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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I posted this question along with several others in the general forum, but thought it might be better to post it here:

I was given a CO2 tank and an Aqua Medic regulator w/out a solenoid, and I need to know what else I have to purchase in order to get a functioning CO2 setup in my planted 38g tank. So far it looks like I will need CO2 tubing, a bubble counter and a diffuser to get this up and going, but I am honestly not aware of the best options for this. Any help would be appreciated.

Also, I will be getting an Aqua Medic pH computer/controller probably today. I wanted to also find out what I needed to add (other than a solenoid) that would allow me to automate my CO2.

Last question. How do I monitor my CO2 levels? I know that they are very closely associated with pH and KH, but how can I specifically test for CO2 levels? Do I need to run a drop checker (I need info on these too!) or will just the pH computer suffice? Thanks for your help!
 

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Is this going to be a high light tank? If not I wouldn't spend the money on a ph controller, just don't max out the co2. Drop checkers are pretty good just keep it green and you're plants and fish will be fine. I run my co2 24/7 without a solenoid to keep from getting ph fluctuations, another option if you're co2 tank is big enough. As for a bubble counter u can diy that or just buy one same with the diffuser.
 

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I'm not familiar with that regulator, so I'm not sure if the following are integrated into it.

But most CO2 systems also require a needle valve. This takes the low pressure from the regulator, and allows you to dial it down to a manageable flow of a few bubbles per second.

And a check valve. Should the CO2 tank run out, the existing CO2 in the line will be absorbed into the water, and the water will creep up the line. Should it reach the needle valve, it will almost certainly ruin it. A check valve is a one-way valve that prevents this from happening.

Finally, the drop checker. For that, you'll also need a 4dKH solution, and an indicator solution (standard pH test drops). Last time I checked, there are people here on Swap 'n Shop, and Ebay, who sell both drop checkers and 4dKH.

A pH controller is expensive, and debatably unnecessary. Also, the pH probe requires periodic maintenance and calibration. They can fail or drift, and if they do so, it may drastically change the amount of CO2 in your tank; possibly leading to disaster. I understand the desire for automation, but I'd advise you to wait, and use a drop checker for now. Once you're familiar with how things work, you can come to a decision whether you still want the controller, and add it at a later date.
 

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Automation for me means putting a solenoid on the regulator setup and plugging it into a timer. CO2 on when lights are on, CO2 off when lights are off. The resulting swing in pH does not seem to have any ill effects on the fish. I think these pH meters that control CO2 are a waste of $$.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The CO2 tank that I have very recently came off of a calcium reactor in a reef tank; should I still have it pressure tested even though it was very recently in use? The regulator that I have is found here: http://www.aqua-medic.com/regulator.shtml It does have a needle valve, but nothing else. If I did want to automate my CO2 system I would have to add a solenoid, but for the time being I would just like a simple setup that will be easy to learn with. I was very lucky that I happened to get into trying planted tanks at the same time my buddy decided to turn his reef tank into a fish-only tank, as he gave me the tank and regulator and he is bringing me the pH computer (which can be found here: http://www.aqua-medic.com/pH_computer.shtml ) tonight. If I had to pay for it, then I would probably not have gotten what I did, but I could not beat the price.

Trying to keep it as simple as possible, I was thinking that I would run from the regulator--->bubble counter/check valve--->diffuser. Can anyone recommend a good bubble counter/check valve/diffuser combo? What should I look for and what should I avoid? Also, I have noticed that most sellers of planted tank equipment specify that their tubing is "CO2 tubing". What does this mean? Can I just use airline tubing, or do I have to get special tubing? I have also read a bit about CO2 reactors; is this a better option than a plain diffuser? Sorry I have so many questions, but this is the best place I know to get practical answers. Thanks so much for your help so far and thanks for your responses to my new questions.
 

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There are so many options and variations on diffusers, I don't even know where to begin. What's important to you? Efficiency? Low maintenance? Silent operation? Zero footprint in the tank? Do you have a canister filter you can put a diffuser/reactor inline with?

CO2 tubing is easier.

Common vinyl airline tubing from the LFS works, but will start getting brittle after a few months, and usually requires replacement within a year.

The more expensive silicone tubing doesn't get brittle, but CO2 seeps through it. The amount lost looks bad on paper, at some 100x the amount of vinyl (if memory serves), but which still doesn't amount to much in reality for the typical tubing length. Still, people tend to avoid it for this reason. It also may not handle high pressure (>40psi) if your choice of diffuser requires it, because it's too flexible and may balloon or slip off a fitting.

