10 Gallon Filterless Fish / Plant In Cycle

w3amz

To dispel the myth that you can't cycle a tank without the filter mine is nearly complete after shortly over a month.

Setup:
10 Gallon
Fully stocked (5 guppies, 6 green corys) starting on 8/18
Plants, (3) stems Wisteria, (1) Java Fern, (4) Dwarf Grass small bunches dosed with Aqueon Aquarium Plant Food to maintain 0.25 ppm Phosphate level as water changes were done.
Substrate med pebble 5 lbs and sand 5 lbs. mixed, (23) quartz stones 1- 2"
Airstone 14" length at the back of the tank pump 1.25 W
Light fluorescent daylight strip 24" 18W

Since 9/16 no water changes have been done. Water changes were used to peg Ammonia at 1 ppm max and Nitrites at 1 ppm. There was a total of 19 water changes done during this time all of them being 50% changes after 8/20. I did notice API test kit has huge testing error when nitrites get above 0.5 ppm. This ended up with my 5 ppm level because you can't at all determine the color against the chart. I knew this after doing a 50% water change and the level was still reading about 1 ppm that something was wrong.

The ammonia spikes (9/1) and (9/7) were caused by shifting of items in the aquarium, plant movements and substrate movements. The one thing I can't understand is the high nitrate readings of up to 40 ppm. I assumed its from the breakdown of components in the Aquarium plant food because according to some posts around this forum NH3 is supposed to break down 1:1:1 with NO2 and NO3. Either that or it happens to be another myth. The nitrates didn't come directly from the plant food because there was no increase in the nitrate reading after the plant food was added (testing done 1 hour later after water circulated).


upload_2018-9-18_16-15-29.png
Chart shown is ppm (mg/l) over date on a log scale for visualization purpose.
 

GuppyGuy007

The cycle is in the filter in freshwater tanks.
In saltwater tanks it is live rock, mainly
What do you have to grow your bio-media on.
Your tank is not filtered.
Between all the plants and the water changes, that is why your levels decreased.
 

w3amz

The cycle bio-media is anywhere water is circulating. In this case, the glass on the tank, the airstone, the plants, the top of the substrate, the stones. My ammonia load is 0.25 ppm per day, nitrites being about the same. After 2 days without water changes (the last being 50%) ammonia is near 0 and nitrites .25 which is half the rate it was prior.
 

GuppyGuy007

I'm pretty sure that's incorrect.
That Is because of the plants absorbing the ammonia.
Am I wrong? aussieJJDude Sakura48 ?
 

w3amz

I'm pretty sure that's incorrect.
That Is because of the plants absorbing the ammonia.
Am I wrong? aussieJJDude Sakura48 ?

The plants were always there from the beginning. Therefore, they are a test control. With the plants the ammonia load was 0.25 ppm per day as you can see when the tank first started off.
 

GuppyGuy007

I still don't think so.
Ideas? PonzLL DarkOne AquaticJ
 

Fanatic

What was that?
 

GuppyGuy007

I'm looking at the post, hoping you can explain it better than I can?
 

DarkOne

BB grows on all surfaces of the tank, not just in the media of a filter. Plants do absorb some ammonia, nitrites and nitrates but the BB in the tank will process most of it.
 

PonzLL

Is your air strip under the substrate by any chance? If so, it would pull some water through which would act a bit like a sponge filter. That would give the gravel in that spot a better chance at holding some BB. I think with a lot of plants, a tank like this could actually be cycled, since it has circulation to move water around whatever bacteria can cling to, and it has a lot of plants to help suck out what the BB can't handle. Bacteria grows best in our filters, in media that is designed to hold it, but that doesn't mean it can't grow anywhere else in the absence of a filter.

Check out Foo the Flowerhorn on Youtube, he has a tank like this, fully cycled for almost a year, stocked with fish, shimp, and snails, but he doesn't even have an airstone I don't think.

My jarrariums with 0 heater/filter/water movement are almost always 0/0/20 or 30 with snails and shrimp.
 

w3amz

No, the bottom of the airstone is above the gravel with the stone buried about a 1/4 way in just to cover the base..
 

PonzLL

Oh well either way, I believe it's certainly possible that your tank is indeed cycled!
 

rainbowsprinkles

I'm pretty sure that's incorrect.
That Is because of the plants absorbing the ammonia.
Am I wrong? aussieJJDude Sakura48 ?

