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EcoQube C: New AquaPonics Filter on KickStarter

April 7th, 2015


Aquarium Design Innovations is out with a new iteration of their EcoQube line, the EcoQube C, a desktop ecosystem that uses basil to filter the water. And for a very short time, they’re offering early backers of their kickstarter compaign the EcoQube C for just $39 — that’s half of their normal $79 retail price!


The desktop aquarium is designed to be a complete ecosystem for your home or office. The basil filter removes waste from the fish, a UV lamp sterilizes the water, and a full-spectrum LED keeps all of the plants growing. Compared to a normal filtration cycle that uses bacteria to convert ammonia into nitrate, which can then cause algae growth, the EcoQube’s filter uses basil to remove the nitrate altogether.


ADI’s goal is simple:

“Aquaponics is a clear solution to address many issues of water and food shortages all over the world and we hope the EcoQube can help bring this incredible yet simple solution into our everyday lives and influence the way we perceive the larger issues in the world today. We know there are these horrific things happening but we’ve been so disconnected with our environment and the negative impacts we make with our everyday decisions.”

Kickstarter is all about backers – the more backers ADI gets on the first day, the more it will help them reach their goal. So even if you don’t want an EcoQube of your own, but you support ADI and their mission, donating $1 will help them tremendously. So please go to their campaign and back them!

Learn more about the EcoQube C at www.aquaponicsfilter.com

Support ADI by backing their kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kevinzl/1902509544?token=c8c86f74

Business Broker

An Evolution of the Remote Control LED Fixtures

February 16th, 2015

Two years ago, I reviewed Current USA’s hit LED fixture, the Satellite Freshwater LED+, one of the first reasonably priced configurable LED fixtures to come on the market. Now, Current and Ecoxotic have released the next generation of this product line with the Satellite LED+ Pro and the E-Series LED lights.

Satellite LED+ Pro

Current Satellite LED+ Pro

Current’s Satellite LED+ Pro light is an evolutionary jump from the LED+ model. For starters, they include a ramp timer right in the box. Now, you can easily program the on/off times, and the timer will automatically simulate a 15 minute sunrise and sunset at those times. The sunrise and sunset transitions are very smooth with none of the flashing that could sometimes occur in the previous generation’s LED+ and ramp timer products. The IR-port is now integrated directly into the controller/timer unit, so you don’t need a separate IR receptor.

The light still has the same wonderful color output control with four presets of Sunlight (6500k), Full Spectrum (all on), Crisp Blue (10,000k), and Deep Water. Each of these modes tend to have lots of white light augmented by varying amounts of red/green/blue LEDs to create the slight color variations. Each are fully customizable, and they’ve included four programmable buttons; two completely custom (M1 and M2), and two convenience buttons for daylight and moonlight. Just like the previous model, the Satellite LED+ Pro has 8 dynamic modes allowing you to jump to moonlight, thunderstorm, cloud cover, and color fade presets. Unfortunately, you still cannot incorporate any of the dynamic modes into your custom programs or regular schedule.

Satellite LED+ Pro Remote

Setting up the Satellite LED+ Pro is extremely simple. The light, controller, and power supply all connect with water resistant connectors, and they give you plenty of cable to place the controller with velcro (included) wherever is convenient. The remote looks very familiar to current Satellite LED+ users, but they have added a few buttons to aide in the programming of the unit. Programming is a breeze, utilizing the Set Clock button to set your local time, and Hour+ and Minute+ buttons to configure the on/off times, which also have their own dedicated buttons. I was up and running with an 8-hour photo period in less than 5 minutes!

The performance of the light is also improved with the LED+ Pro. In a side-by-side comparison of the 36″ LED+ and LED+ Pro lights on my 50G aquarium, I found the following PAR numbers using an Apogee Quantum Flux MQ-200 meter:

Surface 140 75
8″ 80 40
15″ 30 21

As you can see, the output is just about double that of it’s predecessor. Overall, I’d qualify the Satellite LED+ Pro as an excellent medium output light from a company that is obviously interested in continuing to improve an already solid consumer offering.

