How to Make Activated Carbon for Aquarium?

Activated carbon is one of the most important components of a healthy aquarium.

Do you know why?

Well, for starters, it removes chlorine and water discoloration. Moreover, it also gets rid of bad smells from your aquarium tank.

Many people want to use activated carbon in their aquariums but aren’t sure how to.

In this article, we are going to provide a detailed guide on everything that you need to know about using activated carbon for aquariums.

Let’s begin by understanding what activated carbon is and its purpose. Keep reading to learn more!

What is Activated Carbon?

Activated carbon is basically charcoal, which has been specially treated. That is the reason why people also refer to activated carbon as activated charcoal.

The charcoal is manufactured in a way that it has hundreds of small pores in it.

These pores trap the pollutants inside your aquarium and work as a chemical filter for the water.

The activated carbon most commonly removes the following pollutants from your aquarium water:

  • Chlorine and chloramines
  • Tannins- responsible for discoloration of the water
  • Phenols- responsible for bad smells
  • Some types of medications

Although there are several effective solutions for the removal of chlorine from an aquarium, the advantage that activated carbon has over them is that it is also highly effective at keeping your water clean and free from bad smells.

Today, activated carbon has become an essential component of aquariums and is commonly used by fish enthusiasts.

Many modern filters now come installed with a carbon filter. However, if you don’t have an activated carbon filter, it’s easy to make and use it.

The only thing that you need to take off while handling an activated carbon is that it will stop trapping pollutants if it is filled.

That is why it is important to keep replacing the activated carbon in your filter. Activated carbon is pretty cheap and takes no time to replace.

Set a regular maintenance routine for your filter, so the activated carbon is always performing at its best.

What are the different types of activated carbon?

Activated carbon is available in several types, forms, and shapes.

The difference in types is mainly because of the different manufacturers, and each type has a specific use.

The most common types of activated carbon-based shapes include the following:

  • Bead Activated Carbon (BAC)
  • Granular Activated Carbon (GAC)
  • Extruded Activated Carbon (EAC)
  • Powdered Activated Carbon (PAC)
For aquariums, a granular activated carbon (GAC) is ideal.

Although activated carbon can be made from several ingredients such as wood, bituminous coal, coconuts, and peat, the granulated activated carbon for aquariums should be made from bituminous coal.

To put it simply, buy a granulated activated carbon made of bituminous coal for your aquarium filter.

The reason why this specific type is recommended for aquariums is its superior pore structure, which allows it to remove pollutants from the water.

The granulated activated carbon is often used in the filters that you drink water from. That is why it is the most reliable type of activated carbon for your aquarium.

Make sure the activated carbon you use for your fish tank doesn’t contain any phosphate because it has the tendency to leach into the aquarium quite easily.

Another reason to avoid phosphates is that algae love feeding on them.

So, if you don’t want your aquarium contaminated with phosphate-eating algae, we recommend that you avoid it altogether.

That is why granulated activated carbon made from bituminous coal is a great option as it is phosphate-free.

How to make your own activated carbon for an aquarium filter?

Now, let’s talk about how to make activated carbon instead of buying it from a manufacturer.

Making your own activated carbon is a good choice because it can be very expensive to buy.

Follow the steps mentioned below to make your aquarium’s activated carbon today:

  • Get some loose activated carbon from any brand. Remember that you can’t add the carbon to the aquarium filter as it is because its fine grains will start blowing around the aquarium.
  • Now, get a reusable media bag, preferable fine mesh. Just remember to pick the right size for your aquarium filter.
  • Fill the media bag with the activated carbon and place it in the media. The bag allows you to place and remove the carbon easily.
  • Now, rinse the carbon filter to remove any dust before adding the activated carbon to your aquarium.

How long does activated carbon work?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions by new aquarium enthusiasts. Well, the answer almost entirely depends on how clean or dirty your aquarium water gets.

If your aquarium water is dirty, the activated carbon will require replacement frequently.

On the other hand, if you keep your aquarium clean and maintained, you’ll only need to replace the activated carbon once a month.

If you want to make the activated carbon last longer in your aquarium filter, then make sure you place it after the mechanical filter in your aquarium.

If you don’t do that, the filter with activated carbon will get clogged with large debris particles.

The good thing about activated carbon is that it doesn’t release the pollutants back into the aquarium once it’s filled to its capacity.

So, you don’t need to worry about your aquarium getting re-polluted if you forget to replace the carbon right away.

Does activated carbon remove all pollutants?

You might believe that getting an activated carbon filter will solve all your problems of pollutants, but that’s not the reality

Although the activated carbon does remove many types of pollutants, there are some that it just can’t trap.

The three main pollutants not removed by an activated carbon filter include:

  • Ammonia
  • Nitrites
  • Nitrates

These elements can only be removed by frequent water changes and other methods of removing toxins.

Another thing to remember is that activated carbon doesn’t get “re-activated” or recharged.

Once it’s done, it’s done.

How to remove ammonia from the aquarium?

As we mentioned, activated carbon alone doesn’t have the ability to remove ammonia from the aquarium.

So, how does one take care of ammonia in the aquarium? Well, the easiest solution is to frequently change the water.

If you want a more sustainable solution, then we recommend using the activated carbon in combination with zeolite.

Zeolite is known for absorbing ammonia, and when you combine it with activated carbon, you have a complete filtration package in one.

Can you use medication with activated carbon?

If you have a sick fish, then you’re probably wondering whether you should add its medication in the aquarium with the activated carbon filter.

The problem with this is that the activated carbon is very likely to absorb the medications before they reach your fish.

So, if you want your fish to receive the medication, you’ll have to remove the activated carbon from the aquarium entirely.

Final Words

Activated carbon is very beneficial for the healthy environment of your aquarium. It is highly efficient at removing many sorts of pollutants and keeping the water clean and free from bad smells.

By following our guide, you can make and use the right kind of activated carbon for your aquarium.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

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