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Total newbie starting his first serious set up....

2753 Views 11 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  hoppycalif
Hi, all! This is my first post here and I wanted to thanks you for the incredible resource!
I am relatively new to the aquarium game, I got a 29g tank for Xmas and started doing the research of what wanted to do with it. I hadn't had a tank since I was teenager running a fish gulag twenty years ago. I read a few books, did some internet hunting and assembled a few peices at a time. I am a pretty serious about a few different hobbies, so I had hunch that this would be somewhat complicated. :) I think I started off as carefully as I could I wanted a fairly natural planted tank. I am not a wealthy man and I have lots of other hobbies so everything has been done on a peicemeal, somewhat shoestring budget. As my research continued it became apparent that to have a beautiful natural scene like to ones in the amano books would require much more than my budget would initially allow, and frankly the tank would need to cycle up anyways. (There is no way I could be patient enough to wait for budget situation to be fixed first, but I am patient enough to cycle....) I just ordered a new set of serious lights, a new stand, and am ready to move on to an effective CO2 system. My goal is to set up an effective Co2 monitoring and delivery system on the cheap, with the intention of being modular enough that when I add in more pieces it is plug and play. I have a HOB filter right now, but plan to upgrade to a canister when the budget allows. I want to eventually get upgrade to a pressurized Co2 system, but for now I am going to be brewing my own. Initially, I got the peices for a Lavasseur style Co2 reactor with yeast generator. It has a few issues, some of which can be fixed (like me preparing the yeast mixture better) and some you can't fix. (Like the fact that is extremely ugly and eats up a ton of space.) It has never really consistently worked for me. So I am going to try to assemble an inline reactor that eventually can be plumbed into a canister system when I get one.

The equipment I started with and am currently running.
29G tank
Emperor 280 (eventually plan to remove and go to a canister filter, but that will be a while)
AG dual 17 watt flora grow bulbs- upgrading to Orbit 130 cf 6700K this week:)
Eco Complete substrate
My current water parameters are PH 7.8 KH 5 (the LV reactor is dormant right now)
The tank is cycled as far as I can tell.
Miscellaneous plants and fishes:)
Co2 generator with a gas separator (inactive right now- I have champagne yeast to recharge)

I don't have secondary tank to work with so all modifications have to done with the fish still in the tank.

So the way I figure, I need to get the CO2 system to drop the PH slowly to a happy place like 6.8 or so, without mopping the floor with my fish to get about 30PPM CO2. From my inital research into the DIY side of life the list of things necessary to accomplishing this goal include:
Drop checker for accurate measurement of CO2 to prevent crashes
Inline CO2 reaction chamber
Co2 generator with bubble counter
Pump on a set on daily timer to drive the system once proper ph parameters are established

Most of these projects are listed here and a fairly easy to follow. I do have a few newbie questions though. I am not great plumber so some this will be basics on how to and some will be water concerns. Let me know if you see any flaws in my reasoning.

I am new to a few of the materials, like the acrylic for making a rectangler drop checker. What do you use to cut the acrylic to size? Do score it like glass and break it? On use a fine toothed saw? I am somewhat limited in the tools department, so I want know what I need to get and not break the bank.

I want pre-plumb the inline reactor for a eheim2213 or something like it later. What size tubing would you recommend for general compatibilty?

I want use the maxi jet 600 that I bought for the LV reactor to drive the inline reactor I am planing on building for now and increase circulation. Is it too small or an okay? If it is OK, do I set it up so that it will push into the reactor or pull through the reactor?

The consensus seem to be that you should regulate you CO2 input using a bubble counter to accurately regulate the flow of CO2 to get the the 30ppm range during the day for optimal growth, but minimise the flow nightly so that you don't have crashes. My thought was to put the pump on a timer once I get idea of what kind of CO2 output I have. So what is a good starting point for the bubble counter? Do I need to buffer the system as it stands, given my intial water conditions of 7.8PH, 5 dKH? Will the buildup of CO2 in the reactor chamber at night matter at all? Does the fact the I live at 4600 ft make any difference in the numbers?