Ecoxotic E-Series Full Spectrum LED

Ecoxotic E-Series LED

Ecoxotic produces equipment targeted at the higher-end consumer, and this focus is evident in their E-Series light. Functionally, the E-Series LED is almost identical to the LED+ Pro described above. However, they do sell an optional hanging kit allowing you to easily combine multiple units and suspend them over your tank as shown below.

Ecoxotic E-Series Hanging Kit

They simplified the remote control slightly by combining the dynamic modes into four distinct modes, but still cover moonlight, thunderstorm with lightning, cloud cover, and color fade. At first glance, the E-Series LED could easily be confused with the Current product, as they have very similar housing, controller with built-in IR receptor, power supply, and remote. The main visual difference is the logo on the remote control. Otherwise, the big differentiator is the the performance!

Ecoxotic E-Series Remote

The E-Series has the same ramp-up timer and four programmable modes as the LED+ Pro. The color variability is the same offering sunlight, full spectrum, crisp blue, and deep water presets with the option to customize the color mixing however you please. The PAR output, however, is significantly higher on the Ecoxotic:

Depth Ecoxotic E-Series Current LED+ Pro PAR
Surface 250 140
8″ 115 80
15″ 60 30

Just like the LED+ to LED+ Pro, the Ecoxotic E-Series LED light is roughly double that of the LED+ Pro, or four times the original LED+ model. I typically say that if you can get 60 PAR at the substrate, you’re going to be able to grow just about any plant in the hobby. I am also a big believer in having just enough light in your aquarium, but no more, to simplify the balancing of light, nutrients, and CO2. I think the Ecoxotic E-Series LED fixture has found this sweet spot for 18-20″ tall aquariums, while allowing significant customization at a price point lower than many high-end competitors.


The integrated timer, IR receiver, and consistent functionality make both the Current Satellite LED+ Pro and Ecoxotic E-Series LED lights solid products on the market. The color output of both is tremendous, and the increased PAR output means that these lights are usable in medium and high light situations, and I would recommend highly for these uses.



Business Broker

Ecotech Marine Radion XR30w Pro

January 27th, 2014

Ecotech Marine Radion Pro Fixture
The Ecotech Marine Radion XR30w Pro fixture is one of the top LED lights on the market at the moment. Featuring eight different colors of LEDs across two clusters of 21 high-powered LEDs, the Radion Pro can be configured to output light that’s suitable for any aquarium. Of course, I’m most interested in it’s applicability for a planted aquarium.


Ecotech Marine Radion Pro UnBoxed

Out of the box, the fixture comes with a power supply, power cable, instruction manual, mounting hardware, and USB cable. If you want to hang the fixture, Ecotech Marine sells a nice hanging kit separately or rail system if you need multiple units.

As mentioned, the Radion Pro has eight colors of LEDs:

  • White: 8 Cree XT-E Cool White (5w each)
  • Red: 4 Osram Oslon SSL Hyper Red, 660nm (3w each)
  • Yellow: 2 Osram Oslon SSL Yellow, 590nm (3w each)
  • Green: 4 Cree XP-E Green, 520nm (3w each)
  • Blue: 8 Cree XP-E Blue, 468nm (3w each)
  • Royal Blue: 8 Cree XT-E Royal Blue, 442nm (5w each)
  • Indigo: 4 SemiLEDs UV, 415nm (2.5w each)
  • Ultraviolet: 4 SemiLEDs UV, 405nm (2.5w each)

For planted aquariums, we’re most interested in the white, red, and blue/royal blue LEDs for growing plants, while tweaking the others can help us achieve the right color ratio for aesthetic purposes. Ultimately, while the Radion Pro is capable at outputting 950 PAR at surface, aquatic gardeners will likely use less of that power due to dialing down of some of the more reef-centric colors.

Wide Angle TIR Lenses for Ecotech Marine Radio Pro

The fixture is equipped with their Total Internal Reflection (TIR) lens, which they claim can boost the peak PAR levels by 45%, or 23% on average. They also sell an alternative wide-angle TIR lens that spreads the light a bit more at the expense of some PAR.


