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I've been hoping to find advice on the internet about what to do for my planned 6'x8' basement system. But I keep having the nagging feeling that I'm being sold a product, which makes me skittish.

My basement room has no windows, so I'm concerned about having to provide all the light and I'm concerned about getting the plants enough light without creating undue amounts of heat or consuming lots of energy.

One article I saw made a good case for metal halide, but I'm not sure how many units I'll need (currently planning to use 3 50 gallon Rubbermaid sheep tank (31"x52" oblong) as ebb and flow grow beds. Or 1 sheep tank ebb and flow with 6 floating raft systems in black plastic concrete mixing troughs (3'x2' each).

The units will be arranged in a "U" configuration, so I figure I'll need at least three light units...

Here are crude sketches of the top-down view and the side view (kind of). It's going to be a modified CHOP system, where I use staggered durso siphons to prevent the water in the fish tanks from getting too low. I know I don't need 300 gallons worth of tank/fish to nourish 150 gallons/30 ft^2 of grow bed, but I do need 350 gallons of tank so that should all power go off no water escapes the system...


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MY neighbor uses the 50 gallon rubbermade tanks for growbeds same as your's. His are in a room built in his garage, with no windows. He is getting pretty good growth using T5 flourescents. One 4 tube bank over each bed works very well, though a 6 tube may be even better. These provide good light without much heat at all and provide many times the light of regular flourescent for just a few more watts.

I have a smaller test system in my basement, I use one 400 watt Metal Halide, it works well, but I could use more of them and they do create a little heat. If I had the money I think that I would switch to the T5 flourescent like my friend.
Great system you have planned there, Meg! I have a few thoughts and a couple images that might help you figure out what to do.

Pros of T5's - broad plant lighting spectrum so they work for both fruiting and foliage plants. The are also low power use and don't throw off a lot of heat.
Cons of T5's - they will only reach through 18" of plant canopy. For taller plants (think tomatoes) you can put them up sideways. Also their performance drops off significantly after 6 months, even thought they still look just as bright as the day you got them. You must replace the bulbs every 6 months of use.
Pros of HID - much more powerful light that goes through any plant canopy. If you get a switchable ballast you can easily move from a sodium to a metal hallide bulb for an even more precise plant spectrum. Bulbs last at least a year.
You might find this chart helpful in figuring out coverage if you decide to go down the HID lighting route...

Cons of HID - The bulbs are expensive, they draw more power, they throw off some serious heat (many people actually use vents to move the heat elseware. Dano on this site does that - you may want to seek him out)

Another option to consider is LEDs. My friend Charlotte Rose (also in this site) just started growing with them in her basement. It is a much newer technology, but as best as I can tell so far...
Pros of LED - no heat, very low power consumption, you never replace the bulbs
Cons of LED - still new, so I"m not convinced yet (Charlotte is my guinea pig ;-), relatively more expensive than the other two options at this time.

Here is another interested chart I ran across recently that shows the light output of some different options...


Hope this helps. I actually do sell lighting as well, but not LEDs yet, so if you want yet another source for lighting please isit us out - http://theaquaponicsource.com/products.php?cat=18 - but certainly no pressure!
Kobus, you probably already know this but some seeds prefer a dark environment during germination. After that, however, I go with 16 hours a day. A very basic florescent (like this one http://theaquaponicsource.com/proddetail.php?prod=AGLHF031) will do the trick, and get it as close as you can without burning (within a couple inches usually) in order to prevent stretching. That's all there is to it!



Kobus Jooste said:
I see from your system that there is no seedling section. May I please tag a question regarding seedling lighting to your question? I have raised beds in my home system that have shaded space underneath the beds that I am considering using for seedlings. I need to know what the typical requirements are of seedlings in terms of duration and intensity of light if you do not want to end up with scraggly stuff.
I've spent the past 7 years in the world of growing plants indoors, from my time developing the AeroGarden to now. Happy to help where I can!


