Aquaponic Gardening

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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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Jon made some very good points on some of the pitfalls of LED lighting as it stands today... I used to live and work in Holland for a few years and still soak up an an occasional concert or two over there when I can. I don't keep up with as many people as I'd like to these days, but a few that I do, are legal and very knowledgeable pot growers. After trying everything under the sun (as they can probably afford to with such a high value crop) these guys are back to using the tried and true MH/HPS, with LED's (when used at all) fulfilling a 'target zone spotlight' or supplemental role...Now, I know of some folks using all LED's, but the amount of fixtures, the sheer Wattage (not to mention initial cost) etc... is downright ridiculous. Though there may be something to the claim that 'in the long view' their could be some savings 10 years down the line or so. This would come in the form of less spent on bulb replacements (MH/HPS should be changed out about every 2 years or so, flouro's every 6 months) and slightly less electricity spent mainly over a 10 year period due to less extraction fans being needed for LED's. But these folks have a contract with a LED distributor, so I question some of that stuff...and even this is probably highly situation specific. And who's to say those things will still be working in a decade? (I'm not saying they wont be, but they surely will be outdated as far as LED technology goes, I hope so anyways, it would be sad if in 10 years that technology is still stuck where it is today )...Anyways...

The side by side test WOULD BE ESPECIALLY GRAND! (Provided you keep track of and share the results :) I decided to be a dick and cop out to my proposed PL-L /MH side by side, realistically because it wouldn't have been a fair comparison anyways...110Watt vs. 250Watt and all...

Yeah, an even shaky supply of your own fresh and wholesome produce to have for yourself and to share with your friends in the dead of winter is a most delightful and satisfying thing. It seems silly maybe, but I really dig that feeling...Then again, I was the kid who saved all his shake, saved all his fat roaches...even setting aside and 'hiding' (from myself in places I would try to 'forget') a tiny bud from every other bag or so...and of coarse the stanky resinous buds kept in the chamber of your metal bowl...Knowing that come July and the 'drought', while everyone else was scurrying about chasing shady deals on the wrong side of the tracks, (or having to schmooz up to the crazy Aunt that they didn't really like, but did so because she had an Armenian boyfriend) when they should have been enjoying the best part of summer...we were riding high...eazy breezy...no worries man...Straight through September...It's sort of akin to that feeling, only whitebread, legal, and totally wholesome.

Use the Sun if you can, try out crazy ideas (they can't all be zingers ,but some will be) take notes, learn, connect the dots, and like Jon says...have fun doing it.

Too funny, Vlad. Hiding your stuff from yourself. Hehe. That reminds me of a story, a bit of a threadjack, but oh well. I was fishing in Baja, about half-way down the sea of Cortez a few years back, when we found floating in the water a bale of MJ. A whole bale, as in straw-bale sized, 20 numbered bags 1 kilo each. Now my buddy and I don't smoke, and even if I did, Mexico is not a place where a gringo wants to get caught with weed. The boat captain, a gringo named Mike living in Mexico, also no longer smoked, but he pulled 1 kilo out and kicked the rest back to sea. After fishing the morning and slaying the yellowtail, we made our way back to the lagoon (san lucas cove) to clean fish, where Mike radioed ahead to a Canadian snow-bird named Al, saying that we had caught a "square grouper". Al asked if we were "gonna keep it", mike said no, unless Al wanted to "eat it". Anyway, long story, but later that evening over fresh sushi and beer and campfire, Al explains that this was not the first "square grouper" he had found. A year prior, he had found a single kilo while beachcombing. Being paranoid of getting caught, and quite stoned at the time, he divied up the pot and stuffed it into a dozen jars and buried them all around the camping area at San Lucas cove, and then forgot were they were. Hilarious. So now every time he's jonesing, he walks around poking a rebar into the ground hoping to hit glass. He said he had found less than half of the total stash, which I still laugh at every time I think about it.

Sorry Jeremy. You can have your thread back.

