A Disaster Story - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-13-2019, 09:35 PM Thread Starter
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Unhappy A Disaster Story

On Sunday, my CO2 system seemed be be malfunctioning. I noticed no bubbles were coming out at the diffuser. The pressure on the second indicator of the regulator seemed low. Moreover the glass bubble counter integrated into the regulator had no water in it so I could not tell bbs. I lifted the tank and it was almost all full. I filled up the bubble counter and noticed it was leaking badly. Upon inspection, the o-ring had disintegrated. I decided time to order a new bubble counter. Meanwhile, I did not want to have CO2 swings, so I opened up the needle valve (also integrated into the regulator) to see whether I could increase the pressure at the diffuser to get some bubbles into the tank. It finally worked and I got a very small trickle come through. I left it at that and went to order a new bubble counter and a diffuser - just in case that was the problem.

Monday, I checked everything in the morning and evening. All is well. Tuesday I had to rush to work in the morning so I next checked the tank when I got back from work - I have an auto-feeder so I can skip my morning checks sometimes. The new diffuser and the bubble counter were waiting for me when I got home. I was eager to get the CO2 working reliably again since CO2 fluctuations can promote all sorts of bad things - plant growth issues, algae, etc. When I got to the tank, I noticed an Oto on the carpet. It was upside down and clearly dead. Otos are very sensitive to water parameters so I thought the CO2 fluctuations must be affecting the water quality somehow. At that point it occurred to me that there was a lot of uneaten food by the feeder. My 8 year old daughter who was there to help me said - "Dad, is that another sick fish?" One of my ember tetra's was at the edge of the carpet, also dead. Then I looked into the tank from the top. To my horror, a ton of dead fish was floating right by the intake. I looked around the tank and all my fish were dead - the plants were littered with dead bodies. I lifted the glass cover and a most foul smell came out. My daughter was very distraught - she kept on saying "dead fish look scary." My wife took her away. I started to explore what could have gone wrong. I checked the temperature: perfect. I opened the cabinet to get the test kit and when I moved the CO2 tank I started to figure out the culprit. The tank was empty. I took the regulator off and put it on my second tank - I always keep two so that when one runs out I don't have to rush out to get it filled. As soon as I opened the tank valve, CO2 came rushing out: sometime between Monday evening and Tuesday evening the needle valve had burst.

I lost 6 honey Gourami, 8 ember tetras, 8 rummy nose tetras, 2 peacock gobies, 6 panda cories and many amano shrimp. Many of these fish had been with me since I started with the hobby 3.5 years ago. The gourami were our family's favorite. They would often had paired up and moved around togehter, sometimes almost embracing. I was devastated. RIP fishes .

For the next day I thought I'd leave the hobby. Or maybe just keep a plant only tank. But the tank looks so empty: it is almost depressing to see it with no movement. So I think I'll go ahead and order a new regulator and also a PH monitor to shut off the CO2 regulator if something like this happens again - though I am not sure how effective that'd be. I am going to wait for a few weeks before I do anything though.

PS: One thing did survive the carnage: Pest snails (mini rams horn in this case - the ones that are 1/4" in diameter). Yep, not only did they survive, they are thriving - there was a ton of rotting meat for them for 24 hours. I really think if there is a nuclear war the only things to survive will be cockroaches and pest snails.
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-13-2019, 09:52 PM
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Sorry this happened to you. Thats just awful.
This would have been very devastating to me as well.
It is one of the biggest reasons I dont use Co2. I am very forgetful/ error prone and have much more money in my 180 gallon in fish than it would cost to equip a Co2 system. Well, Im sure there are systems that may cost more: but, few.

180 g. low tech w/ wild South American cichlids, corydoras eques, and African Congo riverine tetras.
60 g. low tech w/ F1 Alenquer pair /Stendker "Tefe" discus and wild Altum Angels
30 g. low tech w/ Wild Tucano tetras
30 g. low-tech African Biotope
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-13-2019, 11:36 PM
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I'm sorry for your loss.
It makes me think that pressurized CO2 systems come with a risk to livestock merely to promote faster/greater plant growth. I like plants, but I like fish more. I realize this is a planted tank forum, but I have plants to aid in purifying the water...for the fish...I don't have CO2.

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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-13-2019, 11:38 PM
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Yeah thats a real bummer to say the least.

When it comes to fluid systems it is always necessary to check/test everything. This is coming from an mechanical background. Small needle valves if/when they work they usually last a long time and do great. When they have issues it is usually failing in the worst way.

I stick to low tech to A) not have to deal with CO2 bottles and valves and controllers and increased fertilizers and........ B) because of cost. Primarily A. Ive gotten into alot of hobbies and most if not all tend to get to scientific/engineery like which brings me right back to work at home. For all those that do, great on you but in my case I try (key word try) to keep things simple.

