Cat-Proofing DIY CO2 - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-29-2006, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
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Cat-Proofing DIY CO2

I tried DIY CO2 several months ago and my cats got into the system twice, once chewing up the lines and once knocking the bottles over. (The saga is detailed here - https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/ge...darn-cats.html.)

I had despaired of using CO2 in my 29 gallon tank since two of my three cats are extremely persistent about things like this, but other folks' success with cat-proofing and an algae outbreak after upping my lighting have inspired me to give DIY CO2 another whirl. I went to Home Depot today and got:

10' of 5/8" outside diameter vinyl braided tubing (clear tubing with a vinyl mesh-like braid imbedded in it -- very tough, thick and seemingly cat-proof)
Velcro tie-down straps

And my plan is to run two DIY 2L bottles for my 29 gallon tank, using a T-connector to connect the two bottles to the main line that will run into the tank, where I'll do a DIY bell diffuser, which worked great for me in the past in terms of CO2 content in the water.

The plan:

(1) Drill the caps for the bottles, and run a short piece of airline from each bottle to the T-connector, sealing the area where the line goes into the bottle cap with some aquarium silicone sealant to prevent leaks. Run each piece of line through a short length of the 5/8" vinyl braided tubing to the T connector.

(2) Run a line from the T-connector up to the top of the tank, running the line through more of the 5/8" vinyl braided tubing.

(3) Place a check valve where the line emerges from the vinyl tubing and run another piece of line (black) into the tank and to the CO2 bell at the bottom (made from a cut-off soda bottle and affixed with airline-holder suction cups to the bottom corner of the tank.

(4) Change one bottle per week to keep steady CO2 flow.

(5) Wrap velcro straps around each bottle and attach straps somehow or other to the outside of the aquarium stand. Each strap is 15" long and 1/4" wide and goes around the bottle and attaches to itself with an inch or two to spare. I'm thinking 2 straps per bottle, but I'm not sure how to attach the straps to something that will hold them upright and impervious to cats. The guy at Home Depot suggested putting a screw through each strap into the tank stand, but I'm wondering if there's a better option?

(6) Spray the entire outside-the-tank assembly with non-toxic bitter apple spray to discourage adventurous chewers as a second layer of feline deterrant.

What do you think -- good plan? Bad plan? Improvable plan?

And with this sort of setup, would you run an airstone at night? I have very hard water with a high GH and KH and usually a PH of over 7, but it fluctuates a bit. (I'll check the readings and post an update.) And I'll do a search for everyone's favorite DIY sugar/yeast mixes for 2L bottles.

Thanks for any feedback on the plan. I'm hoping this will eliminate my algae, prevent any cat-induced problems with the CO2 system, and allow me (and the cats, who really do love to watch the fish!) to enjoy the tank without stress.

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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-29-2006, 07:10 PM Thread Starter
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DIY CO2 -- Water Parameters

I just ran the tests on my tank water:

Ammonia -- 0
Nitrite -- 0
Nitrate -- varies, but I do water changes to keep it around 10 & under 20
PH -- 8.0
GH -- 18 or 19
KH -- 11

So with those parameters in a 29 gallon tank, is there anything I should be doing in particular in terms of the DIY CO2? I'm guessing the liquid rock I have for water will protect against PH crashes? Would you run an airstone anyway? One 2 L bottle or two? (I had planned to start one bottle, then add a 2nd bottle at the 1-week mark and then continue to replace each bottle every 2 weeks so there will be a dying-out bottle and a fresh bottle every weekend.) Thanks for any tips! I'm hoping my DIY venture will be a success this time.

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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-29-2006, 08:37 PM
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Kathy, couple of thoughts...

I wouldn't worry about pH crashes. I would worry about getting enough CO2 into the water. That includes efficient dissolving and distributing (doesn't sound like the "bell" will help a lot in that aspect). Choosing two 3l bottles rather than 2l might be a good idea.

I never run airstones, but it depends how overstocked your tank is. With hard water, running air stones lead to horrible lime deposits on cover glasses.

Regarding the cats, a stand with locking doors might be the best solution?! Otherwise, screwing the velcros to the stand sounds like a good solution. Or consider placing the bottles in some sort of enclosure (bucket?).


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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-29-2006, 08:42 PM
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dont worry your ph gh and kh are high so i dont see a crash problem
I run 2 hagen systems (i call em diy co2 same thing just a pre-made smaller bottle) on my 12 gallen I do the best i can to keep em at a bubble a second but its hard to keep the count high for long on diy. anyway i have no probem running 2 to you should be fine .

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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-29-2006, 08:53 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, wasserpest. My stand has a shelf built into the middle of it so it isn't tall enough underneath to hold a 2L bottle inside the stand. That would have been my first choice, too.

Putting the bottles into a reasonably snug bucket or box might work well, though -- hadn't thought of that. I could also try putting the bottles in a cardboard box and running the straps through slots cut in the box to provide added "cat insurance" on the possibility of tip-overs. Maybe I'll try that before putting screws into the stand.

When I ran two 2L bottles with the DIY CO2 feeding into a bell before, I was getting pretty dramatic drops in PH indicating good levels of dissolved CO2. Using the PH/KH calculator, I was seeing 30+ ppm of CO2. Maybe I was reading the results incorrectly (seems high to me, but I think I was pretty careful about my PH and KH readings) and I was getting good results in terms of the plants before my cats trashed the original system. I posted about the results I was getting here: https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/di...-question.html

So my plan is to try the bell again and if it doesn't work well, I'll think about a ladder, reactor, or other options. What would you suggest as the "next step" if the bell isn't sufficient?

