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Is Pee Killing Lake Fish?

By Leonard Ho - Posted May 15, 2012 08:00 AM
An old reefkeeper's lore tells the tale of Tridacna farmers urinating in clam raceways to fertilize the waters. German fishermen are now blaming swimmers' urine for causing mass fish death in Lake Eichbaum.
Is Pee Killing Lake Fish?

Photo by 'Lab Science Career'/Flickr

Urine is rich in nitrogen (notably ammonia) and phosphorus, making it a natural fertilizer for plants and algae.  German fishermen are blaming swimmer's urine for causing algal blooms resulting in the death of 500 fish discovered in the past two weeks.

Lake authorities have closed recreational swimming due to high algae levels.  The Hamburger Angling Association calculates swimmers add half a liter of urine per swimmer per day.  The Urban Development and Environment Authority challenges the claims of the Hamburger Angling Association and is trying to reopen the lake for swimming.  But we have to ask: Would anyone still want to swim in the lake after all this unsavory news?

Hamburg University scientists say a specific species of cyanobacteria found in Lake Eichbaum may be particularly dangerous to fish because they produce a neurotoxin called anatoxin-a, also said to convert relatively harmless ammonium (NH4+) to asphyxiating ammonia (NH3).  The lake's unusually high pH of 8.7 would also make ammonia much more toxic.

Lake authorities have already installed 148 tonnes of the anti-phosphate agent Bentophos (Phoslock) at a cost of €516,000 (~$667,000 USD) but with little success reducing algae levels.

TL;DR:  Don't pee in your aquarium.

[via TheLocal]

Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.


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