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Hi guys, I've got a relatively new AP system (roughly 4 months old) that I've started pretty everything in it from seed. My question is regarding the plants growth pattern. I've got 100G fish tank with hydroton as my grow media. This is an indoor room with nice southern exposure and humidity levels are about 60-70%. I recently added about 500 red wigglers to the system. I've got 4 LED UFO grow lights on timers that run from about 10PM-3AM every day for supplemental lighting. My levels are pretty darn good these days.

pH = 6.8-7.2

Ammonia = 0-.25

Nitrites = 0-.25

Nitrates = 40-80

My cilantro seems to be a bit "straggly" meaning it grows pretty thin and tall, but doesn't do much in the way of producing in bunches. They taste wonderful, but I'm a bit underwhelmed by the amount of edible leaves we're getting. These are all from seed roughly 3 months ago.

My lettuce was doing pretty well for about 2 months, we were getting lots of baby leafs from the various plants then all of a sudden they all just sort of stopped growing or became limp, got spots, lots it's green coloration, and started to grow pretty tall or bolt and turn bitter. I have since removed 90% of my lettuce since it was not edible any longer. This particular lettuce was nice and dark green and so tender only a couple weeks ago. How often should I reseed lettuce and what types are you all having success with? This came from a variety pack seed pack, so I'm not sure what this is called.

I have two tomatillos that I had started from seed and transplanted into my system about 2 months ago. They have quadrupled in size upwards, but not outwards. The leaves look great, lots of healthy green coloration, but they just seem to be getting really tall. I'm hoping they'll bush out a bit, but I don't know if this is normal for this plant as it's the first time I've grown them ever.

I have about 6 tomato plants coming in with varying success. This is the tallest of the bunch, however, the leaves are a bit droopy and drying out and yellowing at the ends. I've added chelated iron to the system several times over the past month and the green coloration has come back nicely, but I'm concerned that they may need another supplement? How long should it take for a tomato to go from seed to a seeing flowers and such in an AP system? You can see my grow lights in this photo pretty well too.

Thanks for your input guys! I really appreciate your help with this. Have a nice day.

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Not enough light is my first guess as to what your problem is.

I've also experienced scrawny cilantro, that is actually kinda normal I'm starting to think.

Have you tried using any seaweed extract?  This might help the tomatoes get on to flowering but I expect the light levels are your biggest problem.

I have to agree with TC. The only time I've ever had problems with thin, leggy plants have been light related (as in not enough of it). Who is the maker/distributor of your UFO's since after their initial (ProSource I think) release a few years back the market was inundated with crappy knock-offs. 

Now sometimes you can to an extent off-set insufficient lighting with higher nutrient concentrations, so some AP appropriate supplement might help somewhat. This is a strategy that hydroponic tomato growers living in the northern latitudes employ...

The tomato plant is classed as a high nutrient element requirement plant. The nutrient elements of primary concern for this crop are N, P, Mg, and Zn. - J. Benton Jones Jr. et. all (and just about every piece of hydroponic research from the 1950's onward...

With too much N (and not enough of the 'others') being more likely to negatively impact fruit set/flowering. This seems to describe the 'typical' nutrient situation in a new AP system.

But the plant might just be getting ready to kick into reproductive mode. I notice that many many of my different types of plants get "droopy" (of sorts) right before (or during even) this happens. More specifically they start to exhibit a classic downward culring of the leaves and even the tell tale purple tinting of phosphorous deficiency. This seems to be because it takes ALOT of energy for the plant to go into reproductive mode and phosphorous is a main component in energy transfers (ATP...the basic unit of energy). This will happen to my basil, peppers, tomatoes...you name it, right before flowering unless I'm plying them with enough phosphorous (assuming everything else is within range somewhat)...

IMO, or "the way I see it", if your system is new,you can

a) either give it time to mature (which might entail giving up on the tom's at this point in time...I'm not a huge fan of this 'patient' method),

b) use an AP appropriate supplement (I'm not a big advocate of plying an AP system with to many supplements, especially metals like zinc, magnesium, copper or excess phosphorous because of the likely hood for algae blooms) or,

c) figure out a way to cater to the needs of your 'heavy feeders" without affecting the rest of your system or system water...http://aquaponicscommunity.com/group/fish-less-systems/forum/topics...

