Phyto Filter For Aquarium

What is a phytofilter in the aquarium?

Actually, the complaints of one of my friends about the next losses in the economy prompted me to write this article. Moreover, the losses occurred precisely on the discus. Quite expensive fish, one such fish costs 2.5-3 thousand rubles. By the way, he was engaged in them for a long time, and raised not bad specimens. How did it grow, grow and suddenly lose. The reason turned out to be extremely simple, a small child was born in the family and it was no time for the fish. Discussions require regular maintenance, especially regular water changes. And here phytofilter. The fact is that in such aquariums it is difficult to maintain the nitrogen cycle. Usually, the amount of nitrites, nitrates (KNO2, KNO3) is tried to be kept at the level of 15 units, exceeding 20-25mg-l can be toxic for fish. In addition to nitrite, of course, phosphates and everything else that affects the well-being of your pets grow. Regular water changes save the situation, but if you are tired, forgot, or went on vacation, the indicators will start to grow to critical levels every day.

Why can’t ordinary aquarium plants be used for this purpose? Of course you can, but not always and not everyone wants to do that. Plants may be present in the aquarium and they will undoubtedly smooth out the processes, but this may not be enough. Moreover, an ecological niche is formed in the aquarium, which, at the slightest instability, fills the algae and then the aquarium turns into a nasty, smelly swamp.

Consider, for example, some cases where there are no plants or not enough:

In an aquarium with goldfish. These beautiful-looking fish digging up plants with their digging activity and prevent them from settling down. Often in such aquariums used soil the size of a hazelnut. Even such stones, they can pick up and dig the ground. And most of all they like to dig exactly under the roots of plants. In addition, water purification requires a very powerful filter, all this greatly limits the ability to use the "stretch". Most often, it is abandoned altogether, replacing it with artificial plants and other decorations. In such an aquarium, perhaps, only a phyto filter will cope with all the pollution, including ordinary suspended particles in water. Verified by personal experience. Once I started with the breeding of just such fish. While they are small, it is still not so noticeable, but then they grow into such "pigs" that the aquarium turns into a dirty swamp. After them, I still have a pretty fun collection of various filters.

In the aquarium with Malaysian cichlidsand, shelters should be built, that is, a design constraint. Shelters that you do in an aquarium should be separated from each other (with a large stone, a bush, just free space). This is necessary if you keep pronounced territorial fish that do not tolerate a neighborhood. The presence of a barrier or free space will force the male to be always near the nest (it is unacceptable for the male of the territorial species to leave it). It also allows you to calculate how many fish you can count on, because you know the number of nests in advance. And they also divide the territory not only horizontally, but also vertically. It is this separation that is present in the lake. So, not very aggressive couples will settle next door, only on different floors. Lack of plants can be compensated for by more frequent substitution, or install a fit filter.

Discussion Aquarium also often without plants. When you keep these extremely beautiful fish, you have to choose: either fish or plants. The fact is that these fish exist in a very narrow temperature range of 28-32 degrees Celsius. When combining these fish with plants, the corridor narrows even more, the recommended temperature would then be 29 degrees Celsius. This is the temperature that can be tolerated by both fish and plants. And it is to “tolerate” – the majority of plants will not give rapid growth. Finally, in an aquarium with discus, you must use plants that do not require frequent treatment. Some discus are very shy, so the less time you maintain the aquarium, the better for their peace of mind. Even the most calm discus sometimes starts to rush around the aquarium and can hurt itself. In any case, the phyto-filter will make the ecological environment in the aquarium more stable.

In addition, with the phytofilter it is not necessary to bother with the supply of CO2, it is enough in the air. The maintenance of such a filter is very simple, every six months, siphon the ground and everything. Thus, we not only do not complicate our lives, but, on the contrary, considerably simplify the care of our pets.

A few words about the biology of the process are appropriate here.

Look at the roots of floating plants. For example, hyacinth or pisti. They have a very branched structure and microscopic, invisible hairs. We can wash these roots to the purest state and place such a plant in clear (in our opinion) fresh water and leave for a while.

