Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
Partobe, I hear ya buddy. It can be frustrating. Many times I've temporarily quit the hobby. Or let tanks go without any maintenance except what's needed to keep the fish alive, letting the plants suffer and algae grow freely. It may be months before I get my head straight and am willing to give it another try. Then I come back with a vengeance, find answers, and solve the problem.
But I've been especially unlucky with pressurized CO2. Tubing popping off barbs. Hard connections that just won't seal, or that initially seal but leak later. Failed solenoids, check valves, and needle valves, even when using top quality parts. Two tank dumps due to leaks draining a 20lb. cylinder much faster than expected. The best runtime I've ever gotten out of it is a pitiful three months. I've NEVER achieved a reliable and leak-free system, something always goes wrong no matter what I do. And have probably spent $600 on trying to put pressurized CO2 on a single aquarium, only to have 90lbs. of CO2 leak out into my room; with only 10lbs. ever making it into the aquarium.
I don't mean to discourage anyone or suggest that pressurized CO2 is impossible. But at least for me, I finally said I've had enough, no more.
Instead, I've been working on making DIY work better, and what I suppose one might call "medium-tech". Simply put, you don't need 30ppm CO2 to grow plants or prevent algae. Even 5ppm will cause plants to grow a bit faster, but more importantly, far healthier than if they had no supplemental CO2 at all (or just Excel). Or go for 15ppm if you want faster growth. Or anywhere in between. You can put a single 1G DIY bottle on a larger tanks than are considered impractical for DIY, with medium light, go 2-3 weeks between changing the DIY bottle, and get great results.
DIY fluctuations? No problem. Running a single bottle DIY at these medium CO2 levels, I can let it fluctuate enough that I actually see plant growth visibly rise and fall a bit with the CO2 level. Yet no algae appears unless I let it fluctuate further still. Mix a new single bottle with more yeast providing 30ppm, and much smaller fluctuations trigger algae. I've gone back and forth with this, multiple times on multiple tanks, and it's always the same result - the higher the CO2 level is, the more sensitive the tank is to fluctuations. Running at 30ppm (or higher) as typically suggested is actually more troublesome. Ain't that a stinker?
For almost a month, I've even been running my 46G at high light, with a single 1G DIY bottle, at 15ppm. Partially because folks say you can't, and I'm betting you can. Whereas medium CO2 levels work great with medium light, I'm finding doing the same with high light is admittedly pushing it. But it is at least possible. My results have been improving as I tweak various things (other than light and CO2) and I'm going to keep it this way for at least a few months.
Now this has at least partially been a rant. But seriously, "medium tech" doesn't get much consideration. People tend to start at one extreme or the other. Then often get frustrated and switch to the opposite extreme. [Partobe], you appear to be doing this now in going from high to low tech. You might give a "medium tech" tank a try. The more I experiment with them, the happier I've been.