Tradition follows that if you have an aquarium that you need a filter to keep it clean or your fish will suffer, but is a filter even necessary?
Can Guppies live in a tank without a filter? Yes, guppies can live without a filter, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best idea. Filters create a clean environment for your fish so without the filter, you will have to recreate this manually. If you are a beginner don’t try to raise your guppies in a filterless tank.
It’s already an adjustment owning fish and it is even more work for a filterless tank. Ease yourself into instead. For those who do have the experience, there are things that you have to do to keep your aquarium clean for your fish.
Read further for the manual process of cleaning your tank, things that will help filter out the water naturally, and the best filters for guppies if you are a newbie.
When is it ok for guppies to not have a filter?
The filter does several things for your fish. It cleans the water by removing leftover food, anything that decaying in the tank such as plant life, chemicals, the inevitable waste that comes from your fish.
Obviously, your fish can live without a filter, because they do in the wild, but their natural environments are a lot larger than your average tank so the gunk will be either eaten by other fish and the toxins flow away naturally.
Your filter helps create a similar environment for their smaller containers. The filter also creates a current while cleaning the tank for your fish, mimicking their natural environment.
Without a filter, you have to create this environment manually. The process of keeping fish without a filter takes consideration, time, and a lot of planning. Which if you are an experienced fish owner will be a rewarding experience.
Taking care of anything gives a closer bond to those involved. You will also know your fish and their habits better than you ever could with a filter.
However, if you are new to fish just get the filter instead of diving in the no filter fish tank. Give yourself time to adjust to owning fish period. Once you are comfortable with them and their eccentricities then you can advance to not using a filter.
How to keep guppies without a filter
To make your tank filterless there are a few adjustments that you will need to take. We discussed what the filter does, now you will need to create this environment manually for your fish.
It isn’t an easy adjustment, but many people feel that it is worthwhile in the end. Expect to spend more time on tank care and become more knowledgeable about the chemicals that are needed to keep your aquarium clean.
You will have to perform regular tank maintenance on your tank.
Without the filter pulling out all the toxins from uneaten food and waste you will manually have to clean the tank. The most common filterless method is to change the water. When setting up your tank make sure it is clean.
Change the water weekly or biweekly with a 20-50% rate, starting at 50%. Depending on the amount of fish that you have you might have to clean the tank several times a week. Keep an eye on the toxin levels in your tank to see how often the water should be changed.
During the changing process focus on getting any uneaten food, dead plants. The decaying matter will dirty the water causing your fish to become ill. Trim any plants that are growing out of control or are starting to wither.
A common process for fish is the cycle, otherwise known as the nitrogen cycle. For aquariums that don’t have a filter this process is not necessary.
The cycle is mainly for the filter itself and without one, you can skip this step. Stick with water changes instead of trying to cycle a system without a filter.
It is easier to keep an unfiltered tank if it is on the larger side. A smaller tank seems easier, but in a smaller tank the toxins created by your fish build up more without the space to move around.
Even if you don’t have a filter there still needs to be some sort of current in the tank. You can do this by adding air stones and an air pump. The air pump will create a flow around the tank. Air stones are porous stones that diffuse air into the tank.
Other ways to keep your tank clean
Along with treating the water and cleaning it out periodically, there are a few things that you can do to help you out when keeping your aquarium clean.
Things such as plant life that will absorb the toxins in the water and put out biomass, which is plant matter. Also having a few fish that feed on the leftovers from other fish will decrease the amount of decaying matter.
Plants will help keep the water clean.
Plants in your tank, while beautiful, are not just for aesthetics. They provide a safe space for your guppies from others who might be more aggressive.
For unfiltered tanks, they help with the pollutants in the water.
Chemicals such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia (NH3) along with its bi-product nitrates are absorbed by your plants. In return, they put out oxygen. Since you will not be using a filter this cycle is helpful to both you and your fish.
If you don’t have anything that is cycling out the waste products that your fish produce they could suffocate on their byproducts.
Another benefit of having plants in your tank is the competition it creates for the naturally for other plant-like organisms such as algae. Without live plants in your tank algae will multiply.
Unlike live plants that take that which is dirty and make it clean algae likes to take the clean and make it dirty. They will feed on any oxygen in your aquarium to multiply taking it away from your fish.
Algae grow in the tank due to the water, they also love to feed on the chemicals your fish produce and any uneaten food. Due to the same food source having plants will limit the amount of algae.
The amount of plants depends on the size of the tank and the amount of fish. For aquariums, without a filter, it’s best to keep quite a few plants. The more live plants in the tank the fewer chemicals and algae, plus there will be more oxygen.
What we want to avoid are plants that need a lot of fertilizer. Since you don’t have a filter to clean up the mess adding more decaying matter will change the chemistry of the water.
Some good options include:
- Java Moss
- Anubius nana
- Egeria Densa
Guppies hang out near the top of the tank so you can stack your aquarium with mid to bottom-feeding fish to help clean up after them. When stacking your tank make sure that the fish are compatible with each other and live in similar environments.
Otherwise, you will have bigger fish preying on your smaller fish. Smaller fish, like the guppy, do better in tanks that don’t have a filter because they don’t need a lot of oxygen.
Aquariums without filters can’t sustain large numbers of fish. It is just too much waste to handle and you would need to do water changes almost daily.
While the guppy fairs well without a filter that doesn’t mean that all fish will. Check each species of fish that you plan on introducing into the filterless tank for the right environment.
What are the best filters for guppies?
Due to the amount of work needed most people to opt for a filter. Especially if you are a newer fish owner. Your guppies don’t like a lot current in their water so an adjustable filter is necessary.
Sponge filters are typically recommended, however, guppies do fine with power filters as long the current can be adjusted. Luckily there are filters available to make your life much easier when owning guppies.
Aqua Clear Filter
This filter is quiet and allows the user to adjust the flow of current to match the needs of the guppy without losing filtration efficiency. It also comes in five models so the size of your tank can be accommodated.
uxcell XINYOU XY-380
This is a standard sponge filter that can be used as the main filter on smaller tanks and a secondary filter on larger ones. Due to its size don’t use this in tiny tanks, it’s the perfect fit for a 20-gallon tank.
If you notice that your guppies are struggling with the flow created by your filter (pump) then place barriers such as plants and décor redirect. Don’t use any material that is not intended for tanks because it might poison your fish.
Make sure you are comfortable with having guppies period before trying out an aquarium without a filter. Setting up your tank wrong can cause your fish to die, so just be patience and take each step at a time.