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  1. #1
    Senior Member Ricepicker's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005

    Lightbulb Opinion on natural filtration

    I would like to get some feedback on natural biological filtration without any mechanical filtration

    this is popular in alot of home aquariums, I myself have tried it on some nanos

    the idea is, using biological media such as liverock/livesand to sustain all the filtration, and just filter out debris during water changes.

    I find that this method saves a bit on money, especially if u run a HOB fuge/skimmer. also, macro in the display itself might prove benefitial if a sump is opt out. I have a little bit of macro in my tank (no tangs until they start growing) and only a AC75 as mechanical filtration, no skimmer, and everything seems to be fine (should get a skimmer though)

    my plan was have this run on a bigger scale, possible like a 125 short with a seio or two for a simple reef tank, no sump. any comments to that?

    more importantly i should be making, is i would like to try to do this on a freshwater planted tank, using nutrient substrate and cover maybe 80-100% with plants, throw on a simple CO2 system and a few powerhead for flow. i remember the Japanese guy doing something similar (takashi Amano)

    this is probably as close as one is gonna get to a self-sustaining ecosystem in captivity without investing too much in it i believe.

  2. #2
    Senior Member mschmied's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    You might want to use Java Fern in the FW tank for nutrient export.

  3. #3
    Senior Member geekreef_05's Avatar
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    May 2005
    All my tanks are naturally filtered. I do run an HOB on them all, because its convienent to drop in carbon, poly fiter, etc when needed. Most of the time my HOB's dont have anything in them. This steup works for me because Im dealing with lots of LR and low bioloads. Cheato is also always present in either a compartment of the HOB or just in the main display.

    My setups include:
    15H Mixed Reef: fishless, 25lb Vanuatu rock, 1 small ball of cheato in HOB
    33L Softie Reef: *5 small fish, BTA, 70lbs Indo rock, 2 big balls of free floating cheato
    60 FOWLR Show: 2 fish (tang and flame angel), 40 lbs rock, 1 ball of cheato in HOB
    *pair O.Clowns, Watchman Goby, Orchid Dottyback, Sixline wrasse

    I used to have a community tank with a skimmer, sump and fuge. I found it was just too much electricity/noise and maintaince for a living room show tank. The 60 is WAY better. But thats all opinion. I find the natural method is so simple....its all a matter of balance and understanding the load of your system.

    Im planning a distant future 180 reef, likely softie or FOWLR setup, when I move into a larger home; and this again will run skimmerless. Im likely to incorporate an in-tank fuge or sump as well.

    Oh, jsut in case you might think my setup are maintaince heavey...the truth is its WAY easier to maintain these three tanks than it was to deal with the one community reef and the 15H alone. Low bio-load = low maintaince.

    happy reefin'

  4. #4
    Senior Member Ricepicker's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    interesting, why java ferns, do they export more nutrients or something?

    geekreef, ur HOB is pretty much just moving water then eh? do u use skimmer on those systems?

    i find that if i don't keep up with water changes (which i don't) then detridus builds up really fast, then i just throw on the HOB to filter out the debris...

    what in terms of water chemistry have you noticed?

  5. #5
    Senior Member geekreef_05's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    hey, sorry for the delay in my repsonse..

    No, I dont skim on my current setups. I find that the HOB gets rid of floating debris, and my tanks are stocked in a balanced fashion, so that little waste is actually produced. There is enough waterflow in all the reefs that debris doesnt settle in the tank; and the cleanup crew is efficient enough to take care of the rest.

    Water chemistry is an interesting subject. Both my 15H and 33L have perfect param's. I actually do a 5 gallon WC on the 15H every two weeks and put that water into the 33L. In all honesty, I havent tested the water in either of those reefs in a LONG time. There isnt any need, I sit back and watch, and those tanks run beautifully. I have good SPS growth in my 15H and my clownfish in the 33L have been spawning for ages; the fry never survive, but that alone is usually a sign of good tank health. Plus their anemone always looks great. Unfortunately its not too colourful under the PC lights.

