CO2 in your Planted Tank – FAQ’s Solved!

  1. What purpose does CO2 (carbon dioxide) serve for a planted tank?

Carbon dioxide is the raw material that plants use during photosynthesis to convert light into food, fiber, and other forms of biomass.

  1. Will CO2 harm my fish?

CO2 will not harm the fish in your tank at normal levels (below 30ppm), but above this level is a different story altogether.

  1. What levels of CO2 should I have in my tank?

A majority of people with planted tanks maintain a stable CO2 level of 20 ppm, though this may be hard to do the do-it-yourself method. You will find a more extensive explanation is question #6.

  1. Are there different grades of CO2?

Yes. In the United States there are two basic grades of CO2. The first of these grades is the welding/food/beverage grade of 99.99% pure CO2, and the other is the Medical grade, which is 99.999% pure. The extra .9 costs significantly more, but you will find that there is very little difference, if any, between the two in terms of their efficacy.

  1. Is there any substitute for CO2?

Seachem makes a product called Excel, which is a source of organic carbon. While this product doesn’t offer all of the same benefits that natural CO2 does, it is a good carbon source for your plants.

  1. Will DIY CO2 work on my tank?

You will be able to make your own CO2 work in just about any tank. The only variable is how much work you are willing to put in to do this. It is extremely difficult to maintain stable CO2 levels if you are doing it yourself. A pressurized system is highly recommended for tanks that are over 25 gallons.

  1. What do I need for a pressurized system?

The minimal requirements for a pressurized system include a cylinder, regulator, needle valve, check valve, tubing, and diffusion method. If you wish to control the flow of CO2 with a timer or a PH monitor, you will also require a solenoid.

  1. What is a regulator?

A regulator is the device that converts CO2 in the cylinder to a lower, safer pressure so the plants in your tank can thrive.

  1. What is a needle valve?

A needle valve is a device that is responsible for lower the working pressure and controls the rate of flow in your aquarium.

  1. What is a diffusion method?

A diffusion method is what dissolved the CO2 in your tank’s water. There are numerous types of diffusion methods, but the main two are active and passive. Active diffusers combine the water and CO2 in a sort of current. Passive diffusers simply release CO2 into the water column so it dissolves on its own.

  1. What kind of tubing should I use?

You will be able to use whatever type of tubing you want, but I highly recommended that your steer clear of silicone tubing because it can lose up to 6% of CO2 per foot. Vinyl tubing is a good option but it can easily break down fast if it becomes exposed to sunlight. The right subbing in your aquarium can make a world of difference.

  1. Will the inexpensive plastic check valves work?

The cheaper plastic check valves will work but only for a little while. Since these valves tend to leak after a while, you should really consider investing in check valves that are made of some type of metal.

  1. What’s a solenoid?

A solenoid is an electrical valve that is typically closed, but it opens up when power is applied.

  1. Will the change in pH from the CO2 harm my fish?

CO2 does change the pH of the water, but your fish will not be harmed in any way. In the wild, changes in pH are typically caused by changes in kH or carbonate hardness, as well as TDS or Total Dissolved Solids in the water. These sudden changes can cause larger fish to experience osmotic shock. A vast majority of fish will be able to handle a more significant pH change because of hardness.

  1. Can I use my spare propane tank for CO2?

No, you definitely cannot. Propane tanks aren’t designed to hold the same pressures that CO2 cylinders are. Propane tanks are welded, whereas CO2 cylinders are completely seamless. CO2 tanks are specifically designed to hold pressures exceeding 1600 PSI. Propane tanks are built to hold 250 psi at most. The standard operating pressure for a CO2 cylinder at 70 degrees Fahrenheit is 800 psi.

  1. How do I know how much CO2 I have in my aquarium?

There are a number of different ways to measure the amount of CO2 in your tank. The first method is to use the pH/kH/CO2 chart, which you can find in my Guide. Keep in mind that there are some problems with this method, including that there can be small inaccuracies in your test kits, which can have negative implications for your tank. The other problem is that if any buffers others than bicarbonates and CO2 are being used in the water, your results will not be completely accurate. Peat, wood, and even some small rocks as well as pH buffers can throw off your results.

