04-27-2011, 06:48 PM
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Those are the kinda systems I would avoid at all costs actually. They are not refillable. The initial prices on them make them VERY tempting, but they will cost you a LOT more in the long run then a proper system. The 88 system uses disposable canister that hold 88 grams of CO2. This honestly is almost nothing as far as CO2 goes. Petsolutions.com sells these refill canisters for $14 each! Which is an absolutely insane price. 88 grams is about 3 ounces of CO2. Average cost for CO2 is around 20 CENTS an ounce for small tanks.
To compare I will use my redsea paintball pro system. Its not a even comparison but will show running costs well. This system has a solenoid valve and dual gauges for starters so fancier then new fluval systems. Its on amazon ATM for $178 including a empty 20oz paintball CO2 tank (567grams). Though mine has served me well for over 3 years there are better quality, cheaper, DIY options IMO... Anyway I use this on my 20 gallon. It lasts 2-3 months on each tank. When empty I take the tank to any place that fills paintball tanks. It costs $4 to fill that tank with 20 ounces or 567 grams of CO2. Your 88gram "replacement" cartridge will cost $14. My $4 refill is equivalent to over 6 of those little cartridges. Those 6 cartridges will cost $80 if you are lucky. In less then a year your overall costs are going to be WAY higher then mine and they won't lessen... Usually system like the fluval ones are completely custom and I doubt it would work with any standard paintball tanks. It would be a great deal if the threads and pin were standard, so you could use a refillable tank with it, but I highly doubt they are.
Similarly I can fill my 5 pound(2000+ gram) cylinder for $21 two or 3 times a year for my 55 gallon. All in all a proper CO2 system is expensive to buy initially, but cheap and hassle free to maintain. Those extremely cheap name brand CO2 system always have disposable cartridges that cost a ton to use. If you truly want to use pressurized CO2, its best to just bite the bullet and buy a proper system. They are quiet rugged things actually and the main parts like regulator, needle valve, bubble counter, CO2 tank are generally long lived. Only things I have ever had fail are check valves and really old algae clogged diffusers. CO2 systems are used for carbonating with home breweries, any soda/pop fountain has a CO2 tank and regulator behind it as well. The regulators on these systems are no different then those in a aquarium system, except they are much cheaper....