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tuonor 02-02-2010 01:29 AM

Nano regulator build for pressurized CO2 - (shown on a Fluval Edge)
A couple people have asked about the nano regulator I built up for my Fluval Edge. This post details that build as well as some of the info I dug up while figuring out how to do it.

While some of this is specific to the Edge, hopefully it will be helpful for anyone who is considering the ADA CO2 Advance system or another nano system.

The goal of the project was to build a pressurized CO2 system that could fit in the back housing of the Edge, under the HOB filter. Based on my measurements there was at most 7.25” of vertical clearance available (more on this later). A secondary goal was to minimize ongoing CO2 costs given that a cartridge based system is already one of the more expensive ways to get pressured CO2 (vs. refillable canisters). This meant finding something that would work with standard threaded mini cartridges.

It quickly became clear that many of the available nano systems would not work for one reason or another:

Brand / Name / Height / Threading
UP Aqua / “Pierce” / 9.06” / Distributor did not know thread spec
Hydor / Green NRG / 7.5” / 5/8-18 threads
ADA / CO2 Advance / 8” / Metric threads + proprietary stand-off

The UP Aqua system is too tall and difficult to find in the US, while the ADA system has proprietary threads which restrict you to their cartridges. The Hydor looked too tall originally, but I discovered later that by locating the CO2 rig carefully within the rear housing of the Edge (way off to the left or right) there may be another 0.5” to play with. On the other hand, the Hydor system cost is still relatively high ($110-130) and has no pressure gauge, solenoid, etc. But this might be a prepackaged alternative that would work for the Edge.

One clarification before we move on to the build – the reason why I was focused on a regulator with standard threading is standard cartridges are 40-60% cheaper than the ADA or Hydor cartridges:

Source (Size) - Cost per cartridge - Cost per gram of CO2
ADA (74g) - $14 - 18.9c
Hydor (74g) - $17.50 - 23.7c
Williams Brewing (45g) - $3.50 (1) - 7.8c (59% cheaper than ADA refill)
Midwest Supplies (74g) - $8.48 (2) - 11.5c (39% cheaper than ADA)

(1) $3.50 / each if you buy 8 or more, $5.90 /each for lower quantities
(2) $16.95 for a 2-pack, $8.95 individually

If these canisters generally last 1-2 months, this is potentially $44 / year savings if you can use the Midwest 74g cartridge.

tuonor 02-02-2010 01:42 AM

I was able to get the bulk of the parts from 2 sources: Midwest Supplies and Clippard. One annoyance about Clippard is they charge you a $10 “handling” fee so it may make sense to go through a local distributor if there is one nearby. Also, if you need a power supply for the solenoid and / or connectors you may also have to make a trip to Radio Shack (I had some stuff lying around that I could scavenge).

Parts list:
  • Regulator: Leland NR24. Source: Midwest Supplies (Williams Brewing is a bit cheaper but since I live in CA I get hit with sales tax)
  • Solenoid: Clippard Mouse. Source: Clippard, part no EV-2-6. Select the "normally closed", "2-way valve", and "buna seals" options
  • 1/8 NPT male to 10-32 female adapter. Source: Clippard, part no 2CPF
  • 10-32 male to 10-32 male extension. Source: Clippard, part no. 11999-PKG
  • 10-32 male to 1/8” hose barb. Source: Clippard, part no CT4-pkg
  • ADA System 74 Cap Stand. Source: ADG Shop or AFA
  • 6-9V transformer / wall wart. Source: I pulled one off an old cordless telephone. Note the solenoid referenced above can be configured with a 6V, 12V or 24V transformer so see what you have in your garage before you order. The Clippard site shows the voltage ranges that will work with each configuration of the mouse.
  • Quick disconnect plug for solenoid wiring. Source: I used some old RC car power connectors (Dean’s plugs) I had lying around
Optional parts:
  • Clippard needle valve. Source: Clippard, part no. MNV-4K
  • Clippard check valve. Source: Clippard, part no. MCV-1
  • Wrenches (I used sockets but one could probably get by with a small adjustable wrench)
  • Soldering iron / solder / heat shrink
  • Joint compound

tuonor 02-02-2010 01:49 AM

Putting this together is relatively straightforward, but I’d break it into two steps: screwing together the fittings and wiring the solenoid.

Regulator parts assemble per the picture above. I used Oatey “Great White Pipe Joint Compound with PTFE” from Home Depot to seal the connections (an alternative is RectorSeal “T Plus 2”) and a range of English sockets was helpful in getting the pieces tightly screwed together. Use the pipe dope sparingly (see detail pic below) – you don’t want it getting inside the fittings.

I found it easiest to start with the regulator and the 1/8 NPT to 10-32 adapter. This way, you have something weighty and meaty to grasp while tightening all these tiny fittings. Note there may already be a fitting on the regulator that needs to be removed first. Also note that is not my hand in the picture below, my kid was "helping" out.

