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Swordtail Fish Survive Without a Filter – Wojciech J. Płuciennik (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Swordtail is among the freshwater species indigenous to North and Central America. Aquarium escapes have seen them distributed to other continents.

Since they can survive in a variety of conditions, they do well in captivity and are incredibly popular as pets. They are easy to care for and have a peaceful nature. Their fins reflect a wide range of colors, and they are commonly bred to achieve a variety of hues.

If you are considering keeping a swordtail, you will be relieved to hear that you do not have to have a filter in your tank. Although you will need to have more plants and maintain a fresh environment.

Swordtails will thrive in habitats similar to the one they live in in the wild. A filter is, therefore, not as important if you can mimic the conditions in the marine environment.

Swordtails have a preference for calm water, and filters actually create currents. Opting out of filters can create an ideal living space for swordtails. Replicate the natural habitat by having many plants.

It is recommended to have a filter, but you can manually implement precautionary practices as explained in this article.

Setup Your Aquarium Without Using a Filter

Setting up an aquarium without a filter will require a lot of attention and care, and you can follow the guidelines below:

Let the Aquarium Cycle Unfold

It is not advisable to add fish as soon as you install your tank. Many eager hobbyists end up losing all of their fish prematurely because they did not give allowance for the cycling process. The water needs to stabilize as gases, and other minerals and chemicals are dissolved. The temperature also needs to get to the right range, and you need to make sure there are no leaks.

The cycling process can stretch for 6 to 8 weeks.

Use of Lots of Live Plants

If you forego the use of a filter, you will need to populate your tank with a lot of plants such that you cannot see your fish swimming around. The many plants are necessary to keep up with the biological load of your aquarium.

Plants typically function in the same manner as filters. They take in the carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen. This conversion is triggered by photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide results from the respiration process of your fish. The plants further consume the phosphate and nitrate present in the aquarium as well as the nutrient waste released by fish. The actions of the plants limit the growth of algae.

Since plants appear to do the same things as a filtration system, you may be wondering why you need to install a filter. The answer will depend on factors like the number of plants you have installed, the number of fish, and tank size. The problem is figuring out exactly how many plants will filter your tank adequately. You will not really know how well plants can filter the water in your tank until you add them. You can opt to start adding plants with a filter installed and continue more until the filter becomes obsolete.

You cannot expect to replace a filter with one or two plants. Not only are plants natural filters, but they also provide fish with a habitat where they can retreat to and feel safe. Having many plants will also provide a similar setting than that of its natural habitat. The fish will typically seek shade and refuge in plants. You can install fake plants, although you will limit the additional benefits of improving water quality that comes with using live plants.

Regular Tank Maintenance

Having no filter means that you will need to dedicate a substantial amount of time to clean your tank. The water should be changed continually to keep the number of nitrites and ammonium at zero.

A filter gets rid of fish waste, excessive food, and other decaying matter. If these materials are left in the water, fish will not breed or grow, and they are more prone to diseases. You will have to rid the water of these hazardous materials without a filter.

You should regularly test the water to detect any harmful components. A bubble stone can be installed to offer aeration. Supply the tank will a good amount of water plants to offer a steady supply of oxygen and regulate the level of nutrients.

The tank should be manually cleaned several times a month the water changed.It should be rid of excessive ammonium and heavy metals and other unwanted components. Doing this will keep the water in a conducive state for your swordtails.

The fish can adapt to a wide temperature range. Swordtails will thrive in temperatures ranging between 65 to 82° Farenheit. Avoid drastic changes in temperatures, however, as it can make their immune system weak and vulnerable. The ideal PH for water varies between 7.0 to 8.4, and they typically prefer hard alkaline water.

Choosing the Right Substrate

Substrate does not only serve an aesthetic purpose, as it encourages the growth of plants and offers space for useful bacteria to thrive. Some substrate selections, like gravel, will need to be vacuumed as waste can filter through it.

