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Activated Carbon and Chemical Filtration Media in Reef Aquariums
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
Fish FAQs
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Q. I've heard that you shouldn't use activated carbon in a reef aquarium. Is this true?
 
A. Not necessarily. Activated carbon is sometimes regarded as detrimental to saltwater aquariums because it removes trace elements  €“ especially iodine  €“ from aquarium water. However, this is easily remedied with regular water changes and periodic use of trace element supplements.

Activated carbon offers important benefits for saltwater aquariums. It removes a wide variety of organics and chemicals from the water. In fact, activated carbon performs much like a protein skimmer, with the added benefit of water clarification. Many authors have even suggested that activated carbon, if used properly, can replace a protein skimmer in a saltwater aquarium.

To use activated carbon properly, place it in a media bag and incorporate it into the filtration in an area of high water flow (for example, within the sump near the water return line, or within the hang-on filter). Be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations for the quantity needed and replacement timeline.

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