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FAQs on Carbon Filtration, Negative Reactions

Related FAQs: Carbon 1, Carbon 2, & FAQs on Carbon: Rationale/Use, Types/Qualities/Selection, Placement, Renewal, Sources/Brands, & Marine Chemical Filtrants

Related Articles: Selection and Placement of Activated Carbon in Marine Aquaria by Adam Jenkins,  Phosphates in Carbon; An analysis of the phosphate content of activated Carbon by Steven Pro, Marine Chemical Filtrants,

Are these real? Not much negative in real carbon use... Far outweighed by benefits; though some "brands", varieties do have contaminants, e.g. Phosphate/s

Cons outweigh pros of GAC for Fish Only systems?   1/31/13
I recently came across the linked article below. Do you have any thoughts on this disposition of GAC as potentially harmful for fish?
<Yes; this is actually quite an olde controversy...>
While I can appreciate that low grade carbon is to be avoided, I find it particularly interesting...that pelleted carbon was found to potentially cause micro lesions...20% of professional aquarists surveyed found HLLE reverse progression when discontinuing use of carbon...
<Yes; had read this. The owner/publisher of Coral is a friend, and my US publisher, James Lawrence. Sends along copies of all 'zines>
The source water for my system passes through two carbon blocks - one in my whole house filter, one in my Coralife RO unit.
<Not to worry re>
As I am running a fish only system, I wonder if it is to no benefit (or possibly even to harm) that I run pelleted carbon in my system.
Curious to know your thoughts, Dave
<The "risk" of carbon exposure is far less than the benefits of its use.
Deficiency "syndromes" like HLLE can/are reversed by feeding, the use of some additives. Bob Fenner>

Marc (Weiss); would you allow me to post your comments below on WetWebMedia.com? Would be helpful to many folks.
Bob Fenner

AHHS: GAC and HLLE...  -- 11/08/11
I am writing this to several aquarium - keeping organizations and individuals who would have interest in the subject.
Over the years, myself and many other aquarists have associated the use of granular activated carbon (GAC) in their aquarium filter with the appearance of 'head and lateral line erosion' (HLLE) in aquarium fishes.
It appears to me that there remains a significant number of people that are unaware of this.
Two recent studies have come to light that validate that the use of both coal and coconut based carbons can cause HLLE in marine fishes.
Both papers make reference to freshwater fishes, though the studies were clearly done with marine species. The authors indicate that the same situation can occur in freshwater but did not do a formal study.
I assure you that GAC kept in an aquarium filter recirculating water through it, will cause HLLE.
The late Dr. George Barlow had also noted the correlation in his cichlid lab and held it as causation when I spoke to him. I regret the written reference is not at hand. I do remember he published this in an article on another subject.
There is no proof that Hexamita is a cause of HLLE. Discus with 'Hexamita' don't usually exhibit HLLE. I've induced HLLE in flagellate - free fish by using copper, formalin, and even Metronidazole.
Dr. John Gratzek was the first determine that there is no causation of HLLE as a result of Hexamita and put it in print. More recent fish disease texts, such as Noga's 'Fish Disease Diagnosis and Treatment', indicate the same.
There may be other causes and/or combinations of them, that can cause HLLE without carbon filtration being used. For example, I've noted that discus kept in CO2 enriched planted aquariums show pore enlargement.
There's much more to be investigated and written on the subject. I wanted to get this out as soon as I could without any more elaboration.
AHHS: GAC and HLLE...  -- 11/08/11

Hi Bob,
Sure, I want to get the word out to the newbies. I'm going to expand upon it once I find my forty year old files on the subject. The GAC guys have hated me for that long already!
Just please send me a link where I can find it on your site. I'll put you on my list to receive further info on the subject as I generate it.
<I thank you Marc, and will send along the link on posting tomorrow. Cheers, BobF

Yellow tang clarification... HLLE... /C?    7/24/11
Dear crew, your site has been most helpful for my success with saltwater tanks. I have spent days reading information on here, and I wanted to extend my deepest appreciation for all that you do. I am hoping this email will be quick and easy to answer. I am looking for some clarification on yellow tangs. I have had my tang now for 2 years in my 75g, w/38g sump.
Other fish I have in my system are 2 perc's, 1 damsel (blue yellow tailed), 1 strawberry goby, and 1 blue spotted goby. All of these fish except the blue spot have been in the tank >1 year. Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, and Phosphates 0,
<Mmm, how are you rendering the NO3 and HPO4 thus?>
calcium ~420-450, PH ranges from 8.25 during the day to 7.95 at night (I have a probe which constantly monitors this). Temperature ranges from 78.1-78.5. Water flow is powered by 1 Mag 9.5, Mag 7 (soon to be replaced by another 9.5), and a Kor 3. Return into my tank is via 2 3/4" sea swirls. I drilled my own tank with Anthony Calfo's (not sure on spelling) design, with 2 1.5" bulkheads on the back/top of the tank surrounded by an overflow also only covering the back/top. Lighting is provided by 2 150w LED fixtures. Skimmer is a AquaC EV-180. I keep a fine DSB in the sump, with Chaeto over it, reverse daylight. I have a ReefKeeper Lite controller managing it all. I have 1 frogspawn, and 1 torch. I hope this wasn't too much info, but in past correspondence, information I thought was irrelevant turned out to be needed, so I wanted to ensure all was included.
After reading through Yellow Tang diseases, I believe my tang is suffering from Malnutrition, but I wanted to confirm with your group.
<This, and/or other aspects... environment>
I have attached a photo below. I feed my tank a mixture of Ocean Nutrition Formula One, Formula Two, and Prime Reef Flakes 2-3 times per day, and feed a variety of frozen food every 3-4 days. The tang actively pursues everything I drop in the tank, including the meaty foods, and he is constantly picking at the rocks and glass for anything growing off it. I have tried dried seaweed in the past, but he never shows any interest. If this is malnutrition, is there another type of dry food I can try?
<Yes; I strongly endorse New Life's "Spectrum" pelleted food... wholly nutritious, very palatable. Good for issues of supposed missing nutrient as here>
I understand tangs, being herbivores, like to "graze" throughout the day, and I was considering increasing the frequency (not amount) of food per day. I work from home, so if this is recommended, it is not a problem. In case the picture doesn't come through, it looks like a loss of pigment around its eyes and gills.
<I see this>
There are white patches in those areas. That have slowly been increasing in size over the last month. I thought it might be stress, as I recently moved everything into this 75g, from a "reef ready" 90g (I wanted a more efficient flow, hence the reason for my custom work). The tang does not appear to be acting out of the norm. And the only aggression in the tank has been Strawberry goby -> damsel, and clowns -> damsel.
<Perhaps "loose" electrical current; very unlikely, but possible Neuromast destruction/HLLE... from...? Carbon exposure? I'd add the Spectrum food, perhaps dose a vitamin/HUFA supplement to the water once a week (after water changes et al.). Bob Fenner>

