CO2 setup advice
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Old 04-17-2014, 12:34 AM   #1
dasNano
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CO2 setup advice


Hey guys, so as the title suggests I'm looking for some advice on a a kick-ass CO2 setup. I'm looking for the best way to automate and regulate CO2 in my Mini-M planted. I guess I should start by listing my setup.

Initial CO2 setup:
-2.5 lb pressurized tank
-Aquatek regulator with integrated solenoid valve
-ADA nano diffuser
-ADA standard bubble counter
-CO2 distribution is on the same timer as the lights

The problem I had with this setup is that I didn't know how to precisely check my CO2 levels. I had a very general sense by checking PH when I did my weekly water changes. Plus, I figured everything was fine because the plant growth was doing well for awhile. Then I started to get some algae issues. Which, after a little research, was caused by insufficient CO2. So this lead me to this setup.

current CO2 setup as of 2 days ago:
-recently replaced the diffuser with the Sera Flora Active reactor 500
-added in a cal aqua labs drop checker

So this setup is good in that I have a quick visual reference of my CO2 levels. But I've found that my Eheim 2211 doesn't have enough flow power to actually rotate the propellers in the reactor. I'm not overly concerned with that because the flow in-tank is still strong and the drop checker is showing that good green color. BUT I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me a little bit. I feel like if I'm going to upgrade, then I'd like to do it better. So, this led me to another flurry of internet searches and I landed on another setup that I wanted to run by you guys.

I'm seeing that some people are running their CO2 distribution through a reactor that is controlled by a PH meter. Also, instead of using a solenoid valve, they are using an electronic valve. From what I've read it's more accurate because it doesn't rely on cylinder pressure for a consistent bubble count like the mechanical valve does. So I guess that leads to a much more consistent bubble rate. Then, of course, I came across this setup from Aquariumplants.com

ANYWAY, this is where you guys come in.

I'm interested to see if anyone has experience with a setup like this. If so, then how do you like it? Would you recommend this or is there something else you'd suggest? Thanks in advance guys for taking the time to read this post and give your opinions! I can't wait to hear about all the crazy awesome setups some of you are running! Please post pics if you got them!
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Old 04-17-2014, 06:12 PM   #2
Ericj
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I've tried a ton of different CO2 options ranging from DIY to completely 100% fully automated CO2 gas with probe and the whole bit. Honestly I've settled into the middle.

What I use now is a regulator with solenoid, bubble counter, diffuser, and a timer which is independent from my lights. I just have my CO2 turn on ~45 minutes before the lights and turn off ~30 before the lights go off, which gets the CO2 levels in my tank up before the lights switch on, and it turns off when the gas would be wasted.

The issue is of course how to monitor if you're injecting the right amount of CO2. I just go with a drop checker, as it's quite reliable. Yes it may take some amount of adjusting your flow of CO2 to get the right levels, and then as your plant load changes to keep it there, but usually not all that much, I check mine every couple days and takes a few minutes at most to make adjustments, if any are needed.

I've found that the time and effort it takes to set up the automated PH meter is greater that just doing it manually. Once it's set up it is pretty much on auto pilot, which for me was actually a bigger danger. Since I wasn't checking at all, I didn't notice that the meter got off and didn't correct it in time before the fish in the tank were all killed.

Also, I've found for my nano's, you'd be talking about a lot of equipment packed into a little space.
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Old 04-17-2014, 07:10 PM   #3
creekbottom
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To me, it sounds more like it problem of getting CO2 into the tank, not consistency. I think all those set-ups that you have tried were all working fine. The first one you had pretty much no way of checking CO2 levels quickly so you were walking in the dark. Adding a drop checker fixed that. The impellors not turning in the reactor is not a function of gas delivery but water pressure, your filter isn't strong enough. Does this matter in a reactor type situation - I don't really think so. I had a Ista Max mix and took out the impellors cause the noise drove me nuts.

The CO2 system you're running is working and doing the job for which it was intended; to drop cylinder pressure to something manageable. Changing a solenoid or regulator or pretty much any part of that is not going to affect what happens down the line. The bubble rate should only change when your cylinder is running low on pressure, which would be a good visual indicator for you to fill it up again.

