Using Carbon In Filters

Discussion in 'Filters and Filtration' started by Sharkesse, Mar 3, 2019.

  1. Sharkesse Valued Member Member

    Just a little advice and discussion one, if possible.

    I have never ever used carbon in my filter before, my dad has recently started using it with his and it seems to keep his tank nice and balanced. We use water from the same source and both tanks are in the same house (just different rooms) and his nitrates are always less than mine, I suppose it could also be contributing to the fact that we have different substrate (I have thicker gravel, he has sand) and bottom-feeders (I have my pleco and my Algae Eater and he has a big 12/13 school of assorted corys) but I like to think the carbon has a hand in it too.

    We had to move my tank today to make space for my new one which arrives next week and I had to remove water so we could make it lighter to move. During the top-up, I removed the filter into a bucket (a big flexi-tub bucket we picked up at a DIY shop, best money I ever spent!) emptied a good half of tank water into it and went to town emptying and cleaning in that bucket, all with the original tank water and bacteria. My dad suggested I try carbon this time around, so it was filled in a bag, swished in the old water and set in the basket on top of the media (Fluval 205 filter) and the entire thing was filled back to the brim with the original water it had been sitting in, in my mind, to keep that colony going.

    Long story short, fresh tank and happy fish! I was just wondering what carbon is like as I've never used it before. I know I will have to remove it in the case of medicating my tank, but I'm trying to get into a routine of removing any sick fish into the QT to treat them. Other than that, I don't know much about it. Has anyone used it before? Do you swear by it, or is it just one of those additional things? Does it ever cause issues? I'll be testing my water tomorrow anyway just to be safe as I'm a little behind on my water testing schedule.

  2. NavyChief20 Well Known Member Member

    Carbon has zero effect on the nitrogen cycle.

  3. TheBettaSushi Well Known Member Member

    I use it and it keeps my water crystal clear. It’s basically used to remove organic and inorganic materials that are dissolved in your water. It also helps to keep odors at bay. You have to change it once a month for it to continue to work. Not sure how true this is, but some people state that when carbon is no longer effective, it could leach those materials back into the water. It also helps to remove leftover medications in your tank. Some also suggest to not use carbon if you’re dosing your tank with plant ferts.

  4. Sharkesse Valued Member Member

    Ta very much! I like the appeal of it keeping the water clear as I've noticed mine has been going somewhat cloudy lately, or has bits of plant fibres floating about the place.

    Ah, I'm currently using a liquid fert for my plants. Hopefully that won't be too much of an issue. I only add it once a week. :confused:

    To be fair, some of them are dying off regardless and I think it's just the way it is (my amazon sword especially) as my others are thriving.

  5. NavyChief20 Well Known Member Member

    There exists a possibility that it can leech chemicals backnto the water yes thats true. Carbon does the following:
    Removes medication
    Removes phenols (smell)
    Removes organic solids (keeps your TDS down)
    Removes Tannins (color from drift wood)

    It does nothing else. It does have a limited lifetime and there are people who say "just reactivate it in your oven". The problem here is that most peoples oven doesnt operate between 400 and 900 degrees Celsius.

  6. Sharkesse Valued Member Member

    Lol! "In the oven" really? That feels like one of those old "charge your iPhone in the microwave." pieces of advice :p
  7. david1978 Fishlore Legend Member

    I use it every once in awhile. Do I notice a difference? Not really.
  8. NavyChief20 Well Known Member Member

    Oddly people think it works. I assure you it can not possibly work. You can use a forge to do it but not an oven.
  9. Islandvic Well Known Member Member

    Buying carbon in bulk along with a re-usable media bag is the most effective way to use in.
  10. TheBettaSushi Well Known Member Member

    In my opinion, it would be pointless to dose ferts with carbon in your filter. The carbon will just take the fert out leaving nothing for your plants. I wouldn’t use carbon while dosing ferts but that’s just me.
  11. DuaneV Well Known Member Member

    You really only need to use carbon if youre trying to remove something from the water. There are also recent studies that link the use of carbon to hole in the head disease.

