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Best Drop Checker Method

Discussion in 'CO2 Enrichment' started by DLoja, Mar 14, 2015.

  1. DLoja

    DLoja Junior Poster

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    I'm going back and forth now about 2 different styles of checking CO2 with drop checkers. I was thinking of getting this dual chamber drop checker (http://greenleafaquariums.com/products/cal-aqua-pearl-drop-checker.html) which uses a reference solution to compare to your indicator solution of x dKH. While expensive, I thought it was pretty cool and w/ CO2 being so important figured why not?


    Then I came across this idea of using 2 drop checkers with 2 different dKH solutions to measure a precise amount of CO2 without needing to tell what the perfect green is. (http://dropcheck.petalphile.com/)


    So I can compare the color of the drop checker to a fixed target green color, or I can have 2 drop checkers that will be at opposite ends of the "green" scale to get dialed in to a precise amount of CO2.


    Anyone have any thoughts on this? Do you even check CO2 or just see a pH drop of about 1 and happy fish and plants and call it a day? :) I typically like to know exactly what's going on, even if just for curiosities sake, but at the same time adding more stuff inside the tank is not ideal.


    Thanks!


    David
     
  2. oldpunk

    oldpunk Guru Class Expert

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    A drop checker is just a ball park. They all work exactly the same. Some look nicer, that's about it. You're just relying on your interpretation of your drop checker solution. You're better off looking at your fish and plants after you get it close on the drop checker. Don't rely on it.
     
  3. DLoja

    DLoja Junior Poster

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    Well, a single typical drop checker is a pretty bad indication as some shade of green with a 4 dKH solutions means it's probably between 20-50 ppm CO2 and knowing the exact right green is difficult. The dual chamber gives you a reference so you can supposedly tell if it's right on at 30 ppm (or whatever you set it to) or above or below by a little or a lot. This at least gets you a whole lot closer. Having 2 drop checkers with different dKH solutions (such as 2.72 dKH and 5.78 dKH) can supposedly get you within a margin of error of +/- 2.5 ppm, in this case 27.5-32.5 ppm when they are both green (one as very light yellowy green, the other as a darker bluer green). I haven't yet tried it, but I do like the idea of it, if not the idea of having 2 drop checkers in the tank.


    My problem is I'm brand new to plants, and while I can see a pH drop of about 1.2 from lights on to lights off (w/ KH of about 4), and I can see that my fish are so far very happy, I can't yet tell how the plants are reacting. They've only been in the tank for a week so are still adjusting, but I still don't expect I'll be great at knowing for a quite some time.
     
  4. Solcielo lawrencia

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    You need to learn the shade of green that best approximates the desired CO2 concentration. ~30ppm is lime green at 4dKH, neither green nor yellow-green. You'll need to use pH/kH method or 1pH drop method to learn the color-pH correspondence.
     
  5. DLoja

    DLoja Junior Poster

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    Well, I guess this question goes along with the need for a drop checker...


    If your fish are happy, can you have too much CO2? Aiming for 30 is the stated norm, but I know Tom always mentions how his different tanks all have different levels, some 50-80 ppm of CO2 I believe, while others are 30 ppm. Can the fish act happy short term (not gasping, swimming all around the tank), but causing damage long term? I guess the question is why is 30 the norm? Why not 35? 45? These still seem like low levels that will not cause fish problems since so many people go well beyond these numbers with fish.


    Thanks!


    David
     
  6. Solcielo lawrencia

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    All fish do better with less CO2 since respiration is due to diffusion of gasses through the gills. At a certain point, if the concentration of CO2 is too high, respiration becomes difficult because CO2 cannot diffuse out enough. This is when gasping and heavy breathing occurs, to help remove CO2 from the blood. Other behaviors such as huddling, hiding, and lethargy are also indicators of excessive CO2. Go past this point when CO2 cannot diffuse out or even starts diffusing into the gills and the fish quickly dies. 30ppm of CO2 is quite high. At equilibrium, CO2 concentration is less than 4ppm so 30ppm is 8x this amount. If you want to experience the effects of high CO2 concentrations, suck on the CO2 outlet. The effect is immediate: you will gasp, breath very heavily, and become lethargic just like the fish. Suck on it too long and you will die. CO2 tolerance depends on the species.
     
