New design of drop checker

Discussion in 'Carbon Dioxide (CO2)' started by aaronnorth, 30 Apr 2008.

  1. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

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  2. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Aaron,
    I respect hoppy's opinions and his accomplishments but I've got to say that this is a bit on the delusional side. I've just been through this on a different thread, I think it was Daniels 16gallon journal. The lime green color of the dropchecker is a guide and a reference only. It's one of the important instruments that we use. Anyone who thinks that getting a perfectly lime green, 6.6 pH dropchecker indication will guarantee adequate CO2 is fooling themselves. No two tanks are alike. No two tank lighting are alike. No two tanks have the same amount of nutrient, the same amount of plant biomass or the same amount of fish load or flow. Therefore you can have a perfect 6.6 pH in your dropchecker with a perfectly matched lime green color and still have poor CO2. :wideyed:

    Manically attempting to achieve the perfect 6.6 pH in the dropchecker is like driving your car by only looking at the tachometer. Yes you will have perfect engine RPM management but you'll quickly find yourself in a ditch if you don't also look out the windscreen as well as other visual cues. One tank can get by with less CO2, maybe a little on the aqua blue side, while the other tank may need more. If you have poor filtration and poor flow you need to drive the dropchecker to a more yellow color in order to compensate for the poor distribution. You can only tell this by looking at the plants in order to determine their CO2 status. Is there hair algae? Staghorn? BBA? All of these can appear with a perfect 6.6 pH dropchecker. It is exactly the same with nutrients. Some tanks can easily get away with less while others need more.

    On top of everything else I'll bet they will sell this thing for total ripoff prices, and like lemmings there will be people queuing up to hold the chalice of Camelot. :rolleyes:

    Cheers,
     
    Zak Rafik likes this.
  3. Wolfenrook

    Wolfenrook Member

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    Seems a bit pointless to me, with some pretty major flaws in the idea. For one thing have you noticed just how low down in the 'horn' that php6.6 bulb is? In my experience over time the water level in drop checkers does creep up, and how close that is to the bottom I would have real concerns of the reagent entering the water column. The other major flaw I see is that this would only be of any real use to those operating tanks with the exact water chemistry that this seems to be designed for.

    I personally fail to see what is wrong with the original drop checker design, folks have been using them effectively for many many years to good effect. The design is not broken, it doesn't need fixing. Where possible I actually prefer to use 2 drop checkers, 1 at each end of the tank, this way I can not only get an idea of what levels of CO2 I have in 1 area of the tank, but also an idea of how well it is circulating around the entire tank. A much simpler way to 'improve' the drop checker design I would say, that is of far more use and far less risk.

    Ade
     
  4. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

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    Thats a good idea

    I have just had a look on their website and found out that it is actually pointless taking into acount your considerations, on their diagram it shows that a light green is to much co2 when it is not, i suppose it is designed for getting almost bang on 30ppm, it is $35 so around £18.

    Thanks for your input, it is always good to hear other peoples views :D
     
  5. Themuleous

    Themuleous Member

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    I have to wonder, if it ain broke dont fix it.

    Sam
     
  6. GreenNeedle

    GreenNeedle Member

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    I think I will also stick to my single, as their are plenty of reference colours around. For example my avatar (I think its a bit dark) or the colour of AE's logo at the top of this page or......my memory. lol

    I tend to find that lime green is borderline for me in that my water is naturally 7.2-7.4 whic means that 6.6 is not a 1point drop. Does this also mean I don't hit 30ppm when I get lime green?. Don't know but I drive it a little further to a very light green.

    Andy
     
  7. Wolfenrook

    Wolfenrook Member

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    If you are using 4dKH water in your drop checker Andy then the pH in the tank wont effect the point at which the liquid in the drop checker reaches pH 6.6. So if you are using 4dKH water and getting lime green then regardless of your tank water pH you will have roughly 30ppm of CO2. If however you are using tank water, then the odds are with higher pH and possibly KH of the reference solution then by the time it reaches pH 6.6 you will have much more than 30ppm of CO2.

    It's far easier to get a better idea of how much CO2 you have in your tank using 4dKH water instead of tank water.

    Incidentally I've seen the drop checker in your avatar a few times and reckon it's a very attractive unit.

    Ade
     
  8. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Actually, if truth be told, there is quite a bit wrong with the dropchecker and it is severely broken. The issue is that this new design does absolutely nothing to address what is wrong with dropcheckers in general.

    As discussed in the CO2 measurement article, the weaknesses of the dropchecker are immense primarily because it must passively wait for the diffusion of gas across the interface of the tank water->to air bubble->to sample water. This takes hours so that when you are looking at the checker you are only seeing what it measured a few hours ago.

    The second issues, as mentioned, is that it is only a "point source" measurement and it can only tell you what the measurement is (or was) at a specific point in the tank. The tank water is not homogeneous by any stretch of the imagination, yet we use this point source measurement to represent the profile of the entire tank. This is one of the major reasons why flow rate is critical in a planted tank and this is why we suggest the 10X filter rating. The higher the throughput the more closely the tank profile approximates nutrient and CO2 homogeneity.

