Mike’s Phyto was founded in 2016 by Mike Letourneau and is the sole proprietor of this small business. Mike started off as a hobbyist, experimenting with live phytoplankton cultures and offering them to local aquarists. People loved what we did so much that it became the push needed to start a small scale aquaculture farm from our Northeast Pennsylvania country ranch property. Country living has taught us the inherent value of natural resources. This environmental awareness dictates the choices on how we run our business operations in congruence with environmentally sound practices. This heightened level of understanding also helped us explore the intimate connections between phytoplankton and zooplankton; and in 2017 we began experimenting with other live zooplankton food crop cultures.
What is phytoplankton?Invertebrate Larval Biologist Ph. D. Rob Toonen’s, definition of what phytoplankton is; “In the simplest terms, phyto means plants, while plankton means tiny particles floating in the ocean – put it together and phytoplankton is simply a fancy word for tiny floating plants (such as diatoms and dinoflagellates).”.
Why is phytoplankton important?
Phytoplankton are the basis of all marine food chains. They are critical to all ocean ecosystems, and the home aquarium is no different. Zooplankton, corals, filter feeding invertebrates (such as clams, sponges, worms, and feather dusters, etc) all feed on phytoplankton. Without supplemental feeding, these animals are kept at critically low populations. Loss of species diversification is one of the reasons home aquariums experience the “crash” phenomenon.
Phytoplankton feeds zooplankton and corals by providing a natural food source of appropriate particle size. Toonen discusses the suggested probability of SPS and LPS coral ingesting phytoplankton as evidenced by concentrations in their gut which are greater than those concentrations of the phytoplankton in the water column surrounding them. This may be evidence of corals intentionally consuming phytoplankton. A copy of the transcripts of his talk on the subject can be found here.
Corals feed not only on phytoplankton directly but also indirectly by feeding on zooplankton itself, which does largely feed on phytoplankton.
The "T" on Live vs. Frozen Phytoplankton
Live phytoplankton is considered the gold standard in all phyto products on the market chiefly because it has no equal. The biggest point in favor of live phyto is how it won't break down into nitrogenous waste the moment it's introduced to your aquarium, unlike frozen or preserved phyto. Live phyto is well........alive; and it continues to do so until it's either eaten or eventually skimmed out. When frozen or preserved phyto products are used (aka "dead phyto") all uneaten dead phyto settles out of suspension and collects in pools of nutrient laden detritus where they continue to breakdown, contributing to nitrate levels.
The second largest point in favor of live phytoplankton is it's nutritional value. Live phyto is as nutritious as it will ever be outside of active culture. This is why it's important to get live phytoplankton from culture to aquarium with as little time in between as possible. Temperature, time and other variables work together to reduce phytoplankton's nutritional value but there are methods for addressing these variables. In general, keeping phytoplankton cold as soon as it's pulled from active culture will extend it's nutritional shelf life significantly.