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Old 11-10-2006, 10:23 PM   #1
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DIY CO2 powered reactor

I put together a little DIY article for someone who would like a CO2 reactor for either a yeast generator or pressurized system and doesn’t want to shell out all the money for something already made and quite frankly doesn’t work as well.

I have been using a powered reactor based off of Tom Barr's "Venturi Design" reactor for a few month's now and have been very pleased to say the least. Until recently, when I ended up breaking one of them in my 28 gallon aquarium due to a poor quality plastic container that I had used when I initially made it.

Tom (Barr) uses a Viewtainer to construct his reactors, but I could not find those locally and did not want to have to spend the money to have them shipped, so I questioned the wife and gave her the specifications as to what I had needed and she promptly opened the refrigerator and handed me the parmesan cheese container and said “will that do”, and boy did I grin. I sat there dumb founded for minutes. I had searched various stores for hours for this ‘perfect’ container to no avail and here, in my own house, it sat just feet away from me. (Thank you! Honey).

Anyways, onto the reactor:

First things first: things needed.

Drill and drill bit
Exacto knife (utility knife)
Lighter or torch
Powerhead (aquaclear 301 or pequin 660R both work)
Parmesan cheese container (or something similar)
1/4 OD polyethylene tubing (hard tubing)
Suction cups (topfin heater holder $0.99)
Aquarium silicone sealant
Craftsman P2 phillips screwdriver (or equivalent)
Airline connector
Sand paper (fine grain)

Let me start off by saying that I am using an Aquaclear 301, which is rated at 174 GPH, that is good enough to dissolve the CO2 into the aquarium, but not fast enough to push it out the bottom of the container. You may think that having a bigger tank means you must have a bigger PH, but that is not the case, that will only cause less of the CO2 to be dissolved into the water. If you have a bigger tank, say more then 125 gallons, then building two would be a better way to go (or building one with a bigger container and PH combo). The principal of this reactor is to swirl the incoming water around the container, which will dissolve the CO2 by the time the water leaves the container. The longer the water is in the container the better the CO2 will be dissolved. (I.e. having a bigger PH will only lessen the time the CO2 can be dissolved in your tank). The purpose the of venturi line going back into the PH is for when O2 is saturating the tank water. This makes it hard for the reactor to completely dissolve CO2 into the aquarium, so the excess air, O2 and CO2, is reinjected back into the suction of the PH. This normally occurs during the later hours of the day.

So, onto the construction:

This is the container that my ‘Wonderful’ wife gave me.

My kitchen table just before the work. (BTW, the hardest part of this project was removing the glue from the container that held the outside label on.)

If you are using the Aquaclear PH, it comes with a little square adaptor and if you are using the pequin 660R, it comes with the downspout adaptor. Those adaptors are what we are working with, specifically the aquaclear’s. (Note: I cut the pequins adaptor about an inch from the PH to make my other reactor)

In this picture I am trying to show you what the direction of the adaptor is going to look like once it is installed. (remember, we want a swirling motion)

When cutting the hole for the adaptor, make the hole smaller then the adaptor and then work your way out. The plastic is going to be the structural support, not the silicone sealant. Also, to not push to hard on the plastic or you will crack it. (no big deal, just go get more cheese. LOL) Make sure that you cut it square or the PH will be lop sided. Ensure that the top of the hole is within 1/2 inch of the top of the container. (if it is not, then this will leave a CO2 bubble at the top of the container, mine was 3/8 inch from the top.)

This is what is looks like once I had the fit perfect. (notice the adaptor is backwards, this was just for the picture.) Note: this is not the correct flow direction. More to come on that.

Now that the adaptor is fitted properly we have to work on the direction of the flow. Do NOT remove any material from the top or bottom of the container, where the adaptor is fitted, now that we have it fitted. We will be removing material from the sides of the container to angle the adaptor to give use the swirling motion.(Note: removing to much material will make it more difficult to glue the adaptor to the container and make the reactor less structurally sound). Now slowly remove some material from one of the sides. Replace the adaptor in the hole each time and check the angle in which it is pointed.
This is the result we are looking for:

Note the lip on the adaptor is outside the container on the one side. (this makes it more structurally sound)

Also, plan ahead of time before you glue the adaptor, as to where you plan on mounting the reactor in your aquarium. It can be glued in a clockwise or counter clockwise fashion.

Before you apply the silicone sealant use some sand paper and lightly sand the adaptor around the area that will be the sealing surface. Same goes for the container. This allows for a better seal between the two surfaces. (note the shape of the hole)

I went with a counterclockwise flow.

Let the silicone sealant setup for a day before proceeding.

Now we will work on the rest of the reactor. (the hardest part is over)

Lets start with the suction cup. Get out a lighter or torch(drill will work) and heat up a Craftsman P2 phillips screwdriver (or equivalent) and poke a hole into the container about 3” from the top of the container. Where this hole is made is solely dependent on how YOU want to mount it in YOUR aquarium (think ahead of time). The hole can be cleaned up with the exacto knife prior to adding the suction cup, if need be.

Now comes the CO2 line. For this I use a drill. I used a drill bit slightly smaller then the airline connector to ensure a snug fit.

Use about 4 inches of the rigid tubing and bend about an inch of the end. If you heat it at that point it will stay bent. (Note: if you heat it too much it will turn black.) This will allow you to use the reactor as a bubble counter as well. Just push the airline connector down from the top and push the rigid tubing up from the bottom, pliers help to install it.

Now we will make the venturi loop. We will use the same method as we did with the suction cup. The container hole should be made 2 inches from the top, but where at in reference to the PH is solely dependent on your configuration. I make it as close to the PH as possible.

Then make a hole in the suction of the PH.

The rigid tubing goes between the two.

Now all you have to do is install the PH into the adaptor and you have yourself a powered reactor.

(Note: the PH has a suction cup mount that this picture does not reflect)

FWIW, I like to place my powered reactor by my filter inlet to help disperse the CO2 thru out my aquarium.

Here is the Pequin 660R installed in my 28 gallon aquarium:

Total cost I paid: PH – 17, tubing – 3, suction cups – 1, all the other stuff I had. 21 bucks.

The parts I used can be purchased at petsmart and home depot.

I hope this article is not too confusing and saves people some money. Many thanks to Tom Barr. His plans can be seen here:

Granted this design takes up some space, so it should mainly be used in larger aquariums, but I have been using it in my 28 gal aquarium for months without any problem. just make sure you have the plants to cover it up.
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co2, diy, diy co2, reactor

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