Personally, I don't even use carbon except when it's packed in cartridge-style media for HOB's. There's a lot of theories on activated carbon. Some say it strips beneficial stuff (not too sure about that) some say it loses it's effectiveness & then leaches all of what it has trapped back into the tank. Some say it's worthless. My dad used to pull the carbon out of his HOB every once in a while & bake it on a cookie sheet in the oven. He was told that "reactivated" it. Again, I'm not too sure if that works, but it never seemed to hurt his tank...
I didn't really leave a clear answer other than that I personally don't use it. I would add that I can't see it hurting anything, especially if it's being replaced frequently. One thing I forgot to say was that activated carbon is very porus, which is why it's effective at "absorbing" chemicals. Being porus is also a trait that makes filter media good at hosting nitrfying bacteria for biological filtration. Some feel this alone makes it worth using carbon, even for extended periods. Again, for me that theory seems sound, but unproven. I just go with a good bio media in the cannister.
The thing about carbon is that it only absorbs stuff for roughly 2-4 weeks, depending on your bio-load and the filter size. So after that time period you aren't using carbon for what it is intended, but rather as a source of surface ara for beneficial bacteria. Now that isn't bad, but personally I feel that using carbon for extended periods of time causes more clogging than if I was using actually bio-media.
Carbon is good for removing odors and coloring that can occur with driftwood, peat moss, etc. If you choose to not use carbon (I have seven tanks all without carbon) then it would be advisable to make sure you stay on your water changes as that is going to be the main way you remove odors and any coloration.
Carbon is good for what it is intended, it only sucks having to refill/buy the extra carbon so frequently. I personally don't know for sure about it absorbing beneficial nutrients, but I think there is enough people who run fully planted tanks alongside carbon with great success to prove that false.
Thanks Higher Thinking Ill prob change the carbon once a month and do water changes every other week. I have to hob filters one rated for 50gal and one for 15 I will prob leave the 15 gallon carbon filter in and change the bigger one each month. My water is dark due to the driftwood and I know fish like that but I dont lol.
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