Is a filter really needed in a heavily planted "el natural" tank? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-30-2011, 10:06 PM Thread Starter
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Question Is a filter really needed in a heavily planted "el natural" tank?

I am wondering, if the plant mass is big enough, all i need is a water pump that agitate the water surface. No filter is needed.

So I set up this experiment two months ago. I added two small pots of swords plants in a 2.5 gallon. The plants came from my 75 gallon. On the bottom is 1/4" of pool filter sand and some pebbles. Also in the tank is a small 40 gph pump that agitate the water surface. Lighting = 13 W CF about 6" above the water. Temperature = 75 F, no heater. Then I added fish (6 Rasbora hets) the same day, and monitored the NH3/NO2/NO3 levels daily.

It's clear that the tank is being cycled now. I first saw a small NH3 spike (forgot the readings), then a NO2 spike (up to 0.3 ppm), then a NO3 spike (up to 10 ppm). Two months later, NH3/NO2 = 0 ppm, and NO3 = 1 ppm. The plants are growing, not quickly, but 1-2 new leaves weekly. I don't fertilize anythying at all.

Algae: starting from 2nd week Diatom began to grow, I just rub them off when there is too much. And by now they are mostly gone. No other algae at all during this process. Tank is always crystal clear.

The Rasbora hets will go to my 29 gallon later, since i am using this as quarantine, and I am looking for ideas on the fish stock options after that.

My point is, during the process, no filter of any kind was used. This makes me wonder if this technique can be applied to a much larger tank. Clearly during the cycling, bacteria colonies developed. Maybe on the sand, maybe on the plant leaves, and all the other surfaces. If that's the case, then a filter is not necessary. I remember in Diane Walstad's book she mumbled about filters being kind of necessary in a natural tank (I could be wrong). But my impression after reading the book is, she's not so sure. I consider my tank is Diane Walstad style, the only difference is that, I put the soil in the pot, covered with sand. That way I can easily manage them or refill etc.

What does everyone think? Filter or no filter???
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-30-2011, 10:12 PM
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Short answer, it's always about balance plants/fish bio-load.

I've always felt filters are our "safety" net in between water changes.
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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-30-2011, 11:48 PM
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You still need a mechnical filter to clean the debris.


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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2011, 12:32 AM
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I treat my filters as mechanical not biological.


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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2011, 12:36 AM
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Stagnant water is not a good thing. Not only will you get poor gas exchange throughout the tank, but scum will tend to form on the surface.
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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2011, 12:40 AM
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Stagnant water is not a good thing. Not only will you get poor gas exchange throughout the tank, but scum will tend to form on the surface.
won't be stagnant with movement
Quote:
Also in the tank is a small 40 gph pump that agitate the water surface.

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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2011, 12:41 AM
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"Filter" and "way to move water around" are not quite the same thing in this case.
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2011, 02:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by x2h View Post
I remember in Diane Walstad's book she mumbled about filters being kind of necessary in a natural tank (I could be wrong). But my impression after reading the book is, she's not so sure.
From "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium":

"Filters and water movement- Tanks with a soil layer and healthy plants will remove ammonia, so filtration is not really necessary (see page 111). I have used 'hang-on-the-back' filters, canister filters, or submerged pumps that just circulate water."
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2011, 02:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zdnet View Post
From Ecology of the Planted Aquarium:

"Filters and water movement- Tanks with a soil layer and healthy plants will remove ammonia, so filtration is not really necessary (see page 111). I have used 'hang-on-the-back' filters, canister filters, or submerged pumps that just circulate water."
It cost the same $ to run electric wise, initial set up cost and removed detritus, might as well use the filter also. But most of the Bio is the plants.
This is true in most aquariums, not just these.

I measured quite significant rise in O2 with Wet/dry vs canister filters.
And this also was the case for the non CO2 tank I have. About 1-2ppm more over the 24 hour day cycle.




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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2011, 02:54 AM Thread Starter
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Smile

Thanks Zdnet and Tom and others. It is now clear to me. I think if one uses an empty filter only to move water, then that could be achieved by a powerhead/water pump aiming at surface, with the following benefits:

1. No worries of filter malfunctioning/leaking and ruining the floor.
2. Less clustering (no more tubing etc) of equipment.
3. No periodic change of filter media = time/cost saving = easier to justify to your significant other for "just one last tank" etc.

The disadvantage might be that the pump is noisier than the (canister) filter.


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post #11 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2011, 03:07 AM
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Originally Posted by x2h View Post
The disadvantage might be that the pump is noisier than the (canister) filter.
I use Marineland Maxi-Jet Submersible Utility Pump to circulate water. No noise at all. They have various capacity models.
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post #12 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2011, 03:13 AM Thread Starter
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I use Marineland Maxi-Jet Submersible Utility Pump to circulate water. No noise at all. They have various capacity models.
thanks but every pump manufacturer claims their pump is silent. when you say no noise at all, do you mean it is silent from 10 ft away or you can't hear it even if you put your ear close to it?


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post #13 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2011, 03:26 AM
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thanks but every pump manufacturer claims their pump is silent. when you say no noise at all, do you mean it is silent from 10 ft away or you can't hear it even if you put your ear close to it?
With my ear right next to the tank glass, no noise at all.
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post #14 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2011, 04:40 AM
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I don't have a filter on my .9g but then again that is really easy to do frequent water changes on and I have no fauna in it.
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post #15 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2011, 06:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by x2h View Post
Thanks Zdnet and Tom and others. It is now clear to me. I think if one uses an empty filter only to move water, then that could be achieved by a powerhead/water pump aiming at surface, with the following benefits:

1. No worries of filter malfunctioning/leaking and ruining the floor.
2. Less clustering (no more tubing etc) of equipment.
3. No periodic change of filter media = time/cost saving = easier to justify to your significant other for "just one last tank" etc.


You will need to ensure that you have constant plant growth turning the ammonia/nitrates into plant biomass, though. Very important to get your light/CO2/nutrients handled properly.
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