The Aquatic Gazette

Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

Frank Wazeter’s “Francis Xavier” Single Stone Iwagumi & ADA Philosophy Guide (2)

In Build on April 30, 2011 at 13:32

Welcome to Edition 2! If you have missed out on Edition 1, it can be found here:

Frank Xavier: I have my lighting period set from 10pm at night to 6am in the morning (8 hour photoperiod), which I will probably bump up as the need arises – sometimes playing with an 8-10 hour photoperiod can help make things easier. Not all planted aquariums are the same. Right now I start on the low-side to judge how algae will occur in the aquarium. Preventative measures in the fight against algae is always the best way to go (preventative doesn’t mean you won’t get algae, you’re pretty much always going to get it to some degree).

I did notice an interesting effect, and that is the effect of Penac W on the substrate in terms of oxygenation levels in the aquarium overall, I did perhaps go a little overboard in the dosing of it for this small size aquarium, ended up using double the recommended dosage by just simply putting in a more sizeable dosage to equal Bacter 100 & Clear Super levels:

oxygen bubbles

As you can see there’s quite a lot of oxygen in the system, that’s just one side of the aquarium.

It’s important, for planted aquaria, that the system reach a stable (i.e. cycled) point as quickly as possible to enable the growth of healthy aquatic plants and deter from algae. For this reason, I am doing a water change once a day everyday for the first week, taking it down to about this level:

And you can see, still clear water and going pretty good (the Marsilea is melting a bit hard in the back, dunno if it will work out in the long-term, as the batch we got was pretty well melted to begin with)

Upon filling with water, I Dosed one squirt of Brighty K and 15 drops of Green Bacter (aids in replenishing Beneficial bacteria after a water change, as well as during the cycling process help’s speed up the process of cycling. This Amazonia should be ready for Amano shrimp in about 5 days). While filling the water – just do it slowly, try not to disturb the substrate too much, if at all. You shouldn’t be blowing aquasoil around.

The first week of this layout being up is almost over – and it’s gotten a water change every single day. Once the next week starts, it will turn into water changes every second day. So, from Saturday -> Monday, Weds, Fri, Sun.

But as you can see here as well, the aquarium is going through a pretty intense melt-down phase. Except for the hydrocotyl in the back, which really needs no encouragement to grow, there’s wholesale melting of the Riccia (which was semi-emersed), HC (which was totally emersed), and the Marsilea Minuta (which was totally emersed).

The Minuta was a lost cause – frankly it just came into the aquarium too late, given enough time they would bounce back as submergent growth was already seen, but the shipment of plants we get from our wholesaler is always a bit weak. If they aren’t put into water almost immediately upon receiving them, then usually they are a lost cause. In this case they were shipped two day instead of one day, and then didn’t see an aquarium until the third day.

So, the end result was the Minuta was mostly replaced with some of it already in the emerged form.

The HC is in a similar boat (having come from the wholesaler) – and may also need replacing. By and large it’s just best not to keep rotting plants in the aquarium.

I must say though, that by and large packaging of plants we get from hobbyists is always 400% better than from wholesale sources and have much longer vitality before needing to be put into an aquarium.

However, this is normal and expected – KWC warned me that this Riccia would go through this phase before bouncing back considering it’s original source, and it’s nothing that I’m not prepared for.

In the mean time, still dosing 1-2 drops of Green Bacter daily and 1 squirt (1 mL) of Brighty K daily. Let’s see how it keeps on going and bounces around. It’ll be more careful removal of dead plant material in the next week is my prediction.

Thank you for reading Edition 2. If you would like to continue on to Edition 3, please hit this link:


credit: Frank Wazeter “Francis Xavier”



Hikari Sinking Wafers

In Food on April 29, 2011 at 09:39

Kamihata Fish Industries was founded in 1877 and is the parent company of Hikari. On Hikari’s website, they proudly boast a century of experience through their front page banner. A boast like this usually relates a century of experience to a refined and quality product. Although few companies can live up to such a claim, we feel that Hikari’s claim is justified.

The range of Hikari’s feed is extensive and is categorised into three broad categories – Koi, Goldfish and Tropical. In these three categories, the products are further categorised into sub-categories. It is not a understatement when we say Hikari produces very specific feeds for specific purposes. This review will be focusing on the new Hikari Sinking Wafers for bottom feeders.

