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Monday, 21 October 2013

Cyano Problems

Ive been a bad aquarist as of late, and have neglected both of my tanks. Thankfully the Reef Tank is currently in a semi mothballed state, but my Planted Tank has been a little less fortunate.

Unfortunately, personal, health and work issues have all cropped up over the last 3 months so its been a bit tough trying to concentrate or spend quality time with my aquariums.

As a result cyanobacteria or blue-green algae has taken a hold in my FWP Tank and looks horrid as a result.

Im putting its rise down to neglect, but that neglect has bought on poor control for water changes, maintaining nutrients (including an diminishing CO2 supply at one point) and substandard feeding regimes. 

So here are a few horror shots...

A mat of green snotty slime covers the substrate...

Freshwater Cyanobacteria 26

My moss ball has been adorned with a toupee of the same sludge...

Freshwater Cyanobacteria 30

And my "moss wall" which had been doing so is riddle with it...

Freshwater Cyanobacteria 35

Very nasty to look at and enjoy...

As a bonus… it hasn't really got hold of the mother java fern which is now growing at a rate of knots and constantly budding new plantlets...

Java Fern 44

So to try and solve the problem, i have decided to go down the black out route, maintain nutrients to some degree and cut feeding for a few days.

Starting with a 50% water change, followed by buffers and some potassium nitrate, i siphoned out as mush of the slime as possible. The stuff on the substrate was easy, and even the moss ball faired well and didn't come apart. My moss wall however lost a few bits as it was easier to just siphon out chunks of the moss at the same time to clear as much of the cyano as possible. Luckily its hardy, and grows quite readily so it should continue to bloom afterwards and be back to where it was within a few weeks.

One of my sources for this method is from James' Planted Tank, a website that i have simple to follow and understand and valuable at the same time for learning several quite important factors surrounding planted tanks. From reading this i also realise i need to take a little more care with the filtration in this tank. The floss pad gets heavily soiled over the course of 7 days between water changes, which does seem oddly excessive considering the reasonably low stocking in this tank at the moment. Again i may need to be more strict with feeding which i need to experiment with, but having a dirty filter will not be helping.

I didn't do the silly thing and get rid of or end up damaging the original Lido light unit and flaps when swapping out for the Radion that is currently installed above it, so replacing all that has worked nicely to cut out the light going in through the top...

Cyanobacteria Blackout 47

With that, using a black, thick towel… and two tins of bins… i made a cover/curtain for the exposed glass...

Cyanobacteria Blackout 59

Fingers crossed my plants won't suffer too much, my the cyano will!

I shall update later this week with the results!

And to finish on a nice picture, one of my Amano Shrimps was digging around during the water changed and duly posed for a photo.

Armano Shrimp 19

Monday, 30 September 2013

Empty CO2 Bottle Detection

Basic observation is obviously one of the most straightforward skills you need when looking after an aquarium, but recently its taken me the best part of a week to discover that the pressurised CO2 bottle on my planted tank has been empty for several days!

A few factors contributed to this...

  1. My CO2 drop checker had gone AWOL in the tank, the suckers had let go and it had vanished down the back of some of my decor!
  2. Not checking in on the Apex app often enough.
  3. A lapse in observation and maintenance recently due to a few personal issues.

But on the eve of my writing this post and following a decent maintenance session the day previously, i duly checked in on my now retrieved drop checker to see how the CO2 levels were doing. To my surprise the checker was dark blue, indicating a lack of CO2 diffused into the system.

On looking at the diffuser, and the power head that creates current around the general diffuser area, the power head was on and running, but no bubbles rising through the tower.

So the most obvious cause, which also turned out to be the solution, was the CO2 bottle was now empty.

Not too much of an issue, as i have a couple more full ones on standby ready to go, so swapped the regulator and was up and running again within no time.

So now i checked in on the Apex web login to see where and when it dropped out, hoping it would have been within the last 7 days...

Apex pH Graph

Thankfully it had gone within the last 7 days! Running out sometime on the 23rd Sept, as the following days pretty much just show the pH shift based on the lighting cycle.

So this got my thinking… how can i create an automatic warning to tell me that the bottle has ran out in future.

