Fritz-Zyme: The response!

  • #1
Nitrogen cycle nerds unite, I've gotten a response from the reps at Fritz industries concerning their product, as well as an opportunity to test it out. Responses are in bold:

Hello, I'm an active member of one of the largest aquarist forums on the web ( In the past months, many of us have been testing various bacteria supplements in an attempt to find out which ones are snake oil and which ones are actually viable for cycling a tank. One thing that stands out about your product is your willingness to explain the science behind what exactly your product does, and this is refreshing to us.

Our general consensus at the moment is that apart from a few of the refrigerated products available (dr tims one and only nitrifying bacteria), in which shipping costs really deter most from using, the only other room temperature stable product is Tetra Safestart.

I may be telling you things you already know, but Dr. TI'm Hovanec was the biologist who developed a nitrifying bacteria based product for Marineland called BioSpira. Marineland was bought by United Pet Group and then Tetra was also bought by United Pet Group. During this time, Dr. Hovanec left the company and founded Dr. Tim’s. It is not clear if Tetra’s Safe Start is the same is Dr. Tim’s One and Only although they both state they use Nitrosomonas, Nitrosospira and Nitrospira bacteria.

This product has been proven in multiple tests so everyone recommends it. However in doing so, they often make claims that all of the other products on the market are land-based forms of bacteria that cannot be sustained without repeat dosing etc etc.

All nitrifying bacteria – defined as autotrophic bacteria which mineralize nitrogen compounds as a primary energy source – are “land-based.” In other words, all of these species, Fritz’, Tetra’s, Dr. Tim’s and all the ones identified in nature require a substrate to grow on. Outside of the aquarium you find them in soils – but not dry soils. They thrive in the soils at the bottoms of lakes, rivers, ponds and oceans. So, sure, our bacteria are substrate based and in nature that substrate is almost always a soil. The same is true for all of our competitors. That’s the nature of nitrifiers.

I cannot speak for competitor products, but you should not have to add our FritzZyme or FritzZyme TurboStart to an aquarium repeatedly under normal conditions. Situations where the addition of FritzZyme to an established aquarium would help would include:

* After a long power outage or a move where the aquarium was without electricity or water for eight or more hours
* After treating an aquarium with antibiotic medications, medications with formaldehyde or copper. Before adding the FritzZyme use activated carbon and a water change to remove medications first.
* When adding a large number or fish (or one or two very large fish) to an established aquarium.

On the other hand, sludge degrading bacteria, the heterotrophic bacteria, do need to be added to the aquarium on a regular basis to see effective results. A combination of factors (competition, predation by other organisms and the fact that unnaturally high population levels are needed to really break down the gunk in aquariums) means that these products cannot be added just once.

This being said, I'm making an effort to get other legitimate products' names out there, and based on what I've read from your site, it appears that your product might actually work. Since Tetra Safestart isn't available anywhere local to me, I have to order it in, and would have to do the same with your product as far as I can tell. The 12.00 shipping cost for your product seems kind of extreme, but perhaps UPS is expensive, or I'm just used to the flat rate box (USPS) shipping methods.

UPS is expensive. We’re testing some methods that will allow us to ship 2nd day or 3rd day and keep the product cold. Dealers get free shipping when they buy a case.

Either way, it is my hope that your product will be proven through my testing, as well as others, so that TSS can have some competition.

Could you please answer a few questions for me?

1. What is the difference between the Turbo-start and regular versions of your product? From what I can tell, the Turbo-start #700 is a highly concentrated version of the #7, but both include the same bacteria and ingredients. The turbo-start#700 requires overnight shipping and refrigeration, which really bumps the price up, so it's not likely I would be using it for any kind of testing purposes, or that it would be something that many new aquarists would invest in. So why does the #700 require refrigeration while the #7 doesn't?

TurboStart 700 is the exact same product concentrated more than 15x what you get in FritzZyme #7.

To answer the second part of your question you need to know that nitrifying bacteria cannot form spores or otherwise go dormant. No matter what we (or our competitors) do, the biology of nitrifying bacteria limits us as to what we can do to keep it viable in the bottle. The more bacteria that are present, the more resources they use. The warmer the temperature, the faster their metabolism operates. With the TurboStart 700 we use the colder temperatures to slow down the metabolism of the nitrifiers as much as we can which allows us to pack a much greater concentration into the bottle. It is a delicate balance though, because freezing will kill the bacteria and if unrefrigerated for more than a few hours the bacteria lose viability at that density.

There are also some proprietary techniques we have to keep the bacteria alive in bottles but I can’t comment on those. I’m sure our competitors have the similar methods they would not talk about.

