Vertex ROX-8 Active Carbon

Discussion in 'The Serious Reefer' started by Jamie@Vertex, 15 Feb 2013.

  1. Jamie@Vertex

    Jamie@Vertex

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    Although this is not a new product from Vertex, I do get many questions concerning it and carbon in general. Thus, a short epistle on carbon, why you should use it and what seperates Vertex ROX-8 from the competiton.

    It seems like it has always been there, active carbon, formely just called aquarium charcoal (if you remember this, you are dating yourself!), the product was religiously added to your filter and held in place with some spun polyester (or similar). We've come a long way since these primitive filters and active carbon has evolved over the years to a regular plethora of products of variing qualities and worth.

    Just what is active carbon? Simply put, it is the result of heating organic matter, typically a lignin, such as wood, nutshells, etc. to a point where it actually takes on a crystaline structure. There are a few methods used and they have individual results allow for specialization on a commercial level, but the end product is similar. A fine pored matrix with an ionic charge.

    The ionic charge is important, as this is what gives carbon its especially effective filtering qualities. It attracts and adsorbs organic molecules from the water column. Adsorbtion is a chemical process whereby the positive and negetive ions bind to the filtering structure. They become strongly attached and do not easily release from the matrix. This differs from absorbtion, where the matrix simply holds the filtered matter within its structure, as we see in a spong. It may be wrung out and the material is released. Not so by adsorbtion.

    Filter carbon has both of these properties making it very usefull.

    Typical organics in a marine tank are protiens, such as amino acids and other organics, one group of which we refer to as gelbstoff (german for yellow material). This group of wastes colours the water, as well as being a chemical pollutant. Other materials removed by activ carbon are methylene blue, iodine, chlorine and many medications. Nitrates, phosphates and metals are NOT removed with active carbon. They generally have the wrong ionic charge (positive) and do not bind.

    OK, those are some basics, but what makes Vertex ROX-8 so special and usefull? Here we come to the final properties of active carbon types. First, let's consider skeletal density. This refers to the porosity of the carbon. ROX-8 was developed by the company Norit for fine filtering in the food and medical areas. A fine porosity is important. Plus, the extreme hardness of the carbon plays an important role. Being a low abrasion carbon, there is little dust. ROX-8 has a surface area of over 1225 sq meters per gram!

    Purity. This is important for marine systems for some obvious reasons. When carbon is made, if the carbonising process is not complete, you may have residues in the matrix. Typically, phosphates are associated with this process in low quality carbons. Contrary to belief, residual phosphates are not from the acid-washing process used in better carbons. For this washing nitric acid or hydrochloric acid are used. Yes, ROX-8 is acid washed and pH neutral. This neutral pH is a good indicator of the purity of an active carbon.

    Another factor is the ash content, which is a by-product of the carbonising containing much iron, thus promoting algal growth, if present in large amounts. A level of up to 3% is acceptable and will not promote alga.

    These criteria should be listed on the label of the active carbon. If not, one should ask themselves why.

    How does one know, if these levels are maintained in a carbon. Unless the product is subject to regular inspections via a certified lab/control organisation, you cannot be sure. As this product is partially destined for the medical and food branches, Vertex ROX-8 is inspected regularly and certified by the British Standard Institute. It is FDA approved.

    Using active carbon of this high a quality should follow some simple guidelines. As it is extremely effective at removing organics, we recommend using it for only 3 days per month as a filtering cure. Here there are two grounds: first, the carbon tends to be ionically exhausted in about 3 days in a marine system. After this period the carbon is only really effective as physical filtration (absorbtion), although it will still have some ionic properties. Secondly and following this thought, one should refrain from dosing organic to the reef, such as amino acids, as they will be quickly removed by the carbon. Both a waste of aminos and filter material! Removing the carbon after it has done its work assures that dosed organics are reaching their users.