My first thoughts were to employ a pressure switch on the CO2 supply line and use one of the Apex's Switch inputs to detect when the pressure switch enters a low state, or when the pressure in the line drops significantly to suggest the bottle is empty.

While this should work, it means i need to start searching for an ideal switch and then start the process of integrating it into the system.

After a little more thought i worked out that this can be done through programming alone with no added expense.

A quick explanation on how my CO2 system works

The Apex controls my CO2 injection through the use of a pH probe and a series of 'Virtual Outlets' dialled into different KH levels.

A further 'Control' virtual outlet has the final say as to when the power head and solenoid will activate and inject CO2.

If the desired pH/KH ratio is reached, the Control outlet picks up on this and injects until a lower pH is achieved.

I determined the pH levels through a bit of experimentation, various reading and drop check tests.

The following shows my Apex dashboard with the Control and KH Virtual Outlets and the two physical outlets for the Solenoid and the Power Head.

In this instance, the KH of the water, post water change and buffer, would have been 6DKH, so the relevant VO is enabled. As the pH is above a current limit, to maintain the CO2 level at that KH the Control VO is 'ON' so the power head and solenoid are both running.

Screen Shot 2013 09 30 at 19 26 58

Below is the details for the C4_CO2_KH6 Virtual Outlet

Screen Shot 2013 09 30 at 19 30 18

This is the Control Virtual Outlet

Screen Shot 2013 09 30 at 19 31 29

The physical outlets for the solenoid and power head just have basic commands to turn them on, if the Control VO is 'ON' with Defer commands so the power head comes on momentarily before the solenoid is opened.

So whats the FREE way of making an empty CO2 Bottle alarm

The Control VO only comes on when any of the KH VO's are 'ON'… AND… if the time is between 10:00 to 23:00 during the day (to coincide with the lights, with an hour or so to get going first off)

So the Control VO during any day will only be on for a maximum of 13 hours. Before the time constraints shut it back down.

The solution was to create another VO, one that will effectively time the 'ON' status of the Control VO.

Screen Shot 2013 09 30 at 19 43 13

Ignore the actual naming, thats just a convention i use to put them in order on the iOS apps. :)

So now this Alarm outlet will go 'ON' if the Control VO is ON, however the Defer statement will only allow that if the Control outlet has been 'ON' for 720minutes… or 12 hours.

My CO2 injection cycles up and down several times per day, but in this case it would never be more than 48 hours without CO2, in which case my tank can survive quite happily.

So why 48 hours? Well, if the bottle were to run empty on a Monday at say 15:00 in the afternoon, the Control VO would try to run the injection system, and eventually shut down at 23:00. In which case the Alarm VO would have been live for around 8 hours and would have not triggered.

However on the following Tuesday, the Control VO will try to start the injection system at 10:00 and will trigger the Alarm, but will never reach the desired pH, so eventually 12 hours later the Alarm VO will go 'ON' which i can then use to trigger alarms or email alerts.

I could dial the Alarm VO trip time down several hours and potentially catch a dwindling CO2 supply quicker, but as i have no plants that are absolutely critical that they have CO2 all the time, i feel the daily time span is adequate.

As there is no 'SET' command in the Alarm VO, this will of course require manual intervention when it is enabled. I manually set the VO to 'OFF' then return the slider to 'AUTO' so it lies in wait. If the 12 hour (720min) condition is met, the Alarm VO will go 'ON' and stay 'ON' until i manually reset it.

Hope that explains it!

Have any cool Apex programming ideas? Let me know!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

MACNA 2013 - Neptune Systems

I was really hoping to make the trip out to Florida over the last fortnight and attend the MACNA conference as well as bundle in a bit of a holiday, but a few changes in daily life eventually prevented me from attending what looked to be a spectacular conference, which has bummed me out a little bit.

However, I've been following the buzz and other blogs across the internet and trying to keep up with whats been happening.

My favourite reveal of everything outright has got to be the news from Neptune Systems that the Apex will now support the Radion lighting fixture and they have an all new cloud based programming and monitoring system called Apex Fusion.

One of the main selling poinst of Fusion appears to be the fact that the mine field of network and internet access setup will pretty much be phased out.

I read and try to help on many forum threads and through email and eventual phone calls of people having difficulty with these issues. Sadly the controller itself sometimes gets blamed for not being able to do what the owner intends, when this is not the case.