Another method that you can use to measure the level of CO2 in your aquarium is to take a water sample from the tank and simply measure the pH. Allow the sample you take to sit for 24-48 hours and measure it again. If you have a drop of even one degree in the pH, then you have 30 ppm of CO2. While it is true that this method works, it can be a bit slow and tedious. There is a new method that is becoming quite popular and it is called a drop checker. I won’t go into too much detail about this method, but you can check out the forums at for more info.

  1. Is the electric method (like a Carbo-Plus) effective at making CO2?

The short answer to this question is no, not at all. You will find that these units cost just as much if not more than a pressurized system. In the long term it is much more costly to run these units than a pressurized system, and they also tend to strip the kH out of the water to make the CO2, which in turn has a negative effect on the water chemistry. With the electrical method you will have a very hard time maintaining healthy CO2 levels, which is why you will typically see these types of products on sale with a fairly huge discounted price.

  1. Will the pH drop/rise from CO2 hurt my fish?

No, it will not. The pH should drop once you have added the CO2 to your tank. If you are using a timer to turn off the CO2 at night, the pH will begin to rise. The changes in pH will not negatively affect any of the fish in your tank, so you won’t have to worry about that at all. This is because in the wild when pH levels rise or fall, there is always a change in the hardness and TDS or Total Dissolved Solids of the water. It is the change in the hardness and TDS, not the pH, that can cause Osmotic Shock among fish. Added or removing CO2 will not change the hardness or TDS, so there will be no effect on the fish.

Substrate in your Planted or Reef Aquarium

  1. What is substrate? If I have gravel in my aquarium, do I need special substrate?

Substrate is everything that rests at the bottom of your aquarium, whether it is gravel, sand, marbles, or anything else you may put down there.

  1. What is “Clown Puke”?

Clown puke is the bright multi-colored coated gravel that many people use to coat their tanks. Using clown puke is completely optional; while some people find it tacky, others absolutely adore it. Personally, we at MyAquarium aren’t too fond of this particular substrate because it just looks tacky.

  1. Do I need some special type of substrate to grow plants in my aquarium?

There is no special substrate required to grow plants in an aquarium. Putting in regular uncoated inert gravel between 1-3 mm in size in your aquarium will work perfectly. At MyAquarium, we recommend that those who are starting out use only a thin layer of ground peat moss, which comes in compresses bales at hardware and garden stores, as a base layer. Keep in mind that you should still be able to see the glass of the aquarium. One ounce of laterite per gallon of water is definitely a good idea, and you will be able to get some mulm, which is the stuff you vacuum out of the travel, from an established tank. You can put some of that underneath the gravel in your tank and your plants will grow to be very strong and healthy looking. Be cautious when it comes to using certain gravel and sands, as some of them contain minerals that can have a negative impact on the water chemistry of your aquarium.

  1. Can I not fertilize my plants if I use a fancy substrate?

While it is true that certain specialty substrates contain high levels of minerals, they do not have enough macro nutrients. Even if you have a special substrate in your aquarium, you will still have to feed your plants regularly.

  1. What is the best substrate?

The best substrate is whatever fits within your budget and looks good to you. I personally use SeachemFluorite, which is a combination of Fluorite and fine gravel, CaribSea Eco-Complete, Seachem Onyx Sand, and regular gravel in all of my planted tanks. This setup works well for me. ADA Aqua Soil is one of the newer substrates and it is gaining in popularity. There are a number of other substrates that others like to use, including Profile, Turface, and Soilmaster Select. I highly recommended that you do not use dirt, potting soil, or kitty litter at all if this is your first planted tank. While some people have had success using these substrates, most people’s planted tanks don’t do well with them.

  1. How much substrate do I need?

Most people with planted tanks use 2-4” of substrate. Click here if you want to know how many bags you should use for more common types of substrates.

  1. Can I use sand?

Whether or not you should use sand as a substrate will depend on a number of factors, including which type of sand you want to use. There are some people who use reef or marine sand because they like the white color, but it can lead to two big problems. One problem is that these types of sand can have a negative impact on the water chemistry in the tank. The other problem is that white sand may look good, but not so much once fish and plants are introduced to the tank. The white sand then begins to show everything that lands on it from the fish and no longer looks quite so nice. If you are trying to decide whether or not to use a certain substrate, try pouring a bit of muratic acid over it. If the material starts to bubble, smoke, or fizz, do not use it.