2. I know your site breaks down much of the science behind the nitrification process, but I want to make sure that your product is autotrophic and contains the naturally occurring bacteria that grows in the aquarium setting. As you already know, many products claim that they have the right stuff, and they obviously do not. At this point in my research I've concluded that these companies can claim pretty much anything they want.

David, we have been culturing and selling nitrifying bacteria since 1977. We started doing research in 1975 so when customers of our aquaculture division requested a non-chemical product which would reduce their fish loss. After culturing and testing a variety of species we settled on Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter for our freshwater FritzZyme #7 and TurboStart 700.

While it is possible to adapt the freshwater nitrifiers for saltwater, they are never as effective as true saltwater species. So for our FritzZyme #9 and TurboStart 900 we selected true saltwater nitrifying bacteria from the genera Nitrococcus and Nitrosoccus.

Over the years our primary business has been selling to Zoos, public aquariums and aquaculture. In those markets, the scientific information on the limitations to preserving nitrifying bacteria have been accepted and understood. The aquarium industry has been a real challenge for us. Pet dealers and distributors have been very resistant to products with expiration dates – especially if a competitor claims to have the same product without an expiration date. Crazy as it sounds, our sales into the aquarium hobby would be much better if we did not have an expiration date.

We don’t claim miracles or magic. Everything we say our nitrifying bacteria does is backed up by our observations in our laboratories and the decades of experience we have from selling these products in the field.

3. After enough testing is done, if your product does as-advertised, then it will be promoted on the fishlore forum. This forum has more traffic than any other aquarist site I've found. If we begin to promote your product on the site, then is there any incentive that you can give the members of our forum to choose your product over TSS?

What kinds of incentives are you thinking of? We are open to ideas.

Thanks again for your time, and thank you for helping all of us who are passionate about this hobby!
  • #2
Thanks for sending us the response. A lot of interesting information there. Much of it clears things up, but there is some stuff that contradicts what I've seen in numerous articles
One thing the guy said, the thing that all nitrifying bacteria are land-based, is not true.
For a quick rundown, take a look at this page.

The charts list the different nitrifying bacteria and where they inhabit. Some are listed as soil-based, some are listed as aquatic, nitrobacter are listed as both. These charts reflect information that I've found in articles from scientific journals in the past.
Yes, there is moisture in the soil, but there is a difference between being exposed to a bit of moisture in damp soil and being immersed in several inches of water.
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  • #3
Thanks for the response sirdarksol. I wonder if there is a conflict about what the definition of 'land-based' is. It sounds like the response given by the rep here is that the bacteria being used by them as well as TSS is a soil based one, yet that soil is in an aquatic environment.

He doesn't mention the nitrosococcus bacteria as far as I see, which is the one that is listed as the freshwater/marine habitat. I'm assuming that means that the nitrosococcus bacteria lives in the actual water? or at least uses it since it is motile?
  • #4
Awesome jeta. I'm convinced

Either the rep really knows the lingo, or he's telling the truth about the product. (I'll go the latter)

Everything said makes sense and is really honest. The reasons for re-dosing are credible.

Thanks heaps for doing the research and sharing the results/responses.

Hopefully we're starting to get somewhere in finding other suitable products. It would be great to be able to provide a list of products by region/continent that can be used.
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  • #5
With you in mind, I already asked him about international shipping and this was the response

With regard to shipping internationally, I do know that we are listed on the Canadian Domestic Substances List (DSL) as legal to import into Canada. However, we have not really put research and effort into getting into the UK, Euro zone or Australia yet – mostly because our orders from those countries tend to be very sporadic ones from public aquariums and shrimp farms. When we have shipped to the UK, we have had good luck getting viable product to the client. When we have shipped to Australia we have not had the same success.

In order for us to get the product into other countries, what we need is a distributor who is committed to carrying the product and who is willing to work with us to get us onto whatever “safe biological products” list the country in question has. We are willing to supply required data, etc. to aid the process. But we are too small of a team to invest a large amount of time into that by ourselves.
  • #6
Thanks jeta - how did I know Aus would be a problem lol

I don't mind if we can't get specific products, as long as we can get good ones

Outside of the aquarium you find them in soils – but not dry soils. They thrive in the soils at the bottoms of lakes, rivers, ponds and oceans. So, sure, our bacteria are substrate based and in nature that substrate is almost always a soil. The same is true for all of our competitors. That’s the nature of nitrifiers.