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After some time, we will be amazed to find that these pure roots are in clean water – they are soiled! Became dirty. Sometimes – just like the flakes of earth are covered … Where does the earth come from? We did not pour it. Why did it happen?

These are colonies of microorganisms formed on the roots. In fact, there is – almost "earth", or rather, its component, active sludge, an indispensable participant in the formation of humus, humus. The branched structure of the root is a wonderful substrate. Bacteria, settling on the roots, fix and process various substances from the surrounding water. The plant, in turn, “bathes” in the products of their vital activity, feeds on them. Moreover, the concentration of organic matter in the bacterial film surrounding the suction surface of the root (so thick that it can be seen with the naked eye) is hundreds of thousands of times higher than in the surrounding plant water. This is the same “active sludge” that works in any biofilter.

This method of plant nutrition fixation in a community with microcenosis of the root bacterial flora is called “non-symbiotic fixation”. Although, at first glance, it is a symbiosis – the coexistence of organisms with mutual benefits. But in botany, special root organs are considered to be symbiotic fixation, in which bacteria settle, for example, leguminous nodules, and in the situation discussed above, the “contribution” of a plant to “common benefit” is much less. The same bacteria live well on stones, glass, sponge – any substrate. Only a stone or sponge does not extract any "benefits" from their colonies. The same thing happens with any root. Only in soil or sand substrate for colonies of bacteria are any particles.

However, the role of the root in substrates, oddly enough, increases for bacteria. Its importance and "attractiveness" for the formation of colonies are growing. The reason is trivial – oxygen. As we remember, bacteria are oxidizing agents and they need it for metabolism. For colonies in the upper layers of soil in bulk, but the deeper – the less. "The deeper into the forest, the thicker the partisans." And the root is a plant organ involved in respiration.

Non-photosynthetic organs are little involved in respiration (less than 10%), but nonetheless – are involved. Including – the roots.
In species whose root system transfers flooding — the ability to diffuse O2 by its roots — is a common method of adaptation known to science. Some plants produce adaptation to anaerobic respiration of the roots, in other species, both forms of adaptation are known. In this regard, plants that are not capable of these adaptations (they are) simply do not interest us – they do not tolerate long-term flooding of the root system and are not suitable for phyto filters.

Therefore, although the roots emit little oxygen (as compared to the leaves), for bacteria-oxidizers this is very important and in the depth of the substrate the density of bacteria colonies at the roots is very high. Thus, it becomes clear why the phytofilter, with its seemingly small volume, has such a performance, yielding: zero NO2, up to 10 mg-l NO3 at the output.

Now it becomes clear that when using a phytofilter, you can not worry about algae at all, they have absolutely nothing to catch. Unfortunately, the same applies to ordinary aquarium plants, taking nutrients directly from the water. A phyto-filter can easily empty a herbalist. If you have a well-established herbalist, richly planted with plants, and dosed with fertilizer additives in water, then you don’t need such a filter. The phyto-filter bangs this “aquaculture” guaranteed and without residue. Like a tank that is not afraid of dirt. Oligotrophic first run out, followed by hunger and all the rest. It will be gloomy. But in the above listed aquariums, most often they use plants with a developed root system and take everything they need from the ground. Thus, you need a nutrient-rich soil and plain water with regular changes. Then phyto-filter will not prevent healthy growth of flora. It is enough to add dressing to the soil once every six months and you can get quite vigorous vegetation. Thus, even a herbalist can be contained, but with minor restrictions, for example, such plants as “Water Kabomba” will not take root in such an aquarium, and various types of Cryptocarin, Wallisneria, Echinodorus and many others feel great. The choice of plants is large enough and allows you to create good compositions.

Now consider the design of fitofilters:

The simplest systems are internal. The internal phyto-filter can be made from any available material – plastic, plexiglass, plastic gutter or tray. Even from a PET bottle – cut along the length of the side (you will get a trough), make holes (plums) in the bottom with hot awl, put “exhaust” from the internal filter in the neck with a hose, pour the substrate, plant the plants and hang them on the clamps with suckers to the side or back wall … It will be ugly, but done in seven minutes from nothing and practically without tools. At the same time more than a liter of substrate with plants can completely cover the need for biofiltration in a small or medium aquarium.

