CO2 Becomes Affordable

A typical DIY CO2 high pressure reaction canister with single stage regulator.

When I first saw this thing on Taobao, it just blew my mind away.

As a DIY CO2 planted tank owner, you will know the bane of low or inconsistent pressure produced by existing kits in the market. And most DIY CO2 setup will hardly last a week. Furthermore, DIY CO2 lacks the pressure to deploy atomizer diffuser. (Atomizer diffuser can produce really nice micro bubbles. Micro bubbles dissolves into water much faster and efficiently than large bubbles.)

This canister replaces your soda bottles A and B. It is now a single phase reaction camber. The pressure produced is good for any kind of diffuser in the market and the pressure is consistent enough to provide weeks of stable CO2.

Growing HC carpet with DIY CO2 is now possible.

Construction

The tank is made of high grade stainless steel. The tank also received a good high shine polish.The overall build quality is very good and sturdy – very untypical of Chinese made products.

In fact the tank looks so good that you can have it displayed alongside your aquarium without being a sore-eye.

The recommended safety level is 25kg/cm2, which is 5 times of those soda bottles. A standard reaction will create 20kg/cm2 of pressure for a 2L tank and can last more than 2 weeks for typical use.

I do not recommend exceeding the recommended amount of ingredient of 200g citric acid and 200g baking soda.

My Dwarf Hairgrass in a 60cm low profile tank.

Package Content

The cannister came with the below items:

  • a set of 6 sets of baking soda (200g) and citric acid powders (200g).
  • a bubble counter with built-in check valve.
  • airline tube with suction cup.
  • a base stand.
  • a small 300ml plastic measuring cup
  • a small funnel.

There are options (combo) for an electric solenoid, ceramic diffuser, co2 checker, etc. They will usually label them as “set meal A, set meal B, etc.”

Tao Bao?

For readers who resides in US or Europe, the words Tao Bao may sounds foreign to you. Tao Bao is the largest online store in Asia. It used to be the only place you can buy this high pressure canister.

Furthermore, the site is in Chinese only! Although Tao Bao has begun selling and shipping to customers overseas, they will not ship this canister to customers residing overseas.

How to buy

In Asia, third-party Tao Bao purchasers are blooming everywhere. These third-party purchasers will purchase items on customers’ behalf and ship items to customers residing overseas.

Typically you will need to sign up on the purchaser’s website. Then you will copy and paste the Tao Bao’s URL of the item you are interested in buying. The purchaser will then require you to make a payment for the item.

Once payment is made, the purchaser will proceed to place the order under their account. The item then gets shipped to the purchaser’s warehouse in China.

Once they have received your item in their warehouse they will notify you and you will then need to make a second payment for shipping.

I have compiled a list of third-party Tao Bao purchasers here.

Shipping Issues

Two of my third-party Taobao purchasers refused to purchase this item on my behalf. Only one shipping agent agreed to ship for me after a lengthy description of what the item was and what it does.

You will need to inform your purchaser that the canister is an EMPTY tank. There is no pressure inside the tank. It also helps to inform them that this tank is for aquarium hobby or for DIY CO2.

And I also had to discard the accompanying baking soda and citric acid powder because it will highly impede port clearance speed. (As of May 2017 all agents prohibit shipping of powder substance of any type.) Any powder that accompany with other items WILL be detained for inspection. So if I want, I had to ship the powder separately and had them declared separately.

Air freight is not possible due to international shipping regulation.

It took about 2 weeks by sea freight to reach me. And that must be the longest wait in my life. But when I got it, the feeling was tremendous.

Another HC tank!

Where and how to get it

Currently, to my knowledge, there are only two online retailers you can buy the canister from. AliExpress and Tao Bao.

AliExpress

Please be warned that the prices on AliExpress is 3~4 times more expensive than Tao Bao although they are perceptually the same merchants. The variety and number of merchants selling are also extremely limited.

The AliExpress merchants will settle for you the shipping. Shipping cost is usually not included for USA and Europe. Shopping on AliExpress is safe and they have insurance and dispute centers. So far I have not encountered any problems since I started purchasing items on AliExpress.

Click here for the link to the AliExpress merchants selling the canisters.

Tao Bao

Tao Bao is a maze to navigate. It lacks navigational studies and its website is extremely cluttered.

I understand a lot of my readers are non Chinese so I have created some links below so you can jump immediately into the link and use it for your third-party Tao Bao purchasers.