  1. Do I need a substrate heater?

No, you do not. This is the last piece of equipment that you should purchase for your tank, and only if you have a lot of extra money to spend. A lot of people end up regretting putting a substrate heater in their tank because of how plant roots tend to get tangled in them. If you want to save some money and avoid future headaches, don’t get one of these heaters.

Lighting either a Planted & Reef Tank – Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Do I have enough light for my tank?

It is important to have an adequate amount of light for your tank, and you can’t expect the aquarium fixture you buy to come with one. If you aren’t sure whether or not you have enough light, you probably don’t.

  1. How much light is required for my planted tank?

The amount of light you need for your tank depends on a number of things, including the size of the tank and the plants you will be growing. Tanks that are between 20 and 75 gallons should have at least 2 WPF (watts per gallon).

  1. What does WPG mean and how do I calculate my WPG?

WPG stands for watts per gallon and it is a way of measuring how much light you have in your tank. To accurately calculate your WPG, you will divide the total number of watts you currently have by the number of gallons your tank is able to hold.

For example, a standard 55 gallon tank usually comes with two 18 watt bulbs for a total of 36 watts, or just one 40 watt bulb. If you are calculating for the first example, it would be 36÷55=0.65 wpg. If you are calculating for the second example, it would be 40÷55=0.72 wpg. If you have a 55 gallon tank, you will need about 110 watts of lighting. Keep in mind that WPG is based on fluorescent watts and US gallons. Since this measurement is also based on T12 lighting with standard reflectors, you will be able to use more recent technology for better lighting without quite as much light.

  1. Can I use incandescent/halogen lights in my tank?

While it is true that some people have had success using incandescent/halogen lights in their tanks, they are more effective at heating than providing adequate light.

  1. What do the terms “Kelvin” and “color temp” really mean?

Kelvin is used as a way of measuring the color temperature of light. Click on Kelvin for more info. What is really important is that you understand that lights that are in the 5000k-10000k range are most effective for plants. Most people will see plants under 5000k lights as being very yellow looking, while plants under 10000k lights can appear blue. Many of the best bulbs for planted tanks fall within the 6500k-8800k range. GE manufactures a 9325k bulb that is extremely popular with those who have planted tanks.

  1. If I have three 3000k bulbs, do I have 9000k?

No, because Kelvin is measured cumulatively, meaning that is you use three 3000k bulbs at the same time, you have 3000k light.

  1. Are actinic lights good for plants?

There is still no clear answer as to whether or not actinic lights are healthy for plants. A lot of people believe they don’t do much for plants, so I wouldn’t recommend using them. If you have already met the basic light requirements for your tank, you can feel free to use actinic light. Some reports suggest these lights cause algae growth.

  1. Will putting in quality reflectors increase the amount of light in my tank?

No. Reflectors cannot actually produce light, but good ones will get more light into the tank and could reduce the overall amount of light you have to use.

  1. What is the difference between a T12 and a T8 bulb?

When it comes to fluorescent tubes, each “T” is equivalent to 0.125” or 1/8 of an inch. So a T12 bulb is 1.5” in diameter and a T8 bulb measures 1” in diameter.

  1. What’s a PC or CF bulb/light?

A T5 bulb is a bulb that measures 0.625” or 5/8 of an inch in diameter. These bulbs have become increasing popular and they offer an efficient way to light your tank.

  1. What is a T5 bulb/light?

A T5 bulb is a bulb that measures 0.625” or 5/8 of an inch in diameter. These bulbs are also becoming very popular as they can light a tank very efficiently.

  1. What’s a MH bulb/light?

A MH bulb is a metal halide bulb. These bulbs are very powerful and best suited for reefs, but they are a bit too much for just planted tanks.

  1. How long should my lights be on?

You should keep your lights on anywhere from 8 to 10 hours, but there are people who run them as long as 12 hours each day.

  1. Can I leave my lights on longer to make up for inadequate lighting?

Absolutely not. Doing this will not work and it could lead to algae growth.

