Activated carbon in filters

Discussion in 'Filters and Filtration' started by gypsy32, Jan 28, 2015.

  1. gypsy32Valued MemberMember

    Hi, I just read on here under another topic that "several of us here do not run carbon of any sort in our filters"

    My question is, why is this?

    When I bought my external canister filter recently the lady at the pet shop made me buy a large bag of carbon & a net bag to put it in because she said it was absolutely essential,

    I've only had my tank up & running for about 4months

    So am I using it & replacing it monthly for no reason?

    In the filter there is a black coarse spongy thing & a blue spongy thing and a piece of white fluffy stuff & in the next basket was just these ceramic noodle things & that is where she said to put the bag of carbon.

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  2. YorgValued MemberMember

    Hi gypsy32:

    I only use carbon in rare circumstances, like after medicating a tank to deal with a disease outbreak. Even then, I only run it for a short period of time. In my opinion there's really no need to use it all the time. The lady at the pet store probably meant well, but I disagree with her that it is absolutely essential to have it in the filter.

    The spongy things are probably for 'mechanical' filtration (removal of large pieces of debris in the water), although with proper care they will also serve as places for your beneficial bacteria. The ceramic noodles are most likely intended solely for biological filtration (to provide surface area for the bacteria).



  3. StephenNew MemberMember

    I also only use carbon to remove medications. Many hobbyists feel that the carbon actually leaches bad stuff back into the water.

  4. Thai Aquarium ownerWell Known MemberMember

    Activated Carbon is used as a " chemical " filtration media.
    That is to say that it will absorb any chemical agents in the tank water, but only up to the point of saturation, where upon it needs complete replacement.
    This could be used usually after a medication process in the tank to remove the meds, and if it is used all the time, it will probably need complete replacement every 3/4 weeks, which can work out very expensive over time.
    As for the white " fluffy stuff", that is the first stage wool filter to remove large pieces of solid waste from the water.
    The " spongy things ", are elements of the filter, and the black one is probably impregnated with carbon.
    The filter should be configured as follows for the best results, in the direction of the water flow
    1) White fluffy stuff - rinse in old tank water when you do the water change
    2) Black or Blue " spongy thing " - you choose. But if one has a more open structure than the other place it here. Only rinse in old tank water every 3 months or so.
    3) The other " spongy thing "
    4) The ceramic rings " noodles " . This is the most critical filter stage as this is where most of the Beneficial Bacteria will establish to keep the tank healthy. And here, if there is more space, cram it full of the ceramic rings.
    If you establish a strong filter, you will have very little need ( if any ) for Activated Carbon in the filter.

  5. Chunk101Well Known MemberMember

    Carbon should be replaced on a regular basis otherwise it loses it's effectiveness at adsorbing toxins/chemicals from the water.

    Activated carbon may not be essential, but it certainly helps the filtration process.
    Here is a link on what activated carbon filters out.
  6. Spencer1044Valued MemberMember

    I have a 29 gal with two HOB filters both rated for 30 gallons. They were using active carbon for 4 years and the water was always yellow or just never clear. I stopped using the active carbon and put a bunch of ceramic rings in the filter boxes where the active carbon use to be. The water has never been more stable and clear than before.

    Sent from my iPad using Fish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum
  7. gypsy32Valued MemberMember

    Hi, thanks for the replies, I have learnt so much since I joined about 2 weeks ago, so thanks again,

    The basket that has the ceramic noodles in it is only about 1/4 full, if they are an important part of the filtration process maybe I should get more to fill up the basket, or I have heard about those black plastic 'bio-balls' has anyone used these?

    As for rinsing the filter stuff out in old tank water I had no idea I was suppose to do that, I have been rinsing them out under running tap water, now each time I do a water change I will rinse out the white fluffy stuff in the old water.

    As for what spencer1044 said my water has always had a quite strong yellow tinge to it, I just thought it was meant to be that way, I never made the connection with the carbon, I knew it couldn't be tannins because the driftwood had fully leeched before I put it in the tank.

    So I will remove the carbon from the filter, it seems to cause more problems than it solves.

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  8. jerilovesfrogsFishlore VIPMember

    I don't use carbon. Just don't over clean your media. There's no need to do it with every water change. Every month or two, or more is ok.
  9. Spencer1044Valued MemberMember

    The only thing in my opinion is to use carbon after you have finished using a medication in your tank. As for bio balls the only reason I don't buy them is because they are quite expensive at my lfs. The ceramic noodles are used for more surface area that beneficial bacteria can attach itself to.

    Sent from my iPad using Fish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum
  10. ayladWell Known MemberMember

    Ceramic noodles will most likely be more helpful than the bio-balls. I'd recommend adding enough to fill the basket.
  11. NCE12940Well Known MemberMember

    Like you, I started out thinking I had to use the carbon all the time, bought a bunch on sale, and now probably have enough to last me forever. I have mostly bristlenose catfish so my cleaning schedule is more often than most other peoples' - every day on some tanks, every other day on others. And this includes cleaning the filters and media (in tank water) once a week. (A LOT of poop necessitates this.)
  12. MimsValued MemberMember

    Sorry to hijack, but I have a question. My tanks currently have filters like this.


    The carbon is in the little basket attached to the back.