Marketing language

1. Unique disc becomes soft gradually.

2. Highly digestible and carefully balanced diet.

3. A ‘soft wafer’ that is developed for bottom feeders who have small downward facing mouths and must gulp their food.

4. An extremely flavourful diet that offers premium-grade fish meal, silkworm and krill meal with superb nutrient balance.

5. Perfect for smaller aquariums or to target feed multiple areas of larger tanks thus avoiding competition for food.

6. A highly digestible, scientifically developed ingredient profile to help most bottom feeders develop their full potential.

7. Contains stabilised vitamin C which supports a healthy immune system.

8. Loaded with pure-cultured spirulina to help your underwater friends look their best, always.

Guranteed Analysis 

1. Crude Protein: min 36%

2. Crude Fat: min 9.0%

3. Crude Fiber: max 4.0%

4. Moisture: max 10%

5. Crude Ash: max 16%

6. Phosphorus: min 0.8%


Fish meal  | wheat germ meal | soyabean meal | wheat flour | silkworm pupa meal | dried seaweed meal | dried bakery product | brewers dried yeast | fish oil | krill meal |spirulina | garlic | DL-methionine | astaxanthin | choline chloride | vitamin E supplement | L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (stabilised vitamin C)  | inositol | calcium pantothenate | riboflavin | vitamin A oil | thiamine mono-nitrate | pyridoxine  hydrochloride | niacin | menadione sodium bisulfate complex (source of vitamin K) | folic acid | vitamin D3 supplement | biotin | disodium phosphate | ferrous sulfate | magnesium sulfate | zinc sulfate | manganese sulfate | cobalt sulfate | calcium iodate

sinking wafers | older version

sinking wafers | newer version

We do not currently have technical access to the older version of these sinking wafers, but we have used them before. The main difference between the two is its size. The older version was bigger and flatter while the newer version is smaller and thicker, quite similar to the sinking carnivore pellets. We really appreciate the change in size because the older version tend to take some time to sink, while the new version drops like a stone. The sinking properties of the new version ensures that your wafers land exactly where you want it to. Gone are the days where these wafers will move with the current while sinking, and get stuck in places where they are left uneaten. Uneaten fish feed is the number one pollutant in our aquarium.

Another way that these pellets help ensure good water conditions is their ability to stay in one piece, until a bottom feeder finds it. Even then, they do not readily break into tiny pieces that will move with the water current out of the feeding area. They mostly break into big (relatively speaking) clumps that stay put, but are soft enough that the bottom feeder feeds with ease. In our opinion, this is quite a remarkable work of engineering.

Our corydoras are fed solely on these sinking wafers. Our corydoras are healthy, active and have bred successively in our 15 litre tank. We do not see any difference in feed rate or health levels between the older and newer versions. Some have emphasised the importance of varied fish feeds for our fauna and we think there is no harm in doing so. But if you do not want to mess with multiple feeds and desire to just use a single feed, this feed alone is suitable for bottom feeders.

Although we may never understand all the ingredients in our sinking wafers and what exactly they do, seeing them this healthy is proof enough. It is also quite impressive that the marketing language for Hikari Sinking Wafers is pretty accurate. If you keep bottom feeding fauna, we highly recommend Hikari’s Sinking Wafers.

one of our C. Sterbai



jcardona1’s Wild Discus Biotope (1)

In Build on April 28, 2011 at 10:48

We were quite stunned when we found this discus biotope by jcardona1. Beautiful and healthy discus were swimming among driftwood, in simmering water. We knew we had to share it here and hope that you will be as inspired as we were. 

jcardona1: Well after several weeks on this tank it is finally finished!!! I picked this tank up at the end of January and have been working on it nonstop. I put a lot of thought and planning into this one. In fact, this is my most intense tank build yet. Lots of DIY work, made the setup of my old 400g seem like a breeze. This tank will be home mainly to my wild discus. I went for a biotope-ish setup, even though I have a few fish that aren’t truly native to where the discus are from. Enough of that, on to the details!

The tank measures 60x30x24, is made from ½” glass all around and holds roughly 190 gallons of water. I bought the tank used from Charlie @ The Fish Tank Factory in SoCal. The previous owner cracked the bottom pane, which was repaired by Charlie’s builder. The customer never came back for the tank, so I ended up getting a really good deal on it. It just involved a very long drive to pick it up!

