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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.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Lido Progress

The oddities continue with the Lido.

Last weeks water change went from being a regular maintenance event and ended up as a mass clear-out session of the remaining plant life losses and removal of old root balls buried in the substrate. As well as a well deserved trim on the Java Fern.

By the end it look a lot more clean and tidy, despite a bit of free floating dust that was soon removed by the filter. Hence the mist…

3-Daily FTS.52

After a few weeks of the tanks plant life getting worse and worse, i felt a little relieved after carrying this out and managed to salvage a few of the healthiest looking shoots to try and encourage them to regrow.

The JBL ProFlora Bio 160 system has been running a few weeks now, and growth does seem to be aided, but the concentration is still very low and has barely risen…

1-Daily FTS.08

So i assume the small amount of CO2 the Bio 160 kit adds into the volume is being taken up very quickly before levels can build up.

A pressurised system is becoming more and more a priority to try and boost the CO2 levels up.

On another note i ended up getting hold of a couple of Sewellia lineolata Gold Ring Butterfly Sucking Loaches. A very pretty and unusual small loach i have not come across very often.

Also, the first “sucker fish” i have ever owned that has made an active beeline for tufts of green algae!

Sewellia lineolata

These guys chill out during the daylight hours it would seem, then become much more active when the moonlights are up and the early night-time hours. I sat on several occasion watching a darkened tank and admiring their unusual movement patterns, which involves a rather unique “sidewinder” type wiggle as they seem to articulate their body half way along.

I did start with two of them…

Sewellia lineolata

But sadly lost one a few days later for no apparant reason other than an odd red surface blemish to towards the tail fin on one side of the fishes body.

I was pretty bummed out about the fact, but fortunately the other is thriving quite happily and has also been out for a sniff of a sinking catfish pellet while the Bristlenose and Cory's are distracted elsewhere.

Sewellia lineolata

Upgrade time for this tank may be coming a little sooner, after i caught a glimpse of a TMC Signature aquarium. For the price, these tanks seem like a good alternative and should be a bit cheaper than a custom build. I will have to work out how it compares in the near future.