Activated Carbon killed all my plants !!! Help please. - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-11-2019, 06:23 PM Thread Starter
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Activated Carbon killed all my plants !!! Help please.

I just can't imagine amount of my sheer stupidity. I have a 40 gal planted tank which was having a very healthy plant mass with many varieties. All the plants were doing very well. I had monte carlo, S repens, Boblits, Anubias, Java fern, Buce, Crpts etc... I was EI dosing with DIY ferts with the help of an automated dosing pump. I have a cansiter filter. Since I was finding that the water was becoming rather cloudy and my activated carbon that came with the filter was long exhausted, I decided to replace them with activated carbon from the market. So I just laid a layer of activated carbon over the ceramic rings and was hoping it would do the magic. So I turned on my 800LPH canister filter and also added seachem clarity to the tank hoping it would expedite the clearing process. Boom !!! My entire tank got covered in a black smoky cloud and still I was stupid enough to think that it might be due to reaction with seachem clarity and it would soon get cleared. To expedite the clearing purpose I ran the filter overnight. Next two days I was occupied elsewhere and couldn't come home. So when I finally came home, I saw the tank in the same condition unchanged or even rather worse. So I finally removed all the activated carbon that was there in the filter. Most of it was in a rather dissolved fine powdery condition. Then I did rather large water changes 50-60% just to get things back to where it was. After about a weeks time with frequent large percentage water changes I got the water clarity to the previous levels. But all my plants were dying and there was nothing I could do to stop them. All my S repens, Montecarlo, boblits, buce simply just progressively died over a course of few months. I haven't performed a gravel suction and cleaning as I don't have a gravel vaccum. But why are they still dying? What could be the cause? Could it be because of the fine carbon particles that could still be covering the surface of the substrate?

What can I do to remove the remainder of any activated carbons in my tank and how can I restore my tank to normalcy?

Thank you.


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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-11-2019, 07:05 PM
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So... what kind of activated carbon was this? I have never seen it dissolve before... Then again the only stuff I ever ran was the kind that the filter makers sell in little cartridges. I have never bought it or even seen it in just sitting in a bag.. Unless you are using charcoal for terrestrial plants?

Anyway, it sounds like you have some kind of contamination introduced by the "carbon". If this stuff had a chance to settle in for days then you may be way too late to do anything about it. To the extent that you have given enough time for the plants to rebound (this would definitely be at least days and possible a week or more) and are still seeing no signs of new growth etc. Then I would basically do a complete do-over. I would pull every plant, take it out and wash it pretty thoroughly. Let them sit in a bucket of new dechlorinated water for at least a few hours. Meanwhile I would take out all the substrate and either 1) toss it (best practices assuming the "carbon" really killed everything and is still actively doing so) or 2) clean it thoroughly like it was brand new substrate that heavily clouds the water (ie lots of washing). Take out any rocks/wood and scrub them like they came from the wild. Take apart your filter and rinse all your media in dechlorinated water. Then re-assemble everything.

First step would be to make really dang sure though that the "carbon" is still actively killing everything because the above is an absolute pain to go through for anything less then a toxin that is still actively affecting your water.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-11-2019, 07:20 PM
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Is this "carbon from the market" aquarium carbon? If so, I'd be very surprised if it was responsible for killing your plants. I've used liters of the stuff when I've had to medicate a display tank or so forth and never had it have any impact on plants, and certainly not wipe them out. I've also never had aquarium carbon be *that* dusty that it would blacken a whole aquarium. I usually do rinse it before using, but using different brands it typically runs clear after a few seconds under the sink.

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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-12-2019, 11:18 PM
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I always rinse carbon before putting it in my filter. What brand is this stuff?
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-16-2019, 03:49 AM
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Quote:
After about a weeks time with frequent large percentage water changes I got the water clarity to the previous levels. But all my plants were dying and there was nothing I could do to stop them. All my S repens, Montecarlo, boblits, buce simply just progressively died over a course of few months. I haven't performed a gravel suction and cleaning as I don't have a gravel vaccum. But why are they still dying? What could be the cause?
Activated carbon by itself would not do that. If there was something added to it it could. But adding anything to activated carbon would tend to stop the carbon from absorbing anything. So overall I don't think it was the carbon. IF you can tell us the brand we could confirm the product is activates carbon or something else.

I am wondering if all the water changes you did killed the plants. Many people use nutrient rich substrates to supplement the the nutrients from fertilizers. If you have such a substrate a lot of water changes could cause the rapid depletion of the nutrients in the subsrate. And if your fertilizer is deficient in some nutrient. All the water changes may have therefore created a nutrient deficiency. If so the only way to correct the problem is to replace the substrate.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-17-2019, 03:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Surf View Post
...

I am wondering if all the water changes you did killed the plants. Many people use nutrient rich substrates to supplement the the nutrients from fertilizers. If you have such a substrate a lot of water changes could cause the rapid depletion of the nutrients in the subsrate. And if your fertilizer is deficient in some nutrient. All the water changes may have therefore created a nutrient deficiency. If so the only way to correct the problem is to replace the substrate.
I'm sorry, but that makes zero sense.


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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-17-2019, 06:24 AM
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Did you use activated carbon that is shaped like stick pellets or short rods? Those are made by mixing with a clay binder. Then extruded like play dough and cut into little pellets. Never seen it dissolve before. If it was tumbling inside a reactor or canister. It's possible that the tumbling action could cause it to break up into tiny particles. Bigger particles would settle inside the filter. While the smallest particles would flow out and settle on the plants. Blocking the light from reaching the plants. Not sure if blocking the light would kill any plants that quickly. Dusting the leaves off would have easily fixed this.

I've never heard of this happening. Wondering if you got a bad batch of carbon. I always use activated carbon from Bulk Reef Supply or Marineland's Black Diamond. These are the best in my opinion and I save a lot of money by using a lot less compared to the cheap brands. I've used Petco's brand of carbon to remove tannins caused by drift wood. Used an entire container and it failed. Switched to Black Diamond and only took a small handful overnight for crystal clear water.


Is there any chance that it was actually GFO and not carbon. GFO is a red rusty colored media for removing phosphates. It can release a lit of silt and breaks down to mush if allowed to tumble too much. Clearly there's a big color difference between red GFO and black activated carbon, but maybe not to someone who is red color blind. Just a guess and not trying to be funny or rude.
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