Carbon -- to use or not to use? - Page 2 - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #11 of 16 Old 10-24-2006, 03:43 AM
Carbon is not really dangerous, but I many do think is unneccessary. I have run several tanks for over 10, probably 15 years now. The only carbon I HAVE to use comes with my media in my Emperor 400. But once the carbon no longer suits it's purpose, I just leave it in there, to aid in additional surface area for nitrifying bacteria to colonize. My other tanks, no carbon at all. No problems with ammonia, becuase I maintain perform water changes religiosly. I know I am not alone in this, becuase this method was learned from other aquarists.

But the thing is, whatever works for you, keep doing it. It's just allot of aquarists don't use carbon and never had any problems with ammonia as long as the tank is properly stocked and maintained. That's the simple rules of fish keeping.

Besides, why worry about running out of carbon, polyfilter, purapad, etc., then rushing to the store, when the easiest, cheapest thing to do is just a water change.
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post #12 of 16 Old 10-24-2006, 04:28 AM
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That's a great concept if everyone knows ahead of time what the "proper maintenance" is to begin with. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pet stores out there who are uneducated and worried only about making money. I have seen too many tanks where they have misadvised as proper, only to over stock with incompatible fish, yet, too. I deal with that on a regular basis. Once a person understands the hobby, they can make the decision to use it or not based on education rather than guessing. Any beginner should use carbon until they understand water quality and how to keep it safely balanced. The advice of never using carbon leaves those out there with 10 goldfish tanks, "because the store told them it was ok" at risk of major crashes that can be made to work temporarily until they can fix it, but carbon will be one of the keys to buying a few days or weeks of time. There are many horror stories out there, and unfortunately, until the stores are educated and teaching it, people will still go home with a fancy goldfish or 2 in a bowl to watch them swim... until they go belly up, "because that's what fish do, right?"
I have worked with this so much, and it's so sad. My work and training have taught me to error on the side of caution when a life is concerned. It takes time for people to learn. You've had 10 - 15 yrs of experience to learn, where others have not. I still prefer the advice I gave to begin with, it's safer and covers more of the population than not. In a perfect world, everything would be healthy and happy, and we'd automatically know how to achieve that. This world is not perfect, and there are also others out there who know the risk, yet take the chances "just to see what happens". They are part of the "hold up" with our imperfect world improving. I have been exposed to the "general public" of customers, and I have to be honest, 70-80% of them are simply "irresponsible and uneducated customers", and about 50% of those are inhumane in their practices for entertainment purposes.
I recently talked to a man who owns a 30 gallon cube saltwater tank, and in a matter of 8 months has managed to kill many fish needlessly, and continues to believe that he knows best. In this tank he had a clown trigger, a dogface puffer, a large angelfish, 5 domino damsels, a coral banded shrimp, a tomato clown fish, a bubble anemone, and snails, hermits, and a 6 inch tang. These fish were all added to the tank within a 2 wk period, and as they died they were replaced with another of the same kind... over the course of 6 months. The pet store never advises him against his purchases so long as he spends the money, nor have they told him what any of these animals needs for care. He feeds pellet food only, and couldn't figure out why some of his fish didn't eat or appeared to starve to death. This is more common than many people may realize, and the advice I give is meant to error on the side of safety first, to give a person the chance to learn what is needed before trying what I consider to be "advanced techniques" in todays day of fish keeping.
I am happy that your tanks have been successful, that is encouraging, and many more will get to that phase of learning and accomplishment... over the same course of the 10 - 15 yrs you have now. Because of technology and business, fish keeping is not what it used to be, which is a sad thing. Too often I've been asked to provide a customer with a "no maintenance aquarium" and then insulted and yelled at when I explain that there is no such thing that exists when you are talking about living animals. I finally began sending people to the toy stores for the plastic fish that float in an aerated tube of water, with decorative light to show it off. If they were extremely rude, I would point out that even something like that requires dusting if you wish to see it long term.
If the world were a better place, if society had different views and practices, your advice of no carbon regularly would be a normal practice and would work. Right now, there simply isn't enough education happening in the places it needs to.
This practice can be learned... but without the learning, it can cause a lot of problems, making a lot of animals suffer while someone is learning. I am here to help prevent that while the education is being presented at the same time, so everyone can achieve the most natural and healthiest process of fish keeping as is possible.
BTW, leaving the carbon in long term as you described is also dangerous. It works like a sponge, and like a sponge, when full, will flush the pollution back into the tank. In a situation like that, it would be safer without any carbon at all. Carbon should be changed after 30 days if it is being used.

