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FAQs on Chemical Filtration, Types/Selection

Related FAQs: Carbon 1, Carbon 2, & FAQs on Carbon: Rationale/Use, Placement, Renewal, Negative Reactions, 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,

All life needs some of the chemicals potentially/actually removed by such.

Ich. Nitroimidazole antibiotics, Carbon sel.  11/22/12
Hi Crew, I am glad to say I have not lost a fish since July however Ich keeps returning every few months
<Mmm, balance...>
 as I only treat with Copper for about one month. I do water changes with natural seawater
<I'd switch to, use synthetic>
 which is a possible carrier but I tend to believe that there are varying times when the Trophont (non fish cyst) stage can exist, I have read up to 28 days, but in my case if my deduction is right it is a great deal longer about 2 months.
<I agree w/ you; perhaps even longer under some circumstances>
 Anyway I have now <you mean not?> treated with Copper as I will have to wait maybe two weeks to get the following product delivered and was wondering if I place carbon in the aquarium when it arrives and leave it in for a week, test for Copper and if Zero add inverts and leave the carbon in for a month and continue to treat with No Ich Marine located at http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=19768
 do you have any ideas on if this product is effective in curing Ich as I have been waiting to keep inverts for months now.
<I'm not a fan of this type of Nitroimidazole antibiotic (but do consider Metronidazole of use where/when properly applied)... Too many sources of interference in captive systems, too many incidences of it just not
working... But, you're, of course, welcome to try it and see for yourself>
 I have also read some carbon can release phosphates into the water so do you agree that placing the carbon in distilled water first is effective?
<Not really; no. Better, best to just buy a good grade of carbon that has little to no soluble HPO4>
 Regards, Adam.
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Ich.  11/22/12
Thanks for the reply I guess I will have to place the carbon to remove the copper and then remove it before treating with either treatment as carbon will also absorb them.
<Yes... please search, read on WWM re carbon use and copper removal. B>
I'll do some research on Metronidazole. 
<And this. B>

Activated carbon, comm.. sel.   9/1/11
Hello once again I am returning for some more of the knowledge from your wonderful site. I currently use Chemi pure elite which I am very happy with the quality of the product. I am looking at purchasing the esv activated carbon due to the cost of the Chemi pure. I would like to use Chemi pure still but would like to mix it with a bag of the esv carbon essentially cutting back to half of what I use of the Chemi pure. Do you see any problems using both types of carbon in my system one bag of the Chemi pure elite and one bag of the esv activated carbon.
<You can mix carbon brands safely. Do read the following for understanding the differences between brands:
Cheers, Neale.>

Skimmers And Carbon/Marine Filtration 2/17/11
Hey I just had a quick question about protein skimming and the use of carbon.
I've been reading about how carbon shouldn't be used in reef tanks if you employ a protein skimmer.
So can you avoid using carbon if you have a protein skimmer going or would carbon be good to use as well.
<Unless you have a very efficient skimmer rated for twice the volume of your tank,
I would use carbon but would much prefer Chemipure or FilterEez.>
Also I was wondering if you could use carbon and not a protein skimmer.<You could get away with it in a lightly stocked tank but the use of a protein skimmer is always a big plus.>
I assume protein skimming is far more effective that just using carbon in a filter.
<If I had to choose between the two, it would definitely be a protein skimmer.
May want to read here and related articles found in the header.
As always thanks for your advice and time.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Activated carbon - 8/23/10
Hi crew,
Having found the usefulness of activated carbon recently I'm looking around the net to get the best deal for my money (expensive hobby this marine tank thing). I can find some good deals on Eheim carbon in pellet form but it states that it's freshwater use only. Not that I'm the sort to ignore clear instructions but I wondered if that's really true? I thought carbon
was carbon and I could purchase any good quality version - am I wrong? or is there freshwater carbon and marine carbon?
Many thanks in advance, Holly, UK
<Hello Holly. Yes, carbon comes in a variety of grades. Marine aquarists tend to favour the higher-grade stuff simply because it's more important in marine tanks than it is in freshwater tanks. Do read here for the details:
Good and less good carbon can be distinguished by differences in a variety of numbers. Check those, and you're all set! Cheers, Neale.>
Re Activated carbon - 8/23/10/Query -- 8/24/10

