CO2 Regulator / Solenoid / Needle Valve

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Zoom, Jun 28, 2011.

  1. Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    If you've been in the fish hobby for a short while, you probably would have been exposed to the concept of injecting CO2 into a planted tank. A brief look into it more than likely scared you away from it, more than likely due to the price!

    Obviously first prize would be to buy a complete kit, but after some of my own research, and experience, I've actually found this to be a pretty expensive way to do it. But because I actually didn't know what I needed, or where to get it, I obviously opted for the complete-all-in-one set up.

    I recently went through the experience of having to replace a leaky solenoid, and whilst i was at it, I replaced my needle valve to something more suitable to my liking.
    There is actually very little information out there that I have found regarding this, so I thought I'd help some of you guys get an idea of this "overwhelming" concept. There is absolutely no reason as to why people think Pressurized CO2 is only for the pro's. Yes, you will need to do your research on how much to put in, and the dangers of it, but that is your's to research. Let me explain to you what you will need:

    A dual guage regulator:

    DSC02867.jpg
    The first guage tells you the pressure that is in the bottle, and the second guage tells you the pressure that you are releasing by opening the regulator control valve. Where can you get it? Google / Yellowpages companies that sell these dual guage regulators to the welding industry. Welding industry uses CO2 for some of the welding. I did a brief search the other day, and the average price was between R350 - R600.

    A solenoid:
    DSC02870.jpg
    Ok, my picture is showing 2 different types.
    A solenoid is a "tap" that will open when the power turns on, and will close when the power turns off. Connect this to a timer, and you have it set up.
    The new one I purchased just over R200.00, but mine is a complete brass unit, and hugely overspec'd.
    Find them from suppliers of refrigeration plant equipment. Make sure it's CO2 resistant.

    A needle valve:
    DSC02856.jpg
    Again, my pic is of 2 different types.
    A needle valve simply let's you fine tune the amount of CO2 you are injecting into the tank.
    Mine was just under R200.00. Also from refrigeration companies.

    Depending on the needle valve, you may need to get some adapters to fit the CO2 tubing into it. Some needle valves will come with this tho.
    DSC02862.jpg


    You may also need to get some reducers... ideally have all the equipment with you as there may be differences in threads:
    DSC02864.jpg

    Oh, and you will obviously need a CO2 container.
    DSC02871.jpg

    I've opted for a 2kg CO2 fire extinguisher. Main reason is it is small enough to fit in the cabinet of my tank, but secondly, the price. Be cautious when buying your extinguishers. Builder's sold my first one to me at R599.00. When I wanted to refill, the suppliers were able to supply me a second bottle for R280.00. If you don't stay anywhere near a CO2 filling depot, which I bet you don't, you may need to leave your bottle with an agent for a few days before getting it back. So I have 2 bottles. When the one is empty, I send it in for filling whilst the second bottle is used. I found an agent near my office that will organize a refill for me at R25.00 per kg, plus R35 handling.

    Putting it all together...

    Simply connect the regulator to the solenoid, (taking note of the direction of the flow), and then the needle valve onto the solenoid. Put my CO2 tubing from the needle valve into the tank, and connect the regulator to the fire extinguisher bottle. (use washer). Use PTFE tape (plumber tape) on the threads. Ideally use new tape.

    DSC02872.jpg


    So what is the costing roughly:

    Dual guage regulator: R400 (Let's work on avg price)
    Solenoid: R230 (Please make sure it is rated for single phase power- you may need to wire the plug on yourself.)
    Needle valve: R200
    Adapters R50 (if needed)
    CO2 bottle: R280

    Total cost R1160.00.
    Let's round that up to R1400 to cover for petrol and phone calls, cause you will be driving to a few places to get the stuff....

    So even at a conservative figure of R1400.00, it's still cheaper than the cheapest regulator I've seen on the market. (SAGA @ R1499.00) AND you have the bottle!!

    Making the hobby just a little more affordable!
     
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  3. azurekoi

    azurekoi Loaches & Gobies

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    + 1 for a detailed "How to pimp your own CO2 system"...

    - 1 for putting us retailers of reasonably priced CO2 units out of bussiness....lol

    But seroiusly, as @Zoom said - read up on the dangers of CO2 first and MAKE sure you know how to do this before you rush out and do this..

