Category Archives: CO2

A diffuser you won’t break

Most people love a bit of convenience right? I mean look at how popular supermarkets are. Convenience and cheap (nice combo). Outside of supermarkets that lovely combination isn’t so common. But today, I’d like to show you a CO2 diffuser that is.

Tropica 3 in 1 Diffuser.


This rather excellent piece of kit has a diffuser, non return valve AND a bubble counter, all in one neat little package. Made of hard plastic, you can drop it and it’s unlikely to break like glass one’s. If the diffuser plate becomes dirty, we sell replacements so you can do a quick swap (more convenience). CO2 tubing easily pushes onto this diffuser (more convenience). So you can see it really is a great bit of kit with…a lot of convenience :)

Here’s what David Kearsley had to say about it:

Not only is this one of the better CO2 diffusers I have ever used in regard to creating a fine mist of bubbles, it also includes a bubble counter and non-return value within the diffuser. This means you have only one piece of tubing from the CO2 supply to the diffuser. With regard to the fine mist this took about 2-3 days to settle down and since I have not seen any further large bubbles.

Just how much CO2 should you have in your tank?

You want to use as much pressurised CO2 in your tank as possible without causing distress to your live stock. CO2 will make or break your tank and I want you to give you the confidence to use it as it should be used in a high tech CO2 tank. In some cases your CO2 levels will be A LOT more than you think. If you have no live stock you can really have some fun and crank it up. You’ll be amazed at how well your plants will do when you’re let loose…

Most of you are using drop checkers now which is great and just what I have been advising. But many of you get too hung up on the colours – remember the colours are only indicating a pH level change (they don’t really measure CO2). However when your drop checker is showing green (pH of 6.8), you ‘probably’ have good CO2 levels, but I would like you to take it one step  further because in some cases your drop checker may need to show yellow. This is fine as long as your fish/shrimp are fine. If they’re showing any signs of distress, lower your CO2 levels.

You really need to maximise the amount of CO2 you can pump into your tank so it will take a bit of playing around but the effects are tremendous and your tank can look like the inside of a champagne glass.

How to diffuse CO2 like a pro

I’m regularly asked about CO2 diffusion, what works best and what would I recommend and the answer is always the same. If you have a CO2 regulator that allows you to adjust your bar pressure to 3 or higher, then Easy Aqua Atomisers are the best. They win hands down every day without fail. And what’s more they only cost just over a tenner and are available in small or large varieties.

Not only are these atomiser cheap, but they’re also economical in the amount of gas  you need. They diffuse CO2 better than any other diffuser I have ever used by creating tiny CO2 bubbles – you actually need less gas when compared to a glass diffuser for example. You see when you’re using an Easy Aqua atomiser, the bubbles are so small they literally hang in the water. They don’t shoot up to the surface which means it’s really easy to push the CO2 around the tank. And the longer the bubbles stay in contact with water, the better the CO2 diffusion and the better your plants will grow. Simple heh :)

Check out the video below to see what I mean.

When should my CO2 come on?

It’s a good idea to start your CO2 roughly an hour or so before your lights come on. The reason for this is simple.

When your lights come on, you want your plants to hit for floor running. What I mean by that is you want your plants to begin growing instantly. As the CO2 build up over the 60 minutes before the lights are on your levels begin to rise (remembering the carbon dioxide has been off for maybe 16 hours) and your plants take complete advantage of this. Good levels of CO2 and lighting (don’t forget your fertilisers) = happy planted aquarium.

By contrast, having your CO2 come on when your lights start up, you delay the growing process as it takes roughly 1 hour for CO2 levels to hit that perfect 30ppm level.

In addition, turn your CO2 off 1 hour before your lights go off. There will be sufficient CO2 in your tank for that time for your plants to continue growing.

When do you turn your CO2 on and off?

CO2 In A Planted Aquarium

Knowing whether or not to use CO2 in a tank is a choice that many hobbyists go through. And the short answer to this is simple, it really depends how much time you want to spend on maintaining your tank. There is no doubt that in order to grow some plants successfully, you will need CO2. At the same time, there are many plants that do very well with limited or no CO2 input.

There are three types of CO2 available on the market – Pressurised, Fermented & Liquid.
Pressurised is the most stable type available to hobbyists, where gas is stored in a pressurised bottle. This is attached to a regulator which in turn has a bubble counter and diffuser attached to CO2 tubing. By using a pressurised system you are giving yourself ‘gas on tap’ so this means you have total control over CO2 input. This is very important because  CO2 (when used properly) creates stability in a tank. Systems  such as the D-D Complete CO2 set costs £127.99. You may also wish to consider a disposable bottle system (where the bottles are literally disposed of when they are empty) or a refillable bottle system (only suitable when you can actually get bottles refilled easily). Either way don’t be frightened of CO2 – it’s very easy and safe to use contrary to scare stories.

