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post #1 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 09:39 PM Thread Starter
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In 2015, my wife discovered yarn. She collects high-end silky & soft natural fibers dyed with the utmost care and luxurious creativity, and she makes clothes with them with her crochet hooks and knitting needles. That is her yarn, and this is mine. That's how we refer to things in my house.

The front page of my journal will have up-to-date details of my current tank situation. The following few posts have a long-winded history leading up to June, 2020.

The rest will be a stream of whatever you or I feel like adding. I plan to post regular updates for myself, and for anyone else who wants to learn from my abundant mistakes.

You are welcome post whatever you feel like posting. I like tangents. Eventually, I'll bring it back to my tanks when I post updates.

Let's spin some yarn together.


36 gallon bowfront in the foyer

20 gallon long on the bar between kitchen & living area (both long sides are "for show")

10 gallon (quarantine tank? soil experiment? lol)

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Last edited by zivvel; 06-09-2020 at 03:03 AM. Reason: 36gal, not 30
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post #2 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 09:54 PM Thread Starter
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Ancient History

How did I get here?

In the beginning, when my daughter was turning 5 in Feb, 2013, we decided it was time for a fish tank. We went to PetSmart, and we picked out a 36 gallon bowfront tank & stand starter kit. After fumbling around and doing a bit of reading, we decided a low-tech Walstad tank would be our path and tossed the original aquarium gravel. We capped dirt (screened, rinsed, dried MiracleGro whatever) with BDBS from Tractor Supply. My girl insisted on a few pieces of decor. We had fun with it.

We added fauna (danio, neon tetra, albino cory, some snails, ghost shrimp & RCS) in March, 2013.

March 31, 2013, after our first 6 weeks of growth, and our first berried ghost shrimp:

May, 2013, is when my spiral notebook of tank notes starts: 7.6pH, ~3ppm NO3, 5 dGH, 5 KH, 290 TDS.

This is the last intentional aquarium photo I can find for a long time.

I have notes about 5gal WC here, 20gal WC there. Dosing with baking soda for KH (Just Say NO to pH crash!). There's a note about a sick neon tetra in Nov, 2013. Params looked good then; TDS was down at 168. I bought a 10gal tank to use as a hospital. Only one of the 7 tetras survived. We also lost all the colorful danios and 1 of our 2 albino corys.

I only took measurements twice in 2014 (May and December).

I did find some photos with the tank in the background. Like this one, when I dropped something on a toes in July, 2014, and I leaned on the brown water to make it feel better. What's this about trimming plants?

Here's another cropped tank-in-the-background photo from around the same time:

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post #3 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 10:03 PM
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Lol! I like a good yarn.
Ouch! That toe!

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post #4 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 10:05 PM Thread Starter
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Less-ancient History

In early 2015, it was time to start fresh. We installed the 10gal tank on the bar in January with gravel substrate, the HOB that came with the 36BF, and a few desk lamps. Some plants from the 36 and some from various LFSs, still in their pots. I have notes about various products (StressZyme, Replenish, Equilibrium, and more baking soda). After a fishless cycle (Ace Hardware ammmonia), fish included 3 zebra danios, the surviving neon tetra & albino cory, and eventually 1 clown loach -- to solve our Malaysian trumpet snail infestation. I was not great at keeping clean tanks. I was doing occasional (2-6 weeks) 50% WCs.

We were annoyed by the flimsy stand that came with the "big" tank, and we wanted one that was completely enclosed. I like to build stuff, so I dragged my son out to the garage for a project. I wish I had pictures of the process.

On May 8, 2015, the stand was done, and we started anew.

Not so fast! One of the my little nephews went crazy with the MagFloat scrubber when there was a grain or two of BDBS trapped in the scrub pad. The glass was scratched all to hell. This one never really got off the ground.

In January, 2016, I was ready to fire it up in the foyer (new location!). Here's a mock-up in a brand new 36BF (I already had a custom stand, after all!).

I flooded this one in January, 2016. I opted for dirt capped by Flourite Black this time -- hopefully it won't scratch the glass like BDBS? Wrong: this tank got a very long scratch across the front on the inside, but it isn't too noticeable. Goodbye, MagFloat. I'm not buying another 36BF.