    Why spend more money? :wideyed: Why not just move your existing dropchecker around to several places throughout the week and build up a profile of the various locations? If you want to spend money a much more useful option is a digital pH meter that can give you instantaneous readings. This does not tell you CO2 content but you can hover the probe at specific locations and get relative readings. Even this is not ideal because having your hand and the probe at a location changes the flow at that location, but at least you get a general idea which is all you can hope for. An accurate CO2 meter which can give you a direct CO2 reading within ten minutes costs nearly a thousand pounds, so a dropchecker is as good as we can get on the cheap. :D

    Cheers,
     
  9. Wolfenrook

    Wolfenrook Member

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    Because I already own quite a few drop checkers, so I'm not spending money, I already own them and have done for many years. Also moving them around the tank to try to 'build a profile' will only tell you how much CO2 there was at that position at one particular time in the life of the aquarium, this can and will vary, as you well know aquariums are dynamic, even with the best flow etc you are still going to get a significant amount of variation. By placing a drop checker at either end, I am able to get an idea of the CO2 levels at different points at the same time, which helps me to build a better picture of what the currents are doing within my aquarium at any 1 time (even if it was 1 hour ago).

    I also think that you completely missed the point of the 'not broken' comments. I am sure that this wasn't meant to suggest that drop checkers are perfect, but rather amongst drop checkers the design we already had is about as functional as a drop checker can be. Anything else is just a gimick, bells and whistles. I am sure that the new Cal Aqua ones will sell by the load however, as there will always be people who actually WANT to pay more than they need to, under the illusions that the old addage of "you pay your money, you make your choice" is actually always true, ie. it costs more so it must be better.

    Now if they really want to improve upon the drop checker design, things that are flawed include the need for a constant light source of a certain spectrum (the green I see in mine may look totally different to the green I see in yours, purely because your lighting is different), glass ones are also lacking in a decent background upon which to view the colour (look through one towards a green background for example and it will look greener than it is).

    I use my drop checkers as a reference point to check that I am not over/under dosing with CO2, within that range if my plants are growing well and healthy I consider the levels, and flow throughout my tank, to be satisfactory. As an aquarist I don't need pin point accuracy. Drop checkers are proven to work for aquarists, at the end of the day an aquarium rarely need lab conditions and accuracy.

    As to buying a pH meter, what ever for? My fish, shrimp, and plants are healthy and happy, and have been for many years, so why would I worry about my pH? I test so rarely that spending money on an electronic meter would be a real waste.

    Ade

    PS. My glass drop checker cost me under £3, hardly breaking the bank.
     
  10. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    My point is that there is no need in buying more dropcheckers if you already own one. If you already have ten dropcheckers then great, use them but they don't tell you what is happening at the surface of the plant leaf. That is where a pH meter comes in handy. In order to determine what is happening in the tank you need a variety of tools at your disposal. A dropchecker is merely a slow pH meter. You can use it in combination with a meter to build a tank profile much more quickly and accurately than a number of checkers mounted on the glass, where there are no plants. If you buy the right type, such as a multimeter (which measures other things depending on your application) and if you use the meter cleverly it becomes a valuable tool instead of a waste. The meter can also be used to determine the efficiency of your injection scheme as it will measure the pH "pulldown". I already have a meter so I'm not spending money either and I wouldn't necessarily advise to buy one but what I'm saying is that a meter is more versatile than extra checkers and extra reagent.

    It also won't improve a dropchecker design by having a different light. The spectrum is irrelevant as there is no standard spectrum. Color perception is completely subjective so as long as you are judging colors in the same light then that is all that you need to discern differences in color. What does help is having a white background to judge the color against. That's why the JBL checker is actually more useful than the elegantly designed ones although it is rather ugly.

    No, I haven't missed the point. Even though it's the best cheap measurement we have, the dropchecker is completely broken simply due to it's very nature. This accounts for the army of hobbyists having dropcheckers mounted on their glass yet who still have CO2 related algae. CO2 has always been a difficult issue and it's unfair to blame the dropchecker entirely. There are issues with injection, evaporation, flow etc.

    Perfection is the goal. Pinpoint accuracy, if it could be made available, would help determine whether a plant is suffering or potentially could suffer CO2 related difficulties. Since perfection is lacking we are forced to use the checker as a guide/reference only. Yes, it's better than nothing but it's just barely better...

    Cheers,
     
    Zak Rafik likes this.
  11. GreenNeedle

    GreenNeedle Member

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    Yes I use 4dKH water and was half asleep when reading the original post(s) and forgot about the irrelevance of my tank water. lol

    I am one of the peeps who started making my own about a year and a half ago when I was reading through posts on barr, APC and TFF on it. This was while the actual recipe was being debated all the time. lol

    I still have it at Limeade though (the old watery coloured one, he he.)