The stand is DIY, about 33” tall. This is the second stand I’ve built. I hate working with wood, I don’t enjoy it all and only do it out of necessity. The stand is extremely overbuilt, but it’s the easiest way I’ve found to build a stand. It’s framed out of regular 2x4s, then skinned in whiteboard since it’s light and cheap. Because I’m only painting it, I didn’t need to go with some high quality wood.

The stand has side access doors along with the two front doors. The doors were built out of birch plywood panels, with a simple trim. It’s not perfect, but came out decent, and I’m learning! Maybe one day I can build a stain-worthy stand. But for now, I think this will look just fine in my living room. Final color was gloss leather brown. I also made an open top canopy out of whiteboard. It’s just a simple box frame as I only needed something to hide the black plastic trim and finish up the top.


jcardona1: This is one area where I spent a lot of time, especially doing research. This was a bare tank with no overflow boxes and no holes, so I was starting with a blank canvas. I’ve ran the Herbie setup before and I loved it. My main requirement was that this tank be dead silent as it was going in my living room. The filtration also had to be clean and simple. I’m not a fan of messy wet/dry filters. Those that have seen my sumps before know what I’m talking about

After doing lots of research on, I decided to go with the Beananimal overflow system. It involved a little more work since it uses 3 drain lines, but after running both the Herbie and the Beananimal, I’m convinced the Beananimal is better, safer, and quieter. It’s quieter because it uses two downward facing elbows, unlike the Herbie which uses two vertical open standpipes. The downward facing elbows make it so the system runs silent with no air bubbles in the lines at all. But because the elbows are facing down, you get air trapped inside at start-up. This is where the 3rd line comes in. When you start up the pump, the water level quickly rises past the two drain lines and starts flowing down the emergency drain. After a few minutes, the system purges the air out of the two main lines and the water level drops down, resuming its normal operation.

So with a plan in mind, I set out to drill the holes. I have never drilled glass before, so this was a learning experience. I bought a cheap diamond glass bit on eBay and practiced on a spare 20g tank. It was really easy actually. There’s plenty of videos on YouTube that show the steps involved. I ended up drilling five 1.75” holes for 1” bulkheads.

The Beananimal is built out of 1.5” piping. In fact, the entire system is built exactly like Beananimal original design as seen here:…ow-system.aspx. The bulkheads are 1″ with 1.25” elbows and strainers in the overflow box. Overflow box is DIY as well, using three pieces of ¼” glass.

The main drain is the one at the far right. The drain runs submerged and handles the bulk of the flow. Because it’s submerged, it runs as a full siphon, which can handle a lot more flow than a line that has air trapped in it. To restrict the flow and to control the noise, I’m using a 1.5” brass gate valve. I was using the ball valve at first, but it’s much easier to fine tune the flow with a gate valve. You’ll also notice that I have a small valve up top. For some reason, the air bubbled that traps inside this line during startup would not purge. I think it may be that my drain lines are submerged too far past the water level in the sump. I haven’t researched this yet, so I just added a small valve up top where I could release the trapped air. Without this, I was having water go down my emergency line indefinitely. As soon as I purge out the air, it goes back to normal.

The middle line is the open channel standpipe. This one basically operates like a Durso pipe, with a vented hole up top. The vent hole has tubing that extends below the rim of the tank. In the event of an emergency and a rising water level, the open channel standpipe will convert to a full siphon like the one on the right as soon as the vent tube becomes submerged under water. When it turns into a full siphon, it can handle a lot more flow than it could as a Durso, and can aid in quickly moving water down to the sump. Under normal operation, this pipe is flowing a small amount of spillover; whatever the main drain can’t handle. Because it’s a small amount of water, the water clings to the inside walls of the pipe, thereby not making any noise. If it begins to flow too much, then air gets trapped with the water, and you get the classic gurgling sound that overflows are known for!

The last pipe on the left is the emergency drain, and simply consists of an upturned elbow. As I mentioned above, this pipe sees water each the pump restarts, until the system purges the air out.

The main drain and open channel drain both flow into one filter sock in the sump. I’m currently using a 25 micron 7×16” filter sock.

The sump itself is made from an old 40g glass tank. This is quite possibly the cheapest, easiest, and most efficient sump you can build! You don’t need any drip trays, dividers, or baffles. All thanks to the media of choice. I have about 30-40lbs of porous ceramic media, which works much better than bio balls or pot scrubbers. Because this media is used fully submerged, it makes the sump very easy to build.

