Testing a Refugium and Phytoremedial Device for the Control of Total Coliforms in an Aquatic Reptile Habitat
IAAAM Archive
Julius M. Tepper1; Tirath S. Sandhu2
1Long Island Fish Hospital, Shirley, NY, USA; 2Cornell University Duck Research Laboratory, Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, Eastport, NY, USA


A refugium with upflow filtration and a phytoremedial device has shown excellent control of Aeromonas sobria in an aquatic habitat designed for hospitalizing fish, so a similar setup was designed and constructed for hospitalization of small aquatic reptiles. A 24 gal (91 L) pond was provided with a raft and fitted with the refugium and phytoremedial device previously described (Tepper 2004). A 60 watt incandescent lamp was fitted 16" (40.75cm) above and lit for a period of 9 hours daily. Temperature was maintained at 24°C. A male painted turtle, Chrysemys picta weighing 155 grams was housed in this setup for a period of 10 weeks. The turtle was fed commercial cat food every other day in a separate enclosure, otherwise it remained in the habitat throughout the period. No water changes were performed during the test period. The turtle was clinically healthy at the end of the test period. A weight gain of 7 grams was noted.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of this system for water purification, a standardized test for total coliforms was performed on the pondwater at the end of the test period. This test, currently in use at the lab to monitor fresh duck carcasses for total coliform contamination, uses the 3M PetrifilmTM method (3M Microbiology Products, Saint Paul, MN), in which a carcass is washed in a plastic bag and the washwater is plated. To be fit for human consumption, the USDA acceptable limit is 100 CFU/ml total coliforms in this washwater. The result of the test on the pondwater was a count of 20 CFU/ml. This level of purity is equal to the EPA standard of maximum acceptable total coliform count for recreational bathing and swimming.


1.  Tepper JM. 2004. The use of an upflow refugium and phytoremedial device for water purification in clinical pet fish practice. Proceedings, International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine (IAAAM). P. 18-19.

Speaker Information
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Julius M. Tepper, DVM

Tirath S. Sandhu

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