    The drop checker I have was £5+£6 delivery. They have come down in price since then but I preferred the look to that of the Chameleon one so I bought it. Don't see many of them these days, while the chameleons seem to be the 'in' design. Bought it at the same time as my Rhinox 2000 diffuser which I still use and a glass J pipe which I don't use anymore. lol

    Andy
     
  12. Zebra

    Zebra Newly Registered

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    In all fairness, ceg4048's comment applies to ALL drop checkers, not just the Cal Aqua one since they all say "aim for a green color". If you're trying to say that relying blindly on any drop checker's reading rather than letting the plants guide you is not the right way to go, then I agree. However, for some people that are not as experienced, drop checkers can be used as a good "starting point" for getting to the right CO2 level. More experienced veterans know just by looking at the plants and probably find drop checkers in general useless. But that's not the issue here.

    The question here is if you want to use a drop checker to gauge your CO2 level, does Cal's design offer any advantage over other single-compartment checkers out there. Here's what I think:
    Cal's design actually relies on exactly the same principle as other drop checkers. The top compartment contains a 4 dkh solution, same as whats in everyone's drop checker. So if you ignore the bottom chamber, you're just looking at any average dropchecker.
    The bottom compartment is what's causing the stir. I think the bottom compartment only shows you what shades of green a "30 ppm of CO2" looks like. It gives you a reference point rather than having to guess around what green 30 ppm looks like (of course veterans may say "who cares what ppm it's at as long as my plants are well", but for the not-so-experienced, 30ppm is a good target to aim for in the beginning). But if you tank needs more or less than that, you can always adjust accordingly based on the 30ppm color point. In my opinion, the device works as it's supposed to, but you just need to adapt the readings and targets for your specific aquarium needs.
     
  13. GreenNeedle

    GreenNeedle Member

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    I disagree. I think a DC is good for experienced users too!! It is useful for knowing if your CO2 is dropping off, getting too much and most definately if there is any danger. You can see if there is enough C in the tank from the plants but not if there is too much. Fish don't always go to the surface at least my plecs didn't. They died where they were on the substrate and yes I did have a DC but I was at work at the time.

    I will always advocate the use of a DC but I think saying it should be green is enough we don't need to be as exact as this dual chamber implies in that we have to match the colours. As long as it is green then you are on the money. So in the region of 20-35ppm is OK.

    My $0.02

    Andy
     
  14. Wolfenrook

    Wolfenrook Member

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    For me the best improvement that a manufacturer could make to a drop checker would be to make them with a white background in them. The biggest flaw (that can be rectified, before Clive chips in. :lol: ) with glass drop checkers is the simple fact that once in situ in a densely planted tank the actual colour can be quite difficult to see, where with a nasty plastic one you can look at it against a white plastic background and tell much easier at a glance.

    I bought a glass drop checker a few months back and ended up putting one of my old plastic ones back in there as well as a precaution, as in a well planted tank it's amazing how yellow look green when viewed against a green background. :lol:

    I can see the logic behind the reference solution, but personally reckon that this can be achieved at far less cost to fishkeepers.

    Ade
     
  15. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Yep, that's what's so cool about the cheesy JBL dropchecker - cheap(ish) with a white plastic background. Anyone needing to know what starting color to drive their dropchecker to just needs to check this article (assuming you have a color computer monitor)=> viewtopic.php?f=34&t=467

    No need to spend mad money, and no need for rocket science for a Fred Flintstone device, that's for sure.

    MEMO TO CAL-AQUA: Stop wasting valuable research dollars on useless gimmicks. Use your resources to design a better external reactor.

    Cheers,
     
  16. GreenNeedle

    GreenNeedle Member

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    I prefer my in tank glass diffusor and don't want an external reactor but thats a different matter. lol

    A white background would defeat the object of having a glass drop checker. This being that it is transparent. lol

    I sometimes use the wrong side of a test kit colour card and place it behind just while I am looking and then put it back in the cabinet. lol

    (note to self. stop typing lol so much. lol)

    Andy
     
  17. Garuf

    Garuf Member

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    Here, here!
     
  18. Ray

    Ray Member

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    Or, I'd like a 4DKh drop checker incorporating a digital readout - it could give you the CO2 in ppm since it knows the KH. I'm surprised nobody has done that yet. Must be more complicated than it sounds...?
     
  19. CAL

    CAL Newly Registered

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    Well.. I'm going to stick my neck out here and say thank you for all your comments and criticisms. Although some are quite harsh, we really take them seriously and try to use these comments to improve our product line.

    That being said, I think Zebra's comments were right on. Regarding the Double Check, we simply offered something that gives the user a known reference point. They say the drop checker should show green, we just showed them a reference shade of green that represents 30ppm CO2 which is a good level for most tanks. Whether you need to be on the high or low side of this, it's really your call. Same as any other tools, the device does what its designed to do and its the user who needs to adapt this to their advantage. I totally see and understand Ceg4048's comments on that different tank may need different levels of CO2 based on lighting, plant mass, etc. For this, you probably find that all drop checkers prove inadequate, not just the CAL ones since you're just looking at a continuous shade of yellow-green with no reference point.
    We believe that having a known reference point is better than not having one at all.

    Having said that, I have to say thanks again for giving us feedback on our products, regardless of whether you think they are good or bad. It's these comments that drive us to make better products.

    Best regards,
    CAL
     
  20. CAL

    CAL Newly Registered

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    Alright alright guys... what do you have in mind?? :twisted:
     

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