Read more:  Biological Water Purification In The Aquarium

This is quite enough to experience a similar filter, and then decide whether it is needed or not. For example, if you need to urgently cope with another disaster. And then in case of a positive decision, you can make a tidier tray.

When the substrate layer is 7-12 cm, a tray with a height of 10-15 cm is quite enough. For good gas exchange and provision of space for the roots, you should not make it narrow – the width should be at least half the height. Length – the entire rear wall of the aquarium. In an average (150-300 l) aquarium, the length of the back wall is usually a meter or so. Hole for water supply is desirable to raise by 2-3cm. from the bottom of the tray. This is done so that during a long shutdown of the pump the filter does not dry. Next, leave a gap between the ground and the height of the tray 2-3cm, enough to drain the water. The stiffener is installed as shown in the figure if the tray material does not have sufficient flexural strength. Any further complication of the structure, additional partitions, double bottom, water supply through the flute, and so on, do not give any benefits after the implementation. Practical tests show that a correctly made, balanced phytofilter produces the same (zero NO2, up to 10 mg-l NO3) values ​​in aquarium water, regardless of the filter design.

The substrate for the filter soil in which the plants will grow. Medium gravel, crushed stone or lava is best suited. Sand is not good – the small fraction will not be the best substrate, to which rather high requirements for flow are made. Expanded clay too is indignant. Firstly, it is necessary to pick up small fractions, and secondly, it is too light to hold large plants, that is, having reached a certain size and gaining mass, the bush falls. To gravel all the same requirements as for the aquarium, the fraction in the range of 2-10mm.

You can supply water to the tray with what you want – even with an airlift, even from the output of the internal filter, it is also possible from the exterior. Contrary to the theoretical reasoning that "the outsider will not allow the phyto-filter to work, as there will not be enough food for the flora." Non-virtual reality proves the opposite – not a single outsider will purify water to the extent of pharmacy sterility, and there is something to “fit” to a phyto-filter. Moreover, the flora of the external will only compete with the active sludge of the phytofilter (it will be formed more slowly), but not with the plants. Large water supply capacity is not needed here; 3-4 volumes of aquarium water per day are sufficient, for example, when using airlift. When using pumps 0.5-2 volume per hour is quite enough. When using a powerful (more than 2 volumes per hour) internal filter or external device, it is advisable to separate the streams — insert a tee at the outlet and send some of the water to the aquarium (flute), and some to the fit filter. Preliminary mechanical cleaning is very desirable, since although FF itself copes with this amazingly, the absence of at least the simplest filter from a washcloth or sponge significantly increases the frequency of its cleanings. While with a low biological load, FF may not require maintenance until the aquarium is restarted.

Plants for phytofilter.

The next logical question is what can grow in it?

Almost all aquarium amphibians, both long and short-stemmed, not excluding pochvokki. But when planting FF aquarium plants should be borne in mind that many species do not tolerate cold dry air, die from drafts and are more suitable for FF in closed shelves or palyudariums. Just as it is tempting to look at the glossy lawn in FF, you need to keep in mind that the role of small plants with a rather weak root system in waste disposal will be small and if you really need a powerful filter, you should plant something more substantial in it.

the list is spatifillum, Benjamin’s ficus, any of the fittonia that are commercially available (very pretty), and chlorophytums.


Graceful climbing plant with small (2 -2.5 cm), bright green, oval leaves. On the underside of the stem there are sucker roots. They are attached to the ficus any support. Hanging out of the pot shoots with the slightest lack of water easily lose their leaves. Therefore, small props should be put upright in the pot. With regular spraying, they are covered with well-leafy plant shoots.

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Ficus are propagated in the spring by cuttings. They take root only under glass, in warm, with abundant spraying. Young plants gradually and gently accustom them to dry indoor air.

