04-22-2008, 03:05 PM
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Respectfully, I just read this thread today and i know it is kind of old, but i'm curious why you don't use carbon in this situation? I read your threads frequently. You're obviously an experience fishkeeper, so i value your opinion. But i disagree in the answer to the question posted, so let me give a detailed explanation as to why.
First, using 2 sets of filter pads seems unproductive. As filter pads clog, the organic and inorganic particle size that they "catch" gets smaller in size, because the pores for the particles to pass thru are clogged. By definition, the 2nd filter pad would not add much if any benefit to the mechanical filtration process, because the particulates would already be caught in the initial filter pad.
One could assume that the water would flow over or around the initial filter pad, so the second filter pad is needed. But this would negate the benefits of mechanical filtration, because you would be neglecting to clean the filters regularly. The moment organic waste is caught by the filter pad and begins to decay, it becomes part of the biological cycle and contributes to Nitrate buildup. Daily cleaning in a marine system is highly beneficial to remove these particles from the system before they begin to decay.
As to the other option in question, the use of activated carbon, the benefits are huge. You can compare protein skimming to activated carbon use to see the benefits. Protein skimmers remove organics from the system which are in the form of polar molecules, i.e those that form a bond at the air/water interface. Activated carbon effectively removes non-polar molecules that are not typically removed by the protein skimmer and which would otherwise become part of the biological cycle, contributing to Nitrate buildup.
You could make the argument that carbon removes beneficial trace elements, but we are not discussing a reef aquarium. The most important aspect of this fish only aquarium is to remove organic acids from the system before they are broken down by the biological filter and before the acids cause a depletion to the carbonate hardness buffering system.
In the emperor units, i think the trays are exactly where they should be. By using carbon, you can allow organic waste to be removed from the system before it comes in contact with the biowheels, reducing the buildup of Nitrate. This concept is easily understood when looking at a hang on protein skimmer, such as the CPR Bakpac or Prism Deluxe. The skimmer comes first and the biomedia second. First, remove organics. Second, biologically process whatever is left over. The idea is the same in the design of the Emperor units.