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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
hey there, i'm relatively new to planted tank. and just recently bought a CO2 system. my goal is to learn to at least to keep the plants from dying...

currently i have rotala h'ra and hairgrass and trying to supply CO2 to help them achieve decent grow at first. but i'm still struggling about the color of my drop checker..some articles says it has to be a lime green or light green, but some indicator shows vivian green (dark green) is the ideal one.

yesterday for unknown reason, my CO2 level was exploding fast and turning my drop checker into lime green in just under 4 hours, and the fish were gasping on the surface. few of them were beginning to float around. fortunately i managed to save all of the tetras by removing them to a fresh water in a bucket. although i lost 4 shrimps in the process...

this is where my fishes starts to gasp...

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so from that experience i dial down my CO2 to reach dark green color

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so far the fishes are behaving normally..but i don't know if that color is enough to supply enough CO2 level for the plants..

i was thinking maybe i should upgrade from a standard diffuser to an inline in order to have a more fine CO2 with a lower bps as well. but i don't have the knowledge about what to decide

my tank setup are:
  • 40cm cube; 60ish ltr or 16.4 gal (nano?)
  • 5KG CO2 cylinder
  • vivaria single gauge reg + 2in1 bubble counter
  • ista ufo diffuser (small)
  • TOPKA LW603B Canister
plants:
  • hairgrass
  • rotala h'ra
  • buce (from older setup)
can anyone share any drop checker color in the tank and share their experience with that level of CO2??please advise
 

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Drop checkers are pretty unreliable when it comes to determining CO2 levels, the different solutions people put in them react differently as well, and there is a significant delay in the color change, so it's not ideal comparing with others.

A better method is using your pH and KH to find your CO2 concentration, that'll give you reliable results every time.

Fish gasping is a sign of low O2, which can be related to CO2, but also can be increased directly by using an airstone or increasing surface agitation. I run an airstone at all times to help with the high CO2 injection rates I use.
 

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biOrb LIFE 45 L, planted, EI dosing, CO2 injected
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I have to disagree with the pH/KH calculation piece. You can look to the pH drop of about 1 unit which is reliable but the combo of pH/KH to try to read absolute dissolved CO2 concentration is not very good. The drop checker, used correctly, is very reliable. The drop checker takes time to equilibrate however, generally around 2 hours, so if your fish are gasping and CO2 is blasting out, that's because of where the colour of the drop checker is going to be, not what the colour currently is. IMPORTANT: your drop checker must be filled with 4 dKH water and NOT with tank water to be accurate - it is convenient to purchase pre-made drop checker solution. Here's a picture of my drop checker from today photographed against a white credit card blank background - I think this could be slightly more yellow for maximal plant growth without threatening the other inhabitants, but I'm reasonably content like this. For what it's worth, the colour in your first photo is perfect, but only if you have otherwise pure 4 dKH water (plus bromothymol blue dye) in the drop checker. Your second photo looks too blue to me. I made a calibrated colour chart you're welcome to browse where you can read off your CO2 concentration based on colour of the drop checker and the dKH of the solution in the drop checker: Drop checker | Fireplace aquarium . Note also that most of the tables you'll find on the internet propogate an early chemistry calculation error that makes them under-represent the CO2 concentration by about 4 PPM.
20210510_140138.jpg
 

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Like others have said, the problem with a drop checker is that it is a lagging indicator. It can be 2 or 3 hours behind what is happening in the tank. So when you posted the pic of the color when fish started gasping, it doesn't really mean anything. That is not an indication of the CO2 level at the time.

Where you go from here depends on your ambitions. If you really want to get serious about planted tanks, a calibrated pH probe and using the pH drop method is the way to go. It gives you real time information, and is a much more accurate way to dial in CO2 than a drop checker. I don't use one, but if I did it would be flat out yellow. But that is in context of a heavily planted high light tank. Your needs may be different.

But if you don't want to get too involved, a drop checker can work but keep in mind it is a lagging indicator and not very accurate.

In either case, be sure to have good surface agitation. This will create oxygen, and you want both CO2 and O2 levels to be high.
 

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I've found that sometimes it takes fish a while to get used to CO2. I have added fish to existing schools, and when they go in my water I see them gasping at the top. I turn the CO2 down, then gradually increase it over a few days to where it was before, and the fish are fine. I don't know what the science is but it seems they can acclimate.
 

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As many others have pointed out, drop checkers are poor for checking CO2 concentrations, because they only tell you what your CO2 was 2 or 3 hours ago. The best way is to get the pH of your fully degassed tank water (leave a glass out for a couple of days), then aim to maintain a pH drop of 1 point from that reading throughout your photo period. I would recommend a pH probe for this, as the test kits can be tough to read accurately.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I have to disagree with the pH/KH calculation piece. You can look to the pH drop of about 1 unit which is reliable but the combo of pH/KH to try to read absolute dissolved CO2 concentration is not very good. The drop checker, used correctly, is very reliable. The drop checker takes time to equilibrate however, generally around 2 hours, so if your fish are gasping and CO2 is blasting out, that's because of where the colour of the drop checker is going to be, not what the colour currently is. IMPORTANT: your drop checker must be filled with 4 dKH water and NOT with tank water to be accurate - it is convenient to purchase pre-made drop checker solution. Here's a picture of my drop checker from today photographed against a white credit card blank background - I think this could be slightly more yellow for maximal plant growth without threatening the other inhabitants, but I'm reasonably content like this. For what it's worth, the colour in your first photo is perfect, but only if you have otherwise pure 4 dKH water (plus bromothymol blue dye) in the drop checker. Your second photo looks too blue to me. I made a calibrated colour chart you're welcome to browse where you can read off your CO2 concentration based on colour of the drop checker and the dKH of the solution in the drop checker: Drop checker | Fireplace aquarium . Note also that most of the tables you'll find on the internet propogate an early chemistry calculation error that makes them under-represent the CO2 concentration by about 4 PPM.
View attachment 1029343
hey there, thanks for sharing with me. for the drop checker, i used pure 4dkh solution with no tank water added at all. i agree with you based on color i saw on the chart when i googled it. i guess the first photo shows that my water is ideal two hours ago and somehow build up to much CO2 during that timespan as well. i guess i will need more tinkering to find my ideal bps.

the thing is i haven't invested on solenoid yet, cause i spend way too much this month for peripherals. and i don't know if turning off/on main co2 cylinder valve is a good idea for the long run, and i can forget turning off regulator needle valve every night since i heard the pressure from cylinder can worn off the regulator relatively quick

now my main problem i'm having is the bps will always drop quite a bit in the morning, while the rest of the day after i fine tune again will be fine. and i just lost several shrimp because i think of ph swing from tuning the bps every single morning...

can a drop in room temperature can affect the bps or pressure inside cylinder or regulator?

EDIT: sorry, about the ph meter. so for a beginner like me it's best to invest in ph meter and in short to monitor the fluctuations thus avoiding significant ph swings yes?
 
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