Out of the box, the Radion Pro comes with a number of presets that are accessed via the three capacitive touch buttons on the top of the unit. Using these buttons you can increase or decrease the intensity of the light, as well as, cycle through the various lighting presets. Most of the presets are geared toward reef aquariums, but there is one preset that produces nice daylight colors.

However, the key differentiator for the Radion Pro is the EcoSMART Live configuration console. This is where you configure all of the settings for your fixture by hooking the light up to a computer via a USB cable. If this is problematic, they also sell a ReefLink device that will connect the light fixture to your home wireless network, allowing for ease of configuration via smartphone, tablet, or computer any time, any place. I haven’t tried the ReefLink product, so all of my experiences are based on connecting my laptop directly to the light and configuring it via a web browser.

Ecotech Marine Radion Pro Aquarium Setup

To get started, you need to install their Connection Manager software. Once installed, this is the software that bridges the gap between the web interface and light fixture. It also allows you to update the firmware of your light, do a factory reset, or enable/disable the buttons of the light. When you log into EcoSMART Live, it takes a moment to connect to your light, but then you are asked to setup your aquarium. The setup process lets you configure the location of your lights (if you have multiple), select a default template which includes a planted aquarium option, and define your initial schedule.

EcoSMART Live Scheduler

Once the initial setup is complete, you can tweak the default schedule laid out by the template. As you can see in the screenshot above, the planted aquarium default defaults to gradually ramping up the light output, peaking midday, and then dialing down the output until night time.

Ecotech Marine Radion Pro Group Settings

One of the great things about this fixture is that you can specify both daytime and nighttime settings. At nighttime, you can specify your own settings, but you can also have the fixture dynamically adjust the light output based on the actual lunar cycle. I suspect that this functionality could trigger spawning behavior in some fish, as well as, provide a pleasant nighttime viewing experience for us. Clicking on any individual point on the curve lets you define the specific color and intensity of the light output at that time. You can drag the points to adjust the timing, or add additional points for finer grained control.

EcoSMART Configuration Screen
As you can see, you have the ability to adjust all six color channels, and then specify the overall brightness at this point in time. What’s very nice is that the light output changes instantly with every slider change so you can immediately eyeball of the light is what you want. If you find a setting that you like, you can save it as a preset, like I did, so that it can be replicated across the rest of the points. At this point, it looks like you have to manually configure each point with your preset, which I did in a short amount of time, but it would be nice to have a “Apply to All” capability in the future. They did a nice job adding the spectrum graph that changes as you control the individual color channels. In theory, you should be able to find the spectrum graph for your favorite bulb, and replicate it by matching the graph on this configuration screen. Lastly, you can optionally define a chance of clouds/storms at any point in time, which would simulate both natural changes by dimming/bursting light.

It’s important to note that not all of these channels are equal when it comes to PAR output. I have measured the PAR of each channel individually at surface with the fixture mounted 14″ above my tank using the default TIR lenses.

Color Channel PAR at Surface Percentage
ALL  483  100%
UV  39  8%
Royal Blue  159  33%
Blue  89 18%
Cool White  153 32%
Green  22  5%
Hyper Red  21  4%

Given that the Royal Blue and Cool White LEDs are both the 5W Cree’s, it’s no surprise to see that those sliders have the biggest impact on overall PAR. The UV, Green, and Red channels have the least, which isn’t surprising given that most plants are green, thus they’re reflecting green light, not absorbing it for photosynthesis. The Blue channel adds a notable amount, but is less powerful than the Royal Blue.

Once finished configuring the schedule, you can do a live-preview of your settings simply by clicking the ‘Preview’ button. This is cycle through the schedule, literally changing the output of the light at each point in time.

Ecotech Marine Radion Pro Live Demo

Lastly, the EcoSMART Live portal also has a “Live Demo” section where you can experiment with all of the capabilities of the fixture without affecting your current schedule. This is a great place to play with the different color channels in order to arrive at the right combination before saving it as a preset to use in the schedule. You can also demo the day/night options, various effect modes, or run through the factory demonstration mode that will cycle through everything the light can do.