Re: Yellow tang clarification   7/24/11
Mr. Fenner, thank you for the very quick response. I did forget to mention I run carbon through a reactor as well, which I change every 4 weeks.
<Mmm, I would leave off, leave out the carbon for a month or two... There have been innumerable speculations as to the "cause" of HLLE... stray electricity/voltage, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic build-up syndromes... and more recently Jay Hemdal's assertion as to carbon effect/s>
I do a 5% water change weekly when I do my tests. I dose trace elements and Kalk, but I only started this in the last couple of weeks. Your question on the Nitrates/Phosphates, I am not sure what you mean by how I achieve this.
<The perhaps too-aggressive C/arbon>
I ensure there is no uneaten food left during feeding, I siphon the gravel in the DT when I do the water changes. I leave my DSB alone in the sump.
I clean the skimmer 2-3 times per week. I have not been able to get above a 0 on my water tests in over a year. The fish and corals are growing fine, so I think I feed enough. The only thing I can think is that the Nitrates and Phosphates that do exist in my water are consumed so quickly I never get any readings?
<To some extent; but not likely both... one should/be/come rate-limiting, leaving the other in measurable quantity. Understanzee?>
I do have 135 lbs of live rock in my system. I'll add the below mentioned foods and dosing to my routine, just need to locate some. Thank you for the suggestions. You mentioned exposure to carbon, should I stop the carbon reactor for a while and see if this helps?
I just took a multimeter to my aquarium, and was unable to detect anything.
The only non-grounded electrical components in my aquarium are the Kor 3 and the pump for my carbon.
<Do please report back in a month or so. BobF>

Re: Yellow tang clarification   9/21/11
Mr. Fenner, as requested, I am reporting back after a couple of months. I removed the carbon, and included the recommended food in my feedings. The LFS ordered it for me, and they were impressed with the ingredient listing (I think they're in love).
The yellow tang's loss of pigment is almost completely gone. He is looking even healthier now, so I certainly want to thank you for your invaluable advise. I now have a couple of patches of hair algae pop up since my removal of the carbon, but I would rather fight that battle any time. It appears your theory on the carbon being the cause were spot on.
Thanks again for everything you do.
<A pleasure. Thank you for this follow-up Lang. BobF>

Research on carbon use link to lateral line disease  -- 7/14/10
Hello Wet Web Crew,
Reading CORAL magazine most recent issue I came across info on a study to be conducted to explore the link between carbon use and lateral line disease in marine fishes. If one would wish to prove out this theory for themselves, would poly-filter provide a safe non-carbon alternative to for use in filter compartment of reef sump?
<Mmm, as a control? Better to best to have multiple replicates of a few systems w/ either, and some w/ neither...>
Also any thoughts on this subject would be appreciated.
Thanks for your insight,
<Have heard more than read such speculations (purported links twixt HLLE/Neuromast destruction syndrome/s and carbon et al.) over the years; and like "microwaves, cell phones and other EMR emissions and human ailments" nothing conclusive. There are papers, good science linking such conditions to avitaminoses and other nutritional deficiencies, and "poor water quality"... None for stray electrical potential directly. Bob Fenner>

Hair Algae and it's "Nemesis"?!?   8/24/09
Greetings to my favorite people at WWM!
<Hello to you Jamie>
Interesting observation that I like to share with you. I currently have three tanks. Their parameters are all very similar as I use the same RO water mixed with Coralife Reef Salt and I perform a 15% water change on them every week. There are only TWO differences (Okay, I'm painting with really broad strokes!) - they are the inhabitants and the presence or not of CARBON in the filtration system.
<Mmm... often there are other more subtle diff.s, but let's see...>
Tank 1: Carbon; Green Spotted Mandarin Goby, Barnacle Blenny, Eyelash Blenny, Yasha Hase Goby, Pistol Shrimp, Peppermint Shrimp, Skunk Cleaner Shrimp plus Hermit Crabs.
Tank 2: NO Carbon; Flame Angel, Bicolor Blenny, Black Percula Clown plus Hermit Crabs.
Tank 3: Carbon; Rainbow Fairy Wrasse, Flame Hawk Fish, 2 Pajama Cardinals, Lawnmower Blenny, Pink Spotted Watchman Goby plus Hermit Crabs.
Tank 1 and 3 have been infested with hair algae over the past 4 months.
Tank 2 have consistently been without hair algae or slime algae, not even a hint!
All tanks have been set up for more than one year and I do the same routine for all three tanks, feeding in the same fashion. Tank 2 is the "cleanest", absolutely no signs of hair algae and the tank has a general clean
appearance - minimal detritus on rocks and macro algae where the other two sometimes get that dirty, ash covered look and lots of stuff to blow off during my weekly water changes.
For several weeks, I was thinking that maybe the carbon was leaking something back to the tank to encourage algae growth, but I renew them with fresh carbon every two weeks, so maybe just the presence of carbon... Then today I did an experiment during my weekly water change. I took a green hair algae and red slime algae covered water return from Tank 1 and swapped it with the coralline covered one from Tank 2. Within five hours, that return is cleared of all green hair and red slime algae! Yippi! Well, now, I'm guessing that one of the inhabitants in Tank 2 is having a feast eating this stuff, I just can't decide if it is the Flame Angel or the Bicolor Blenny.
<Could be both, either>
My bet is the Bicolor Blenny but the Flame Angel is the one showing most interest. As I'm writing this, I placed a piece of hair algae covered Zoanthid in the front...I want to watch nature in action, and so far, the
Flame Angel is the one showing interest.
Thank you, each and every one on the WWM team, for creating this site that helps all of us fish lovers to not only learn about the wonderful creatures that we share our earth with, but also encouraging sound stewardship to these wonderful creatures!
Jamie Barclay
<May, might I suggest an experiment with the carbon? Do soak some bit, a tablespoon or so, in a jar of your RO water for a day or two and test for soluble Phosphate... Some "brands" do leach this often rate-limiting noisome algae nutrient. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Carbon and Kalkwasser. 3/13/2009
Hello all,
<Hi Tom>
Quick question:
<Quicker answer.>
Does activated carbon remove Kalkwasser?
<Possibly to some very minor degree.>
I am asking because the point in my sump where I would like to drip Kalkwasser immediately flows through the activated carbon/PhosPure section of my sump. I don't want to waste Kalk and carbon!
<Not a worry>
Thanks so much in advance! You guys are THE BEST!
<Thank you>

