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NACU. Nature Aquarium Club of Utah August 28 th 2007 Topic of discussion: “DIY CO2”. CO2 Basics. All plants need some form of Carbon, the basic building block of life on earth Most plants get their carbon from CO2 (carbon dioxide)

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NACU

  • Nature Aquarium Club of Utah

  • August 28th 2007

  • Topic of discussion: “DIY CO2”


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CO2 Basics

  • All plants need some form of Carbon, the basic building block of life on earth

  • Most plants get their carbon from CO2 (carbon dioxide)

    • Some aquatic plants can use the carbon from the carbonates dissolved in the water – but not many

  • Flourish Excel is another possible source of carbon


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Why add CO2?

  • There is already CO2 in the water. Why do we need to add more?

  • Increase plant health

    • Plants need Carbon and CO2 is the most common source

    • Even at low levels of light (1.5 wpg) CO2 will increase the health and growth rates of your plants

  • Fighting algae

    • Healthier, faster growing plants will help keep the algae down


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Do I need CO2?

  • Fish give off relatively little CO2

  • Light intensity is usually the deciding factor

    • CO2 is “optional” under 2wpg and “mandatory” above 2wpg

    • Nothing “magical” happens at 2wpg – it is just a general rule-of-thumb

  • Even under 2wpg, additional CO2 will help your plants


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What is DIY CO2?

  • “Do It Yourself” CO2:

  • Yeast is mixed with sugar and water

  • The yeast “consumes” the sugar and produces alcohol and CO2

  • The CO2 is then plumbed into the aquarium and dissolved into the water


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Alternatives to DIY CO2

  • Pressurized systems

  • Flourish Excel

  • Lower light

  • Lots of algae


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Alternative to DIY: Pressurized system

  • Pros:

    • Cheap to maintain

      • A CO2 refill is about $10 and lasts about 6 month

    • pH regulators (optional on pressurized system) will keep your CO2 levels very consistent

    • Very little maintenance

      • Set the pH (or timer), adjust the bubble rate and forget it

  • Cons:

    • Very expensive initially


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Alternative to DIY CO2:Flourish Excel

  • Pros:

    • Easy, simple and straight forward

    • Excel has other uses also

  • Cons:

    • Not as effective as real CO2

    • Can be expensive on larger tanks


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Advantages of DIY CO2

  • Inexpensive

    • Only costs a few dollars

  • Very customizable / expandable


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Disadvantages of DIY CO2

  • Difficult to regulate CO2 levels in your tank

  • Inconsistent CO2 production from

    • Temperature fluctuations

    • Bacteria contaminating the yeast mixture

  • High maintenance

  • Lots of potential problems


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system

  • Yeast mixture

  • CO2 generator (the container holding the yeast mixture)

  • Plumbing

  • CO2 diffuser (also call a “reactor”)

  • Bubble counter (some call it a “scrubber”)


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Yeast mixture

  • There are many different “recipes”

  • Basic recipe for a 2 Liter bottle:

    • 2 cups sugar

    • ¼ tsp yeast

    • just under 2 Liters of water

  • Scale the recipe up or down for different sized containers


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Yeast mixture

  • Recipe alternatives:

    • Substitute ¼ cup sugar for ¼ cup molasses

    • Add 1 tsp baking soda

      • This is done to buffer the water

      • Utah's water already has plenty of buffers

    • Add 1Tbl powdered protein drink

  • The standard recipe will usually work just fine


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Yeast mixture

  • There are lots of different yeast choices

  • CO2 production usually slows down and stops because of elevated alcohol levels

  • Baker's yeast will work fine, but other yeasts are resistant to higher alcohol levels, which helps the mixture last longer

    • Wine and champagne yeasts work very well

    • My favorite: Premier Cuvee


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Yeast mixture

  • Two options to mixing a new batch

  • Fresh, clean start

    • Mix the sugar with boiling water and pour into generator bottle. Allow it to cool.

    • In a bowl, mix yeast and luke-warm water and a little sugar

    • Stir vigorously to aerate the yeast mixture and let it stand for 10 minutes

    • Then add the active yeast to the generator bottle


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Yeast mixture

  • Option 2: reuse the old yeast

    • Simply pour most of the water out of the “expired” generator bottle

    • Some of the yeast must remain in the bottle

    • Add 2 cups sugar and refill generator with luke-warm water

    • Shake to mix

    • Connect the generator back to the plumbing


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Yeast mixture

  • I prefer to reuse the old yeast

  • “Recycling” the yeast increases the risk that your yeast mixture will get contaminated by bacteria

  • But it is a lot less work!

  • Recycling the yeast also uses less of the “expensive” wine yeast


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Yeast mixture

  • There are MANY different way to mix/prepare the yeast mixture

  • Everyone seems to do it a little differently

  • Experiment and find out what works best for you


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Yeast mixture

  • Final notes on Yeast mixture

  • Yeast generates CO2 and in a closed system the pressure can build up and explode your generator (big mess!)