For my experimentation with the Ecotech Marine Radion Pro fixture, I replaced an old Catalina Aquarium 4x39w HOT5 fixture on my 40G farm tank. As you can see, I have a lot of plants in this tank, requiring a light that is very strong that can penetrate through the plant mass to achieve reasonable PAR levels at the bottom of the tank.

I first mounted the Radion Pro 10″ above the surface and swapped in the wide-angle TIR lenses hoping that the proximity to the water surface combined with the wider lenses would produce evenly spread light at a high level. I also started with the Freshwater Planted Aquarium default configuration in the EcoSmart Live setup utility. With this configuration, the PAR directly under the light was pretty good, roughly 350 at the surface and about 100 at the substrate after pulling back the plants for a clear reading. Unfortunately, the spread was very uneven, with the surface PAR in the corners of the tank measuring 60-90, and the substrate much lower. This configuration wasn’t going to work.

40G with Ecotech Marine Radion Pro

I began experimenting with the color channels, increasing both of the blue lights by several factors. I also decided to try putting back in the default TIR lenses and raising the light up another 3-4 inches. My theory was that the default lenses may penetrate the water more effectively, while raising the light up would help my light spread. This is exactly what happened. By altering the color channels, I was able to get the PAR at surface up to 540, with the corners still measuring above 100. At substrate, the spread was roughly 60-200 PAR throughout the tank, more than enough light to grow just about any foreground plant. The intensity is still greatest directly under center, but I can deal with this by keeping my light hogging plants more toward the center of the tank, and the Cryptocoryne and lower light plants to the outer edges. One thing I noticed over the several weeks experimenting with the Radion Pro is that some of my Cryptocoryne melted when I drastically changed the settings, and then grew back fine. The fixture does include an acclimation setting for corals that will gradually ramp up the light output over a period of weeks to allow the coral to adjust to the new lights. Perhaps this may have some use for plants as well?


The configurability of the Ecotech Marine Radion Pro fixture is more advanced than anything I’ve ever used before. They clearly are targeting the high-end hobbyist who demands more bells and whistles, and is willing to play the price for them. Ecotech Marine delivers this marvelously with the Radion Pro! The toolset is easy to use once you get the various configuration pieces configured. I would have liked to have the ReefLink functionality out of the box, as it can be tedious to manually connect the laptop whenever you need to make changes, but realistically, I don’t envision needing to making many adjustments outside of the first few weeks. Clearly, if they added WiFi capability to every fixture, that would only increase the cost. Regardless, I really like the cloud-based configuration concept, as new features and updates can continuously add value to your investment. In addition, Ecotech Marine offers hardware upgrades of their older fixtures to let you replace some of the circuitry to add the latest improvements to your fixture, without having to buy a brand new light.

The clustered design of the fixture creates excellent shimmer effects throughout the tank. The only downside is that you do end up with some harsh shadows and uneven light distribution in the tank. I managed to mitigated this to some extent by adjusting the color channels, hanging height, and lenses used. Since the Radion Pro entered the market targeted at reef keepers, the highest light output levels can only be achieved using more blue light than you might otherwise choose for a planted aquarium. That said, you can still achieve high-light level output that should grow nearly any plant, while still being nice to look at. If you want a high-end light with professional grade features, backed by excellent customer service, that can grow plants, look no further than the Ecotech Marine Radion Pro.

Additional Reading

Radion XR30w Pro Product Page

EcoSMART Live Information

Disclaimer: Ecotech Marine recently sent me this Radion XR30w Pro fixture to review.

Business Broker

EcoQube – Veggie Filtration for your Nano

December 1st, 2013

I came across this kick-starter project today, and thought it to be pretty interesting. I seen other aquarists run dedicated aquariums in their racks that were veggie filters, but I haven’t seen a filter designed to incorporate this idea inherently. The EcoQube setup include the tank, filter, LED, and seeds for the plant.


