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Starting a Planted Tank

Plant Nutrients 101

Phophates in the Planted Tank

Activated Carbon

Fertilizer & the Planted Aquarium

CO2 & the Planted Tank

Algae Control

Safety Around the Aquarium

Cleaning Aquarium Glass

Mysterious Fish Deaths Explained!

Aquarium Photography

New Tank Syndrome

Choosing an Aquatic Heater

Tips for Beginning Fishkeepers

Salt in the Aquarium

Outdoor Patio Tubbing

Malaysian Trumpet Snails

 

 

CO2 and Beautiful Aquatic Plants

Growing Red Aquatic Plants with the help of CO2

Growing "difficult" red plants is easy with Yamato Green and supplemental CO2

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To successfully grow beautiful plants, all the plants' needs must be met. Plants require proper nutrients, all of which can be met with regular use of Yamato Green. Adequate light must be provided, generally defined as fluorescent tubes not over 8 months old, with a total of about 2-4 watts per gallon of water. The often overlooked secret to success is supplemental Carbon Dioxide, or CO2. Plants require sufficient quantities of Carbon to build their leaf structure. Some plants can extract this carbon from the water by splitting the carbonate component of calcium carbonate in water, a process known as Biogenic Decalcification. However, many plants (Cabomba, for example) are incapable of biogenic decalcification, and cannot reach their full potential without a supplemental source of carbon. Also, biogenic decalcification can cause a dramatic increase in pH, up to pH 9 or so - not very conducive to good plant growth!! Meeting the carbon needs of aquatic plants is best achieved by adding CO2 to the water. The common methods are to use CO2 tanks, and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) carbon dioxide generators. Certainly CO2 tanks are more convenient, and eliminate the need to service the system every 2 or 3 weeks, as required by a DIY carbon dioxide generator. Still, a good CO2 system can easily cost $300 and up. And what if you have 2, 3, 4 or more tanks? The expense can quickly mount up. DIY CO2 generators are nothing if not dirt cheap. They can be constructed for less than a dollar, and they do work beautifully. CO2 is generated in liberal quantities by the action of ordinary yeast on sugar. By providing a closed container for this reaction, the CO2 generated can be routed into the aquarium.

CO2 Injection Results

With supplemental CO2, you will suddenly discover that growing difficult plants becomes easy. CO2 is vital for red plants such as Ludwigia, Rotala or some species of Cabomba. Some of these plants will grow without extra CO2, but will not develop their beautiful red coloration. Once you add CO2 to your tank, you will never go back. Plants you once thought you could never grow suddenly become easy. One caution: keep track of your KH (Carbonate Hardness) readings of your water, since CO2 forms a weak acid (Carbonic Acid) that can slowly reduce your KH levels in your water. If KH is allowed to reach zero, pH can drop precipitously. If your KH reads less than 4, try adding a little Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) to increase KH. Regular water changes become vitally important in tanks with supplemental CO2, since water changes will constantly replenish the water's natural buffers, helping to maintain a more steady pH.

Building a DIY Yeast/Sugar CO2 generator

CO2 can be generated in a closed system (also called a juice bottle). The gas is then fed via a length of airline tubing to the aquarium, where it can be fed into a CO2 reactor, or it can be directed into the intake screen of an ordinary Hang On Back (HOB) power filter. Since the reaction generates a lot of pressure, the ideal reactor is made of glass or metal. However, glass bottles are becoming scarce as more and more manufacturers of beverages switch to cheaper, lighter weight plastic containers. Fortunately, these plastic containers can be used. Lightweight soda pop bottles are not desirable because they can collapse very easily, and the contents of the CO2 generator can accidentally wind up in your aquarium. The stronger bottles as used for Gatorade, Welch's Grape Juice or similar make ideal CO2 generators. The 2-quart (or 2 Liter) bottles are perfect. To make a generator, drill a small hole (3/16") in the middle of the cap of the bottle. Then, insert an airline tubing connector, the kind that come with disposable plastic airstones, in the hole. An airtight seal is imperative, or gas will leak and never make it into the aquarium. Ordinary Goop Household Adhesive & Sealant is the only glue readily available that will stick to the plastic bottle cap of a beverage container, and should be used under and around the plastic connector as it is inserted in the hole. Allow the glue to dry 24-72 hours, to allow all the volatile gases from the glue to disperse. The next day, add 2 cups of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of ordinary baker's yeast to the container. If you live in a soft-water area (i.e., your water has a naturally low pH), you may wish to add 1/2 tsp baking soda to assist the mixture to produce CO2. Baking soda is not necessary if you live in a moderate or hard water area. Then, fill the container about 3/4 full of warm (not hot) water, and shake. Replace the prepared bottle cap, and secure a 6'-8' length of airline tubing to the plastic fitting on top of the bottle cap. (Special silicone tubing resistant to CO2 can be used in place of ordinary airline tubing.) For safety's sake, use a one-way check valve, to prevent back-flow of water into the generator bottle. Do NOT attempt to control rate of gas flow by inserting a valve! If you restrict the flow of gas, you may end up with a ruptured yeast/sugar bottle, and quite a mess on your floor! Nothing should ever restrict the flow of gas from a yeast/sugar bottle. Route this tubing into the aquarium, either to a commercial CO2 reactor (Aqualine Buschke, Eheim, etc.), or into the inlet screen of a power filter (such as the AquaClear, or into the inlet screen of a canister filter such as the Eheim. (Fluval canister filters probably are not as desirable for CO2 dispersal, since they have been reported to have some problems accepting CO2 in their intakes.) Secure the end of the tubing with rubber bands or plastic ties to hold the end of the airline tubing close to the inlet screen. CO2 gas will be sucked into the filter, where it will strike the impeller blades and be shattered into jillions of microscopic bubbles. These bubbles will be absorbed into the water within seconds. The desirable CO2 level for plants is around 10-20 mg/L. The actual amount of CO2 you have in your water can be calculated quickly with a pocket calculator, using the formula: CO2 = 3 x KH x 10^(7-pH). This formula is also sometimes expressed as: CO2 = KH x 10^(7.5-pH). For your convenience, a handy CO2 Chart to quickly look up your CO2 levels is posted on Uniquaria by Giancarlo Podio. Do not allow CO2 levels to exceed 40 ppm, or they may become harmful to fish. The DIY CO2 generator will ordinarily last for 2-3 weeks before requiring a fresh load of sugar/yeast/water.

DIY CO2 Injection Bottle

CO2 Injector Cap
DIY Co2 Injector Cap

 

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