Saltwater Aquarium Questions 2/19/09 Poly Filter, Algae Control, Drunk Snails Good Morning, <Hi Jackie> Happy Thursday!!! I have two questions. Will using a Poly pad in my sump lessen the effectiveness of additives i.e. B-Ionics, Iodine, Trace Elements? <Shouldn't have much effect on the B-Ionics but will have some effect on Iodine and will remove heavy metal trace elements.> I think I'm seeing more green hair algae growth since adding the pad. <What are your nitrate/phosphate levels? Do read here Jackie. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm> I have Cerith snails that appear to be passed out (on their backs) during the day, <Kind of how I was last night:)> but are very active at night. Is that normal? <Sure, can be. Mine are most active during the evening.> Your advice/information is greatly appreciated. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Thanks, Jackie

Nitrate Sponge & Phosban Don't Mix! 1/29/09 Hi Crew, <Hello BC> This is more a commentary than a question. Hopefully it might prevent some other person from making the same mistake. I have a 90g Reef Tank with a 40g sump with circulation pumps, heaters and a Turboflotor 1000 Multi Skimmer (which I love and highly recommend). I like to be able to run a little Polyfilter or other media without going full canister filter, so I also have a Aquaclear 110 hooked on the back of the sump. I've run Kent Marine Nitrate Sponge in a twin setup on my FOWLR 90g for years. Where's the problem? I added Phosban to the mix. I've never used the products but was having a problem with hair algae and figured it might help with the phosphates I assume are feeding them even though tests kits read zero across the board for phosphates, ammonia, nitrite & nitrates. <Likely> Anyway, I added both the Kent Marine Nitrate Sponge and the Phosban at the same time. Wince. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have, but there you go. The skimmer immediately started having a fit-- producing copious amounts of super wet foam. I removed both the Nitrate Sponge and the Phosban (once I narrowed down the cause) and slipped in some Polyfilter hoping it might help. I'd just performed a water change so I didn't have any more aged water on hand. The corals and fish looked fine--perky, so I crossed my fingers, disconnected the frothing skimmer and waited until the next day hoping things would "right" themselves. They didn't--although the corals and fish looked no worse for wear. I performed another 20 gallon water change. The skimmer improved marginally--it took 30 seconds to fill the cup instead of 10. I decided a huge water change was in order. The following evening I changed 50 gallons. It seems to have worked. The foam is still a little wet, but its gradually improving. The only thing I can figure out is that there was a reaction between the Nitrate Sponge and the Phosban that effected the water. At first I figured an airline on the skimmer was clogged, but it wasn't. I also tested the unit in my FOWLR tank. It produced normal, dry foam there. I tested the skimmer on the new patch of water, to see if their was something funny coming in through the tap. Again, no problem. I don't use any water conditioner since I always let my water age for at least 24 hours. I'd added nothing else to the tank. Unless it was the Phosban alone (which I doubt), then it had to be the combination of the two. Have you ever heard of this? Do you know of anyone who runs both these medias together? It was a real pain in the rear. Thankfully I didn't loose any live stock to it, in fact, my corals seem happier than I've ever seen them--must be all that nice new water! Anyway, I saw nothing on your site about a possible conflict between the two, so I thought I'd put this out there. <Wondering if the Phosban should have been rinsed out thoroughly before use. As far as the Nitrate Sponge, it's just a porous zeolite that fosters anaerobic bacteria aiding your denitrification system in converting nitrate to nitrogen. It has no properties that directly remove nitrate from saltwater. This product should cause no reactions with Phosban. Might be something else going on here. Bob may have some input here.><<Nope. Nothing new. RMF>> Cheers! <Good day to you. James (Salty Dog)> BC