One last note is make sure you have the in/out markings on the solenoid oriented correctly. The “in” should be closest to the regulator.

Worth mentioning that I don’t know of any standards for torquing these fittings, so I went hand tight using the smallest wrench I had. Regardless, you can test for leaks by putting a drop of dishwashing soap in a jar of water and “painting” this solution on the connections between the fittings with a brush. Do this while the regulator valve is open but the solenoid is closed. If there is bubbling at any joint you have a leak and you should disassemble / reassemble with more pipe dope and / or tighter torquing on the fittings.

tuonor 02-02-2010 01:54 AM

Now, time to wire the solenoid. You can choose as I did to add a quick disconnect plug or just splice the 2 solenoid leads to the wall wart. There is no polarity to the solenoid so you can wire either lead to the + of the wall wart.

Caveats: in retrospect the Clippard needle valve is not the best solution for a Nano application as it doesn’t offer very fine control which becomes more critical when trying to achieve a very low bubble per minute count. This is mentioned by Rex Grigg at his site but I figured I’d buy the valve anyway since I was already getting a bunch of stuff from Clippard. I’ll probably insert a Swagelok that I bought a while back on the S&S downstream from the assembled regulator but were I to do it again, I’d just attach the 10-32 male to 1/8” hose barb fitting to the female outlet on the solenoid, then run tubing to a better needle valve. A check valve can be placed in-line between the needle valve and the bubble counter.

Finished product (note the actual assembled height is smaller, the CO2 cart was not screwed in all the way in this pic):

Hope this is useful to folks…I'll post another section of how to fit this into the Fluval Edge shortly.

TLE041 02-02-2010 04:42 AM

Great thread. I'm following this with great interest since I'm possibly doing something similar soon. Thanks for posting this.

I'd love to see the unit fitted in the Edge.

TeaQue 02-03-2010 03:22 AM

Thats awesome! Its too bad you couldn't make something like this to work with a paintball tank. They're so cheap to buy and cheap to fill!

tuonor 02-03-2010 05:04 PM


Originally Posted by TeaQue (Post 993255)
Thats awesome! Its too bad you couldn't make something like this to work with a paintball tank. They're so cheap to buy and cheap to fill!

Thanks! The 5/8-18 threading on the regulator is actually the same threading used on standard paintball equipment but I don't have a cannister to test whether it'd fit. Obviously a paintball setup wouldn't fit in the back housing of the Edge which was the reason I went down this road (beyond asthetics, having this stuff hidden and inaccessible is a plus when you have kids lurking).

I like to think there is an option to reuse this in a bigger setup down the road if it comes to that, but again don't have access to a cannister to confirm it.

deondrec 02-05-2010 08:07 PM

How much was the Leland regulator?

tuonor 02-06-2010 08:31 PM


Originally Posted by deondrec (Post 994935)
How much was the Leland regulator?

IIRC its $130 at Williams Brewing and a bit more at Midwest (but Cali residents would avoid sales tax).

tuonor 02-06-2010 08:37 PM

Part II: Fitting the Nano CO2 setup into the Fluval Edge

I originally thought I would need to get a new HOB filter for the Edge because of clearance issues. The pic below shows the HOB filter for the Edge, hung in its stock placement, but without the plastic column that conceals the filter. You can see that the total height of the CO2 tank + regulator is just taller than the space available under the AC20 HOB filter.

However, playing around with the space I figured out a way to make it work.

tuonor 02-06-2010 09:22 PM

The CO2 setup will just fit under the right edge of the HOB filter if you place it all the way against the right wall in the back housing of the Edge and place the HOB filter as far to the left as it will slide. However, you have to cut a notch in the cylinder stand to get the setup to fully snug up against the side wall because of a stiffening rib in the base. This probably sounds pretty confusing but hopefully the pics below make it clearer.

This picture shows where in the base of the CO2 cylinder should sit (what you're looking at is the rear section of the plinth that the tank sits on from above the tank). Note there is a notch you need to cut in the plastic cylinder base, highlighted by the arrow. Also note that the cylinder base has 2 flat sides and you want one of those sides to go against the wall.

Detail pic of the notch. The plastic is really soft and cuts easily with an Exacto type knife.

This is what the final positioning looks from the top.

tuonor 02-06-2010 09:29 PM

Hope this was helpful for others on the forum.

Next up...injecting CO2 into the AC20 HOB filter.

Fat Guy 02-07-2010 07:17 AM


dkbmxr18 02-07-2010 07:56 PM

this is awesome, good job!

I really like my 1L Jello co2 though :-)

deondrec 02-08-2010 09:32 PM


Originally Posted by dkbmxr18 (Post 996120)

I really like my 1L Jello co2 though :-)

for $130 me to:icon_smil

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