I started DIY CO2 in both tanks with citric acid & baking soda in mid-February. It was fun until my kit blew a seal and sprayed sticky citric acid mix all over the ceiling and walls. I kept at it on the 36. But after a few more months, the novelty was wearing thin, and my results were inconsistent. Never again.

The 10gal stayed on the bar for a while with fancy guppies. We put pea puffers (and the zebra danios and Tiger Face the clown loach and a pair of otos) in the 36, and we fed them frozen bloodworms, and we really enjoyed them.

Here's a crop of the 10gal on the bar in the background of a random picture in July, 2016:

Lots of snails happened. The 10gal tank was eventually put away, and all critters went into the 36. Fish died. We thought the clown loach was killing everything else that moved since he was the lone potentially aggressive survivor. Ocho the otocinclus, the other remaining survivor, wouldn't hurt a flea! In truth I have no idea why all but these 2 critters died.

On March 26, 2016, I measured pH 6.6, 0 ammonia, 0 NO2, 0 NO3, 7 dGH, 4 KH, TDS 227ppm. After this, a vast drought of photos and notes stretches all the way to 2020.

At some point, I replaced the T5HO fixture with a 30" BuildMyLED w/dimmer, but I kept it dimmed pretty much as low as it would go.

During this time, the cyanobacteria plague hit the 36BF. I didn't know enough about what it was. I occasionally cleaned it out, and it would come right back. I did occasional water changes, I fed Tiger Face a few times a week, and I cleaned the canister filter. But the cyano was a depressing, defeating mess. We were mad at that loach for killing all our cute puffers. Ocho didn't care.. Ocho never cares about nothin.
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post #5 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 10:17 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
Lol! I like a good yarn.
Ouch! That toe!
I can't remember what I dropped on it. But when you've smashed as many toes as I have, they all kind of run together.
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post #6 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 10:29 PM Thread Starter
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Tank Renaissance

For Christmas in 2019, my daughter was given a 3 gallon tank with a grow tray on top. Suddenly, there was renewed interest in water-filled tanks in the house.

In January, 2020, I had had enough of the wasteland in the foyer, and I decided to take this hobby seriously. I read that loaches are not aggressive, especially if they have other loaches with which to frolic. I decided to get Tiger Face (and Ocho) some friends. But their house was a filthy mess, so I had to address that first. Unfortunately, I did not think to take a "before" picture in January.

On January 19, I measured pH 8.0, 0 ammonia & NO2, 7ish NO3, 6-7 KH, TDS 530ppm, and my GH test was very expired. I had 2 remaining java ferns along with river rocks & driftwood that were covered in algae. I pulled out the mess and started doing WCs and frequent filter cleanings to gradually bring the parameters into check. I added an old HOB for more filtration. The vague plan was to put a 20 gallon long on the bar to house fish while I restarted the 36 with pressurized CO2 & new substrate. I was taking my time and doing it right this time.

I bought a 20L, and I slowly gathered knowledge and supplies to build an all-in-one configuration into it, modeled after the NUVO Fusion 20 Peninsula. I downloaded the user manual, and it includes diagrams complete with dimensions. They weren't an exact fit for my tank, but I made it work. Again, I wish I had pictures of that build. I had never built anything with acrylic before, and I enjoyed the new experience.

I got out the old 10gal to use as my quarantine tank. Light (new Finnex Planted+ 24/7 HLC LED 20"), filter (new AquaClear 20), heater. I started the fishless cycle with the same old bottle of Ace Hardware ammonia from years before.

By the end of February, I alread had plants in the QT because I was ready to flood the 20L. I had read enough to decide on Fluval Stratum for the substrate for the 36BF restart, so I got enough of that to do the 20 also.

I was just starting to learn what it takes to make plants grow well. I was reading tank journals and other threads on TPT and BR. I bought a pound of AquariumFertilizer.com MacroMicro Mix because I wanted to make it easy on myself. Big mistake: I know enough about myself to know I always want to customize. I started dosing this stuff on March 1 in all tanks that had plants. I also had K2CO3 for KH because Just Say NO to pH crashes... right? I was still reading my way through older tank journals.