The medium itself stay hydrated from the filter water, replenishing nutrients from the detritus of the tank. In this picture, they’re growing a basil plant, although, I wouldn’t recommend consuming any plants grown in this way, particularly if you’re using hobby-grade substrates and chemicals.

EcoQube - Adjustable LED and Plant Media

Take a look at their kickstarter video to get a sense of what their inspiration is for this project.

The guys behind this filter and setup are the folks from Aqua Design Innovations, who have been working with planted aquariums for some time. If you like the concept, consider donating to help to this product into production.

Business Broker

Satellite Freshwater LED+ Review, Part 2 – PAR Readings

May 30th, 2013

I’ve been using the Satellite Freshwater LED+ fixture from Current USA for several weeks now. All of my previous impressions still hold true, so I want to share the actual PAR readings from my bookshelf tank at all of the fixture’s various settings. For a point of reference, the tank is only 9″ tall, so my substrate readings are at 7″. My surface readings are from just below the water surface, with the fixture resting on the rim of the aquarium.


The remote control that comes with the fixture has two types of presets, simple color presets and dynamic lighting effects. The color effects produce higher intensity output, fixed at a particular color cast. In the pictures below, each button is shown with the surface PAR reading on top, and the substrate (7″) reading below.  For a shallow tank like mine, this fixture has no problem producing enough light to grow just about any aquatic plant you could want. The Full Spectrum mode is the most intense, which makes sense as all LEDs are illuminated in this mode, while the other modes have some color LEDs turned off or dimmed. In Full Spectrum mode, 100 PAR at the substrate should have no problem growing a flat creeping carpet of HC, Lilaeopsis, Glosso, Utricularia, etc.

Satellite LED PAR Readings - Color-Presets

In addition to the color presets, the Satellite Freshwater LED+ fixture has 12 dynamic lighting modes simulating moonlight, passing clouds, lightning strikes, sunrise/sunset, cloudy days, passing showers, and more. Since the light output while in each mode is constantly changing, I listed the range of PAR readings including the highest and lowest readings for each mode. The fading moon mode (B) is the dimmest mode producing just 15 PAR at the surface and a mere 5 PAR at substrate, while the lightning mode have the widest range of readings rapidly going from dark to bright with “lightning strikes”.

Satellite LED+ PAR Readings - Lighting-Effects

I’ve been running the fixture primarily in the fading bright sunlight mode (H), which is growing all of my plants very well. I was previously using full spectrum mode, but started getting a bunch of algae if I didn’t keep up with fertilization. It’s really wonderful to be in this situation and have the ability to lower the amount of light, literally with a push of a button. Due to this flexibility, I highly recommend the Satellite Freshwater LED+ for shallower tanks, as it is a high-light, feature-rich, fixture for between $90-$160. This is really good value!


Business Broker

Satellite Freshwater LED+ Review, Part 1

May 20th, 2013

IMG_8647Recently, I was contacted about testing out one of Current USA’s latest LED fixtures, the Satellite Freshwater LED+. I was already using one of Current-USA’s fixtures, the TrueLumen Pro over my 36″ bookshelf tank, so I thought this would be an excellent comparison.

The Satellite Freshwater LED+ comes nicely packaged with a power adapter and features a remote control to completely customize the lighting experience. The light is very unique in that it contains red, green, blue, and white LEDs that are all separately controlled to allow you to tailor the color and intensity of the output to what looks best to your eyes. In addition, the lighting unit has several predefined effect modes that simulate thunderstorms, cloudy days, moonlight, partial sun, and more.


Below you can see the full sun daylight mode. The color is actually very nice right out of the box. This is also the most intense mode in terms of PAR, as all (or at least most) of the LEDs are fully illuminated. (Watch for part 2 soon where I’ll detail the PAR for all preset modes.)


The mode with most striking contrast to the daylight most is appropriately the moonlight mode, which is all blue. What is nice is that you can start with one of the present modes, and then use the remote control to add/subtract a little bit of red/green/blue/white light to it.


