effect of plants on bioload
How does one measure the (positive) impact of plants on an aquarium's bio load capacity? The reason I asked is, I have a betta in a 3 gallon eclipse. The filtration system seems excellent compared to filtration systems available for similar sized tanks. I've also added numerous plants in the tank, and I intend to add several ghost shrimps too. Due to the good filtration and plants, does this mean the tank would be able to handle a larger bioload, with the effect of less frequent water changes required or ability to add several more critters/tiny fishes?
The short answer is that there is no accurate way of predicting it. Basically, plants will use ammonia and nitrate as food, but that depends on tons of other factors (the type of plants, the lighting, the amount of other nutrients present, etc.).
You can monitor how quickly your nitrates climb to get an idea of how effective your total biological filtration is (plants included). You want to keep nitrate below 20ppm (the less the better). So basically, ignoring all of the other factors for the sake of argument, you should be able to stock a tank such that doing regular water changes results in nitrate that never gets above however high you set your bar for acceptability (10ppm, 20ppm, etc.).
Shrimp have a very small bioload, so they shouldn't really affect the nitrate levels too much. Purely in terms of bioload, small fish would probably not push you over the limit either. In reality, though, you're not going to be able to find a small fish that lives in small groups or alone that will peacefully cohabitate with a betta in a tank of that size. In other words, I'd just stick to things like shrimp and snails.
The ghost shrimp contribute very little bioload, and I would suggest they do just the opposite. IMO you could do a betta and several ghost shrimp. Multiple fish - no way. You'd still need to do water changes, but probably a little less often and a smaller % change. So, maybe only 25% every 10 days rather than 50% every 7 days.
In my planted tanks, I've never seen nitrates go over 5ppm. That's an accurate enough measurement for me.
+1 on all the above.
One thing I'd add from my shrimp exp: Be sure this tank has been up & running for a while before adding shrimp; they do NOT tolerate new tanks (NO peak's or Ammonia). on a 3g tank with a Betta I'd not get more then 8-10 shrimp in it max. While I agree they don't produce the same load as a fish but they also need room and find enough food on the bottom & plants for a proper health.
IDK how accurate measuring nitrate will be, because plants prefer ammonia over nitrate when available.
I wish my nitrates where 5ppm, that is lower than EI suggests :lol:. I get 20ppm out of my tap, you don't want to know what is in my planted tanks.....
I get 1ppm of ammonia out of the tap (I should check nitrates!) so I reckon my plants appreciate that.
There's a very simple way to estimate the advantage of having plants in your tank. Zero.
Yes, having real plants is good, even a single plant provides a benefit. And yes with a lot of plants you can make a significant impact. However there is no way to estimate that impact before hand. I would stock your tank based off the bioload a normal 3g tank can handle. Any benefits the plants provide are a great side benefit but don't expect them to allow you to squeeze in another fish.
I've heard people mention a dwarf frog as a tank-mate to a betta, but your tank might be too small, plus I think dwarf african frogs need live food. Mine starved :(
If your nitrates are zero, you could consider a single otto or a tiny loach.(instead of shrimp, snails, and fish)
Also, if you bought plants, wait a few weeks before you buy snails. You might get some free eggs on the plants.
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