Activated Carbon Dust'¦Will It Hurt My Fish? -- 08/19/08 I've done some research through Google trying to figure out the answer to this question but can't really seem to find anything. <<Okay>> I didn't rinse off my activated carbon when I put it into my QT tanks, so the water got filled with a light gray cloud. <<Shouldn't be a problem>> It quickly dissipated and the water just had a slight gray coloring to it, which went away after it slowly settled out. Does that material hurt the fish? <<Mmm, no'¦is more unsightly than anything else>> I'm sure it gets into their gills and they also eat it when they are going for food plus when they drink... <<Indeed'¦ But this is no more harmful than fine sand that gets stirred up and suspended in the water column from time to time>> I'm a little worried I might have inadvertently caused my fish problems. <<No need to worry'¦the fish have experienced/can handle quite turbid conditions>> They aren't displaying any signs of problems, but I'm just curious because in the future I'll be a lot more careful about that if it's a bad thing to do to them. <<All the same I would wash/rinse the carbon before use'¦if only to flush away some of the residual Phosphate left from the acid washing (activation) process>> The fish in question are two Semilarvatus B/F on one tank, then a Purple tang and a Checkerboard wrasse in the other. Grant <<Some beautiful fishes'¦setting up a Red Sea biotope maybe? Regards, EricR>>
Re: Activated Carbon Dust...Will It Hurt My Fish?, HLLE  - 08/19/08
It's interesting, the only bad things I've read about carbon dust and problems are that some people attribute it to HLLE. <<Interesting'¦have never heard this myself. I wonder what the logic/reasoning is. HLLE has been mostly attributed to 'extended' environmental and nutritional deficiencies in my experience'¦and generally reversible with correction re>> Sure enough, I had the "dust storm" 2 or 3 days ago and my Purple tang is now showing signs of HLLE. <<I'm highly skeptical this one-time exposure to carbon dust is responsible'¦if this is even indeed HLLE. It is unusual such would show up so soon after capture'¦and doubtful just '2 or 3 days' after exposure to carbon dust>> I look at him easily 5 times a day for at least a couple minutes at a time, whether feeding or just watching to make sure he is healthy. <<A good thing>> I saw NO HLLE last night, now today at lunch his left eye has a ring around it that looks exactly like HLLE. <<Mmm'¦perhaps you could provide a picture?>> It isn't huge like covering his face or anything, but definitely HLLE and definitely there. <<Maybe so'¦but again, unlikely as a result of the carbon dust in my estimation. Perhaps this fish has been kept in poor conditions/fed poorly for an extended period before you obtained it. Or perhaps what you are seeing is a different viral complaint brought in with the fish>> I've never actually had HLLE develop in a fish, I thought it would take longer to show up. <<Indeed>> Anyway, this fish is pretty much done with quarantine anyway, I think I'll be putting him into the main display tank tonight, better water quality for sure and there is live rock and other stuff to graze on. <<Perhaps for the best'¦agreed>> Yes, I am setting up a Red Sea biotope, EXCEPT I've got an Achilles tang going in ;) <<An exquisite fish'¦but not easily kept/cared for. This fish requires a large and mature system with high oxygen levels and heavy water movement>> Otherwise all fish are Red Sea varieties :) Grant <<Cheers, EricR>>

