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[APD] Re: An observation
IMO, mechanical filtration is the main difference between filtered and non-filtered tanks. After pruning and messing things up somewhat, I do a water change and rinse the mechanical filtration media in old tank water. This removes all the crud from the tank that would otherwise be just sitting (or floating) around in an unfiltered tank - a great NH4 source for algae. Just because you can't measure NH4 with hobbist test kits doesn't mean it's not being produced in great quantities. Uptake by plants and algae simply matches production.
As for biological filtration, it can't be avoided. The leaf surfaces in a heavily planted tank would provide a huge for bacteria to colonise. I suspect this is where most of the biological filtration takes place, thus the main function of filters in planted tanks is for circulation and mechanical filtration - not biological filtration (refering to low to moderate fish loads here).
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