DIY CO2 regulator - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-02-2018, 02:02 AM Thread Starter
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DIY CO2 regulator

The title may be deceptive. I (in no way) plan to actually build a regulator. What I would like to do is to buy a used 2-stage welding regulator and connect it to high quality solenoid, needle valve, and bubble counter. I would also like the option of attaching multiple needle valve/bubble counter combos on it later for other tanks. The regulators I am looking at are Meco, Harris, and Victor brands. Looking to hear from anyone who has actually used this kind of setup and any advice they could give me. I would also like any feedback I could get on pros and cons of using such a setup.
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post #2 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-02-2018, 06:54 PM
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Have you tried using the search function on this site? You will get some great search results that are relevant to what you're asking.
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post #3 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-04-2018, 01:23 AM
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If you're on google, and you typed in DIY CO2 Regulator, I would suggest the link from reef central by alanle. There are lots of useful information in that discussion and was useful when I was building my own regulator. diyco2regulator is also a good source to see what parts are needed for the post-body (everything after the regulator body). The best regulators, in my opinion, are the ones that are built for semi-conductor/laboratory purposes. They are usually used in controlled environments compared to welding, which is usually in adverse conditions. They are also more precise due to the nature of the work that is performed. The brands I consider to be good are Veriflo, Concoa and Victor. For multiple tanks, I would assume just attaching a tee fitting to the exit port of the solenoid would allow you to split the CO2 for attaching multiple needle valves.
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post #4 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-04-2018, 02:15 AM
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Originally Posted by AguaScape View Post
The title may be deceptive. I (in no way) plan to actually build a regulator. What I would like to do is to buy a used 2-stage welding regulator and connect it to high quality solenoid, needle valve, and bubble counter. I would also like the option of attaching multiple needle valve/bubble counter combos on it later for other tanks. The regulators I am looking at are Meco, Harris, and Victor brands. Looking to hear from anyone who has actually used this kind of setup and any advice they could give me. I would also like any feedback I could get on pros and cons of using such a setup.

Only con is cost and complexity...
top "group" uses expensive Swagelok metring valves
bottom group uses economical SMC air flow control needle valves..
not mine btw..
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/2...co2-setup.html