I bought a 20lb CO2 cylinder off fleaBay, and I traded it right in to a nearby welding supply shop for a full one. I ordered a single-stage, dual-gauge Victor G150-60-320 regulator and a Clippard MME-2PDS-D110 solenoid to feed a manifold that I built with 2 Dwyer RMA-151-SSV flowmeters (one flowmeter for the 20, one for the 36, but temporarily diverting that to the 10gal QT). All that CO2 gear is tucked away in my laundry room, and I fed some silicone tubing through walls to the tanks. We'll see how that silicone holds up.

The QT with Bacopa (caroliniana?) and Seiryu stone from LFS, and Cabomba "green" (caroliniana?), Juncus repens, and Bucephalandra 'Brownie Ghost' from Aquatic Plants Factory. Not pictured: TC cup of HC also from APF.

First pic of the 20 long on the bar: Fluval Stratum substrate, Seiryu stone hardscape (I slept through the lesson where they teach you what these rocks do to RO water), Finnex Planted+ 24/7 HLC LED 30". Since it's on the bar, it's double-sided, so get ready for lots of paired FTS. Sometimes I drape a black cloth or bag over the back just for pictures.

This was the first of many times I have said "damn Stratum." You may also notice I did not know what to do with Buces yet: I buried the rhizomes. Or with HC: planted in clumps.

After a few days of settling & growth (look at that "damn Stratum" dust all over my pretty plants & rocks):

March 7: Over on the 36, it's time for some cleanup. I had already removed the algae-coated rocks & wood, and I threw some PVC pipes and a flower pot in there to give fish a place to hide. It had already been vacuumed a few times in January & February before this.

WARNING! These photos are scary!


I warned you!

I used the Bacopa and the remaining Cabomba to spruce it up a bit. I scrubbed. I vacuumed. I cleaned filters. I added CO2 with a ceramic in-tank diffuser. I changed water (RO + Equilibrium). 13 hours later, TDS is down to 302, GH 4.5, KH 3.

After 2 days of settling (and experimenting with camera settings in order to end up with decent photos):

Meanwhile, I cleaned the Stratum dust off my rocks in the 20L:

I like the side/end view of this tank:

March 13: I had seen pictures of Rotala wallichii & Ammania senegalensis that I must have in my tanks. And why not some java moss as well? Here they are in the QT with some weak CO2 branched off the hose running to the 36:

In the 20, I had realized that I made a mistake by using too-large lava rock pieces under my plateau of Stratum. I dug those out and broke them to bits and rebuilt the high end of that tank. I had also decided that Cabomba grows too fast for the long low tank. I had a lot to learn.

Also, signs of the evil cyano/BGA on my dwarf baby tears.

All those stems went to the 36. It's still growing coats of cyano on the substrate and on the java fern roots.

This is about when I was reading @burr740's journal and learned how carpets are best planted. On March 18, I hurried to plant the R.wallichii that was suddenly melting in the QT, and I re-planted the HC carpet. Holy tedious tweezer work, Batman! Buces and A.senegalensis (still with only emersed growth) went in as well. I also buried a bunch of O+ balls all around the HC, Rotala, and Ammannia.

On March 20, I started dosing KH2PO4 in addition to the AF MacroMicro Mix. I also ordered some ingredients to supplement AFMM: Flourish Iron, H3BO3, ZnSO4.H2O, NiSO4.6H2O.

I mixed my first "custom micro" mix using AFMM as a base on March 27. I also started dosing KNO3 at this point since I was using the AFMM more for micros than macros. I was looking for more than what the CSM+B in AFMM allowed me to do. Of course, this was around the time I was reading a lot about custom micros / custom dosing in general. I was dosing macros at 5:1:3.5ppm NO3:PO4:K 3x/week (50% weekly WC); micros added another 1.13:1.74 NO3:K 3x/week. Here's the mix of micros from March 27:

In 500ml soln where 10ml treats 30 gallons:
        PPM    Grams  Source
Fe EDTA .1     42.37  AFMM: CSM+B
Fe Gluc .096   54.6ml Flourish Iron
B       .037   .6     H3BO3 (supplement AFMM CSM+B)
Cu      .0014  -      AFMM: CSM+B
Mn      .029   -      AFMM: CSM+B
Mo      .0008  -      AFMM: CSM+B
Ni      .0003  .0075  NiSO4.6H2O (10x, sample)
Zn      .0057  .38    ZnSO4.H2O
NO3     1.13   -      AFMM: KNO3
K       1.74   -      AFMM: K2SO4
Mg      0.2    -      AFMM: MgSO4
Pics from that day show that the 20 indeed has the cyano, but not nearly as bad as the 36. But we were excited about our first Buce flower bud! This is easy!

