Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
AQUARIUM PLANT FILTRATION: How Plants Can Help Filter Your Fish Tank

AQUARIUM PLANT FILTRATION: How Plants Can Help Filter Your Fish Tank


(upbeat music) – What’s up, fish tank people? Dustin’s Fish Tanks bringing it to you on a Sunday, baby. How’s everybody doing’? I hope you’re doin’ well. In today’s video, we’re
gonna expand a little bit on aquarium filtration. In last week’s video, we talked about mechanical and biological filtration, but due to your comments,
we’re gonna expand that topic, and we’re gonna roll it out into one of my favorite parts of
this great aquarium hobby. We’re gonna talk about aquarium plants and how they filter in
your aquarium as well. And I wanna talk about a complete no-no with water that I see people doing. It is both a waste of
money, a waste of energy, and a waste of time. And as I mentioned in last week’s video, mechanical filtration works like, say, the air filter in your car. This is a sponge from an AquaClear 110. The water flows through this, any particles in the
water get stuck in this. Just like the air filter in your car, the particles get stuck in there. However, the rubber meets the road when we get on to biological filtration. Folks, take this rule, write
it down, put it on your arm. Ask yourself, when you’re
looking at your aquarium, and something’s wrong or right,
what would mother nature do? We’re gonna get full woo-woo, we’re gonna talk about lion poop. And in last week’s video,
I had a beautiful comment where someone eloquently
disagreed with me on something, and I would love to get your
feedback in the comments on that, and that is this. I said, last week, in the
video on beneficial bacteria versus filter load, that
the filter right here does not house as much beneficial
bacteria as the substrate. And as someone so eloquently pointed out, they were like, Dustin, however, if you were to take a
brand-new aquarium over here, and a brand-new aquarium over here, and you took this filter off and put it on an empty, un-cycled tank over here, and put fish in, the fish
would probably survive. But if you just took the substrate and all of the bottom bacteria down here and put it into a tank without the filter, the fish would not live. I have a caveat for that, but
I would love to get your notes in the comments on what you think about this scenario right
here, as well as your thoughts on the beneficial bacteria in an aquarium. Okay, I’m gonna go way
out here on this one, but I hope you all can relate with me on just some basic biology
and the circle of life and the food chain and
all that good stuff, and then, I’m gonna tie
it back into aquariums after I talk about lion poop. It goes like this, okay? Think biological filtration. You’ve got grass, the grass
grows in the safari in Africa. And then, what happens,
what eats the grass? The big gazelle comes
along and eats the grass. And then, the gazelle is eating the grass, and then, what happens? The giant lion comes up behind the gazelle and bites its head off
and then, takes a poop. The poop goes down to the
grass, it helps the grass grow, the grass grows, the
gazelle eats the grass, the grass is then feeding the gazelle, and then, the gazelle
gets eaten by the lion, the lion poops, and the
grass grows some more. Does everybody understand
the basics of that? But what if the lion crapped in the field and the lion poo was
not used by the grass? What if there was no grass? All that would be around would be lion poo and no grass for the gazelles to eat. Then what? A bunch of starving
gazelles walking around and a bunch of lion poo. The lion eats good for a while until the gazelle stop reproducing and the lion can’t eat and the lion dies, all because the lion’s poo
wasn’t absorbed by the grass. Okay, we’re gonna get away from lion poop. We’re gonna talk about your aquarium and how it relates back to lion poop. It goes like this and it’s even worse. These are your fish. You have purple fish. Purple fish right here,
rollin’, and they’re good. And this is typically what happens. You’ve got one, two, three,
four, five, six, seven fish that are all different colors
in this beautiful universe. And then, what happens? These fish poo, right? These fish go down here and they poo and they poo and they poo. But Billy Beginner is like, you know what? I got these fish and I
just, I wanna feed the fish! Mom, can I feed the fish? And they just pound the
food, just slam the food, slam the food, and then, the
fish just poop more and more and more and more and more. They’re like my dad’s cats. He leaves the food out,
they poop all the time. If you don’t feed them as much, they don’t poop all the time. So these fish are getting fed like crazy, they’re pooping like crazy, and unlike the grass in the safari where the gazelle eats the grass, this poo is actually doing you more harm because this is in a closed system and it goes to red, and
it goes down here to red. And the problem is, this
stuff becomes toxic ammonia like down-face right here,
down-face right here, because Billy Beginner did not establish the purple beneficial bacteria down here. Because right here we’ve got one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven bacteria. We’ve got one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight fish. So our fish load is greater than our beneficial bacteria load,
which means death to all fish, and all the fish die. And look, I’ve added fish
too quickly to aquariums more times than I would
like to admit, okay, so here’s the rub. Here is how I hope you
all can take this back to your aquariums, this is super simple. Break it down for you like this, then we’re gonna tie it in to plants. Now, I’m gonna break this
down for you as easy as I can. This is your green, green for good, beneficial bacteria in your aquarium. It is all around, all amongst us. You’ve got, for easy numbers, yeah, I dunno, 18 beneficial bacteria. When your beneficial bacteria load is greater than your
purple-tailed fish load, ’cause you’ve only got
three fish over here, but you’ve got 18 beneficial
bacteria, you win! You get a gold star, a Heisman Trophy, AFC North Championship,
whatever you wanna do, you win when this happens. Now, the rub is this is the problem. And I’ll show you examples of how we’re not balanced right