I’m using two return pumps for this setup: Quiet One 4000 (1017gph) and 4000 HH (980gph). These return back to the tank via two 1” return lines. I have a ball valve on each to be able to reduce the flow as needed; wild discus are particularly picky about not having strong currents in the tank. The returns on the inside consist of 45* elbows that I can rotate to adjust the surface current, or aim down if I wish. The return lines also have 1.5” swing-type check valves to stop the flow back to the sump, since they are several inches below the water surface.

Heating consists of a Rancho ECT1-R temperature controller and a 1000w titanium rod. I hate using regular aquarium heaters. They are so inaccurate and unreliable. This setup truly is ‘set it and forget it!

Thanks for reading Edition 1, Edition 2 can be found at this link:


credit: jcardona1

EcoPico Desktop Aquarium

In Tank on April 26, 2011 at 07:52

When Dennerle launched the Nano Cube 3 years ago, nano tank systems were still in their infancy. The success of the Nano Cube has spurned others into coming out with their own. Better designed systems with decent filters and lighting, are positioning these nano tank systems as a respectable choice for established aquarists, and not some marketable gimmick for newcomers. The draw of a nano tank system is undeniable, an all-in-one package, in which each component fits the other in design and operation.

Dennerle Nano Cube

Today, we have a wide range of nano tank systems to choose from. Some of the more popular ones are:

Dennerle: 10 | 20 | 30 | 60
Dymax: IQ3 | IQ5.
Eheim:  Aqualife Nano Aquarium
Fulval:  Edge | Ebi

Besides these systems and all other systems that are in the market, a particular one has caught our attention, it is the EcoPico Desktop Aquarium.

Ecoxotic EcoPico

Almost immediately, you can see how far the nano tank systems market has progressed in the last 3 years by comparing Dennerle’s Nano Cube to Ecoxotic’s EcoPico.

The internal filter of Dennerle’s nano cube and other nano tank systems typically come with spray bars. While they work for cannister filters, we prefer the lack of one for a better rate of flow and cleaner profile. EcoPico’s internal filter does not have a spray bar and it is a low profile filter that wisely sticks to the simple design of a black rectangle. Our eye looks out for unnatural shapes in the aquarium, a rectangular filter that sits in a tank, which is a rectangular by itself, will attract less attention. When compared to a round or corner filter, like Eheim’s Aqualife Nano, EcoPico’s internal filter is better in design. Fulval’s Edge and Dymax IQ aquariums have filters that are hidden and those are actually even better. But we prefer an internal filter compared to an inbuilt filter as we gain flexibility with the filter’s position for optimal filter flow and possible lack of visibility.

Dennerle’s Nano Cube’s lighting unit was a revelation in nano lighting design when it first appeared. But Ecoxotic’s EcoPico’s LED lighting unit clearly shows the way forward into a very bright (pardon the pun) future. For us, the LED light unit is reason enough to purchase the EcoPico. The light unit has 3 LEDs (9W) attached and for those who want to grow plants that need high lighting levels, it is possible to add another two more LED strips to the light unit, bringing the total number of LEDs to 9 (27W). For those that are trying to cultivate algae, just add more light units with 3 LED strips each. We do not see any reason why these LEDs will not be enough to grow any plants you desire with the right modifications. The LEDs come in 3 colour variations – EcoPico LED Strip, 12,000K White, EcoPico LED Strip, 453nm Blue and EcoPico LED Strip, 12K White/453nm Blue.

12,000K white may be too blue for planted tanks, we will try to bring in a set and test it out as the EcoPico is not available locally at the moment.

Ecoxotic EcoPico

The EcoPico tank looks well made when examining the pictures and videos of those who have it in the United States. Silicon work looks neat and tidy and the glass looks well aligned and clear. The only thing we would like to see improved is the use of clear silicon instead of black silicon, a lot more aquascapers will be pleased with that.

Aquarium Design Group has several EcoPico systems running, do check out their facebook page for more pictures and videos. We hope that the EcoPico will be made available to our local market, we think it will be a hit among those that want a well designed and thought out nano tank system.

Ecoxotic EcoPico

Here are two videos by Aquarium Design Group, the first is a fresh water set up, the second is a marine set up. Notice the modification done to the light unit for the marine set up, there are 5 LED strips instead of 1.

