Wanted: A reliable CO2 system for large planted tanks

wolfewill

New Member
Dec 5, 2010
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Ottawa, Canada
I am in the process of up grading my CO2 system on my 300 gallon, heavily planted, aquarium. The system I’ve been using is a collection of assorted parts which have all been reasonably successful on smaller tanks, but are proving unmanageable on the larger tank. I am considering purchasing a complete kit (regulator, bubble counter (s), diffuser(s), reactors, etc.), and am wondering if anyone has done this before on a large tank. If so, I would like to know what system people have tried (names, suppliers), and how pleased you are with the system you’ve installed. I am not interested in DIY systems. I want a completely off the shelf, professional quality system for a large, heavily planted tank.


So my problem is that the CO2 is not dissolving in the water prior to getting to the tank so there is misting or microbubbles throughout the tank when the system is on. Also, the Milwaukee kit isn’t reliable: It doesn’t always start up when the upper pH threshold is reached (I have to unplug the solenoid and replug it into the pH controller). Thirdly, the bubble counters, although brand new (eBay variety), seem to be plugged sometimes and don’t start up when the others are working well (this changes from day to day, and week to week). Fourthly (is that a word?), the bubble count drops over several days and has to be reset after only a few days or a week.


Presently I have a Milwaukee regulator/solenoid kit, with a set of bubble counters (3), and three UP Aqua in-line diffusers. One diffuser is before an Eheim 1500XL filter (used as a reactor), one is before an Eheim 2215 (functioning as a polishing filter and as a reactor), and the third one is after a second Eheim 1500XL filter (I have a UV sterilizer after this second 1500XL, and until I hard line the filtration system have no room to install it before the filter). I am using an American Marine Inc pH controller (set point is presently pH 5.3 ± 0.1 units). The substrate is ADA Africana which buffers the water to about 5.8, and reduces the KH to ≤1.0̊; the GH is raised to 4̊GH with Equilibrium; and I use the PPS dosing strategy and test my parameters to maintain a [NO3] of 10 ppm, and a [PO4] of 1.0.


The system functions well when it’s working properly, plant growth is good (reasonable pearling), and algae issues are minimal (probably fluctuating [CO2]). Livestock are doing extremely well and I’m generally pleased with the set up except for the reliability of the CO2 system. I want to be able to be away for a while without worrying that everything is failing.
 

alanle

Prolific Poster
Jun 10, 2013
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In your case you might want to go with a custom build system. These systems are industrial grade and much more superior than the commercial systems. For a 300 gallon tank, I suggest using a reactor. You can build one for around $50. I can build a CO2 system and a reactor for you. Let me know if you are interested. Here are some systems I built for the fellow hobbyists.


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469A2E27-55C2-4523-9584-382F09F7F048.jpg



0B3C82C7-F1D3-4E21-9625-F33D1D9F4BC5.jpg






 
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wolfewill

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Dec 5, 2010
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Ottawa, Canada
Wow. It looks fantastic! Let me do my due diligence (research) and get back to you. I've been pmed about your work and it was a strong recommendation in your favour. Cheers.
 

Tom Barr

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Wolf, those are far better than the cheapo milk's, those suck frankly.


Now, about a reactor for a 300 Gallon tank, basically a large water filter housing can be used to make a good sized reactor with minimal pressure drop for the Ehiem filters.


Bulk reef supply sells large water filters, clear etc. http://www.bulkreefsupply.com/reverse-osmosis-canisters.html


Get the larger 20" or the big blue 10". Feed the CO2 into the top and drill a hole and add a rigid 3/16th air line tube into it for adding the CO2. Add a pipe inside that makes the water flow down and then up the pipe to the aquarium. The inflow should come into the top part of the housing. The 1' ports and barbed PVC fittings will fit the larger Ehiem 25 mm tubing just right.


Now, you MUST keep this filter loop clean, and generally, all canisters need to be kept in tip top shape. Otherwise, the CO2 ppm's will drop in the tank.


pH will rise a fair amount if you do some water changes. You can/should use a relative pH drop to measure the CO2.