I agree a tank without some little guys swimming around in there although still cool looking would just get a tad boring IMHO. I like watching the little guys, ecspecially the cory cats and CPDs. Good luck with getting back into it and dont give up but learn from issues/mistakes.
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-14-2019, 12:38 AM
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I am so sorry for your loss. I think we all have some darker stories, but I'm sure you can move forward with a good plan.

I recently bough a Neptune Systems Apex EL for automation and monitoring. As a freshwater accessory, it is probably overkill for my setup. However, as insurance, it is just one simple payment, plus the work to set it up. If I ever went CO2, I would do some sort of solenoid control based on pH and time. They are geared for saltwater, but they still have a lot of utility for a freshwater tank, especially if you have a complex setup with water top-off, sump, auto-water change, auto-dosing, etc.

Best wishes
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-14-2019, 09:02 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone. I am realizing that one of the nice things about a forum like this is that in addition to learning a lot, it is also a great place for getting support. Luckily, although I found it emotionally tough to loose the fish, I did not get a huge financial hit. They were all fish I had bought as a beginner and were quite inexpensive (my embers were $1 each). I think I would have been on the floor crying if I had lost a tank full of discuss or one of the heavily stocked marine tanks with rare fish and corals.

You also make a good point about automation. It is great for making life easier. But to use it, there has to be a lot of safety monitoring built in as well. I had always tried to be frugal by putting aside the monitoring. It looks like I was penny wise- pound foolish. Before I get more invested in a setup, I am going to start looking into monitoring systems. I’d love to have an Apex, but it seems incredibly expensive. I guess I have some researching ahead of me. If any of you have any suggestions, especially re CO2 and temp monitoring, I’d welcome your input and advice
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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-15-2019, 12:31 AM
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My only advice, buy quality parts even if its not auto controlled or whatever. Investing in good quality valves and o-rings is well worth the minor increased expense.
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-15-2019, 02:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sordbodan View Post
Thanks everyone. I am realizing that one of the nice things about a forum like this is that in addition to learning a lot, it is also a great place for getting support. Luckily, although I found it emotionally tough to loose the fish, I did not get a huge financial hit. They were all fish I had bought as a beginner and were quite inexpensive (my embers were $1 each). I think I would have been on the floor crying if I had lost a tank full of discuss or one of the heavily stocked marine tanks with rare fish and corals.

You also make a good point about automation. It is great for making life easier. But to use it, there has to be a lot of safety monitoring built in as well. I had always tried to be frugal by putting aside the monitoring. It looks like I was penny wise- pound foolish. Before I get more invested in a setup, I am going to start looking into monitoring systems. Id love to have an Apex, but it seems incredibly expensive. I guess I have some researching ahead of me. If any of you have any suggestions, especially re CO2 and temp monitoring, Id welcome your input and advice
If you're handy, take a look at reef-pi. I put together a pH probe to tune in CO2 for about $150. Adding a temperature probe probably won't add much to the cost.
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-15-2019, 02:53 AM
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Keep getting cheap fish...............

Think most people have killed fish on either equip. failure or errors in judgement..
I know I have..

Bad thing percentages do increase as costs decrease...(not including "luck" on evil bay).


Quote:
Meanwhile, I did not want to have CO2 swings
Once one identifies the problem and doesn't have spare parts and TIME handy.. best to just shut it down..
Once you start messing w/ the needle valve you best have time to monitor it for some time..
Preaching aside, I've done this many times.. Adj. the valve ..run to work.. and expecting disaster when I returned..
Fortunately TO DATE that has not happened..and you did the best due diligence at the time.

Needle valves generally do not burst but cheap ones are prone to drift..
It's a metal needle in a metal seat..w/ seals to prevent leaks outward,..

Secondly small leaks and stuck check valves will force one to open the needle wider than what would be good if the whole system was leakless or stuckless...
If it gets unstuck then more gas is injected than intended.

pH monitors are probably the best safety device one could get.
Prices vary from $100-$200

Will generally save you from any disasters other than 1)stuck solenoid 2)probe malfunction......