Feng Kuang Shui Cao

Feng Kuang Shui Cao
疯狂水草CO2钢瓶水草DIY二氧化碳发生器

Available in 1L, 2L, and 4L canister tanks.

Cheapest starts from USD50.

Source city: Beijing

URL: https://detail.tmall.com/item.htm?spm=a230r.1.14.6.3cd8762bZx1qMG&id=562557848008&cm_id=140105335569ed55e27b&abbucket=12&skuId=3900574307548

CHOFA

CHOFA
臣凡 二氧化碳发生器 diy自制反应钢瓶

Available in 1L, 2L, and 4L canister tanks.

Cheapest starts from USD34

Source city: Wenzhou

URL: https://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=a230r.1.14.20.3cd8762bZx1qMG&id=557486907742&ns=1&abbucket=12#detail

Wu You

Wu You
无忧鱼缸二氧化碳CO2发生器

Available in 2L canister tanks.

Cheapest starts from USD42

Source city: Beijing

URL: https://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=a1z10.5-c-s.w4002-21116352494.16.34509e35TxuUFB&id=534870751535

Wan Jia Bao Bei

Wan Jia Bao Bei
玩家宝贝CO2钢瓶水草DIY二氧化碳发生器

Available in 2L canister tanks. Available in single or dual stage regulators.

Cheapest starts from USD44

Source city: Guangdong

URL: https://detail.tmall.com/item.htm?spm=a230r.1.14.15.6c8522f30NSoGc&id=574850706844&ns=1&abbucket=12&skuId=3764061888575

How to Set up

To get things going, the setup is very fast and easy. Much faster than the Bottle A + Bottle B citric acid baking soda setup.

Step 1: Unscrew the regulator from the tank.

Step 2: Pour in 200g of citric acid powder.

Step 3: Pour in 200g of baking soda.

Step 4: Pour 300ml of water at a 45 degree angle.

Step 5: Screw back the regulator.

Before you pour in the water, make sure the regulator is readied by your side. The moment the water hits the ingredient the reaction is instantaneous.

Immediately you could feel the tank turning cold! Cold enough to have condensation around the tank. The pressure gauge shot to 10kg/cm2 instantly. After a few hours I managed to get 20kg/cm2 of CO2 in the tank! Holly cow!

The screwing back of the regulator can sometimes be challenging especially when you can feel the pressure gushing out. PANIC!

Stay calm and make sure the regulator’s thread fits the tank nicely or you risked damaging the screw threads.

One trick is to use ice instead of water. Measure 300 ml of water and pour them into small tray that makes small cubes. So the reaction will only start when the ice melts.

This way you can take your own sweet time to screw the regulator back in place. However, do note that if you use ice instead of water the pressure build up will take about 1 hour to reach 10kg/cm2, and no less than 4 hours to reach 20kg/cm2. This is because of the low temperature. When the canister return to normal room temperature is when the pressure will reach 20kg/cm2.

Operation

The regulating valve knob is also very smooth and precise. I can fine tune it to achieve 1 bubble per 4 seconds! And it held the rate true throughout the day weeks in operation.

When I changed from using an atomizer to a reactor to inject CO2, I managed to get 22 days of CO2 running at 2 big bubbles per second for 14 hours per day!

This is because when using an atomizer, towards the end of the tank the pressure will drop below the minimum working pressure to power an atomizer. However, the pressure within the tank is still sufficient to power a reactor for another 4 days at least!

Good luck!

[Update March 2018]

I have since upgraded all my soda bottles DIY CO2 to the high pressure canister tanks!
[Update May 2018]

After converting from diffusers to a CO2 reactor, I managed to get 22 days of CO2 running at 2 big bubbles per second running for 14 hours a day for my 20 gallon, and 23 days for my 11 gallon running at 1.5 big bubbles for 14 hours a day!