EcoPico is now available for sale locally, through our partner, Petmart.  


credit: Ecoxotic | EcoPico Aquarium

credit: ADGVibe | Aquarium Design Group

Takashi Amano’s Private Tank

In Build on April 25, 2011 at 09:10

Takashi Amano is the founder of Aqua Design Amano, an aquarium company that retails stylish, high-end, quality products. He is the pioneer of many aquascaping normals found today, such as pressurised CO2, Aqua Soil and the iwagumi style. His private tank measures 400cm in length, 150cm in depth and 150cm in height. Based on the dimensions of the tank, it holds 9 tons of water, however during his recent planted aquarium lecture in Malaysia, he said the tank held 15 tons of water. It is most likely that his filtration system holds the other 6 tons. With what is arguably the best aquascaped tank in this size category, we will let the pictures do the talking.

Technical Specifications

Aquarium: 400(W) x 150(D) x 150(H)cm
Lighting: NAG-150W Green x 16 units – 4 hours daily | NA Lamp 40W x 9 units – 9 hours daily
Filtration: Original overflow filter
Substrate: Aqua Soil Amazonia | Bright Sand | Power Sand Special L | Bacter 100 | Clear Super | Tourmaline BC | Penac W | Penac P
CO2: Original supply system
Aeration: Original aeration system
Fertiliser: Brightly K | Green Brightly | ECA | Green Gain
Water Change: Automatic water change system
Water Temperature: 24 degrees Celsius
Water Condition: pH 6.8 | TH 20mg/l | NO2 <0.02mg/l | NO3 <1mg/l | COD 4mg/l




credit: Nature Aquarium Book 2008
credit: Nature Aquarium: Complete Works 1985 – 2009

Frank Wazeter’s “Francis Xavier” Single Stone Iwagumi & ADA Philosophy Guide (1)

In Build on April 24, 2011 at 12:21

In this first edition of our first build article, we are featuring Francis Xavier from Aquarium Design Group / ADA USA. He started a new build in late March 2011 with the theme, ‘Single Stone Iwagumi & ADA Philosophy Guide’.

Frank Xavier: So, I had a bit of a growing period in terms of aquascaping, work and so on. With so many new things to learn and try out, it was time to get back in the saddle after about a 2 month hiatus from my apartment. The setups I had going surprisingly grew in relatively fine, no algae or the like – just not very apt towards an aquascape. It was a bit surprising really since they probably went about a month and a half (or likely all randomly ran out of co2 the day I left) without any co2. Lends credence to the plant mass out competing algae theory.

In any event, faced with some scapers block, I decided to focus on technique and the challenge of using a single stone for an Iwagumi.

The reason why a single stone layout is difficult is that you need one stone that, by itself, can stand alone and make your statement. It has no support, no periphery you just have plants and a stone. So you need to pick a stone that speaks all.

For me personally, I wanted a return to the more minimal and to make a more simple statement.

mini s | amazonia powder | ryuoh

Technical Data

Aquarium: ADA Mini S | 12 litres

Filtration: Eheim 2211 | Bio Rio 1 litre | ADA Mini V-1 and Mini P-1 Filtration pipes

CO2:  ADA Advanced System | Do!Aqua Mini 10D Diffuser | 3-4 bps

Lighting: ADA Solar Mini | 27watts | 8,000k bulb

Substrate System: Bacter 100 | Clear Super | Tourmaline BC | Penac P | Penac W | Amazonia Powder Type

Stone type: Ryuoh

Plants: Riccia | Hemianthus Callitrichoides (HC) | Marsilea Crenata | Hydrocotyle sp

Week 1 Fertilizer Techniques: Brighty K – 1ml daily | Green Bacter – 10 drops daily

lily pipe mini inflow & outflow | music glass mini | riccia

Substrate system theory defined:

I’ll take this moment to briefly describe the ADA philosophy behind the substrate system. The keyword here is that it’s all about whole system health, a focus on the entire ecosystem – not just the plants.

Bacter 100 & Clear Super and what they do:

ADA describes Bacter 100 as over 100 different types of microorganisms – but what this really means for the substrate system is that you immediately turn your substrate into a secondary biological filter. You pre-seed the substrate layers (in tanks larger than 20 litres, using power sand is recommended) with this bacteria to help jump start the cycling, but more importantly to add bacteria that help the system stay healthy at large.

