Help a noob w/ Pres Co2 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-05-2005, 05:02 AM Thread Starter
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Help a noob w/ Pres Co2

After doing lots of research Ive decided to go pressurized Co2.

what I know so far...[feel free to correct/edit/add]
1. I'll need a 5lb co2 bottle that I can get @ any welding shop
2. I need a dual guage regulator; regulator to adjust the flow of co2; 1 guage to monitor how full my co2 bottle is and the other to monitor and adjust the amount of co2 coming out.
3. I need a bubble counter to more accurately measure the amount of Co2 going in.
4. Check Valve: eliminate back flow
5. Reactor [still researching, but this thread is more about the pres co2 setup]
6. silicon hosing [size]?

my questions...
1. Are there any features to regulators I need to look for?size of valve, stuff like that?
2. Will a regular regulator like this work for what I need it to do? Because Ive see needle valve adjustors(?) on specialized aquarium co2 systems.
3. When I get my CO2 going will I have to regularly adjust the pressure coming out as the CO2 bottle emptys?
4. I am mainly confused about the size of all the valves hose etc and how they will all fit together.

if you've made it this far thanks for reading, feel free to correct any info that I might be confused about. Thanks
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-05-2005, 01:34 PM
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One note on item 6 - I would recommend going with HDPE (High Density Polyethylene - or any Polyethylene) tubing from Home Depot rather than silicone. It allows far less CO2 gas to permeate the tube walls than Silicone. Only downside that I could see is that it is somewhat rigid and not quite as flexible as Si.

Answers to your questions:
1) As long as the regulator is designed for a CO2 cylinder, it should mate perfectly. A definite feature to look for is a low pressure blow-off valve. The economy double gauge regulator on the site you listed will work fine. It lists the following feature: "The safety relief valve releases at 51-53 PSI."
The reason for the safety relief valve is because the regulator is only capable of accurately regulating pressure at certain minimum pressures. Once pressure drops below a certain level (when the tank is near empty), the regulator might just dump the remaining pressure through itself (and overkill your tank with CO2). The blow off valve releases the remaining pressure to the atmosphere.
2) The regulator you listed will work great. I've been using it for years. You will also need a needle valve, like you said, to have a finer control over delivery rate.
3) Once you get the CO2 going, it may take a few weeks to get the right delivery rate going. CO2 levels will be highest in the morning because the plants do not utilize as much CO2 at night so they will accumulate. Consequently, CO2 levels are at their lowest in the evening, after a long hard day of growing. You have to monitor pH levels in the morning and night for a while to make sure they are within the desired range.
Once it is set, though, you should not need to adjust it any more unless the system is altered in some way.
4) The fittings can be challenging, unless you buy a neat, pre-packaged setup from an aquarium supplier. If you really need to save a few bucks - do the research and source all the components yourself. If you find that the CO2 packages from one of our sponsors are reasonable - then you will save yourself some frustration.
Basically, the output of the regulator will generally have a 1/4" pipe thread fitting on the outlet. Some regulators (like the one on the link you posted) have a shut off valve installed with a 5/16" barbed hose fitting (generally used in the beverage industrty). I usually remove that valve and install a 1/4" pipe thread adapter to mate to the needle valve for a tight seal.
From the needle valve, you will usually use 1/8" ID tubing. The HDPE tubing at Home Depot is 0.040" wall thick tubing with a 0.250" OD so the ID will end up slightly larger at 0.170". I haven't had any trouble keeping a seal on a 1/8" barb, though.

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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-05-2005, 06:54 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info,
I have another quesiton now: do you recommend the use of a solenoid? Can I buy those separately and if so where?

thats for regulating whether the co2 injection is on or not right thus allowing you to turn it off at night since plants only utilize it during the day. If I do end up using a solenoid wont it fluctuate my pH from night to day?
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-05-2005, 07:00 PM
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The only way I recommend going with a solenoid is if you also buy a pH controller. Turning the CO2 off at night will cause a larger pH swing than leaving it on all day.