Kobus Jooste said:
Thanks Sylvia - I know a bit about plant requirements, but in AP, it is my weakness. Everything I know about them relates to natural and ecological settings, not horticulture. I'm learning fast.

Sylvia Bernstein said:
Kobus, you probably already know this but some seeds prefer a dark environment during germination. After that, however, I go with 16 hours a day. A very basic florescent (like this one http://theaquaponicsource.com/proddetail.php?prod=AGLHF031) will do the trick, and get it as close as you can without burning (within a couple inches usually) in order to prevent stretching. That's all there is to it!



Kobus Jooste said:
I see from your system that there is no seedling section. May I please tag a question regarding seedling lighting to your question? I have raised beds in my home system that have shaded space underneath the beds that I am considering using for seedlings. I need to know what the typical requirements are of seedlings in terms of duration and intensity of light if you do not want to end up with scraggly stuff.
Meg, I'm using too much light in a tiny space, but after struggling with not enough light, I'm glad I'm using a 600W HID.

Sylvia - that is an awesome post. I want to make sure I can always find it, even if I lose my bookmarks, and tell you again what a great combination of information and images arranged in a usable format you've put here.



Sylvia Bernstein said:
Great system you have planned there, Meg! I have a few thoughts and a couple images that might help you figure out what to do.

Pros of T5's - broad plant lighting spectrum so they work for both fruiting and foliage plants. The are also low power use and don't throw off a lot of heat.
Cons of T5's - they will only reach through 18" of plant canopy. For taller plants (think tomatoes) you can put them up sideways. Also their performance drops off significantly after 6 months, even thought they still look just as bright as the day you got them. You must replace the bulbs every 6 months of use.
Pros of HID - much more powerful light that goes through any plant canopy. If you get a switchable ballast you can easily move from a sodium to a metal hallide bulb for an even more precise plant spectrum. Bulbs last at least a year.
You might find this chart helpful in figuring out coverage if you decide to go down the HID lighting route...

Cons of HID - The bulbs are expensive, they draw more power, they throw off some serious heat (many people actually use vents to move the heat elseware. Dano on this site does that - you may want to seek him out)

Another option to consider is LEDs. My friend Charlotte Rose (also in this site) just started growing with them in her basement. It is a much newer technology, but as best as I can tell so far...
Pros of LED - no heat, very low power consumption, you never replace the bulbs
Cons of LED - still new, so I"m not convinced yet (Charlotte is my guinea pig ;-), relatively more expensive than the other two options at this time.

Here is another interested chart I ran across recently that shows the light output of some different options...


Hope this helps. I actually do sell lighting as well, but not LEDs yet, so if you want yet another source for lighting please isit us out - http://theaquaponicsource.com/products.php?cat=18 - but certainly no pressure!
Sylvia, please keep us informed about your friends use of the LED's , I would love to find out they are great lights for so much less power.
Thanks, Dan.

Me too, Richard!
Thanks! I'd been wanting to go with the flourescents to start with. I can add some lighting directed into the base of the vegetation once I get to that point.

Sylvia Bernstein said:
Great system you have planned there, Meg! I have a few thoughts and a couple images that might help you figure out what to do.

Pros of T5's - broad plant lighting spectrum so they work for both fruiting and foliage plants. The are also low power use and don't throw off a lot of heat.
Cons of T5's - they will only reach through 18" of plant canopy. For taller plants (think tomatoes) you can put them up sideways. Also their performance drops off significantly after 6 months, even thought they still look just as bright as the day you got them. You must replace the bulbs every 6 months of use.
Pros of HID - much more powerful light that goes through any plant canopy. If you get a switchable ballast you can easily move from a sodium to a metal hallide bulb for an even more precise plant spectrum. Bulbs last at least a year.
You might find this chart helpful in figuring out coverage if you decide to go down the HID lighting route...

Cons of HID - The bulbs are expensive, they draw more power, they throw off some serious heat (many people actually use vents to move the heat elseware. Dano on this site does that - you may want to seek him out)

Another option to consider is LEDs. My friend Charlotte Rose (also in this site) just started growing with them in her basement. It is a much newer technology, but as best as I can tell so far...
Pros of LED - no heat, very low power consumption, you never replace the bulbs
Cons of LED - still new, so I"m not convinced yet (Charlotte is my guinea pig ;-), relatively more expensive than the other two options at this time.