Hi Neale,
I believe the gal may have read that incorrectly. Below is a clip from Eheim.
They just state that it's suitable for freshwater. My second thought was that she was looking at a combination zeo/carbon product. James
"EHEIM Karbon: Filter carbon for clear aquarium water Packing sizes: 1 l, 2 l and 5 l
EHEIM Karbon binds pollutants, residue of medication and other undesirable substances in the aquarium water and deposits them. EHEIM Karbon is suitable for fresh water."
<Hi James. Yes, indeed, it's a bit ambiguous. Is it stating it's *only* for use in freshwater tanks, or that it can *also* be used in freshwater tanks?
Saying something is "suitable" is not that same as saying it's "only suitable". My experience of German to English translations is that they're often a bit clumsy if not technically incorrect. In any case, I think it's better people read Adam Jenkins' excellent article, understand the numbers presented there, and use them to make their own choices. Cheers, Neale.>

Caribbean Biotope, stocking, new tank media replacement and substrate for Jaw Fish 4/25/09
Hello all,
<Hello, sorry for the slow response here.>
Thanks in advance for answering my questions and for being (at least for me) one of the best online sources of information.
My question is this I read you FAQ on Caribbean Biotope and I wanted to start my own but with some slight differences. I was going to add LR to both sides and leave the center open or maybe just on one side and leave the rest an open area would the latter be better for everybody?
<Either can work fine, tis more of a personal aquascaping choice.>
I have 3 fish now a Royal Gramma, a Lawnmower Blenny, and a Yellow Clown Goby and 2 Peppermint Shrimp that I want to add to my new system.
My new system is a Red Sea Max 65 Gallon all in one and because it is a new system I will leave it fallow for 2-3 months or more so it can get established or my wife makes me.
<LOL! NO reason to wait so long unless you are curing new rock...even then you can accomplish the swap once it is "cured". See: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i3/Live_Rock/live_rock.htm>
For stocking I was going to add some more fish but I don't know what else to put in there and my wife want to put fish that are seen and not hidden and I don't want to push my bio load because I want to make a reef safe tank with some species of coral that will go with my lighting.
<Okay, again a very personal choice of taste. Research re suitability and compatibility will show you the way.>
My next question is should I replace my foam media with a different type of foam? Also should I replace my ceramic pieces for LR rubble?
<What, where? Do you have LR in the main system?>
My last question is the substrate for the Jaw Fish, I read your FAQ on Jaw Fish systems and I want to make sure that I have my 'ducks in a row' before I start. Can I add 30lbs of Aragonite Aragamax sugar sand, (1st layer) 40lbs of Ocean Direct Caribbean Live Sand (2nd layer) and 10lbs of Florida Crushed Coral sand (3rd layer) or would I have to add more to make my new Jaw Fish happy?
<This will put you at about the bare minimum IMO. I would include some more CC or even some larger shell type pieces.>
Thank You,
Ramon and Sons
<Welcome, Scott V.>

Re: Caribbean Biotope, stocking, new tank media replacement and substrate for Jaw Fish 4/26/09
Thank you for answering my question,
<My pleasure.>
The tank has been set-up for about a week and it has some base rock and a piece of LR, I will be transferring some of my LR from my 29 Gallon that is already running but I have BGA on the rocks and I'm in the process of trying to get rid of it via a 10 gallon tank with a skimmer and water changes.
<Ah, good, steady with the battle.>
The tank it self has a compartment in the back of the tank that has a foam block (black) that keep air bubbles from going into the pump and back into the tank, it also has and area that houses 1 bags of ceramic media( rings) and a platform that holds 2 bags of carbon.
I was thinking about changing the carbon for a bag Chem-Pure Elite and adding a bag of Purigen while removing the foam because of the build up it might cause but I wanted to know should I do it during the cycle process?
<You can leave it be, but be sure to rinse it frequently. The other medias are fine, but of little value over just carbon in most cases.>
My other half wanted the water changes to be at least once a month so I don't know what I should do to keep her happy and not put me in the outs with he as far as spending all the money.
<Well, no way around it, smaller more frequent water changes are just better.>
She also said that I can have a Refugium but no more DIY's.
<Dang! DIY is fun!>
I also will be adding another 20 lbs of substrate to the tank, it is by RedSea (Reef Base) would this be good to add or another type.
<Sure, sounds good, Scott V.>

