Hagen Nutrafin CO2 Natural Plant System with CO2 Activator and Stabilizer
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The Nutrafin CO2 Natural Plant System provides plants with a key nutrient that is lacking in most aquariums, Carbon Dioxide (CO2). This natural fermentation system has been designed to provide a simpl
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Nutrafin provides yeast and baking powder in this kit, although they are labeled as some kind of special-fantastic-mysterious powders. All that you are doing here is putting a little yeast into sugar water. The yeast eats the sugar and the byproducts are CO2 (which you want) and alcohol (don’t try drinking it!). Any sugar will work. Start by dissolving 1 ½ cups of sugar into 1 ½ cups of lukewarm tap water and make sure the apparatus are always cleaned first with a hot water rinse (no soaps). Then add about ½ teaspoon of yeast, which should be activated by stirring it with a fork in about a ¼ cup of lukewarm water until it’s creamy and has lots of bubbles in it and let it to stand at least 10 minutes before adding it to the sugar water. Although some users recommend adding baking soda (not baking powder), it isn’t really necessary to buffer the mixture. The yeast is killed by the alcohol buildup, not acidic water.
Speaking to that, the length of time that this will produce CO2 is a function of how long the yeast survives until the alcohol build’s up to a certain level and how much yeast is in the mixture. You want to try to find that optimal balance. So, it’s better to start with the most alcohol resistant yeast you can get, which is wine/champagne yeast. You can buy packets here on Amazon (Premier Cuvee Wine Yeast) for about $8. This will stand up to about 18% alcohol levels, which means it produces longer than a typical bakers yeast that might be as low as 5% alcohol tolerance. Start with ½ teaspoon of yeast and see how long it lasts for you. Try adjusting the yeast level both up and down until you’re happy with the length of time that it lasts and the amount of CO2 it produces (bubbles per minute).
We’re not done yet. You need to get the CO2 to dissolve into the tank water and not get to the surface where it would evaporate. Included in this kit is a large and ugly bubble ladder (ladders aren’t very efficient). What I do, which is a much more efficient way to get the most CO2 into your water, is to run the end of the CO2 tube into my canister filter’s intake pipe. I have a sponge filter attached to it and I insert the tube through the sponge to hold it in place. A power head would also work. The idea is to get the impeller to chop the bubble into minute pieces, making it much easier to dissolve.
How do you know if it’s still making CO2? Buy a bubble counter here on Amazon (Fluval 88g-CO2 Bubble Counter - 3.1 Ounces) for about $3. With that, you count the number of bubbles per minute. Count the bubbles after about 24 hours of setting it up and monitor it every week (or more often) to see when it starts dropping off. Then you know the yeast is almost dead or gone and can decide when to make a new batch. In addition to being a bubble counter, it also acts as a gas separator, helping to prevent anything other than the CO2 from getting into your tank.
How do you know if you’re getting enough CO2 into the water? Well, if there is a noticeable change in plant growth over about two weeks, you have your answer. However, you can also but a CO2 drop checker (again, on Amazon: ISTA CO2 Indicator Drop Checker) for about $13. This will tell you whether or not CO2 is at a good level or is too high or low.
I knew I didn't want to use a pressurized Co2 tank system, but I didn't want to make a DIY system either. I didn't want to mess with drilling holes in an ugly 2 liter soda bottle and trying to epoxy a tube through the lid. This system is worth the small price tag and I'm glad I didn't try to rig something up myself. I love that the bottle comes with a nice adjustable clip. It adjusted easily so it hangs mostly out of sight behind my tank from the back lip of the tank next to my filter box.
I am currently using the yeast/baking soda packets that came with it and they are not expired and work fine. But, I purchased a box of baking soda and yeast from the store for when I run out of packets. I do not plan to pay for their replacement expensive packets. Here is the homemade recipe (without using their packets) that I found online if you are interested: Fill the bottle to the bottom set of fins (Line) with sugar, add 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon of bakers yeast, then fill with declorinated luke warm water to the top fin/line in the bottle. Mix the contents carefully with a spoon, screw the lid back on, make sure your tubing is hooked up to the bottle and ladder correctly and wait for 2-12 hours as the pressure builds. Mine took about 12 hours to start working. Soon bubbles will come out into the ladder. It should give decent Co2 bubbles for around 14 days before it starts to decline. When it does, just empty it and make a new batch... it's that simple!
I haven't had this long enough to see if it helps my plants (which have been struggling lately). I fertilize both macro and micro nutrients so this is the only thing left as my lights are plenty bright. But, I can say that it seems to inject Co2 like it should because I can see the bubbles popping out of the tube onto the ladder system. After about 30 hours of running it so far, I'm getting about 1 bubble per 10 seconds. I think that's pretty decent, but am not sure. I am using this in a 29 gallon tank, so it may not supply quite enough Co2 but I figure some has got to be better than none!
##Update## I seem to have maxed out at 1 Bubble every 4 seconds, that is impressive. And, I now have proof this works well for my 29 gallon tank. I used the lookup tables for KH and PH to estimate my CO2 Levels before I got this and now that it has been running for several days. Before, according to the tables I had 2-3ppm of CO2 in my tank, so no wonder my plants were struggling as 15+ is ideal for plants. Now, I have 23ppm, which is actually on the high end, but not at the dangerous level yet for the fish. Of course it dropped my PH significantly but it changed it gradually enough my fish adjusted just fine, and everyone is happy and healthy. I do not use an airstone at night, as my fish are not gasping for breath at the top and are happy. But, If your levels of CO2 get too high I wanted to point out that this system has 3 Levels were you can insert the CO2 hose into the ladder. I have mine on the lowest one which give you the most CO2. If you have a small 10 gallon tank, I would put in on the highest insertion point so that the CO2 doesn't travel as long on the ladder which will reduce the amount of CO2 being absorbed into your water. This system clearly works!!!
However, after a few weeks, i took it out, washed and scrubbed out the ladder with a clean (old aquarium) toothbrush, and replaced their c02 mix with the DIY c02 mix, of sugar, baking soda, and yeast.
THE DIFFERENCE THE DIY MIX MAKES. And the DIFFERENCE after you scrub the ladder! Bubbles are quickly going up the ladder, and my plants are growing quickly and splendidly. My plants are wondrously green and healthy, even in a slightly brackish tank. Its been doing well for a month now, no plant die off or anything. I am very very pleased with this kit.
For the best results, i like to couple this with Seachem Excel, and just a tad bit of Seachem Iron.