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Old 09-20-2007, 08:48 AM   #1
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Need help choosing CO2 system (what does the solenoid do?)

Hey guys, I will be purchasing (hopefully) a CO2 setup for my new 125 gallon tank and I need help choosing a CO2 system. I want to use a paintball canister to run the CO2 out of it so I decided to go with a setup from RedSea but I'm not sure which one to go with to be honest. I have no experience with CO2 systems or contained air for that matter and I don't know what the solenoid does and if I actually "need" one or "SHOULD" have one. I would like your expert opinions on the matter. Here are the two systems that I am debating between:

Without solenoid: http://www.bigalsonline.com/BigAlsUS...ystempaintball

With solenoid: http://www.bigalsonline.com/BigAlsUS...eluxewsolenoid

I found the one w/o the solenoid for ~$110 and the one WITH the solenoid for ~$150 so hopefully BigAls will live up to its price matching guarantee and deliver a good deal for me.

If anyone has any setup in mind that is better/cheaper feel free to send a link to it as it would help me out greatly. Have a nice day all!

EDIT: I keep forgetting CO2 is in liquid form in the canister and not gas form. Seems like a solenoid controls the flow of fluids???
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Old 09-20-2007, 09:16 AM   #2
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I think you're going to want to go with a bigger system for that size tank. You'll empty a paintball canister very, very quickly.

The Solenoid allows you to hook the system up on a timer. With no power going to the solenoid, no CO2 will flow. once power is applied, the flow starts and is controlled via the bubble counters.

I've got the Milwaukee system. Includes the regulator, solenoid, and a bubble counter, I paid $78 on ebay for it. You can get a tank locally (welding shop, roberts oxygen) for around $80-100. Get the largest tank you can afford and that will fit, as that will minimize the amount of times you have to have it refilled per year.

I'd venture that with a paintball canister, you'll be refilling every week or 2.
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Old 09-20-2007, 11:29 AM   #3
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Solenoid valves are normally on/off valve, no in between positions for control. When you send a voltage to them, they open or close depending on whether they are normally open or normally closed. The ones used on CO2 systems should be normally closed, so while the timer is on, you are sending a voltage to it and when the timer goes off, you stop that signal.
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Old 09-20-2007, 11:42 AM   #4
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So the kits would have everything that I needed minus the CO2 tank? I think I may go ahead and order the paintball setup even though I may have to refill frequently. I will just get 2-3 20oz. tanks which should last me a month or so.

What is the benefit of having it on a timer? This will really tell me if I need a solenoid or not. I can control the outlet of CO2 with the regulator right? How many bubbles per minute do you all use in your tanks? Does it depend on tank size and amount of plants? The system says it will work for tanks up to 130 gallons so I'd like to think I would be safe having a 125 and hopefully they didn't over-rate it. : (
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Old 09-20-2007, 01:53 PM   #5
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I still urge you to get a larger system. A 125 gallon tank is going to require a lot of CO2 to maintain target levels up around 30ppm. I really think you'll be swapping CO2 tanks weekly if you use the 20oz tanks. I would think a 10# CO2 tank would probably last you 6 months between fills. Besides, the hardware for a full setup is cheaper than that paintball kit you listed. Add the cost of a tank and you're only a little bit higher than the system above w/ a solenoid. I spent a total of $170 on my system with a 5# CO2 tank.

Plants, when not in their photoperiod (no light) do not consume CO2, so having it running with your lights off is essentially wasting the CO2. Regulators / needle valves can be touchy, so in order to maintain consistency you'll want to set it and leave the flow rate (bubbles per second) the same day in and day out. Constant fluctuations can lead to increased algae blooms.
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Old 09-20-2007, 05:02 PM   #6
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I have to agree with neilanh. I would not purchase that paintball setup. As mentioned, you will be running out of CO2 quite frequently.
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Old 09-20-2007, 05:32 PM   #7
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How many bubbles per minute do you guys/gals run then? Should I go with the "normal" setup instead of the paintball one or should I just go with the Milwaukee idea?

If I went with the Milwaukee regulator, what else would I need besides a 10lb tank (think this is a good size to fit in my stand)? I would need CO2 tubing but what else? I don't think I will need/want to run a timer on the setup because the CO2 will also be useful for controlling the pH and if I went with discus as I MAY do it will be helpful in maintaining the more acidic water needed. How much (rough estimate) would it be to fill a 10 lb. tank and how often would I need to refill it assuming that I am running at the same bubble rate that you all are running (continuously vs. a timer if you have one). Also, how/what is the best way to disperse the CO2? Can I hook the CO2 airline up to 1 or 2 powerheads? If I went with 2 powerheads would I need some sort of regulator between the two? Thanks for helping me out, I'd be lost without your help.
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Old 09-20-2007, 05:36 PM   #8
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I can't estimate your exact BPS you'll need. I run about 2bps on my 29gallon tank, 1.5bps on my 20 and <1 on my 2.5.