No you can cycle a tank without a filter as long as enough aerobic bacteria can grow on the substrate. Plants/algae oxygenate. That’s how lakes and ponds are cycled without filters. I have a 30 g with goldfish without a filter that has all stable zeros- also started as a science project LOL
 

GuppyGuy007

BB grows on all surfaces of the tank, not just in the media of a filter. Plants do absorb some ammonia, nitrites and nitrates but the BB in the tank will process most of it.
I didn't think their was enough BB to maintain a tank in just the gravel.
 

DarkOne

I didn't think their was enough BB to maintain a tank in just the gravel.
Without a filter (and media), BB will grow on all surfaces of the tank and in enough density to process the ammonia and nitrites in the water. That's why some grab a handful of gravel to start a new tank.
 

GuppyGuy007

Hmm. Never thought that could work. Glad I asked for a second opinion then. I learned something
 

PonzLL

The main reason most of the BB in a filtered aquarium grows in the filter is because it's specifically designed to be great at doing so. Without the filter....


e8a.gif
 

aussieJJDude

I'm pretty sure that's incorrect.
That Is because of the plants absorbing the ammonia.
Am I wrong? aussieJJDude Sakura48 ?
Plants can and will utilise ammonia for cellular processes, just like they will use nitrate and a small degree, nitrite. Just like terrestrial plants, aquatic plants prefer to use ammonia as a nitrogen source due to it being relatively easy to break hydrogen bonds (NH3) compared to double oxygen bonds of like nitrate can - a little more labor intensive.

The reason why a lot of plant fertilizers use nitrates could simply boil down to nitrates not being as dangerous as ammonia, therefore unlikely that one will overdose to cause harm to the inhabitants.



In a well planted tank, plants can substitute a filter due to their uptake of ammonia (and nitrate, since aerobic bacteria will grow on solid surfaces and readily convert ammonia to nitrite, and nitrite to nitrate) but often requires relatively low stocking and large amounts of plants.
 

MommaWilde

Do you have pictures of the tank? I have been very curious of these types of tanks. Like back in the days of when humans first started keeping fish they wouldn’t have had filters and all the fancy equipment we have now. Seems like the camping of fish keeping, going back to the beginning of things just to try it out. I think the experience could provide more understanding of what’s going on in a tank, what’s necessary, etc.

Anyway, very interesting stuff and thanks for tracking the data and providing a graph. I love visual aides

Sorry to post again but this made me think of my uncles tank. He has a 65 gal in his back yard, been there for like 10 years and before that it was in his previous house for who knows how long. Anyway, it has an under-gravel filter and a heater. That’s it.

He has a common pleco, a couple (I think) 3 spot gourami, and some platys. It has a couple amazon swords and a ton of very green algae that he trims every so often. But mostly he lets the algae be like a jungle.

He doesn’t do water changes, just tops off weekly.

When I first started keeping fish and was researching like crazy I thought he was nuts. But all his fish look good and healthy. The pleco is no doubt stunted but it’s still huge, fins look good and it eats mostly fresh algae with pleco food also. The tank will never win any prizes for looking pretty but it is a testament that things can be done many different ways and not always at the expense of the fish.

I’d still trade the common pleco for 1-2 BN plecos but he won’t give it up.
 

GuppyGuy007

Plants can and will utilise ammonia for cellular processes, just like they will use nitrate and a small degree, nitrite. Just like terrestrial plants, aquatic plants prefer to use ammonia as a nitrogen source due to it being relatively easy to break hydrogen bonds (NH3) compared to double oxygen bonds of like nitrate can - a little more labor intensive.

The reason why a lot of plant fertilizers use nitrates could simply boil down to nitrates not being as dangerous as ammonia, therefore unlikely that one will overdose to cause harm to the inhabitants.



In a well planted tank, plants can substitute a filter due to their uptake of ammonia (and nitrate, since aerobic bacteria will grow on solid surfaces and readily convert ammonia to nitrite, and nitrite to nitrate) but often requires relatively low stocking and large amounts of plants.
I understand and agree with that, I just didnt realize that gravel could support 11 fish in a ten gallon tank.
With enough plants however, it is possible, which is what I was trying to say above.
 