More details about ficuses


Family: Aroids (Araceae).
Homeland: tropical America, the Philippine Islands, tropical rain forests in Venezuela, Colombia, Guiana, Brazil
Bloom: depending on care, either once a year (in spring) or twice a year – in spring and in autumn-winter
Growth: fast.
Shine: diffused without direct sunlight, can grow in partial shade.
Temperature: spring-summer period prefers a temperature in the range of 22-23 ° C, not lower than 18 ° C. In the autumn-winter period, the optimum temperature is not lower than 16 ° C, as this inhibits the development of the plant.
Watering: the spring-summer period and during flowering is plentiful, between the waterings the top layer should dry out. In autumn and winter, watering is moderate. When watering, the substrate should not dry out, but it should not be overly wet.
Air humidity: high, useful spraying. To increase humidity, you can put a plant pot on a pallet with wet expanded clay, moss or other porous material.
Reproduction: cuttings and division of rhizome.
There are many different kinds.
More details about spathiphyllums.
Great for fitofilter!


Perennial groundcover.
Homeland: tropical forests of Peru.
Kinds (review incomplete)

Fittonia Vershafelta Fittonia verschaffeltii – Perennial herb with sprawling, rooting at the nodes of the shoots, not more than 10 cm in height. Stems abundantly branched, densely pubescent. Leaves up to 10 cm long, opposite, petiolate, oval, with a rounded or heart-shaped base, with a dense network of bright veins.

In addition to the typical form, there is a species with pure white veins.

– var. argyroncura Nichols (F. argyroneura Coem.), as well as its small-leaved form f. microphylla.

Fittonia gigantic Fittonia gigantea – Larger (up to 60 cm) plant with erect or slanting ascending ligneous shoots. Leaves broadly or nearly heart-shaped, up to 16 cm long, dark green with reddish veins, shiny.

Fittonia agryroneura, a silver-vein, is a medium-sized herb with erect stems. The leaves are oval-shaped, light green, with silvery veins. There are large-leaved varieties, which have leaves about 10 cm long, and small-leaved ones, which have leaves about 2.5 cm.

Fittonia red Fittonia Red Flame; this species is distinguished by its red leaf color.

Lighting: The penumbra, in bright light and in too dark a place, the color of the leaves turns pale. Protect from direct sunlight.
Temperature: Fittonia is thermophilic, the temperature should never fall below 17 ° C. In the summer, the optimum is 20–25 ° C; in the winter, 18–20 ° C. Fittonia does not tolerate drafts and sudden changes in temperature.
Watering: Abundant in summer, the soil should be slightly wet all the time, in winter, watering is more moderate, the soil should not dry out completely. Watering fittonii need only soft water.
Air humidity: Likes humid air up to 90%. Regular leaf spraying is required. The pot is placed in wet peat or in a terrarium.
Personal experience. It grows well and looks in a terrarium. Just created for him. Very decorative. To fittonii bush was always lush and looked good, requires pinching, which contributes to branching. Cuttings root easily.

Looks beautiful combination of species with green and red leaves. In the terrarium is better to use small-leaved forms.

It is suitable for use in an over-tank fit filter. Somewhat capricious.

More details about fittonia.


Lily family. Homeland – South America.
Description: leaves are long, ribbon-like, curved, pale green with cream or yellow stripes, collected in bunches. Flowers: small white stars on the ends of long shoots, then turn into leaf rosettes with aerial roots.
Temperature: Moderate. In winter not lower than 18 ° C.
Lighting: Bright ambient light.
Watering: Abundant from spring to autumn. The soil should be wet all the time. Moderate in winter.
Air humidity: It is useful to spray and arrange a warm shower.
Personal experience. This plant is quite large and suitable for spacious terrariums for the background. Very unpretentious.

It grows in the aquaterrarium in pots with soil well. Looks great.

Perfectly suited for nadakvariumny fitofilter. It has powerful roots.


Phyto Filter For Aquarium

Tradescantia is a well-known extremely unpretentious indoor plant, it is often grown in schools, kindergartens, polyclinics, now in offices, almost everywhere where indoor flowers are grown even in fitofilters. This beautiful, climbing plant has many varieties, see a more detailed description of the Tradescantia.

The literature also recommends: callas, rihardia, calla, hung reed and tsiper.

The author of the phytofilter idea and description: Evgeny Tsigelnitsky