Say the starting pH is 6.0, adding enough CO2 to target 5.0 and keep it there. you might need a bit more, or a little less if you have lower light etc.


This adds about 30 ppm.


ADA as will not buffer a low pH for long, maybe 1-2 months and only if you do not do water changes. Any new tank should get 2-3x a week water changes, Amano, ADG, myself, Oliver Knott, and dozens of others who have decades individually and have set more tank than I can count say the same things. After 1-2 months, you can back off, but it's the single best habit an aquarist can have.
 

Tom Barr

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Also, GH booster is a lot cheaper, particularly on a tank this size. A 20 lb gas tank should last 2-3 weeks depending.


See aquariumfertilizers.com or you can DIY your own if you want. I use a 1:1:1 ratio of K2SO4(Sulfur of potash), CaSO4(Gypsum), MgSO4(Epsom salt). Mix well, and then you'll dose about 5-6 tablespoons to get about 4 ppm for Ca++ rise and about 2.5 ppm of Mg.


You can check your ranges for dosing here:


http://calc.petalphile.com/
 

wolfewill

New Member
Dec 5, 2010
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Ottawa, Canada
Tom, first of all I’m leery of purchasing anything from someone I don’t know or can’t find to deal with if the product is faulty; and there’s no guarantee or professional profile that can be measured to gain the trust to purchase on-line such as this. Despite this, many are suggesting the same thing and from the same person, so perhaps I’m too cautious. I’d thinking of trying an aquariumplants.com product called the CarbonDoser EXT 5000.


I appreciate the suggestion for a diy with a water filter. I’m sure they work but I want one that’ purpose built and a sold as such. And you say to keep it and the canister filter clean is important, and that’s valuable advise. I’ll make sure to do that.


And you said: ‘You can/should use a relative pH drop to measure the CO2'


This is interesting. I’ve heard that a 0.5 pH unit drop is enough, but the higher value makes sense for a high light set up; and yes, I do want a [CO2] of 30 ppm or more. So this is something I will set up today. I have two Giesemann 150w MH, two TMC 1500 LEDs, four TMC 600 LEDs and two 24" HO T5 Coralife Colormax (soon to be 4). I’m trying to find a place between a medium lighted tank and high light. I’m not going to have high light demanding plants in the long run.


As for ADA buffering for a long time, our tap water hardness here in Ottawa is very soft - 6 to 7 degrees TH. So the buffering capacity goes a long way. I’ve had Africana in a 90 gallon for 27 months and there is still considerable buffering. The pH would end up in the low 7s over night here without the ADA substrate (in Fluval and Flourite), but remains in the low 6s still.


As for a GH booster: Out of the tap the GH is 3 degrees here. So I buffer to a minimum of 4 (4 to 6 being the sweet spot). Do you think this is high enough? I don’t buffer KH at all and it stays ≤1.0 (that’s the Africana at work). And I’m using Seachem Equilibrium. Shouldn’t that do the job? I also use locally supplied dry fertilizers from hydoponics suppliers (potassium nitrate and mono potassium phosphate) plus Seachem Flourish Comprehensive and CSM+B. And, yes I use petalphile and APCs fertilator sites to determine the quantities of each.
 

oldpunk

Guru Class Expert
Dec 1, 2009
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I wouldn't worry about Alan ripping anyone off. Those of us that make and sell these things are highly dependent upon our reputation. Piss someone off and people get wary. I used to make and sell them on a regular basis and I feel that Alan's systems are fine and I have not heard any negative feedback what so ever. Most folks are so happy with his stuff that they start a thread or a post saying how satisfied they are. If all that doesn't sway you, you've still got paypal you can file a claim with if anything goes wrong. (Don't ever buy from someone who isn't verified by the way).


Imo, the stuff from aquariumplants.com is kinda iffy. Most people seem to like their stuff and don't have nearly as many issues as those that buy Milwaukee and Aquatek. Gla is a better option.


By the way, that CarbonDoser 5000 thing is just a water filter housing. The only difference between it and what you could build yourself is the power head inside. I guess you could add it but truth be told, they aren't needed. I would personally just use two of what Tom suggested.
 