JadeMau

The cycle is in the filter in freshwater tanks.
In saltwater tanks it is live rock, mainly
What do you have to grow your bio-media on.
Your tank is not filtered.
Between all the plants and the water changes, that is why your levels decreased.

Ooooh, so is that why I've never really had ammonia problems (nor nitrite problems) *knock on wood*, because the amount of plants I have?
 

aussieJJDude

I understand and agree with that, I just didnt realize that gravel could support 11 fish in a ten gallon tank.
With enough plants however, it is possible, which is what I was trying to say above.
Remember its not only the gravel. Its any solid surface, this can include tank walls, rocks, driftwood, decor, plants as well as the gravel.
 

Jocelyn Adelman

JadeMau no... if you were to have ammonia problems likely you would have them regardless of the plants. Plants wil, help some, but a stable cycle is a stable cycle.

I have 3 “jars” and 2 ten gals, all with NO substrate, no filter, just plants. (Actually not true, I have a lava rock in one of the tens, and some wood in one of the shrimp jars. To someone just starting I think you certainly recommend adding substrate, it will keep the tank stable... bacteria will grow most anywhere, but the same rules apply when stocking with an hob or without. Eventually the tank will reach its bacterial load (it’s not endless), this will happen more quickly without a filter
 

rainbowsprinkles

Remember its not only the gravel. Its any solid surface, this can include tank walls, rocks, driftwood, decor, plants as well as the gravel.

Yep- but gravel has the most surface area and holds a lot of bacteria. I always am shocked when people say gravel doesn’t hold much bacteria. I think mine is a living organism..The key is getting it to process what’s in the water column quickly enough. But often just having a bubbler to move water around is enough. These tanks also usually have 0 nitrates because of denitrifying bacteria. Plants certainly take up a lot of inorganic N but because their growth is nowhere near as fast as bacteria, plants are not as good at dealing with spikes in ammonia or nitrites as bacteria are - but together they work great
 

JadeMau

JadeMau no... if you were to have ammonia problems likely you would have them regardless of the plants. Plants wil, help some, but a stable cycle is a stable cycle.

I have 3 “jars” and 2 ten gals, all with NO substrate, no filter, just plants. (Actually not true, I have a lava rock in one of the tens, and some wood in one of the shrimp jars. To someone just starting I think you certainly recommend adding substrate, it will keep the tank stable... bacteria will grow most anywhere, but the same rules apply when stocking with an hob or without. Eventually the tank will reach its bacterial load (it’s not endless), this will happen more quickly without a filter
Okay, so I guess I'm still sticking with the "incredible luck"/"divine intervention" theory. Dunno if my luck (with that, I'm not a horribly lucky person overall... ); ) is still good though, I have to do a test soon, (I just haven't had time because I've been sick and stressed and going to work to run through a test, so pretty much, if I'm not at work I just crash x.x) as I had to remove my old filter cartridge due to me dosing for callamanus worms and it having built-in carbon Y^Y
 

Jocelyn Adelman

JadeMau for future, you can cut open the pouch that contains the carbon and dump the carbon out, leaving the pad in place to help maintain the cycle
Likely you had enough bacteria present throughout the tank to multiply fast enough to sustain the bioload
 

JadeMau

JadeMau for future, you can cut open the pouch that contains the carbon and dump the carbon out, leaving the pad in place to help maintain the cycle
Likely you had enough bacteria present throughout the tank to multiply fast enough to sustain the bioload

Thank you! That makes me feel better, I know that aquatic life seems alright (other than my ghost shrimp died (RIP Jean-Philippe Y^Y), but most everyone assured me it was likely his time, and considering I was told he outlasted everyone in the shipment he was in, and seemed very happy). Between cleans the inverts are king, I watched one of my assasins tear into a pea chunk Archer had spit out like a brat, before I got a chance to remove it. It's interesting to watch them when they've caught a whiff of something interesting.

Anyways, yeah, I think a good contributer to good bacteria, besides my substrate, of course, is probably my log, since it's harder to clean its surface. I could be wrong, though, but I feel like that would be a hotspot given all the nooks and crannies?
 

w3amz

Double checked Nitrites today to make sure my data was correct. Nitrites are indeed going down.
 

w3amz

Over 1 month later this tank has about < 5 ppm nitrates without a single water change with no sign of ammonia or nitrites. Ph at 7.4
 

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