now in our aquariums when you have only seven
beneficial bacteria over here and it’s less than your giant, I’m a beginner, I’m gonna add
a ridiculous amount of fish to this aquarium ’cause that’s how I roll. This is death to everything, okay? Now, think about this like Mother Nature. You go out in the gazelle field,
the field is full of grass. There’s a ridiculous
amount of grass, right? Then there’s a decent amount of gazelles, but there’s only a few lions, okay? So, if I can impart this little fish tank rant wisdom to you all, ’cause I spit when I talk,
it would go like this, okay? It gets even better. ‘Cause we got our beneficial bacteria, our beneficial bacteria
right here is all good. Dusty’s gonna bring it back to
his home run favorite topic. We got all our beneficial
bacteria right here and we’ve got our light
fish load right here. And then, we’ve got the plants involved and there’s more plants because the plants, it
goes fish poop, ammonia, then there’s the beneficial bacteria. It goes to nitrite, nitrate. And then, the plants
eat, drum roll please, the nitrate, the plants eat the nitrate. So if you have a larger mass of plants eating all the nitrate, these
three fish can poop for days. It doesn’t matter because you
have a ridiculous bio-load, both down below here for
your beneficial bacteria, and my favorite filter, the plants! So when you have a
ridiculous amount of plants, when your plant load is
greater than your fish load, and I’m gonna do it in brown, even though it’s supposed to
be purple and happy and stuff. I might even do it in
pink ’cause pink is happy. When your beneficial bacteria
is greater than your fish load and your plant load is
greater than your fish load, you win and you will always win. So today, on this Sunday,
this Species Sunday, it’s all about fast growing
plants that are gonna go (inhales) and suck up all the
nitrate out of your aquarium. You could have a giant aquarium filled with a ridiculous amount of plants, and if you like fish, then you
will be golden all day long. The reverse effect does
not work, as many of you have found out when you
first got into this hobby. You cannot have a ridiculous fish load and a very, very light plant load, or light bacteria load
because your fish will die, just like the lion dies when the gazelle is unable to eat the grass
that is fed by the lion poop. Now, let’s talk about some plants. I wanna stay here for a minute real quick, talking about beneficial
bacteria or lack of it. This tank behind me
here is slightly green. Why is it slightly green? Because we typically have it chock-full of plants and chock-full of full sun. Well, now, we’ve sold a lot of the plants, so now the plants are not available to absorb all the extra nutrients. The extra nutrients are quickly consumed by a thing called algae. So even if your beneficial bacteria load is unbalanced in your aquarium, you may not be killing your fish, but your waste of your fish
that’s not being consumed by your beneficial bacteria
will help an algae bloom, which is what we’re seeing right here. So in tanks like this, you wanna watch it because we’re off balance right here. There’s not enough beneficial bacteria. There’s too much light, there’s
not heavy enough plant load, and I would argue that I think
I could get away with this even longer, just like
my man Greg Sage does. If I actually had gravel
in the substrate of this, I think it would have less
of a chance of getting algae because there’d be more spot for the beneficial bacteria to live. But it’s Sunday, it’s Species Sunday, and I’m thinking to myself, I’m like, how could I bring it
to the fish tank people as my voice cracks and
explain to them how to do it a la natural in their aquariums,
as something that will absorb the end of the ammonia,
nitrite to nitrate cycle, and I got three species for you, and then, a big old
example I’m doin’ at home. The first one, you’ve heard
me talk about it before, hygrophila difformis,
hygro aka water wisteria. Super fast-growing. This is actually a variegated variety that we have right there. You can see a little of the
variegation on the leaves. A fast-growing stem plant,
looks completely different growing above water than below. Obviously, this is grown all below water because that’s how we roll. This is a super fast-growing, easy plant, absorbs nitrates like crazy. So, if you’re a fat
freckled fish tank freak kid and you wanna overstock your tank, overstock it with a ridiculous amount of this plant right here. It will grow like crazy, but
I got another one for ya. This one is Ivan Drago-tough. It could be found in Siberia. I wanna talk about hornwort. We have ridiculous amounts of hornwort growing all over the place here. Float it, it doesn’t really
have a root structure. It’s so hardcore, it just floats around, and it just grows and grows and grows. Absolutely love hornwort. I used to ship back,
when I was stupid enough to sell sherry shrimp, I
used to ship them in this. I believe it absorbs
even ammonia, perhaps. It’s a super hardy plant. Float it, fish like to breed in it, guppies like to breed in it, you name it. Hornwort, super easy one,
but how can I bring it to you with an example from my own life? How I’m actually rolling myself? And it works like this. I’ve got an overstocked pond, okay. My pond is two small for the large amount of fish that I have. So what does that mean? I’m not practicing what I preach. It means I’ve got too many
fish in too small of a tank, so I have to have a ridiculous,
ridiculous plant load to compensate for my heavy,
heavy, heavy fish load in my small water volume pond. And one of the plants that
I do ridiculously well with, you could see me getting in
my pond here to show you that, that is anacharis elodea. This plant is so hardy, it can survive in the
almighty Lake Erie, okay. Anacharis elodea is a huge
nitrate-absorbing plant, super fast-growing. I used to do experiments on
it back in biology class, back in high school. Absolutely love this plant, one of the hardiest plants
I sell, grows out the side. When you get it, it’s
gonna do some weird stuff. It’ll kinda take this
little side angle off. But anacharis elodea,
folks, do me a favor, if you like what I’m doin’,
hit the Subscribe button, the share button, if you care. Everybody make it an
awesome week and tank on. Later!

