Review: JBL ProFlora u201 Easy-CO2 fertilisation system

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Dave Wolfenden puts this new CO2 kit for smaller tanks through its paces.

I love this dinky little CO2 kit from JBL. I don’t think I’ve ever referred to a pressurised gas delivery system as 'cute' before, but that’s the first word that sprang to mind when I opened the box.

This is going to be ideal for those folks considering setting up a small planted system (JBL recommends the ProFlora u201 for tanks from 10–200 l/2.2–44 gal in volume), but want something affordable, discreet and convenient.

This is effectively a 'proper' CO2 system in miniature. Unlike some cheaper systems based on disposable canisters I’ve used, this has a decent regulator and quality fixtures and fittings — and it has decent looks to boot.

Assembly

It’s very straightforward to assemble, thanks to the clear instruction leaflet. If you’ve never used a CO2 system like this before, read these carefully before starting out. In particular, be careful when connecting the regulator to the cylinder. These disposable cylinders require their seal to be pierced by a metal cannula on the regulator, and once this is done, you’ll need to wait until the cylinder is empty before attempting to separate the two. The cylinders are small but pressurised to around 60 bar (around 850psi). Needless to say, full safety instructions are included with the kit.

The cylinder itself sits in a neat little white plastic holder — this can be popped in a base plate for free-standing deployment, or alternatively, hung on the edge of the aquarium — you’ve got a maximum of 10mm clearance to play with, which won’t be a problem with modern rimless glass tanks.

Assembling the rest of the kit is a cinch, and I had the full kit up and running in just minutes.

In use

Looks-wise, I really liked it. We’re not talking über-trendy, delicate (and let’s not forget, fragile) all-glass fittings, but the sturdy, white and glossy plastic is attractive in a kind of 1970s retro-futuristic way. Sure, all-glass is nice, but this is sexy in a different way. And you’ll have to really go for it to break it. I can imagine this being used on the set of Space 1999 (if Moonbase Alpha happened to have a planted aquarium).

In practical terms, this kit will be of greatest interest to folks running smaller aquariums — JBL does suggest that this can be used on aquaria up to 200 l/44 gal, although in practice it would probably be more economical to invest in a larger CO2 system with refillable cylinders for anything above, say, 100 l/22 gal or so. Having said that, it can work fine on a 200 l/44 gal tank, but you’ll be replacing cylinders like there’s no tomorrow.

The needle valve on the regulator is very smooth, allowing for precise control of bubble flow.

The bubble counter is well thought out, and the integrated non-return valve is a nice feature.

Other neat little touches include the curved holder that grips the tubing on the aquarium’s side, and the easy-to-use pH indicator works well.

There’s a small coloured disc that can be placed over the indicator’s sucker as a visual reminder of what colours indicate ideal pH plus high and low levels, but this can be left off if needs be. Personally, I found it looked a bit much, so I gave it a miss — it’s your call.

As for the diffuser, this worked like a dream, with a very fine mist of CO2 bubbles being generated.

What’s in the box?

You’ll find pretty much all you need to get started:

  • One 95g disposable CO2 cylinder (replacement cylinders are widely available, and of course JBL supply them)
  • A stand for the cylinder
  • A regulator
  • 2m of tubing plus a hose holder that clips on the side of the aquarium
  • A drop checker
  • A diffuser
  • A pH indicator and refill solution.

Verdict

At this price, it’s not the cheapest of the 95g complete systems available, but it’s certainly one of the nicest.

The solid build quality and good looks makes this a good investment for the planted nano tank.

Price: RRP £101.00; replacement 95g CO2 cylinders available — RRP £15.79 individually, or £44.95 for three.

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