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Maintaining Co2 Balance in Large Tank without Ph controller

Discussion in 'CO2 Enrichment' started by Squidly, Mar 9, 2012.

  1. Squidly

    Squidly Lifetime Members
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    After two years of trying, I still found it impossible to maintain the Co2 level in my 100g tank. Although I tried turning the Co2 on 4 hours prior to lights on, I still wouldn't reach any target consistently several hours after lights on. Only after installing a Ph controller more recently have I been able to maintain the tank without turning it into a BBA zoo.

    So I then set the needle valve to maintain my target Ph (6.15) throughout the day running open (so as not to turn off the Ph controller). This worked really well except in the morning I discovered that as before, I couldn't arrive at the desired Co2 saturation level at lights on unless I started many hours prior. For whatever reasons that I can't discern, the tank requires a Co2 boost initially to bring it up to speed. Once there, it can be maintained with a much smaller amount of Co2 being injected quite readily.

    If I am to be able to break from the Ph controller dependency, my solution (which I hate because these things always cost more money) is to install two solenoids, and two valves each running on a separate timer. One to be run more open for one hour to achieve the desired level, and another to take over and run open throughout the remainder of the day to maintain it.

    I guess my question is this how it's done for large tanks, or am I injecting too much Co2 or? The fish are fine and things are really growing like mad and I couldn't be more pleased. No reason really to mess with it other than to lose the Ph controller. I could always dose less Co2, I just don't want to deal with the algae again now that things are going so well.

    I've got good flow running around 10x overall and good mixing etc. Running Eheim 1103 NW w/venturi through Nu-Clear canister. Separate 300g pump pulling through internal trickle filter (sealed)

    Thanks
     
    #1 Squidly, Mar 9, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 9, 2012
  2. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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    If you can't reach the target with that much lead time the capacity of the setup is too low, simply as that. i used a pH controller before until it started to show erratic values and melted most of the plants. I threw out the controller and have been doing without since, but it worked well for a long time. I also knew that with continuous CO2 addition I had to slow down the rate of addition in the morning. Now there was no pH controller that shuts it off at the desired level. Theoretically that would mean that I couldn't reach the desired level before lights went on. I compensated that by slowing down the rate in which the lights turn on. Before that was 30 minutes, now it's two hours. Less light = less CO2 demand, so it's easier to reach a higjer CO2 level. It has worked well, no signs of BBA. I even inoculated the tank and it just died.

    I've used a pH controller for years but it's another single point of failure and can be done without.
     
  3. Squidly

    Squidly Lifetime Members
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    Thank you, but I think something else is going on? I can very easily reach the target dose, perhaps in 15 minutes if I tried - but I can't maintain it at that rate without going past my target dose is the problem.

    For example I can set the controller to reach a target of X.X. Once there, I can back off the amount of Co2 being injected so as to keep it constant and just above shutting the controller off. Then the next morning, allowing perhaps two hours of Co2 to be injected before lights on, it will still be several hours before the target is reached. The only thing I think of is that my fish, those that survived two years of up and down Co2, are fairly hardy by now and therefore have too much Co2. I've backed it off 1.5 degrees to see how it goes. I wait 3 hours before turning all the lights on and then off an hour before they are all off (thx).

    I have the controller because regardless of the method (having used dual reactors/atomizer/diffusers), this long lag time to achieve the target kept me from having any success. For a great while, I'd had a leak in my solenoid but never could find it. Thought I'd have this licked by now, but no!!! I understand the limitations of the controller, and in this case, its usefulness.

    I should think someone who has a tank this size might have had similar troubles. I'm betting on too much Co2, at least as long as the algae stay gone. Otherwise a manifold and second solenoid I think would be my last option.
     
  4. nipat

    nipat Guru Class Expert

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  5. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    All my tanks lack pH controllers, but I keep a pH meter handy, made a special end cap with a silicone ultra thin membrane for a 4Kh Reference. Acts like a CO2 probe. Takes about 5 minutes to settle.
     
  6. Squidly

    Squidly Lifetime Members
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    Well, if I adjust my needle valve in the slightest Tom, I can see the difference on my controller readout within a few seconds of doing so (I find the Reef Fanatic Ph Controller to be very fast and stable for what it's worth) - assuming the range for testing is within +- 5 degrees. At the extreme ends one must wait perhaps 15 minutes in my experience.

    Per the thread Nipat, I am totally lost as to what the solution you describe was?

    Thanks all!
     