R2: Activated Carbon Dust...Will It Hurt My Fish? (and a bit of grumbling re speed of query responses) - 08/21/08
I agree, it seems VERY coincidental though that 2 or 3 days after my dust cloud, my tang is exhibiting signs of HLLE. <<Is likely just that>> And yes, you would certainly think it would take longer than 2 or 3 days for water quality to affect the fish. <<At least to manifest in this way, yes>> This was a Diver's Den fish from Live Aquaria, so I don't know if I would blame it on bad water quality before I purchased the fish, although I suppose in the shipping process, either to them or to me, the water could have been bad and started the issue which is just now showing itself. <<Not in my opinion... The HLLE would not manifest from an 'incidental' encounter such as you describe. Something else is at play here>> Unfortunately, since I just put him into my 210, the chances of getting a good picture of it aren't very good. <<No worries'¦ And likely a moot point now with this move and continued god nutrition'¦if this is HLLE>> Once he gets used to that tank and what not, I'll try to snap one, but hopefully it just goes away. Basically, it just looks like light colored skin circling his left eye. I've seen tons and tons of pictures of HLLE, I'm pretty confident in my diagnosis, but I suppose I could be wrong. <<Hard to say'¦but 'you' are in the best position to tell>> I typically get an answer from "the crew" of WWM within a day of asking a question. <<Yes'¦Bob encourages all to respond within 24hrs>> Yesterday morning I sent one in and I used the word urgent in the title and have yet to receive a reply. <<Hmm, based on the time-stamp of this query it has still only been 'a day''¦and I see Bob has replied to you (twice!) since you sent this in>> Irony at its best :) <<'¦?>> I have some not very important question about dust and I get a nice quick reply back. <<Hmmm'¦then perhaps you should have stated this was 'not important' so we could have ignored it entirely. Seriously mate, we must assume 'all' queries are important to those sending them in. Else'¦why are we here?>> I have an urgent question regarding Achilles tangs and I get nothing ;) Oh well. <<A matter of timing'¦ Your 'urgent' query was not in the inbox when I picked up your, unbeknownst to me at the time, unimportant carbon-dust question. The inbox is not monitored continuously, but is visited periodically by an all-volunteer staff who then pick and choose queries to respond to based on their comfort level/areas of expertise. All are encouraged to attend to urgent/serious/emergency/ et al queries when possible, and many will grab an 'urgent' query and make a stab at it even if not their best subject'¦if only to direct the querior to pertinent data re on the site. But many times a query is left to be hopefully picked up by someone with a better 'take' on the issue>> Hopefully I can ask you my question, but I'll make it a lot simpler than my actual email I sent in about it. <<Okay>> My tank has only been running for about 2 months. <<Quite new/young then>> It has 180 pounds of live rock in the display and a 55 gallon sump. I used live rock and Red Gracilaria in the sump to combat nitrate buildup, plus I have an EV-240 skimmer. <<Nice skimmer>> My sump is on an opposite lighting schedule as the main tank. All parameters seem stable. However, everything I've read about the Achilles tang says I need a mature tank in order to house one... <<A mature/established/balanced environment is best, yes>> What exactly is it about a mature tank that is important to an Achilles? <<A 'mature' tank is important to 'all' fishes in my opinion, but can be especially important to the success of sensitive species like the Achilles Tang. I always encourage hobbyists to allow their systems to run fallow for six months or more to allow the establishment of sustainable populations of micro- and macro-organisms without the complications to water chemistry brought on by a piscine presence, along with the pressures of fish predation/browsing. Doing so increases the systems bio-diversity which attributes greatly to the overall 'balance' of the system over the long term>> I can't see my water quality as getting much better over time, I do weekly 10% water changes plus I'm basically under stocked and over skimmed for my bioload. <<Stocking density and filtering capacity are governed by species selection as much as species numbers. Based on your fish selections thus far and their environmental requirements and size potential at maturity I don't consider you particularly under stocked (maybe a few Anthiines/Cardinal fishes for some size diversity) and I certainly don't consider you over-skimmed>> Is there some sort of chemical process going on in the tank that doesn't complete for 6 months? <<There are a myriad of process going on in a new system (chemical and biological). Just the difference in the appearance of emergent life from your live rock in a system left fishless for six months versus one not, would likely amaze you. Many hobbyists would also tend to experience less of the see-saw effect of water chemistry if their systems were allowed to 'mature' before stocking>> A year? <<Even better>> For what it's worth, I'm planning on quarantining the tang for at least 6 weeks, if not 8. So by then, the tank will have been up and stable for 4 months. I was actually debating not quarantining the tang, but instead just doing a FW dip of about 5 minutes with a Methylene blue and formalin addition to the dip, which is my standard FW dip I do when I get in new fish. <<If this fish comes to you in poor condition, this may be best>> I've heard the Achilles is very active and I'm just not too sure how long it will stay "happy" in a 29g quarantine tank. <<Mmm, yes'¦I would only keep it here for a few weeks for close scrutiny and then only if in good shape else dip and place in the display as you have described>> Seems like almost 2 months in QT for a very active fish wouldn't be a good thing. <<Not for this fish in this size QT system agreed>> This fish is a Diver's Den specimen from Live Aquaria and in the past I have never gotten any sort of disease (that I know of) from them, so I was thinking it might just be better to dip and introduce to the display. <<Maybe as discussed>> What are your thoughts on that? <<You have them'¦>> I know how much QT is stressed on your guys' site and I do agree with it 99% of the time, I just think there are special cases where QT might not be worth the stress to the fish, and this might be one of them? <<I am in much agreement with you here. I'll even go so far as to say some species are better off without QT (e.g. -- Halichoeres spp.), in my opinion>> Thanks for all you do! Grant <<Happy to share. Eric Russell>>
R3: Activated Carbon Dust...Will It Hurt My Fish (and a bit of grumbling re speed of query responses) - 08/21/08
I am sorry that it came across as I was grumbling about the speed of the reply, that certainly wasn't my intent. <<No worries Grant, the limitations of this medium indeed makes one's attitude difficult to convey' and that works both ways>> I was saying it was funny that usually I get fast replies and the one time I said URGENT I didn't get one. <<I see and I hope I was able to provide some measure of explanation as to how that occurs>> And yes, about 15 minutes after I sent that, Bob responded to my urgent email. Anyway, I really wasn't complaining about your guys' service, you do a lot for me, I was just stating it was funny the way it worked out. <<Understood>> As far as my statement about under stocked and over skimmed goes, you're correct, at maturity my tank will be nicely stocked and skimmed, which is how I planned it. However I was referring to right now, when I have about 7 inches of fish in a 210 gallon tank with a skimmer that can handle a much higher bioload. <<Yet still for the best'¦ I think many times fishes are 'damaged' from just 'growing up' in an inadequately supported and/or too small environment. I feel this is most prevalent with tang species in the hobby, but certainly not limited to them>> Anyhoo, it's kind of a moot point. <<Oh?>> The fish arrived in a bag that literally reeked of ammonia. <<Mmm was the shipment delayed or lost? It sounds like the fish was in the bag for much too long and/or maybe in a bag much too small>> It smelled like something died in there. The tang was barely moving, so I did a quick acclimation process of about 10-15 minutes instead of the usual hour, and I skipped the FW dip I was planning because I didn't want to stress an already very stressed fish. <<This fish should have been introduced to the display immediately in this situation. And depending on your acclimation process (i.e. -- mixing water), in this particular instance this may well have been the straw that broke the camel's back. Do see Bob's article re here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/acclimat.htm >> I basically only saw him breathe a couple times throughout the whole process, he appeared dead when I put him into the QT and I watched him for 20 minutes, I only saw his gills move once or twice and his mouth kind of twitched once. He didn't really even attempt to swim, just kind of feebly moved his tail for a few minutes without much balance control and just ended up settled on the bottom. Poor fish, it was beautiful too, I always hate to lose fish but especially the larger, more intelligent and good looking ones. <<Sounds like it never had a chance I'm sorry to realize your loss>> Anyway, again, I want to make clear I appreciate your guys' service and definitely don't want to be viewed as grumbling, in my mind when I wrote that email I was in no way complaining about your service, I was just stating something I found amusing, no harm no foul. <<Fair enough mate>> Grant <<Regards, EricR>>

Black Diamond Activated Carbon and Phosphates - 06/08/2007 Dear Crew, <Andy> I have been battling Cyanobacteria for a few months in my 110g reef tank that has been running a little over a year. I have read and tried everything to eliminate the BGA, but to no avail. I siphon off all the BGA from my rocks each week when I do my water changes, but it grows back full force by the next week's water change. I have limited my photoperiod, I have been very careful about feeding, I upgraded my skimmer to an AquaC EV-180, I employ a 30g fuge with Chaeto, I run a PhosBan reactor with media, I removed my bio-balls, I use RO/DI water for all my water changes/top-offs . . . you get the picture. The one variable that I have not eliminated is the use of activated carbon. <Mmmm, the Chaetomorpha and Phosban material should remove all soluble phosphate> In fact, I believe I can trace the start of my problem to a switch from ESV activated carbon to Black Diamond activated carbon. <Both are fine products in my experience> It seems that since I made that switch, the BGA went from being here and there to being everywhere. I switched because I was thinking the ESV was leaching phosphates and causing the small amount of BGA I had, but this switch seems to have only made matters worse. I've read Steven Pro's article on phosphates in activated carbon, and see that Black Diamond leached 1 ppm of phosphates in the sample, and I'm thinking this must be my problem. My water parameters check out fine--0 ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, silicates and phosphates; pH is a steady 8.3; alk is a steady 3.5 meq/L; specific gravity is 1.026; temp is 78-80. So, today I replaced all my carbon with Purigen and am hoping that this solves my mystery. Has anyone had similar experiences with Black Diamond (or other carbons) and do you think the switch to Purigen was a good one? The guy at the LFS convinced me to try it over Chemi-Pure, as you can regenerate Purigen and it was about the same price. Thanks for your help! Andy <The API product has been known to pose excess HPO4 issues, but again, as stated, this should not be a problem here. In fact, I propose removing the contactor (Phosban) as your real issue may well be a lack of this essential nutrient... that is fueling the BGA, which can exist at much lower levels than is healthy for true algae/thallophytes and other purposeful photosynthetic livestock (e.g. "corals"). Put in another ways SOME phosphate is absolutely essential... the Cyano may well be being favored by its exclusion here. Bob Fenner>