Fermented systems are a great introduction for hobbyists who are looking to try out CO2 for the very first time and costs from £25 and up. They provide a cheap set up specifically geared towards hobbyists looking for a cost effective solution for their planted aquarium.
The set up for all fermented systems (or DIY as it is sometimes known) is almost the same. Each brand of system uses a combination of yeast and sugar provided in sachets they are mixed together and then placed within a container which allows fermentation to occur and CO2 to be produced (see image above). CO2 tubing is attached to the container which has a diffuser attached to the end. This sits in the aquarium and the gas is forced out of the fermenting chamber and is diffused into the tank. We recommend this type of set up, but it does require cleaning (due to the fermentation process) and CO2 levels can drop off, and are changeable according to the room temperature (this effects the fermentation rate).
The last option which is the most simple is a liquid form of carbon. Available by manufacturers such as Seachem, Easy Life and the AE Design label, it offers a product that provides a liquid carbon source (roughly 25% strength of pressurised CO2). The liquid carbon is packaged in a bottle and dosage is very simple but must be done daily. Another major advantage is that it works as an algaecide – it is well known for ridding many types of algae in the aquarium such as hair algae.

It is quite common for liquid carbon to be used in conjunction with DIY CO2 or pressurised CO2 systems, almost like a complimentary product.  Either way when you are growing plants, it is important to have at least one source of carbon in your aquarium so at a bare minimum use a liquid carbon.

More Aquatic Plants = More CO2

Have you ever had a CO2 infused planted aquarium and for a while everything went just right? You had no problems, things were doing well, no algae and you felt pretty pleased with yourself :). In fact, you had temporarily nailed it and then…

algae appears

So you rack your brain, think about what has changed and what might have happened but you still draw a blank. The answer is that you have probably become a victim of your own success (or at least your tank has). As your tank matures, plants grow. This means that the increased biomass effects water distribution along with the plants requiring more fertilisers. If you have kept your CO2 levels the same as before and you’re still adding the same amount of fertilisers as before, you can begin to see why the problem has evolved. Slowly but surely you’ve been starving your plants of what they really need:

  1. More CO2
  2. More Fertilisers
  3. Better Water Distribution

The best thing to do at this stage is to give your plants a good haircut. This will bring overall levels back to where they were (when the tank was doing great). Any deformed leaves or one’s which have algae on them should be chopped off. Essentially you are resetting your aquarium and now you know better. It’s important to stress that as your tank grows you have to increase CO2, fertilisers and improve water flow. Larger plants will block water in its path and stop essential nutrients from getting where they used to. Pay attention to what your plants are telling you – observe your CO2 bubbles and see if they are getting to everywhere that they should. This is the beauty about using pressurised CO2 as you can watch the tiny bubbles move around the tank and if they’re not getting to a certain area, then you can bet fertilisers aren’t either.

In summary, it’s easy to overlook the correlation between plants growing and the effect this has on your planted aquarium. Just remember that as they grow, more demands are put on the aquarium unless you maintain the plants to a specific size (trimming weekly for example).

Have you had problems with your aquarium and overcome them? I’d love to here them.

CO2 Drop Checkers

Drop Checkers are an important piece of equipment in a planted aquarium. In fact without a drop checker how do you actually know what your CO2 levels are? They work by measuring the pH levels in your aquarium. A small amount of test reagent is placed in your drop checker and changes colour according to your CO2 levels. The ideal colour to aim for is green and if you have too little CO2 it becomes blue and too much, become yellow.

Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, some glass, some plastic but they all do the same job. The only difference is that most of them are supplied with a reagent that doesn’t work properly and as a result will give false readings. If you have a drop checker and you use tank water and an orange reagent to measure your CO2 levels, then you need to change (this is the old fashioned/incorrect way) but we’ll get onto that shortly.

All drop checkers need to use 4dkh bromothymol blue solution. This solution is the most accurate on the market and once placed in your drop checker provides accurate results. In a planted aquarium the desired CO2 level for optimum plant growth is 30ppm. When your aquarium has this amount of CO2 in it, your drop checker will turn green – this is why it’s so important. So why shouldn’t you use tank water and the orange reagent that most drop checkers come with?

Tank water contains a variety of acids and alkalines some created by fish and shrimp, others added by hobbyists in the form of fertilisers for their plants.  Therefore by using tank water in your reagent you’re adding a solution that is already changing and this is no good if you want accurate results – you need to start with a stable base level and go from there. This is where the 4dkH bromothymol blue solution comes in handy.

For more information on this subject you can visit this link.

Here’s a nice picture of a drop checker changing colour

Drop Checker changing colour

Water Circulation In A Planted Aquarium

This is something that I discuss with customers time and time again but in all honesty a lot of hobbyists don’t realise how important it really is. Water circulation in a planted aquarium is really important.

Picture this – your aquarium is heavily planted, you infuse CO2, add excellent fertilisers like AE Design Aqua Nourish and Aqua Nourish+. You have good lighting and perform regular large water changes but…you only have one filter pushing around the water, CO2 and fertilisers. And for some reason you have algae – anyone been in this situation?