SDS - I think what this means is that, as we suggest in the aquarium, the bacteria need a surface to attach to, thus in nature, it has to be the river beds and other surfaces in the river

My personal comment - I know a number of members will continue to be skeptical of any product that is not TSS, and that some are stuck in their ways, but in the bigger picture - some of us can't get/find TSS, so if the product works I'm all for it (especially if I can get it, whatever it happens to be lol)

Off-topic comment - some fuels (gasolines) are better than others, coke may be better than pepsi, but if it does the job, it does the job.
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  • #7
coke is definitely better than pepsi, no debate there

I think the goal here is just determining what actually DOES get the job done, lol.

  • #8
jeta: Are you going to be trialling the product? If so, what method?

Be great to see your test results.

And yep, facts only
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  • #9
Yes, he was kind enough to offer a sample for test purposes so I'll definitely post any testing. It'll be fish-in cycling since these prods are intended for that method, but if it does well then I'd like to get the quirks out of the fishless method through trial and error.
  • #10
SDS - I think what this means is that, as we suggest in the aquarium, the bacteria need a surface to attach to, thus in nature, it has to be the river beds and other surfaces in the river

To me, the statement seems to be claiming that nitrifying bacteria are aquatic only. I suppose it could be that the rep only understands the nitrogen cycle as an aquatic process, and doesn't realize that there are bacteria that serve the same function on land.

My personal comment - I know a number of members will continue to be skeptical of any product that is not TSS, and that some are stuck in their ways, but in the bigger picture - some of us can't get/find TSS, so if the product works I'm all for it (especially if I can get it, whatever it happens to be lol)

It has little to do with being skeptical of any product that isn't TSS. It has to do with being skeptical of any product that claims to create the cycle. Back when BioSpira came out, there was the same skepticism about that. It took a long time for members to accept it. In fact, there are still members who don't believe that TSS works. That was the reason for my poll on the product. Enough voices weren't sure about it that I wanted to get an idea of how many people it had seemed to work for.

Most folks aren't going to take the packaging at face value. If we did, we'd all be using aquarium salt, because the packaging suggests that aquarium salt is good for all fish.

Likewise, most aren't going to take the word of the sales reps. It's their job to convince people that the product works, whether or not it does. Yes, the info above seems pretty impressive. An impressive, wordy argument doesn't prove that the product works, however. A little over a month ago, we had a similar response from Stability. That argument was equally impressive.
However, they contradict each other. Just one more reason not to take the word of a sales rep at face value. (note: I am not disparaging the effort of contacting the makers of these products. It's a good way to learn about the product. However, asking for information doesn't mean you have to accept all of it as fact.)

The issue is that there are thousands of aquarium products out there, and enough of them are ineffective or even actively harmful to aquaria. Our task here is to help people with their aquaria. In particular, new hobbyists. We are not helping them if we suggest products that we're not sure about. If we do that, we're using their tanks as our labs, and their fish as test subjects.
Better to have experienced members who either understand the nitrogen cycle well enough to test the products in fishless aquaria or who are experienced enough to use other methods to mitigate the damage that ammonia will cause to the test subjects.
If those tests go well, people will start adding the product to the list of tools for the aquarist's toolbox.
  • #11
Jetajockey - I appreciate your efforts but this sentence makes me uncomfortable:

"After enough testing is done, if your product does as-advertised, then it will be promoted on the fishlore forum."

That sentence makes it sound like "the site" would endorse their product and we don't endorse products "officially". We just have word of mouth on the forum for the products that are good and that's the only sort of promoting we actually do. So, assuming the tests go well, I hope the rep from Fritz-Zyme isn't thinking that we are going to be pushing their product in banner ads and stuff like that.

I'm definitely ok with anyone that wants to test it out and post results (good or bad) on the forum.

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  • #12
Understood completely Mike, after it was brought to my attention I clarified with the product rep that I was independently testing the product and have no official affiliation with the the site or it's administration. I never meant for it to be official sounding but after sirdarksol pointed it out I realized that my wording was very misleading in that manner. Once again, my apologies, I already took the measures to clear any miscommunication up.
  • #13
Great info jetajockey.I don't see that his response regarding land based bacteria is a problem. The reluctance regarding land based bacteria revolves around products where the bacteria dies off in water, hence needs to be redosed. Saying a bacteria is land based as it lives in moist soils does not mean it will die off in water.
I'll be interested to hear your trial Jetajockey. I am so sick of people emphatically stating only TSS works. Australian quarantine laws, as Ryan pointed out, prevent us getting TSS but we have a great local product. Lack of experience with other products does not mean they do not work.
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  • #14
hopefully with time and effort we can get some confidence behind actual working products. I don't know how the tests for this particular one will go, but eventually I hope to see some competition against TSS, since competition between product suppliers will potentially benefit the consumer, as well as give an alternative source.

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