For diffusing the CO2, what kind of filtration are you going to have on the 125? If you'll have a canister filter, you can do an inline CO2 reactor. Completely hidden under your stand and you get 100% diffusion. The injection into a powerhead would also work.
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Old 09-20-2007, 07:29 PM   #9
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I am ordering an XP3 tomorrow. Could you recommend an inline CO2 reactor for me? Does it work similarly to an inline heater where I'd want it hooked up to the outlet hose? Thanks again fr your help/input.

What is the reasoning for running different rates (bubbles/sec)? Is it mainly the type of plants or the size of the tank? What level should be sufficient for mainly amazon swords?
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Old 09-20-2007, 08:30 PM   #10
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Check the DIY section. A little PVC and some bio-balls (which you'll want for the XP3 anyway) makes a very workable inline diffuser. Yes, they hook up just like the inline heaters, except most run the diffuser on the intake side of the filter. I think people have said they make them at about a $15-20 cost. I've seen them sold on F&S for $80.

Size of tank, surface agitation (off-gassing), diffusion method; all these things contribute to how many bps you'll end up running your setup at.
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Old 09-21-2007, 12:44 AM   #11
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I think I get your point on the bubbles/second and that's sort of what I was thinking (that you can't really suggest a certain rate based on one or two things). So, looking back at your previous post you recommended a target range of 30ppm...what is the "safe range" to be in and what exactly do I use to test it? Some sorta strip test I am assuming. I guess I will have to play around with the valves until I get the right bps which gives me somewhere around 30ppm but I just want to know the safe range in order to be...well, safe LOL (at least safe for the FISH).

If reactors are that much money I'd might as well make my own as I'm more than capable I may need to do a little background on how it works and whatnot but I'll be able to figure it out in little time. Seems pretty straight forward from some that I've seen. Also, I was thinking about putting the ceramic rings in my XP3 as the media where the beneficial bacteria would live but you think the bio balls would be better? They are a little more money, which I have no problem spending but I want to know what would be BETTER in the XP3. I don't plan on using ceramic rings in the diffuser as I am sure there is a reason for the balls. What is this reason exactly? Do they move back and forth and mix the CO2 with the water? (I have no clue LOL). Also, wouldn't it make more sense to have the diffuser on the outlet side of the filter because the CO2 wouldn't have to travel through the multiple layers of media, with some of it being lost and being converted into other compounds? It seems to make more sense to me at least to mix it with "clean" water and have it travel in a straight shot so to speak into the tank.
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Old 09-21-2007, 09:56 AM   #12
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30ppm is the recommended range. I think fish are safe up to around 80 or so, but it becomes overkill as the plants don't need it. The easy way to measure, once you get up and running, you'll need test kits for pH and kH. I recommend the liquid kits, as they're much more accurate than the test strips. Once you know the pH and kH of the tank with the system running for a while (takes a while to get the CO2 levels up, hour or two) then there's a simple chart you compare against to determine your CO2 levels.

As for reactors, check out this thread, Sparky did a great job writing up the ones he built and taking photos. He actually built mine and it runs very well.

The bioballs and/or ceramic rings do the same thing, provide lots of surface area for bacteria to live. Personnaly, in my XP canisters, I prefer the ceramic rings because they sink, so maintenance on them is much easier. The bioballs, IMO, work better for the reactor however. The purpose of having them in there is to make the CO2 bubbles bounce against them, forcing them to break into smaller bubbles and therefore more quickly dissolved into the water. Most put the in-line reactors on the intake side of the canisters, that way if a bubble escapes out of the reactor, it'll get chewed up and stuck inside the canister filter until it does complete dissolve. With other methods, such as injecting into a power head, you get bubbles all throughout your tank, which while isn't bad (and some claim is better) the presence of bubbles is annoying aesthetically to most people. Either way, the CO2 is going to dissolve the same way, so no worry about other "compounds" like you mentioned. The one bonus with the reactor in this method is you get 100% diffusion. With the power head option, aka the mist method, bubbles actually break the surface of the tank water and off-gas, therefore going to waste since they don't get dissolved in teh water to be used by the plants.
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Old 09-21-2007, 10:01 AM   #13
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If your water doesn't have any buffers in it you can use the CO2 chart to determine the target pH of your water based on your KH. In general this is going to be a 1 pt drop in pH from your rested pH without any injection. In otherword if you're pH is 7.8 after sitting in a bucket for 24 hrs or being aerated for an hr, then your target pH would be 6.8. Generally you're not going to run into any problems with the CO2 levels until you get over 100ppm, but with Discus I'd probably play it a bit safer and aim for a range between 30-45ppm. This will be lest wasteful of your CO2 as well.