The reason you have algae is insufficient water distribution. Whilst you get full marks for everything else, in a planted tank that is CO2 infused, you have to get everything right otherwise, algae grows. If you only have one filter pushing water around and you probably have wood/rocks so there will be quite a few dead spots or certainly areas that don’t get much if any water flow due to the deflection they cause. Water flow is the life blood of the system – it carries nutrients and CO2 to the plants and if circulation isn’t up to scrath, your plants don’t get what they need and algae responds. When diffusing CO2 into your tank, you literally have to see the bubbles everywhere and if they’re not in every nook and cranny, you can bet the plants will be struggling in that area.

Water circulation pumps don’t need to be particularly large, in fact some are quite small and powerful. Let me introduce you to Hydor Pico Evo Mag 650. This amazing tiny piece of equipment moves 650L of water per hour and it’s only 4.5x3x6cm which means that it can sit in your tank and barely takes up any space. It contains a magnetic suction cup so you place it anywhere and the idea is to direct it towards the areas in your tank, which don’t get enough water movement. If you have foreground plants, you would need to direct this onto them – in fact this is one reason so many struggle with them. Because they are at the bottom of the tank, they don’t get much water movement and therefore not much CO2 and fertilisers. By pointing a Hydor Pico Evo Mag 650 towards them, it will push the necessary water, fertilsers and CO2 onto your foreground plants forcing them to sway in the current (perfect!).

Ensuring you get your water movement just right, removes so much stress from your planted aquarium. If you want to see our other range of water circulating pumps then visit this link here.

If you are having problems with your aquarium, why not ask a question on this blog and I will respond.

In addition I have managed to find an excellent image of a larger planted aquarium in which world class aquascaper Mark Evans demonstrates perfectly why a circulation pump is required.

Achieving Smaller CO2 Bubbles

If you have a CO2 glass diffuser then odds are you feel like the bubbles are too big and quite often shoot straight to the top of your tank without diffusing into your planted aquarium.

Many glass diffusers do a good job, but they’re pretty cheap and as a result the ceramic plate used is not the best. Sure it works fine but the bubbles can be on the larger size than you actually want (relatively). Now if you paid, lets say £100 for your diffuser, the ceramic plate would be of a much higher quality and you probably wouldn’t be reading this post. If CO2 bubbles are tiny, not only are they less obvious in your planted aquarium but they also distribute better, after all your sole purpose of having CO2 in your tank is so that it spreads over everything and your plants absorb as much as they can.

With CO2 bubbles that are too big, they have a tendency to shoot to the surface of the tank and not get pushed around your aquarium. To remedy this use an AE Design Needle Valve. Simply insert one end of your CO2 tubing into the Needle Valve, and then insert the remainder into the other side. This would then attach directly onto your diffuser. You would now have total control of your Co2 and you will be able to produce much smaller bubbles than you were before hand. The valve on this piece of equipment is subtle and easy to use.

For a range of our CO2 diffusers you can see them here.

Inline CO2 Diffusers For Planted Aquariums

Diffusers are always changing in shape or form and up until recently there were only one or two options for moving gas from bottle to tank. Well now there’s a 3rd and it comes in the form of an UP Inline CO2 Diffuser.

Designed to work with external filters only, you attach them inline so that they sit on the outflow pipe. This is a very simple and easy way to attach a diffuser – yes you have to turn your filter off and maybe drain some liquid etc etc but once it’s up and running it means that it’s another item which can be kept out of the tank. The Co2 tube coming from your regulator also attaches to the diffuser on the top left hand side (see image).

The more equipment that stays out of the tank, the more you can concentrate on what your aquascape actally looks like.

We stock 3 sizes of inline diffusers for 9, 12 and 16mm pipe work and you can see them here.

How do you diffuse your CO2? We would love to hear…

Easy Aqua Super Mist Diffuser

Have you ever wanted better CO2 diffusion into your planted aquarium but never really got the results from glass diffusers?

Well now is the time to change to our new Easy Aqua Super Mist Diffuser. They are quite incredible and we have never seen so many small CO2 bubbles from such a small area. It’s done by creating a surface that is so compact that pressurised CO2 literally has to be forced out through the tiny pores on it. This makes your gas a lot more economical when using a Super Mist Diffuser compared to a glass diffuser. You see the smaller the bubble, the larger the surface area (relatively). Therefore if you are creating thousands of tiny bubbles compared to hundreds of larger one’s, the smaller type win hands down.

This diffuser is only suitable for use with pressurised CO2 and you also need to have about 2 bar pressure. Anything less than that and it won’t cut the mustard.

 

TMC CO2 sets for smaller aquariums

TMC have brought out some really great CO2 sets that are just perfect for smaller aquariums up to 100L or so. For about 15 months TMC have successfully been introducing planted aquarium goods which is a great move for them and a true reflection of where the planted aquarium market is in 2010.

The TMC AquaGro CO2 sets (Hobby & Expert) are small and are a great introduction into pressurised CO2. Both types of sets are easy to set up and the main difference between Hobby and Expert is that Hobby uses plastic bubble counter, diffuser and non return valve – in Expert the equipment is glass.

At Aqua Essentials we lean towards planted aquarium goods as that is what we specialise in but we also have a passion for marine products. If you’re looking for other CO2, click here.