53 comments on “AQUARIUM PLANT FILTRATION: How Plants Can Help Filter Your Fish Tank

  1. This is the best explanation on YouTube by far. 😂
    After my many rookie years, I’ve finally met the perfect balance of plants and fish. My tank never gets dirty even if I skip a water change. (Yes I’m still not perfect) And to somewhat answer your beginning question, I have started a “new” tank by completely filling the tank from already cycled tank water and substrate. I’ve tried doing just filter and it didn’t work.. they starts dying within days. So I would say it’s more affective if you do the substrate and water that’s already cycled.

  2. Remember too the gazelle also poops and the blood that drains into the soil when it is killed also adds nutrient to the soil for the grass to grow. but the cycle all starts from carbon rich volcanic ash formed from East African Rift volcanoes.

  3. I have guppies and mollies in some tanks no filter no substrate just plants I just add water when they are down to almost no water left and I have no issues.. just don’t over feed… and I feed a lot

  4. Loving videos from 2.0!!
    I put a little elodea into my patio pond and it’s grown so much!
    My water hyacinth and water lettuce has multiplied so much I now have two extra totes of it!
    My planted tanks are doing so well. The fish load is,well, yeah, kinda high BUT my plant load is gigantic !
    Those are some of the hardiest, healthy fish I’ve ever owned!
    Keep up the great work!