LOL, yea, hiding things from yourself while partaking of that thing that also interferes with memory storage.  And now the San Lucas Cove Squirrels think the humans are silly always diffing around trying to remember where they buried their jars.  "gee don't the humans know that if they wrap up the stuff it won't grow more stuff?"  "At least when we forget where we bury the nuts, they will grow more trees to grow more nuts."

As to reflecting more light back at the plants, you can make a curtain out of the cheap mylar emergency blankets sold in the camping section of the department stores, they are much cheaper than the rolls of the stuff you can get at the hydroponics shops.  When I was trying to do indoor growing when I lived in a dark apartment, I would take a string and lay it along the edge of the mylar and then use some packing tape to fold over a hem around the string so I could hang up the curtain and still be able to lift it out of the way.  I found that many of the emergency blankets will make like a one way window, like mirrored sunglasses so you can still see in to the plants when the lights are on but the glare from the bright lights won't be so intense outside the mylar curtain so it served two purposes, bounce more light back to the plants and make it bearable to have the lights on in a living space.

Threadjackers united: I think it is downright unconstitutional for any government to decide what anyone can or cannot grow! Like I said before, it is unfathomable that the people in communist China have more freedom than those of you living in so called free societies = fascist Nazi police state . Chinese farmers can grow eight hemp plants (not medical MJ) for feed, bio mas and fiber. Hemp seed are a wonderful balanced food and my chicken simply go Gaga over the stuff as scratch. With an early start, I got mine to grow to over three meters high and taking up a nine square meter footprint each producing about seven kilos of seed. They hang by the roots in my cool and breezy storage shed until they are used. The deliberate processing of flowers is illegal but there is no law about protecting select flowers from pollen or binding plants for natural curing. Guess what...no summer time blues here. :D

LOL is right TC, it never seemed to work for me as I ALWAYS know exactly where every bit was, it was only through employing a bit of self discipline that those nuggets made it to July/August...Now, Al...there's a guy who knows how to hide a stash! Great story Jon.

Good tip with the emergency blankets TC.

Yeah it's kind of weird how hemp (the industrial non or low THC containing types) is illegal in the US. There's a good story (Murray Hallam mentioned it a while back in some thread here) about how Dow Chemical in essence duped the United states government into banning all hemp to protect their new found product... polyester plastics. There does seem to be quite a bit of 'evidence' to support this theory...and it sure makes sense.

This is sort of a coincidence but I just came inside to eat and check out what's new on the forum...Here is a bowel of hemp seed, basil  soup my wife just made for us today...1-  1 Squash

1-  1 Cucumber

3 - 3 Biggish Chard leaves

4-  3 to 6 Basil leaves and/or pre-made pesto

5- Garlic (to taste)

6- Parsely and Dill

7- Dash of sea salt

8- 2 deci-litres  (1 cup or so) warmish Buckwheat Milk

9- 2 Tablespoons Hemp Seeds

Puree in a blender and viola...she was kind enough to dictate the recipe (this probably belongs in the food/basil thread, but hey, since we're still out jackin')...

Threadjack all oh want, I enjoy it all. Great stories and useful info, like a very spread out camp fire. I love it.

Today, my wife and I Are going to be putting up some DIY Mylar curtains around the gb. Living in a cold climate was the sole purpose for starting up the ap system. So growing and eating fresh veggies inside when it's -20F outside is the goal! I don't know if I willbe ale to do the side by side with led and MH lights, but if I ca I will post the results. Keep the stories coming! Thanks gang.
Jer, I started a new thread to spare your topic here. Funny how Carey and TC jumped in almost immediately after things strayed. I love Carey.

http://aquaponicscommunity.com/group/threadjackers/forum/topics/squ...

Carey can rant with the best of 'em!

Jeremy, if it gets -20 where you live MH (or CMH, HPS) should definitely help heat the apt./house up a bit. I like to think of it as "free" heat (or at least killing two birds with one stone). 

Jon, thanks for popping the new thread. Great name by the way, and a hilarious story that will remain heavily visited I'm sure.