    #6 Squidly, Mar 11, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2012
  7. nipat

    nipat Guru Class Expert

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    In summary, the OP (who is fortunate to have an Oxyguard CO2 meter) had
    problem about CO2 taking long time to reach the optimal level.

    Tom saw his graph and said it could be better, and showed his graph
    which described reaching the level fast and staying stably there, without using
    pH controller. Tom also noted the OP's CO2 level stayed too high at night.

    The OP had used a pH controller too. You can see the graph in the first page
    which is like what you described (reaching target level fast and being cut
    from time to time when CO2 was too high).

    At last the OP could duplicate Tom's graph by increasing flow, upping BPS,
    and heavy surface agitation.

    [the last picture in the post #20]
    http://www.barrreport.com/showthread.php/9091-Stable-enough-CO2?p=75110#post75110

    I think the thing that prevented CO2 from going too high (without using pH controller)
    is heavy surface agitation. And the agitation helps in solving high CO2 level at night too.

    BTW, the idea of doubling the injection at starting time by an additional solenoid
    is very good in efficiency. I may copy it myself.
     
    #7 nipat, Mar 12, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2012
  8. nipat

    nipat Guru Class Expert

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    Ah, CO2 probe for the rest of us.
     
  9. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    It is not the controller that's the control critical point, it's the flow and CO2 mixing throughout the tank, it also depends on where the pH probe is placed.
    pH controllers in a small volume space with ample flow through are not an issue.
     
  10. Squidly

    Squidly Lifetime Members
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    Well Nipat, as suspected it took over 3 hours (probably 4) to load up even at a somewhat reduced Co2 level. While I suppose I could take it further, then I'd be raising lights and all that.

    While I think the process to increase surface flow might be the remedy per the thread (and thanks for the explanation), I have a lot of plants which hit the surface. I found that I was getting brown algae when I increased the surface agitation too far. I do still have reasonable surface agitation along with 300gph going through the trickle filter (which was previously run open with little difference in Co2 loss) so I should think I'm getting the o2 in there.

    Hate to have to spend more $$$ on another solenoid and manifold, but I don't see any other way.

    Co2 is a lot trickier than I ever imagined.
     
  11. Squidly

    Squidly Lifetime Members
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    I've got the controller probe in one of the sumps of the built in trickle filter which has 300gph running through it with very little head so the results are quick to show if the Co2 injection rate is modified. In addition, i have an Eheim nw pump running full steam at 700gph. So I think the overall flow should be OK. I can quickly drop the Ph by opening the NV. The results are almost immediate.

    The tank otherwise is doing incredibly well, better than it ever has since being able to stabilize the Co2 using the controller so I think this should rule out a flow problem.
     
  12. Squidly

    Squidly Lifetime Members
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    Dual NV in place

    [attachment=1044:name]

    So I went ahead and setup my Co2 rig using dual needle valves. One to bring the Co2 up to speed within 2 hours and the other to maintain the Co2 rate at a constant level so as to eliminate the need for a ph controller. Despite the gaggle of fittings, I have to say that this did the trick. One valve runs open at an increased clip while the other at the pre-tested constant rate two hours before. After 1.5+ hours, I turn the first valve off and let the other continue on which brings the Co2 to the desired level by the time the lights come on.

    Thought it worth mentioning that initially I ran a second separate nw pump in the tank and found that there wasn't any appreciable difference in the amount of time it took for my tank to get up to speed (as compared to running out a single source with increased Co2 output). As a final check, I tried maxing the surface agitation but discovered that it I only used more Co2 and couldn't get the ph below 6.3 (which isn't low enough for my needs).

    Now that the Co2 is perfectly balanced throughout the day with the fluctuations of the controller, I do see improvement in the plant growth and the fish no longer flashing the plants from time to time. Now I just have to remind myself not to change the lighting height or surface agitation without adjusting the NV...

    IMG_0549.jpg
     
  13. Matt F.

    Matt F. Lifetime Charter Member
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    This may have been mentioned, or maybe it's old hat, but why not use two diffusers at opposite sides of the tank with two needle valves? This way you can have equal injection on both sides of the large tank. I thinK ADA recommends this with their larger tanks.

    Edit:
    opps didn't read the last post!

