Filterless Ecosystem

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Discuss all topics related to freshwater and planted tanks.

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Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 1:24 pm

Filterless Ecosystem

by yasherkoach

So for a week as of today (Sunday) I have no filtration in the filters?! Yikes!

let me explain

People on this forum should know me by now, the less human gadgetry the better...all that is left in the tank are the heater and a water flow pump (to create currents).

All else is wood, rock and live plants...and of course, water (((smiles))) - no, I wouldn't go that far lol

Test results (so far):

ammonia: 0.25
nitrite: 0
nitrate: 40
oxygen: 8
temperature: 78-82

Big emphasis on so far...every other day I test for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate...once a week I test for oxygen.

I perform 2 water changes per week, 15% on one day (Thursday)...on Sunday, another 15% = 15-20 gallons per week

I have over 30 mystery/apple snails, 20+ trumpet snails, 30+ rams-horn snails which clean the tank every day. The water flow pump creates enough current and it is pointed toward the water surface to create enough agitation that produces normal range oxygen level in the water column.

I have cut back moderately on the feeding (or not as much as before). I feed peas once a week. Every Sunday as usual I fast the fish (no food) to clean out digestive systems.

So far it is working...of course I am realistic enough to realize that the ammonia may rise over time, say in a very gradual manner (reason for testing every other day), and if need be, I will put the 550 gph filtration back into the tank. But until then via observation and testing I will attempt to slowly work myself through an ecosystem with no filtration.

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Location: QLD Australia

by Alasse


I used to have a dutch 4ft tank outside. No gear in it at all (pumps etc) I had 2 very very large fantail goldies in it. It was extremely planted (beyond heavy planted *L*) They bred and i had many faintail fry raised to be sold.

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by snostorm

nice one! I've seen this done but it was a tiny tank and by a window too! I believe it will work if you keep up the water changes

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by natalie265

Cool! It will be interesting to see how it goes. Keep us posted.

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Joined: Sun Aug 15, 2010 10:27 am

by mzhantsche

Thats what i like about the people on this site. trying different ideas. Good luck Yasher. Ill be checking your updates to see the progress. I suspect the ammonia will get out of control too. We should take a guess on how long it will take. I say 13 days.

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Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 1:24 pm

by yasherkoach

Thanks for the support all...and I will keep you guys updated about every week or so in regards to the testing (ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, oxygen)

my newest endeavor is to only heat the tank by room temperature, so far it is a steady 80-82 (temperature in the tank). In the dead of winter, say around January next year, I wonder if the 80-82 will hold (if not, I will place the heater back into the tank)

so this leaves the tank with only one human gadget, the water flow pump...not sure if I can ever get rid of this for the tank needs water surface agitation (to create enough oxygen in the water column especially considering I keep the water at about 80 consistently - the warmer the temperature the less oxygen in the tank); plus most of the fish in the tank prefer current (from rivers and streams by instinct).

but if you consider the way I started this hobby with ceramic ornaments, air pumps with hoses and wands and/or air stones (initially had 4 air pumps running all types of bubblers and sponges), a heater (at first, two, one on each side), forest like background attached to the tank, 2 filters (Marineland Penguin 200 & 350), two overhead lighting units and only a few fish at first, the tank has come a long way since then

so yes, I will keep you guys posted every week or so on the filter-less progress

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Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 1:24 pm

by yasherkoach

Latest rundown of tank as of today (11/14/2010):

ammonia - 0.25 ppm
nitrite - 0
nitrate - 40
oxygen - 8.3
temperature 78-82

1 red-tail shark
1 yellow platy
4 dwarf chain loaches
4 silver tip tetras
4 scissortail tetras
4 black kuhli loaches
6 harlequin rasboras
8 cherry barbs
8 zebra danios
15 cardinal tetras
15 red platy

1 african dwarf frog
5 olive nerite snails
10+ ramshorn snails
12 ivory mystery snails
12 golden (apple) mystery snails
12 blue mystery snails
12 black mystery snails
40+ trumpet snails

Live Plants:

anubias barteri
anubias coffeefolia
anubias Congensis
anubias hastifolia
anubias nana (in gravel)
anubias nana (on driftwood)
Java Fern


cladophora (naturally grown by sunlight, water & fish poop)


river rock
river pebble




trumpet snail shells
apple snail shells
ramshorn snail shells

EXPERTS BEWARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes I did it...I put all experts to shame. Fish hobby is one huge money making business. I proved that an "overstocked" 55 gallon freshwater tank with no filtration, no heater device, no water flow pump, no assorted air-stone devices and porcelain objects, no overhead lighting and/or other man-made gadgetry can and will work to provide the living inhabitants an all natural ecosystem.

Again, I will keep you guys updated every 10 days or so on the chemical far, it is working.

all comments and/or advice are welcome

information for tanks below:

all natural sunlight regulated by blinds & no filtration (regulated by water changes, snails & live plants); no in-tank heater (heat provided by room temperature (78-82 F); a flexible bubble wand & anchor bubbler with tubing & air pump (provides water agitation and current); Carib Sea Flora Max with First Layer Pure Laterite for plant side; pebble, wood, stone & live plants create the perfect all natural ecosystem

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by natalie265

Wow, if i kept my house heated to 82 degrees throughout the winter, my heating bill would kill me! Have you thought about adding some more live plants to help offset the lack of a filter?

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Joined: Sun May 09, 2010 5:35 am
Location: QLD Australia

by Alasse

Awesome! I've done this on a few occassions, It certainly can be done, but we generally rely on gear to make our life easier *L*

I dont have my tanks that warm though, mine sit around 22-24C (71-75F) fish are happy at that

Posts: 1306
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 1:24 pm

by yasherkoach

yes natalie, I plan to add a couple more nana(s)/anubias attached to wood in the next month or so...I prefer to leave the left side completely bare of plants, it provides an open space for swimming and the current for the danios, tetras, loaches and shark/"minnow"

also the enormous amount of snails do the "filtering" for me plus the snails digestive or intestinal feces/detritus provide the fish will an extra dose of food (yes, snails give off microorganisms that are actually food for fish) which helps in cutting back the food I put into the tank

see the key to an all natural ecosystem is for nature to feed off nature without extincting the entire system...a balance must be met in order for the bio-chemical system to perform properly

whether we admit it or not, as fish hobbyists we are all marine biologists, some are just better at it than others

on the heater, I have an oil finned heater on low setting continuously (600 watts) this provides a constant temperature of 78-82 in the tank

true Alasse, all the gadgets may make the humans life easier but to a fish or live plant it makes their life less natural

when I started this hobby I put nearly $1500 into it...if I did it all over again, with what I have in the tank now, it would cost about $400 to $500 for the fish, invertebrates, live plants, wood, rocks, air pump/bubble wands/tubing and the tank

use to cost about $100 a year for upkeep (filters) it costs zero

chemical tests (yearly: about $30); food (peas/minced chicken/high quality flake/live baby brine shrimp/algae wafers) (yearly: about $50); water (changes) (yearly: about $120)

thanks for the compliments...I will keep you guys posted every week or so on the chemical testing

Filterless Ecosystem

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