Only 100% safe CO2 injection is no CO2 injection...

some people believe that a CO2 monitor is good enough and any old regulator/metering parts will do..but again each part has a failure mode
Things to contemplate..
https://www.diyco2regulator.com/co2-...body-kit-1-12v
https://www.saltwateraquarium.com/mc...CABEgIj5PD_BwE
Aqualund Carbon Metering Valve

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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-17-2019, 03:56 PM
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Sordbodan,

If you are still having problems with the snails I would suggest your first fish or three to be a YoYo Loach. I had a big problem and picked up a couple assassin snails, they could not put a dent in the snail population. So I went and picked up three YoYo Loaches. Now they made a difference. At one time if I looked at my tank all I could see were snails... On the glass, on the sand, on the rocks and on the drift wood. Thousands of them it would seem. Three or four weeks later... I see a few snails here and there but for most parts, there are just a small group of them. The assassin snails were dropped into the sump and are quite happy there eating all the snails down there.


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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-19-2019, 12:25 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies. I am impressed with all the DIY capabilities people have on this forum. Thanks for all the links and input.

After looking at all of the DIY CO2 equipment I decided I am not ready to go that route - I just don’t have the comfort level.

After some research I found CO2Art pro SE which seems to get very good reviews, is dual stage to prevent end of tank dump and affordable at around $140. Does anyone have any experience with this? I’d like to pull the trigger shortly since my plants are already showing signs of distress from no CO2.

The reef pi is really interesting. I’d love to hear your experience. I was thinking of taking the same electronics sensors and using arduino instead of a raspberry pi as a controller. My raspberry pi experience is limited. Were you new to Raspberry pi and how challenging did you find the project. Either way, this will be something long term since I’ll have a huge learning curve. But it makes an Apex level system affordable.

Thanks for the snail eradication suggestion. The snails were there but hardly noticeable prior to the disaster. Afterwards, they have exploded in size and numbers. How big a tank would I need for a Yo-yo loach? Mine is a 40 gallon so I was told loaches would be too big. Also, do they eat the micro ram snails? They are only a 1/4” in diameter at their largest.
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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-19-2019, 02:39 AM
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I don't know the reef pi system, but as an IT guy who sometimes dabbles in tech projects at home, I decided I wanted a stable appliance, so I got the Apex.

However, if you are not burnt out from doing tech all day, it sounds like a really cool hobby project!

Cheers
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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-19-2019, 03:02 PM
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The reef-pi was good for my purposes, though the interface isn't nearly as polished as something like the Apex. I found some shortcomings in the documentation that I was using for setting up the pH probe circuit (the Adafruit articles). You have to short some pins on the pH chip to make it send data to the Raspberry Pi in the proper format (I think it's i2C mode). I have a decent amount of technical background, so I figured it out after a few hours. If you were considering working with Arduino, you should be fine figuring it out.
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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-19-2019, 03:31 PM
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Sorry for your loss. One thing I noticed in this forum is that almost EVERYONE wants to setup a high-tech tank...

My question is why??

We don't need CO2 to have a tank full of lush, green plants. CO2 was originally used by aquascapers to meet competition deadlines.

I see no reason why the average fish keeper would want such fast plant growth just to end up chucking out a bunch of plant trimmings once in a while...
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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-19-2019, 03:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by united natures View Post
Sorry for your loss. One thing I noticed in this forum is that almost EVERYONE wants to setup a high-tech tank...

My question is why??

We don't need CO2 to have a tank full of lush, green plants. CO2 was originally used by aquascapers to meet competition deadlines.

I see no reason why the average fish keeper would want such fast plant growth just to end up chucking out a bunch of plant trimmings once in a while...
Because, without CO2, more than half the tanks in the journals section would not exist. This is 2019! We've moved beyond lush green plants. We want fruit stand displays of plants! We collect rare specimens from the far corners of the earth where the natural CO2 content is much higher than "equilibrium." In general, most "colorful" non green plants need higher lighting to trigger their dazzling color displays. If you try to light a tank beyond the availability of CO2 and nutrients, you've got merely a recipe for algae. The average "fish" keeper may not want such fast plant growth, but we are plantedtank.net. We're not the average fishkeeper. We're.. plant keepers!

@Sordbodan, however I am sensitive to the loss so I do apologize for it as well! And even worse, that your daughter had to see it. So, I will end this post in a somber note

Just know too, that there can be a balance between the two. Perhaps this link, if you have not seen it, will help in future endeavours. The 2-stage regulator is a start and ph controllers are nice insurance, but beyond that, there's techniques to mitigate some of the risk as well:

Proper Gas Exchange

Good for both plants AND fish.

and also, hindsight, but in case you thought your plants can't survive without co2 for a day, from my experience, they actually can. So if you'd prefer to play it safe and turn the co2 off for whatever reason, that's fine too, just remember to turn the light off so as not to trigger the plants to try to consume co2 that's not available. I've done so before when I've had to refill my co2 tank throughout the day, and the plants did not seem any worse for wear.


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Last edited by ipkiss; 06-19-2019 at 04:19 PM. Reason: added mention and more paragraphs
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