Due to the infinite number of ISP and router setups, and not everyone being computer or network savvy, it is not an easy task to supply a one stop solution for everybody. Hopefully Fusion will be that one stop solution though. If it works as intended, it will be outright brilliant with no comparable system on the market.

As the Apex and Radion are my preferred control equipment and lighting setups, this has been music to my ears!

There will also be an Apex specific and controlled auto feeder. Something that many people have been asking for, for a very long time! Great stuff and kudos to the Neptune Systems guys for providing solutions to what people actually want.

Heres a quick video review from BRS showing Fusion.

And you can follow the news from Neptune Systems themselves as the reveal official information on the new products and software at...

Checking in...

OK, so i have not posted on this blog for quite a while now, and I've had a few nice and kind messages from a few people asking where I've gone to and if things are still running.

I can confirm i am still here but have not had chance to do many updates due to a few personal issues and work related priorities.

I do have my aquariums though, and plenty has happened to them. With the nights now drawing in and me needing to find things to do on dark cold nights, i will definitely be adding roundups of what has happened over the last few months.

Again, thank you to those that have sent me messages.

Best regards.


Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Its been a while… CO2

I've been a little slow posting as of late, but i have by no means been slacking on the aquarium side… with perhaps the exception of my reef tank, which is still full of fresh air…

With respect to my little experimental planted tank though, things have changed drastically!

Ill start with CO2.

For a while now i have been skirting around with this subject, starting with the commercially available liquid carbon sources with varying degrees of success, and if i had to recommend one of these products, it would of course be Seachem Flourish Excel.

Following a crash and demise of most of my planted stock and a subsequent algae breakout which i put down to a factor of changing some of the products i was using, my LFS suggested using CO2 to try and bring the tank back to its better days.

This started by trying out a biological CO2 system from JBL called the ProFlora Bio 160. While it did create CO2 gas for a reasonable amount of time, and the kit itself was generally well made and nice and simple to use and install. It just didn't have the power to put out a sufficient amount of CO2 gas. It barely even registered on the pH readings, let alone on my drop checker.

It could have worked differently if i had used a different mixture, or at least a different type of yeast other than what is provided in the JBL refill kits, and i did contemplate building a larger bio CO2 system to see if it could become much more capable. But the space for the vessels and the potential mess lacked any appeal.

So with that i effectively shut down the bio system.

2013-05-18 10.05.19

I decided to just get my finger out and sort out a pressurised CO2 system.

For a start i found a few reasonable suppliers for CO2 “pub gas” and eventually contacted Terry from Yorkshire CO2 Gas who sorted me out with several 14lb bottles for £65 each. A bargain compared to some of the “aquarium specific” CO2 bottles that range into the £100’s for around a third of the capacity!

2013-05-16 18.11.30

As i already had a regulator, all i required was an electronic solenoid to control the gas flow, and i would recycle the non return valve and Taifun diffuser that came with the JBL Bio 160 kit. The solenoid itself will be controlled through timing and pH using the installed Neptune Systems Apex.

The solenoid, i managed to pick up from Wharf Aquatics, made by Sera and has worked flawlessly so far.

Only minor issue was the Euro plug, but easily rectified with a good quality adaptor.

Sera CO2 Solenoid 

I had a few teething issues to start with. Mainly due to me being green when it comes to using this kind of setup. The regulator i had, included a needle valve that was installed directly onto the regulator output.

I ran some tube from the bottle to the aquarium and installed the solenoid at the tank end so it could be controlled by the Apex. However when the solenoid opened, if it had been closed for some time, i would get a massive surge of CO2 bubbles through the diffuser, making anyone in or out of the aquarium jump!

I soon learned that the needle valve was supposed to be at the other end, and luckily had the parts i needed to dismount it from the regulator and relocate it to the tank end.

With that complete, the surge issue was completely removed.

A bit of fine tuning and adjustment on the working pressures and the needle valve adjustment, and i have achieved a nice and steady 2 bubbles per second flow.

And low and behold i now have an excellent and sufficient source of CO2!

My plants seem to breath a sigh of relief and really look to be coming on strong now with an abundant source of free carbon going round in only around a fortnights worth of usage.

