cold is still preferable to keep it as long as possible, however, just as if you had an apple delivered to you. Keep away from direct sunlight or severe extremes. Our packing is very deliberate and careful and the icepacks we use are actually frozen before we send them out, so any heat noticed on arrival was not this way the entire transit duration.
Why does the bottle say "Keep Refrigerated" then?
It should be kept cold, if possible, to slow down the bacterial metabolism to keep it alive longer. From manufacturing to the end of its shelf life, and beyond, the potency (quantity in the bottle) slowly reduces as it ages. The standard baseline is at the expiration date. Newer bottles (that we get once a week!) have more bacteria. The lower the temperature, the slower that metabolism goes, and so it will last much longer. These bacteria are very happy in the 90sif they have enough nutrients and grow fastest in those conditions, even, but the extra nutrition in the bottle will be used up more quickly, so that is why you want to keep it cold. Freezing will actually harm much of the bacteria. The product will continue to work, however, even if heated, even past the "Best Buy" date. This ability to withstand heat is also written on the bottle label directly now. It is still safe to use, however, and can never do harm.
What does "potent" mean?
The bacteria in TurboStart are highly concentrated and act as a starter to get the nitrogen cycle going in a new aquarium, to reduce ammonia and nitrite, or replenish bacteria in already set up aquariums. No two batches or bottles have the same quantity of bacteria. It is still a very concentrated culture with a massive amount of starting bacteria, and we always have near 99% success with it with our customers.
How does it work to remove ammonia and nitrite?
There are two types of bacteria in Turbo Start, and quite a few different species in this exact proprietary blend. They both require oxygen to grow and survive, so it's known as aerobic bacteria. One will use ammonia (NH3/NH4) as its source of nitrogen (needed to make protein) and to grow, which convert it into nitrite (NO2), the other species will turn nitrite into nitrate (NO3), which is the last in the cycle. Ammonia is very toxic to fish, and nitrite somewhat less, but nitrate is much less toxic until it reaches high levels. Nitrate is removed by regular water changes, or will act as a fertilizer for plants and algae.
How do the bacterial grow and does temperature matter?
The bacteria reproduce themselves by splitting into two. They use the ammonia and the nitrite to do so, to get oxygen, which is what keeps an aquarium with fish in it safe from these toxic compounds. In a new tank, without an established bacterial colony, they will quickly reach toxic levels. In a tank, the higher the temperature, the faster bacteria grow, and soon enough the tank will be "cycled". As they split into two, that is considered exponential growth, they double each day. It takes between 18 and 24 hours for the bacteria to double at 82F. So on Day #2, that 1oz bottle is the same concentration as 2oz; on Day #3, it's 4 times more, and so on. In a few days, there is a lot of bacteria! When there is enough to handle all the fish waste immediately, the tank is considered "cycled". But if there is too much ammonia, it still may take longer, if there was not enough bacteria put in to start with.
Why does exponential growth matter?
These bacteria reproduce so quickly, that within in a day or two, there will be double the amount of bacteria compared to what was in the bottle. Therefore, some slight differences in the starting concentration do not matter very much once the bacteria get into the water and get going. Older bottles of Turbo Start, or Turbo Start that was kept warm for months won't have as much bacteria, and could be considered less potent. But, remember, these are the seeding bacteria - not the entire bacterial filter that will stay put - so any minor loss of potency won't make a large difference as they quickly expand. In the Non-Turbo version (7 or 9), it is diluted down 15 times and so has a shelf life in the years, because there is so much less bacteria in it, they don't use all the nutrients in the bottle as fast, so it can stay viable at room temperature. But they will still grow the same way.
What's the best way to use it for a new aquarium?
What we recommend here at Bay Bridge Aquarium is to put a 5X dose, or even more, of Turbo Start into a new aquarium immediately at the same time you add fish in, into clean and new dechlorinated water. This water, already has 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and 0 nitrates, so it's perfect. Without a bacterial filter, however, ammonia and nitrite will start to increase as it is excreted from the fish, and it will eventually reach toxic levels. If you have enough bacteria to start with (a lot of Turbo than they usually tell you to do!), then it will start to remove ammonia immediately, even though it's still super dilute in the water, they will grow at the same time the ammonia increases, but if there's enough to start, it will effectively cycle immediately, even though they are growing at the same rate the ammonia is secreted by the fish. So it stays at 0, if all goes well. That's pretty amazing!
How does TurboStart help?
The ammonia that comes out of the fish (continuously), needs to be consumed by the bacterial colony at the same rate. The larger the amount of bacteria, the more ammonia that can be removed. The more fish, the more ammonia. The larger the tank, the more diluted it will be. Imagine a human excreting into a bath tub compared to a swimming pool. The ammonia is not toxic until it reaches a certain concentration, so the bigger the tank, the longer it will take to reach a toxic level. Likewise, if fewer fish are put in all at once.
When you put fish into the new aquarium, there is no ammonia to start with (or nitrite). If the starting colony (the TurboStart) is large enough, it can handle the excreted ammonia as it is released from the fish, and thus ammonia levels will not rise very high in the first place, or even be detectable. The more Turbo Start, the faster this occurs. Because the bacteria reproduce exponentially, they will be able to handle double the amount of ammonia on the second day compared to the first day.