In terms of design, the Satellite Freshwater LED+ fixture is very low profile measuring only 34.8″ x 2″ x 0.44″ and sits just above the rim of the aquarium. Due to the close proximity of the water, the light features a splash guard and has brackets that expand to fit any aquarium between 36″-48″. (I’m testing the 36″ model, but there are several models of different lengths to chose from.) My first impressions of this fixture are very positive. It’s noticeably more bright than my TrueLumen Pro fixture, and my plants started pearling immediately when I put this light over top. I will update my impressions as I continue to use the fixture.

In the meantime, check out Current-USA’s webpage for more product specs, and see the video above for a demo of the various lighting modes.

Business Broker

Riparium Supply Review

October 29th, 2009

About two months ago, Riparium Supply (http://www.ripariumsupply.com) sent me a sample pack of their product line so that I could try them out and talk about my experience. I also received some plants to help get me started in the right direction. Fortunately, I had an empty 20G high aquarium and canister filter sitting around for me to use in this experiment. I’m going to go through my experience, but first let me introduce the Riparium Supply product line.

Large Hanging Planter

The core piece of equipment in a Riparium are these plastic hanging planters. They are designed to hold substrate and plants in place while adhering to the glass in your aquarium. Simply add some of their clay pebbles in the container, followed by your substrate of choice, plant the plant, and fill the rest of the way with substrate.

Smaller Hanging Planter

There are two sizes of hanging planters; smaller ones for medium sized plants, and larger ones for plants with heftier root systems. Both planters also have Velcro-like strips on them, called mushroom-head fasteners, which are used to connect to the floating trellis product.

Trellis Raft

The floating trellises are pieces of foam designed with an insert in the middle. The concept is to position a number of emersed stem plants in the hole, then insert the middle part to lock them in place. The smaller foam pieces attach to the ends of the trellis to add extra buoyancy for large mats of plants. The mushroom-head-fasteners on the trellis lock into the hanging planters so that they don’t float around. Now, let me go through my setup of the past two months…


I started by adding a little bit of hardscape that would be totally submersed. The difference between a paludarium and a Riparium is that “the terrestrial portions of paludariums are built up with rocks, driftwood or synthetic materials. In ripariums, on the other hand, the land area is only implied: the above water portion is rendered solely with live plants.” To comply with the concept, I made sure that none of the rocks would come out of the water.


I had to alter the outflow of my filter using some extra tubing that I had lying around so that it would reach further down into the aquarium. I ended up using an Eheim spray bay positioned vertically to spray out both above and below the water surface. I also built out an area in the back left which had less substrate in it so that the filter intake would reach low into the aquarium for best filtration and circulation.


I planted the plants I had in the hanging planters, and used the floating trellises to suspend a few stem plants that I had. The planters were fabulous to work with, with great instructions on how to fill them to properly secure the plants. The suction cups have held without any issues for the two months they’ve been attached. I suspect that over time, I may need to replace those cups, but that’s not a big deal. The floating trellises, on the other hand, were somewhat difficult to work with. I found it hard to hold several stems in place without them shifting around before being able to lock them in place with the foam insert. I think if it were up to me, I would continue to use the hanging planters, but just plant the stem plants into the substrate of the Riparium, and let them grow emersed naturally.


After two months, my Riparium is shown above. I’ve found that I’m not as good scaping a Riparium as a regular aquarium, but I’m sure I would improve with more practice. Also, I’ve been running the tank with a light sitting on the top of the tank. I think you really need to suspend the light so that the plants have room to grow up and out of the tank. I currently have zebra danios and some rainbow darters in this tank, and they’re doing quite well. The foreground still needs to fill in, but that’ll take time since it’s a fairly low-light environment.

In conclusion, I definitely recommend the Riparium Supply Hanging Planters. Both sizes are fantastic, and I think they could even be used creatively in a traditional aquascape. For the Riparium, they work great. As mentioned, I recognize the purpose of the trellis, and they do work as designed, but it takes some work to configure them initially. The owner,  Hydrophyte, has been very responsive to any questions I’ve had, and so I’m sure he would provide similar service to any of his customers. Pricing for each item is reasonable at under $15, with a recommended setup for my 20H costing about $50 to get started. At that price, I think it’s well worth the money to try something different in one of your aquariums. Give them a try!

