Hole In The Head Disease - Page 2 - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #11 of 21 Old 12-16-2006, 09:36 AM Thread Starter
Originally Posted by Blue
Ron, I've been wondering what TR means.
It is just a habit:

I attach the characters at the terminus of my emails.

It is an ancronym for "Thanks Ron".

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post #12 of 21 Old 12-16-2006, 12:23 PM
The only thing I would have to disagree is that carbon, overtime, will NOT release contaminants back into the water. I thought I posted a link to a thread on a discus forum, but I can't find it and I'm searching for it on the discus forum. Anyways, I believe it has something to do with adsorbtion not absorption.

EDIT: Found the post 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.

Originally Posted by lhforbes12

Originally Posted by mickeyG

I don't know that carbon leaches back for sure never having used it. My opinion is based on others. I will say that I have been reading all the techy stuff about aquariums for about 5 years and the predominant (I bet 75% or more?) of the opinions (many from the leaders in the industry & books) is that when the carbon is full - it will release some of its load back into the water.

I can't give you the actual data how or what they base their opinions on, but I'll try and take the time to read more and then repost.

As far as the price being prohibitive - I have to somewhat disagree. I bought 1.87L of marineland black diamond carbon on the net for $9.99. It looks like a ton. I thought I would use it in a little corner filter in my water mixing container but decided not to use it. But if I used it all the time it would last a year or more. I admit I only make 20g of water twice a week, but unless you have hundreds of gallons, it wouldn't be THAT expensive.

This is actually precisely why I decided to address the issue. As you can tell I agree fundamentally with what Paul said. Except that carbon can not possibly leach things back into the water column. The reason is because carbon is not a sponge. It does not work that way. Carbon chemically attracts ions to itself (think of it as a magnet) there is simply no way for it to leach back things once it has them other than to reverse the ionic process, which is something that is so unlikely that it borders on the impossible. As to cost, if you read what I said, and perhaps I didn't say it well enough, for carbon to remain effective you would need to replace it every two days or so, so I stand by my orignal statement, it is cost prohibitive.

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post #13 of 21 Old 12-16-2006, 12:47 PM
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I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't done some experimenting to support it. I had a few tanks, standing with clean water and no fish in them, so I inserted some very used carbon... (had been in a tank for about 6 months) into the filter, and waited a few weeks. What I would have expected to find when testing after 4 wks was nothing... no waste, bacteria culture dies out, everything is in good condition, right? Not! After waiting 4 wks and then testing the water, I found ammonia present... and it was a rather high number. This intrigued me, so I tried it again with another empty tank, different carbon from a different tank. This time I tested the water before adding the carbon to the filter, it was 0 for everything, pH was at 8.0, which is what it read coming from the tap. I waited another 4 wks with the used carbon in the filter, and again I got a high ammonia reading.
If not from the carbon, where did the ammonia content come from? These were both bare bottom tanks, nothing in them but the carbon and water.
Do you have another explaination for this? If so, I'd be happy to discuss it with you... that could be a good learning experience or debate for everyone here... lol.
The other situation that made me believe about cabron leeching stuff back into the water was my oscar tank. I was good so long as I kept up on my water changes and changed the carbon once/month. Anytime I slacked on changing carbon, but doing nothing else different, my nitrate levels were off the chart. When I ran the tank without carbon, my ammonia level spiked within 24 hrs, even with the water changes. This was with 2 oscars, about 6 inces each, in a 47 gallon tank, daily water changes of 20%, and feeding only every other day. (also a reason I tell everyone NOT to put those kind of fish into a smaller tank) This last lesson was to see if carbon actually did any good in using it. If I put the carbon back in and kept it changed, my water quality was perfect, nitrates never above 40. A few of my coworkers did similar experiments at home, and our boss had us do the same kinds of experiments at the store, so that we knew we were giving the best advice to our customers as was possible. Our final stand on it was that yes, carbon does a lot of good, when used properly, and yes, it leeched pollutants back into the tank if not replaced after 30 days... and sometimes less than 30 days if the pollution levels in the tank were known to be high all the time.
I've also had many discussions with the makers of the hang on filters that have carabon enclosed. Their reason for including the carbon was to "complete" the filtration process as much as possible, making their product as effective as it can be.

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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post #14 of 21 Old 12-16-2006, 01:43 PM
I'm not sure. As I mentioned before, I'm no chemist. I am not no English major either. LOL

I would have to assume that since it was used media, then there may have been dead bacteria. Maybe the decaying bacteria produced the ammonia?
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post #15 of 21 Old 12-16-2006, 06:46 PM
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Or.... maybe.... as has been the big debate... carbon DOES work and DOES have the potential to leech waste products back into the water....

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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post #16 of 21 Old 12-16-2006, 08:23 PM
As carbon is not a sponge, I'm sure it will not leach. All the people who have stated it does not leach have some kind of reputable background (scientists, geologist, etc.) I have yet to see a scientist, geologist, etc. to disprove the topic.

