Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Contents -

The lat­est fish­keep­ing prod­ucts re­viewed, in­clud­ing a CO2 dif­fuser set from Colombo and a Vul­tron air­pump. Plus a look at three brands of poly­mer balls – are these spheres the fu­ture when it comes to ma­tur­ing your pond?

Price: Sold sep­a­rately – Co2 profi Set sells for be­tween £150-£200, So­le­noid around £65 more info: Re­viewer: nathan hill

In a mar­ket that was for a long while sat­u­rated with ex­pen­sive en­try level CO2 dif­fusers, many of us lost con­fi­dence in the idea of af­ford­able car­bon for the aquas­cap­ing hob­by­ist. Some of us took the risky high road of us­ing CO2 fire ex­tin­guish­ers to make things eco­nom­i­cal, will­ing to off­set the chance of a reg­u­la­tor fail­ure against fork­ing out as­tro­nom­i­cal prices for aquar­i­umdes­ig­nated cylin­ders of gas. Oth­ers per­se­vered with off-the-shelf de­signs and rapidly re­alised how costly it be­came.

This Colombo of­fer­ing sits some­where in the mid­dle. It’s pretty pricey, but ar­guably much safer than a fire ex­tin­guisher. To its ben­e­fit, it has a cylin­der that holds 800g of car­bon diox­ide – many of its nano ri­vals have car­tridges (too small to even call them a cylin­der) as lit­tle as 20g.

You can as­sess the ef­fi­ciency of that for your­self. For 20g car­tridges you’ll pay out some­where be­tween £10 and £18 for three of them – 60g to­tal. A re­fill for the 800g Colombo set comes in around £40. But then again, I typ­i­cally pay around £25 for 2kg of CO2 in a re­fur­bished fire ex­tin­guisher. 800g will sup­ply me enough gas for about two or three weeks at best in a 60x30x45cm aquas­cape, as­sum­ing I’m not gassing heav­ily.

The reg­u­la­tor it­self is weighty, sturdy and has a smooth enough ac­tion. With CO2 dos­ing you want re­ally fine tun­ing abil­i­ties, and

this has it. Whether you want one bub­ble of gas ev­ery sec­ond, sec­ond-and-a-half or two sec­onds, you can do it with ac­cu­racy. It con­nects di­rectly to the top of the cylin­der through a thread ac­tion, and as long as you keep the threads ab­so­lutely clean (I’d fre­quently go over my reg­u­la­tor/cylin­der threads with a cot­ton bud and some sil­i­cone lu­bri­cant), then you won’t ex­pe­ri­ence gas leak­age. If it’s the first time you’ve ever con­nected a reg­u­la­tor to a cylin­der, I’d ad­vise be­ing quick, oth­er­wise a lit­tle blast of re­leased gas can give you a sud­den ‘hand chill’.

Also in the pack­age you get a length of CO2 re­sis­tant tub­ing and a bub­ble counter/dif­fuser. De­pend­ing on how hard your wa­ter is, that tub­ing will even­tu­ally turn a chalky white and go brit­tle, so I sug­gest re­plac­ing it ev­ery few months (but if you’re an aquas­ca­per ob­sessed with ev­ery­thing look­ing fresh, you’ll likely do that any­way). The bub­ble counter and dif­fuser po­si­tions in the tank eas­ily enough, held in place with a sucker (again, get a cou­ple of spares as this will turn chalky af­ter a while), while open­ing it up to clean it just in­volves un­screw­ing the head and get­ting in­side. Look closely and you’ll see a lit­tle spring in there as well. That’s the non-re­turn valve that means if you ever run out of gas, the wa­ter won’t start sy­phon­ing back out of the tank.

That’s the whole pack­age. I won’t lie, it doesn’t seem ‘that’ great value, es­pe­cially if pay­ing near the £200 kit price. With £40 for the cylin­der, that means I’m pay­ing out £160 for a reg­u­la­tor, some sil­i­cone air­line and a bub­ble counter. I don’t even get any cheap clamps and suck­ers to tidy up the air­line.

You can build on the kit by adding a sep­a­rately sold so­le­noid. When plugged into a timed socket (around £3 up­wards from elec­tri­cal and home­ware stores), this al­lows to­tal on/off con­trol of your gas sup­ply. The usual ‘sca­per trick is to turn the gas on an hour be­fore the lights come on, and have it lead by an hour when the lights go off again. This avoids huge swings of ph, as well as wasted CO2 (since plants don’t use it at night).

My worry is that the so­le­noid is in-line. I’ve tried to butcher some­thing like this to­gether in the past on a pres­surised CO2 unit, and all that hap­pened was that the hose ex­ploded in the night. Per­haps I was us­ing sub­stan­dard hose – or per­haps Colombo knows some­thing that I don’t. Ei­ther way we couldn’t put it to the test as the so­le­noid didn’t work when we plugged it in, and we’ve given up on wait­ing for the re­place­ment to come through.

They aren’t cheap, they aren’t easy to set up and are risky when set up wrong, but C02 re­ally helps plant growth.

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