    The 60 FOWLR, on the other hand, works on a different principle. It barely recieves any light; its got a $10 hood, with 40 watts of PC light beaming down on the 40lbs of rock. Keep in mind that the tank is 2' tall, so those lights dont do much more than allow the tang and flame angel to see. This also means that very little grows in the water column or on the rock. The rock still helps to filter the water, as does the cheato in the HOB. This is very opposite to the 15H which recieves 1 big capfull of phyto each week; this tank has so may pods, it'll blow your mind. Again, very opposite to the 60, where you'll never find a pod in site.

  6. #6
    Senior Member carrhd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Spencerville, Ontario
    My 90 is heavily loaded (as anyone who has seen it can tell you.) I used a sump as a convenient place to do skimming and other water handling and have a small fuge filled with live rock and chaeto but that's all I do. The sand bed (3" - 5") does all the work.

    I wouldn't go back.

    220G mixed reef main, 30 G (3 x 10) brood/grow-out, 25 G secondary, 6 G frag with shared sump

    Return Pump: Iwaki MD55RLT
    Water Movement: Tunze Turbelle Stream 6060, 4 x MaxiJet 1200
    Lighting: 60" Outer Orbit dual 250 W 10k HQI and quad 48" T5HO Actinic
    Skimmer: Precision Marine Bullet-2 with Iwaki MD55RLT, WC610 waste collector, and gate valve

    Experience: Fresh since 1976 - Marine since 1987


  7. #7
    J_T is offline
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Hmmm, would I run a tank without a skimmer? Nope, not unless you are willing to drink the contents of my skimmers collection cup after a week of skimming! This was a reply that Anthony Calfo gave someone at this years IMAC. I agree fully. No matter how clean the tank looks, put a decent skimmer on there, and see what comes out. To me, it just isn't worth it to make my fish live in a close system, without keeping it as clean as I can.
    I do Acrylic work

  8. #8
    Senior Member Nelson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Agree JT, I coudn't imagine leaving all that disgusting skimate in my tank that I regularly remove and pour down the sink.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Ricepicker's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    yea i was thinking a skimmer would be unavoidable, but i still would like to keep without sump cause i don't wanna drill my tank...

    that being said, i was wondering, lets say i keep a FOWLR with a shallow bed, 2", and use a undergravel tube for support and filtration, would this be advisable? i did that for many years without a hitch, maintained decent levels of nitrate, and everything thrived, i find that having the debris pulled through the bottom really cleared up water fast, and all i need to do is clear it out once in a while with siphoning.

    again, this was me experimenting on a budget, but now that i'm running a business, what worked for me dont equate the same for other people so i'd like to get people's opinions

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Quote Originally Posted by J_T
    Hmmm, would I run a tank without a skimmer? Nope, not unless you are willing to drink the contents of my skimmers collection cup after a week of skimming! This was a reply that Anthony Calfo gave someone at this years IMAC.
    This is a weak argument for needing a skimmer. It anthropomorphizes the situation by assuming that if something's not good for humans, it must be bad for all life. That's not true. There are organisms (worms, bacteria, insects, etc.) who can only live by eating what is our garbage. Just because skimmate is not palatable (or even 'safe') for humans to eat doesn't mean that there aren't organisms who can safely eat it (or maybe even require it). What happens to skimate when we pour it down the drain - something will digest it. I am surprised that someone of Calfo's stature would make this type of argument.

    More appropriate questions are whether our tanks can support the organisms which digest skimmate, whether the metabolism of skimmate takes too long so that the rate of production exceeds the rate of consumption and whether we can keep the quality of the water sufficient for other life without removing the skimmate from the tank.

    We've had this discussion (very vigorously ) in a previous thread about a year ago. I don't want to go over old ground and tensions. Some people are successful with natural filtration, usually by having a light bioload, lots of filtration sites and less sensitive animals. It can work but the system needs careful design. Skimmers definitely add a safety margin.

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