  5. I have to say I agree with the person who made the comment. I have personally put a old filter in a new tank setup a d the fish did great. I also transplanted some plant in the new tank as well from another tank.

  6. From what you said the hob is better because it has flow, however if you were to put gravel on top of an under gravel filter that would work as well because of the flow.

  7. Long story short plant the crap out of a tank from the start especially stem plants 👊🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿

  8. Dustin, you got me into this hobby (starting an aquarium YouTube channel that is). This too is my favorite part of the hobby. All but one of my tanks are filterless. They have plants though, son!!! What is my main weapon, you ask? Floating plants!!!! Tank on, D!

  9. I have personally put a old filter in a new tank setup ad the fish did great and I’ve finally met the perfect balance of plants and fish. My tanks never gets dirty even if I skip a water change. (Yes I’m still not perfect) And it's an answer some your beginning question

  10. Bacteria can replicate quickly, when you transplant plants or gravel from the established tank and put new fish in. just don’t feed fish for a day or two

  11. Hey man.. I have a problem…. my diy yeast solution leaked into my tank 20 gal… Which led to melt of few of bucephalandras leafs… So I did 60 % water change…the after 2 days I was doing my regular 25% weekly water change…. I noticed that half of my each buce leafs were melted… Then I removed the melted leafs… Can u please tell me how to prevent further melting and help plant to thrive??? I hope you see this and give me your valuable advice???

  12. Whoever said you have to use old filter media and or substrate when establishing a new tank, or you risk losing fish, is either inexperienced or is only speaking from their own experiences.

    I never use dirty filter media in a new tank, nor do I use existing substrate. I simply use water drained from other long-established healthy tanks.

    For some reason people think there is no beneficial bacteria in the water column, and I suppose that is because they are potentially talking about a tank that has only moments before had a large water change. But if a water change has not been done in perhaps a week, there is plenty of of beneficial bacteria in the water column. It is impossible to have beneficial bacteria growing on surfaces like a hang on back or canister filter and not have some of that bacteria dislodge from the surface and float about into the water column.

    So if you use existing water, put your fish in, and then simply don't go overboard on water changes for a little while then the bacteria in the water will attach to a new filter and will quickly establish itself in the substrate.

    But if you overstock a new tank or do large water changes too soon or are siphoning your gravel before beneficial bacteria gets a chance to take root, then yes, you will get some cloudiness in the water. Over-cleaning existing substrate in a long-established tank can also result in too great a loss of beneficial bacteria and result in cloudy water.

    If you do not have healthy existing tanks from which to take water then absolutely it helps to use old filter media and perhaps even a scoop or two of substrate from the bottom of an existing tank to help introduce that healthy bacteria.

    Be careful when you read that only 1 thing works…in this hobby there are tons of people who have all sorts of differing opinions and experiences. So often your own experience will be the best thing to guide you in the future.

  13. Great video! Personally,for filtration I use a high plant load,canister/hob/sponge/matten (depending on what filter I hoarded lol) combined with 2 inches of dirt capped by 2 inches of larger grain sand(with red clay in the substrate,thanks dustin) to achieve a deep sand bed over time. It works well,and with the correct inverts to churn the substrate you get an amazing cheap substrate that lasts literally forever as long as you keep producing waste in the tank.

  14. I feel the reason why the filter bateria is better in a new tank is because new water flushes the old filter filled with bateria and loads the water with it. The substrate bateria stays in the substrate and no where else

  15. I've had success stocking fish like cooking steak. Low and slow. Low numbers of fish, slowly. Over the course of weeks not days.