  1. I have a 4’ long tank. Can I just use a shop light?

You can use any type of lights you want, but it is important to keep in mind that shop lights are not designed to work in most or humid environments like inside of an aquarium. Shop lights are also designed to illuminate large areas and not a specific small area, so they are not more than 60% accurate for this purpose.

  1. What is ODNO?

ODNO stands for Oven Driven Normal Output. This is a method that is used to get as much light as possible out of standard fluorescent bulbs than what they are intended for. While this method does work, it does come with the potential risk of electrical shock and fire. If you want to learn more about these lights, simply Google “ODNO lights”.

9 Beautiful 50 Gallon Aquariums Compared

If you are in the market for a fish tank, you should consider doing a little comparison shopping, before you actually buy one. Everyone has an idea of how they want to set up their aquarium, but many do not know the differences in each. Below, you will find a comparison of several 50 gallon aquariums to help you with your search for the perfect environment for your aquatic pets.

PreviewNamePriceMore Details
Perfecto Manufacturing APF97003 Aquarium Tank$$$ " >More details!
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Aquatic Fundamentals 55 Gallon Upright Aquarium Stand $ " >More details!
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Acrylic Rectangle Aquarium 55 Gallon Black$$$ " >More details!
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Eshopps RS-75 Reef Sump - Up to 75 gallons $$ " >More details!
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  1. Clear-For-Life 50 Gallon Pentagon Aquarium

Clear for Life Acrylic 50 Gallon Pentagon Aquarium

The Clear-for-life 50 gal pentagon aquarium is definitely unique in style and will fit perfectly with your home decor. The tank is constructed of lightweight, insulated acrylic, which is very safe for salt or freshwater fish. The tank dimensions are 24”L x 24”W x 24”H. An overflow is built in one corner, so that water can flow from the bottom, center, and top inlets, then cascades over the overflow and down into the reservoir. The Bio-Fil is equipped with a wet and dry filter, which provides a double filtering system for the water, so that all impurities and debris are removed, but none of this would be possible, without the Little Giant Pump. This pump is very powerful and offers extended longevity, because it is constructed out of corrosion resistant material.

The protein venture skimmer is manufactured, by none other than Top Fathom. It is constructed of cell cast acrylic and designed to remove deliquesce substance from the water. The limited lifetime warranty makes this aquarium more enticing and hard to pass up. Take a look at the MyAquarium review of this Clear for Life 50 Gallon Pentagon acrylic aquarium here or check availability and have delivered to your door.

  1. Top Fin 50 Gallon Hooded Aquarium

Top Fin 50 Gallon AquariumIf you are looking for a larger sized tank to house all of fish, then you should consider the Top Fin 50 Gallon Hooded Aquarium. The rectangular shaped tank dimensions are 12.75’’L x 48.25’’W x 20’’H. This tank is built very well and has a brace in the center to prevent the glass from bowing. It is lined with black trim and sealed with a thick layer of aquarium silicone to prevent leakage.

With the tanks size being so large, two fluorescent hood lamps are included and required to light up the entire tank, so that the fish and aquarium décor can easily be seen, without dark areas. This is the perfect type of tank that you can place in your living room to show off all of your fish and being a part of the Top Fin range offers very good value for money, see our detailed specification and review of the Top Fin 50 Gallon Fish Tank by clicking here .

  1. SeaClear 50-Gallon Aquarium and Skimmer Box

SeaClear 50 Gallon Fish TankIf you are looking for a SeaClear 50-gallon fish tank with a something little extra, then you should most definitely check out this SeaClear aquarium. The extra special feature is the skimmer box. This box serves as a self-cleaning system, but it will also provide lots of other benefits. For instance, in the event of a power outage your tank will not fully drain. Also, if you want to change you filtration system these skimmer boxes are compatible with several different types of filtration systems including the wet and dry trickle filter or the multi-stage canister systems. This great fish tank is made out of a thick, insulated acrylic material. The dimensions of the tank are 15’’ L x 36’’ W x 20’’ H.

This aquarium comes with a lifetime warranty backed by a quality brand (read more on SeaClear and other suppliers here) which we believe is too good to pass up. If you would like to learn more about the Sea Clear 50 Gallon aquarium with skimmer box, further details are available on MyAquarium here or check availability and purchase here.