UPDATE: I initially focused solely on the difficult usability of using the floating trellises to secure stems in a Riparium. In addition, they can provide support for stems planted in the hanging planter that would not otherwise stand upright on their own. Using the trellises in this manner eliminates the problem I described, as the stems purely creep along the trellis. The trellises also help to obscure the hanging planters, especially once plants have grown in, and provide a planting medium for plants whose roots cannot be planted because they require the extra oxygen present when sitting in open aquarium water. Therefore, used in these ways, the trellises can be an integral part of creating a successful Riparium.

Business Broker

CO2 Dump!

October 20th, 2008

CO2 Canister & RegulatorAfter the catfish convention auction, I came home and started acclimating the new bristlenose plecos that I got. I putting them in a 20L quarantine tank, and when I turned around I noticed that none of the sunfish or killies that usually swarm the front of the tank were there. Eventually, I spotted a few of the sunnies dug into the Ranalisma rostrata, and a few others swimming awkwardly at the water surface.

Immediately, I knew what had happened; the CO2 tank ran out, and dumped a ton of CO2 into the aquarium all at once. Right away, I pulled out my Python hose, and did a 50% water change. I also borrowed an air pump from another tank, and threw an airstone into the 40G. At that point, all I could do is wait and hope that I wasn’t too late.

I’m happy to report that despite some really dire looking fish, nearly all of the fish survived as of today. I only have one sunfish confirmed dead, and all killies are accounted for. I was lucky.

So, now the question is what can I do to prevent this from happening again? Well, two things come to mind:

1. I could add a pH controller to control the solenoid on my CO2 tank. If the tank suddenly started dumping, the pH controller would shut off the flow of CO2 once the pH dropped below a certain level. Unfortunately, this is not the cheapest solution.

2. I could attach a low-pressure regulator to the regulator I currently have. This would detect the low pressure that causes a CO2 dump, and vent that gas to the room, instead of the aquarium. The downside to this is that I already have a 3-way manifold on my regulator, which is pretty heavy. I’m not confident that the low-pressure regulator could support that weight.

So, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. At this point, I should have at least 6 months to decide before this could happen again. It’s not even a guarantee that it will happen again. That said, I don’t want to take any chances. Does anyone else have any alternative suggestions for what I could do to prevent this from happening in the future?

Business Broker

Auto-dosing Fertilizers – DIY Style

March 24th, 2008

DIY Auto Doser In my last post, I explained how I tested for two weeks to determine the proper amount of fertilizers my 40G tank needed to sustain healthy plant growth, and eliminate algae. With that knowledge in hand, I have now automated my dosing routine on this tank using a few readily available items to build a DIY auto-doser. I cannot take credit for this innovation, as I was following Jeff Ucciardo’s design, who adapted it himself from various designs posted on Aquatic Plant Central.

Building an auto-doser is really quite easy. You only need a container, a powerhead to move the solution from the container to the tank, some airline tubing, a check valve, and a digital timer that is accurate to the minute. You’ll also need some sort of a syringe or pipette to convert the output of the powerhead down to the size of the airline tubing.

For the container, I bought a clear container from the kitchen department of IKEA. A container that is taller will be better than one that is short and fat, as the tall and skinny containers will allow you to more easily differentiate how many days worth of solution it can hold — more on that later.


The powerhead you use has a few basic requirements — it needs to fit in the container, is best to draw water from the bottom so that it will run even partially emerged, and should be strong enough to pump from wherever you plan on storing the unit into the tank. I used the 606 Mini-Jet from Aquarium Systems, and have it set to the lowest setting.

Pipette Sawed Off

To attach the airline tubing to the powerhead, I found that a pipette from Seachem’s fertilizer bottles fits perfectly over the powerhead output if you saw off the large end.

