Seachem's Purigen vs MatrixCarbon: Which Is Better?

Posted by on 4/10/2023

Seachem Purigen and MatrixCarbon are two products that both aim to improve the water quality in our aquariums, but there is some confusion as to what their differences are.

In this post, we'll provide some background on the Seachem company, compare the two products, and we'll give recommendations on which product is best for a few different scenarios.


Based out of Madison Georgia, Seachem Laboratories has been specializing in aquarium-related products since its inception in 1980. While they may be best known for their freshwater aquarium offerings, such as Flourish and Flourish Excel , they also offer a wide variety of products for marine aquariums.

Purigen and MatrixCarbon are two products offered by Seachem that can be used independently or in tandem in saltwater or freshwater aquariums. 


The main purpose of Seachem Purigen is to purify the water column by removing waste that would normally break down into ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. However, there is some mystery as to how the product works.

Seachem Purigen is a resin based on a synthetic polymer , but they don't provide specifics as to what polymer is being used. Usage involves placing the fine-grained substance into a filter bag and then positioning the bag in an area of high flow, such as near a powerhead or an aquarium filter.

Many hobbyists swear by the product, and we've seen more stable water chemistry as a result of adding it to our tanks. Whether the purification is a direct result of the polymer, or it's the extra surface area the polymer provides for beneficial bacteria to grow, is yet to be determined.

Image of a bucket of Purigen
A 4-Liter Bucket of Seachem Purigen


Seachem's MatrixCarbon is activated carbon (charcoal that's been heated to increase its absorption capabilities). MatrixCarbon has earned a reputation for being high-quality, and its main purpose is to remove dissolved organics, chlorine, chloramine, tannins, toxins, and fish medication from the water column.

Adding activated carbon in a marine aquarium should be considered supplementary, as the primary export method should be handled by a protein skimmer, algae scrubber, or by macroalgae growing in a refugium

In a freshwater aquarium, live aquatic plants, naturally occurring beneficial bacteria, and carbon placed in a mechanical filter will be the main export method of dissolved organics.

Image of a bucket of MatrixCarbon
A 4-Liter bucket of Seachem's MatrixCarbon

Purigen vs MatrixCarbon

The main difference between Seachem's Purigen and MatrixCarbon is that Purigen is used to control ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels, while MatrixCarbon is used to remove toxins, tannins, and medication from the water column.

Both products are similarly priced. Seachem Purigen can be cleaned with a bleach solution and reused, while MatrixCarbon should be replaced monthly.

Best Option for Remove Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates

If you're struggling to get your aquarium's ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate levels under control, you'll want to go with Purigen.

While MatrixCarbon may provide some level of control, it's not nearly as effective as Purigen, which is made specifically for preventing harmful build-ups of these compounds.

Best Option for Removing Tannins and Toxins

Hobbyists experiencing yellow-colored water, or those looking to remove toxins or medication directly from the water column should choose Seachem's MatrixCarbon.

Activated carbon has been used in both the freshwater and saltwater aquarium hobby for decades, and Seachem's offering is one of the best on the market. 

It's also one of the few products that can safely remove Cupramine, a treatment method for marine ich, that can be harmful to tank inhabitants.

Best Option for Hobbyists on a Budget

Hobbyists looking to bolster their filtration methods should go with Seachem Purigen. While the product won't help much when it comes to tannin removal, it will assist in getting ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels under control.

Purigen can also be "regenerated". Once the product has turned to a deep brown color, the product can be soaked in a 1:1 bleach:water solution for 24 hours, after which it can be rinsed and reused. 

The product's reusability is an attractive option when compared to MatrixCarbon, which needs to be replaced monthly.

Our Recommendation

If budget allows, we recommend using both Purigen and MatrixCarbon in a marine or freshwater aquarium setup.

Keep in mind that both products should be viewed as supplementary. Marine aquarium hobbyists should utilize a protein skimmer, algae scrubber, or a refugium to maintain clarity in their tanks. While freshwater hobbyists should consider live aquatic plants and weekly or bi-weekly water changes to prevent waste from building up over time.

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As you can see, both Purigen and MatrixCarbon are two different products that serve similar purposes. While they ultimately improve the water quality of an aquarium, the toxins, and organic compounds that these products aim to remove differ between the two.

Now that we've covered the fundamentals of these products, do you plan on purchasing them to enhance your aquarium's water quality? While there certainly isn't a requirement to use them, the peace of mind they provide to some hobbyists will be well worth their price tags. Let us know what you think by commenting below, and be sure to visit our marketplace where you can sell anything related to the hobby.

Image of Miles Harrison

Miles Harrison

With over a decade of aquarium experience, Miles can be found writing about saltwater and freshwater aquariums. When he’s not writing about fish, you can find him going for a run or building websites, such as this one!