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Orlando

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Feb 20, 2007
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Howdy Wolfewill. Co2 for a large tank like this should not be difficult. Naturally diffusion and flow dynamic will be your largest hurdle. It sounds like you have pretty good results with your current installation, just need something more consistent. With the several filters you have you could easily use a few reactors should this be the way you prefer to go if you dont like using misting systems. Building an appropriate size reactor is key, not to small and not to large. If you run several reactors you can use a regulator with several valve installed.


We build co2 systems every day for a living for aquarium hobbyist,lab techs,biologist and engineers for all types of scenarios. A 300g tank should not be very hard at all, we could easily build you a co2 regulator to suite your needs if your in the market.











We also have a new LED technology adaptable to our modular valve system. Its pretty cool, it lights up 360* all around the valve coil.








Regulators with multiple solenoids also no problem.





The above regulators are high purity regulators built for industrial use and laboratory settings. All backed by warranty and full support. Should you have any questions just shoot us an email at info***AT***greenleafaquariums.com
 

wolfewill

New Member
Dec 5, 2010
10
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Ottawa, Canada
Orlando, I just bought a Pro-4 from you. Except for the diy kits, your products were the only off the shelf kits suggested on these forums, except for one suggesting Teledyne, and one suggesting co2art from the UK (out of 23 replies on 7 different forums). I am purchasing slightly more than I probably need (the 4 with 160 psi), but I have four other tanks on the other side of my fish room that I could use this kit if it's more than I need for my 300 (two 65g, a 40 and a 15 tall). And a GRO-2 is the one I'm suspicious is adequate if I have two reactors as well on the 300. As for the other tanks, they each have a different kit, but the kits are 5 to 10 years old, the check valves are failing and the tubing is probably not adequate for CO2 (it's old too). I realize that the only kits that I have that are dependable are from aquariumplants.com so I'll keep using them and chuck the others.
 

wolfewill

New Member
Dec 5, 2010
10
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1
Ottawa, Canada
oldpunk said:
I wouldn't worry about Alan ripping anyone off. Those of us that make and sell these things are highly dependent upon our reputation. Piss someone off and people get wary. I used to make and sell them on a regular basis and I feel that Alan's systems are fine and I have not heard any negative feedback what so ever. Most folks are so happy with his stuff that they start a thread or a post saying how satisfied they are. If all that doesn't sway you, you've still got paypal you can file a claim with if anything goes wrong. (Don't ever buy from someone who isn't verified by the way).

Imo, the stuff from aquariumplants.com is kinda iffy. Most people seem to like their stuff and don't have nearly as many issues as those that buy Milwaukee and Aquatek. Gla is a better option.


By the way, that CarbonDoser 5000 thing is just a water filter housing. The only difference between it and what you could build yourself is the power head inside. I guess you could add it but truth be told, they aren't needed. I would personally just use two of what Tom suggested.

Alan is well respected here among the people in the local club who are my friends, so no disrespect to him and the quality of his work. But I need an off the shelf, purpose built, consistently available and very dependable CO2 system. GLA products are consistent, there very, very well respected and if I want to buy another, and another, I know exactly what I'm getting. That is what I'm looking for. As for a reactor, I won't build one myself (I don't have the time nor the interest), and I need to be able to purchase this type of product as well... purpose built, dependable and one that meets my expectations (no matter the limitations) each and every time, one that is provided by a reputable dealer with an identifiable business profile, with written guarantees and customer service to boot.
 

oldpunk

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Dec 1, 2009
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You might want to find out how far the back the back order is.


Did you get the pro or pro-ss? That extra 50 bucks buys a heck of a lot more regulator. I mean, what's the difference between 400 and 450 really.
 

palewhiteguy

Junior Poster
Feb 14, 2015
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I built a 4' co2 reactor out of 3" pvc. I use a pH controller to avoid the hassle of a bubble counter. Use a drop checker to dial it in, set it and forget it. Had this setup on my 220 for several years and have always been happy with it.
 