I have been using a combination of visual monitoring on the drop checker, and pH readings based against the KH in my aquarium water. I did have some people saying i had gone over the top (as if i would!) and just have a fancy way of suffocating the fish. But i have researched and took information from various sources and actually have good correlation between the pH, KH and what my drop checker is telling me.

But then, this is a hobby where opinion will be divided and people will stand their ground!

A screen shot from the Apex iPhone app…

Neptune Systems Apex pH iPhone Graph

My CO2 comes on and hour or so before the lights, then maintains a 6.70 to 6.80 pH until the lights go back off.

Although it doesnt show too well, i now have a nice green colour in the drop checker for pretty much the first time since i used the small 88g CO2 cylinders on the TMC system.

JBL CO2 Drop Checker

I continue to experiment with the CO2 injection, but fully relieved i have got it installed. At the rate i am using the gas, my 14lb bottle should last a considerably long time, and should be a worthwhile investment in lieu of the prices for liquid carbon sources.

I have some new lighting over the tank and have started a new dosing regime, which i will elaborate on during the next few posts. With these three combined together i am hopefully going to find a balance that keeps everything growing in a lush way.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

JBL CoolControl

The CoolControl is a thermostatic controller released alongside the range of JBL Cooler aquarium fans.

07-JBL CoolControl Aquarium Fan Controller.58

08-JBL CoolControl Aquarium Fan Controller.24

At first i wondered if this unit, retailing at a price of £23, would have a method of ramping the fan speed based on the temperature threshold point in an attempt to keep possible noise down.

This is not the case. The CoolControl is a simple On-Off thermostat that switches the power above and below the temperature set on the large dial…

09-JBL CoolControl Aquarium Fan Controller.30

While i was probably expecting too much from this controller, it does its job perfectly, all in a small and neat package that fits in line with the original power transformer and the fan unit…

The small temp sensor is easy enough to hide away somewhere within the water body, and both it, and the power cord are very generous in length, so there should be minimal mounting issues…

10-JBL CoolControl Aquarium Fan Controller.48

11-JBL CoolControl Aquarium Fan Controller.52

The underside holds the power input and a switch for Auto (as per the temp dial), manual (always on) and Off…

12-JBL CoolControl Aquarium Fan Controller.59

There is little more to say on the CoolControl, other than its a worthwhile add-on to the Cooler fans if you have no other form of temperature controller installed. It certainly helps having to manually switch a fan, or fear your aquarium overheating and not being able to get too it.

I would say it is on the expensive side for what it does and there are potentially cheaper alternatives. But none are in such a small and neat package in comparison.

Unfortunately i wont actually be using it with the Cooler fans i am installing, as the Apex is more than capable of looking after the switching in a more advanced form, but if i didnt have the option i would definitely keep the CoolControl installed.

A look at the JBL Cooler Aquarium Fans

To try and keep control of the upper temperatures my Reef aquarium may achieve, i decided to invest in some fans to exploit the evaporation heat loss technique.

I cannot really use the desk fan method, due to the fact of the hood being really high… and it looks aesthetically nasty!

A few fan setups exist on the market, but more recently JBL have released their “Cooler” range of aquarium fans. A series of 2, 4 and 6 bank of 12volt fan units.

I initially wanted to go for the 6 fan unit and mount it on the end brace bar to breeze across the length of the water surface, but thankfully one of my local shops, Mansfield Aquatics, were happy to unbox things and allow me to stick a tape measure across the units and find out the overall lengths.

Unfortunately the 6 fan unit revealed to be around an inch too long to fit between the front and rear brace bars! So i opted to take a 4 fan unit and see how well it would fit into the aquarium.

I also picked up the CoolControl temperature controller that has been released alongside the Cooler range and offers quite a nice neat and cheap enough control unit. I will elaborate on this in another post…

01-JBL Cooler 200 Aquarium Fan.44

02-JBL Cooler 200 Aquarium Fan.19

The construction of the units is solid and neat, from a combination of aluminium and plastic…

03-JBL Cooler 200 Aquarium Fan.4904-JBL Cooler 200 Aquarium Fan.57

The angle of the clamps is adjustable to get the ideal flow across the water surface…

05-JBL Cooler 200 Aquarium Fan.38

When opening the power transformer for the cooler however, the UK market has sadly been overlooked…