But as I stated in your instance, dead bacteria on the carbon or any media you used, could cause ammonia spike. You will probably get the same results if you grab some substrate and place it in the tank. The bacteria would probably die off and cause an ammonia increase. I use depleted carbon media allot in my Emperor 280's and 400 filters and never found any excess ammonia, even in BB tanks.
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post #17 of 21 Old 12-16-2006, 09:48 PM
Con/Myth #4: Old carbon will leach organics back into the water (de-absorption)

This is true in industry, but not in our aquarium. Carbon is widely used in industrial settings to recycle precious metals. Industrial use of carbon involves the capturing of a specific substance at one pH extreme (below 4 or above 10) and then reclaiming the substance by converting to the other pH extreme. If a pH shift of this magnitude occurs in an aquarium, carbon leaching organics back into the water is the least of our worries.
Quoted from this article.


De-adsorption is another phenomenon that is over-stated in the rumor mills about activated carbon. Again, it is an incomplete statement that is commonly used to described the process. It goes, in one fashion or another, as: don't use carbon because once its adsorption sites are full it will release, or de-adsorb, all the stuff it has adsorbed releasing a large amount of pollutants back into the aquarium. The implication in this sentence that activated carbon works something like a capacitor such that once at its maximum adsorption capacity, it instantaneously discharges all the bad things it has adsorbed is wrong. Carbon does de-adsorb, in fact, that ability is exploited for recycling precious metals. However, in a controlled industrial process, the quick release of the target substance is accomplished by switching the pH of the water. The basic process is to capture the target substance at one pH extreme (very acidic or basic) and then reclaim the substance by switching to the other pH extreme. As stated earlier in this article, these pH values are outside the normal range of aquaria. De-adsorption is not a process to be worried about.
Quoted from this Marineland article.

Basically carbon WILL leach (de-adsorb) if brought from an extreme pH to another. As mentioned, if it there was a de-adsorbtion process, then it should be a no concern, becuase the extreme pH shift should be more of a concern. In an industrial situation, this is feasible. In a home aquarium, not a problem at all.

Found more info...
Carbon does not remove ammonia, nitrite or nitrate from water. It also does not have an effect on water hardness or alkalinity. Some carbons will leach phosphate into the aquarium water. The phosphate can be a naturally occurring part of the carbon or it can be from phosphoric acid which is sometimes used in the activation process. In either case, the phosphate is not toxic, rather it can contribute to eutrophic conditions in the aquarium water and may lead to algae blooms. If you are concerned about phosphates, switch brands of carbon. There are several bituminous coal based carbons available from reputable companies that are phosphate-free.
Quoted from this Marineland article.
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post #18 of 21 Old 12-16-2006, 10:00 PM
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So much for the debate. I wonder if we're still having a heads on with HITH disease, now that we have the carbon issue here.

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post #19 of 21 Old 12-16-2006, 10:18 PM
Carbon causing HITH is contreversal, as stated here...

Con #5: Carbon may cause HITH
This is a controversial subject. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that carbon plays any role in the development of HITH, despite the fact that several scientific studies have attempted to validate this. However, there are many reported instances of HITH going into remission in conjunction with carbon removal. I happen to be one of those cases. As a result, regardless of my opinion on the benefits of carbon, I do not use carbon in my Oscar tank.
This is the first time I heard about carbon may be a cause for HITH. I know I've used carbon in my Emperor 280 and 400 filters and never had issues with HITH. Most of these fish I had used carbon many years ago are the very same fish that you see in my 125 gallon tank. The only issue I'm having with my original fish is one of my angelfish having swim bladder issue.
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post #20 of 21 Old 12-16-2006, 10:46 PM
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Blue, the HITH disease is not forgotten. I guess I lost track of the question??? Can you help me pick it up?
Eddie, I thank you for that link you posted with the MarineLand article. I am printing it out and taking it to the man who trained me, and a few others from manufacturer's reps to their research teams. I now have some pointed questions to ask them. I may even email the author from that article, as I have some questions for him, too. If THAT article is correct, then we're both right and we're both wrong. At the moment I'd like to agree to disagree and leave the carbon issue go until I have the chance to do some more followup. I guess even those of us who spend 90% of our time researching and studying can be fed misinformation. I'll PM you when I've had a chance to look more into this because I'd like to let you know what I find out.
Blue, where are we on the HITH disease discussion? I know enough about that, first hand experiences to speak of, along with the knowledge of a few vets and zoo staff at various public aquariums, and a college professor or 2, lol. HITH is something I have been helping with for a very long time, and I've had some incredible results. About 5 years ago I took in 2 large and orphaned oscars. A customer brought them to me in a kitchen garbage can. The water was so dirty it was hard to see the fish in it. He'd been keeping them in a 55 gallon tank and had never heard of water changes. Sadly enough only 1 has survived, but thrived and spawned since then. I remember that both of their faces were nearly eaten away, with nothing left all the way up through the gill plates and along the lateral line. There were a horrible mess, and I cried when I first saw them. Then I yelled at the customer (my boss didn't like that much, but was at a loss to stop me) and told him that if he couldn't take care of a pet then he shouldn't have one, and then told him to go away because after seeing that I had no stomach for helping him. He hung his head and apologized, and left. (He came back the next day, apologized again, and asked me to teach him to do things the right way, he wanted to learn... which I did do) I still have what was the smaller of his 2 fish, 5 yrs later, and not only is it healthy and happy in the 220 gallon with my other 2 oscars, but ALL of the scarring has managed to heal over the first few years, and it looks like a normal, healthy oscar. I'll snap some pics when I'm at my ex's house for the next water change. (I still go there a few times/month to take care of the tank and play with my fish)
So bring it on, I'll do anything I can to help teach about HITH disease, how to treat it, but more importantly, how to prevent it.

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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