Chemi-Pure Sucks... I Think????? -- 04/01/08 I Recently put a bag of Chemi-Pure in my 46 gal bowfront tank thinking it was gonna help. <<Help what?>> Not 24 hours later mushroom corals melting and flame angel is short on breath. <<?>> Pretty sure he's gonna die. Fungia is no longer extending tentacles and my seahare doesn't look like it's doing to good either. I guess the real question is.. by me changing out regular carbon and adding Chemi-Pure, the amount suggested by the bottle, I was wondering if the addition of too much carbon or whatever Chemi-Pure has is what made this happen?????????? <<Not typically, no'¦especially if you followed the manufacturer's instructions. If indeed the Chemi-Pure is at fault here, it's hard to say what may have caused this reaction as you have provided no information re water chemistry/tank conditions, before and after applying the Chemi-Pure. This is a good and well thought of product, but do remove it and see if things improve. I suppose there's always the possibility of some type of contamination'¦though I suspect there are other factors at play here. Regards, EricR>> <More likely the Seahare itself is the cause of issues here. RMF>

Chemi-Pure Overuse... lack of reading re chemical filtrants, Crypt...   3/6/08 Hello All, <Jackie> I am wondering if my tank may have suffered from carbon shock. About 3 weeks ago I added Chemi-pure to my sump. <Mmm, even this high-quality product gets "used up" fairly quickly... Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/chemFiltrMar.htm and the linked files above> I have a 90 gallon reef tank that has been up and running for a little over a year. About a week after adding the Chemi-pure I noticed that my Kole Eye Tang was looking a little pale. A few days later he looked as though he may have developed ich (I think I noticed about 5 or so white dots). I decided to keep an eye on him for a couple of days (in the mean time I setup my QT tank). Roughly two days later my Yellow Tang had a few white dots (which I'll assume was ich). I was able to catch the Kole Eye Tang and move him to my QT tank treated with Cupramine (spelling)<Corrected>. The QT tank salinity, temp, and PH matched the main tank. I was not able to catch the Yellow Tang. <... if there is a protozoan infestation, all fishes need to be captured, moved... Draining the tank/system if necessary, most practical> The next day Kole was upside down pressed against the filter. At this point I'm very leery of adding other fish to the QT tank (I'm sure you think I'm crazy). <... is not a QT, but a treatment tank...> It's been a few days and Yellow no longer has the white dots. <Cycling... will be back... see WWM re Cryptocaryon life-cycle... treatment possibilities> However, she is very pale about the face. Back to the Chemi-pure. The product I purchased supports a 200 gal tank. I was not aware when I purchased it that you can't split it up. So, I called Boyd Chemi-pure and explained my dilemma. He said that I could still use the 200 units in my 90 gal without adversely effecting the tank inhabitants. <I concur> I'm now wondering if he gave me sound advise. <Advice> Is it a coincidence that my fish started to stress out shortly after adding the Chemi-pure? <Likely so, yes> If not, should I remove the Chemi-pure? Not sure if removing it will also cause additional stress. Can too much carbon adversely affect my corals and inverts? <Mmm, can... read where you were referred to... but not likely in otherwise well-set-up and maintained systems> They seem to be doing fine at this point. Thanks, Jackie <Read... then act, but soon. Bob Fenner>

- Carbon removing trace elements... - I have heard that if you use activated carbon in a filter, that it will remove trace elements.  True or false?? <True and false, it removes some trace elements, most notably iodine, but leaves plenty as well.> I use a Eheim Professional 2 canister filter, which uses a charcoal filter pad in it.  Would this be removing the trace elements I'm adding twice a week?? <Depends on what you're adding. I would only run carbon once a month for 3-4 days or when you notice any tinge of yellow in the water (best seen in a clean white bucket). Have fun! -Kevin> Pat Auburn, NY

