Whether or not your reef aquarium has perfect water parameters or not, the use of Activated Carbon can really help with managing not just nitrogenous wastes, but also the accumulation of all kinds of other toxins such as phenols, organic acids, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and hormones. Not all removed by filtration or skimming, these substances can build up quickly in a closed reef system, so periodic use of Carbon can really provide a safety useful net.
As there are already a few different brands of Carbon on offer for reef aquarium use, we were happy to oblige when NT Labs offered us a pack of SuperCarb to review.
This product is physically activated (high temperature steam), rather than chemically, so leaching of Phosphates is not a concern. It comes in an attractive pouch that is durable and resealable, and is an extruded, pellet form (this makes it ideal for use in reactors as it won’t break down rapidly if tumbled). As a pellet, rather than a granular form, there was also minimal dust and one quick rinse with RO water was enough to get it ready for use.
With the general abilities of Carbon already proven by decades of use in aquaria, our test focussed on the practical application of this product and general observations made from this use. With already excellent water quality, including a zero Nitrate reading, we didn’t expect to see much change, however, we noticed that:
> even using the product in a mesh bag, water clarity improved within 24hrs – as well as generally noticing this in the test tank, when we compared glasses of water taken from the tank before and after the application of the product we noticed the water in the post treatment glass was very slightly less tinted when held against a white background.
> we also noticed that a slight surface film present in the tank dissipated after a few days. This happened without any change in flow pattern or feeding regime so we suspect that this may have been a result of the addition of the Carbon.
> dust on tank walls and sides growth slowed so that rather than needing to use the algae magnet every 2 0r 3 days, we only needed to use it roughly once a week to keep the tank walls looking spotless.
> lifespan of other chemical media increased and this not only led to savings on these products, it also reduced the need to replace them so frequently.
> coral polyp extension appeared to improve noticeably several days after use. As there were no other significant changes at this time we suggest that the Carbon may have removed substances that were otherwise inhibiting the extension of these corals.
With one gram providing around nearly one square metre of surface area, a 250gram pouch is enough to treat an estimated 800 litres. At a cost of £14.99 we think this is really good value, particularly bearing in mind the other positive attributes of this product.