Here is another interested chart I ran across recently that shows the light output of some different options...


Hope this helps. I actually do sell lighting as well, but not LEDs yet, so if you want yet another source for lighting please isit us out - http://theaquaponicsource.com/products.php?cat=18 - but certainly no pressure!
I have planted tanks and I use 52 watt T5 HO fixtures. They work great. You can mix and match spectrum bulbs. Really efficient for the amount of light you get from them.

I use something like this:

http://www.prolighting.com/4lat5flhibay.html

For your application you could mount them via a chain or pulley system and lower/raise them as your needs dictate.
"check out the pot growers web sites..."

LOL - it's been interesting how often I run across a term I don't know, only to discover it is almost exclusively used by the "pot growers." Like ScrOG (Screen of Green).

For better or worse, I won't be growing pot, medicinal or not.

I'm going to go with flourescents to start with. Avant Garde'n has a 4ft/4 bulb unit that ships with the bulbs for only $128 (free S/H). This particular unit has wire hangers that allow either horizontal or vertical placement of the light - my current plan to overcome the 18" canopy problem once my beds are mature enough to support vertical plants.

I've got the tank and growbed of my first unit up and running and I started a blog about it : 3x5 Aquaponics. Over time I could fit 5 growbeds in this room. We'll see if my family eats that enough vegetables to warrant 5 growbeds...

If I were starting over knowing what I know now, I would have used the 70 gallon Rubbermaid tank for the fish portion, because I would be able to get it out without disassembling the top.



Peter Shaw said:
Hi,

There are lots of things to consider when using artificial lights.

In a system where you are supplying all the light you will find that metal halide work best, LPS lights are better where you are in a greenhouse and supplementing the light.

The wattage is nice to know but several things to consider....

amount of light is critical at the plants, not the output.

use a light meter to determine the amount of light striking the plants.

In the graph Sylvia shows you have no idea about how far the lights are from the surface, nor and this is critical, the shape of the reflector. My GH lights put out a 6 x 8 shape

Additionally, heat.... be sure the use digital ballast and not analog ones. Also, use one that is not connected to the bulb.

Be sure you use 230V and not 110,

then, picking the bulb is another topic

T5's also are good but generally have way too low of light. The type of bulb you use will influence the flowering/vegetative state of the crop..

If you really want to learn about indoor lighting check our the pot growers web sites, they have been responsible for all the new lights and ballasts.
Peter, I generally agree with most of what you are saying here, and thank you for supplying extra detail to the high level summary I posted, but I do want to question a few things.

First, I would advise taking the pot growers forums with something of a grain of salt. Yes, there is much to learn from them and we are indebted to them for much hydroponic and indoor gardening knowledge, but they are growing a very high cash value crop where the economies of scale could be very different than the average aquaponic veggie grower.

I'm surprised at your insistence to use 230V vs a 110. Are there ballasts that do this conversion, because obviously this isn't what is happening at most wall sockets here? I"m also not sure I would say "T5's also are good but generally have way too low of light" I think it depends entirely on what you want to grow and what trade-offs you are willing to make. T5s do a nice job on plants with a low canopy, they take up very little power, and throw off very little heat. If you are growing greens and herbs, for example, they could be perfect. With regard to digital ballasts I've actually heard some grumbling at hydro trade shows about them not being worth the substantial extra $$ yet...but maybe that is changing...but I'd suggest more research before a "be sure to use" recommendation. Finally, the graph I was showing I believe shows what the light is capable of effectively lighting at the furthest recommended distance (i.e. most spread), but you are right, it is also assuming an effective ballast.

Not trying to quibble here, but I do want to push the thinking behind your recommendations. Thanks
HIDs are awesome lights. But for the average person I think fire hazard and a skyrocketing electric bill would be concerns.

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