Carbon Causing HLLE? Hi Crew, thanks for taking my question. <Sure! Scott F. with you today!> First let me give you a brief history of my situation. I have a hippo tang that developed hole in head disease early on. It is stable (some scaring around the head) and has been there for about a year and a half or so. Anyway, he developed ich a little while back, I believe it was from a wrasse that I added without quarantine. <A lesson learned, huh?> I put all my fish, 1 tang, 2 clowns and the wrasse in a 35 gallon plastic container (quarantine) for 8 weeks while I let the tank run fishless to get rid of the parasites. I decided to use the  "siphoning bottom of tank everyday" method to cure (no copper) and it worked great. <Well done! Glad to hear that!> Now to the point. During the eight weeks in quarantine, my hippo tang showed tremendous improvement regarding the HLLE, the scarring around his head was reduced by at least 50%. Problem is, I put him back in the display tank and all the progress has reversed and the scaring went back to the way it was. There is no way the water quality in the quarantine tank was better than the display. I was using tap water, a power head, a heater and a sponge filter. The display tank  gets RO + DI water, 20% bi weekly water changes, live rock, live sand, better diet, steady temp, etc. So I figured it was the lack of carbon use that helped reverse HLLE. I did not use Carbon at all in the quarantine and run it constantly in my display tank. So I want to experiment and stop using Carbon in my display tank. <Well, that could be one possibility...I'm quite skeptical, because use of carbon far outweighs any possible ill effects that could happen, IMO. Yes, some people claim that carbon depletes trace elements, but if you are conducting regular water changes, this argument doesn't hold up, IMO. Anecdotally, you could proceed under the hypothesis that carbon contributed to the HLLE condition, but I don't know how it will work out. An interesting experiment, however. I commend you for trying! Do consider other possibilities, such as "stray voltage" in the display tank, or other possible environmental factors, too...Test for all of the basic parameters, and then some!> Will this effect my Coral in anyway? I have a Bubble, Torch, Candy Cane, Various Polyps and Xenia. <Well, activated carbon helps remove all sorts of allelopathic compounds that are released by corals on a regular basis. You might see some differences in the health of these animals if you discontinue its use in this tank.> Should I increase my water changes, or is it not necessary? <I'd consider more frequent water changes to help compensate> Will the protein skimmer pick up the slack? I use a Aqua-C Remora. <Aggressive protein skimming will definitely help, too.> Thanks for you input. Ang. <My pleasure, Ang. Do test your theory, but also look at other possible factors along the way...I'm sure that you'll have some interesting results to report! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Carbon Fallout! Hey folks, how's the Q and A treating you? <Excellent! Scott F. here today!> I finally have my tank up and running after months of planning and reading the best site on the net. You run the best show out there, and I cannot tell enough people about it. <Awesome! We're really glad to hear that!> I had a situation arise and I wanted to know if you could help keep me? I had a carbon container come apart in my sump. I woke up to black water, and volcanic ash all over my sand bed and the rock. <Yuck!> I have hooked up my Magnum to filter out the dust, but its going really slow, in fact, I haven't seen any improvement in 8 hours of running it. My protein skimmer (which I know I should dig a big hole in my yard and bury it in and unmarked grave), the Red Sea Berlin Turbo, has been useless. I could use some advice as to what, if any, other things I should be doing to get rid of this catastrophe. <I'd consider some good old fashioned water changes, with careful siphoning of the rocks and substrate. A series of small water changes, in conjunction with fine mechanical filtration, can really help do the trick!> My other question is: I purchased a new Mag Drive, 2400gph pump to supply the closed loop I built for the top rim of the tank for circulation. I put the pump below the tank in the cabinet and plumbed it from there back up to the tank. I reduced the 1" inlets and outlets to 1/2 inch to avoid the bulky 1" around the rim of the tank. I plugged it in today to test it out, and I am getting a dribble out of the 6 outlets I put into the closed loop. Where did I go wrong? <Hmm...Sounds like you are putting a lot of back pressure on the pump with the reduced tubing. Perhaps that, combined with the outlets, is creating a problem here. It may take some tweaking on your part, unfortunately. I can't really give you much more advice, other than to try going for the once inch diameter tubing and, perhaps, less outlets...Sigh> Looking forward to hearing from you, its finally getting above 50 here in Wisconsin, and I need to get outside before it snows here again. Its only April, we could get a blizzard warning any time. Quinn. <Wow! I think it would be cool (no pun intended) to have a blizzard once in a while, but I imagine that it gets old real fast! Hope that the spring and summer are awesome for you! Regards, Scott F>

Carbon Problems Hi, I have been keeping salt water fish for over a year now, and I was trying to move into keeping a reef. I bought a 65 gallon hex tank, to keep the tank for show, in it there is 60 lbs of live rock, 15 lbs live sand, 20 blue leg hermit crabs, 2 juvenile maroon clowns (one 3 inches the other less than an inch, they get along really well), and a host anemone. I have been running a canister filter, rated for 150 gallons, using activated carbon and filter pad and ceramic rings. Also in the tank I have a Prizm skimmer and maxi jet 900 power head for circulation. I have tried purchasing Xenia corals but they have all died out slowly over the course of a week or two. My LFS told me that I could not run carbon with the Xenia, I wanted to know if this was true, and was this true of all soft corals?  <I've been using Chemi-Pure for years and have no problems with keeping corals. I do feed DT's phytoplankton and Cyclop-Eeze weekly.>  I have already stopped using the activated carbon and ceramic rings and the tank conditions have declined, they told me to stop running it at least 30 days before getting the xenia, and the xenia will filter the tank like the carbon did.  <Corals produce most of their food providing ideal lighting conditions exist. Supplemental feedings as I do, benefit the animals. We are trying to duplicate nature here.>  That doesn't sound right, nothing I read indicated that, but I wanted to ask to make sure. Thanks for your help, I love the website, it is like my bible, I must have spent 40+ hours reading it over the last few weeks since I found it.  <Keep enjoying. Reading is fundamental in this hobby. James (Salty Dog)>

Carbon use 8/2/05 Hey crew.<<Hello - Ted here>> I have a 33 gal. Long, at least 25 lbs. Live rock 30 lbs. Live sand. A Fluval 404,marineland bio-wheel 400 and a red sea Prizm protein skimmer. Should I use carbon <<Yes>> I understand that carbon can produce high phosphate levels my water parameters r great would like to keep it like it is. <<Low quality carbon can leach phosphates. High quality carbon typically does not. Some better brands are Black Diamond, Seachem Matrix Carbon and Rowa Carbon. Read here for more information on carbon (http://www.wetwebmedia.com/chemFiltrMar.htm).>> Thanks in advance. Gary <<You're welcome. Cheers - Ted>>