Check out my commercial CO2 reactor review here. When using a diffuser or atomizer, towards the end of the tank the pressure will drop below operating pressure for ceramic diffuser or atomizer. However, if you use a reactor, the minimum working pressure is low and you can actually get another 4 more days or more!
75 gallon Grass Jungle
75 gallon Grass Jungle with DIY CO2

Tanks details in this page

Dwarf Hairgrass tank equipment list

Tank size: 60cm x 30cm x 24cm 43 litres or 11 US gallon
Light: Aquael Slim Leddy
Filter: Fluval C3
CO2 Diffusion: INTENSE fine mist Atomizer
CO2 Indicator: UP Aqua CO2 Indicator
Substrate: ADA Amazonia
Water pump: 180L/H
Cooling fan: Dymax Vortex Cooling Fan
Surface skimmer: Eheim Skim 350 Surface Skimmer

Iwagumi tank with HC equipment list

Tank size: 60cm x 30cm x 24cm 43 litres or 11 US gallon
Light: Chihiros A Series
Filter: Fluval C3
CO2 Diffusion: INTENSE fine mist Atomizer
CO2 Indicator: UP Aqua CO2 Indicator
Substrate: ADA Amazonia
Cooling fan: Dymax Vortex Cooling Fan
Surface skimmer: Eheim Skim 350 Surface Skimmer

Cube Tank equipment list

Tank size: 45cm x 45cm x 45cm 91 litres or 24 US gallon
Light: Aquael Slim Leddy
Filter: Fluval 206
CO2 Diffusion: INTENSE fine mist Atomizer
CO2 Indicator: Generic Glass Drop checker
Substrate: ADA Amazonia
Circulation pump: 180L/H generic water pump
Cooling fan: Dymax Vortex Cooling Fan
Surface skimmer: Eheim Skim 350 Surface Skimmer

Published by Chi Siang

Hi! I am an avid planted aquarium fan and I live in Singapore. Beside writing for planted aquarium I also write travel guide on Vietnam. I used to work and live in Saigon for 6 years. I am married to my Vietnamese wife and we travel back to Saigon regularly.

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26 Comments

  1. Hmm wanted to get one of this tank. But can’t find any D601 that cost 30USD. Are you able to share the URL?

  2. Hi Chi Siang,
    I am trying to buy this similar diy co2 tank from taobao. The problem is also the A & B powder are forbidden to be shipped. Can share with me how you finally get to ship over? And did you try using baking soda+vinegar on this new diy tank? Wonder if it is as effective.

    1. Hi Marc

      Yeah, unfortunately Taobao as of last week or so stopped shipping the A+B ingredients to Singapore.

      I also tried using EzBuy, and even Peeka which helped me shipped on a few occasions.

      Right now you need to buy bulk citric acid from Poon Huat. They sell in 500g. I called them last week and they daid if you need more than 2 kg can let them know in advance so they can prepare.

      As for price wise, because it is food grade citric acid it will be slightly more expensive. If I recall correctly, they quoted me S$7 for 500g.

      As for baking soda you can get from any supermarket. About $2+ for 400g.

  3. Thanks for your response. Was hesitating if i should still proceed to buy the diy tank from Taobao when Ezbuy mentioned they cannot ship any white powdery stuff, till i see your blog. 👍 I will try to get the ingredients locally. Btw just to understand further, the ingredients you purchased locally are as equally effective? I mean in term of what the pressure gauge indicates and how long the mix last. Cheers.

    1. You’re welcome Marc. When I started out it seems like I am the only one doing this and not much people talks about it. It was a frustrating learning journey for me so I decided to write my experience about it and share it.

      The ingredients purchased locally actually are higher grades than those offered in Taobao. They are food grade citric acid powder and baking powder. They are more refined and more pure. I found those A+B ingredients offered in Taobao of inferior grade. The only draw were their prices. Much cheaper (if you order big bulk).

      As for the pressure, yes, I get 20kg/cm2 of pressure for a new tank. And it will slowly drop bit by bit over the course of 10~14 days depending on your rate. There is no end of tank dump. The only issue is when it hits around 5kg/cm2 near the end of the CO2 supply, the pressure will become inconsistent. You need release the CO2 and reduce the pressure first before unscrewing the top for a refill or otherwise the thing will give you a scary pop sound like opening a bottle of champagne!

      It last me 12 day easily running 1 BIG bubble (or about 2~3 smaller bubbles) per second 12 hr per day. I reckon the ingredient cost about SGD$4.50 per ingredient refill. So $0.38 per day. SGD$22.80 for 2 months of CO2 supply. The cost is quite close to Pressurised tank refill, but you save on traveling time to LFS for refill, and you also save on the hefty initial cost of buying the CO2 tank and regulator. With bulk purchase I reckon we can bring the cost down further. If we can bring the cost down to SGD$3 per ingredient refill, the running cost for 60 days should be around SGD$15.

