C02 to do or not to do - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-11-2020, 01:14 AM Thread Starter
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C02 to do or not to do

So, now that I have researched like crazy and was ready to push the buy button, I started wondering if I really should! I only have 2 - 17 gallon tanks with easy plants. I started looking at C02 to maybe up my game even though everything is growing fairly well. I do get algae, but that is likely due to my needing to adjust my lighting and be more consistent on maintenance and ferts. I was doing more research and came across all the potential issues with fish health and too much C02, etc. etc. and one of my tanks has shrimp as well, which lead me to research all the liquid carbon articles. (too much time on my hands

So I wonder, how many people here really think the C02 was a good idea for them, or did they try it and go back to low tech?
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post #2 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-11-2020, 03:30 PM
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Adding co2 is probably the best thing you can do for your PLANTS. Submersed plants in aquariums are all co2-deprived to a certain extent. Adding co2 will make any plant grow better under any light it will also help with algae since the uptake of decomposition of waste is greater.

With that being said you should ask yourself do you have a FISH tank with some plants OR do you have a PLANTED tank with some fish. If your answer is the later then I would definitely go co2.


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post #3 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-11-2020, 06:32 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Asteroid View Post
Adding co2 is probably the best thing you can do for your PLANTS. Submersed plants in aquariums are all co2-deprived to a certain extent. Adding co2 will make any plant grow better under any light it will also help with algae since the uptake of decomposition of waste is greater.

With that being said you should ask yourself do you have a FISH tank with some plants OR do you have a PLANTED tank with some fish. If your answer is the later then I would definitely go co2.
Great thought! But, of course, I want it all! One comment on an aquarium site had was that you cannot have as many fish as you will deplete oxygen levels. I do like my Cory, and love watching them make babies, but I also tend to under stock to keep everyone happy. I make up my need for fish with some cool snails and shrimp! These are only 17 gallon tanks!

Then again, I am an avid gardener having previously done interior landscaping, so I do like my plants! As someone once said, "you must choose". Any other pros and cons?

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post #4 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-11-2020, 08:05 PM
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Pros: Plants grow in roughly a week what would have taken 6 in low tech. Any plants with reds or colors truly pop with CO2 and the right lighting. Algae tends to be less of a nuisance. Plant species may thrive you formerly didn't have luck with.
Cons: equipment cost, more plugs and hoses, far more fertilizer needed, higher risk of overdosing said ferts, more frequent water changes usually called for, risk of gassing tank.
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post #5 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-11-2020, 08:43 PM Thread Starter
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Pros: Plants grow in roughly a week what would have taken 6 in low tech. Any plants with reds or colors truly pop with CO2 and the right lighting. Algae tends to be less of a nuisance. Plant species may thrive you formerly didn't have luck with.
Cons: equipment cost, more plugs and hoses, far more fertilizer needed, higher risk of overdosing said ferts, more frequent water changes usually called for, risk of gassing tank.
Good perspective, thank you! So, to belabor the point, do those of you who have gone the C02 (pressured) route have any regrets!? Would you do it again? Is there such a thing as running it at a very low level to manage the need for more ferts and water changes? Most sites seem to say 1bps for a small tank, does anyone do less than this?

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post #6 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-12-2020, 12:54 AM
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Another opinion: to me it was about light. I wanted much more light (to see my fish) than my plants could handle without CO2. So, I don't regret it. Don't measure CO2 based upon bps. Use the pH drop method to determine how much to add.

If you have high light, you must have CO2, unless you like algae and suffering plants. If you have medium light, it becomes a balancing act, but can be done and supplements, such as Excel, can help in expanding the light intensity window. If you have low light, CO2 is not needed.

CO2 will not harm plants or fish (unless you overdo it) and as others have said, will definitely benefit plants under either high or medium light. If you have low light and have healthy plants, I doubt that you will see much difference by adding CO2. However, if you don't care about spending $100-300 US dollars, CO2 gives you more overhead if you decide to go higher with light intensity.
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post #7 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-12-2020, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by fish+plants View Post
Good perspective, thank you! So, to belabor the point, do those of you who have gone the C02 (pressured) route have any regrets!? Would you do it again? Is there such a thing as running it at a very low level to manage the need for more ferts and water changes? Most sites seem to say 1bps for a small tank, does anyone do less than this?
I started running DIY CO2 many years ago to deal with a BBA issue after I increased lighting and never looked back. I eventually switched to pressurized CO2 because DIY is high maintenance, levels are inconsistent, and it only provides enough CO2 for small tanks unless you're doing crazy stuff like daisy-chaining 2L soda bottles. I love being able to run higher lighting grow a broader variety of plants. Red plants are redder, stem plants are healthier, and crypts and swords reproduce better. You can run with less CO2 than 30 ppm as long as you're not blasting the aquarium with light or trying to grow plants that require high CO2.