Just kidding: this still isn't easy! I am determined to defeat the plague in the 36. He doesn't look like it, but I am sure Tiger Face was still mad at me.

On March 28, I hit the 36 with Ultralife Blue Green Slime Stain Remover at 4:15pm. These pics are 5 hours later showing BGA already receding:

I gave it another dose on March 30, and that finished off the cyanobacteria. I felt like a new man.
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Last edited by zivvel; 06-13-2020 at 06:46 PM. Reason: :/
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post #7 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 10:42 PM Thread Starter
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April, 2020

I had just started trying to figure out how to limit my light on these Finnex 24/7 LEDs. I liked the all-day transitions, but I really had no idea exactly how much light I was dumping on these plants.

Here's the 20 on April 2.

I dosed the Blue Green Slime Stain Remover a few days later after a lot of manual cleanup. That took care of the BGA, but I still had other green algae going on. I attributed it to the ammonia that I was dosing to maintain the cycle that had FINALLY finished. I was also gradually scaling back the lighting. Here it is on April 5. I still struggled with that R.wallichii and the HC.

Around this time I realized that I hate KH and thus Seiryu stone. And I was starting to get a nagging feeling that I want to quantify my light levels. I had read about PAR meters years back, and I did a bit more research. Seneye Reef looks interesting. It is inexpensive for a PAR meter, but I have spent a small fortune on aquarium gear these past few months already. Maybe later...

The 36 was finally getting consistent love. The airstone was still in there from the Slime Remover treatment. Can't hurt, right? I think Tiger Face's mood is coming around. Still April 5:

By now, I had learned that the dreaded pH crash may actually be complete hogwash. And who really cares about pH anyway, except relative levels as a CO2 indicator? And plants love low KH, and that's part of the reason for the success of active Aquasoils. And maybe I can't grow R.wallichii because that Seiryu stone is fouling it up?

As noted, I have damned Stratum and its dusty ways. My interior decor manager / wife also does not care for the brown color. I read about Amazonia and Landen soil. Maybe I can damn Stratum right out the door? I ordered a 5L bag of Landen from Amazon to test out before I take the next step on the 36BF restart project.

April 11: Landen soil arrives. I needed a place to play with it. The 10gal QT was boring me, anyway. I have this bottle of O+ sitting here, too...

I even glued some java moss to rocks -- what a waste of precious real estate. 6 1/2 hrs later:

April 12: The 36 was still getting love. Trimming was happening. Replanting of tops was happening. I was still trying to fall in love with Juncus repens. (SPOILER: I didn't. It reminds me of nut sedge & other lawn/garden weeds.)

A couple of experimental stems of R.wallichii:

Ocho still don't care. But he does love to chill on healthy, sturdy Bacopa leaves.

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed our fish acquisition long enough. On April 18, I ventured into the scary outside world for a couple more clown loaches and another otocinclus: Cheeto Face & Puma Face complete our trio of loaches (the Faces), and Gato the oto. I also picked up 3 Amano shrimp. Drip acclimation:

The next day, Puma (left) & Cheeto Face are right at home with Gato.

This Rotala really doesn't like my soup, but Gato don't care.

Get to work, shrimp!

