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Activate carbon will absorb chemicals out of the water. Chemicals like Nitrogen compounds, dissolved fertilizers, medications, tannins, etc. Activated carbon should not directly affect beneficial bacteria other than the activated carbon will absorb some of the nitrogen compounds that the beneficial bacteria uses for food.

In my 180g tank I put a pretty thick layer of horticultural carbon on top of the dolomite and potassium chloride I sprinkled on the bare bottom of my tank knowing that the carbon would absorb much of the initial potassium and magnesium then release it slowly into the the dirt, clay, gravel and sand that I spread on top of the horticultural carbon as the main substrate for my plants.

There is nothing wrong with using activated carbon in a low tech tank... but what are you trying to accomplish by doing so? Activate carbon is most often used for a particular purpose like removing medication from the water after the inhabitants have been treated.
 

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Activated carbon in improvised mason jar filter with tube, airstone and filter floss. Does it work? Don't know. I've been trying to cycle biomedia this way for six weeks and it hasn't cycled yet. It's not that I'm cheap. I just want to know if it works.

I have been doing water changes everyday because my filter is not working. My wife keeps saying, "Just put in the carbon." Then I say, "I can't. It will absorb the micro fertilizers." Well I'm dosing everyday anyway due to the water changes so why shouldn't I put in some carbon overnight? Afterall I could dose in the morning after I take the carbon out.

Doesn't using carbon kind of defeat the concept of low-tech? I mean isn't carbon kind of high-tech stuff? I almost never use it.
 

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AC is used primarily as a form of chemical media, not biomedia. As such, it is quite good at removing those things mentioned above, as well as others (it is particularly effective in removing many types of medicine). However, it will be depleted of this ability within a month, or less, depending upon how much work it has to do. If left in place, it will then act as an inefficient biomedia (there are much better biomedia approaches).

For removal of nitrogenous organics, I prefer Purigen, which is more efficient and lasts longer, but I, personally, don’t use any chemical media. To answer the question: AC is fine in any type of freshwater aquarium, so long as it is changed as needed. @Asteroid, I believe, is still a strong proponent of regular AC use. Perhaps he can add some comments on it’s utility.
 
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I use liquid ferts and root tabs and have never noticed any difference whether there's AC in the tank or not. I only put it in for reason, I don't keep it in on general principle, because it's just not needed (not because it has any negative impact). I just did a tank switcharoo and got some new equipment, so I added some and just removed it with a water change and I'm not putting any back in. In all these years, I've never noticed anything changing with the addition of AC in the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Activate carbon will absorb chemicals out of the water. Chemicals like Nitrogen compounds, dissolved fertilizers, medications, tannins, etc. Activated carbon should not directly affect beneficial bacteria other than the activated carbon will absorb some of the nitrogen compounds that the beneficial bacteria uses for food.

In my 180g tank I put a pretty thick layer of horticultural carbon on top of the dolomite and potassium chloride I sprinkled on the bare bottom of my tank knowing that the carbon would absorb much of the initial potassium and magnesium then release it slowly into the the dirt, clay, gravel and sand that I spread on top of the horticultural carbon as the main substrate for my plants.

There is nothing wrong with using activated carbon in a low tech tank... but what are you trying to accomplish by doing so? Activate carbon is most often used for a particular purpose like removing medication from the water after the inhabitants have been treated.
I have a piece of wood that still is releasing a lot of tannin,
 

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I stopped using Activated Carbon many yrs ago. Like others have stated will remove important elements and I personally feel it will mask issues imo. I go by smell of my aquariums normally all will have a faint earthy smell to them. I do weekly and bi-weekly water changes.
 
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