Recently I did an experiment using graphite as the anode and iron as the cathode for an electrolytic cell. I tried plating different metals such as copper, nickel, and zinc with CuSO4, NiSO4, and ZnSO4 respectively. I know that normally when the anode is made from the same material as the metal being used for plating, the anode is decomposed. What I am wondering is what happens at the anode when it is made of an inert material like graphite? Is the SO4 ion oxidized there, what does it become?
During the experiment, I have also observed bubbles forming at the anode, and I hypothesized that it may be oxygen from the electrolysis of water, but I had no way to be sure.