There is one thing that I have learnt in all my years of keeping aquariums – do not underestimate nature!
It still amazes me today how powerful natural aquarium filtration actually is and how many ways there are to actually filter an aquarium or provide additional nutrient export by using the power of mother nature.
Nowadays whenever I am asked for my recommendation as to the best way to filter a marine aquarium I always mention natural filtration. In my opinion and this is purely my opinion live rock mixed with a remote deep sand bed has to be the ultimate natural based filtration available at this moment in time.
The prime advantage of using natural based filtration methods is its efficiency and the advantages that it gives to the aquarist.
A lot of people however have never heard of natural filtration never mind actually understand what it is.
So what is natural filtration?
Any filtration technique applied to an aquarium actually does have an element of nature in it – the bacteria however in a lot of occasions the container upon/in which the bacteria lives is not natural – it is manmade.
A good example of the above would be a canister filter. The bacteria is natural, however the holding device if you will has been manufactured.
Therefore a good way to explain natural filtration is that it is where the bacteria live in any area which has not been manufactured by man.
This is not a set rule however as there are exceptions to natural filtration. One of which would be using macro algae as a nutrient export tool.
Numerous natural filtration methods can be employed in the home aquarium. Some can be implemented for use as a primary filtration method whilst others can be utilised as an additional nutrient export tool.
As already stated natural filtration can be and is an exceptionally powerful tool. Think about the ocean – it is huge, however the natural filtration devices which are in use in the ocean are very similar to what we can use.
The rock structures on the coral reefs are similar to live rock filtration, grass beds are similar to a refugium/macro algae, mangrove swamps are a much larger scale of mangrove usage in the aquarium etc.
Can you see how powerful this type of filtration can be. The ocean has been filtered this way for millions of years and it can and does work in the aquarium.
Although our aquarium are minute compared to the size of the worlds oceans the end result is the same – excellent water parameters.
There is a point which needs to be made however, the filtration has been termed as natural filtration simply because it is similar to what is used in nature or is the same as is used in nature but on a much smaller scale but there will always be an element of human involvement.
That’s right – the care and maintenance. As with all things in this hobby the correct care and maintenance techniques need to be applied and this is no different with natural aquarium filtration. Nature can again be involved in this area for example using hermit crabs, snails etc to keep the rocks/sand clean however there will always be a time where we need to get involved to keep it just right and running at optimum efficiency.
If you are just starting out in this hobby or already have an aquarium and are using man-made filtration then I really recommend that you at least consider natural based aquarium filtration. It is absolutely amazing how powerful it actually is.