06-JBL Cooler 200 Aquarium Fan.10

Thankfully i have an adaptor or two available for test purposes, but it would be nice if JBL could add a proper 3-pin transformer in there in future, as I'm sure other customers would be less than impressed if they had to then acquire an adaptor on discovery of the Euro 2-pin. I personally don't like to use adaptors long term either, as the transformer sits in quite a precarious position as a result, knocking it by accident could easily rip it out of an adaptor and possibly cause an electrical arc…

By standard, a small rocker switch on one side serves as a control. One would need a timer plug at least or some form of controller to switch the unit on-off for any automation. As said previously, the CoolControl is an available add-on…

13-JBL Cooler 200 Aquarium Fan.26

As it stands, the clamps are mounted in such a way that (as per translation) the cooler is to be positioned on an “aquarium wall” or the vertical glass panes, as shown below…

Image is from JBL website.


Sadly this isn't an option for me as the hood is naturally mounted against the top edges of the aquarium glass.

As a result there is no way to mount it horizontally to a brace bar, you cannot adjust the angle in such a way so the fans will blow in the required direction.

However be removing and swapping the clamps to the opposite ends, done simply by removing the screw…

14-JBL Cooler 200 Aquarium Fan.30

The clamps then effectively work 90degress in the other direction, meaning…

16-JBL Cooler 200 Aquarium Fan.07

It can be mounted on a brace bar, and the fans are pointing in the right direction…

Now the fan unit would mount on the side brace bar as i had originally intended, but if you remember from earlier, i could not fit the 6 fan as their was not enough room.

The 4-fan is shown mounted to the rear brace bar and this has resulted in an unexpected bonus!

If the fan is mounted on the side brace, it would end up slightly obscuring the light pattern from the Radion mounted above it and cause a bit of an odd shadow.

Being mounted on the rear brace, it is sufficiently out of the light beam, causing no issues at all! I was pretty damn please about this!

As my hood is effectively made into 3 sections, i am going to add a second 4 fan unit in one of the the remaining sections hopefully giving a good amount of cover in a very low profile way. I could add a third to the other section, however the weir poses a little bit of intrusion at that one end.


  • A nice, solid and well built unit
  • Decent air flow, as a steady breeze, it’s by no means a gale force wind.
  • Reasonably priced. The 4 fan is £55 the 6 fan is around £80.


  • Euro plug for the UK market, hopefully a short term shipping error.
  • Seemingly no instructions. OK it’s fan with an on-off switch, which doesn't really call for much tuition. But there is the ability to swap those clamps round and allow alternative mounting.

I couldn't comment on the actual cooling effect as of yet, i need to look into this very shortly. This review/post is mainly just a look at the unit and an unboxing event. I will reflect on the actual performance very soon.

I also haven't placed the noise in any position yet. When running, there is an audible hum from the unit, however this is sat up close to the unit. I am yet to see if it causes any excessive annoyance when enclosed into the hood and running.

Neptune Systems tease us with Radion picture…

Within the last 12 hours Neptune Systems appear to be teasing us with a small and interesting picture of EcoTech’s exceptional Radion LED Lighting system, on their Facebook page…

radion led

Hopefully this is the beginning of the Radions becoming “Apex Ready” and for me personally, the final piece in the puzzle for complete control!

We wait in anticipation!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Out of gas

It seems that i didn't learn from previous experience of using 88g cylinders! Either that or the TMC regulator is just of poor quality or design?

Either way, the cylinder i installed 4 days ago is now empty!

TMC CO2 Regulator.04

To say it was running a bubble every 3 seconds or so, i find it highly unlikely that the system has used so much gas already!

In fact i have the inclination that it lasted well under 48 hours looking at the pH graph from the Apex…

Neptune Systems Apex pH Graph iPhone App.57

There was a promising dip at first indicating a favourable increase in acidic activity, then it shot back up to the usual values i have been seeing through the day.

As i work away from home for the first part of the week, this is what greeted me when i checked up on the tank while being sat in a hotel, sure enough when i arrived home, there were no bubbles going through the diffuser and the gauge was reading zero…

Thankfully i had a refill for the JBL Bio 160 system so i mixed that up and added it to the tank to at least get a bit of CO2 into there for now…

JBL ProFlora Bio Refill.28

I think i will spend some time this weekend looking at finding a local supplier that can provide me with proper bottled CO2 gas!