By giving your plant’s roots direct access to a strong center of biological filtration, you encourage them to be healthier, more free from algae and increase the health, stamina, vigor and vitality of the plants. This helps enable them to outcompete algae and grow at better rates. This also helps keep the water more “pure” – and the more “pure” the water, the healthier the system.

Clear Super serves as a ‘food’ source for the Bacteria contained in Bacter 100 and enables the bacteria to grow quicker and stay healthy by not having them starved during setup and maintenance for lack of natural food sources.

In a Mini S/M size you should only need about 1/3 of the bottle of Bacter 100 & Clear Super, potentially even less: around 1/4th – which gives you room for 3-4 layouts total. Just gently spread both on the bottom pane of glass. Bacter 100 first, then Clear Super on top of it. Try to get an even spread across the aquarium

Tourmaline BC:

Tourmaline BC is a high purity / quality powder carbon source and goes in roughly the same proportions of Bacter 100 & Clear Super. It goes on top of these in the substrate system on the bottom pane of glass.

Tourmaline helps keep the water pure by absorbing organic pollutants (like plant decay from initial setup or from conversion from emersed to submersed growth forms) and is essentially powder forms of Bamboo Charcoal.

Penac P & Penac W

Before covering these further, let me first state that these are essentially the same as “vitamin” supplements that someone might take on the side on a daily basis. They aren’t exactly necessary and obviously you’ll live without it. For these, it’s kind of a preference thing and there’s not really any ‘science’ to back them up. I threw them in because we had some extra laying around and a little bit goes a long way.

But just in case you are interested:

Penac W is designed to prevent the substrate from becoming anaerobic, it’s essentially just something to throw in to improve the substrate environment as a whole.

Probably the better use of this product, or well something more measurable is that it can be added directly to the aquarium water in the case of an oxygen shortage in the aquarium: for example if you accidentally overdosed Co2. It serves to rapidly oxygenate the water.

Penac P is an additive for ‘improving the soil,’ by aiding in the ability for plants to spread their roots and grow healthier. It’s just an additional supplement for aiding in the growth in aquatic plants.

Again, these two aren’t exactly necessary, they’re just like taking vitamin supplements. It’s more of a “wholistic” thing.

Aqua Soil Amazonia

I probably don’t need to explain much here – very high nutrient concentrated substrate that also lowers the pH. This is by far the work-horse of growing your aquatic plants.

things to do at the next water change

I’ll share some of the techniques I’ve learned throughout this journal, the first of which is during the first week this layout will get a water change once a day with daily dosing of Brighty K and Green Bacter.

After the first week, it will be daily doses of Brighty K and Green Brighty Step 1 and water changes every other day / as needed. Hopefully Amano shrimps and Oto cats won’t be necessary, but if the diatom algae outbreak occurs, then they’ll be added after a thorough water change and hand removal. As you can see, on day one the water is pretty clear, completely avoiding any ‘cloudiness’ issue or anything of the sort while not running any carbon or the like in the filter. This is achieved with a combination of using the substrate additives and very gently filling the water to not disturb the substrate too much.

Thanks for reading Edition 1, Edition 2 can be found at this link:


credit: Frank Wazeter “Francis Xavier”


CO2 Diffusers

In CO2 on April 20, 2011 at 17:41

CO2 diffusers have come a long way from air stones fitted to DIY CO2 systems . Today, there exist many different methods of diffusing CO2 into our aquariums and each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are 5 ways to diffuse CO2 today.

ADA new pollen glass

ADA pollen glass mini

ADA are the inventors of the first CO2 regulator made specially for planted tanks. ADA’s way of diffusing CO2 through a fine ceramic disc is well known and is a staple of the hobby. The workmanship of a pollen glass is quite amazing and the glass is of high quality. One issue with such a diffuser is that algae will accumulate on  the ceramic disc after some time. The removal of algae is a simple overnight bath in a bleach solution, followed by a soak in anti-chlorine solution, to prevent bleach poisoning among the fauna.

Easy Aqua atomizer

Easy Aqua and Green Leaf Aquarium are two companies that are retailing the CO2 atomizer. It is basically the same concept as ADA’s ceramic disc diffuser but with the ability to produce CO2 bubbles that are smaller, leading to better CO2 absorption rate in the water column. A higher working pressure may be needed, compared to a ceramic diffuser as the diffusion holes on the atomizer is smaller.