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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-05-2005, 08:25 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
The regulator you listed will work great. I've been using it for years. You will also need a needle valve, like you said, to have a finer control over delivery rate.
so you have the exact same regulator that I linked to?
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-05-2005, 08:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wei
so you have the exact same regulator that I linked to?
Yep, bought it from beveragefactory.com about three years ago.
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-06-2005, 02:11 AM
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IMHO you are much better off buying one of the all-in-one units sold by the sponsors of this site.

A needle valve with adapter is going to run you $18 + shipping.

A solenoid is going to run $20-$30.

You will need to build a bubble counter.

The all-in-one units solve all these problems.
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-07-2005, 02:46 PM
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For anybody that is currently running a pressurized system:

What would the advantage be to using a solenoid?
Do you turn off the C02 at night, or is it regulated with a Milwaukee SMS122 pH controller?
How do you compensate for any PH changes?
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-07-2005, 03:04 PM
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I have the Milwaukee all-in-one regulator and run CO2 24/7. My fish are not gasping in the morning before the light come on so I don't bother with an air pump.

If you have a pH controler it will plug into the solenoid and will open/close the solenoid as programmed.

Last edited by Clone; 01-07-2005 at 08:31 PM.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-07-2005, 03:35 PM
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I believe there are two primary reasons a Solenoid/pH controller become highly recommended:
1) You have soft water whose weak buffering capability makes it sucpetible to large and rapid pH swings.
2) You have particularly delicate fish who are intolerante of pH swings (i.e. Discus).

I've been keeping a few somewhat delicate species (Rams, Angels, Clown Loaches) in a pressurized CO2 environment without a pH controller and only once did I notice them gasping at the surface, and that is while I was initially experimenting with bubble rates and went a bit too high. I backed it down and it has worked fine for years ever since.

If you have the room in your budget - go for it. It sure is nice. But I don't think it is absolutely necessary. Most hobbyists go without it and work out just fine.

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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-07-2005, 03:42 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GulfCoastAquarian
If you have the room in your budget - go for it. It sure is nice. But I don't think it is absolutely necessary. Most hobbyists go without it and work out just fine.
if I go without a pH regulated solenoid, should I still turn off co2 at night?
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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-07-2005, 04:16 PM
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I don't think anyone would recommend using a solenoid without a pH controller. Leave it on 24/7. The only way a non-controlled solenoid would work is if you experimented with leaving it off for a few hours at night. You would have to experiment with the duration of the off period to try to prevent the pH from dropping excessively. I think it just adds to the complexity and is not worth the trouble. The problem is that when the CO2 turns off, pH will drop much more rapidly than it would rise if you left it on 24/7. The rise is gradual, and over the entire night.

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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-07-2005, 05:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GulfCoastAquarian
The problem is that when the CO2 turns off, pH will drop much more rapidly than it would rise if you left it on 24/7. The rise is gradual, and over the entire night.

I'm confused. How does the pH drop if CO2 is turned off. I turn my solenoid off with my lights and get a slight increase in pH overnight. When the lights and CO2 come back on in the morning, the pH goes down a bit.
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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-07-2005, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
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my LFS guy suggested rigging the solenoid with the timer for the lights. So co2 would stop when lights were off. He has a pretty night looking tank with tetras and barbs in it with the same setup. After reading some more about co2 and pH I think that it totally a bad idea, right? The guy said his fish have been doing fine and no deaths.
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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-07-2005, 07:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigfishy
I'm confused. How does the pH drop if CO2 is turned off. I turn my solenoid off with my lights and get a slight increase in pH overnight. When the lights and CO2 come back on in the morning, the pH goes down a bit.
Ack, I got it backwards. The pH will climb when the CO2 is turned off. I suppose another factor is just how much your pH diverges from your tap water. My tap has a pH of 8.0 and with the CO2, I keep it around 7.0. I doubt it will go all the way back to 8.0 in one night, but that is a pretty big swing so I just leave it on and it doesn't swing any more than 0.2 between morning and night.

In reality, you can make any one of the three setups to work. 24/7, on a timer/solenoid, or pH controller.

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