Monday, 22 April 2013

ProFlora Bio 160 one month in… and a general update

CO2 Injection

I originally set the ProFlora Bio 160 up on my tropical aquarium around 1 month ago, and 40 days is the given time by the JBL instructions where the substances in the reactor canister should be replaced.

While i am convinced the Bio 160 system has been giving off CO2, it has barely registered in the tank for plant growth and on the CO2 Checker nor have i seen a great deal of (out the ordinary) movement in the pH readings, which would suggest an absence of carbonic acid.

While i do have another refill pack for the Bio 160, i have decided to make a minor alteration to the system to test something else out.

This test involves trying a pressurised system on a small scale for now, to see if any improvement is made through such a system.

I originally had a TMC pressurised CO2 system running on the tank that utilised the common 88g disposable CO2 cylinders. This kit was only partially successful due to it lacking in quality a bit. This was mostly due to inconsistent canisters, where some lasted a day or two before running out(!), and a general lack of control over the system, which i was forever adjusting, trying to keep a reasonably constant bubble count.

It also used one of the glass and ceramic mini diffusers, which seemed to waste more gas that make use of it.

So, recently i acquired another 88g cylinder as i retained the regulator from the TMC system, of course the cylinders are just a generic item labelled up by different brands, in which case i found a Fluval branded one in one of my LFS’

Fluval TMC 88g CO2 Cylinder.58

Just a word of advice for these regulators and the use of 88g cylinders. ALWAY make sure the puncture pin and the seal is seated correctly in the regulator before you try to screw one in!

I made the mistake once and just ended up discharging the cylinder into the living room!

Ensure the pin is located in the counter bore at the bottom and the seal is sat flat and level…

Fluval TMC 88g CO2 Cylinder.08

Of course, make sure the valve is also close! And the cylinder should screw in without any issues…

Fluval TMC 88g CO2 Cylinder.57

I hooked this up to the existing system in place of the reactor from the existing Bio 160 kit, and so far set it to run around a bubble every 3 seconds through the Taifun diffuser, i will increase this gradually to try and get a good balance in the tank, for a start the pH appears to have been a little lower than usual, although as i write this i am working away from home so relying on the information provided by the Apex controller running then system! Hopefully i can return soon and hope to see a bit of difference and/or improvement.

On a second note, during maintenance day, i noted the Taifun diffuser had become infused with green slime and felt it would be a great idea to give it a good clean out, although i have no idea if this is genuinely detrimental to how the diffuser works, it certainly looked grim if anything…

JBL Taifun Diffuser.13

The Taifun comes apart very easily, just by gently pulling the similar sections apart from each other…

JBL Taifun Diffuser.52

I gave it all a thorough (but gentle) scrub down with a small bottle brush and it look substantially better again, when complete and reassembled…

JBL Taifun Diffuser.17

Carbon Dosing

This is one thing i felt has been a reasonable success on my tank, and felt it really contributed to the jungle effect and rapid growth of plants up until the whole thing suddenly crashed.

I have a feeling that swapping from Seachem Flourish Excel and going for the cheaper option of EasyLife EasyCarbo, may have been a bad move, as the decline in the tank roughly started around the same time i made the switch.

As a result, i have recently purchased a new bottle of Flourish Excel and have returned to its usage. As i also now have some algae issues, i am hoping it will once again step in with its “secret property” of being quite a potent algaecide. It definitely worked wonders on my tank in the previous months when i had a nasty outbreak of black tuft algae, and green algae had stayed at bay almost indefinitely.

It will certainly be an interesting experiment.

CO2 Checker

A month in using the checker, all fine, its not made a bid for freedom and constantly depressed me showing the CO2 levels being too low!

Either way it’s at the recommended point (by JBL instruction) to switch out the regent. So i whipped it out and gave it a good clean down before reloading with fresh fluid. It had got a little grubby during its first stint so it was nice to get it out and ensure it remains as easy as ever to read.


My nitrates remain around the 10ppm mark, KH is registering at 5deg and my GH comes in at 8deg. Both hardness levels appear to have crept up a little, but i have resorted to adding the recommend dose of Seachem Equilibrium on every water change after a drop in KH uptake may not have helped with the Vallis going pear shaped.