    Personally, I stopped using carbon around 1996 and havent ever once thought I needed to go back to it.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
  12. BRP Well Known Member Member

    Exactly, this is especially true for chelated trace minerals like iron.
    No use for carbon in a planted tank except for removing medications.
  13. firesflightt Well Known Member Member

    good to learn something new!! i've been using carbon + ferts for a while.. whoops!

    i also kept the old carbon cartridge in there with probably a portion of BB on it. swished it "clean" in tank water today. though the carbon is absolutely dead i haven't gotten rid of it in fear of losing the BB.

    if it moves the thread along, what can be used instead of carbon? any better filter media alternatives?

    i will get rid of the carbon asap (just added a new but small cartridge) as soon as i get some sort of new media. i'm thinking of just ceramic biorings and poly fill. seems like those work well.
  14. Jerome O'Neil Valued Member Member

    I keep a small submersible filter around to load with carbon if I'm medicating a tank or removing tannins from drift wood. It's convenient for that as I don't have to disrupt my main filters.

    But as others have noted, it's not going to do anything at all for your nitrates.
  15. TheBettaSushi Well Known Member Member

    I would use another filter sponge or bio media (the ceramic beads) to replace lost bb if you believe that your carbon has bb in it. You can use the extra sponge or media later down to road to cycle another tank too once bb has colonized on it.

    In regards to using carbon to clean out water and make it clear, regular water changes will do the trick.
  16. NavyChief20 Well Known Member Member

    So in lieu of carbon for a clarifier, you can use some poly fill pillow floss. You can buybit from the pet store and waste money or get it from walmart, Joanne's, michaels, or really any craft store and save money.

    Not sure what kind of filter you are using but it can be adapted to any style. It will act as a polisher which is what most people actually use carbon for. Carbon will hold BB however, there are much better mediums for housing your BB colony. Carbon is a HUGE gimmick of the aquarium industry. It does have a use, but the benefit is minimal in every application really other than medication or tannin removal.
  17. firesflightt Well Known Member Member

    it's just a simple old aqueon HOB. not much room inside to put media in but i can maneuver around that i hope.
    i gotcha, so either ceramic rings or another sponge, and then some poly fil. and i assume you change out the poly fil and wash the rings or sponge in some tank water as filter maintenance every month? i actually haven't cleaned my sponge yet. what's the most efficient way to do that other than what i mentioned?

    yes, i see it really is a gimmick. i never really focused on filtration too much during setting up and cycling my tank. i previously thought that with a smaller tank it shouldn't matter too much. thankfully, i have a sponge already in there so i bet the most BB lives on there. though i've had that cartridge in there for so long i bet it has some on there, too.
    i think what ill do is set the new media in there (once i get it) and set it in front of the old media. after a month/weeks or so i'll remove that cartridge and closely monitor the water.
  18. Jerome O'Neil Valued Member Member

    Water chemistry can change a lot quicker in smaller volumes of water. That's one of the reasons I'd much rather manage a big tank than a little one. It's actually easier.
  19. NavyChief20 Well Known Member Member

    As far as maintenance goes:

    Once a month or so toss the poly fill.
    The ceramic you can swish in tank water if needed maybe every months. I only have 1 operating HOB and thats on my quarantine tank. The only thing i do to it is change the polyfill when it needs it (monthly or every 2 months). The media i have in it is lava rock which never needs rinsing or cleaning ever.

    My other filters are all sumps with lava rock and polyfill and some aerobic bacteria traps and algae scrubbers.

    This is absolutely correct. Smaller tanks you must be more strict with your chemistry plan. Things can go awry very quickly.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2019
  20. firesflightt Well Known Member Member

    yep, exactly. it's 20 gallons, which to some people is big but it's really not. i just didn't take mechanical filtration into much consideration and just focused more on establishing a strong colony of BB. which is important, but i think now that mechanical filtration and using something other than carbon on the daily should be taken into my account
    sounds like a plan to me. i'll get onto it when i get some funds.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019