  16. I love your vids, Dustin. Keep up the great work. I hope to buy plants soon.
    I agree with what you taught us except there is a time when as the fish volume remains constant that the beneficial bacteria reduce in numbers to accommodate the constant numbers in the aquarium. Many might call this "old tank syndrome" but I call it a natural environmental balance.
    This balance is due to zero load on the beneficial bacteria and zero new poopers in the tank. Nature takes care of this through fish breeding, plant die-offs (if any or as in going dormant), and finally old age where a single fish die-off actually spikes the ammonia levels. Now, this is the reason for tank imbalance too when this period is reached. Since when the fish or plant dies it spikes ammonia and this ammonia will not be taken up right away by the beneficial bacteria because they (the bacteria numbers) were used to live things pooping or plant die-back of only a few leaves. When this occurs the person generally rushes to do water changes and hunts out any dead in the tank just as the beneficial bacteria are trying to get a hold on the problem of high ammonia and other elements in the tank by reproducing. The beneficial bacteria suddenly crash due to the human trying to remove the problem instead of allowing the beneficial bacteria to do so and the cleanup crew in the tank.
    If you have a cleanup crew (like dwarf shrimp and/or bottom feeders) they will eat the dead leaves or fish body before it has much of a chance to spike the ammonia. There will be an ammonia spike but not so bad as to stress the fish or environment.
    This will also happen if a new plant wilts. Plants also react as beneficial bacteria do and only reproduce when poop is higher than beneficial bacteria count. Hence, one main problem in the heavily planted tank is how to get more plants without crashing your beneficial bacteria load which was sucking up all the ammonia before and now has none because of plants wanting nutrients. There comes a point when you have to trim plants (if you do that) and this will again slowly spike the tank depending on the amount trimmed. Again, a balancing act for nature where the human should simply watch as the beneficial bacteria grow to accommodate the new trimming and new water chemistry.
    But these are only in my opinions with my tanks and what I have learned over the years.

  17. Congrats on Greenhouse 2.0 and all of the hard work and motivational thoughts throughout the insane process. With that being said, It's so good to be seeing our boy Dusty back to bringing the education combined with some Wu-Wu and a bit of humor. Tank on, TRIUMPH!

  18. Dustin, I've been keeping aquariums for 50 years now, and I know all the stuff you were talking about. However, I just enjoyed that presentation so much I had to send you some prop's! Tank on my friend!!!

  19. Should I quarintine new plants that were in a tank with fish at the fish store or is it safe to just throw them in with my fish.

  20. Love your info but you continued shouting, high energy and screaming stops me everytime from listening to you … please tone down … please! Can't listen to you like this in the morning or at night when I am tired … in the day time I work …

  21. Love the video however, If I understand correctly from DR Kevin novak aquarium plants use ammonia from the fish first before nitrates and minimizing nitrate production is more important as plants cannot absorb nitrates fast enough. Correct if I am wrong.
    Thank you

  22. Dustin's Fish Tanks – hey, won't all the sun pouring into that greenhouse cause excess algae production?

    btw. DOLLA DOLLA BILLS YALL – the WTC clip just played lol.

  23. Is wisteria better than water sprite?
    I've tried many years ago and have recently heard from hobbyist that hornwort and anacharis are hard to keep alive. Any thoughts?

  24. I use plants as a filtering mechanism for my ponds..indeed plants plays an integral role in your aquarium health. Lovely topic boss. However, many ask whether or not too many beneficial bacteria could be bad. Is this true! I ask u this same question.

  25. I laughed my 🐴off!! W.W.M.N.D. … OMG! I've watched you way to long. I totally thought you where using those abbreviations to say something else! 🤣😂🤣😂

  26. I got a white hoodie but I shoulda got the black cause I’m to scared to get it dirty.? The irony of Dustin’s fishtanks

  27. plants also eat amonia…plants also when they eat nitrate they convert it back to amonia and then consume it… why people put so much bs on the cycle and fish die in a new tank…never had one die …matter a fact never had a shrimp die… set up a new tank add plants and you r golden…

  28. Another great video D.. keep up the great work.. I love watching your 2.0 develop.. something id like to do one day.. tank & plant on !!

  29. Ok so question If I have a good amount of substrates and Plants and just a power head to move of the water can I have a fish tank with out any Filtration

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