Thanks guys, I'm going to be wrapping the grow beds in some mylar here pretty soon, which I hope helps the lack of light problem. The lights are Illuminator brand. They were pretty spendy. Are these in the cheap knockoff category?

Vlad, I like your related post, but I think I might lean towards the patience side... At least for now. Maybe they are getting ready to flower soon. I can always hope.

Tc, how much seaweed would you think I should add to my 100 gallon setup?

Thanks again guys!
Jeremy, you might also try running your ufo's during the daytime, instead of nighttime, to intensify the natural light rather than weakly lengthening the length of day. I believe all of the plants you have are not photo determinant, so don't need a longer day. I don't know if this will help, since I guess the total lumens per 24 hrs would remain the same, but it's worth a shot. Btw, you could always Craigslist those ufo's and buy a CMH bulb, an see what light really looks like. IMO.
Hi Jon, great idea about the lights on during the day, I'll give that a shot. I got the UFO lights due to their lower power consumption s the cmh lights are not a go for me. Thanks for the response!

Wait, how are 4 90Watt UFO's 'low' power consumption 

(especially taking into account the type of results you're getting for those 360Watts)...

Nope, the Illuminators are supposed to be in the "good" catergory...

Interesting! You got my little Simeon brain turning now.

This picture was taken Jan 20 this past winter...

 Here are the same plants on Feb.25

   This was achieved using a regular 'ol 250Watt MH bulb for lighting. (and a bit of home-made nutritional catering) in one month and 5 days. I literally had to mow the tops of these plants down regularly as I kept running out of vertical space. (I have a "CoolTube" now and will try SCROG-ing them this winter)...250Watts...

Alright Vlad, if you can help to "edumacate" me on this I'd be quite grateful. The 4 UFO's I currently use are 320W combined and give me a lighted area of about 4'x8'-ish. They cost me $631.07 to get them from ProSource. How would the lights your using compare to that? I'd love to get a link to the specific make/model you use.

Do you think I could use your modified basket setup described in the other post with a flood and drain setup in my hydroton beds? I see most folks use the baskets with a raft system.

Are your plants from seed or started plants?

Your plants are totally giving me anxiety that I'm not doing my little setup any justice. Alright, not anxiety, but definitely jealousy If your ever in Montana I'll gladly fill your belly with food and drink for some mentoring! Thanks for the info. I just want to get the most out of my AP system as I can.

Here where I'm at it cost me about $120 US Dollars for the old school magnetic ballast, reflector and 2 bulbs. It should be WAY cheaper in the United states I imagine. The magnetic ballast is a Phillips BSN 250 L302. One bulb is a Phillips 250 MH and I got a cheap 'made in china no-name'  250 MH bulb that was available to me for comparisons sake. (the plants in the pic were grown with the china bulb).

Don't let all the fancy letters and numbers in the ballast name fool you, this is a hunk of old1930's-40's type technology...You could opt for one of those 'fancy' digital ballast, which are nice because they are dimmable, and still very inexpensive where you live, but I'll take a couple thousand feet of copper windings over some puny silicone transistors any day. It's just a matter of preference I imagine...

Peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers none of those plants are photoperiodic...you could give them 24 hours of MH light (if you wanted to pay for it that is) and they will still flower and fruit just fine. Don't let some pot-head hydro-store worker talk you into buying more crap than you need (switching to HPS for flowering blablabla). Marijuana growing is a bit of a different beast.

Jon's CMH (Ceramic Metal Halide) lights are very cool (but a bit pricey and unavailable here) if you have the cash. Full spectrum and a bit more cooler running than mine.

As far as coverage goes, I find that that depends on what is is that you are trying to grow. The "standard" would be 400Watts for 16sq. feet, but this is overkill at times, especially if the plants get sunlight during the day, and are not a huge bushy affairs with thick canopies...

I bet with a decent reflector, some mylar, and a SMART plant arrangement in your growbeds, you could get away with 250watts over a 4x4 bed.

(The general consensus by serious and un-affiliated reviewers is that LED manufacturers waaay overstate their coverage area (watt/per) in their marketing/literature. So your current 360Watt set up could use about 3 more 90Watt UFO's bringing up to a total of 630Watts).