Use of Purigen/Carbon/Polyfilter and Algae 8/6/08 Good Evening, <Hello Sean.> I have been battling some green hair algae problems and it was recommended to me by one of your crew (M. Maddox) to use Purigen, activated carbon, phosphate sponge and Polyfilter. <I would pick one of these, not the phosphate sponge. Running all of this will do too much and start a whole new set of issues. The best course of action would be to find the fuel source for the algae and control it.> I do regular 7 gallon weekly (at least) water changes with only RO water. I also picked up a protein skimmer (CPR SR3) which has been up and running about 2 weeks now. My question is does Purigen require water to be forced through it like carbon and phos sponge? The directions don't say anything specific like the phos sponge and carbon directions do. <You will need to flow water through it, yes.> Also I have an 29gallon Oceanic BioCube and I'm trying to find places to stuff the media bags. Would it be in my best interest to use a canister filter or would stuffing media bags into high flow areas accomplish the same thing? <This is one point of consideration re which media. If you do not have a suitable space for bagged media, the Polyfilter is a good choice. Really, there is no need to run both.> Also can/should I mix different medias together into a single bag and put it in high flow (I know this won't apply to phos sponge because it needs to be removed in 2 days)? <You could mix, but doing so takes away your opportunity to remove one or the other if need be.> Also how much of these medias can/should I use (not much indication on directions)? <A few tablespoons of carbon is all for a system this size. The Polyfilter can be cut to fit your filtration on the tank, this will force the water to flow through the filter.> I have heard that carbon can potentially bleach corals. Is this true? <It some systems the sudden use of too much of these filtrants can cause shock, both chemically and physically; lighting intensity increase due to increased water clarity.> Thanks for any and all help! Best regards, Sean <Welcome, I have included a link below for you. This will give you the general idea behind what to look for battling the algae. Good luck, Scott V.> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm

Even the Italians do it :)  2/6/03 Normally I bother Calfo, now I try this address! <I'm over here too, my friend. Buon giorno from America> What You suggest for Activated  Carbon in a SPS tank... continuous use? 2 days-month use? And for quantity? <yes, my friend.. continuous use in small portions changed weekly for full reef tanks, especially. Perhaps 3-5 ounces per 400l weekly... just an estimate, though. Let the color of the water (yellowing agents) be your guide > Thanks MUCH! Marco, Italy <Ciao m'amico, Anthony>

Pod culture, carbon Hello Anthony, Bob et al ! <Hi Roger>       Thanks to all of you, your assistance is Priceless.       Read a lot of FAQ's, still haven't found a sound answer.   Just finished building an 22 gal acrylic sump.  Was going to be a wet/dry but I read the section on bio-balls!  Modified it now to a 22 gal refugium. <Ahh, "a stitch in time, saves your mind!">   My Nitrates have long been 0.2 but I'd still like to incorporate a 4' sand bed and really would like to make this a pod factory.  I'll start gathering some LR rubble from the LFS but in the interim, is there anything else I can add to optimize the space? <Some macroalgae> Would lava rock work as a good habitat for the pods? <Not really>   In essence, what would constitute "prime" pod habitat ???? <Mounded LR, macrophytes... there are actually MANY organisms considered "pods" that live in diverse habitats.>       Second question.  I have access to commercial grade anthracite coal used in water purification plants.  Particle size is about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch long.  Can I use this without harming the tank inhabitants (fish, corals and inverts)? <Likely yes... talk with the "folks in your lab" re this application, find out how much "free" phosphate this product is likely to leach... get their input on preparing it (likely at least soaking for a day ahead of use) and try just a few ounces (in a Dacron bag) to see what sort of effects...>   I "think" I remember reading that "activated" carbon is actually anthracite plus some process.  Could you explain the process or the difference?  What makes carbon "activated" <Not in a short space... Again, I encourage you to ask these questions of the "lab"... and the Net for that matter! Bob Fenner> Thanks a ton !   RJS   Redding, California Non-Aquarium-Specific Carbon Alternative? Hi WWM Crew! <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> Is food grade activated carbon as used in RO systems suitable for marine aquarium filtration? I just found that it's ten times cheaper than activated carbon marketed for aquarium use. Thanks Timon <Well, Timon- I'm always a bit wary of using non-aquarium-specific products for our purposes. Initially, you'd think that carbon used in water purification would be okay for aquarium use- and it might be! However, my concern is the potential of the carbon to contain and leach phosphates into the water; a substance that we as hobbyists are always trying to eliminate. My best thought is to contact the manufacturer to confirm whether or not the carbon contains phosphates or other potentially harmful substances. If you can get positive answers to those questions, it may be possible to use this carbon. Regards, Scott F.>