  • An extra cap is nice so that you can shake the yeast mixture to mix it – but be very sure NOT to leave the cap on


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Generator bottles

  • The most commonly used bottle for the CO2 generator is 2 Liter soda bottles

  • Other bottles may be used as long as they are airtight

  • It is common for people to use 2 generator bottles so that there is no interruption in CO2 production when 1 bottle is replaced

    • I like to have 2 bottles and replace 1 of them every 3 to 4 weeks


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Plumbing

  • Choice of air tubing:

    • Standard air tubing is a poor choice

    • Silicone tubing works well and is cheap and easy to find

    • Special CO2 tubing will lose less CO2 from seeping out of the tube walls

      • But it is quite expensive and hard to find


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Plumbing

  • Attaching the air hoses to the bottles can be problematic

    • A poor connection will lead to leeks

  • Good options:

    • Bulkhead fittings make a good mechanical connection

      • Where to find?

        • www.towerhobbies.com

      • A little pricey

      • Provide a good strong mechanical seal


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Plumbing

  • Good options:

    • Rubber stoppers

      • These also provide a good strong mechanical seal

      • If a blockage occurs, the stopper will pop out before the generator explodes. (This is only an assumption – I have not yet tested this – but am looking forward to it!)

      • They are a little cheaper than bulkhead fitting

      • Some stoppers come with holes in them already – but some do not. Adding holes can be difficult


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Plumbing

  • Rubber stoppers continued

    • Getting the tubing through the stopper

      • Using a pair of scissors, cut a 2” portion of the tube in half lengthwise

      • You can then push the halved portion of the tube through the hole in the stopper

      • Using a pair of pliers, grip the halved portion of the tube and pull more of the tube through the hole

      • Then cut off the halved portion of the tube


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Plumbing

  • Rubber stoppers continued

    • What size rubber stopper to get?

      • For a 2 Liter bottle – size # 4

      • For a 1 Liter bottle (wide mouth – same as the 3 Liter bottle) – size # 6 or 6.5

    • Stoppers are often available with 0, 1 or 2 hole

    • Ebay is a good source


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Plumbing

  • Glues can also be used to attach the airline to the bottle

    • Drill a hole in the lid smaller than the tube and squeeze the tube through

    • Then seal the tube in with some form of glue

    • What glues will work?

    • Glued joints are a common source of leeks


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Diffuser

  • Simple airstone

    • Cheap, simple and easy

    • Will waste a LOT of CO2

  • Glass diffusers

    • Create a very fine mist of CO2

    • May need more pressure than DIY can supply

    • Usually cost less than a powered reactor


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Diffuser

  • Existing powerhead or filter

    • CO2 line is fed straight into the inlet of the filter or powerhead where the CO2 bubbles are broken up and dissolved into the water

    • Very cheap and easy

    • Can be noisy and bad for the filter

      • Reducing the size of the bubbles helps both noise and filter wear


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Diffuser

  • Powered / in-line diffuser

    • Usually very efficient (very little “loss” of CO2)

    • Can handle large amounts of CO2

    • Can be bulky / ugly in the aquarium

    • Can be fairly expensive to buy

    • Venturi effect can suck yeast mixture into your tank

      • Using rigid generator bottles (like Gatorade bottles) can prevent this from happening


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Diffuser

  • Bell diffusers (my favorite)

    • Very cheap (free sometimes)

    • Stable / consistent CO2 levels

      • Diffusion rate changes very little

      • Serves as a small CO2 storage tank when changing yeast mixture


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Diffuser

  • Bell diffusers (continued)

    • Bulky and ugly in the aquarium

      • May need to be quite large to get enough diffusion

    • Can lose a lot of CO2

      • This is what keeps the diffusion rates constant – the “extra” CO2 escapes the diffuser and then the aquarium


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Bubble counter

  • The bubble counter is a separate bottle placed between the generator and the diffuser

  • The inlet hose (or hoses) are long enough that they are under water

    • Because the end of the hose is under water, you can see the CO2 bubbles as they come from the generator. This allows you to monitor how much CO2 is being produced by your generator (or generators)

  • The outlet tube is above the water level


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Parts of a DIY CO2 system:Bubble counter

  • The bubble counter has another important feature:

  • The yeast mixture can sometimes get into the airline hoses. If you have a bubble counter/scrubber, the yeast mixture will only get into the bubble counter and not your aquarium

    • Yeast and sugar in your aquarium can lead to HUGE problems


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Construction notes

  • Do not shake the generator while the hoses are attached

    • This can cause the yeast mixture to get into the hoses

  • Check valves can prevent loss of CO2 when changing the yeast mixture and prevent the hoses from accidentally siphoning the water out of your tank


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Construction notes

  • Make sure that the generator(s) and bubble counter cannot tip over

  • Yeast can generate a lot of pressure and cause the generator to explode

    • Never cap the generator

    • Keep yeast mixture out of the hoses

    • It may be a good idea to use some sort of pressure relief system


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Construction notes

  • Other construction suggestions?


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Regulating your CO2 levels

  • Timers (helpful for day/night fluctuations):

    • Can be used for powered reactors

      • The reactor can be used on the same timer as the lights

      • Make sure that when the pump is off, the CO2 does not “air-lock” the pump

    • Can be used for air pumps when the lights are out


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Regulating your CO2 levels

  • Bell diffusers (useful for generator output fluctuations from week to week)

    • This is based on having excess CO2 that just escapes the aquarium

    • Can be “wasteful”


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Other thoughts?

  • Any other thoughts or suggestions?


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