  1. SeaClear 50-Gallon System II Aquarium

SeaClear System 2 50 Gallon AquariumDo you want to create a beautiful fresh or saltwater aquarium setup? If so, you should be checking out the SeaClear 50-Gallon System II Aquarium. This great tank comes with a slew of features including a built in wet/dry filter system, 4-way adjustable skimmer, air-injection nozzle, media tray, and a 350 gph submersible pump. The filtration system is great because it is basically headache free.

You only have to change the filter pad every so often and keep it topped off with water, at all times. The skimmer is amazing because it has a gate that prevents fish from entering the filter. The tank is not only made out of insulated acrylic, but it also comes with a limited lifetime warranty. The dimensions of the tank are 15’’ L x 36’’ W x 20’’ H.

The SeaClear is a highly reputable name making this purchase a great first time investment for your aquatic / reef needs, for more details on this aquarium read our specification at MyAquarium here or check availability for the SeaClear System II 50 Gallon tank here.

  1. Clear-For-Life 50 Gallon Rectangle UniQuarium

Clear for Life 50 Gal UniquariumThe Clear-For-Life 50 Gal Uniquarium offers a high tech a 3-in-1 filtration system, which will provide your fish with a well-balanced environment, like none other. The design offers an environment that is free of tubes and hanging filters that can potentially bogged up your tank’s space and create a mess. It is perfect for saltwater, freshwater, and a reef tank.

The chamber is spacious enough for a heater and you will never have to worry about your aquatic pets coming into contact with it. This is an ideal size for those looking for an impressive yet slightly smaller aquarium measuring in at 36”L x 15”W x 20”H. The limited lifetime warranty is an added bonus that makes it worth the price tag.

Read more and find out why this Uniquarium is ideal for marine environments courtesy of setup ease and quality design here else check stock availability.

  1. All-Glass/Aqueon Aquarium AAG10050 Tank 50-Gallon

With All Glass Aquariums having rebranded as Aqueon you can be sure to purchase a quality 50 gallon tank at a reasonable price. This glass tank is a tad bit larger than most others of the same capacity measuring in at 36.4” x 18.4” x 19”, ideal for most type of fish. The tank is lined with black trim and a one-piece center brace that prevents the glass from bowing.

You can purchase a hood lamp, filter, and heater separately. This tank is great for a starter setup, being drilled to suit reef aquatics, used as a breeder or simply decorated with your décor becoming a focal feature. Check availability and purchase from Amazon here.

  1. Starfire 50-Gallon Rimless Aquarium

Rimless Starfire 50 Gallon Glass AquariumStarfire Aquariums are a USA based manufacturer offering quality fish tanks with unbeatable glass clarity unseen in competitor products. This is a great Starfire 50-gallon tank that almost looks like a cube, with dimensions of 24’ L x 24’’W x 20’’H. This is excellent for someone who wants to house a lot of fish with limited room space. This tank is going to give you a unique look because of where the overflow is centered. Most tanks come with a corner overflow, but not this tank. Although, this tank is a great startup environment for your fish where a coral or saltwater environment would look stunning. Sadly it does not come with everything that you need as you would need to purchase a filter, pump, hood lamp, and a heater which are sold separately.

This is designer tank, constructed very well and provide a safe environment for your aquatic pets. Further details on this Starfire 50 Gallon Aquarium are available here, else learn about the starfire material or manufacturer here. To check stock availability and purchase, click here.

  1. Deep Blue Professional ADB11051 50 Gallon Aquarium

Deep Blue Professional 50 Gal AquariumThe Deep Blue Professional aquarium definitely stands out above the rest, as far as the style and design goes. The glass frame is constructed out of the thickest, tempered glass available. It is perfect for freshwater and other marine life. The diamond polished edges are sealed with aquarium silicone and lined with a black moulded frame. The measurements are 36”L x 18”W x 18”H, which will provide your fish with the perfect environment and plenty of room.

The Deep Blue Professional brand is relatively young and recent reviews clarify the quality / value they deliver. This aquarium is constructed out of high-quality glass and will last a lifetime, if cleaned and properly taken care of. Take a look for further details on the Deep Blue ADB11051 50 Gal fish tank here or check stock availability and purchase here.