    Thanx for a great article Zoom - I for one vote for it going as a sticky....
     
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  4. Big G

    Big G Apisto Nutz!!!

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    Thread Stickied! LOL!

    Thanks Zoom! Interesting stuff!

    Regards
    G!
     
  5. OP
    Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    So ive caught you out have I? If I can build an over spec'd set up for less than the cheapest aquarium grade, how do lps stores justify their prices? Lets put it this way, my solenoid and needle valve which I HAD to pimp due to a leak, is now HOSPITAL GRADE stuff.

    And yes, shawn is 110% percent correct on research. It may now be more affordable, but are you ready for it, and understand the dangers? This is entirely up to you to research and decide.

    Sent from my Tablet using Tapatalk
     
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  6. Slojo

    Slojo Well Known Member

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    Thanx for putting this up @Zoom.
     
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  7. Rickus

    Rickus Active Member

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    +1 @ Zoom

    Can you give use a heads up on diffusers and bubble counters, or should that I buy that at @azurekoi.
     
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  8. poro

    poro Aponogeton undulatus

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    awesome article @Zoom, very detailed and informative.
     
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  9. OP
    Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    I'll let @azurekoi make some money somewhere... get it from him!
    (But the cheaper route is an internal filter pump... I'll let you google that information.)
     
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  10. boebie

    boebie Active Member

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    You might want to stress that the tubing has to be co2 resistant and not the normal airline tubing.
     
  11. Donny

    Donny Well Known Member

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    Zoom package this hardware with all the instuctions and offer it to forum members :)
     
  12. OP
    Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    Considering it... but need capital to outlay!
     
  13. Donny

    Donny Well Known Member

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    50% not refundable deposit which excludes postage and packaging
    :)
    :)
     
  14. OP
    Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    @Donny

    I was seriously considering this at one stage, but there are too many toes to step on within this forum alone. I dont see a point in upsetting all our great sponsors over a few hundred bucks. Ethically I couldnt do it.



    Sent from my Tablet using Tapatalk
     
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  15. mc 1

    mc 1 mad about fish

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    do these dangers apply to only making your own system or does it also apply to the bought ones too ?
     
  16. Slojo

    Slojo Well Known Member

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    No It does not need to be.
    The normal tubing will apparently,and I say apparently not last as long,while mine has been running for almost 2 years now whithout perishing.
     
  17. Slojo

    Slojo Well Known Member

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    Whithout proper knowledge i.e. how much CO2 to diffuse into your tank,it will be.
    Rule of thumb would be 1 bubble per second for every 100 Liter,but it is not a hard and fast rule.
    The best and safest way is to measure the CO2 concentration in the water.
    To do it see this table: http://www.slojo.co.za/co2_calculator.htm
     
  18. oscar freak

    oscar freak Well Known Member

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    how reasonable azure?
     
  19. OP
    Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    You are 100% correct @boebie. I personally feel that the CO2 resistant tubing seals better onto the needle valve in any case, but as @Slojo has said, a good quality silicon tubing works as well. I believe it's not that the CO2 perishes the tubing but rather that the silicon tubing allows the CO2 to escape through the tube's walling.
    I actually found an LPS that was selling CO2 tubing at R8 per meter... and you only need 2-3 meters max per set up, so really... what is the big fuss over the expense of it???
    The nice thing about the CO2 tubing is that you can actually PVC weld it to all the non-return valves and the pump's venturi system (if you go that route).

    The dangers are there whether you use your own DIY system (I'm talking full pressurized here) or shop bought. You need to have some sort of DIY background or knowledge to make all the connections... know how to use thread tape, and how to tighten the equipment. If you've fiddled around with plumbing fittings, you should be fine.

    Then there is the danger of putting CO2 into your tank and not being fully aware of what you are doing.

    CO2 will (not maybe, it WILL) alter your pH. Now if you have too low kH, your pH altering will be very high... meaning it will change drastically. This is obviously detrimental to your fish. I agree and I disagree with @Slojo's 1 drop per 100litre measurement... but in his defense, he did mention this was not a hard and fast rule. If you are running a water of 1kH and putting in 1 bubble per second on your 100litre tank.. you WILL have a pH crash! (Dead fish). You need to do a little bit of research before venturing out into CO2.

