Carbon In Other Forms For Tanks - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-09-2015, 03:28 PM Thread Starter
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If leaves can release carbon into the water, would the carbon in filters also be available to plants?

Or, the carbon in peat? I've wondered about putting peat in a net and placing it in the filter. Has anyone done this?

Last edited by Darkblade48; 12-10-2015 at 08:15 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-09-2015, 04:50 PM
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Look into Diane Walstad tanks. They utilize naturally occurring carbon sources for growing plants.
I think Tom Barr has some info on other natural occurring carbon sources as well.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-09-2015, 05:50 PM
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If leaves can release carbon into the water, would the carbon in filters also be available to plants?
I've wondered the same thing. After lurking for quite some time on these forums, I tried putting a thin layer of activated charcoal between a dirt layer and a play sand cap on the previous setup of my 38g. I had approximately 1-2 pints of charcoal spread over the dirt layer about 1/8-1/4" in depth. I have no way of quantifying if the carbon was available to the plants or not since I really did not do a proper test. All I can do is offer an anecdotal assessment of "it seemed to." I did have pretty good growth (also a low-tech setup) with easy-to-grow plants (Vallisneria spp., R. indica,etc.) The root system was healthy and thick. When I broke down the tank to move house, I kept both the soil/carbon mix and the sand cap. That is now the substrate in the 38g I have going. I think the idea of using composted leaves as a carbon source or at least a substrate amendment is a good one. I'm sure someone has tried or will try it soon!
All the best, TC

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-09-2015, 06:16 PM Thread Starter
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I feel like getting a load of filter carbon and growing plants in it. I've heard that carbon will remove fertilizers from aquarium water, so, I don't use it in my filters for that reason. But, I have to wonder how much fertilizer is really removed from the tank, and how much of the carbon is available to the plants.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-09-2015, 06:25 PM
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Carbon is a major element in every organic substance, from ourselves to our plants. That should be a clue that tells you that for plants, to obtain carbon in a form they can use it has to be something other than plain carbon or plant/animal matter. In nature plants obtain their carbon from the atmosphere, either from gaseous CO2 for land plants, or from dissolved CO2 in the water for aquatic plants. Glutaraldehyde is another source of carbon for plants, but a very poor source compared to CO2. Decomposing organic matter can release CO2 either under water or not in water, but it is still the CO2 that the plants use, not the decaying matter itself. People have tried lots of other organic compounds as a carbon source, but none I am aware of works.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-09-2015, 06:37 PM Thread Starter
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I know that carbonated water helps plants. I use it often with my potted house plants. I also use it in my aquariums. There are horticulturists that have documented rapid growth using plain carbonated water poured into the soil. Of course, the avid aquarium enthusiast knows this is how the CO2 injection came into being. For me, it is easier to pour CO2 into the tank for 99 cents a week when I fertilize. But, I don't have high tech plants either.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-09-2015, 10:43 PM
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I know that carbonated water helps plants. I use it often with my potted house plants. I also use it in my aquariums. There are horticulturists that have documented rapid growth using plain carbonated water poured into the soil. Of course, the avid aquarium enthusiast knows this is how the CO2 injection came into being. For me, it is easier to pour CO2 into the tank for 99 cents a week when I fertilize. But, I don't have high tech plants either.
Carbonated water is simply water with CO2 dissolved in it. So, adding carbonated water simply adds some dissolved CO2, assuming it doesn't mostly get released into the atmosphere during the process of pouring it in.

I don't know whether their is enough CO2 in carbonated water to make much difference when adding a little to a tank. I would tend to think there isn't.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-10-2015, 12:06 AM Thread Starter
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The idea of a recirculating sump/filter with layers of leaves and soil comes to my mind. Or maybe peat only. There are sites online that sell peat from bogs for aquariums. Then you can have any substrate, or no substrate, yet continue to feed floating plants or plants held to rock or wood. A kind of 'undergravel filter', but, outside of the main tank, so it is easily cleaned and replenished. Or, a canister filter set up with layers of peat/leaves/soil. Again, you wouldn't have to break down the fish tank to replenish, and we could find other ways to fix plants to the aquarium floor.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-12-2015, 07:24 AM
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Remember though that things like peat moss will affect your water parameters. Drastically if used in large portions, which can be detrimental. So those options might not be practical for the amount of carbon levels you are trying to achieve (lower levels are safely achievable).