I read more posts & tank journals, and I soaked up more lessons from other members. This excerpt, which I referenced elsewhere, struck me:

Originally Posted by Immortal1
... imaging mixing up a dump truck size container of dry nutrients for industrial use. Then, stir it up and scoop out 1 cup of dry mix. And guarantee you have exactly the correct amount of each item. Just can't believe they get it right every time. Yes, the CSM+B has worked better than nothing for many years. But, we can certainly do better.
I sent @burr740 a PM, and he helped me complete my collection of custom micros:

And of course I needed some of his plants: Ludwigia sp. red, Syn 'Giant', mermaid weed, and the FREE! snails:

On April 25, I started dosing this micros solution:

In 200ml soln where 10ml treats 30 gallons:
        PPM   Grams  Source
citric acid   .45
Fe DTPA .11   2.27   Fe DTPA 11%
Fe Gluc .07   15.9ml Flourish Iron
B       .037  .48    Boric acid H3BO3
Cu      .0034 .03    CuSO4.5H2O
Mn      .051  .356   MnSO4.H2O
Mo      .0017 .0097  Na2MoO4.H2O
Ni      .0007 .0071  NiSO4.6H2O (10x, sample)
Zn      .04   .256   ZnSO4.H2O
April 28:

Mermaid weed & Syngonanthus macrocaulon 'Giant' in the 20L.

I did not yet know that these Syn Giants would hate these rocks:

The Buce flower finally opened

The 10gal doesn't look like much of a QT anymore.

I put some of my new plants in the 36, too, with my new algae.

At this point, I was having some success. When I added fish & shrimp to the 20 and stopped dosing ammonia, my algae problem disappeared overnight.
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post #8 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 10:59 PM Thread Starter
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May, 2020

I hit up @fablau for one of his giant trim packages. It arrived April 30. Huge!

I put some in the 20L

And some in the 36

And even some in the 10

I spent a few weeks trying not to kill all these plants and learning how they grow. And I decided I like Landen soil more than I like Fluval Stratum. I ordered 3 bags for the 36.
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post #9 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 11:12 PM Thread Starter
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New Substrate for the 36BF

May 16: I finally introduced Tiger Face and Ocho to their new family, and I set about restarting the 36BF.

I pulled all the plants.

I siphoned and siphoned. Then I dried it out, and I sprayed the inside of the tank with H2O2, let it sit for a while, and I rinsed and dried it again.

I already had the Stratum, so I used some as a base layer, 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Then I added some O+.

Then about 15 liters of Landen. You can see my aforementioned MagFloat + Flourite scratches here when it's dry.

Less than an hour later, I was ready to plant in water that wasn't murky or dusty.

The plants were tired from a long day. So was I. There's some undissolved CaSO4 in the soil in this pic. That was gone by the next morning.

I planned to leave the fish in the 20 long until I got ammonia under control in the 36, then I would figure out what to do with that 20.

Later that night, a shrimp watched over the 20 on the bar from its Seiryu perch.

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post #10 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 11:35 PM Thread Starter
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May, 2020, part III

May 19: Overall, the 20 was pretty happy. R.wallichii didn't really seem to care for this bowl of soup.

Syn 'Giant' was starting to show its hate for these rocks.

Blurry 36BF FTS. I had not been able to make AR happy yet. I felt bad for stunting the hell out of @fablau's beautiful specimens.

The 10gal is still showing green stringy slimy algae when PO4 drops to zero. It's a bit of a cluttered mess, but it's really only an experiment. I'm unsure of its future. My daughter wants me to keep it online so she can have fish in it. I'm using it for overflow, and to propagate some plants and nurse others back to life.

May 26:

The 20 has some persistent algae. GSA on the rocks, and dust on some plants.

The 36 (whose capacity is now 34 gallons including canister as measured with its first fill) is now growing plants and not much else.

I moved the Syn 'Giant' from the 20 over to the 10 after learning that they prefer soft water. Hopefully, they will heal.

May 30: Oops, PO4 bottomed out in the 10gal again.

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post #11 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 11:55 PM Thread Starter
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June, 2020

June 1: I collected more plants from @burr740.

Syn Giants are trying to heal in the 10gal

June 5: Here is my latest 36BF FTS. I threw together a sort of dark room using my kids' fort-building materials and a black sheet to photograph the tank during the day under better conditions. There are so many windows around the area where the tanks are that the pictures usually look pretty washed-out in photos compared to real life. I have moved to much less exposure on the initial picture so that my only post-processing is to increase exposure (no color touch-ups), and it looks more life-like than anything I've taken before.

