03-23-2011, 09:50 AM
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If you want to use plants to assimilate ammonia, it may help to have emersed plants.
Floating plants work wonders, and I'm sure your val is taking more than it's fair share of ammonia...
Plants exposed to atmosphere (that float, like duckweed, amazon frogbit) and that are emersed (bamboo is wonderful, along with some crypts) will always grow faster than submerged plants.
D. Walstad (expert in the field) calls this the 'arial advantage'. If you're not keen on buying plants (even though I strongly suggest the bamboo), then you can always let the bacopa and hygrophila grow out of the top of the tank.
I use soil-based substrates and have no filter in half of my tanks...
Of course, to stock a tank without a filter, I have MANY more plants... Usually 6 bunches, a few rooted plants, and something emersed.