CO2 tubing resembles thicker, stiffer vinyl tubing, but will not get brittle, and does not seep CO2. It's not too much more expensive, especially if you can combine shipping with something else, so I'd recommend doing it right. I've attempted to cut corners on pressurized CO2 and usually regret it in the long run.
 

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all the negative talk about ph controllers
i love mine
it makes me wonder how many people dont like them, but have never used them
hey but before you reply, im not talking about you , hehe he

i set mine up in conjunction with my drop checker
i glance at them every day but dont really have too, hmmmmmm ph is around 6.5 on controller,
the drop checker a nice green color, thats about it .

i play with my crappy needle valves once every few weeks
but dont really need too
mine has worked great for years, really i just look at them to say...yup its working
with a controller you dont have to ball park co2 bubble count for average through out the day
in other words without a controler you have to set the bubble count so there is not too much or to little over a full days time.
when my lights come on the co2 is ball parked , when the plants are at their peak in terms of co2 usage, well same ratio, pretty well
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
There are so many options and variations on diffusers, I don't even know where to begin. What's important to you? Efficiency? Low maintenance? Silent operation? Zero footprint in the tank? Do you have a canister filter you can put a diffuser/reactor inline with?

CO2 tubing is easier.

Common vinyl airline tubing from the LFS works, but will start getting brittle after a few months, and usually requires replacement within a year.

The more expensive silicone tubing doesn't get brittle, but CO2 seeps through it. The amount lost looks bad on paper, at some 100x the amount of vinyl (if memory serves), but which still doesn't amount to much in reality for the typical tubing length. Still, people tend to avoid it for this reason. It also may not handle high pressure (>40psi) if your choice of diffuser requires it, because it's too flexible and may balloon or slip off a fitting.

CO2 tubing resembles thicker, stiffer vinyl tubing, but will not get brittle, and does not seep CO2. It's not too much more expensive, especially if you can combine shipping with something else, so I'd recommend doing it right. I've attempted to cut corners on pressurized CO2 and usually regret it in the long run.
Big thanks for the info on tubing- none of the places that sell the stuff actually say WHY it is for CO2, and your explanation really cleared things up for me. Regarding what I am looking for in a diffuser, I suppose it is something that will be easy to use for my first CO2 setup. Right now I have a hang on back filter, but I was considering getting a canister filter to run on this tank; if it would be a better way to inject CO2, then I would consider this option more seriously. The other factors you mentioned I think are secondary to simplicity and ease of setup/use. My only consideration beyond that is not hurting my fish by making a bad decision, hence all the questions. Thanks again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
all the negative talk about ph controllers
i love mine
it makes me wonder how many people dont like them, but have never used them
hey but before you reply, im not talking about you , hehe he

i set mine up in conjunction with my drop checker
i glance at them every day but dont really have too, hmmmmmm ph is around 6.5 on controller,
the drop checker a nice green color, thats about it .

i play with my crappy needle valves once every few weeks
but dont really need too
mine has worked great for years, really i just look at them to say...yup its working
with a controller you dont have to ball park co2 bubble count for average through out the day
in other words without a controler you have to set the bubble count so there is not too much or to little over a full days time.
when my lights come on the co2 is ball parked , when the plants are at their peak in terms of co2 usage, well same ratio, pretty well
Thanks for your response. I got the pH computer last night, and I will need to get a new probe for it before I can use it so it looks like I will be using a drop checker at least for now; because I have never used one before, I think I will probably set it up as a redundant system like yours with both the pH computer AND a drop checker. I am building an acrylic tank in the next while, and will probably use the pH computer for that if I do not have any problems with it. (My current regulator does not have a solenoid, so I will not be automating this CO2 system, but plan to integrate that into the one I will be building from scratch.) Will there be any problems keeping my pH at the 6.2 it is currently at and testing for CO2? Also, if you can recommend a particular make or style of drop checker, that would be great.
 

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i keep my ph around 6.5 because thats where my drop checker
shows nice color, every system will be a bit different
any drop checker will work , some are really cheap
i like the ones with a white back ground, regular glass ones nice also
the most important thing is the 4kh solution
i also highly recommend putting the probe inline with filter plumping
the probes work better with lots of water flow, you wont get any algae buildup on probe and its out of sight from your scape
 

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Common vinyl airline tubing from the LFS works, but will start getting brittle after a few months, and usually requires replacement within a year.
I replace mine every year because of this concern, but honestly after a year or more, it doesn't appear to be discolored, or any more brittle than brand new tubing.
 
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