Anyway, Vlad, you brought up the same "bonus" of the MH type lamps. Those would definitely keep the room warmer in the winter!

So now that we're talking about lights again and not oddly shaped sport fish (but I've got a doozie of a story about a trapezoidal marlin)... can you guys recommend a specific brand of fixture and bulb combo that would get me off the ground? This would be maybe a top three that you'd buy for yourself. Thanks!

I agree with Vlad's suggestion to use cheaper, older technology rather than buying the latest & greatest. I use cheap ol street light bulbs to grow. Although it maybe arguable what approximate spectrum to use; I personally think it does make a slight difference between vegetative and fruiting/ flowering. MH (Metal Halide) gives a little bit less PAR (photo active radiation: what plants use for photosynthesis) than HPS (High Pressure Sodium), so, if I were to use only one type of light, I would use HPS. As for what brand? Well, if I were still working in a Lab environment I would specify Philips brand grow bulbs. However, I tend to use the tried and true and much cheaper, made in china, no name brands. The main thing to consider is whether or not you plan to use one type of bulb or will you switch bulb types. If so, you may consider using a digital ballast which is switchable, otherwise you may be in for two types of transformers. So, IMO, I would stick with a setup as inexpensive as possible.

As for what wattage to use: Whether you use high output florescence or MH/ HPS, I would keep the wattage use about the same, @ around 400 watts per 4 to 9 sq ft, depending on what you decide to grow. If affordable, I rather use 600 watts vs 400 and a 1000 watts over a 600 watt lighting system when growing fruit like tomatoes. To grow lettuce and other leafy greens I would use a T-5 florescent setup.

* Note: You might be flagged if your wattage use is more on the high side ie 3000 watts or over.

The best would be to use natural sunlight if at all possible. It may be more efficient to build a triple layered poly tunnel with heat mats with insulation rather than end up paying $9.00 a tomato using artificial lighting.

Cheers

S far as specific brands go...IDK i'm sure there's a bunch of good ones. Personally though, all of my ballasts and most all of my bulbs are Phillips brand. I'm really, really happy with, and have been getting good results with the Phillips Son-T-Agro Plus bulbs. It's basically an HPS bulb with 35%-40% more blue light spectrum than a standard HPS bulb (the plants are a bit stockier and have tighter inter-nodal growth. And you can use a standard HPS ballast with them, no switching needed. Though they do sell combo ballasts that are not digital...

I don't usually usea straight HPS for veg, as when I grow indoors vertical space is premium, when I transplant out side, it's really frickin windy here so tall-ish lanky plants don't do as well as short stocky thick stemmed strong ones. So I like MH (or as I'm coming to find, the Son-T-Agro's). Again, these are nuances and situation specific preferences, IMO the reality is any HID' will be an improvement over what you have now.

Carey are you sure you meant 400Watts for a 2'x2' space!?! (4 square feet) I mean keep in mind Jer is growing like Swiss chard, lettuce, greens, herbs and a couple tomatoes...

I use CMH, found here: http://advancedtechlighting.com/cdmed18.htm

$52-3 each, mag ballasts for $69 same place. I also use old street lights, I have 5) 400 watt I got for free, also have 9) 400 watt vertical bulb fixtures that came from a high school gymnasium, not free but cheap. Contact a few local commercial electricians and tell them you want old HID fixtures. Sometimes they throw them out by the hundreds. They are easy to fix if not working. Inside there are three components; a transformer, a capacitor, and an ignitor. HPS and CMH use all three, MH does not use the ignitor. A switchable ballast simply bypasses the ignitor. CMH, if you decide to go that route, uses only a magnetic HPS ballast. If the mag ballast doesn't work, 99% of the time it needs a new capacitor, which takes 5 minutes and $20 to fix.

Digital ballasts are more efficient, but not serviceable, so throw them in the trash if it fails. If you buy digital, you CANNOT use CMH, and be sure to buy the one with the best warranty, because they do fail.

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