08-30-2010, 01:50 PM
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My 10g is an "experiment." First it has natural sand as the substrate, second no filter, third no artificial light. It is sort of "working" though the water is never clear as it would be with a small sponge filter, and the detritus that accumulates on the sand is really a mess. I will leave this for the present, as I am using this tank as a nursery for baby Farlowella so encouraging the algae (it has lots of that) is necessary.
To answer your question, a well-planted tank with a moderate fish load will be balanced. If you look at the photos of most of my aquaria, they are "well planted," especially the present 90g flooded Amazon forest tank and the 115g Amazonian Riverscape. However, the fish load is far too great in either to go without a filter.
"Moderate" fish load means not many. If I removed half the fish in my 115g it might balance naturally. The 90g would probably fare better, as there are fewer fish per volume, they are smaller generally, and less active. And that tank is thickly planted. I was brought up in the hobby on filters in tanks, and I would be hesitant to remove the filter from either tank. They are basic canisters with minimal water flow, but in the 115g especially that is critical, as I have fish in there that need some flow. Filters should suit the fish species' needs, first and foremost. The plants do the filtration, but the filter does the "clearing" and provides the flow.
Final comment on water tests: these will not tell you much about filtration. Nitrate will alert you to a problem if it suddenly rises, and similarly the pH suddenly falling will tell you something may be off in the balance. But this occurs with or without a filter running. Stability is the goal in any aquarium, and once achieved after the first few months, it should remain. The balance of plants to fish usually means it will. I also do 50% water changes every week in all my tanks. Sometimes I test pH before, usually I never do; same with nitrates.
Filtration is a somewhat mis-understood concept. More filtration does not always equate with better water conditions. The fish load in relation to the water parameters, live plants and bacteria present in the substrate determine the condition of the water. The filter merely moves it around, helping with clarity. But it is still the same water no matter how many filters. This assuming the fish/plants are balanced. The more fish, the more necessary filtration becomes.
Last edited by Byron; 08-30-2010 at 01:52 PM..