I (almost) gassed my fish today

  1. Silister Trench

    Silister Trench Well Known Member Member

    -- This is by no means an attempt to deter anyone away from considering Co2 injections. It's highly beneficial and often times a requirement when using higher PAR lighting. It's just my tale, my experience, and if it helps any hobbyist justify spending a little more for a quality regulator then good deal --

    I think anyone researching Co2 injection in a planted tank occupied with fish will at one point or another find mention of someone else "gassing" all their fish. Honestly, it always felt as likely to happen as boarding a plane and having it crash. You hear the stories, maybe read about one crashing due to mechanical or pilot error, but most of us never imagine it happening to us personally. To tell you the truth, I've always been one of those people standing right beside you in the realm of statistical improbability relating to catastrophe in personal events.

    Well, call me blind or deaf in that sense because I came as close to killing my fish today as possible without actually doing it. I noticed yesterday my bubble counter was broke with a huge crack in the side, so today I ordered one but in the meantime did a DIY out of various components to get by. After hooking it all back up I adjusted the regulator (the paintball tank ON/OFF homemade variety with a needle valve for "fine" tuning) and hid everything back in it's respected area. Anyone who's ever used this combination as a regulator most likely has experience with how annoyingly ineffective a needle valve is at pin-pointing a constant BPS rate, and for those who haven't used something like that let me just tell you they're very "touchy" and a jerky turn too far usually shuts it off or blows Co2 hoses off parts while leaving a distinct ringing in your ear. Well either I tuned it too high or the valve was rattled while putting it back, but it didn't blow a Co2 hose off or flood my Co2 reactor and effectively drain it of water like normal. It went unnoticed as I finished aquascaping a Fluval Chi I was eager to play with.
    It was about an hour or two later I was walking around tank to tank holding my nine-month son, who likes to watch the fishies as the lights turn on, when I saw what I consider a highly unusual event take place. All the Otocinclus were actively swimming at the surface instead of lazily grazing on glass, and what was even more odd was half the Neon Tetra's looked like drunk dancers as they tumbled head-over-tail-fin in the current and the rest were flapping at the surface desperately gasping before falling into the filter's current and dancing away. They'd tumble around, then appeared to regain consciousness just long enough to gulp at the surface before being tossed around again. The only fish that seemed unaware of imminent death was the misplaced corydoras catfish that magically appeared one day while I was at work. He just seemed to chill in the grass, watching his mates acting strange.
    Well, it's pretty obvious what was wrong now, but at the time I was utterly dumbfounded. My wife had been spraying an air freshener earlier but understood it's an uncovered tank and would probably not... Would air freshener do this? I wondered, as I grabbed WC hoses and all that, moving pretty slowly after having seen this dreary "death roll" once or twice before in early hobby experience. I was all too sure most or all of the livestock was already too far gone to be saved by simply changing the water. It wasn't until I went to shut off the filter that I heard rushing water in the Co2 reactor and heard bubbles sputtering through the spray bars.
    Okay... This made sense, but only if those Co2 over-saturation horror stories I'd read over a year ago could be real. I've seen some fish "gasping" but nothing like what was happening to all of them right now. With an idea now I acted much quicker. I raised the spray bar as high as the suction cup arms would allow and angled the flow across the surface of the water before shutting off the Co2. It took me about three minutes to find an air pump and get an air stone in the water only to realize it no longer worked... Grabbed an unused HOB filter and got it running instead... This is where I paused to contemplate changing any amount of water and decided against it, justifying this decision as potentially being too rapid a change for fairly sensitive fish already straddling death
    Somewhere in there I made a few right decisions. I watched long enough to see some of the fish right themselves and hover in the calm surface water behind the spray bar. I felt confident there was more I could do, but I'd be better off letting the tank try to fix itself now. My continued interference would just cause stress, and I can't think of a single time my hands in the water actually helped any fish. About an hour later I readied my extra long tweezers and net and prepared to recover the first round of corpses only to find there weren't any. I counted them, scanned around, checked the filter intake and even lifted up some Christmas moss to see if that magically appearing Cory catfish was still home. Every single one of them was alive, looking well, poking around, sucking some glass... Wait! Did that neon just swim funny?!? Nope...
    12 hours later and everything is back to normal, but I learned something. For one, plane crashes don't happen every single time you ride in one, but the possibility of something happening - no matter how minute - is always there and it literally only takes the jostle of a cheap knob for the potential threat somewhere somehow for that threat level to increase. Finally, what can only be described as the realization that Co2 injection is no doubt an expensive part of this hobby, and though a $16 regulator instead of one that can be almost $100 (and more) seems good at first, I wouldn't recommend it.

    So anyone have some suggestions for regulators on paintball set ups being as this DIY one has been complete garbage since day 1 sinceI upgraded based on an online DIY project. I'm not entirely interested in upgraded the tank itself because it hides away perfectly for this set up, but any ideas on a quality regulator you won't have to hide the credit card bill from your wife because? Maybe an overview on your own Co2 sets including tanks, regulator, and however you saturate your water with Co2 could even be beneficial?

    Tank Specs -

    Iwagumi Planted Tank (heavily)
    Size: 20 gallons Long
    Light: 30" Finnex 24/7 Planted +
    Co2: 24 oz Paintball tank; DIY regulator; DIY external reactor
    Filtration: Cascade 700
  2. Grimund

    Grimund Well Known Member Member

    Milwaukee regulators are common for a budget, but it's recommended you upgrade the needle valve to a higher quality one. You can also browse about the Internet for used high end regulators, I've heard of pretty awesome deals.

    Roughly $90 for Milwaukee reg
    $30 for needle
    $8 for paint to regulator adaptor
  3. TexasDomer

    TexasDomer Fishlore Legend Member

    Thank you for sharing your experience! Glad all the fish are alive and well!