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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been experimenting with a ten gallon Chinese porcelain bowl as a suitable aquarium over the years. I'd had pretty good success using a Fluval cannister set up and a couple of sprigs of anubias barteri The bowl gets about an hour of direct sunlight a day. Things were fine until I started experiencing a series of nitrogen cycle crashes long before I properly understood what cycling actually meant. But, since Jan 4, 21 I've had terrific results using nothing more than a container of old bio media from the old setup and the addition of about 4 lucky bamboo plants (a fifth got water-logged and died.) Just gravel substrate; the curved walls of the bowl direct all fish waste to its center where there is now a thin layer of mulm. The parameters have been stable for nearly six weeks: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 15-20 ppm nitrates. Not quite sure how to attach a photo, but I like the conservatory look it lends to my Brooklyn flat. The only Con is that the silica in the porcelain tends to attract diatoms.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
So, one question came up on another fish forum concerning the role of beneficial bacteria (BB) in the water column. The other forum which can safely be characterized as a Nitrogen Cycle hub, the insistence is that BB only exist on things : the bio-media, substrate, decorations, etc. And, that the water column has to be filtered through it. But, I question that since I've had no filtration for almost two months and cycled fairly quickly (two weeks) with nothing more than 7 gallons of standing water and five zebra danios. Oh, and four lucky bamboo plants. Is it possible for lucky bamboo to convert that much ammonia that quickly or can "floating" bacteria contribute its share to the nitrification process?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
You can see floating bacteria if your water is cloudy, otherwise, they're on surfaces most times.
Yes, plants love ammonia.
Thank you, that makes complete sense. Of course, water would have to be pretty nasty looking to have that much bacteria floating around. :smile: As for plants and ammonia, it now becomes clear why I was able to go for months and months without ever changing water when I was a youngster and why everyone on the other fish forum is obsessed with it. When I was young, all of my tanks were heavily planted. You could buy cobomba, vallisneria, and sagittaria pretty easily and every fish book recommended them - but, never because of their role in the nitrogen cycle. It was because you were afraid your fish would suffocate for lack of oxygen. I think I gradually got away from plants as my obsession with filtration grew over the years. Glad to be back to the natural world!
 

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Welcome to APC!

Healthy plants, especially emersed ones like your lucky bamboo, take over the role of beneficial bacteria and biofiltration in fish-only tanks. We don't even "cycle" Walstad tanks in the usual sense of the term.

Please post pictures of your bowl.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Just tested the parameters again and there's been very little change: 0 ammonia 0 nitrites and 20 ppm nitrates. It's been three weeks since the last water change.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Just tested the parameters again and have noted a nitrate level that appears to be bumping up against the 40-80 ppm level. That's after 5 weeks without a water change. So, some water change appears to be in order.

Likewise, there had been some concern about the ph creeping up in alkalinity since the beginning of the month. Today it measured 753 on my LED pen. As I've mentioned in other threads, I live in Brooklyn and I'm not accustomed to having alkaline water. So, I've removed my ancient and revered sea shell rock pending the water change. By the way, is fish poop acidic or alkaline? I forget. Perhaps, a good gravel rinse is in order, too?

All in all, I'm delighted with how things are coming along. If anyone had told me I could maintain a tank with five fish and no mechanical filtration for over two months l would have not have believed them.

Btw, that smudge at 9:00 is where the rock used to be. I can't decide whether that is leftover diatom or bacteria? I thought I would leave it for now.
 

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Nice!

Yes, you can take out the old biomedia. Yes, do a water change. You probably don't need to do anything about the smudge. Add more emersed or floating plants. I like frogbit for things like this. It has attractive floating foliage and you can easily thin it when needed. And unless you need the glass cover for some specific reason, take it off for better gas exchange and access to atmospheric CO2.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The glass cover habit is one that I picked up while growing up in Jamaica, NY where the water supply is completely separate from the rest of New York City and was notoriously hard and brackish. Thus, I lived in fear that evaporation made the water column more salty. So, just how much do I have to worry about adding water to top off evaporation generally?
 

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All of my tanks are open top and my tap water is hard. I top up the tanks whenever they need it, and do a large water change three or four times a year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
All of my tanks are open top and my tap water is hard. I top up the tanks whenever they need it, and do a large water change three or four times a year.
Thanks, Michael. I actually prefer the bowl open. The open pool look is why I chose to go porcelain in the first place!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Goldfish were kept in large porcelain bowls in ancient China. Goldfish & koi were bred to look good from the top view.
I've had reasonably good luck with both in this bowl. At some point, however, they both will benefit from being in a larger tank (at least 20gal.) And, the poop level might be a little too much for a walstad tank; the koi definitely needed a cannister filter.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
So...it's been 3 months since the beginning of this set-up and I am over the moon by the results so far. No filter. No artificial light. Stable parameters. I've gradually added six glo-fish danios that easily present as tiny goldfish when viewed from above and they couldn't be happier. I've just completed a 20% water change after 3 weeks and the nitrate level appears to have been reduced from ~40 ppm to between 10-20 ppm.

One of the more interesting recent developments is the ongoing battle between the duckweed/wolffia and the beneficial bacteria that is slowly making a return to lower left-hand side of the bowl. They seem to take turns waxing and waning, depending on conditions above the water line. The duckweed appears not to like condensation and has visibly melted since I started covering the bowl again with a glass top. The lucky bamboo seemed okay with it. As an experiment, I'm going to start leaving the bowl uncovered again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Fascinating update on the wolffia vs. beneficial bacteria (BB) battle. I left the bowl unattended for 10 days while I took a holiday away from the city (I've been fully vaccinated.) When I returned, I realized to my horror that I had not correctly turned on the automatic feeder. My six danios were perfectly fine, but they had effectively resolved my wolffia problem. Their disdain for vegetables which had been evident when it was first introduced about six weeks ago was quickly set aside when no other food source was available.

Not coincidentally, IMO, the beneficial bacteria has taken over one side of the bowl. I have now been a member of the APC community for two months and I'm rather jealous of the focus on exotic plants. One of these days I'd like to start a dirted tank. But, in the meantime, I wonder whether there is some way I can adjust things in my low-light, low-tech porcelain bowl so that plants (any plants) are more competitive with the BB for nutrients? I'd like to make it completely filterless but I'm beginning to realize that part of the problem is that porcelain seems to be a BB magnet.

I'll add a snapshot when the sun gets a little higher, later in the day.
 

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Floating plants and water lilies/lotus are your best bet. You can place the water lilies/lotus bulb in a smaller pot of a little dirt and cap with gravel. You want plants that look good growing out of the pot.
You might want to remove the Anubias out into an aquarium because the floating plants will block out the light.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Haha! Finally got some dirt in my bowl. It feels good. The pot contains a white lily bulb (nymphaea.) It's already sprouted some stems. The water may be too deep for it at this point so I may put the miniature milk crate back in and lift it up a little. Also, the pet store owner sold me on giving the floating plants another shot. He says, this isn't duckweed but I'm not going to split hairs:
73284
 
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