Using ozone in aquariums – Is it worth it?
General considerations of using ozone in aquariums
Ozone (O3) is an allotropic form of oxygen, which means that it is the same substance in different molecular forms, with different properties, and using ozone in aquariums is not something new.
Ozone is found in small amounts in the atmosphere and near electrical equipment – TV tubes, photocopiers and sometimes air conditioners. Wherever a spark appears in the presence of oxygen, ozone is formed.
Ozone is found in the atmosphere and consists of an oxygen molecule that binds to a single oxygen atom, usually from electrical discharges. The ozone layer in the atmosphere is often mentioned in news bulletins and is correlated with the destructive effect of global industrialization that produces countless damages on the protective barrier against ultraviolet rays from the Sun. Ozone is crucial to life on Earth.
Ozone has strong oxidizing properties. It is an unstable gas, depending on temperature and air pressure. It decomposes rapidly into oxygen at temperatures above 35 degrees C.
It has a specific smell and can be felt by most people at an extremely low concentration (0.02 ppm / volume). It is relatively soluble in water, the solubility depending on water temperatures, and the types of liquefaction processes.
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The ozone molecule is a strong oxidizing agent capable of forming strong chemical reactions that contribute to additional oxidation reactions.
The development of ozonation as a current practice in drinking water treatment has developed mainly due to harmful products resulting from chlorination (formation of halogenated compounds).
The use of ozone in water treatment is still in full development, so the understanding of the current mechanism of ozone reactions with pure water constituents is not complete. The latest research and experience has shown that some recognized influences of ozonation have been associated with the oxidation needs required by the organic content of the water source as well as by limiting the number of substances such as iron and magnesium. Research and experience have shown that the ozonation process can be influenced by pH, bicarbonates, carbonates and other properties of water that can have an effect on ozone decomposition.
Ozone is the second strongest oxidant after fluorine. As a strong oxidant, ozone easily releases some O atoms to form bonds with other substances. At low levels, this characteristic feature makes ozone an excellent process for air freshening. Its oxidation potential and solubility make it a very good disinfectant and anipollutant of water. Ozone-released O atoms bind to organic and chemical pollutants, making it an excellent disinfectant for the environment. Its strong reactivity makes it a stronger oxidant than chloramine in the fight against bacteria, fungi or other parasitic organisms. Ozone is relatively harmless if used responsibly. Because the use of ozone is safe enough for the environment, it has become widely used for water purification, and its use has spread to aquariums or underwater gardens.
Using ozone in aquariums
Ozone is frequently mentioned when talking about aquariums and ponds (small lakes). How does it affect the aquatic environment?
Ozone oxidizes the breakdown of protein products, thus reducing the organic load in the aquarium system, which will turn into weaker ammonia products. Nitrites (NO2), which are toxic in pools, will be immediately oxidized to NO3 – nitrates.
After the rapid oxidation of pathogens, bacteria and pollutants, ozone returns to its original form of oxygen, the organisms treated with it becoming harmless, and in the water no harmful products remain that could cause other diseases, annihilating the pathogens.
Distribution of ozone in aquariums and ponds
Ozone is introduced into aquariums and ponds through an ozone generator. This process – called ozonation – generates ozone by means of a UV lamp or by an electric discharge between two electrodes and is programmed to distribute a certain amount of ozone in that system. Ozonizers have various sizes and characteristics and are sold depending on the volume of the basins to be treated.
Ozone overdose can result in a sterile environment. For this reason, many of the ozonizers are equipped with a control system that regulates the amount of ozone introduced into the system. Ozone acts on waterborne pathogens. Positive bacteria, which reduce ammonia and nitrites from fish droppings and other pollutants, are not affected by ozone. Ozone will not affect the biological filter either. There are even some opinions that ozone would improve the amount of oxygen in the aquarium.
However, ozone should be used with caution in planted ponds, as it will oxidize nutrients – e.g. Iron and magnesium – and other water-soluble solutions, which will stop plant growth. Ozone should be used with care in marine aquariums as well, as secondary oxidants can form that form bromides, which can lead to stress or even killing fish.
Measuring the level of ozone in the aquarium
The amount of ozone can be measured indirectly by measuring the REDOX potential of water (ORP).
Oxidation and reduction are terms used to describe the behavior of atoms and molecules in reactions with other atoms and molecules. Chemical reactions occur through the distribution of electrons or the exchange of electrons. REDOX reactions begin with the exchange of electrons between atoms and molecules. A typical REDOX reaction occurs when electrons are released from an atom (oxidation) and are captured by others (reduction). This movement of the electrons and the small charges that are generated is measured in minivolts. The REDOX potential is measured by the rate at which these reactions occur.
Sterile water, which is used in laboratories, has a REDOX potential of around 700mv. Ozone-treated aquarium water must be maintained with a REXOX potential of 350-380mv. Ozonizers commonly distribute ozone between these parameters. Maintaining the REDOX potential of the aquarium with ozone at a level of 350-380mv considerably increases the destructive power of the outer membranes of pathogens and algae, without side effects on the immune system of fish.
Ozone and other types of filtration
Ozone should never be used in place of regular filtration. Mechanical, chemical and biological filters are indispensable for the aquatic life of an aquarium. Ozone is just an improvement. Everyone has a different role. Filtration helps bacteria with a positive role, ozone kills pathogens. Ozone is used only to purify water and eliminate pathogens that can make fish sick.
However, diseases can occur even with the use of ozone and ultraviolet light. When a pool is undergoing drug treatment, ozonation and UV sterilizers are shut down. When the treatment is over, they can be put back into operation. Ozone can also be used when adding salt to the pool to prevent or combat disease. Because UV sterilizers can perform better than using ozone, it is not recommended that ozone be used instead of UV.
Ozonation systems are composed of at least two elements. The automatic ones have three elements.
Ozone is supplied by a generator. The air is pushed through the ozonizer with an air pump, then through the aeration stone or it can be pushed with the help of an injector. For salt water it is injected into a reaction chamber and is best done with a protein skimmer.
The REDOX control allows the system to operate automatically by turning on or off the required amount of ozone. An ORP controller is a very good installation. A protein skimmer or ozone reactor that mixes ozone into water as efficiently as possible allows water to be disinfected and residual ozone to be discharged before water is introduced into the pool or pond.
Buying a larger installation than necessary is not an recommended alternative.
Are these systems performing?
Ozone generation technology has advanced considerably. New large systems benefit from air coolers and are much more efficient, consuming less electricity. Small systems like ours use small amounts of energy, are simple but less efficient and require low maintenance.
The generator does not contain detachable parts, being necessary only the annual cleaning of the electrodes or their replacement. For systems with a redox control system, the redox sensor should be cleaned weekly to remove any deposits with a soft toothbrush once a week.
Choosing the right system
The ideal ozone level is 0.5 g / hour for 1,000 gallons (1 gallon = 4.54l – England / 3.78l USA).
Fish treatments in case of illness will be done in separate tanks of 5 – 10 liters. The amount of ozone must be between 0.2 – 0.5 mg / l for a period of 15 – 60 seconds depending on the disease and its severity.