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post #5 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-04-2018, 01:57 PM
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You are correct about the title! One of the big attention getters for me was to see how folks were actually planning to build a regulator when first spotting this a few years back! Turns out they were just screwing the parts of a system together.
but then the idea is very good, no matter what we call it. I never buy a ready made set as most do not have good quality in the small parts. I go middle of the road on the reg as it is a pretty simple minded thing and even the cheapest will regulate the pressure. I like the Clippard solenoid for many reasons and like the middle of the road value of Fabco needle valves to combine them with Dwyer flowmeters for a far better way to monitor the flow.
Many will think of splitting the flow as something to use a manifold but when looking at a manifold, they can be as simple as adding a tee into the existing line. Anything that adds more outlets may be considered a manifold, so design it for what you want, not what is ready on the shelf.
I have used regs in several different ways at work and I do not recommend a used reg that is living outside! They get abused dailly and that makes those used by folks like lab workers, nurses, etc. a much safer bet. Go for the pretty shiny ones that are not beat up every day! They don't get frozen, flooded, or left in the heat to fry that little rubbery diaphragm inside!
While we can actually trim some expense by doing the study and careful shopping, it is really hard to beat the price and ease of buying the small parts from this :
https://www.diyco2regulator.com/co2-...body-kit-1-12v
Looking at the costs involved, I find it falls this way:
Excellent solenoid if combined with a salvage 12v power supply that you might have in a scrap box? We might buy it off the auction site for $15 but that is after we spend a good amount of time to sort out the model numbering and if we choose the correct one from dozens of options.
Set on a manifold that sells for around $25 and I only find through distributors.
Good middle of the road needle valve and we might buy it for $40 or so.
Small brass parts might be found cheaper but takes a bit of study as well as running here and there to find and fit the correct ones.
So once we add in numerous shipping charges due to none of them found at the same place, distributor markup, etc. we can really lose a lot of time and value to save a bit. Money can be valuable but sanity has a price as well?
Simple to do the work if one has a bit of mechanical in them but the decisions and shopping can kill you!
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post #6 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-07-2018, 04:32 AM Thread Starter
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Great information! Thank You all! It is obvious that this is where I need to be while I take the plunge into high tech planted aquariums.
I am currently shopping diyco2regulator for my post body components. I see the point of shopping one source (for as many parts as I can) to reduce shipping and time involved shopping. I do have to be cost conscious, but I don't want to cut corners in the wrong places. I was leaning towards getting the post body kit #1 (which would save me $30 using the cheaper solenoid instead of the Clippard) as I wanted to focus a bit more on the needle valve and less on the solenoid.
Precise flow control and little or no drift seem to be very important from what I have read here. As I see it, the solenoid is simply an on-off valve. Like all solenoids, they can be prone to sticking or, in this case, possibly leaking if the plunger creating the seal in the manifold either deteriorates from the co2 or simply does not seat well in the first place. Overheating or other issues including complete failure of the coil could be catastrophic as well. How often does something like this happen? After really looking into the Clippard it seems to be an extremely well designed solenoid. Still on the fence about it, but as I write this I am talking myself into spending the extra money.
@PlantedRich, you said "I like the Clippard solenoid for many reasons". Could you elaborate on those reasons? $30 difference does not seem like much for some people. But, it is something I have to consider. On the other hand, I become very fond of my fish. I feel like it is my responsibility to provide a safe, healthy, and happy environment for them. If I were to lose fish because I did not want to spend an extra $30 I would really feel like crap.
You also said that you go with a middle of the road regulator. You also say that the cheapest will regulate pressure. How cheap are we talking about? I wanted to use a dual stage regulator so that I could avoid the dreaded "end of tank dump". This is why I was considering a used welding regulator in the first place. So I could have the peace of mind that I would not get a dump while not breaking the budget. As you made very clear, used welding regulators can go through a lot of abuse so I am also considering getting a rebuild kit and completely overhauling it. In the end I would get a completely rebuilt two stage regulator for around $120 to $150. I am not at all afraid of the complexity of a rebuild. I am very handy and I feel it would not be a problem at all considering my skill set.
I don't know a whole lot about CO2 except that it is in liquid form in compressed state and logic would dictate that the pressure would remain high until the liquid is depleted. If I knew that the pressure would reduce over a long period of time then I would be more comfortable using a single stage regulator. You all have much more experience with it than I do. Does the tank pressure drop off gradually (making it easy to judge where I am on remaining co2), or does it kind of drop off a ledge when the liquid co2 is depleted? I cannot guarantee that I would be able to check tank pressure every day and if I have to go out of town for work for a few days I might miss the drop off and come home to a tank full of dead fish and stressed or dead plants. If pressure drops of gradually, I would feel much better about going cheap on the regulator. My wallet would feel better as well.
If it is easier to post up a link to other threads that provide the information I am looking for, I will be more than happy to follow those threads to get the information I need. Direct responses are welcome as well. I love learning and I am welcome to as much input as I can get.
I have so many more questions, but I feel it might be better for me to search other threads rather than cloud up this one which should be focused on the actual building of the co2 system.
Thank you all again for the wonderful feedback and the expansion of my knowledge of planted aquariums.
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post #7 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-07-2018, 04:47 AM Thread Starter
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@PlantedRich I forgot to mention this, but the flow meter idea is very interesting to me. I was kind of stuck on going with a bubble counter because almost all complete Co2 setups have them. I was looking into dwyer flow meters as you suggested and they seem very economical. However, there is a wide variety of flow rates to choose from. For this particular build, I have a 54 gallon tank that will have high tech plants and lighting. What kind of flow range should I be looking for when purchasing a flow meter?
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post #8 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-07-2018, 04:50 AM
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See this:
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/9...dations-2.html

