Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Foster16 04-20-2010 05:26 PM

Confused about carbon filters
I just read an article on here about the effectiveness of carbon filters in the the run. The article says it could be a bit harmful. But the article says that is an ongoing argument. Just looking for opinions on the subject. I have had to aquariums for 3 years, and still learning the in's and out's of fish keeping. If carbon filters shouldn't be used, then what should I use? I have a Rena canister filter for my 50 gallon and HOB Whisper power filter for my 20 gallon tank. Thanks for any advise.

JohnnyD44 04-20-2010 05:34 PM

like you said, it's an ongoing arguement/conversation....

Some points I believe in:
When you have a planted aquarium.... carbon removes all the good stuff plants need in order to thrive (-1)
Carbon has a short life span.....continuously having to buy it can become expensive (-1)
Carbon should only be used after you have medicated a fish helps to remove any excess meds (+1)

With my 20G tank....I have a Marineland HOB uses the blue pads which are filled with carbon media....I rarely changed those blue pads, there's really no need to.....and naturally after a while, the carbon was need for carbon so I just continued to use the blue pads until they fell apart and replaced them...

With my 55G tank, I use a canister's a planted tank and as I said before...plants = no carbon...

hope some of that helped....

Foster16 04-20-2010 05:44 PM

My 20 gallon only has 1 live plant and my 50 only 3. I don't plan on making it a planted tank. Is there different kinds of filters I could use instead of carbon?

Byron 04-20-2010 06:09 PM

Different filter media perform different tasks in filtration. Carbon is just one type of media; others include the pad or wool (floss) that all filters (except plain sponge) have; sponge is another; and biological rock like lave rock or biomax; ceramic disks; etc.

There are three types of filtration, mechanical, biological and chemical. Mechanical involves the removal of particulate matter from the water as it passes through the filter media. Biological is the colonizing of the media by nitrification bacteria that consume ammonia and nitrite. Chemical involves altering the water chemistry and carbon does this by removing dissolved (as opposed to particulate) substances from the water.

All aquaria, planted or not, usually benefit from mechanical filtration. All you need for this is a flow of water through media like a sponge, pad, filter wool, to remove the minute particles; larger particles will be removed when the water passes through the ceramic disks or rock materials, depending upon the type of filter. This mechanical filtration keeps the water clear--which is not the same as clean, a different thing.

Biological filtration occurs on all filter media as it also occurs on every hard surface covered by water in the aquarium--plant leaves, gravel/sand grains, rocks, wood, tank walls.

Chemical filtration is usually employed more in non-planted tanks. Plants do a tremendous job of filtration, and there is no need to interfere with that, as nature does it for us. And as Johnny correctly pointed out, chemical filtration sometimes removes essential nutrients that the plants need. So in planted tanks, or tanks with plants, chemical filtration is normally not used. It is useful after medication to remove the chemicals, which is why medications always instruct you to remove carbon from the filter before using.

So to answer your question, many aquarists use only mechanical filtration, especially if there are plants in the tank; and the more and larger the fish, the more mechanical filtration there should be. Biological filtration will occur on its own to varying degrees, and in non-plant tanks should be encouraged. Chemical filtration depends upon the fish and other factors, and continual use of carbon may or may not be warranted. Instead of carbon, some put more filter pads/wool in the space; some use plain gravel or rocks (this encourages biological filtration by providing more surfaces for the bacteria to colonize).

Some of the above may be old news, but I wanted to ensure the process was understood in its entirety since the type of filtration you need depends upon several other factors.


Foster16 04-20-2010 06:20 PM

Thanks for the help. For my HOB, should i put some of the gravel in the filter bag instead of the carbon?

Byron 04-20-2010 06:40 PM

This I assume is your 20g tank (with 1 plant). What fish are in it (species and number)?

Mikaila31 04-20-2010 06:41 PM

I see no real reason to use carbon, yeah it will remove meds and stuff, but that is nothing that a water change won't do....

I have a Rena XP3, it has the black foam pads, then some ceramic media, then the rest is just filled with what ever random sponges and filter floss I have. Just order it so the more it goes from least fine to most fine sponge. As a fan of DIY there is a long list of stuff you can use in the filter. Pot scrubbers, rocks, and legos are the most common.

Foster16 04-21-2010 10:24 PM

My 20 gallon has 5 guppies 5 serpae tetras a clown pleco and common pleco.

Byron 04-22-2010 10:00 AM

Pleco produce a lot of waste. As it says in the profile of the common pleco (just click on the shaded name to go there) good filtration is essential. This is one reason I always say that filtration in any aquarium should be geared to the fish; different species have different needs/requirements in water circulation and for water conditions.

Gravel in the filter works, I would use larger grain like pea size to trap mulm better with still a good flow of water, or the items mentioned by Mikaila31.

The other thing it says in the profile must be understood: common pleco get big, much too large for a 20g. A 75g is the minimum recommended tank size for this fish which can get to 18 inches. Unless you are planning on a larger tank, it would be an idea to consider re-homing this fish, to another aquarist or the store (many stores will do exchanges). A potentially large fish in a small tank is liable to develop health problems the longer it stays in the tank.


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