Loss of vitamins, SW  - 09/14/06 Hi WWM crew, I have a question for you regarding activated carbon. Should I remove it when I dose multi-vitamins into the tank? If no, won't the activated carbon absorb the vitamins?  Thanks in advance. Regards. <Mmm... some... but if the carbon is more than an hour or two old... exceedingly little... More likely to be skimmed... Bob Fenner> Using Carbon and Medication Simultaneously...Mmmm - 6/1/07 Hi, <Hello.> you guys and your page been a lot of help, <Thanks.> but I can't find any info on using these two carbon and kick ick at same time. <You shouldn't use activated carbon and any type of medication at the same time, the carbon will remove/absorb the medication. Furthermore I suggest researching the kick ich a little deeper, let's just say it's not something I would use, and I certainly hope this is being done in a QT tank and not your display. Also please google Steven Pros articles re: ich, they were originally published on reef-keeping magazine I believe.> I been told the carbon sucks the O2 out the water is this true? <Read here; http://www.wetwebmedia.com/chemFiltrMar.htm .> thank you for your help <Anytime, Adam J.>

Algae growth (removal of desirable materials by carbon use) Bob, I was told that the use of carbon would remove the chemicals I put into the tank.  <Some chemicals> I was using liquid calcium and pro dKH to grow the purple/pink algae. <These are not removed by carbon use... a note though: both biominerals and alkalinity are required for coralline growth, health> Now I am almost out of the chemicals and still no results. Should I remove the carbon or not or should I have gotten better chemicals? Thanks, David Garcia <"Better" chemicals? Let's move this discussion back a bit... to talking about your system (what's in it, how it is/was set-up, maintained)... and what sorts of tests you do, what led you to use such. Bob Fenner>

Carbon, trace elements Mr. (?Dr.) Fenner, <Just call me Bob, please, no doctorate.> My questions concern the use of activated carbon and potential trace element depletion. From your previous discussions, I gather that the pros of high quality carbon outweigh the potential/theoretical cons.  <Yes. In almost all settings, circumstances... the types, amounts of materials removed of more use than retained> I am currently addressing a case of HLLE with vitamin (Vita-Chem, Zoecon) and Iodine (Kent Marine) supplementation of food, but I have removed Chemi-pure because of concerns regarding additional trace element depletion. Unfortunately, despite active biological filtration and protein skimming, the water clarity has decreased. <Yes... do agree with your approach, concerns, and understand the inputs, consequences you are observing> 1) As long as vitamin/iodine supplementation of food and regular water changes (20% every two weeks) are continued, do you envision a problem with re-adding "fresh" Chemi-pure? <No> 2) How frequently do you recommend supplementing with Vita-Chem, Zoecon, and Iodine (i.e., do you rotate these additives)? <About once a week with all as a general use, and no to rotation... they are miscible/mixable> (Note: My current lighting for this fish only system would not sustain live rock or growth of Caulerpa algae as you have recommended for HLLE.) <Hmm, perhaps a separate sump/refugium that can/could be linked/attached to the main system?> Thanks for your input. <You are welcome my astute friend. Bob Fenner> Dana Ascherman

Re: carbon, trace elements Bob, Thanks for the prompt response--I'm impressed! Just to clarify regarding my 2nd question: you suggest combining each of these supplements with the food concurrently, but only once per week (?even though instructions for Vita-Chem suggest 5 times per week). <Yes... and not to be confusing... even "spilling" some into the tanks water directly> I assume that adding vitamins/iodine to the water confers little additional benefit if the fish are eating supplemented food. Sorry to pester you. <Not necessarily... as they do drink it... but other living mechanisms in the system also directly/indirectly benefit, in turn benefit the system, other life... and never a bother> Dana Ascherman <Bob Fenner>

Supplements I have an Marineland eclipse running on a soon to be reef. Should I remove the carbon? I have been hearing testimonials about removing the carbon filter. Thanks > I endorse the periodic use of activated carbon in most types of marine systems. It gets "used up" very quickly (minutes to hours) of being added, so I would just change it out about once a month. Bob Fenner

Carbon use bob I was told not to use carbon in my filtration. Reason given is that it will remove trace elements, but trace elements can be replaced .should I use carbon?  if the answer is yes why ? thanks Rick. > This myth was/is dismissed by Tim Hovanec in the most recent issue of Aquarium Fish Magazine... no to carbon removing anything of real danger... I would use it about once a month... to remove dissolved organics... color from the water... that can't be taken out practically in other ways. Bob Fenner

Carbon/algae Bob, I have a new reef tank that is 4 wks. old. 20 gal sump with w/d filter, Berlin turbo protein skimmer, 100 or so lbs. LR, 25 watt UV ster. and lighting is CSL 4x55 watt PC's(2 blues, 2 white). Livestock consists of 1 yellow tang, 1 blue damsel, 3 polyps, 2 mushroom, 3 small leathers and a scavenger "kit"(20 snails 20 ea. hermit crabs, 5 peppermint shrimp, 4 emerald etc.) Yesterday I added a 10 oz. bag of Chemi-pure. At the same time I cleaned p/s collection cup. Now p/s is no longer skimming. Is this because of carbon or do you think it needs further investigation.  <The carbon, resin mix... the Chemi-Pure> It seems to be producing more bubbles than before but nothing is rising into the collection cup. Algae. I had been pretty easily keeping up with the brown algae removal (scraping it off the glass, stirring up the sand), but now some of it is getting a little "cottony" on certain pieces of LR. It seems to be growing IMO where the water flow is the lowest. <Good observation> My sump pump is 810 gph. I fear it may be hair algae and don't know if I should be patient with it and let it run it's course or should be trying to remove it some other way. <Don't sweat the hair algae... supplanting the brown... all part of "nature's way"> I've thought about buying a powerhead and aiming it opposite from current outflow tube and toward where growth is. Not sure how strong I would need and if it would do anything, water flow now seems pretty strong. <More is better> I've considered keeping the lights off for a day or two but don't know if I should with new inverts in new tank. Also I tested amm, nitrite, nitrate all undetectable? <Don't change the light cycle. No worries> I have not done a water change as of yet because I have not been able to detect any nitrates. I do have a 32 gal. can filled with 4 day old seawater I keep circulating with an old powerhead and heater. <Good protocol> Thanks again for your help/advice. - Kevin <Instruct others on your success. Bob Fenner>

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