12-30-2008, 08:29 AM
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Well, the good news is that you have two filters. First off, if memory serves those filters just use the one bio-bag for all filtration, mechanical, bio, and chem, correct? There's nothing else in the filter?
Carbon is an consumable filtration media. It has to be changed regularly, every two to four weeks as it fills up with the stuff it pulls from the water and looses effectiveness. One thing it pulls out that isn't good is DoCs, dissolved organic compounds. They bond readily with heavy metals and neutralize them but carbon sucks them out of the water. If you run carbon you need a good decholorinator that also neutralizes heavy metals. Carbon can go either way in my opinion, there are benefits and draw backs like everything else. Carbon won't affect your cycle one way or another.
Now the old style bio-bags used to be two piece affair, a filter sock that fit over a frame and you'd pour carbon into the middle of it if you wanted it. Has that changed? Anyways, its not a bad system as it lets you replace carbon without tossing the floss that's got your bacteria on it. The downside to the design is that floss is all you've got, once it gunks up and can't be cleaned you've gotta replace it. If you can take the filter floss off the frame can you try turning it inside out and rinsing it that way?
If the floss is well and truly gunked up irreversibly then you'll need a new bio-bag. My advice is to take the old bio-bag out and cut it up. I'd go with a strip about half as wide as the bag and only one side. Place this upstream of the new bio-bag to help seed it with bacteria. Remove the strip in about two weeks. When you do all this test your water parameters daily and be prepared to do a water change if necessary. You're going to be taking out a big portion of the tank's biofilter.