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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-29-2006, 11:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uncskainch
So my plan is to try the bell again and if it doesn't work well, I'll think about a ladder, reactor, or other options. What would you suggest as the "next step" if the bell isn't sufficient?
If you did get good results with your method then you should stick with it.

If there is doubt in your mind, here are the next steps...

Ladder is good if there is enough current in the tank to distribute the CO2-rich water. And if you place it close to a filter outlet. Problem is distribution through a larger tank (larger than 10 gal). Also, it's somewhat of an eyesore. If you hide it too well, it's hard to see if it is working, plus plants tend to grow into it and stop the bubbles.

A power(head) reactor is an even bigger eyesore, but it dissolves CO2 very well, and mixes it throughout the tank.

Depending on the kind of filter you are using, there are a few possibilities. You can bubble it into the inlet of HOB filters, and some canister filters. Some canisters don't like that and airlock after a while.

Or use an external inline reactor, which keeps it out of the tank, just need to be careful with backpressure, which makes this better suitable for high pressure CO2.

Here is one thing that has been working very well for me in a 36 gal tank: I use a powerhead in the back corner sitting basically on the substrate. The inlet is covered with a sponge (does mech. filtration). CO2 bubbles into the impeller, and is smashed into very fine bubbles/mist and sprayed across the substrate towards the front of the tank. As the bubbles raise to the surface, the CO2 dissolves into the water. There is a hardly audible noise when the bubble gets smashed in the impeller, feedback for you... so you know it's working, and if there is no noise, something is wrong.


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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-29-2006, 11:30 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks dschmeh for the reassurance about the KH/GH/PH protecting me from problematic PH swings.

Thanks again, Wasserpest, for the good information. The only reasons I have a doubt in my mind about my previous results are:

(a) I only ran that DIY bell system for a couple of weeks before the cats killed it, so I don't have a lengthy period of time during which tested the PH and KH and measured results. Lots of data always gives me more confidence than a little bit of data, so even though I think I was measuring 30+ ppm, I didn't gather enough water test data to give me full confidence in that result. Also, the 2 weeks or so that I was running the system only gave me a very brief glimpse at what the CO2 was doing for my plants.

and

(b) Everything I've read seems to suggest that highly unlikely to get that kind of CO2 with DIY and a diffusion bell.

So in the interest of science, if nothing else, I'll give the bell another whirl and hope that the cat-proofing is successful. Maybe this time I'll have plenty of time to record test results and figure out just how much CO2 I might be getting into that water! I'll keep you posted...

And if it turns out that this isn't working out all that well, your powerhead solution sounds effective, attractive and easy enough to me! Can you post a picture of your setup? (Or have you elsewhere on the forum?)

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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-30-2006, 04:00 PM
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I don't have a really good picture in action, since it is hidden very well

But I wrote a little bit more about it in my 36 gal corner tank thread, and there are some pictures too.


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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-31-2006, 12:38 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks, Wasserpest -- I checked out your 36 gallon bowfront tank thread. Great information and great photos. (I do a fair bit of macrophotography myself, although my algae outbreak of late means that my entries in the photo contest aren't particularly good, but I figured I'd join in the fun anyway!)

I'm going to get the bottlecaps drilled and ready to roll tomorrow or Saturday morning and start the CO2 up by the beginning of next week. I double-checked that I have all the tubing, suction cups, t-connectors, bottles, etc. that I need this afternoon.

I found a box that fits between the tank stand and the filing cabinet next to the tank with only a couple of inches to spare. I cut circular holes in the top of it to hold the 2L bottles snugly and the bottles only have a couple of inches sticking out of the holes at the top of the box. This should make them very hard (I won't jinx it by saying impossible) to tip over.

Hopefully the cat-proofing will work!

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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-02-2006, 12:56 PM Thread Starter
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Everything's Set Up

I set up the CO2 system yesterday and, by this morning, the PH had dropped from 8.0 to 7.0 or 7.1 in my 29 gallon tank. My KH is 11, so I'm pretty sure that's getting me a CO2 reading of 27-30 ppm, which is just what I was shooting for. I'll keep checking both the KH and the PH over a few days to see if this seems to be consistent, but if these readings prove accurate and stay consistent over time, I'll be thrilled. So far, no trouble from the cats, either.

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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-02-2006, 04:06 PM
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That's a pretty amazing drop!

Congrats, and good luck for your cat-proofed system.

Eventually, what counts is how your plants grow, and algae disappears.


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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-02-2006, 04:08 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, Wasserpest. I'll remain skeptical of the PH drop until I test a few more times, but it seems promising so far.

Another newby-to-DIY-CO2 questions -- how long does it typically take, after starting CO2 (assuming adequate CO2 levels), to notice a difference in terms of algae, plant growth, etc.? A few days? A few weeks? A few months? Just curious as to when I can expect to start seeing a difference.

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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-02-2006, 04:43 PM
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Plant growth (bigger leaves, greener leaves, faster growth, pearling) can be observed within a couple of days!

Takes longer to notice reduced algae growth, that's where the patience part comes in! It all depends of course, but take a picture now and one after four weeks of good CO2 and you will notice a difference.


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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-02-2006, 04:53 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks -- I'll be in the lookout for changes in a couple of days, then. I just rechecked my KH and it's still 11 and my PH is still between 7.0 and 7.1, so based onthe PH/KH calculators for CO2, I should be in pretty good shape.

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