"A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure."
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post #9 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-07-2018, 01:19 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by jeffkrol View Post
Perfect. Thank you very much jeffkrol.
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post #10 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-07-2018, 04:17 PM
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Start at the CO2 tank? The pressure on compressed gas makes the gauge work different than car gas gauges. The pressure on the gauge will stay nearly the same at around 800PSI as that is what is required to keep CO2 gas in liquid form but will go up/down slightly if cooled or warmed. But once all the liquid turns to gas as we get near empty, the pressure we see will gradually move lower. So the gauge is not much help to say we are 1/2 full or 1/4 full but does give us an indication when it begins to go down every day but how much warning we get between beginning to go down and flat empty will depend on how quick we are using it and how large the CO2 tank. Large tanks using little CO2 will get much longer like a couple weeks but a person using lots more CO2 and a small CO2 tank may only get a day or so. The major hiccup is if we leave a leak so that the tank goes from good to empty nearly overnight. That situation can certainly make a dual stage a good investment as they do hold the output steady, No EOTD which is possible with some single stage.
Do overs, I might go for looking for a used dual stage that has been used in lab of hospital work as that would avoid the rebuild time/expense and they are out there at reasonable cost, but takes some looking to find the good ones.
Most times, the smallest output reading flowmeters will be the ones we want as we tend to use almost no CO2 compared to most industrial or greenhouse users. I found it took some testing to decide what fit for me. I was already using CO2, so stuck the output end up into a graduated test tube and timed what I was using but then I had to go to online calculators to convert things like CC per minute to cubic feet per hour, etc. Start with looking at the very lowest flow as it is likely to be the right one. No firm answer as every tank will use a different amount of CO2. But general very low use.
Familiar with the reed valves used on small engines? The Clippard mouse series uses something they call a "spider" which looks something like a reed valve which is just a flap to open/close. That leaves me liking them because there is very little to move or stick. They are rated in the millions of cycles for automation so we should never be able to wear one out! The coil overheating is pretty much involved with sticking parts more than burning coils. Heat tends to dry any lube and a tiny amount of swelling/distorting can make a solenoid with moving parts stick as it has to be a precise clearance to hold the gas.
So much depends on how we are setup at our house! A tools guy can find things like fittings at the local hardware, buy a solenoid off the auction site for cheaper and screw it together, but then it also takes study to know exactly which solenoid to buy and we can kill the savings if we buy the wrong one!!
I'm a tools guy who wound up owning an operation that could make me lots more money but I still like screwing things up, so still do lots of the small stuff.
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post #11 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-07-2018, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by AguaScape View Post
The title may be deceptive. I (in no way) plan to actually build a regulator. What I would like to do is to buy a used 2-stage welding regulator and connect it to high quality solenoid, needle valve, and bubble counter. I would also like the option of attaching multiple needle valve/bubble counter combos on it later for other tanks. The regulators I am looking at are Meco, Harris, and Victor brands. Looking to hear from anyone who has actually used this kind of setup and any advice they could give me. I would also like any feedback I could get on pros and cons of using such a setup.


Why not just buy a purpose-built regulator?


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post #12 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-07-2018, 08:57 PM Thread Starter
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Why not just buy a purpose-built regulator?


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Because I can choose the quality of each component, and a purpose built regulator of the quality level I am shooting for is obscenely expensive. Also, there is a huge level of satisfaction for me when I build something with my own hands.

I may come across as a know-it-all. In reality, I have no idea.
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post #13 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-08-2018, 03:59 AM Thread Starter
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Start at the CO2 tank? The pressure on compressed gas makes the gauge work different than car gas gauges. The pressure on the gauge will stay nearly the same at around 800PSI as that is what is required to keep CO2 gas in liquid form but will go up/down slightly if cooled or warmed. But once all the liquid turns to gas as we get near empty, the pressure we see will gradually move lower. So the gauge is not much help to say we are 1/2 full or 1/4 full but does give us an indication when it begins to go down every day but how much warning we get between beginning to go down and flat empty will depend on how quick we are using it and how large the CO2 tank. Large tanks using little CO2 will get much longer like a couple weeks but a person using lots more CO2 and a small CO2 tank may only get a day or so. The major hiccup is if we leave a leak so that the tank goes from good to empty nearly overnight. That situation can certainly make a dual stage a good investment as they do hold the output steady, No EOTD which is possible with some single stage.
Do overs, I might go for looking for a used dual stage that has been used in lab of hospital work as that would avoid the rebuild time/expense and they are out there at reasonable cost, but takes some looking to find the good ones.
Most times, the smallest output reading flowmeters will be the ones we want as we tend to use almost no CO2 compared to most industrial or greenhouse users. I found it took some testing to decide what fit for me. I was already using CO2, so stuck the output end up into a graduated test tube and timed what I was using but then I had to go to online calculators to convert things like CC per minute to cubic feet per hour, etc. Start with looking at the very lowest flow as it is likely to be the right one. No firm answer as every tank will use a different amount of CO2. But general very low use.
Familiar with the reed valves used on small engines? The Clippard mouse series uses something they call a "spider" which looks something like a reed valve which is just a flap to open/close. That leaves me liking them because there is very little to move or stick. They are rated in the millions of cycles for automation so we should never be able to wear one out! The coil overheating is pretty much involved with sticking parts more than burning coils. Heat tends to dry any lube and a tiny amount of swelling/distorting can make a solenoid with moving parts stick as it has to be a precise clearance to hold the gas.
So much depends on how we are setup at our house! A tools guy can find things like fittings at the local hardware, buy a solenoid off the auction site for cheaper and screw it together, but then it also takes study to know exactly which solenoid to buy and we can kill the savings if we buy the wrong one!!
I'm a tools guy who wound up owning an operation that could make me lots more money but I still like screwing things up, so still do lots of the small stuff.
Thank You for the very informative response. I feel much more comfortable with running a single stage regulator since I will be using a 5-10 pound bottle and I expect my flow rate to be rather low. Most of my experience with CO2 is in playing paintball which has much smaller tanks and much higher rate of use which uses the remaining gas (after the liquid is depleted) much faster. I am very familiar with the "machine gun effect" when a paintball tank runs low which I attribute to an EOTD. This may be more affected by the inability of the marker being able to fully re-cock due to the lower pressure. I am not sure.