That keeps the ammonia from reaching reach toxic levels. It is suggested and recommended to overdose 5x-10x more Turbo Start to get more bacteria on Day #1, which will let you put more fish on Day #1.
How can I keep the fish safe if the bacterial colony/filter is not large enough on Day #1?
While Turbo Start is an incredible product, that we recommend and trust to all our customers purchasing new tanks with new fish at the same time, it still has some limitations.
Using the BEST water conditioners, like Fritz Complete, Seachem Prime, or Amquel PLUS, it will neutralize chlorine and chloramine from tap water, but also ammonia and nitrite into non toxic forms. They should be re-dosed every 24-36s hours for the first few days, as they stop binding any new ammonia, or if any ammonia or nitrite is still detectable. The less effective water conditioners do not neutralize both ammonia and nitrite and are not as concentrated products. Bacteria still use these neutralized forms to grow, but it does slow down cycling a little bit, but that's OK if the fish are safe! So while the tank cycles, even with no ammonia detectable, the bacteria is still growing, still doubling everyday. If the colony is not large enough to keep up with the ammonia that shows up, using these neutralizers will keep the fish safe anyway. It can take up to a week or more for the bacterial colony to get large enough, if not enough Turbo Start was used in the beginning.
So, any minor loss of potency from shipping is still negligible on the overall time it takes to cycle, and does not change anything in a real practical sense. By using those neutralizers together, you keep your fish safe, and have a very easy setup.
How can I make sure the bacteria grow?
There needs to be enough spots microscopically for them to live. Bioceramic substrates hold the most bacteria by far, more than rock or sand, and you can put them into a sump or a hang on back filter, where they get aeration for their oxygen needs. The oxygen they consume turns the NH3 to NO2 and NO3! It is more difficult for the bacteria to colonize a bare bottom tank without any substrate, so sometimes that may cause issues. A large enough load of bacteria needs large amounts of oxygen, so airflow is important. They also need small amounts of phosphate to grow out, which usually comes from fish waste or food. While the bacteria are added, before they stick to anything, they are floating in the water, so they could be killed by UV , ozone, or chlorine/chlorine from tap water that was not sufficiently neutralized.
How do I know TurboStart is working?
When testing the water, the first stage of cycling is when ammonia either stays at 0, or begins to go down. There needs to be ammonia first for the nitrite-consuming bacteria, so nitrite usually lags behind ammonia, and nitrite may still be elevated while ammonia is 0.
If you detect nitrite, it means bacteria converted it from ammonia, it cannot come from anywhere else.
If you detect nitrate, this is the final stage of the nitrogen cycle. The nitrate only comes from bacteria that consumed nitrite and converted it into nitrate.
Turbo Start bacteria do not remove nitrate. Nitrate needs to be removed by performing regular water changes. Well established planted aquariums and large amounts of algae will use nitrate as a fertilizer.
It has been days or even a week and I still can't detect anything - ammonia or nitrite or nitrate.
If you have fish in the tank, that is an awesome sign! With enough Turbo Start dosed all at once we often never see any ammonia or nitrite at all. Nitrate may still take some time to build up if there is a good amount of water that keeps it diluted.
It has been over a week and my elevated ammonia and nitrite did not go down. I think the TurboStart just does not work, was dead, or was a bad batch.
That is extremely unlikely to be the case, and we hear this concern occasionally, you may even see some 1-star reviews of the product that claim it just did not work was a waste of money. There can be multiple reasons why it does not work. The first is that there is just far too much ammonia because it was dosed directly, and the tank is a good size. 4ppm of ammonia in 40gal is the same as 16ppm in 10gal. If there is a massive amount in the beginning, it will take a long time to cycle if you are not adding in a ton in the beginning. Adding a small amount each day is counter-intuitive, it makes it take longer to cycle. You're preventing the exponential growth - you want as much as possible on Day #1. The water should be changed, that size colony is usually not necessary to add fish in.
Some other reasons it may not work:
- Insufficient surface area, need to stop using a sponge filter and add a bioceramic or substrates
- Too much competing bacterial products added in, which may out-compete these strains of nitrifying bacteria and not have enough oxygen or other nutrients, slowing and starving them out a particular nutrient or trace mineral
- Extreme pH ranges
- Low temperature: the fastest growth is in the mid 80s/low 90s. Ponds at 50F may take a very long time to cycle: the bacteria is only 20% as efficient so cold, so 5X more is needed to get the same ammonia reduction capacity; there might not be enough surface area.
- Using RODI water without enough remineralization. All life needs to have some trace elements, and having extremely soft water will slow down growth
- Forgetting to remove chlorine, or using UV, or ozone, or protein skimmers: that may kill off or remove much of the bacteria
- Overdose of Prime or Fritz Complete - these are chemical "reducers". They say you can safely overdose to 5X if necessary (1 dose neutralizes 1ppm). If too much is used, the oxygen carrying capacity of the water is reduced so much where both fish and bacteria will suffocate from lack of oxygen, regardless of how much aeration is occurring. Additionally, the ammonia and nitrite can be so bound up for so long, that it is not available to the bacteria.
There may be other very rare cases that can be determined. No two setups are the same. But we will be happy to help you figure that out! It's extremely unlikely the TurboStart went bad. We have tested out and returned "dead" bottles many times and they have generally always work intended. Please contact us if you have any additional questions. Thank you for supporting your Local Fish Shop!