So as an overveiw I want set up a yeast based system that can later be replaced with a pressurized CO2 system. I want to set up a reactor module that will driven by a maxi-jet 600 that will eventually be driven by a canister type filter. Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Okay, so the DIY CO2 program was driving me nuts- very little production, high hassle factor, so I sprung for a regulator from, and picked up a 5lb tank. I also got a rena filstar xp1 because the emperor was doing me no good with the co2 program. I may need to spend additional money on divorce procedings, however I think that I finally have a close to optimal system.

29G tank
Orbit 130 watt compact flourscent light arrangement (one 10000/6700k light, one 6700k light on a ten hour timer)
Rena XP1 with inline heater and mature media (according to my tests 0 NH3+, 0 NO2,) I do 50% water changes weekly and use the water on my garden)
Eco-complete substrat supplimented with some flourite black (The black looks hot- too bad every timer I dig around I get a mix of gravel up top- looks better in Johnny Cash Black)
Maxi jet 600 with a venturi bubbler set on a 6 hour timer set to go right after the lights go out.
(I figure I want moderate water movement in the tank during the day to keep the CO2 in, but I want to aerate the tank at night, increase O2 content once the lights go out and move more water around at night.)
A mix of plants including HC, rotala indica (apologize if I screw up on sp. or terminology...) Java ferns wisteria, vallis, C. wenditi, eleocharis acicularis, anubis nana and fair amount of algae:)
5 amano shrimp
4 otocinculus cats
I had two to start, got four more about five days ago to help with my budding algae problem:) Two mysteriously kicked last night- did water tests still showing 0 nh3+, 0 no2 and ph was pretty stable. Any guesses?
Aquarium plants regulator set at one bubble every ten seconds.
I am planning on adding either a bunch of neons (or cardinals) or some angelfish at some point- but first things first- the jungle. (Amano "happy plants, happy fish")

I could use some advice on where to set the bubble counter. I started with 1 bubble every ten seconds to be on the safe side and not shock the residents to death, but I am not getting much movement on the PH side. On a 29G with a moderately heavy planting scheme, is this appropriate? I am aiming for a jungle. I am trying to test the water parameters and get dialed in, but so far I haven't managed to move the parameters to that sub 7 PH that seems to be the sweet spot. My tap conditions are Ph 7.8, Kh 5, and so far I have only moved the PH to 7.6. Looking through the first Amano book specs, it seems to be once every five seconds seems to his numbers for tanks around that size. I would appreciate any advice you may have. As far as the current arrangement goes I am running the CO2 on a timer thirty minutes before the lights go on, and shutting down an hour before the lights go off. I then have a Maxi Jet 600 with the venturi bubbler that switches on for six hours after the lights go off. The canister is a much sweeter option and I wish I would have bit the bullet right off the bat on that purchase. Any advice would be appreciated.
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Thanks for the advice. I think I may have been focusing too much on the PH factor. When I think about it, it seems like a chicken and egg problem- ph is not equal to the co2 uptake of the plants. I think I will spring for an ADA drop checker for testing purposes. The plants are now pearling with consistency in the afternoon so something must be working. Did alot of work cleaning up the algae mess yesterday and I'm trying the excel overdose trick to get it back in line. Between it and the consistent CO2 application I am optimistic that the tank will come in line. I ran the whole tank through just about every test in the kit yesterday and I think my water parameters are okay. Time will tell. Again thanks for the hand holding!
As a side question, does overdosing with excel mess with a CO2 test kit numbers? I am using the red sea freshwater master test kit. I ran a CO2 test yesterday during the co2 cycle and the numbers I got were way out there (like fifty ppm according to my test- double checked the results). I have increased CO2 to one bubble per second over the last two weeks. My oto's aren't seltzerfied, and the ph seems to be holding fairly steady, so I think I may need to get a new test kit to double check the first. According to the PH/KH chart I can't be anywhere near that, so I trying to understand the wacky numbers. Any thoughts?
Thanks, the drop checker sticky is one I have been meaning to plough through...
Hoppycalif, I am ploughing my way through all of you work on the DIY drop checker and it is a little thick (thirty pages... heavy....) Still trying to grasp all of it. (the chemistry not the DIY projects...)So I love DIY stuff, but it seems like I spend more on tools and equipment to save money than I would if I just bite the bullet and purchase a finished product. I just ordered a nifty looking set up from one of the site advertisers (greenleaf) that has the dual chambers with a green reference section and the exposed drop checker. Looks stylish. Hopefully that will do the trick.
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