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Our aquariums are self-contained filters in that our plants are capable of taking waste and converting it into plant growth before it has a chance to pollute the water. Although we typically use filters as backup filtration, a well-planted aquarium can technically function without it.

When we aquascape our aquarium with the intention of using very few plants, the need arises for supplemental filtration. Again, a filter that depends on biological filtration is imployed that uses bacteria to reduce ammonia to nitrate. Then, a water change is used to remove the excess nitrate.

An alternative that's been used is the concept of a supplemental plant filter. This system works well and I would like to recommend you consider giving it a shot if you're in need.

Basically, it only requires a separate container. I've always used a hang on back refuge that is commonly used in saltwater aquariums. I then pump water to it on one side and it returns to the tank on the other.

It is lit on an off-cycle with my aquarium (i.e., it's lit at night) and has a sponge filter on the input and output sides. I like to use floating plants as my filters because they are easy and grow fast.

This type of filter also works very well when you first set up an aquarium and don't want to start out with a heavy planting of fast growing plants.

Anyone else have experience with this?
 

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I have no experience with this type of filter, but the idea of using only floating plants is certainly interesting. Otherwise it seems to me that it would very soon become one more aquarium needing lots of pruning and other maintenance. I can visualize keeping such a "filter" hidden away in the stand, under the tank, with input coming from a standpipe or other over flow device, and the return being a pump in the "filter" to get water back up to the tank. A problem would be evaporation which could cause all of the "filter" water to be lost.
 

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Hey Hoppy,

Evaporation is usually limited as the refuge is covered. The plants needed should be fast growing and with floaters you don't need to worry about a substrate. If you can sell them to your aquarium store for credit, you will quickly realize a profit off of this.
 

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It is an interesting idea. The plants in the refuge require sufficient light in order to grow and act as a filter.
 

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Would this scheme work? I use a continuous water change system, that trickles new water into the tank continuously, with the water level limited by an overflow pipe that dumps the excess outdoors into a 5 gallon bucked for patio plant watering. With this scheme I don't see a way the under the tank floating plant filter could ever dump my entire tankful of water, or overflow anything either, or run the filter dry of water.


Edit: For some reason my pic upload isn't working???
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hoppy,

Not sure. I used a behind the aquarium one with the small pump tied to a float switch that sat in the refuge. That prevented any spillage.
 

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When I do my next major rebuild of my system I will try this out. For now I don't even have the room under the tank for the stuff I now have there. I really like the idea though.
 

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I will be doing the same, Hoppy.

I will likely make this a DIY project so I will be building the refuge. I'll start I post when I begin the project.
 

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I know this is silly, but just for entertainment purposes. . . why try to hide it? I would consider using a glass bowl or something that sits on a nearby table or counter etc. Then add a small light and hide the plumbing. I always wanted a shallow, wide bowl that I could grow a nyphea lotus and let it flower. Replacing the lotus with floating plants would be just as easy and make a nice center piece to a nearby table. Although it would be tricky figuring out the plumbing. . . I dunno, I'm just spewing out verbal diarrhea :rolleyes:

Scouter
 

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I have something similar on my tank. It's a cheap HOB filter that came with the tank which I stuck some cuttings and daughter plants from some of our house plants in. A small java fern also managed to work its way in as well. I don't know how much filtering it's doing but the plants certainly seem to be doing well.
 

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This does sound like a direct knock off of the salt water design that uses algae. What I don't get, not to be a stick in the mud, is that a hang on back will generally drive off co2. Thus why so many use a sealed canister filter. And that all the floating plant in the filter will do is take away nutrients that we want for our plants. In a reef system your enemy is nitrates, salt water fish are very sensitive to this. So they use this idea to use up nitrates put off by the biological filter, thus it is after the sponge. In planted aquariums we add nitrates to be sure that we have all that we need. Though this is an innovative idea I don't see how it is practical and what the gain is. I do not want to shoot anyone down, just my opinion. I under stand we are talking about sparsely planted tanks thought plants all have the same requirements. Why not let the plants in the tank do the same job?
 

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This does sound like a direct knock off of the salt water design that uses algae. What I don't get, not to be a stick in the mud, is that a hang on back will generally drive off co2. Thus why so many use a sealed canister filter. And that all the floating plant in the filter will do is take away nutrients that we want for our plants. In a reef system your enemy is nitrates, salt water fish are very sensitive to this. So they use this idea to use up nitrates put off by the biological filter, thus it is after the sponge. In planted aquariums we add nitrates to be sure that we have all that we need. Though this is an innovative idea I don't see how it is practical and what the gain is. I do not want to shoot anyone down, just my opinion. I under stand we are talking about sparsely planted tanks thought plants all have the same requirements. Why not let the plants in the tank do the same job?
Fish produce ammonia as a "byproduct". And, decaying matter adds more ammonia. That is why we are always told to "plant heavily", especially when first starting an aquarium. I have often wondered how this can be compatible to the lightly planted aquascapes featuring lots of rocks or wood, with mostly ground cover as planting. This external planted "filter" would solve that problem. But, I agree that for a usual aquascape and a tank "planted heavily" with fast growing stem plants, it would be superfluous at best.
 

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ammonia is the byproduct, but if I remember we discussed this being after a sponge. And the byproduct of the sponge will be nitrates if the beneficial bacteria is doing it's job. Plants can also take up ammonium.
 

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ammonia is the byproduct, but if I remember we discussed this being after a sponge. And the byproduct of the sponge will be nitrates if the beneficial bacteria is doing it's job. Plants can also take up ammonium.
I think the point the OP was trying to make is that if you only want to have say 4 Show Quality Plants in your tank, they aren't going to take up enough nutrients. Here is where i think this is idea is useful, You have say 4 ULTRA rare plants that you want to show off, you don't want a ton of other plants cluttering up the tank and pulling your eyes away from these "Ultra rare plant" So you use this idea A hang on back Packed with Anachris or Hornwart, you can still dose ferts to keep your rare plant looking Awesome and the Excess gets sucked up by the "Hidden plants" OR you can run a Heavy Fish load (say a HUGE school of Neons or something) and Still have an uncluttered Display tank. This is just my take on why you would want to do it this way.
 
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