How To Make Activated Carbon For An Aquarium

Last Updated on November 9, 2021 by Marco C.

Adding activated carbon to your aquarium is one of the simplest and cheapest methods of chemical water filtration.

From medical use in ancient Egypt, through charred interiors of whiskey barrels, Activated Carbon has been used as an adsorbent for centuries. However, did you know that this is not necessary for all settings and that it is only effective if properly dosed and maintained?

We have researched for you how to make activated carbon for an aquarium. Well, be sure to keep reading to find out!

What Is Activated Carbon?

Activated carbon is a widespread adsorption media used in different applications such as purification, recovery, catalysis, gas storage, separation, etc. This crude form of graphite has an imperfect structure that is very porous in a wide range of pore sizes. That is, from visible cracks to molecular dimensions.

When it comes to your aquariums, this natural ingredient can be of great benefit. It helps to remove many organic and inorganic substances dissolved in tank water. That is, it keeps the aquarium water clear, and removes odors.

How Does Activated Carbon Work?

Activated carbon works by using absorption and adsorption. Absorption is the process of trapping pollutants in carbon pores. On the other hand, adsorption is the process of chemical binding and capture of pollutants by carbon.

Activated carbon has a very high internal surface area and is thus an ideal adsorption material. As the water in the aquarium comes in contact with activated carbon, both types of adsorption occur.

Different Types and Forms Of Activated Carbon

Various raw materials are suitable for the production of activated carbon. Likewise, the size and number of pores will depend on the type of raw material.

Some of the most popular materials are coconut shell, wood, and coal. Coal is the most common base for aquarium carbons because it is extremely porous and offers a large surface area. In addition, it is very resistant to wear and tear and is easily regenerated.

The most common form of carbon is Granular activated carbon, and it’s used mainly for water purification. Its granules allow water to flow through the carbon layer, removing impurities from the water.

Granular activated carbon, and it’s used mainly for water purification

Learn more about: How To Set Up An Aquarium Sump

In addition to purifying the air, Pelletized activated carbon is also used for water purification. Its hard-packed pellets and void space allow air to flow through a layer of pelleted carbon without reducing the flow rate, making your aquarium a comfortable place to live.

Powdered activated carbon is usually made of coal or coconut shell. PCS creates an activated carbon filter pad that acts as a mechanical and adsorption filter in a single pad.

What Does Activated Carbon Do In An Aquarium?

Although we will often think of aquariums as self-sustaining, this is unfortunately not entirely the case. Aquariums are closed water systems in which there’s no room for the pollutant’s departure.

The increased tendency to accumulate dissolved organic compounds occurs due to the large number of fish, inverts, plants, algae, and food in a small area. Such a concentration can rarely be found in nature. Therefore, activated carbon appears as one of the simplest solutions.

This ingredient has the power to remove the causes of yellowish water and unpleasant odors that greatly reduce water quality. Did you know that the accumulation of organic matter in saltwater absorbs the blue part of the light spectrum? This actually means that corals don’t get full PAR profiles. Therefore, aquarium owners often resort to activated carbon in combination with protein skimming. This improves the penetration of light into the reef aquarium.

How To Use Activated Carbon In The Aquarium

Activated carbon is very easy to use in the aquarium because almost every product has its own instructions. We usually rinse it first with used aquarium water to remove dust and debris. It’s typically placed in an area of high flow or hidden behind a filter pad. This reduces the amount of pollutants that reach it and prolongs the life of activated carbon.

Do I Need Activated Carbon In My Aquarium?

Activated carbon doesn’t need to be used in all aquarium settings. You will find it more often in saltwater than in freshwater aquariums. This happens because many saltwater creatures create toxins, however, activated carbon removes them very easily.

Is It Possible To Make Activated Carbon For An Aquarium At Home?

Yes, of course, you can! The process of making activated carbon for an aquarium at home is much more expensive and lengthy. However, it’s certainly possible. These are deeper instructions.

Step 1: How To Make Charcoal?

  1. You can make charcoal from burning hardwoods or coconut shells. You can do this by collecting a large pile of hardwood that you will cut into small pieces that fit in the barrel.
  2. Then raise a large bonfire that will burn for 3-5 hours around your barrel. The duration will depend on how big your barrel is and how full you have it. For example, a 55-gallon metal barrel full of wood needs a 5 hour burn time.
  3. Let the barrel cool overnight or more before opening.

Supplies Needed:

  • Calcium chloride
  • Charcoal
  • Glass Jar or other non-aluminum mixing pot with a solid lid
  • Water and measuring cup
  • Cheesecloth or White Sheet
  • Cookie Sheet or Flat Pan
  • Storage Container

Step 2: Activating The Charcoal

  1. Powder the charcoal you made with a hammer or using a mortar and pestle. Then transfer it to a glass or stainless steel bowl.
  2. Make a 25% solution of calcium chloride (CaCl2) using your water. Respectively, dissolve 100 grams of CaCl2 and 300 ml of water. Or in ounces, 3.5 ounces of CaCl2 and 1.3 cups of water.
  3. Slowly add the calcium chloride solution to the powdered charcoal and stir until you get a spreadable paste. Drain any leftover solution.
  4. Allow the mixture to dry completely for at least 24 hours.
  5. Spread the mixture on a clean white sheet or gauze (cheesecloth). Rinse with clean water and catch the water that goes through. You can also use a coffee filter to recover carbon that you would otherwise lose.
  6. Place the rest of the charcoal as well as the coffee filters on a cookie sheet. Then, bake the charcoal at 250F for 30 minutes, or until all the moisture is completely gone.
  7. Cool and break apart to store in an airtight and waterproof jar.

In Conclusion

Do you struggle with tannins, smells, or chloramines? Or do you need to clean the medication from the tank after the treatment? – Then activated carbon should be the right thing for you.

Activated carbon can usually be purchased online and in pet and fish stores. However, if you are in the mood you can make it in the comfort of your own home.

Do you agree that a clean aquarium is a healthy aquarium? Write to us below!

Read more about: Saltwater Aquarium Filter Setup

Leave a Comment