CAL inline diffuser

Fine CO2 bubbles are all well and good, but if we position a diffuser just below water level, CO2 would have very little time to enter the water column. So, it can be said that a diffuser is more effective if it can extend the time CO2 bubbles are in contact with the water column, as this leads to a higher absorption rate, CAL Aqua Labs’ Inline Diffuser does just that. Instead of being placed inside the aquarium, it is positioned beside a cannister filter and the filter’s outflow tube runs through it, inside the inline diffuser sits a ceramic disc. High-pressured water flow from the cannister filter output, combined with small CO2 bubbles makes for a good CO2 absorption rate. Also, you can position your ourflow pipe in such a way that the CO2 is sprayed into your plants. CAL’s Inline Diffuser is a work of art, well made, and a pleasure to look at during operation.

Up inline atomizer

Relatively new to the diffuser scene is the Up Inline Atomizer. It works in exactly the same way as the CAL’s Inline Diffuser but with the ability of producing smaller CO2 bubbles. Feedback from hobbyists shows that some CO2 systems do not provide enough pressure for this inline atomizer to work effectively, we will be conducting a test soon. Looks wise, CAL’s Inline Diffuser is better looking with its sexy curves and clear glass.

filter impeller

The last method of CO2 diffusion is by attaching a tube, dispensing CO2 gas, into the inflow filter pipe. The CO2 will flow through the filter, gets smashed into smaller bubbles by the filter’s impeller and flow out of the outflow filter pipe. This method gives CO2 the longest contact time as compared to all the other methods above. However, we do not recommend this method because of two problems.

1. CO2 flowing through the filter is not a good thing. Filter bacteria needs oxygen to multiple and break down harmful ammonia, the higher the oxygen count, the better. If positioned properly, the other diffusers do not present the same problem as the CO2 within the water column will be used by the plants, what goes into the filter is oxygen rich water.

2. The dependency of using the filter’s impeller to break CO2 into smaller bubbles can cause the filter to burp on occasion because of a build up as not all CO2 is expelled in equal amounts.  There has also been reports that the concentrated CO2 amount breaks down the impeller’s O ring, leading to a costly replacement.

A poll on AquaScaping World in 2009 revealed the following results out of 96 participants:

Glass Diffusers: 46.74%

Inline Reactor / Diffusers: 39.13%

CO2 direct into filter intake: 7.61%

Others: 6.52%

We expect the Inline Reactor / Diffuser route to be more popular these days as compared to two years ago. Take the poll!






[Review] CAL Clip CO2 Checker

In CO2 on April 20, 2011 at 10:24

clip CO2 checker

CAL Aqua Labs, an established aquarium company that specialises in CO2 and filtration equipment has released the world’s first CO2 checker that can be placed outside your aquarium. They have named it the Clip CO2 Checker.

clip CO2 checker | side view

The advantages of placing a CO2 checker outside the equipment are multiple.

1. The Clip CO2 checker will stay clean and not need the periodic bath in bleached water.

2. The Clip CO2 checker does not get in the way of an aquascape. In-tank CO2 checkers in big aquariums are not much of a distraction, but they can be in nano aquariums.

3. The Clip Co2 checker may give you a more accurate reading of CO2. We think that if a CO2 diffuser and the Clip CO2 checker are properly situated in the aquarium, the position of the Clip CO2 checker at the water level, will ensure sufficient CO2 inside the aquarium because CO2 rises.

clip CO2 checker | front view

As hobbyists get their hands on the Clip CO2 Checker, we will report their findings on the performance of the Clip CO2 checker.

Update 4th May 2011: A direct quote from CAL Aqua Labs, “We’ve gotten many inquiries about the CLIP CO2 checker without the class stub. For those who plan to only hang the checker on the rim, the “CLIPn” is for you! It’s the same size and dimensions as the CLIP, but without the glass stub for an elegant, clean look. It’s perfect for hanging on the rim of nano tanks as well as other rimless aquariums with up to 10 mm glass thickness.”




BorneoWild Stainless Steel Fill Pipe

In Filtration on April 19, 2011 at 23:07

Some years ago, ADA pioneered the glass and stainless steel filtration pipes as a alternative to the usual plastic ones. Glass inflow / outflow filter pipes are now common, with a variety of companies producing at all price levels. Stainless steel however, is still not used widely and only one other aquarium company makes it, BorneoWild (BW).

