Carbon tubes were prepared by Ni (or Ti) catalytic pyrolysis of acetylene. The catalytic effect of nanometer nickel powders is related to the reduction temperature in H2 atmosphere. Nanometer nickel powders reduced at high temperature have a distinguished catalytic effect, and the yield of the carbon tubes is relatively high; but for the nickel powders reduced at low temperature, the yield of carbon tubes is low, and no tube can be formed. Carbon tubes can only be grown along the edges or on the tips of the Ni (or Ti) sheets reduced at about 770°C. But if Ni (or Ti) sheets are etched in acid, at lot of carbon tubes with various forms can be formed on their surface. The structure and morphology of the carbon tubes is studied, and the growth thermodynamics for the straight, curved and helical carbon tubes are systematically investigated for the first time.