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re: Filterless Plant Tanks

Jamie and everybody else,

I wrote the article but have not yet seen the magazine so I have no idea if
editing of any kind took place.  But maybe I can at least explain what I was
attempting to say.

First I almost, but not quite, have to apologize for the article.  It did not
start out as an article but as response to a question I was asked.  Thanks to
some kindness of the part of the person I sent it to it ended up in FAMA.

I tend to be the type person who questions almost everything.  Just my nature I
guess.  We all hear that we MUST keep the temps in our tanks stable as fish
cannot handle rapid changes of temperature, especially temperature drops.  Odd
isn't it that fish in real life go through thermoclines in natural bodies of
water in which they go through several degrees change, in just a few seconds.
Equally odd is the temperature of small streams and small ponds can change
radically during heavy rain storms.  According to a lot of people this cannot
happen which makes me then assume that everyfish in the world is dead and just
don't know it yet. <g>

A lot of what should and/or needs to be done to a tank depends on what the tank
owner wants.  On larger tanks I have to side with George in saying sumps are
fantastic.  On my biggest tank I have one, just with almost all biomedia
removed, but still I have some.  This tank has one little neon swimming around
in 120 gallons.  But I love the sump for the ability to use it as a reaction
chamber chemical additions, a place to add CO2, a place to keep heaters, and boy
does it make my water change routine.  In the tank the article was on, it is a
45 gallon tank I had custom made for me to get dimensions I wanted.  It is from
my point of view overcrowded.  Right now I have no clue how many fish are in it.
It has live bearers and I wasn't feeding it at all so needless to say the fry
became dinner.  But my wife stepped in and insisted I protect the innocent
babies so I started feeding the tank, and you can imagine what happened then.
<g>  Tank has three light strips, each having two 24" lamps or a total of 120
watts.  But the lights are staggered off and on so full wattage is only achieved
for about 6 hours.  Rest of the time there is either 40 or 80 watts depending on
which lights I have on.  Tank is heavily planted with very little substrate area
left to add anything at all.  No stem plants at all.  Substrate is a mixture of
sand, peat, gravel, top soil, and even a little laterite tossed in for good
measure.  The only supplements it gets at all are the occasional plant tablet
added to the substrate.  Yes there is a powerhead which does have a prefilter.
The powerhead had the flow directed across the substrate to help keep solids and
debris in the water column until the prefilter or water changes catch it.  And
there is a heater in there.  Nothing else.  I can't say it is pretty, long story
but it was planted quickly to save plants when I moved so there is little rhyme
nor reason to the planting.  But the plants are healthy and growing well.  And
the fish are healthy and growing well even though IMO I have too many fish in

My real point in writing the article was simply to make everyone realize that
there are no hard and fast rules.  What each individual aquarist wants and needs
is dictated by their own personality.  I've pruned the five gallons a week worth
or plants, not my style.  I want a tank that allows for me to grow plants I
choose and keeps those plants healthy, but I do not want a tank that works me to
death.  That is the main reason I have no stem plants as the dang things grow to
fast for my taste.  Whether you need or want a filter depends on a number of
variables, fish load, water quality, light intensity, substrate type and so on.
But I do think it is silly for us to spend money on equipment that we do not
need, and that can be counter productive.  That means that each planted tank
aquarist, or aquatic gardener which to me is more accurate in my case, should
know basic information about plants and fish so that they can make informed
decisions.  What is right for George may or may not be right for me, what is
right for me may not be what is right for you, and so on.  (Sorry for using you
as an example George, hope you don't mind.)

Whether a filter is for you, or filterless is for you, is really up to you to
determine based upon what you want.  It can work, either that or I have some
really stupid fish that died over a year ago, and it is an option.  Up to you to
chose which option is best for you.

However I would never even try running without a filter in a heavily fish
populated tank or a lightly planted tank.

Sorry for the long reply.