Planted aquariums are the biggest trend in the fish keeping hobby. While beautiful, plants add another degree of technical difficulty when it comes to keeping your tank vibrant and healthy. This is due mostly to the requirement of a vital component that plants need to survive and thrive called CO2. Carbon dioxide, while not necessary if you only have a plant or two, is essential for heavily planted and aquascaped tanks. If you've tried planting your tank only to fail or be overcome by algae, lack of CO2 is likely your problem. The following is a beginner's guide on how to use it in your tank.
Role of CO2 in The Tank
Plants need CO2 exactly in the same way that you need oxygen. It is a vital part of their respiratory process. Plants take in CO2 and produce oxygen, which is the exact opposite of humans. Plants provide the oxygen we need to live. In the tank, plants provide oxygen as well, but it can be difficult for them to get enough CO2 in order to "breathe" properly. Plants lacking in this vital component will not grow or flourish. They may also wilt, die, or be overcome by obnoxious algae, which doesn't need as much CO2 to survive.
Methods of Introducing CO2
You can introduce CO2 to your tank in a variety of ways. First, you have to add fish. Fish breathe in oxygen and release CO2. While a great start, it's usually not enough to keep your plants healthy. There are also liquids or tablets that you can dose your tank with daily to raise levels; however, they don't work well for densely planted tanks. The best CO2 Systems are yeast-based and pressurized. Yeast-based systems are cheap but difficult to control. If you want total control, invest in a pressurized CO2 system.
Monitoring CO2 Levels
In high levels, CO2 is deadly to fish. For this reason, you have to monitor your CO2 levels and keep them consistent. A planted tank needs about 1 gram of CO2 per 25 gallons per day. To make sure you're at the right level, install a drop tester that will alert you to low and high CO2 levels by changing colors.
Mastering CO2, much like everything else in the hobby, is a trial and error process. While it may seem difficult to master at first, you will get the lush plant growth you desire with persistence and more than a little patience. For more information, talk to a CO2 professional like Terry Supply Co.