ADA stainless steel inflow

ADA inflow power jet

BW produces stainless steel pipes in two sizes, 13mm and 17mm. Their outflow pipe is an almost identical design to ADA’s Metal Power Pipe, except for the usage of two suction cups instead of ADA’s one. Their inflow pipe differs in the design of the filter guard. ADA’s inflow uses a stainless steel mesh strainer while the BW’s inflow uses holes drilled into a cylinder. ADA also has another outflow pipe that is identical to their inflow with the only difference being the size of the mesh strainer.

ADA stainless steel outflow

TAG purchased a set of the BW’s 13mm pipes for our filter. Overall construction feels solid and well machined, there were no kinks in the metal’s curvature. The clear suction cups feels thick and reassuring, one of the best we have seen.

BW stainless steel inflow

BW outflow screw thread

The holes drilled into the inflow pipe were uniformed and clean, a real work of quality. The filter guard is detachable and this facilitates the periodic clean. The two pieces are held together by a metal thread, the screwing on of the filter guard is not completely smooth, but good enough to be problem free. The holes of the filter guard are on the small side compared to the ADA’s, and filter output may be limited. We will report back on the performance in our tank build.

BW stainless steel outflow

The same degree of quality applied to the outflow pipe. The only thing to note was that not all the outflow pipes bend at the same degree. When choosing our outflow, we selected the one with a bend closest to 90 degrees. For those that may be purchasing these pipes directly from an online store, you may wish to specify that you want an outflow pipe that bends correctly. After being satisfied by how well machined these pipes are, we were disappointed that an important aspect fell underneath the quality control radar.

Value wise, these stainless steel pipes are well worth it. They cost quite a fair bit less than their glass counterparts and they do not break. If you are into the industrial look for your aquarium filtration pipes, these will make you happy.


credit: Aqua Design Amano


ADA Mini Solar (Black)

In Lighting on April 19, 2011 at 19:37

ADA has launched a new Solar Mini in black. The Solar Mini is easily ADA’s best selling light unit. Even with various companies trying to emulate the sleek look of a full ADA Mini setup, none has come close. It reminds me of how Apple’s competitors are trying to dethrone the iPad, but the iPad’s design is in a league by itself.

ADA’s corporate colour is grey and they are famous for grey aquarium cabinets and grey lighting units. Last year, they launched a new type of low cabinet in white with corresponding white Solar series lighting units. Now the Solar Mini has also been given a different colour treatment and it is in black. On top of all these colour changes, their corporate logo has been renewed to more futuristic design. This brings us to wonder what other changes will be coming to the ADA’s line of products this year. For one, most ADA fans have been crying for a Mini Solar that fits the Mini L.

ADA’s 2011 Nature Aquarium Catalog should be out around June.


credit: Aqua Design Amano 

[Review] Fluval Pressurised CO2 Kits

In CO2 on April 17, 2011 at 22:33

systems | cartridges | accessories

Fluval has released two new CO2 kits, the Fluval CO2 20 Mini and the Fulval CO2 88. These CO2 cylinders are disposable and cannot be refilled. We see a strong design influence in these new releases as Fluval focuses on the industrial look in which ADA is famous for.

CO2 20 Mini

The CO2 20 Mini holds 20 grams of CO2. It can’t be said to be value for money as 20 grams of CO2 will not last very long. When compared to a refillable cylinder, the cost of replacing the CO2 20 Mini will increase dramatically over the long run. The included regulator does not have a pressure gauge and there is no visual way of telling if the cylinder is about to run dry. We understand that Fluval’s desire for a diminutive package may have resulted in such a omission.  But we feel it is regrettable as a 20 grams cylinder will not have a long lifespan and if the lack of CO2 from an expended cylinder is not caught early, the lack of CO2 injection will cause algae as lighting levels and fertilizer regimes are kept up. The one positive aspect of the CO2 20 Mini is its small size that will be perfect for 5 litres or smaller tanks, where the owner’s desire for matching equipment is more important than value.

CO2 88

The CO2 88 holds more promise. It will last 4 times longer than the CO2 20 Mini and its regulator comes with a pressure gauge, however, it is still a CO2 cylinder that is not refillable. In the West where refillable CO2 cylinder under 100 grams are hard to come by, we are fortunate that refillable 95 grams CO2 cylinders are easily available here.

As we have more options with nano CO2 systems, I believe that these new Fluval systems will not be widely used locally, but continue to do well in the west.


credit: Fluval Blog