You should account for the size, color, effect on fish, and reactivity with the water before settling on a substrate. Substrates with small particles can compact in regions without hydrogen and trigger the release of hydrogen sulfide, which is toxic to fish.

Substrates range in color from natural to neon colors. Select what appeals to you most. Some pet owners love the bright colors of neon substrates while some love the more natural-looking clues. Substrates can also enhance the colors of your swordtails.

Tank size for Swordtail Fish

Swordtail size can be considerably large. Adult males can reach 4 inches with females reaching 5 inches excluding the tail length. Swordtail is however smaller in tanks depending on the tank conditions.

Keeping the fish is not difficult, and many pet owners keep swordtail in small tanks. The capacity should, however, be over 10 gallons. You can buy a male and two or three females to encourage breeding.

Swordtails will survive without a tank filter but will likely not survive in small and constricting spaces. A 30 gallon aquarium will be sufficient for six of the fish. Adding more fish will trigger congestion.

Feeding Swordtail Fish

In their wild habitats, swordtails are active omnivores and feed on an array of invertebrates, algae, insect, and plant matter. The same diet should be emulated as much as possible in tanks. Thankfully, the fish will consume nearly anything you will give them.

High-quality, flake food should constitute the primary portion of their diet. Supplement this with such live foods as bloodworms, daphnia, blackworms, and brine shrimp. The fish will also consume frozen foods. You can add vegetables like broccoli, zucchini, shelled peas, and cucumber medallions provided they are put in boiled water and left to cool first.

Overfeeding has more severe effects than underfeeding. New pet owners commonly overfeed their fish, which is a bad idea because the food particles will disintegrate and release toxins. Swordtails should be supplied with small feedings they can nibble on continually. Underfeed when in doubt. If you see rotting food particles on the tank’s bottom, then you are overfeeding. The uneaten food can be retrieved with a net or siphon.

Uneaten food uses oxygen to decompose which only reduces the oxygen available for your fish. The food further lowers the water’s PH to a range not safe for the swordtails. As the extra food decomposes, nitrite and ammonia are released, which can stress and kill your fish. Since you have a tank with no filter, you will have to ensure that there are no additional food components.

How Many Swordtails per Gallon?

Because of their average size, swordtails do not need a lot of space. They are, however, quite active and should be allocated sufficient space to play around. An adult swordtail should at least have 15 gallons of water. If you want to include additional fish for company and breeding, opt for a 30 gallon aquarium.

The ideal ratio is a single male to two or three females. Keeping one male and female is a cause for trouble as the male will harass the female to the point of stressing her out. The harassment will be distributed by having multiple females.

Swordtails are keen on hierarchy, so it is not wise to have more than a single male. Limiting the number of fish also becomes vital if you do not have a filter in your tank. Swordtails are jumpers, and if you do not cover your tank, you will experience several suicide attempts.

What Fish can You Keep with Swordtails Without a Filter?

Swordtails are a great community fish and can be kept with a wide range of peaceful species. I recommend choosing tropical fish such as guppies, mollies, platies or betta fish to keep them with swordtails. These fish do not produce much waste, therefor do not require filtration.

How Long Can Swordtails Live for in Aquariums Without Filtration?

As mentioned earlier, swordtails do not require a filter. That said, swordtails can live happily in non-filtered aquariums. Though, you need to setup a natural filtration system. Live aquatic plants are a great choice for replacing a man-made filter.

Can You Use Air Stone Instead of a Filter?

Air stones are useful in providing water circulation and contributes to oxygen exchange. Though, an airstone can’t replace the functionality of a filter. An aquarium filter is responsible to remove harmful chemicals such as ammonia and nitrates from the water column.

An airstone combined with a sponge can do significant improvements in the water quality. So, if you don’t have a filter, just an airstone and an airpump, consider adding a sponge filter, because it is more useful than the airstone alone.

Written by Fabian

Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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