carbon or no? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 7 Old 11-01-2008, 03:59 PM Thread Starter
bhone20's Avatar
carbon or no?

Hi everybody. I have been using carbon bags in my fluval 405 for over a year now. I have been reading that many people don't use carbon.Am I fine staying where I am or is there something better than carbon? If I decide to stop using carbon what and how do I go about doing that.the nitrates never ever drop below 40 even after water changes,(the same with all my tanks).I do 50% with gravel vacuming once every week

I also have a 20 and a 10 gallon each with a Convict in them.They have the exact same readings as the 80 gallon.They also get 50% with gravel vacuming once a week.

80 gallon
2-oscar 11 inch (poop machines)
nitrite 0
temp-80.1--no heater

HOB 40 gallon filter--adds 160 gph
fluval 405-plastic spheres on top,2 carbon bags,and ammonia remover bag in bottom racks of canister.



80 Gallon--One 12" Albino Tiger Oscar(Whitey),One 11" Common Tiger Oscar (MC-THE OSCAR),One 5" Male Convict(TURNBUCKLE),Three 4" Male Convicts(STATE,MR.DESTRUCTO,ADREI),One 13" Pleco(RILO)

20 Gallon--One 4" Female Convict (Sparky),One 2" Female Convict(WRIGLEY),One 6" Pleco(BEAVIS)

10 Gallon--One 4" Female Convict(COUNTY),One 5" Albino Pleco(SUCKER),One 1" Female Convict(PHEEBE)
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post #2 of 7 Old 11-01-2008, 05:31 PM
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Hmm, high nitrates, must be something in the water, have you ever tested it right out of the tap? If not, let some sit out overnight with an airstone in it and then test to see what your levels are. And hopefully you are using a liquid test and shaking the living daylights out of the bottle.

As for the carbon, no need for it. It is only good for a month at best and more likely only actively working for maybe 2 weeks. Take it out and save some money. Extra filter floss or some sort of biological media like bio chem stars or ceramic rings will serve you better.

The only time you "need" carbon is to remove medications after treating for diseases. Then you change it out every week to make sure it is all gone for a couple weeks. When I had to treat for ich using Copper Safe I changed my carbon every 3 days or so for 2 weeks. Overkill maybe but I wanted as much of the copper out as possible just to give me a chance to be able to put inverts in the tanks without completely tearing them down.
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post #3 of 7 Old 11-01-2008, 05:38 PM
Why is it your nitrates stay so high? What are the levels in your tap water? It's definitely preferable to keep them below 20...especially with Oscars, who are so prone to HITH.

I'd stick with carbon, or take out the carbon and add another form of chemical filtration specifically designed to absorb nitrates.

I don't run carbon on any of my tanks, unless they are brand new and cycling, or I want to remove medication from the water. Carbon is best used when your water contains impurities, which yours does. Carbon does absorb nitrates to some extent.
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post #4 of 7 Old 11-02-2008, 11:01 AM
Tyyrlym's Avatar
Talk to ten different aquarists, get ten different opinions on carbon. Some use it, some don't.

Me, I use it. I bought a ten dollar bottle of carbon that will last me about six or eight months and I change it out monthly. Is it doing anything beneficial? Well activated carbon will remove pollutants, but are they there to begin with? I don't know for sure and neither is anyone else. The way I look at it the carbon is cheap insurance.

However something that concerns me is this ammonia remover you're using. That's a waste of money. You've got two filters, let them do their jobs and remove the ammonia. The remover is unreliable and will make you dependent on it.

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Watch my tank progress from Craigslist salvage to fishy habitat: Aaron's Tank
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post #5 of 7 Old 11-04-2008, 12:46 AM
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Yeah, it definitely sounds like you've got high nitrates coming out of your tap. If I were in that situation, I have no clue what I'd do as doing water changes on an 80g tank with bottled water would be beyond annoying.

How much do your oscars like veggies? If they don't eat them, you could try getting some fast-growing live plants to suck the nitrates out of the water for you. Floating plants like duckweed, water lettuce or hornwort would work well (provided the oscars don't eat it). You could also have a look at this thread:

It's designed for saltwater, but I don't see any reason why something similar couldn't be done for a freshwater tank to keep nitrates in check. Your oscars are really gorgeous, and I'd hate to see them battle with hole-in-the-head due to high nitrates as they age.

As for the carbon, I'm part of the "don't use it" crew. Here's another thread where the pros and cons were argued back and forth a bit:
(My two cents are on page 2)

4 8 15 16 23 42
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post #6 of 7 Old 11-04-2008, 08:00 AM
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I am not a fan of most chemical media, meds, or anything else that is not absolutely needed in the aquarium. With that said, If water source contains elevated nitrates then perhaps you might consider some form of chemical media to help control it. A product that works well in my view is product PURA-PAD. It was recommended by another member here and I expressed some doubt as to it's claims but out of fairness to the member I tried it and it does what it says. I believe It may help control the nitrates but it should not be reason to slack off on maint. I also agree with TY ammonia shouldn't be a problem in properly maintained tank. Cutting back on food = less poo from fish= less ammonia. I am one who DOES use carbon. After it has expired I simply leave it in and swish it around in old aquarium water and stick it back in until it falls apart then I replace it. It acts as biological filter in this way producing more surface area for bacteria to colonize as well as seed material for any new tanks I may wish to set up. But don't tell my girlfiend !!

The most important medication in your fish medicine cabinet is.. Clean water.

Last edited by 1077; 11-04-2008 at 08:04 AM.
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post #7 of 7 Old 11-05-2008, 10:42 AM
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A lot of the doom and gloom you hear about carbon is generally preceded by "If you don't change it out regularly." Just make it part of your regular maintenance and the worst it will be is a small drain on your wallet.

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Watch my tank progress from Craigslist salvage to fishy habitat: Aaron's Tank
The only things that happen quickly in an aquarium are bad things.
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