regular Marineland canister maintenance
About 4 months ago I cracked open my Marineland canister after having not done so in a couple of years (I know I'm horrible but there were no visible problems and that thing is hell to get open then resealed and primed) to find it filled throughout with puss-looking gunk which I carefully cleaned out with tank water. Now that 4 months have passed I thought I'd best check the canister out again to see if it needed to be cleaned some again. It really wasn't bad at all with only a little bit of dark brown stuff in the prefilter ceramic rings so I guess if I check it about every half a year I should be safe.
A canister filter should be checked and maintained at least monthly to call it "healthy" and proper maintenance. To only do it a couple of times a yr (or once in multiple yrs) can cause issues in the tank with waste, bacteria, etc. but can also cause extra wear and tear on the motor of the filter, shortening its effective life span.
Some things that should be considered when deciding how often to check/clean the canister filter are as follows:
waste load in the tank/fish population
live plants vs fake
depth of substrate in the tank
amount of maintenance on the tank such as water changes, gravel vacs, etc.
feeding schedule and types of food being offered to the fish/animals in the tank
filter media inside the filter (anything with carbon should be changed every 30 days)
amount of circulation in the tank and tank size
chemicals added to the tank water
As you can see, there are a lot of factors that play a part in filter maintenance. If you can post again and touch on each of those topics I would be more than happy to help you determine a proper schedule for your situation.
Glad to hear you realize that not maintaining the filter can cause some major issues. That is vital to having a healthy tank and healthy animals and a long lasting filter.
I don't need to open my canister as often because I have large prefilter sponges on the intakes which I clean thoroughly with expended tank water at every partial water change. The only thing I have inside my canister itself is biological filtration media which should be disturbed as little as possible.
How long carbon lasts in a filter is more determined by the amount of waste that is present, the grade of carbon being used, and the amount of carbon being used. Carbon has caught a bad rap since the internet was invented. There are a lot of misconceptions about its use, its benefits, or any drawbacks.
On the use of carbon I guess we will have to agree to disagree, but I have seen first hand the many benefits it has to offer when used properly.
One thing to keep in mind when using a canister filter is organic waste. While the filter promotes the growth of aerobic bacteria, it does not offer the benefits for anaerobic.. which ultimately break down waste beyond the level of nitrates. Canister filters that are not cleaned and maintained regularly will contribute to what is known as "old tank syndrome" even if water changes are done often. Solid waste build up in the canister will break down over time, which leaves the nitrate level that the aerobic bacteria don't handle. This is then circulated back through the tank. Carbon absorbs excess nitrates, (among other things) and as long as it is changed often enough for the amount of waste in the tank, it can be a huge benefit to any aquarium.
I'm not sure where you heard (or how you figured out) that carbon is only effective to 8 days... but that is already scientifically tested... again, it is dependent on the grade of carbon, amount of carbon, and amount of waste. Is it possible to use up carbon in 8 days... sure.... if you use a very small amount of a cheap grade, such as pelletized, and have a large amount of waste to deal with. It is more about using it properly to get the desired results.
I am very curious to where you are obtaining your information?
Beginner's Column: Filtration | Advanced Aquarist's Online Magazine
There are two forms of chemical filtration commonly used by marine aquarists, activated carbon and chemical phosphate absorbers. Activated carbon is very useful due to its ability to absorb TOC; however, it requires frequent changing - weekly --as it becomes saturated easily.
Saltwater Aquarium: High Nitrate Level, mushroom corals, 30 gallon tank
adding carbon to your system will not lower your nitrate by enough of a significance that it can be used as a nitrate lowering additive(you would have to use so much carbon that you could not possibly find enough space in your filter to put it all for it to be even slightly effective!). It will absorb a good amount of the organic wastes produced that contribute to the higher nitrate level but will not lower it in any way.
Aquarium (and Pond) Answers: Activated Carbon
Carbon willl NOT remove or absorb ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates.
(this source has a nice chart showing what molecules carbon will and will not have an effect on).
I tried to use sources which weren't out to sell carbon to aquarium keepers, more sources are available for anyone willing to do the research.
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