As in any case where you have tubing running into your tank, you definitely want to install a check-valve in the airline tubing to prevent a siphon from forming, and overflowing your aquarium out onto your floor — always a bad thing! I used an inexpensive check-valve from Tetra.

Check Valve

All said and done, I spent $2.99 for the container, $16.99 for the powerhead, $1.99 for the check-valve, and $9.99 for the Intermatic digital timer. I had extra tubing and pipettes on hand, but figure about $35 to build one of these.

Once you have all of your basic components assembled, you need to establish how much solution your powerhead moves every minute, thus figuring out how many total days worth of solution your container will hold. To do this, fill the container with water, and set it exactly where you want it to be next to the tank. This is important because the powerhead will pump different amounts of water depending on the height/distance it is pumping. Now, run the powerhead at 1 minute intervals, using a marker to mark the water level on the container at each interval. Once deplete of water, count the number of marks — that’s how many days you can automate your dosing with a full container. For me, it worked out to exactly 14 days — how convenient!

Now, armed with the previously knowledge of how much I should dose over the same period, I calculated my solution amounts. I put in 100mL of Seachem N and K, and 50mL Seachem Flourish, Iron, and Excel. It’s important not to mix P with Iron in the same container as they interact, so for now, I will have to dose Phosphate separately. Also, for the first time, err on the side of caution, and dose slightly less than what you’d expect. You can always increase it later.

It’s been running for 4 days flawlessly so far, so I’m hoping that this will further help me keep my nutrient levels exactly where they need to be in this tank. I’ll continue to do a few tests to confirm that it’s on target, but I’m looking forward to not having to worry about dosing except for once every two weeks.

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Aquatic Plants Out of Water

February 21st, 2008

When I got back from Florida last year, I started a small emersed setup in my office to keep some of the cryptocorynes we bought there. First, an emersed setup is one that allows you to grow your plants terrestrially, or out of the water. Really, all that is required is a light, a closed container to maintain proper humidity, and some sort of fertilization plan. It’s not much different from starting seeds or a lite version of hydroponics.

Emersed Setup

Why would any planted aquarium keeper want an emersed setup? There are many reasons, but one good reason is to more quickly grow out enough plants to start a new aquascape. It’s also a good place to store plants that you want to keep, but don’t want in your current aquascape. Or, you can use one to flower your plants for get seeds, or just simply to see what the terrestrial version of a plant/flower looks like.

Dome and Emersed Tank

I started with a simple seed-starting tray and dome (above) from the hydroponics store. Make sure to get a high dome so that there’s room for your plants to grow vertically. Just recently, I transferred all of my plants from that dome/tray setup into a 10G aquarium in order to gain even more height.

Moss Pot

I use mostly coconut-fiber pots filled with a mixture of leaf compost and ADA Aquasoil. This is especially good for most cryptocorynes, but works for other plants as well. Then, after planting each plant, I lightly cover the surface of the soil mixture with moss. Mosses have a natural anti-fungal agent that helps to prevent your plants from being overwhelmed with white-fuzzy-fungus that can easily ruin the whole setup. After that, I fill the container to a water level of about an inch below the rim of the pots. This supplies the pots with a constant water source. Finally, I’m using plain fluorescent strip lights over top, and a small powerhead to circulate water around the tank.

Emersed Tank

CO2 is not a concern because it is abundant in the atmosphere. Algae doesn’t grow out of the water, so all of your leaves will be algae free. These two things are the largest reasons many of the large aquatic plant nurseries grow their plants emersed before they arrive at your local fish store. For fertilizers, you can use hydroponics solutions, dry ferts, or even aquarium liquid ferts.

Anubias nana 'petite'

Currently, I’m growing Cryptocoryne moehlmannii, Utricularia graminfolia, and several Anubias barteri nana ‘petite’. I want to build up a nice supply of A. ‘petite’ for some upcoming aquascapes. I’m curious to try and flower the Utricularia, and I just haven’t managed to move the crypt to a tank. I hope to expand the number of plants grown this way now that I have more space in my 10G aquarium.

Cryptocoryne moehlmannii Emersed

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