    Guys... I may irritate a few members here with this statement... but please understand where it is coming from:

    Putting CO2 into your tank is dangerous. It is NOT something to play with or to "try out" for a few days. You either research and do it properly, or don't do it at all. (In MY OWN opinion... using the yeast DIY is play-play CO2, and you are "trying it out". I will categorically state that it DOES NOT work long term, because long term you will have more problems with algae than healthy plants. When last did you see an amazing scaping competition where the guys are using Yeast???)
    HOWEVER: If you have done your research, and by that I mean tested your water perameters, and read up extensively on everything, it can be the most rewarding experience you will have on your tank.
     
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  20. Laure

    Laure Cyano Terminator

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    Hi @Zoom

    Firstly, non-CO2 tanks can also be very rewarding. The issue of CO2 or not, is actually a planning/design step. What is the goal? Lots of fast growing stems? Some difficult to grow plants? Well then yes, you will need CO2. But then be sure that the work required fits into your lifestyle. There will be no long holidays. Do you trust your CO2 system to run without checking on it everyday? Do you know exactly when it will run out? No scare tactics; I am merely pointing out some additional considerations.

    Then onto the danger. Ph crash is a possibility, but before that happens you are likely to actually gas out the fish. Both can cause problems and dead fish, but when the ph drops so low that it becomes a problem, at that stage you likely have far too much CO2 in the water and fish will be suffocating long before they get affected by the low ph. Fact: more people kill fish with CO2 than with anything else they add into the water. Once again; these are not scare tactics. You wanted to write an informative primer; based on some of the feedback already received and typical questions I suspect will follow, I suggest you add a little section containing some of the above information.

    As you correctly stated: it is dangerous. But I want to say that if you have quality equipment, it is not dangerous. I may be stepping on toes here, but the CO2 systems sold in this country and at most LFS do not qualify as quality equipment.
     
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  21. OP
    Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    Hi @Laure

    I couldn't have said it any better. I've thought of writing up an article on CO2... but to be honest, I haven't had it long enough to do one. I need to gain a bit more experience, and do some more research into it.
    Your "scare tactics" are definitely not false... they are truth... and if people want to start fiddling with CO2... do it properly. I still do not know why people "play around" with DIY Yeast. Granted you probably cannot kill the fish / crash your pH unless you running multiple upon multiple bottles... but you just cannot control the amount of CO2 going into the tank... and it is so unreliable and unstable.

    You an say that again!

    South African mind-set is such a fickle mind! Let's say I offered you a South African assembled unit, built with hospital grade equipment, complete kit at R1800.00(incl bottle), and your LPS has a Milwaukee, GERMAN IMPORTED for R2400.00. (Excl bottle)... which one are you going to buy? My mind says you would be STUPID to take the SA one! For an extra R600 you get a GERMAN one dude. Where's your brain??
    Actually... where is your brain?? The milwaukee at R2400.00 is entry level AQUATIC standard.... the SA one is OVER SPEC'D because it is hospital grade! In actual fact I could probably sell you the sa one (excl bottle) for R1200 to R1400... but I make it R1800 to be competitive. If I say R1200 you will think it's cheap and nasty SA cr@p.

    Yes... work required is ensuring you are dosing ferts accordingly.

    You can actually work around this. If you go on a long holiday... switch your CO2 off, turn your lighting photoperiod down. This works for me.

    I do now. Before I had to check the bubble counter every day and make adjustments. After receiving my new set up, I plugged it last tuesday, set it up, and since then I have not had to make any adjustments at all. OK, I lie, I increased the bubble per second last night because I was initially on 1.5 bubbles per second, (which I ran for a week) and now I'm up to 2 bubbles per second.

    If your regulator is good quality, you will have a fair indication. First guage measures bottle pressure. HOWEVER, I do have a full bottle on standby. (This is why I went for the 2kg bottles because I can have one spare whilst the other is being used or refilled.

    With sensible working, you will find it's not a scary thing to divulge into... BUT.... you need to have done your research.. and TALK to people who have CO2. NOT the LPS... they just wanna sell you the regulator.
     
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