Then there are all the other factors that should be taken into account to determine if those other methods are actually worth all that effort (not only labor wise, sometimes costs can add up to being more costlier than other options in the long run)
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-12-2015, 10:01 PM Thread Starter
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Remember though that things like peat moss will affect your water parameters. Drastically if used in large portions, which can be detrimental. So those options might not be practical for the amount of carbon levels you are trying to achieve (lower levels are safely achievable).

Then there are all the other factors that should be taken into account to determine if those other methods are actually worth all that effort (not only labor wise, sometimes costs can add up to being more costlier than other options in the long run)
I agree totally. I like using PT as a think tank....no pun intended....
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-13-2015, 12:19 AM
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If I may be so bold as to elaborate on what Hoppy was saying...

(TL;DR - The carbon in charcoal and most plant material is very stable. It doesn't dissolve easily, and is not a useful carbon source to your plants.)

I'm pretty sure that the carbon in your standard carbon filter is not available to plants - here's why: Carbon makes a lot of different bonds in a lot of different compounds, and the reactivity and biological availability of those compounds varies as well. Diamonds are an extreme example of an unreactive, highly stable carbon compound. If you dump diamonds in a tank nothing will happen. That carbon doesn't leach into the water - it stays with the diamond. Same goes for graphite - it's made of very stable sheets of pure carbon. And the same goes for the activated carbon in a filter. As with other pure carbon compounds, all the carbon-carbon bonds are very stable and don't break down or bond with other compounds easily - in fact, you would have to set the charcoal on fire to make this happen. For this reason the carbon doesn't leach into the water in any biologically usable form. It does nothing to provide carbon for plants.

I would speculate that most of the carbon in plant matter isn't very useful either. Remember, plants already spent a bunch of energy make those carbon compounds, and some of them are extremely stable as well. Cellulose for example, won't dissolve into any usable form no matter how long you soak it. Now there are special organisms that can digest these compounds and expire them as usable CO2, but I don't think this process is fast enough in a normal fish tank to make any substantial difference in CO2 to the plants. On the other hand, the slow decomposition of, say, a handful of leaves will probably leach other nutrients into the water, so it may still help plant growth. The benefit just would just be comparable to adding a fertilizer, not dosing CO2.

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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-13-2015, 02:50 PM Thread Starter
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If I may be so bold as to elaborate on what Hoppy was saying...

(TL;DR - The carbon in charcoal and most plant material is very stable. It doesn't dissolve easily, and is not a useful carbon source to your plants.)

I'm pretty sure that the carbon in your standard carbon filter is not available to plants - here's why: Carbon makes a lot of different bonds in a lot of different compounds, and the reactivity and biological availability of those compounds varies as well. Diamonds are an extreme example of an unreactive, highly stable carbon compound. If you dump diamonds in a tank nothing will happen. That carbon doesn't leach into the water - it stays with the diamond. Same goes for graphite - it's made of very stable sheets of pure carbon. And the same goes for the activated carbon in a filter. As with other pure carbon compounds, all the carbon-carbon bonds are very stable and don't break down or bond with other compounds easily - in fact, you would have to set the charcoal on fire to make this happen. For this reason the carbon doesn't leach into the water in any biologically usable form. It does nothing to provide carbon for plants.

I would speculate that most of the carbon in plant matter isn't very useful either. Remember, plants already spent a bunch of energy make those carbon compounds, and some of them are extremely stable as well. Cellulose for example, won't dissolve into any usable form no matter how long you soak it. Now there are special organisms that can digest these compounds and expire them as usable CO2, but I don't think this process is fast enough in a normal fish tank to make any substantial difference in CO2 to the plants. On the other hand, the slow decomposition of, say, a handful of leaves will probably leach other nutrients into the water, so it may still help plant growth. The benefit just would just be comparable to adding a fertilizer, not dosing CO2.
Good stuff, thanks. Happy Holidays!
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