The 20 was getting overrun by the green slime after losing all its fauna. I ordered Landen soil for it, but it will be a few days. I removed all the stones and threw them in a diluted bleach bucket. I will probably only use 1 large + 1 small rock (to hold the elevation change) after I change the substrate.

I pulled, trimmed, and re-planted everything except for the L.aromatica and the 1 mermaid weed. I tossed all the HC and kept the Monte Carlo (I still have HC in the 10). Many plants got H2O2 baths. Myrio & Ambulia just got pulled and sprayed with tap water. Hygrophila 'Sunset' was pretty clean already.

I don't have a "before" picture, but here are some "after" pics from the next morning (June 6).

Buces got H2O2 + water baths last night. Some fuzz remains.

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post #12 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-09-2020, 12:18 AM Thread Starter
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At the beginning of March, 2020, I started using pressurized CO2 in all tanks with plants. I keep the 20lb tank in the laundry room on a shipping scale. The regulator is a Victor single-stage, dual-gauge G150-60-320.

This feeds a manifold on the other side of the washer/dryer stack through a Clippard MME-2PDS-D110 solenoid. Each tank has a ball valve for shutoff and a flowmeter (2x Dwyer RMA-151-SSV + 1x Porter B-125-6) for flow control. 10gal on the left, 20L center, 36BF on the right.

10gal has an in-tank ceramic diffuser. The 20 has a ceramic diffuser inline in the short 1/2" ID hose run from the pump to the return bulkhead, so it turns the tank into soda water. The 36 was running an in-tank ceramic diffuser until June 7, 2020.

I built a CO2 reactor for the 36BF based on @Ken Keating1's Variable Velocity Reactor. Here's the design I worked up on May 22 while shopping on FlexPVC.com:

And here is the dry-fit of the parts on June 1. This isn't going to fit under the tank where I have 31" of clearance. I would rather keep it outside the stand than reduce the reactor size. I can always make it smaller later if I decide to go that route.

I delayed the build a bit when I decided I wanted to integrate a burp valve into the design. Credit @Ken Keating1 again for this idea:

Assembly complete. Painting the white PVC.

I don't do anything right the first time. I had the completed reactor perched precariously on some patio furniture to dry, and naturally it fell down and broke the burp vent.

I had spares. Here we go, ready for leak testing:

No leaks. And the bypass-as-flow-control looks effective. I installed it next to the tank, and I routed water through it.

I didn't move the CO2 line until the next morning (June 7) so the ceramic diffuser would have time to soak up water before making bubbles. The chamber looks neat, and the tiniest bubbles move very slowly through the 3rd chamber after I opened the bypass valve full-open. There are very few tiny bubbles returning to the tank.

But I don't know if it's doing its job. My pH pen is a cheap piece of junk. I have a drop checker that is staying blue. I have been cranking up the CO2 rate, but it's now way beyond the level that was acceptable when using the previous ceramic diffuser.

I have now increased the pressure from my regulator from 30psi to 40psi, and I'm hoping the increased pressure will help.
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Last edited by zivvel; 06-10-2020 at 07:17 AM. Reason: /
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post #13 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-09-2020, 01:03 AM
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What a fantastic read. I always find the most exciting journals to be those that incorporate a sense of 'personality' into them - you sir, have done a wonderful job of this. (I may need to take a few notes on this myself, haha).

Subscribed and following along!
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post #14 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-09-2020, 11:37 PM
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Great start on your tank journal!

I really like how the black paint worked out on the reactor, it turned out great. I need to do this to mine, it'd look much better painted. I also like how you mounted it outside the tank, definitely a discussion item.

Regarding the scale on the tank, did you happen to read my post regarding weighting CO2 and determining dosing rates in ppm? I'm curious what your ppm dosing rate is.
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Ken Keating1 is offline  
post #15 of 49 (permalink) Old 06-10-2020, 12:00 AM
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Join Date: May 2008
Location: Novi, MI
Posts: 5,109
Now that's how you do it!

Love the start to the journal. Engaging and a very good all around read. Like a good book, I couldn't put it down!

Every new tank has bumps and bruises, but it looks like you are well on your way now.

Keep the updates comings, looking forward to seeing where this goes from here.
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