I don't understand your comment about "need for more ferts and water changes". You have to fertilize no matter what the light and CO2 level is, unless you're running Walstad in which case you wouldn't be contemplating CO2. It's just a matter of adjusting the dosing. As far as water changes, in my world the default for freshwater aquariums is 50% a week irrespective of light or CO2 levels.

Bubbles per second are impossible to generalize because there are so many factors that influence how much CO2 you need to use. If I ran 1 bps on my current 10g setup I'd be well over 40 ppm. The efficiency of the diffuser or reactor, how well your tank retains CO2 (surface area to volume and surface movement), whether you run with a solenoid, and how much CO2 your plants use during the photoperiod all influence the amount of gas you need to deliver. I usually get an appropriately sized diffuser for the tank and start with the mist just barely visible. Over the next few days I'll adjust upwards until the CO2 is 30 ppm at the start of the photoperiod.

I run both CO2 and low tech tanks though. There's a lot to be said for a low light, low maintenance aquarium. It just puts some constraints on what plants you can use and how fast they will grow.
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post #8 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-13-2020, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by fish+plants View Post
Good perspective, thank you! So, to belabor the point, do those of you who have gone the C02 (pressured) route have any regrets!? Would you do it again? Is there such a thing as running it at a very low level to manage the need for more ferts and water changes? Most sites seem to say 1bps for a small tank, does anyone do less than this?
You can't measure co2 by the BPS. The type of diffusion and surface agitation will affect this, not to mention not all bubbles are the same size. Any co2 is better than no co2, so if you want to run it low you can, you just might not get the full potential for some plants.


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post #9 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-13-2020, 04:47 PM
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Choose your analogy:

You can build a reef tank with just water changes. (No CO2)
You can manually dose elements in the reef (DIY CO2)
You can get a calcium reactor. (Pressurized CO2)

You can off road in a 2wd (No CO2)
You can off road in a 4wd (DIY CO2)
You can off road in a 4wd with a wench, proper tires, experience (Pressurized CO2)

You can slice potatoes with a knife
You can slice potatoes with a slicer
You can slice potatoes with a food processor

Is it required, no, but it makes life easier once tuned. Pressurized CO2 is like a 10x health cheat code in a game. There is still a chance you die, but it is much easier. But depending on your tank/budget, there is a significant or minimal cost incurred. If you can assume the cost, I recommend it. If you can't, don't feel bad. You can still accomplish a great tank, but it will require more work and patience and ...

Here is one of my no CO2

12072018


11112019


05302020


08132020 - today

Ignore the reflection, just took a quick pic and have a reef on the other side of the room. Didnt setup the blackout cloth holders.
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post #10 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-13-2020, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Sarlindescent View Post
...
You can off road in a 2wd (No CO2)
You can off road in a 4wd (DIY CO2)
You can off road in a 4wd with a wench, proper tires, experience (Pressurized CO2)
...
I think I like this analogy the best since it shows obvious limitation and not just work and patience. With no co2 you simply can't have certain plants or setups since they require co2 and strong light and no matter how much patience you have it won't work, similar to doing extreme off-roading in a 2wd and getting stuck in the dirt/sand/mud.

But your right, you could have a nice setup as you have clearly shown.
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post #11 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-13-2020, 08:48 PM
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I prefer my larger tanks without CO2. I only add ferts once a week after my water change, and don't have the time to the trimming I'd have to do with higher light and CO2.

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post #12 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-13-2020, 08:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Sarlindescent View Post
Choose your analogy:

You can build a reef tank with just water changes. (No CO2)
You can manually dose elements in the reef (DIY CO2)
You can get a calcium reactor. (Pressurized CO2)

You can off road in a 2wd (No CO2)
You can off road in a 4wd (DIY CO2)
You can off road in a 4wd with a wench, proper tires, experience (Pressurized CO2)

You can slice potatoes with a knife
You can slice potatoes with a slicer
You can slice potatoes with a food processor

Is it required, no, but it makes life easier once tuned. Pressurized CO2 is like a 10x health cheat code in a game. There is still a chance you die, but it is much easier. But depending on your tank/budget, there is a significant or minimal cost incurred. If you can assume the cost, I recommend it. If you can't, don't feel bad. You can still accomplish a great tank, but it will require more work and patience and ...
CO2 is only "easier" from the point of view of maximizing plant growth though. There are many perfectly valid reasons why this might not be priority number one for everyone.

