You don’t have any fish in your aquarium, just plants. That means you don’t need a filter, right? Here’s why you may want to add a filter to your planted tank.
If you are an experienced aquarium hobbyist, you undoubtedly understand the importance of having a high-quality filtration system installed in your tank. Having a filter is essential for maintaining high water quality because it removes harmful substances from the tank water and helps to keep oxygen levels high for your fish. If these are the main things a filter does, however, you may be wondering if the live plants in your tank will be enough.
What do Plants Do in the Aquarium?
Not only can live plants enhance the appearance of your aquarium, but they provide several very important benefits as well. Live aquarium plants go through the process of photosynthesis during the day (or when your tank lights are turned on) in order to grow. They absorb carbon dioxide from your tank water (this is produced by your fish as a byproduct of respiration) and they use light as energy to convert that carbon dioxide into oxygen. Live plants also extract certain pollutants from the tank water including things like ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite – all of these substances are harmful for your fish so it is necessary to have them removed from the tank. Aquatic plants can also help to keep algae growth at bay because they compete for the same nutrients algae needs to grow.
Do I Need a Tank Filter?
To summarize the information from the last section, live aquarium plants filter harmful substances from the tank water and convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Given this information, you might be wondering what makes live plants different from any aquarium filter. After all, they seem to perform the same functions. So, do you really need to use a filter in your planted tank? The answer to this question will be different depending on several factors including tank size, the number of plants you have, and the number and type of aquarium inhabitants you are cultivating.
You can’t add one or two plants to your freshwater aquarium and expect it to be an adequate replacement for your filter. If you have a large tank or a large number of tank inhabitants, the ability of those few plants to filter out toxins and to produce oxygen will probably not be enough to keep up with the biological load of your tank. If, on the other hand, you have a moderately sized tank filled with a large number of live plants and you only have a few fish, those plants might be able to keep up with the production of waste and carbon dioxide your fish are responsible for.
The problem is that you will not really know if your planted tank can thrive without a filter unless you try it. Remember, it is essential that you cycle your tank before you add any fish or other tank inhabitants – this is still true for the planted tank. Having a filter installed while your tank is cycling can be beneficial, especially because you want the water quality to be high when you add your fish. It isn’t a bad idea, then, to start your planted tank with a filter and to keep adding more plants until your filter becomes unnecessary. Just make sure that you have another means of cultivating biological bacteria in your tank to maintain the nitrogen cycle once you remove the filter. You can try installing a sponge filter or simply let the bacteria grow on tank surfaces.
It’s certainly possible to cultivate a thriving planted tank without a filter, but it can be a little bit tricky to accomplish. You want to make sure that your live plants are able to handle the biological load in your tank before you remove the filter and you need to take steps to ensure proper biological filtration. If you do these things, however, you can certain keep a planted tank without a filter.