  4. I just came back from Phoon Huat @ Toa Payoh.

    Bought citric acid powder and baking soda. It’s SGD$5.10 for 500g of citric acid powder and SGD$1.80 for 600g of baking soda.

    Total cost per refill SGD$2.64 for 10 days (or more). 60 days will be SGD$15.84!!!

  5. Hi Chi Siang, may i know whether the D701 is able to import to singapore.? I have try to perchase from ezbuy but they have reject to ship it.
    Even though i discard the citric & baking soda)
    Have i left out out any other infomation?
    Thanks for reading & replying, Vincent

    1. Have you tried to buy it under sensitive shipment?

      You need to inform them that it is a empty canister for aquarium hobby.

      If not you can try to get it from Peeka!

      I recently heard of a lone ranger shipping ng agent who will ship anything. Let me see if I can find out his contact.

  6. Thanks for the reply.
    No, i have not buy it under sensitive shipment & i do not know how to do it.
    Do I need to inform the seller to declare the good is an empty canister for aquarium hobby?
    Thanks for reading.

    1. Hey Han

      Just use Peeka. I am shipping an unit over right now. Shipping rate is only $12 by sea.

      You need to inform them that it is an empty tank and there’s no pressure in it. Tell them to discard the free baking soda and citric acid powder.

  7. Hello , thanks ,
    Please tell me how long it will run with a glass-ceramic deffuser at 1-2bps.And another thing is if the released valve or solenoid clsosed every night , will the pressure rises or it stays fixed , or going down bit by bit?

    1. Hi SBM

      I have not tried with a ceramic diffuser yet but I will assume it will be similar to a atomizer diffuser. I can get about 20 days with 1-2 big bubbles per second before it runs out.

      The pressure stays fixed when the solenoid closes. Pressure will drop as you use up the CO2 throughout the course so I recommend making small minute adjustment every now and then.

      1. Thanks for reply , let me check , if it is possible for them to send it out to India.(Without Acid and Soda of course)

  8. Hi ,
    Have received today from Alliexpress , 2L size.
    Canister is bit damage , near the neck.
    Its working though , overnight 200g acid + 200g soda and 300ml water creates a 24kg/cm2 of pressure. Very high I think.
    Using ISTA UFO ceramic diffuser with it , working very well , fine micro bubble. @1bps
    Be informed that this is not the D601s or D701 model you have mentioned . I think these model are much better quality. I got a model named WYIN , kind of cheap build quality.
    Do not know why D601s and D701 are not available on Alliexpres
    Thanks , will update on run time later
    Best
    SBM

  9. Hi Chi – How did you tell taobao to not send the powder raw materials? I plan to order this online to the Philippines but not sure how to communicate to them the instructions.

    Regards,
    John

    1. Hi John, Yes! You MUST discard the free raw material (baking soda and citric acid powder). The raw materials will cause your parcel to be detained by the custom, and in the future your shipper may decide not to ship similar item. To instruct seller to discard the raw material, use this > 小苏打和柠檬酸丢弃!谢了!

  10. Thanks so much for the guide! I have also purchased one from a different seller, which claims to be a 4L strengthened version of the tank with dual gauges.

    【臣凡 二氧化碳发生器 diy自制反应钢瓶 水草缸co2发生器钢瓶套装】https://m.tb.cn/h.3oiKaQK?sm=2d112f

    This is my first time purchasing from Taobao, so I’m rather new to this. I tried ezbuy but they wouldn’t ship it for me despite convincing them many times on live chat that this item doesn’t contain any compressed gases. Hopefully peeka will accept my order.

    I’ve also contacted the seller directly saying that I’ll be placing my order through peeka and not to include the powders.

    Anyone has experience with the model that I purchased?

    1. Hi Ong

      Usually I will instruct Peeka to discard the powder. In addition you must tell Peeka that the tank is an empty tank for aquarium use. It is important that you mention the tank is empty.

      The 4L is just like the normal 2L, except it takes 400g of ingredients as opposed to normal 200g. As such the pressure is higher and thus it is strengthened.

      Should be good for more than 30 days of CO2 per reaction.

  11. I saw this chemistry calculation that suggests that there is a more optimal mixing ratio for the chemicals. Ie For every 252.021 grams of soda mixed with 192.124 grams of citric acid we will get 132.03 grams of CO2. . Any excess soda or citric acid will be leftover and not react

    httpss://www.ukaps.org/forum/threads/diy-co2-kit-for-acid-citric-and-baking-soda.30003/

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