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Old 10-06-2011, 01:42 PM   #1 
Hikari
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Can a tank without a filter cycle?

I've always thought that a tank needed a filter to cycle, but I've read online that it cycles even without one. When I set up my 5 gallon without a filter, is there anything special I have to do for a while until the tank "cycles"? Once I get my fish in the new tank, I plan on doing 100% water changes a week with maybe a little freshening up the water in between.
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Old 10-06-2011, 02:08 PM   #2 
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The nitrifying bacteria for the nitrogen cycle need an oxygen source to colonize as well as surface area and food.....without a filter of some sort it will be difficult to establish a stable nitrogen cycle, however, lots of live active growing plants also will provide some oxygen-but generally not enough-but the plants themselves will function as filtration-provided that you have enough of the right species and not overstocked....

In a 5gal unfiltered tank-without live plants and a single Betta-you will not establish a nitrogen cycle, however, the Betta will be fine....water changes....I would recommend 1-50% weekly and 1-100% monthly to maintain water quality-provided that you don't overfed and uneaten food is removed within a reasonable time.....

Look forward to pics.....
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Old 10-06-2011, 02:50 PM   #3 
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Thanks. I actually have been looking for some plants to put in his tank, but can't seem to find any around here (I live in a very small town which doesn't have much of anything). I'm going to look for some in the city hopefully next week.

But even without the plants I would only have to do 50% changes a week? I always thought with an unfiltered tank you have to do 100% water changes weekly. Right now with a 2.5 gallon I'm changing the water 3 times a week, 1 100%, 1 50%, and 1 20%. Is that too much?
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Old 10-06-2011, 02:51 PM   #4 
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The only way I've heard of a tank cycling without a filter is with the use of live plants. Live plants can act as ammonia sponges and take the place of a filter in the cycle. The annoying part is that not every plant available absorbs ammonia well enough to cycle a tank and the tank has to be very densely planted for it to work. I can see someone cycling a tank with plants so a betta with very large fins can be in a cycled tank without dealing with strong current. I only have a betta classic (the tail type that just dangles) and a crown tail, so I didn't have to worry about current as much.

However, a tank full of stagnant water and fake plants wouldn't cycle on its own. You would have to have an ammonia source to jump start the cycle and then time for the nitrITEs to produce nitrATE growth. The decore and the walls of a tank will hold onto beneficial bacteria but I think the growth would be a little on the slow side. It took me 4 1/2 and 6 weeks for my two 5 gallon tanks. So, a tank without a filter may take 7 weeks (as a guess; I'm far from an expert).

Since your tank wouldn't have a filter to hold on to bacteria, I don't think you should do 100% water changes. Everytime you rinse the entire tank, you lose all your bacteria off of the walls and any decore. That would crash your cycle and make you start over again from scratch. I would do something like 25% twice a week and 50% once a week with gravel vacuuming. That way the walls never get dried out completely, the decore is also left alone, but the water is refreashed often and waste is removed from the tank.

If my advice does suck (which it may XD), a last ditch attempt at cycle tracking and water changing schedules I like to use it the constant water testing method. It is as simple as testing your water so often you feel like you want to chuck your liquid test out a window. If your levels are good, you are doing it right. If your levels are bad, then you are doing something wrong. If your test are always good, then you cycled your tank well and you are changing the water on time. The time it takes to cycle and the tank's water change schdule may not match forum suggestions, but it works for case by case tanks.

I hope this helps. Cycling a tank can be annoying and there is no one way to do it. I personally like using filters to cycle my tanks because they make cleaning and maintainance so much easier for me. Good luck. :)
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Old 10-06-2011, 03:01 PM   #5 
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In a 5gal unfiltered tank with a single Betta-your not going to establish the nitrogen cycle-the bacteria need oxygen-but due to the volume of the tank-vs-stocking-you should be able to maintain water quality with 1-50% weekly and 1-100% monthly....provided that you don't overfeed and uneaten food is removed within a reasonable time

In a smaller volume of water...2.5gal unfiltered-twice weekly is needed to maintain water quality....1-50% and 1-100%......even with a filter in a 2.5gal twice weekly is needed..1-50% water only and 1-50% to include substrate cleaning by vacuum or stir and dip method....
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Old 10-06-2011, 03:02 PM   #6 
ANHEL123
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All my bettas have 2.5 gall each. I do 100% water changes every 4 days. But i also make sure no food go to the bottom of the tank ever. My oldest betta about approximetelly 3.5 years old. I live may be a cup of the original water. I don't have filters.

Sorry i put my post at the same time with Oldfish lady,but i didn't know before how to change them and someone recommended to me 100% so that is what i do since i have them.

Last edited by ANHEL123; 10-06-2011 at 03:06 PM.
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Old 10-06-2011, 03:19 PM   #7 
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My betta has really long fins, so I think he would hate any kind of current. I really wouldn't want to wait that long for the tank to cycle, though. If I were to put some food in until I put him in the tank, would it still help start the cycle?

I'm glad I've been doing the water changes right with the 2.5 gallon. :) I just do an extra 20% change the day before the 100% just to freshen up the surface of the water a little, and I actually only started adding that recently. For over a year he's been fine with the 1 100% and 1 50% weekly.

I'm really anxious to get him into the 5 gallon now since I won't have to change his water nearly as frequently! I have to wait for another 2 weeks or so because we're getting new windows in the kitchen, and I need to be able to take him to another room when they are being installed since it will be very noisy. I would never be able to carry the filled up 5 gallon down the hall, at least not without seriously shaking up my fish! So when I finally can put him in the 5 gallon, can I just plop him right in with 100% clean water, or should I add some of his old tank water in with him?
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Old 10-06-2011, 03:23 PM   #8 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ANHEL123 View Post
All my bettas have 2.5 gall each. I do 100% water changes every 4 days. But i also make sure no food go to the bottom of the tank ever. My oldest betta about approximetelly 3.5 years old. I live may be a cup of the original water. I don't have filters.

Sorry i put my post at the same time with Oldfish lady,but i didn't know before how to change them and someone recommended to me 100% so that is what i do since i have them.
Same with me. I never let any old food sink to the bottom, and I don't overfeed him. It really helps to keep the water cleaner for sure.
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Old 10-06-2011, 04:33 PM   #9 
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Its important to remove uneaten food more due to the bad bacteria it can create as it rots and why you don't want to use it to cycle a tank either...it creates a different type of bacteria...anyway.....as I posted.....you are not going to be able to establish a nitrogen cycle on the 5gal unless you add a filter.....but....no worries....you can still successfully keep a Betta in uncycled/unfiltered tanks provided that you make those water changes....lol.....

When you get ready to add him to the new tank-just acclimate him to the chemistry by adding small amount of the new tank water to the holding container over 10-15 min or to his tolerance...the way you should be doing it when making 100% water changes on any of your tanks......
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Old 10-06-2011, 04:51 PM   #10 
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Ok. Thanks.
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