If we were going on a Watt per Watt type basis and using 630Watts as a base point, I'd probably buy 1- 400Watt dimmable ballast, and 1 250Watt ballast (For a total of 650 somewhat dimmable as needed watts. But, you probably aren't wanting to ditch the UFO's altogether. More on that later, (if you want).

Yes, you could absolutely use the modified basket set up for your flood and drain set up. I know that Jon Parr is, and from what I understand, he is quite happy with how it is working out. (Maybe he'll chime in and confirm that this is still the case).

It would help out with root ball clogging issues (as some on this forum are currently experiencing) as well as the ability to add supplements (seaweed/kelp meal, phosphorous, trace metals...whatever) without effecting fish or system water. (it looks like your grow beds are a bit shallower than what most folks go for, for tomatoes at first glance, it will be cool to see how they do in there though)...You could modify the dual-root zone idea to suit your specific set up (shallow beds for tomato's) by using a basket (bucket with holes drilled out) roughly twice the height of your grow bed...Would seem perfect for your situation. If this idea is not immediately apparent after you think about, it I can expound a bit later, but right now I have to get back to work...

All my plants I like to start from seed myself. The very few times I have bought seedlings to supplement my garden, turned out to be a big mistake EVERY TIME for one reason or another.

Thanks for the offer of food and drink...

I understand wanting to use the LEDs. I just don't personally think they are more efficient. More importantly, the plants don't seem to grow as well, watt per watt, with LEDs as most any other common grow light. If those are 90 watt ufo's, you are probably pulling over 400 watts, not 320. Get a device called a kill-o-watt meter, and see what you are actually pulling. For comparison, even though a flat 4' x 8' space is difficult to properly light with any single light source, a single 400 HPS, MH, or CMH with an adjustable wing-type reflector would be growing a jungle. Better would be two 175 MH, still less money and electricity than 4 ufo's, and WAY more light. The arguement LEDs use is that (according to a site scamming 3gen ufo's) that less than 10 percent of HPS light is usable, whereas virtually 100% of certain red and blue LEDs is plant usable. Maybe. I'm not a light scientist, but your plant growth with 4 ufo's sucks (no offense). Since you already have the ufo's, why don't you try a test for us. Divide your GB in half, two 4' x 4' squares, and box them 4' high in 3/4" mylar foam panels, $6.95 each at home depot. Put all 4 of your ufo's on one side, and the bulb of your choice on the other, I would recomend 400 CMH, bulb, socket, cord and ballast about $150 brand new. Or whatever, 400 watts worth of t-5, t-8, pl-l, HPS, MH, cfls, anything. See how it goes. That's a lot to ask, but I figured you can pull off another $200 after dropping the dough for UFO (rhyme intentional). I have followed a few comparison grows on the ganja sites, in fact there is a 250 page thread, I think ICMag, comparing a top-notch LED 350 against 400 MH/HPS. The results were close, I think the LED had a little better bud, and the HPS had a little more bud. It's been a while, maybe I'll look again. But even so, results may vary, and LEDs are not MORE efficient. Maybe as efficient, big maybe, but usually LEDs owners are sourly disappointed if they can let their pride admit the facts.

I've had great success with Vlad's dual root-zone in regular flood and drain AP. I just fill a regular old black plastic nursery pot with compost, and nestle it in to the gravel of the GB, so that the bottom of the pot is at the hi-water line. Roots punch right through the drain holes in the pot, and anchor into the AP gravel. Best of both worlds. All the buffering ability of soil, and the free nitrogen of AP. The pot will wick, so don't use too heavy of a soil mix. I use about 50% very course sawdust in mine (I have a sawmill that throws 3/8" chips all day long), and a blend of ash, compost, worm castings, and rabbit and chicken shit. Mmmm
One more thing. I don't actually encourage anyone to grow with any light other than the sun. It is wastefull and expensive, and not sustainable (in all but a few circumstances). Throw that AP on the porch and sell those ufo's to the pot growing kid next door. Give him a good deal and maybe he'll hook you up now and then. Can't? Cut in a skylight, use Mylar to bounce natural light to your plants, put it in a better room. Still can't? Set up an AP garden at a friend's house, or a school, or a fish-store, etc. A little hobby with lights is cool, and a steady supply of produce in the winter is heaven-sent (Vlad can attest to that?), and have fun.

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