  1. AquaTower 50-Gallon Hexagon Aquarium

AquaTower 50 Gallon Hexagon AquariumThis AquaTower is a great looking little tank that is going to give all of your fish a home, without taking up minimal floor space. Many people like to shove their tank against a wall, but this one can be placed in anywhere, because you will be able to see your fish from all sides of the tank. The fluorescent light, hood allows the light to shine down and illuminate the entire tank.

Upon purchase of the 50 Gallon Hexagon Aquarium tank you will get a 1-year manufactures warranty. This means, if anything breaks on the tank, within the first year the manufacture will replace it for free of charge. It also comes with a set of artificial plant decorations that is going to make a great addition to the environment.

The top and bottom of the tank are matched with acrylic black caps, which really give the tank a unified look. The tank is really easy to maintenance due to the outside placement of the filter and the under gravel filter with lift tube. Both of these features are also going to allow you maximum room inside the tank itself. The dimensions of the tank are 16’’ L x 16’’ W x 76.5 H.

This tank and aquarium accessories are a steal and should not be passed up, if you want to provide your fish with a homey and roomy environment. Available at Amazon to purchase here.

The Use of Live Feeder Fish in Saltwater Aquariums

Although most fish you house in your aquarium are likely to be carnivores, they do not necessarily need live fish to thrive. With an assortment of different alternatives, it is possible to replace the need for live feeder fish, with frozen alternates, such as bloodworms or brine shrimp. Some of these fish can also be lead into consuming pellets and dry fish foods, which tend to be enormously convenient and typically inexpensive. Depending on your preferences, you may wish to follow the more convenient approach, but there are some fish, which will stick true to their piscivores nature and eat other species of fish, whenever they get the chance.

Types of Carnivores

There are some species of fish that will only act on their instincts, when it suits their needs. Angelfish fit this category to perfection, although many hobbyists have conditioned their fish to frozen foods. When giving the opportunity, these fish will snatch up and eat smeller fish.

At the same time, there are certain species, which can be adapted to alternative diets in a much easier manner. Needlefish, Gars and Oscars tend to fall, within this category. In a wild setting, these species seek out and consume a variety of prey. However, in the aquarium, these fish will be readily accepting of frozen diets consisting of earthworms, bloodworms and other frozen morsels.

And finally, you have fish species that are strictly predators, yet have been conditioned to consume fewer live fish. In general, these fish are almost impossible to train and will almost always revert back to their predatory ways. Leaf fish, live bearers and stonefish all fit within this specification.

The Benefits

Overall, the biggest benefit of feeding your fish other fish sways toward the convenience factor. Attempting to adapt a specific species to an alternative diet can be frustrating and time consuming. By relying on their original lifestyles, the hobbyist will have very little difficulty getting the fish to feast. At the same, obtaining alternative foods can be extremely difficult. While most specialty stores maintain an assortment of smaller fish, they might not stock bloodworm, river shrimp or earthworms. Purchasing the smaller fish is typically inexpensive and less difficult, which may sway your opinion.

The nutrition factor is another concern. Many aquarists strongly believe in the power of a live fish diet. This also allows the predator fish to revert back to its wild behavior, which can stimulate it and improves its wellbeing inside of the aquarium.

Some Disadvantages

Overall, feeder fish tend to be raised in terrible conditions, which can cause their immune systems to break down. When this happens, they’ll become more likely to develop diseases. Introducing these fish to your aquarium, once they’ve contracted disease, can have a negative impact on your predatory fish. Since feeder fish are usually not cared for in a proper manner, they tend to be malnourished. This can reflect negatively, when the predator consumes them. You obviously don’t want a Fuzzy Drawf Lionfish, which has become unhealthy, because it has consumed malnourished feeders.

Common Predators and Best Practices

Within the saltwater aquarium, it is likely you’ll want to experiment with Groupers, eels and triggers. Just remember that these are common predators that required strict diets. Still, it is generally best to stay away from the traditional goldfish. Although this is the easiest food, it isn’t natural and can cause problems. Instead, it is best to feed them natural foods, including shrimp, clams squid and scallops. This will help to keep your fish healthier and keep their colors shinning nice and bright.