Non-Aquarium-Specific Carbon Alternative? (Pt.2) Hi Scott, thanks for your reply. <You're quite welcome!> Is there any way to test for this? E.g., soak the carbon in water overnight and test the water for phosphates? Thanks Timon <Well, Timon- that's essentially the way that I'd test for it. Do be sure to take a "control" test of the water prior to placing the carbon sample in, to get a "baseline" reading of phosphate in the water. Ideally, you'd use RO/DI water for this test. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Carbon in aquaria and human consumption 6/12/06 Greetings Crew, <Hello> I have been reading through past posts about the use of carbon in marine and freshwater systems and have a question. <ok> In answering questions on carbon and how long it lasts, more than one crew member responded that carbons' usefulness lasts only a few hours to a day or two at most. <Yep> It is suggested that after this period it is no longer 'activated' so to speak.  I know that Brita and other manufactures use carbon for their water filters.  They also allow for 30 days or so of usage before replacing.  Does this mean that their filters aren't actually doing anything for 29 of those 30 days?   Thanks for any help in clearing this up...no pun intended)  : ) Eric B. <Some of it is marketing, who would buy a filter that needs to be replaced every day, and some is the environment.  Tap water is going to have a lot less "stuff" in it to remove than the water from your average fish tank.  The city water system sees to that.  Also the amount of water running through a "Brita" like filter adds up to at most probably 10 gallons a day, while a filter on a normal powerfilter could push through 10X that in one hour.  Carbon basically has only so many holes in it to fill up with unwanted material.  The rate which these holes fill up depends on the concentration of impurities in the water and how much contact time with the water it has.> <Chris>

Carbon Questions Part II    6/14/06 Thank you Chris for your feedback <Sure>  So the less impurities in your water the longer the life of the carbon. <Mostly yes, depends on the type of impurities, some are more easily absorbed then others.>  I was confused by the other posts and the mention of carbons' 'half life'.  They created the impression that carbon had a limited life, no matter what; in essence, that it broke down in a matter of hours, regardless of what or how much was passed through it <The reality in aquariums, few hours to a few days.> One final question, what purpose does the carbon serve then, after the initial 24 hrs? <Will work in limited capacity for a while, mostly just not worth taking out.>  Many posts suggest running carbon 24/7. <Like many things in this hobby, opinions differ greatly.  I myself do not run carbon, and when I do feel I need something I run poly-filters in their place.  Many do swear by it and have success using it.> Eric B. <Chris>

Filter Media/Large Commercial Systems 7/5/07 I just found your website while doing research on toxin adsorption. You could spend weeks here; it's great. Since I don't have that much time, could someone tell me if there are lower cost alternatives to using bulk, granular, activated carbon as a filter medium in 2,000 gallon food fish tanks? GAC must be priced for its potential to form diamonds in the future. <Gary, if this is a marine system, you may want to invest in a commercial skimmer. Prices for these are $700 and up. Here is a link to one site, but a Google search should produce many more. http://www.aquatictech.com/skimmers.htm I know of no other media that would be less expensive than carbon, Mr. Fenner may have some input here. You would get a better price per pound if you bought in bulk. You may want to contact some of the manufacturers of carbon for pricing in this regard.> Thanks. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Gary

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