  7. DLoja

    DLoja Junior Poster

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    So in your opinion Solcielo lawrencia, every bit of CO2 added is that much harder on the fish and shortens their lifespan a bit more? Or do you think there is a cutoff point in there somewhere between unharmful and starting to be harmful more and more? Yes, in a typical non planted tank the CO2 levels probably never reach 4, though in the wild it greatly depends on where the fish are from as to what CO2 levels are more natural for them. Many of my fish are wild caught not tank bread.


    Thanks,


    David
     
  8. Solcielo lawrencia

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    When I move fish from a CO2 to a non-CO2 tank, all fish look better and are much more active. I'm surprised just how colorful some fish are in a non-CO2 tank since they were so dull-looking before. I don't have any quantifiable evidence that CO2 shortens lifespan though I suspect it does. I've also noticed that fish grow faster in non-CO2 tanks and shrimp grow much larger and seem to live longer, so this may support the idea that CO2 and stunted/slowed growth are correlated. It could be the low O2 relative to high CO2 that causes the stunting, since low O2 causes stunting independent of CO2. You can't add endless O2 to counteract this effect since fish begin to die at ~20ppm of O2; equilibrium is ~8-9ppm.
     
  9. oldpunk

    oldpunk Guru Class Expert

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    Does that have something to do with the oxygen levels not being high enough? (In the co2 aquariums)
     
  10. DLoja

    DLoja Junior Poster

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    CO2 levels do not change Oxygen levels. The problem is if you get carried away w/ CO2 or have a malfunction and dump too much in, the CO2 / Oxygen ratio can get high enough that it causes acidosis in the fish and they can no longer utilize the Oxygen that is present, so it doesn't really matter what the levels are.


    Solcielo lawrencia, it's interesting that you say that. I'm now injecting CO2 vs having gone 12+ years without it, and my fish are actually happier and more colorful. The difference being that I didn't have many plants before, just wood and rock caves, and now I have those plus a medium density of plants. To keep the plants happy, thriving, polishing the water, and adding their own Oxygen into the tank requires CO2, so in that sense the water quality is actually better due to CO2 injection, as long as it's within reason.
     
  11. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Respiration is BOTH CO2 and O2. So if you have low O2, then you have less wiggle room with the CO2.


    Say a tank with 5 ppm of O2 and 35 ppm of CO2, fish might gasp, species of fish matters also and size. Temperature also matters a lot.


    Type of filtration matters, wet/dry/surface skimmers= 10-25% more O2.


    So you have 10-25% more CO2 before things get screwy.


    Also, we do NOT add CO2 24/7, only for about 8 hours and they generally tend to be less active during the day, but again, depends on the species of fish.


    Cooler water= more O2. So you have higher ambient O2 and can add more CO2 without issue, and the plants grow slower at cooler temps= less CO2 demand also


    CO2 ppm is arbitrary and depends on the tank, fish, temp, plants, light, etc.


    Drop checkers all seem to only target 30 ppm. I never said that and I really have not support their use.
     
  12. Solcielo lawrencia

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    Having lots of plants make the fish feel much more comfortable and secure. I had a female Praecox rainbow spawn solo immediately after moving her into a densely planted CO2 tank. She was so excited she couldn't hold her eggs in and she burst. However, color-wise, the Praecox rainbows were dull and drab even though they were very active and spawning. After moving them into a non-CO2 tank, coloration immediately became intense, especially with the males. However, the tank had minimal plants and activity slowed way down. All this is to say that decor/plants have a huge impact on behavior, and that it appears that elevated CO2 causes stress.
     
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