01-29-2013, 02:23 PM
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It really all depends. In a newer system, the filter is the perfect place for beneficial bacteria to culture. First, there's decomposition bacteria breaking down organic matter and producing ammonia. The filter media becomes a perfect platform for the bacteria colony to form....with food being steadily delivered like good room service in a fancy hotel! However, while the filter may be the high rent district, it's not the only place in town. So in time, BB also develops in the substrate and on hardscape. On top of all of this, we have to take into account that living plants will aggressively process ammonia, which reduces the food supply available to bacteria and thereby reduce the collective colony size.
All in all, once the tank is established (which many believe is about 6 months or so) this creates the balance in this eco-system. Now I say balance although there are obvious fluctuations as plants keep growing, filters get cleaned, water changes...
But it is this balance and distribution of (BB) power that lets you shut down the filter and/or clean it w/o a major upset. Oh there could be an ever so slight mini-cycle, but unlike the new tank, it would hardly be noticed.