Carbon -- to use or not to use?
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Carbon -- to use or not to use?

This is a discussion on Carbon -- to use or not to use? within the Freshwater Aquarium Equipment forums, part of the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium category; --> I've seen a couple posts where it seems that carbon in a filter really has no purpose other than removing meds from the water. ...

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Carbon -- to use or not to use?
Old 10-13-2006, 10:09 PM   #1
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Carbon -- to use or not to use?

I've seen a couple posts where it seems that carbon in a filter really has no purpose other than removing meds from the water. Then why do so many 'cartridge' type filters include carbon?

I thought I read somewhere that it can remove odors and colors, which isn't that important to me unless it gets bad. But also it is suppose to remove other things from the water maybe (dissolved minerals? I'm making that up)? But I don't know if that is good or bad --

so tell me, what is the impact of using carbon in my filters on my fish and on my plants --- like, does it make liquid fertilizer less effective?
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Old 10-13-2006, 10:15 PM   #2
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The only reason why we don't use carbon is that it's totally unnecessary and a waste of cash when there's nothing to remove. Moreover, carbon lasts only for 2-6 weeks. Carbon will remove odors, stains, meds and other toxic substances. If the carbon is not removed for a long time, it will leak back all contaminants in your tank.

Filter packages do come up with carbon. Not for use unless necessary but a free gift for emergencies.
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Old 10-14-2006, 12:01 AM   #3
If you have tannins from wood, then carbon will help remove it, but not immediately. The carbon filter must be frequently replaced.

The carbon will also remove odors from your tank, but odors are usually do to overfeeding or leftover foods on the tank rim, that are decaying. It's much easier to just reduce the feedings and/or cleanup the tank rim occassionally.
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Old 10-18-2006, 03:21 PM   #4
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Carbon will also remove ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates from the water. It should not have any effect on fertilizers. Carbon is a GOOD thing to use in freshwater, but it does need to be replaced about every 30 days. Carbon works like a sponge, soaking up pollutants and medications from the water, but like a sponge, it fills up, so needs to be replaced. The carbon is not meant as a "free gift" when you buy a filter, it is intended to be used regularly, and replaced monthly. The filter companies include it as a necessary part of using your filter properly. The time not to use carbon is when working with a saltwater tank, as it can also soak trace elements from the water which saltwater animals need to survive.
The only time I would suggest not using carbon is if you've set up a "natural aquarium" where the biological load in the tank is suffecient to handle the waste output from the animals, plants, and foods. In a good "natural" aquarium set up, done properly, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels are non existing because there are FEW fish/animals, A LOT of plants, and regular "small" water exchanges of about 20% each week.
If you have further questions about using carbon, call the tech support lines from the manufacturer that you can find on the packaging. The companies will tell you that the carbon is not meant as a "free gift" in case of emergencies, and can further explain how it works and how to use it properly. I have worked heavily with the reps from these companies, and most of the large fish product manufacturers, and my husband works for one of the largest. I have been to the training seminars they hold for ALL of their products, and have even had many meetings with those who do the lab and research work. I have ingredient lists for various foods, and I even know how they are prepared ad what %'s of each ingredient are in them. I take my job very seriously, and knowing about each and every product I can is a goal. For my job at the store, it was manditory that were were constantly undergoing training with the top in the industry.
If you have more questions, feel free to post them, I will answer all that I can and point you in the right direction for accurate information when I am not sure of something.
Have a Great Day!
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Old 10-18-2006, 07:25 PM   #5
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Thank you very much Dawn!
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Old 10-20-2006, 01:12 AM   #6
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You're very welcome :D
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Old 10-20-2006, 02:03 AM   #7
Carbon will also remove ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates from the water.
True, but so will water changes.

Carbon is commonly used to remove meds after treatment in a well established, well maintained tank.
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Old 10-20-2006, 02:19 AM   #8
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So is Polyfilter and PuraPad.... Ployfilter is not designed to be used long term in a tank, and works much faster than carbon to remove meds more thoroughly. PuraPad works long term and soaks more from the water than carbon alone, but it does contain carbon, too.
All great products, but either carbon by itself or PuraPad is a good thing to use as regular filter media.
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Old 10-24-2006, 02:11 AM   #9
I would take the opposite view to bettababy about using carbon. If you have a planted tank it's a definite no-no, as it will remove any plant food you add, and can also remove trace minerals the plants require.

Carbon is only necessary in established aquaria to remove pollution or medication after treatment. Manufacturers of course want you to use it all the time, because it needs replacing frequently and gets you to spend $$. Save your money and just have it on stand-by.
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Old 10-24-2006, 03:18 AM   #10
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My husband, a marine biologist, not relying on the companies to tell him to use it, uses it himself and teaches others to use it too. I will make a point to put a pic here of one of my 55 gallon planted tanks, with carbon in the filter all of the time. It is my livebearer breeding tank, my fish thrive, my plants thrive, and I don't need to use plant foods. I spend a "little bit" of money on carbon instead of "a lot" of money on plant foods.
I don't preach that which I don't first live. I run my own experiments and do my own research before believing what people tell me about fish keeping, much of the time. When I worked at the store, our boss insisted we know and teach only the truth. His policy wasn't to sell things people don't need, his, instead, was to make them successful and they get hooked, so come back for more of everything. We had vetinerary clinics sending people to us for help.
I will still always advise the carbon use I explained above. It has been proven to me many times over as very important to use regularly. I've been doing this most of my life, and I not only work in the industry, but have about 30 tanks of my own running at the moment. Once we've finished moving, my fishroom will stock over 100, from 1 gallon to 400+ gallons. I keep saltwater and freshwater, and besides all of the fish tanks, I have 9 bettas, all in their own large bowls, reptiles, amphibians, and a harlequin macaw. I've raised a burmese python to 18 ft, before she died of pnemonia. Animals are my life, fish are my passion. If I thought for a minute that using carbon regularly was at all dangerous or uncalled for, I would be the first to stand up and yell STOP as loud as I could.
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