    Should I peel the blue part off and keep it (I assume this is where my BB is) and toss the basket and carbon?
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 23, 2018
  13. NCE12940Well Known MemberMember

    I have the same thing and I don't use it at all. I use coarse sponge, bio-media (Seachem Matrix in a bag) and Seachem Purigen right before the overflow.
  14. MimsValued MemberMember

    Okay, thanks. I just ordered 8 lbs of ceramic noodles (looks more like tp rolls to me, lol) to start replacing all of my media.
  15. Thai Aquarium ownerWell Known MemberMember

    The black plastic " Bio-balls " are a wrongly purseived by many Aquarists to be a bio media for the establishment of a strong BB colony.
    Although they will, to a certain extent hold Beneficial Bacteria, they will only hold this on the surface, and this media is primarily used to break up water flows in filters for even distribution, and to add oxygen into the BB media section.
    Ceramic Rings, on the other hand, are a specifically designed media for holding BB.
    The shape of them will hold a vast amount of BB on the surface, which is of a rough nature to increase the surface area, and they are also porous which allows all those BB to establish inside them as well.
    Another factor, which is often overlooked about Ceramic Rings is the shape of them.
    They are designed to be just washed through to remove dust Etc, and then randomly thrown into the filter.
    Because they will lie as they fall, this will create areas of high Oxygen within the filter for the Aerobic Bacteria to flourish, and areas of little or no Oxygen, which allows the Anaerobic Bacteria to also flourish, both kinds of Bacteria are essential for a good filter to work correctly.
    It is in this stage of the filter, that the water is clarified by the bacteria, and if you use loads of these rings, you will not only have a strong BB colony, but clear water as well.
    Caution Note - Never under any circumstance clean these Ceramic rings or disturb them once established in the filter, or you will loose masses of BB
  16. MimsValued MemberMember

    Great info, Thai Aquarium. Thanks for that!!
  17. gypsy32Valued MemberMember

    Thaiaquarium owner, once again I never had any idea I wasn't suppose to be cleaning the ceramic noodles, each time I have been doing a filter clean since I got my tank 4 months ago I have been scrubbing them with a nail brush because they were

    I won't be doing that from now on that's for sure, I have just gone & bought another bunch of ceramic noodles, the basket in the filter is full now & they will never see nail brush again.

    Thank you so much for the great info, I have learnt so much.

    Sent from my VIANO_T7720 using Fish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum mobile app
  18. toosieFishlore VIPMember

    Thai Aquarium owner , the black spongy thing, if it is impregnated with carbon, the OP should treat this media the same as granulated activated carbon and replaced just as frequently. You didn't mention this, but you mentioned A LOT! Great post. I just wanted verify this is what you intended the OP to do, if they determine it is a form of carbon.

    If this spongy media is impregnated with carbon, I would be tempted to eliminate this from the setup, and use something else in it's place, especially if granulated activated carbon is also being used. I don't like to throw out more media than I can help, so especially if there turns out to be two forms of carbon, I'd eliminate the one.

    The only time I use activated carbon, is for medication removal as well, however, I have a planted tank and plants are natural removers of many kinds of nasties. If I didn't have a planted tank, I would be a bit more tempted to use carbon.

    Edit: gypsy32, Welcome to FishLore! I just looked at your info, and I see you don't as of yet, understand the nitrogen cycle. If you haven't had the opportunity to learn a bit about it yet, just click on the blue words and it will get you on your way to learning this necessary bit of information. If you have any questions after reading this info on this process, don't hesitate to ask any of us questions about it. It's a really important process, and your fish will depend on you to know it. You might want to start a new thread for those questions though so that your filter info and nitrogen cycle info don't get all boggled up.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2015
  19. gypsy32Valued MemberMember

    I just checked the box the filter came in & it says that the black pad is for 'chemical filtration' so as carbon is a chemical filter I assume the black sponge is carbon impregnated, so I have been running 2 lots of carbon all this time, no wonder my water is yellow,

    I am thinking of replacing it with more of the white fluffy stuff, get rid of all carbon all together, I have all live plants in my aquarium so that should help filter out a lot of nasties, I just have to stop my silver dollars eating them
    I am still learning the nitrogen cycle, I'm just about to start up a second 300litre tank so I know I won't make the same mistakes I did with the first & now I know how important the filter is, that its not just for taking uneaten food & fish waste out of the water, I know now that this is where the bacteria is, I thought when people were talking about building up the bacteria (cycling) that it was only something that happened inside the tank, like on the gravel & driftwood,

    I will fill out more of my info in my profile when I figure out how to do it :)

    Thank you for your help, I really appreciate it & ultimately my fish will appreciate it as well because I'm not killing them & they can live long healthy lives,

    Sent from my VIANO_T7720 using Fish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum mobile app
  20. Thai Aquarium ownerWell Known MemberMember

    Do not replace the Carbon sponges with the " White Fluffy Stuff " as you should already have that in place as the first stage of the filter. - and this should be the only thing to rinse in old tank water when cleaning the filter,
    What you need to really do, is try to get more of the correct media ( Ceramic Rings ) for producing and holding the BB into the filter if possible.
    These Ceramic Rings are the " Engine " of the filter, and the more you have, the stronger and better that engine will be to keep the tank healthy.
    Any filter of a tank is the singular, most important item on the tanks setup, and should be treated with the utmost care and respect, and although there are masses of BB in the filter ( or should be ) there are also many more BB on every surface of the tank, its decor, and inside the substrate.
    If you have a correctly cycled tank and filter with a strong BB colony inside it, there should be no need at all for " Polishing Pads Etc ", as the BB should clarify the water, and this is where I believe slower filter flows are essential in giving the BB enough time to process the water correctly.
    As for the Black pads, they could stay in the tank if you so wish, as the surface area of the sponge will hold a fair amount of BB, but always remember that it will be there as a holder for the BB, and not as a chemical filter.

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