Livestock wastewater effluent generated after the anaerobic treatment process contains the considerable amount of color-causing organic matter. In this study, a quantitative comparison of three carbon-based adsorbents included granular activated carbon (GAC), expanded graphite (EG), and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) was carried out for the potential application to the removal of color substances, and their mechanism was proposed. Although GAC showed the highest specific dissolved organic carbon (DOC) adsorption capacity, the color removal efficiency was the smallest among three adsorbents. The selective color removal ratios of EG and MWNTs reached 22.7 +/- 0.1 PtCo/mg-DOC-removed and 21.2 +/- 0.1 PtCo/mg-DOC-removed, respectively, while that of GAC was only 12.3 +/- 0.1 PtCo/mg-DOC-removed. The selective adsorption of color substances by graphene-based carbon materials was due to the aromatic pi-pi interaction between organic matter and the hexagonal carbon lattice of graphene. The analysis of molecular weight distribution also confirmed that the exposed surface area and macro-pores were responsible for the adsorption of high molecular weight color substances. The chemical regeneration of three adsorbents was examined using 1% NaOCl solution and MWNTs showed almost complete recovery of the initial color removal capacity. In conclusion, MWNTs were the most suitable carbon nanomaterial for the selective color removal from livestock wastewater effluent.