Pikez

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May 12, 2013
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Hi Wolfewill - I totally get that you want a reactor that is off the shelf, high-quality and a product whose manufacturer that you can hold accountable. I get it.


But the problem is that most (virtually all) commercial, branded CO2 reactors are woefully underpowered and undersized to provide rich and steady CO2 levels. There is another thing: you have a big tank, which means you will need some 'horsepower' to get the pH down by 1.0 in an hour or so after it has been degassing overnight. The closest thing looks like the CarbonDoser EXT 5000. I speak from recent experience. I have neither the time, inclination nor skill to make one of these DIY things myself. I'm about as handy as toddler. So I drew out a crude master plan on a piece of paper and handed it to an aquarium maintenance dude I trust. And I came back when he was done. For my 180, I have the CO2 split to two SeraFlore 1000 reactors first, which then go to two different bioball filled 20" by 4" water filter reactors purchased from bulk reef supply. Tom is right. You need this. My only suggestion is to go with two of what Tom suggested, like I did.
 

oldpunk

Guru Class Expert
Dec 1, 2009
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Eh... I vote they go the CarbonDoser products. That way, when it doesn't meet expectations they'll have someone to try and get their money back from.


I remember being new to the forums. I think part the whole process is trying to do things that aren't necessarily recommend but work for what you think your goals are. You live and learn and eventually figure out who the folks are that seem to be in the know. Success then follows.
 
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wolfewill

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Dec 5, 2010
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Ottawa, Canada
oldpunk said:
You might want to find out how far the back the back order is.

Did you get the pro or pro-ss? That extra 50 bucks buys a heck of a lot more regulator. I mean, what's the difference between 400 and 450 really.

I emailed them and they're getting what they need Saturday or Tuesday at the latest. And I bought a Pro.
 

wolfewill

New Member
Dec 5, 2010
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Ottawa, Canada
palewhiteguy said:
I built a 4' co2 reactor out of 3" pvc. .....setup on my 220 for several years and have always been happy with it.

Ok, this is what I need to hear. The volume to flow relationship is important, so what it the flow through it (filter type?/rating). And are you getting 30 ppm CO2? The volume of the reactor you have is about 1.5 usg. This way I can better calculate the size I need.
 

wolfewill

New Member
Dec 5, 2010
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Ottawa, Canada
Pikez said:
.... you have a big tank, which means you will need some 'horsepower' to get the pH down by 1.0 in an hour or so after it has been degassing overnight. The closest thing looks like the CarbonDoser EXT 5000. I speak from recent experience. I have neither the time, inclination nor skill to make one of these DIY things myself. I'm about as handy as toddler. So I drew out a crude master plan on a piece of paper and handed it to an aquarium maintenance dude I trust. And I came back when he was done. For my 180, I have the CO2 split to two SeraFlore 1000 reactors first, which then go to two different bioball filled 20" by 4" water filter reactors purchased from bulk reef supply. Tom is right. You need this. My only suggestion is to go with two of what Tom suggested, like I did.

I can get the pH down in about 20 minutes if all the needle valves open (reliable needle valves are only one of my problems). Just this afternoon for example, with only two running, it took 3.5 hours. And, I have purchased a GLA Pro with four needle valves hoping I'll only need three, but I'm resigned to also probably needing three reactors as well. But I'll go at it one at a time to see.
 

Tom Barr

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There are no specific made brand name CO2 reactors for a tank that size. I can afford it, but there's really nothing, using several teeny AM1000's is more a headache than a solution.


1. A water filter housing IS a commercially made product.


2. You are repurposing it to retain water for a given time frame to dissolve the CO2.


3. That's it.


It's not some specific thing. They come in large sizes that work well for the specific tank you have.


They come with a guarantee, but it's doubtful you'd ever or anyone I've ever known has ever used that.


There are many simple threads that require little skill and ability to make these into a effective CO2 reactors. No modification is ever needed in your case, just feed the CO2 into a pump that sends The water into the water filter. Add a stand pipe in the middle so water is sucked out of the bottom. That's the only modification.


This requires less skill and instruction than a commercial brand. Also cost much less.