    Glad it's working out for you. ;)
     
    #13 Matt F., Apr 10, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 10, 2012
  14. Squidly

    Squidly Lifetime Members
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    I have a tube extending the length of the tank with additional flow pushing towards one end, or close to 10x. Since I now had separate controllers, I tried putting another NW DIY pump on one end. I didn't notice any appreciable difference in the time involved. When i pushed the injection rate much further with either one or both setups, I get larger Co2 bubbles that just head to the surface. While I might be able to get to the desired Ph level within a hour, I think I'd be wasting a lot of Co2 trying as opposed to waiting it out for 2 hours. Weird, I know all too well.

    Before the NW's, I used dual DIY reactors and atomizers. The result was always nearly the same. I went so far as to bypass the built in trickle filter before discovering a bad solenoid that was leaking and going back to it. Without the controller, i was always shooting past or coming up short of the mark giving me real problems. Using dual solenoids and NV's seems to work.
     
  15. samh

    samh Guru Class Expert

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    Hey squidly,

    I had/have a similar problem, where i would set the NV during peak demand, halfway during the photoperiod and using the ph controller to monitor the co2 only. I also found that it would take to long to reach my optimal level.

    I then went on a big fad of trying to build huge reactors and massive flow through them and the tank still didn't gas up any faster and plant growth diminished. I then cut out most of my flow and set up the ph controller again with very open NV to reach the ph level as fast as possible from co2 on in the morning 45 min before lights on, and then it turns the solenoid on for 10min every 45min during the day. The plant growth is the best it's been.

    However,

    I know that the set-up has flaws, because
    1. of the extreme bubble rates i need to gas up the tank
    2. The amount of co2 i use, on average a 6kg co2 cylinder only lasts 2 months

    Identifying the areas to be improved is one thing, solving them is another.
     
  16. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    The ATI fixtures have dimming functions so the CO2 ramps up the same time period as the light intensity.

    So when the lights come on, so does the CO2, over the next 2 hours, the CO2 increases like the light, then peaks, and about 1 hour before the lights go off, the CO2 is turned off.
    It takes about 30 min for the tank to degas, but by then, the plants have had their fill and the light is low.
     
  17. samh

    samh Guru Class Expert

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    Hey squidly

    Forgot to mention I run multiple reactors and NW pump combined.
     
  18. gsjmia

    gsjmia Lifetime Members
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    Tom, can you provide a source for the ultra thin membrane. It seems pretty expensive.

    I did find this .003 thickness membrane-is that too thick?
    http://www.sspinc.com/ssp_store/Thin_Silicone_membranes_from_002_thick_to_040_21.htm

    Your end cap is filled with 4kh reference with no air gap, correct?

    If your lag time is only 5 min, why not connect your probe to a PH controller?
     
  19. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    That's the place I got mine.

    the KH itself is arbitrary, as long as you know what it is to a precise ppm, you can calculate(well as long as it's not infinity or zero or near zero)

    Because control functions only WHERE you place the CO2 probe and well, I have little need. I have to calibrate the sucker, and make sure the membrane does not foul, replace the cap, check to see if it leaked or what happens if the membrane torn and I jammed a ton of CO2 into the tank suddenly?

    I'm more interested what the CO2 ppm is AFTER the FACT....in a nice well growing planted tank. Few hobbyists EVER approach things this way and thus learn very little.
    They come in with a conclusion 1st.then see if they can find aquariums that fit their idea.

    I come in much more ignorant, I look at the aquariums doing well, then I measure them and collect the data, only then..........do I, can I....... make any sort of deductive reasoning/conclusion.
    In some tanks, it was 70-80 ppm, others maybe 40ppm. Another 55ppm.

    It also depends on WHERE I took the reading, How long I took to get the stabilized reading etc.

    If for example I took a reading at the back of the tank, often where folks place such devices, out of the way hidden behind plants,.......when those plants grow and cover the probe, the CO2 goes way down locally, so the pH controller will add a lot more CO2 to try and make up for that.
    Even if the demand for CO2 is only slightly more/higher.

    It's just another way to control the system using a lighting controller instead of a pH controller and CO2 probe/KH cap.
    One I've NEVER seen anyone suggest.
     
  20. gsjmia

    gsjmia Lifetime Members
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    Tom, I was reading the MDS on the ultra thin membrane at SSP and I don't understand the math-is it permeable enough to give a reasonably quick reading?

    Is the gas exchange bi-directional so that it will adjust up and down? Or is it an asymetrical C02 roach motel.

    I believe you about the PH controller and placement (but its so enticing I can't leave it alone!)-- if you put the C02 probe/KH cap in the sump of a 400gph wet/dry, wouldn't that provide a good average C02 reading?
     
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