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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post #13 of 16 Old 10-24-2006, 07:00 AM
I don't use carbon.

When I first set up some tanks again after being out of the hobby for 5 years I wanted everything perfect. I was using almost 10 lbs of carbona month. Really expensve stuff. One day I asked myself why? I spent a few hours online, a few hours at my different lfs's and read as many articles as I could find. The one thing that kept coming up over and over again was that carbon seems to become exhausted after 2-3 DAYS not weeks. The best carbon to buy is the powder type as it has even more surface area then do pellets. It can get used up much faster. OK so this stuff is done in one week? And can begin to release it's contents back into the water quite quickly.... HHHmmmm... Well I didn't buy 4 Eheim 2217 cans for my 125g tank to be gutting and cleaning them once a week. I have them on a cycle and clean them once every 2 months. I clean 2 a month, alternating them. So this would mean y carbon would have sat useless for almost 50 days... Waste of money.

I found doing regular water changes was a much better way to go. I feel that the carbon is added to those tiny little garbae HOB filters as most people they are sold to have no idea about fish keeping. Change the filter pad and the tank looks clean. Let it sit to long and it looks dirty. Simple math. Change the pad every week and the tank looks good. That's cash money in the manufacturers pocket. Now the guy witha 10g "show" tank doesn't ever have to do a water change because A: nobody ever told him to and B: filter changes make the tank look good. We all know how importatn bacteria colonies are tot he health of our tanks. This is why it is important to take care with our filters and not just toss away the pads everyweek.

My Seachem rep recommends Purigen over carbon any day. But then again it costs more than carbon. I see a pattern.

Just do regular water changes.
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post #14 of 16 Old 10-24-2006, 10:36 AM
I heard Purigen was good, and true, it is expensive. Unlike carbon, Purigen can easily be recharged by soaking it in bleach.

Regarding carbon, I've read that only the cheaper carbon has the possibility of leaching stuff back into the water. There was a discussion on it in another forum here...

Originally Posted by lhforbes12
I have to somewhat disagree. Activated carbon should not release anything that it has trapped. btw it works by aDsorption not aBsorption (a sponge absorbs things, actived carbon works in an entirely different way. Particles are attracted to the micro pores in carbon and are trapped there), Having said that I do agree that it isn't needed normally. It has two things which are detrimental to an aquarist IMO
1. For carbon to work properly water must flow SLOWLY past it. Almost none of us have flters which have a slow enough flow for carbon to be truly effective.
2. Cost. Carbon is just cost prohibitive, it fills very quickly and is no longer useful in a very short time (far shorter than the month or so that most users keep it in their filters).

It is excellent, as Paul already said, for removing medications. It is also useful in removing DOCs (Dissolved Organic Compounds). However, also as Paul has already stated, wc's are usually a much better solution to both of those problems.

It does take time for people to learn what to do correctly within the hobby. This is why forums such as this educate them. People who are starting with the hobby look for information to those who are veterans in the hobby. Telling people "YOU HAVE TO USE CARBON" is an incorrect statement. We need to let people know what the benifits with or without using carbon, that a simple water change can help. If you tell people "CARBON IS A MUST", they may get too confident and may NEVER perform water changes and just keep replacing the carbon. WHY? Well, the people say, carbon will clean my water, so why waste water? So this a definite misconception to make. People need to learn how to do things right, the simple way, and FAST.
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post #15 of 16 Old 10-24-2006, 04:45 PM
I'm agreeing with you plenty on that Eddie.

Purigen is awesome, especially if something just won't come under control. But my feelings about it and carbon are that they are bandaids. Better to treat the problem than keep masking it with remedies. I'd much rather just do large water changes to get my params back to normal than worry about bleaching and boiling a resin and wondering how often?
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post #16 of 16 Old 10-24-2006, 05:27 PM Thread Starter
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Okay.. then....I'm going back to no carbon....

Snorkeling is a must for every fish lover!
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