For me, buying another input system, learning how to use it, and then keeping it maintained would add work, not make my life easier. I know I've made trade offs I've made in the name of simplicity, but it's serving me well right now.

That said, I don't discourage the OP from going high tech though! Lots of people figure out CO2 without hurting their fish - it's not rocket science.
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post #13 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-13-2020, 09:12 PM
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CO2 is only "easier" from the point of view of maximizing plant growth though. There are many perfectly valid reasons why this might not be priority number one for everyone.

For me, buying another input system, learning how to use it, and then keeping it maintained would add work, not make my life easier. I know I've made trade offs I've made in the name of simplicity, but it's serving me well right now.

I agree and disagree. I agree completely that CO2 is not a requirement for every tank. It can add maintenance with increased trimming, but almost every established non-CO2 tank is CO2 deficient (there are a few ways to mitigate this).


Adding CO2 to even a low light tank will increase general plant health and increased plant health will reduce algae. There is always a balance, but in general, almost every tank IMO will improve from adding CO2, with no other change. The only time I can think that this is not true is if you have a perfectly balanced low light that is using no/low ferts. In that case, ferts would have to be added to compensate for the extra growth.
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post #14 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-13-2020, 09:29 PM
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CO2 is only "easier" from the point of view of maximizing plant growth though. There are many perfectly valid reasons why this might not be priority number one for everyone.

For me, buying another input system, learning how to use it, and then keeping it maintained would add work, not make my life easier. I know I've made trade offs I've made in the name of simplicity, but it's serving me well right now.

That said, I don't discourage the OP from going high tech though! Lots of people figure out CO2 without hurting their fish - it's not rocket science.
@Sarlindescent already stated some of it, but using co2 has far more benefits then simply increased plant growth. Since the plants grow larger and fuller they increase uptake which prevents algae from forming in the first place by leftover organics that decay. Because of the more active growth the leaves of plants are usually cleaner. You don't need stems to realize the benefit of co2, I don't really setup stem-heavy tanks anymore in fact most of my plants are considered low-light, but with co2 everything grows clean as opposed to many tanks with slow growing ferns, anubias and moss that are algae-challenged.

There's no reason to lose fish to co2, not more so then anything else that can go wroing in a tank. Once setup there is really nothing to do with co2, but get refills usually every 6 months. I can't recall ever losing a fish to co2 poisoning in 13 years and I buy equipment on the low end single stage.


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post #15 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-14-2020, 12:27 AM
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I agree and disagree. I agree completely that CO2 is not a requirement for every tank. It can add maintenance with increased trimming, but almost every established non-CO2 tank is CO2 deficient (there are a few ways to mitigate this).

Adding CO2 to even a low light tank will increase general plant health and increased plant health will reduce algae. There is always a balance, but in general, almost every tank IMO will improve from adding CO2, with no other change. The only time I can think that this is not true is if you have a perfectly balanced low light that is using no/low ferts. In that case, ferts would have to be added to compensate for the extra growth.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asteroid View Post
@Sarlindescent already stated some of it, but using co2 has far more benefits then simply increased plant growth. Since the plants grow larger and fuller they increase uptake which prevents algae from forming in the first place by leftover organics that decay. Because of the more active growth the leaves of plants are usually cleaner. You don't need stems to realize the benefit of co2, I don't really setup stem-heavy tanks anymore in fact most of my plants are considered low-light, but with co2 everything grows clean as opposed to many tanks with slow growing ferns, anubias and moss that are algae-challenged.

There's no reason to lose fish to co2, not more so then anything else that can go wroing in a tank. Once setup there is really nothing to do with co2, but get refills usually every 6 months. I can't recall ever losing a fish to co2 poisoning in 13 years and I buy equipment on the low end single stage.
I hear y'all and I don't deny the benefits listed at all! But the point I'm trying to make is that running a less complicated system is itself a perk and should not be totally discounted, especially if you're talking about what is easy. CO2 adds an additional layer of complexity by definition.

I think this hobby tends to have a lot of people who are maximizers, so I feel like I need to represent the satisficers.
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