Yes, it will. Most of the bacteria that will keep your water parameters down low will be hanging out in your filter, not your gravel. Most people don't seem to cycle tanks smaller than 5 gallons as the water changes required to keep the tanks safe for the fish throw off the cycle. I hope that answers your questions.
Cycling isn't so much a question of needing to cycle, more a question of WHEN it will cycle. It will cycle whether you want it to or not, whether you have a filter or rocks or plants or not.
Get a betta and a bowl and you'll get cloudy water at some point, that's the nitrogen cycle starting. The trick is to control the cycle when it happens.
My smallest bio-filter is my fav, it's six inches of lift pipe standing off the bottom with ceramic rings threaded over the thin air pipe stacked on top of the air stone. Very small and it aerates, transpires surface and supports the cycle.
Even just a sponge, and two inches of lift pipe stuck into it with a small stone is enough bio for a single betta, that's why I usually recommend the little whisper in-tank bubble filters with an pre-filter sponge.
Last edited by Thunderloon; 02-13-2011 at 04:21 AM.
Reason: removed clarity
i dont have any fish in it yet. i want to do this "by mysef" as a project w/o my bf, could i put a snail into it to speed it up, sound funny but when his 125 cycle he put shrimp in there and they died, and left the bodies in there a while. sounds wild. i also might be explaing it wrong as well. also since this is a budget tank, i already got a tetra whisper. sorry but the lift pipe is the pipe the goes into the water, right.