I know all too well the excitement of bringing your new hi tech aquarium CO2 system from the post office after waiting patiently. Excited as you are about getting the equipment set up so you can finally start counting bubbles and watching your indicator turn from blue to green it's crucial we make sure we set the system up properly so it does not leak. I know you don’t want to go check on your tank pressure in the next few days to see its empty when it should last months! Here are a few steps you can take to ensure things go smoothly.
Use a new gasket every time. A freshly filled CO2 canister should see 1800PSI. This is a lot of pressure to be held in with a small nylon washer. A fresh gasket will cost very little, and will save you from potential leaks. Even a small leak you can't hear can drain a freshly filled tank in a week. At a cost of $25 (depending on your area) to fill a 5lb CO2 tank, the $1 for a new gasket is well worth it.
Use the right sized wrench to tighten your regulator to the tank. This is important for preventing injury, damage to the nut, and leaks! The common wrench size for CO2 regulators is 1 1/8”. When using an adjustable that does not fit tightly around the regulator nut you run the risk of damaging the nut or pinching your hand between the wrench and tank if the wrench slips. You will also have more success getting a leak free seal using the correct wrench because you will have more room to tighten the nut than with an adjustable wrench. You are purchasing high end products, so keeping them in good condition is important!
Test for leaks after the system is set up, this is a very quick but important step that is often missed. After you have tightened the connection for your regulator, go ahead and install the tubing, check valve, and diffuser. The next step is to carefully open the valve on the CO2 bottle. DO NOT open it quickly, as this can damage the regulator and gauge sets. Turn the handle until it releases its closed position then slowly open it until pressure shows in the gauges. At this point go ahead and open it the rest of the way and power up your regulator. There will be a light on the solenoid indicating it has power and is open. Next we simply to prepare a solution of water and dish soap in a spray bottle. Spray the connection between the bottle and regulator making sure to spray around the entire connection watching for bubbles to form. You should also spray your bubble counter on the regulator and check for bubbles. If you notice any bubbles getting larger, turn off the CO2 bottle and tighten the connections. Note- Never work on your CO2 system while the bottle is open for safety.
Use a timer to control the solenoid. Many algae issues stem from not only insufficient CO2, but also unstable CO2 levels. Using a timer lets your plants get accustomed to their environment so they can focus on growing rather than adapting to changes. A timer will help save you money by not injecting CO2 while your lights are off, and will help your fish because when the lights are off CO2 isn't being used as quickly by your plants. This build up of CO2 in the tank can harm your fish and inverts.
Don’t let the bottle get empty. Most regulators have two gauges, the left is the working pressure and the right gauge is the pressure of the cylinder itself. End of tank dump is something that happens when your tank pressure becomes low enough your regulator does not function properly causing your aquarium to be well over safe levels of CO2. We recommend refilling your tank at 300PSI and using a dual stage regulator such as the CO2ArtPRO-SE regulator to prevent end of tank dump. While this may seem premature, I’d rather have 300psi in my CO2 tank than a tank of sick/dead fish because I waited too long.
These are a few of the many tools you will need in your tool kit to ensure aquarium CO2 Success!