05-21-2012, 08:15 AM
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+1 With rooted plants, you don't need/want to vacuum the substrate as this may damage roots and any detritus will decompose and provide organic fertilizer for the plants (much like organic gardening). If there are unsightly areas, whether gravel or sand, you can simply hover the (gravel) siphon an inch or two above the substrate to remove during your weekly water changes.
Food for thought: There is also a school of thought that even without plants, routinely disturbing the substrate is counter productive. The substrate develops a vast food web of beneficial organisms that colonize at various levels. Running a gravel siphon through there is like a category 5 tornado hitting the center of town!
Now I'm not saying that under certain extreme circumstances a gravel siphon is bad and an exception might be made for larger pea sized substrates. Also, sometimes, with bad tank conditions, aggressive gravel vacuuming is even required. But given proper feeding and good tank maintenance, hovering over the surface of the substrate, at most, should be all that is typically required. Also, with the exception of Malysian Trumpet Snails that burrow in the upper inch or so of the substrate, stirring the substrate is similarly not recommended as this is also a disturbance and may unnaturally stir 'fresh' detritus too deeply into the substrate.
Edit: I realized I didn't address the original question. All tanks, even heavily planted tanks benefit from (power) filtration. As a minimum, we want/need to remove floating debris and we absolutely must have water circulation to promote health and break thermal gradients.
So mechanical filtration is a must. To a perhaps lessor, but still important extent, comes chemical and biological filtration. I am not a fan of cartridge type HOB filters because they typically fall short in chemical/bio filtration. In any case, I feel some level of filtration beyond plants is desired if not required.
Last edited by AbbeysDad; 05-21-2012 at 08:30 AM..