09-07-2008, 11:24 PM
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It sounds like the black sponge is infused with activated carbon. If you want to, this is the pad to change. Changing it once a month is probably a good idea. The other one should only be changed when it starts to really deteriorate. This is probably only maybe a yearly thing. Other than if it's physically falling apart, you can rinse it in old tank water (during your water changes) to get some of the gunk off, but you should never rinse it in tap water or use any chemicals to clean it.
I wouldn't change any of your pads during the cycling process.
If you're like me and you don't use carbon in any of your tanks, you might want to find some alternative to the black carbon pad. From the pictures I've seen of the filter, I can't tell if there's any rigid material to the cartridges. You could try using filter sponge material or possibly filter floss in place of the black carbon sponge.
Then again, I'm not 100% sure that the black sponge *is* infused with carbon, so you might want to check the instruction booklet. The filter is designed with mechanical, biological and chemical filtration capabilities so there's gotta be carbon in it somewhere, and I suspect it's probably that black sponge. But, it's really up to you if you want to run carbon or not.