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That's It (CO2 systems)
>Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2000 18:15:17 -0800
>From: "Jeff Bodin" <bodin1 at gte_net>
>Subject: CO2 system...
>So last night, I was a little over-reactive... (understandably so, having to
>flush about $500 worth of fish). I also checked around/got feedback and yes,
>400 lbs. was low (but I have run the tank empty before without having this
>happen, now I know it CAN happen). More importantly, it was a fluke that I
>checked the pressure yesterday morning. Because I did and was blowing my way
>out of the house late for work, I had every intention of changing the tank
>today (Could-a would-a should-a). If checking the tank pressure gauge has to
>become a regular thing (every 2-3 days) for people with this type of CO2
>system... what a pain!
>MY POINT: I cannot stress enough that ANY system sold into this trade should
>be safe. The one I bought from a common source was not. I also received a
>few e-mails (off-line) from people who obtained the very same system who
>have had very similar experiences (expensive fish kills).
Jeff, first I am sure everyone on the list has guessed by now that you
bought this system from me. And we all share your loss. In fact, the
reason I got into this business what because I had the same kind of loss
you did. And so have many of my customers. If you read my web page on
my system, you will find it warns against this phenomenon and tells you
what to do about it. And in case you missed that, a couple of months ago I
posted the text below to this list. It is just what you needed to know, I
can only guess that you either didn't read it or did read it and choose to
ignore it. In either case neither of us is happy with the outcome. I am
reposting it for anyone who may have missed it, I hope it ends up on the
Krib as well:
To: Aquatic-Plants at actwin_com
Subject: CO2 regulation
Here is just about all I know about managing compressed CO2 (sorry for the
In an un-managed configuration, a CO2 tank after a year to ten years of
faithful service will run out of gas. When this happens, the regulator
which has been providing a steady outlet pressure of say 10 or 20 or 30 psi
(depending on how you have it set up) will suddenly fail and dump the 2-400
psi gas straight into the appliance (reactor or whatever) that you are feeding.
The purpose of this little diatribe is to tell you all I know about
avoiding this problem.
There are three basic ways to manage your CO2 system and avoid end-of-tank
failure. These are anticipation of end-of-tank, relieving the pressure
pulse, or avoidance of the pressure pulse. Anticipation means that you
track your CO2 usage or pressure and take steps to avoid the end-of-tank
condition entirely. Relief of the pressure involves a special device
designed to relieve the excess pressure during the pulse so that the rise
at the appliance is small. Avoidance refers to using a regulator and
associated control parts so that the pulse does not occur until the tank is
totally exhausted, at which time the flow will stop.
Anticipation is the simplest and cheapest solution. One way to anticipate
end-of-tank is to weigh the tank regularly. You can expect it to deliver
about the announced volume (in pounds of CO2). If you plot weight versus
tank age in days it should be easy to guess about when you will have
reduced its weight by the 20 pounds of CO2 you bought. If you decide to
replace it based on low weight, it would be interesting to empty it
completely by opening the shutoff valve with the regulator removed to see
(and weigh) how much gas actually remained.
Another way to anticipate end-of-tank is to closely monitor the
high-pressure gauge on your regulator (if it has one). The pressure will
START to drop weeks before an end-of-tank dump occurs.
Once an end-of-tank condition is anticipated, you can simply turn the gas
off at night and when you are away until you have a chance to refill your tank.
Sadly, anticipation is unforgiving of inattention and if you don't notice
the end-of-tank a disaster can occur. If your failure occurs during the
day when your plants are metabolically active and producing lots of oxygen
then no problem may ensue. Or if your tank is open-top, so that there is
lots of atmospheric oxygen in contact with the water surface you are
reasonably safe. But if your top has a tight fitting cover and the dump
occurs when lights are out and your tank is heavily populated with fish,
the CO2 in the gap between the water surface and the cover may physically
drive off all oxygen, at which point your fish can suffocate.
Relief is based on the idea that the excess gas that would be delivered
during an end-of-tank dump is simply vented into the atmosphere
somewhere. The most convenient place to vent is usually right near your
tank, but you can also plumb a plastic vent line to a more convenient
location if desired. A relief system should also be tested on a routine
basis to make sure that it is continuing to provide the protection it was
designed to give.
Pressure relief devices come in two kinds: manufactured valves and
water-head homebrew devices. Many valve companies make pressure relief
valves that will trigger at about 20 psi which should suit most users. If
you have a higher operating pressure, make sure you select a valve that
vents at a pressure just a little higher than your norm. One manufacturer
of pressure relief valves is Rexarc, you can contact their sales department
at (937) 839-4604 (info at rexarc_com).
You can also make a pressure relief device at home if you tap your system
at a point where the pressure is supposed to be low (like right before the
appliance, after any pressure-reducing check valve). At this point the
pressure should be only a few feet of water (2 feet of water is about
1psi). Simply take a 6 foot piece of 3" plastic sewer pipe, put a plastic
cap on one end, set it upright open end up and fill with water to about a
foot from the top. Run a long piece of plastic tube or airhose down to the
bottom of the sewer pipe and connect the other end to your CO2 line. As
long as the pressure is less than the five feet of water in the sewer pipe,
the pipe will do nothing. When the pressure rises to more than five feet
of water, the excess gas will vent out thru the airhose, down to the bottom
of the sewer pipe, and bubbling out the top. You can enhance this design
by also capping the top and running a CO2 vent line made of plastic water
pipe out to a more convenient location if you wish. Ensure the low end of
the hose from the CO2 system stays at the bottom of the sewer pipe by
weighing it down. Or use a rigid plastic pipe to convey the CO2 down to
the bottom of the sewer pipe.
A third strategy for managing end-of-tank failure is avoidance, referring
to selecting system components so that failure simply does not occur. This
can be an expensive strategy but should be considered if the stakes are
high (such as many tanks or a very expensive setup). Avoidance strategies
are like relief strategies in that they involving using different hardware.
One place to attack avoidance is at the regulator. There are two stage
regulators (where one regulator feeds another, do not confuse with two
gauge regulators), down-stream regulators (that regulate based on output
pressure, not input pressure), and better grade regulators (that undergo
much less pressure rise as the input pressure falls). All these strategies
increase the cost of the system. Whether they are worth it depends on many
too many factors for one person to attempt to decide for
another. Generally speaking. if you are handy with tools and savvy enough
to do your own CO2 system design, you should expect avoidance to add an
extra $100-300 to the cost of your CO2 system.
I had considered the idea of adding a "avoidance" type system to my CO2
system line. I researched the issues carefully. Although I could buy a
better grade regulator for only about $30 more than a cheaper one, the
company that made it interprets ISO rules to prohibit making special
versions of their products (even if it only means omitting parts that are
normally added at the end). So I would have had to remove the original and
build new output plumbing of the regulator myself. With the labor costs,
warranty, and liability issues, this just was not practical. So I dropped
the idea. If you want to pursue this idea on your own, call Praxair and
ask them about a Victor SR253-B320-06 and get out your tool box.
Dave Gomberg, San Francisco mailto:gomberg at wcf_com
NEW Planted Aquaria Magazine: http://www.wcf.com/pam