Basically a solenoid allows you to controll when the flow of CO2 is on to your aquarium and therefore conserve your CO2 reducing how often you have to refill the cylindar. Generally the two methods are to hook it up to a timer so that it shuts off at night when CO2 isn't being used by the plants or to use a pH controller which targets a specific pH and therefore CO2 level in the tank. While not 100% necessary, it is a nice item to have.

The reason for the bioballs in the CO2 reactor is to create agitation in the water and allow the CO2 more time to diffuse. You could sub in those bio rings or even some of the plastic scrubber pads (unused of course) instead and get equally good results. Some even get just as good of diffusioin with out anything filling the reactor. It's one of those things that it's good to do some experimenting with to find out what works best for your setup.

You can have your diffuser on the intake or the outake of your filter. There are benefits to both. By having it on the out take it isn't going to get dirty as fast but sometimes either CO2 doesn't get completely dissolved (possibly not long enough for the amount CO2 and flow rate) or restricts the flow too much on that side. While having it on the intake actually allows the CO2 to diffuser better since any escaping bubbles will get chopped up by the impeller. I'd try one and if it isn't work, try the other side to see if you like it better.
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Old 09-21-2007, 12:20 PM   #14
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Thanks to both of you for your replies. I think I will go with the ceramic rings in my XP3 as planned and try to get a small package of bio-balls (if they sell them like that) for the in line diffuser. I was actually looking at Sparky's setup yesterday and last night and think it looks pretty cool with the clear PVC. I wonder how much he'd charge me for one LOL. I could make one but he may have some of that nifty clear PVC laying around that looks very nice since he needed a lot of it to make ones for other members on here. I think I'll try the diffuser on the outlet side because it won't get dirty that way and I think the CO2 diffusion should still be pretty high with the bio balls in there.
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Old 09-21-2007, 03:24 PM   #15
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Shoot him a PM, never know what he'll say. He may at least have some clear PVC, I know he's busy putting together his first SW tank right now so he may not have free time to build you one. Never know.

If you need bioballs, we can possibly work something out. Lemme see how many I have left. At least that way you wouldn't need to buy a whole box of them.
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Old 09-21-2007, 05:49 PM   #16
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I think I'll try to find some clear PVC locally because by the time a small piece got here, assuming that he did have some left, I might as well buy my own because I could have it put together soon as I wouldn't have to wait for it to arrive and shipping would raise the cost as well. Same thing with the bio balls. I appreciate the offer but I may as well buy new. For some reason I was thinking they were $15/liter but when I did a quick check on www.bigalsonline.com I found them for $6/gallon so I'll just go ahead and add them to my current order that I am going to be placing soon. I'm sure I'll be able to do something with the extra bio balls even if it means coming up with my own diffuser design and selling them to people that want them.
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Old 09-21-2007, 10:29 PM   #17
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You'll need more than one XP3 for filtration of a 125, they don't do what they are advertised for...I wouldn't do more than a 75 with an XP3 myself.

Plus, inline reactors slow flow rates again.
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Old 09-21-2007, 10:50 PM   #18
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One XP3 will be sufficient for what I want to do as I will have a heavily planted tank which will help to remove fish wastes along with the canister filter and manual cleaning of the tank with the good ole siphon. I agree that if I were to rely soley on a filter system to clean the tank then I would want a two XP2's for example.
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Old 09-25-2007, 07:18 PM   #19
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I have a 150 gal which I just hooked CO2 up to and I am using a 10lb CO2 cylinder, a Milwaukee SMS122 pH controller, a Milwaukee solenoid valve/bubble counter/regulator all in one, a 1000 series CO2 reactor, and a Maxi Jet 1200 powerhead.

I have the CO2 running into a loop system that uses the reactor and Maxi Jet so they are separate from my filtration so I don't lose any flow and it is working great.
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Old 09-27-2007, 12:12 PM   #20
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Definately get a solenoid. It will pay for itself in under a year or so (by not running 2/3rds of the day). I have my powerhead, lights, and CO2 solenoid come on and go off together on a simple timer. My setup is lighted from 2pm until 10:45pm, the rest of the time I'm not using any CO2. I really think its difficult not to justify the solenoid purchase. Without leaks, I will get ~3X the duration on a CO2 fill. At under $20 a fill for my 5lb tank it will only take 3 fills or so to pay for the solenoid.
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