Activated Carbon

Effects of Activated Carbon in aquarium
Think of Activated Carbon (also known as Active Carbon) like a sponge. It absorbs everything
that is in the water, both good or bad. It is like a vacume cleaner, sucking up everything until it
loses effectiveness. (Note: Activated Carbon cannot be reactivated once it loses effectiveness using
home equipment. It requires very high heat way higher than baking in the sun or stove.)

Activated Carbon should not be used in your aquarium because it practically "uncycles" your tank.
(related: what is aquarium cycling?) It should only be used as a reset button. By that, I mean if your
tank got an epidemic and many fish got wiped out. Sometimes the cause can be difficult to determine,
so in such cases, you may with to reset your aquarium.

Activated Carbon causes a chain reaction that practically undo an established aquarium.

When first used in an aquarium, it immediately start absorbing ammonia (+ other elements we will not mention)

Without ammonia, first stage bacteria starves to death.

Without first stage bacteria that converts ammonia to nitrites, second stage bacteria dies.

Without your beneficial bacteria, your tank basically reverts to become an uncycled tank.

However, the harmful effects will not be immediately obvious because when the activated carbon is
still effective, there will not be excess ammonia, nitrites or nitrates in the water. As mentioned earlier,
everything is absorbed! In fact, you may even notice your water looking clearer because of the activated carbon.
The activated carbon rears its ugly head only when it loses its effectiveness. If you have a community tank
with more than a few fishes inside, your ammonia can suddenly shoot up in a spike with no baneficial bacteria
to control it. This will definitely cause fish loss.

If you really like to use activated carbon, you can, provided you have a good supply
and is able to keep changing it before it wears out.


When to use Activated Carbon?

Activated Carbon is not all bad. It is very useful to remove medication from an aquarium.
Many medication will kill or harm beneficial bacteria, therefore try not to use it in your main tank
if only one fish is sick. Isolate it and treat it in a seperate tank/container. Don't worry about possible
traces of disease in your tank because you can do many water changes to remove them. Healthy fishes
can fight diseases in good water conditions. Sometimes, if you put medicine in your tank you may
in fact worsen the situation because the established beneficial bacteria can be harmed. If your medicine
is not effective, this worsening of the environment may even cause your healthy fish to get the disease
which they otherwise may be able to fend off by themselve! Think of a family member who got a cold.
Often, it doesn't spread to everyone right? This is because other members have a natural ability to
fight the virus. However, if you do something to the environment to make it a worse living space,
don't you think it may cause everyone to weaken and get the cold?

If you really have to, and you have put medicine in your tank,
you need to remove it when your fish is cured. This is so that beneficial bacteria can
re-establish themselve in the aquarium. For such situations, the best way to remove the medicine
it is to use Activated Carbon.

However, you should monitor your water parameters closely to prevent spikes when it loses its
effectiveness. Once that happens, remove the Activated Carbon and continue with water changes.
Get some filter gunk from another heallthy aquarium to kickstart the beneficial bacteria if possible.

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