Tidying Up!

I came to realise that the installed Apex on the Lido was something of a tragic mess, hanging precariously from the curtain hook with a tie wrap, it was never going to win any awards for a tidy setup!

Neptune Systems Apex.39

A piece of offcut contiboard from a previous house project provided an ideal mounting board for the Base Unit, EB6 and LSM module…

Neptune Systems Apex

… and could then be neatly tucked down the side of the cabinet out of the way and easy enough to slide back out should it be required…

Neptune Systems Apex-001

As i begin to delve deeper into the use of CO2 on the Lido, it seemed wise to attach the pH probe that came with the base kit to the controller.

Neptune Systems Apex ph Probe

I carried out the calibration using the provided pH sample packets by first letting them float in the tank water to bring them to the same temperature. The process of calibrating the probe is then very straight forward, following the instructions in the Comprehensive Manual and on screen prompts it was done within minutes. The only other thing you really need is a cup of RO water to rinse down the probe after each solution dip.

The probe was then added to the water and secured to the tank, and away we go…

Neptune Systems Apex.06

And a quick trace graph shot from the iPhone app showing a 2 week trend…

Neptune Systems Apex pH Graph App

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Review: JBL CO2 Permanent Test

A quick review and a look at the JBL CO2 Permanent Test.

I purchased one of these to help keep an eye on the CO2 content in my aquarium, and has so far proven that it is utterly deficient in this area, so my battle continues.

I have had it installed throughout the first months worth of usage of the JBL ProFlora Bio 160 to ensure it wasn't over dosing the system, more on this to follow in another post.

There are several of these “devices” on the market and come in all shapes and sizes, notably the glass drop checkers that look like an inverted bulb with a flared end. I do also own one of these but found it to be a slight pain when replacing the regent every now and then.

So i picked up the JBL Permanent Test from my LFS…

1-JBL Constant CO2 pH Drop Checker.12

In the box you find the following…

  • The in tank checker
  • Enough regent to last around 12 months (these can be bought separate when you run out)
  • ID stickers for quick visual checking
  • Instructions

2-JBL Constant CO2 pH Drop Checker.56

It is a very simple thing to install…

First attach one of the scale stickers to the checker itself, you can choose between pH and CO2 saturation. I obviously chose the latter…

3-JBL Constant CO2 pH Drop Checker.57

Next separate the two halves and fill the clear half with around 30drops of the supplied regent…

4-JBL Constant CO2 pH Drop Checker.25

Next the two halves are reassembled, by putting the black part into the inverted clear part and then rotating it the correct way up, keeping the fluid in the front half, as there is a slot in the rear for the diffused CO2 to make its way in…

5-JBL Constant CO2 pH Drop Checker.11

Then simply attach it to the inside of the glass where there is some reasonable flow.

6-JBL Constant CO2 pH Drop Checker.34

You need to give the regent around 24hours before it will start to indicate the CO2 content in the water.

There is an air gap separating the regent fluid (if your interested it is called bromothymol blue) and the aquarium water. CO2 will naturally diffuse out of the aquarium water over time, so the air gap will collect the diffused gas which will then mix with the indicator solution and then turn its colour.

I like the white background piece in this type of checker as it gives you a very clear colour. Glass bulb checkers don't have this and the colour can be off depending on the type and intensity of your lighting. So a nice touch from JBL.

Unfortunately for me its stayed dark blue for the last month, indicating my CO2 is barely budging into the acceptable levels. Of course as per the scale around 20mg/l is the ideal, and the point where the fluid will turn a green colour. On a positive note it does confirm the reasonably high pH level in my tank, confirmed by the Apex systems pH probe.

As a result i would say the Bio 160 system is not putting enough into my system and i really need to push now to get a pressurised system in there. I will do a follow up review of the Bio 160 very soon.

The two small suckers have done a good job of keeping the checker in its position, it hasn't made a bid for freedom despite being in a reasonable level of flow!

If you are interested, the regent (bromothymol blue) should not have any detrimental effect on the life in the tank should it somehow become released into the water. If it does happen, I'd run an elevated level of carbon and do a a good water change of 30-50% just to dilute it out and make any impact completely minimal.