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Carbon Bad or Good?

This is a discussion on Carbon Bad or Good? within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> I completely agree with Ty and would just add that most cartridges produced for aquarium filters do not contain enough carbon to be effective ...

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Old 12-15-2008, 08:49 AM   #11
 
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I completely agree with Ty and would just add that most cartridges produced for aquarium filters do not contain enough carbon to be effective for more than a couple weeks. A greater quantity of carbon would work quicker and last longer than a lesser amount.Two cups per 55gal or 280L of aquarium water. It is reported that some aquarists use more or less depending on their filtration system and the quality of carbon used.Anything that helps remove organic pollutants from the aquarium in my view, is good. Some researchers believe that there is a direct correlation between high levels of organics and dense populations of disease organisims. Whether their concerns are founded in fact are unclear to me but I have used carbon since I began keeping fish and will continue to do so. As Ty has said you must know it's capabilities and it is not a substitute for proper aquarium maint.
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Old 12-15-2008, 01:05 PM   #12
 
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Let me find my stock answer from another thread:

Quote:
I don't use carbon on any of my tanks. Sure, the conjecture relating to hole-in-the-head is simply that, but I still don't see that the risks outweigh the rewards.

Fresh activated carbon is *very* good at removing organics from your water. This means that any good organics in your water (i.e. compounds that could be used by your fish or plants for healthy growth) aren't free for use. Water changes help to replace some of these materials, but again if you have a high flow rate through a filter with fresh carbon, those added-back materials aren't going to last very long. If you're using liquid fertilizers, using activated carbon would be like flooring the gas and brake pedals at the same time. I also have a bit of blackwater going on in some of my tanks that would be impossible to achieve while using carbon.

So if my tanks are healthy and beautiful and my fish are happy and breeding, why would I spend the extra money on constantly replacing the carbon? Provided you're doing regular water changes (which are much less of a pain both cost and time wise for freshwater tanks than they are for saltwater) then the two benefits Pasfur talked about - nitrate buildup and hardness depletion - aren't real concerns. In fact, many freshwater fish (many new world cichlids, the tetras, barbs, loaches, etc) prefer softer water and would actually benefit from this buffer depletion effect, provided pH swings were prevented. pH itself is pretty easy to control in a freshwater tank since pH-raising additives like calcium aren't being dosed and tapwater pH tends to be fairly steady.

I guess I'm sort of rambling at this point. I recognize completely why these concerns would apply to a saltwater tank but I believe wholeheartedly that the use of activated carbon in freshwater systems is just a gimmick the industry has come up with in order to have hobbyists send them parts of their paycheck on a regular basis.
There's no solid research that says using carbon (and I'm talking about properly used, fresh carbon here) is actually harmful. Whether or not it's related to hole-in-the-head is just speculation. However, it does make logical sense that regularly replaced carbon, which removes organics, could be depriving your fish and plants from essential nutrients. I'm especially thinking of things like liquid plant fertilizers. I have seen carbon remove tannins from tanks, but I would imagine you'd need a heck of a lot more carbon than comes in an Eclipse 6 filter cartridge to remove the massive amount of tannins that came out of that large (for the water volume) piece of driftwood you've got in that tank.

So, to sum things up: I would absolutely avoid carbon in the following situations - you've got a planted tank and you're dosing liquid fertilizers, you've got blackwater and you want to keep it, or you're medicating your fish. In other situations, using it or not is probably a matter of personal preference, but as I stated in that earlier thread, if there's no good evidence to show why it *is* needed, why spend your money?
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Old 12-15-2008, 03:17 PM   #13
 
Wow guys!! Thanks a lot, all of this imformation is really helpful! I've been using carbon for both of my tanks and I'm planning on getting one planted with live plants so I really need to get rid of that carbon. As for the other tank it has one of those Elite filter that need changing every few weeks, it's a real pain let me tell you, so I'm going to use up the last cartriges I have and then get a new filter.

Oh and yes I do weekly water changes, actually I do them a little bit more often since my tanks are cyling and they are at their Nitrite and Nitrate phase.

As for the salt that's really good to know, I'll only be adding it to sick tanks. Can you treat a planted tank with salt and high temperature if your fish have some disease or will it kill your plants?

I was also wondering how I should introduce a new filter to my tank with the elite filter? Should I have both running at the same time for a week or so or should I just change them since there's already bacteria growing in my under gravel filter? Or what?

Thanks again guys!! :)
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Old 12-16-2008, 01:09 AM   #14
 
a question i have to add, if you don't use the carbon pad/filter insert, what should you use?
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Old 12-16-2008, 07:30 AM   #15
 
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I bought a set of after market cartridge frames for my Penguin filter. I just keep them full of foam and floss for mechanical filtration.

If you're going to introduce a new filter just have them both run for a while. The longer the better really. I'd let it go for at least two weeks personally before I pulled the old filter out.
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Old 12-16-2008, 02:25 PM   #16
 
Even if I also have an under gravel filter?
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Old 12-16-2008, 03:21 PM   #17
 
to address something stated before Ammonia removed adds ammonia back into the water if u add salt. carbon does nothing if u add salt to it. so the ammo-carb ammonia spikes were caused by salt mixing withe the ammonia remover part of the mix. Thats also why when u buy stuff like fluval ammonia remover, it says to soak in saltwater for overnight to recharge the media and then u can rinse it and use it over again. Carbon in ur filter is teh same as the brita filter. U just gotta change it a lot for it to keep working. Otherwiseits just a surface for bacteria to grow on.
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Old 12-17-2008, 12:05 AM   #18
 
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What's wrong with the Elite filter, other than needing to change the cartridges? You don't really need to change the cartridges out until they are physically falling apart. That can take years to happen sometimes. If they get clogged up just swish them around in the water you remove during a water change. If you want to stop using carbon, you can just leave it in there. It'll just be more surfaces for bacteria to grow on. However, if you're paranoid and believe the stories about old carbon causing hole in the head disease, you can remove the carbon and continue to use the filter. I believe the Hagen Elite HOB filters have a cartridge that's polyester with carbon? Just replace this with a piece of filter foam, or if the cartridge has a plastic frame, just find a way to attach some filter floss to it.
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Old 12-17-2008, 04:55 PM   #19
 
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For a simple general answer if I were applying this to my own tanks:

Live plants - no carbon
no live plants - yes carbon

But I agree that carbon in general is optional and perhaps not needed if you do regular water changes.
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Old 12-17-2008, 06:59 PM   #20
 
The Elite filter has two cartriges, and the water goes through them from side to side and then out of the filter, so with the carbon and poly stuff it lasts about a 1 to 2 weeks if i'm lucky. At that point the water goes over the filter cartrige. So the filter is pointless at that point. I tried to rinse it out but no luck with that. So I just got an Aqua Clear 30, I had a 20 in my 10 gallon tank and I like how the water has to go from bottom to top, it's a lot better. All I have to do is get a foam refill at the place of the carbon one they provide and voila!
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