    Some do prefer to run carbon passively in a sock, placed simply in the sump aways from strong flow. The idea is that the effect is gentler. Frankly, I do not see this as being adventageous, as the sock needs to be massaged daily (more work) and it will be removing a part of the desirable organics at any given time. In short, I prefer to run it actively for 3 days once per month and basta! In the end, it is your choice. Both approaches seem to work well.

    NOTE: always rinse your carbon before use! All carbons will contain some dust. Some horrifiing amounts (try to avoid them). If the carbon does not hiss and absorb water in an otherwise almost loud manner, it is not top quality. This hissing is reflective of the surface area (skeletal densitiy).

    A word on HLLE (Head and Lateral Line Erosion). This has been associated with active carbons. I can tell you, from my own experience, there is a clear association and the effects on a tank may be devastating, especially for Acanthurids, Pomacanthids and fine-skinned Pomacentrids (clown fish). Although there is no lab evidence that carbon dust is the culprit, cheap carbon products are closely associated. In my own tests, those carbons that caused outbreaks were, despite their appearances, relatively inexpensive and dusty, typically without much on the label as to quality (not always, however). I cannot prove it, but, I do not think the dust is directly the problem, rather something in the carbonising process and the dust may exacerbate the situation or act as a carrier.
     
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  3. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    ok, interesting
     
  4. ChrisRaubs

    ChrisRaubs

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    my thoughts too.
     
  5. Jamie@Vertex

    Jamie@Vertex Thread Starter

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    Hey, guys,

    interesting that this point attracted attention. As nothing is written in stone and, active carbon has many applications, I would like to hear what many are doing with carbon, if they are using it at all? As this is one of the original products of the aquarium industry, one that has radically changed in quality and uses over the decades, relating your own experiences and preferences would be interesting! I remember clearly packing that old-fashioned, dusty, black charcoal into a corner filter with some wadding and not really knowing why. The pet shop just told me! THE book on the market was by Innes and saltwater tanks were seen only in public aquaria (I lived by the sea where they used natural sea water!)

    Carbon has come a long way.

    Jamie
     
  6. archiecrain

    archiecrain

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    I must be very honest.......

    I had no idea what active carbon was used for......hence I stopped useing it...

    Ok so if I understand correctly.....its really just to remove organics that give water that yellow look as well as removing unwanted chemicals that may be present in the water?
     
  7. RocketRooster

    RocketRooster

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    That's the gist of it.

    It will also absorb toxins given off by corals.
     
  8. dallasg

    dallasg Moderator MASA Contributor

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    i run it 24/7, prefiltered water and changed every 30 days
    1ml per L
     
    Last edited: 18 Feb 2013
  9. RocketRooster

    RocketRooster

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    What do you run it in? At the moment I'm running mine in a cut off pair of nylons in the pump compartment.
     
    Last edited: 18 Feb 2013
  10. Jamie@Vertex

    Jamie@Vertex Thread Starter

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    Yes, essentially, this is what carbon does. It selectively adsorbs certain molecules, mainly organic type molecules (these are carbon based, if you took chemistry). Yellowing substances are just part of the spectrum, but the most visible for the aquarist. As Rocket mentioned, various coral (or other animal) toxins will be removed as well. Their build-up in a tank may reduce survival and growth of some corals. Chemical warefare is a constant in the oceans.

    The conundrum with carbon is, when does it remove too much? This is a qualified situation, as, left to its own and constantly replenished to maintain a consistent ion adsorbtion, it would remove may dissolved nutrients that the animals can well utilize. This is one of the reason I have recommended it for only about 3 days per month in a reef-type set-up.

    In the end, we want to provide our corals and fish with as clean, yet still nutriative/mineral valuable water as we can. It is a bit of a balancing act as a closed system can change dramatically in 24 hours, should an animal die, excrete ink, etc. Carbon is one of the tools that helps maintain top water quality 24/7. It can be used intermittently, constantly or as an emergency decontamination weapon, depending on your needs.

    I wouldn't be without it in my tank cupbord.

    Jamie
     
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