I don't use a pH probe, just a drop checker, everyone has their own preference. However, changing CO2 levels in your tank is not something that can change suddenly or immediately. It takes time to dissolve gas or outgas depending on which one the probe tells the solenoid to do.
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Old 04-17-2014, 08:29 PM   #4
PlantedRich
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I've had several different setups. All pressure but controlled in different ways. One has a controller and uses a probe ot measure PH. I can adjust the PH up/down with the controller which then opens/closes the CO2 flow through a solenoid. I find the controller "nice" in that it gives me a precise readoutwithout doing a color judgement. Of course that requires keeping the controller adjusted as the probe does change over time. Also it does require probe replacement at times. I might not go that way but it came with the used tank setup. Okay but not needed. I feel somewhat more confident with it over a drop checker. I have read the ads on the "electronic controller" and find it a bit too heavy on hype. That sort of sales turns me off. If a company has to fudge on their ads, I move on. My question is what the difference in a solenoid turned on by electronics and a setup where gas is turned on "electronicaly". Since I know of no way gas flow can be stopped by an electric current directly, I think they may be making a bit of a leap to confuse us. I'm thinking somewhere in their equipment, there is a mechanical valve that is told to open/close by electronics. But that gets me back to just using a solenoid!
Bottom line for me is to get a truly reliable solenoid to control the gas, a really good needle valve to adjust it precisely and measure it by whatever method you favor. A controller for more money or a drop checker to see a color change. Either method is controlled by what I see my plants and fish do at any time.
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Old 04-19-2014, 04:05 PM   #5
dasNano
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Hey guys, thanks for all of the suggestions and feedback

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ericj View Post
What I use now is a regulator with solenoid, bubble counter, diffuser, and a timer which is independent from my lights. I just have my CO2 turn on ~45 minutes before the lights and turn off ~30 before the lights go off, which gets the CO2 levels in my tank up before the lights switch on, and it turns off when the gas would be wasted.
Thanks Erickj, that makes a lot of sense to have the CO2 on another timer. I'll definitely get another timer and give that a shot.
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Old 04-19-2014, 04:25 PM   #6
dasNano
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Quote:
Originally Posted by creekbottom View Post
The impellors not turning in the reactor is not a function of gas delivery but water pressure, your filter isn't strong enough. Does this matter in a reactor type situation - I don't really think so. I had a Ista Max mix and took out the impellors cause the noise drove me nuts.
Thanks Creekbottom, that's a good point. I'm wondering if I should upgrade my canister filter. Now that's been running for a couple of days, I am noticing that the flow in the tank is a little less than before. Maybe the Eheim 2213 or 2215 would be a better choice. Or I could also get a reactor that has a pump in it...but I'm not quite sure if that would solve the problem of flow. Any thoughts on that front? Aquariumplants has this reactor...
https://www.aquariumplants.com/Carbo..._p/ext5000.htm
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Old 04-19-2014, 04:52 PM   #7
dasNano
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
I find the controller "nice" in that it gives me a precise read out without doing a color judgement. Of course that requires keeping the controller adjusted as the probe does change over time. Also it does require probe replacement at times. I might not go that way but it came with the used tank setup. Okay but not needed. I feel somewhat more confident with it over a drop checker.
Hey PlantedRich, thanks for your response! I didn't realize that the probe had to be re-calibrated and also occasionally replaced. What would you say is the frequency of calibration and replacement?

Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
I have read the ads on the "electronic controller" and find it a bit too heavy on hype. That sort of sales turns me off. If a company has to fudge on their ads, I move on. My question is what the difference in a solenoid turned on by electronics and a setup where gas is turned on "electronicaly".
haha, yeah I was a little surprised at the "best in the world" claim! Also, good point on the electronic opening and closing of the valves. I think what they are saying both use a current to open and close a mechanical valve, but the difference is in controlling the bubble count. I guess their "electronic" controller will open and close based on the bubble count you set on the controller. Where as in a solenoid, the valve is always open for the time that you set and the bubble count is based on adjusting pressure while the valve is open. So I guess if there was ever a fluctuation in cylinder pressure, your bubble count would remain consistent for the "electronic" controller. Again, I'm talking about something that I don't have any experience with...this is just from what I've read. I totally rely on you guys and your experience for advice on this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
Bottom line for me is to get a truly reliable solenoid to control the gas, a really good needle valve to adjust it precisely and measure it by whatever method you favor. A controller for more money or a drop checker to see a color change. Either method is controlled by what I see my plants and fish do at any time.
Do you have a recommendation on a great solenoid and needle valve?
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Old 04-22-2014, 04:15 PM   #8
dasNano
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Hey guys,

Hope everyone had a great weekend. I've picked up a GH & KH test kit, and I'm going to starting testing the tank water on a regular basis. I want to get a better understanding of this whole "CO2 thing" . I'll probably get a PH meter and use that for precise measurements when I do the testing. Tropica also has a nice chart for optimal CO2 based on PH and dKH here. I'm still interested in hearing recommendations on the needle valves, gauges and such.
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