Re: the Clippard solenoid. I am sold! I assume you are talking about the DV-2M-12. The other regulators sold on diyco2regulator.com are also Clippard, but they do not post them as such. You should get a commission from Clippard, diyco2regulator.com, or both.

For my flow meter (as recommended by a previous response) [I can't give credit where credit is due because I cannot scroll back while posting], I was thinking the RMA-151 as it has the lowest flow rate that I can find (5-50 cc/min). Unless someone can talk me into using the RMA-150 which measures 10-100 cc/min. I know bubble counters can vary from model to model due to the diameter of the orifice (nipple? not sure of the correct term), but most people seem to run between 2-10 BPS (bubbles per second) in similar sized aquariums. aquaristikshop.com claims the Dennerle bubble counter has a volume of .063 ml per bubble. ml and cc equate 1:1. So, at one bubble per second .063cc x 60 seconds/min = 3.78cc/min. To be over 50 cc/min I would have to run the Dennerle bubble counter at 13 bps. Looks like I answered my own question.

According to my math, the RMA-151 at a range of 5-50 cc/minute equates to ~2-13 bubbles per second and the RMA-150 at 10-100 cc/min would equate to ~4-26 bps. If anyone thinks I could possibly need more than 13 bps then please let me know! Additionally, if any of my math is off, please correct me!

I am also a "tools guy" and I look forward to posting a journal of my build to show off my skills and hopefully provide some help to anyone else who has a DIY state of mind. I have been taking photographs of my preliminary steps with that goal in mind.

Bump: The "credit due" note in my previous post goes to @guy4123 for posting recommendations for flow meter choices and to @jeffkrol for directing me to that thread in the first place. Thank you both.

Last edited by AguaScape; 11-08-2018 at 05:43 AM. Reason: Paintball reference
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post #14 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-08-2018, 05:07 AM Thread Starter
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DIY CO2 Regulator

You have to admit that my original post titled "DIY CO2 Regulator" has an uncanny resemblance to www.diyco2regulator.com This was entirely unintentional and quite coincidental. It strikes me as ironic that I will be sourcing most of my parts from the site that shares my title.

Last edited by AguaScape; 11-08-2018 at 05:21 AM. Reason: Typo
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post #15 of 194 (permalink) Old 11-08-2018, 02:20 PM
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The major difference in the Clippard DV and the solenoid that might be seen on the sales site as being yellow is the color, one silver and one that can be found in a number of colors like yellow, blue or green.
I've not looked into the model numbering on the DV but might run through some info on the "yellow hat" type?
They all start model numbers with E (electronic?) and the second letter tells the connection type. C for connector or plug, V for small wires brought out. Kind of thin/fragile wires for me. T is my fav as it provides terminals ot tabs brought out to solder to.
ET-2 will give and in and out port/opening while dash 3 gives in, out, and an exhaust which is not what we want as it lets gas escape. But to make it confusing, there are ETO-3 which is the exhaust (fully ported?) which is brought out as a stud on the top which we can stopper with a 10-32 size screw and they are good! So if looking at used that look like a salt shaker on top, no good but if they have a metal stud on top, maybe good so shop carefully? Last number tells what voltage with 6,12, 15, 18,24 being pretty common. The power supply voltage used has to match this voltage but since they use such a tiny amount of power, almost all supplies will be large enough and more (amps, milliamps, watts?) is not a problem.
If you want to use solid piping, models with an M will need the manifold to set on and provide the ports for 1/8 pipes. EV-2M-12, perhaps?
So that leaves a possibility that one can find the correct solenoid on some online site at a cheaper price and then source the small parts locally- -but that does take some small knowledge and time to pick and choose the right combo of parts.

Last edited by PlantedRich; 11-08-2018 at 02:23 PM. Reason: add manifold
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