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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Also, I design my AP system around my light, not the other way around. That's why I mentioned to move your garden to a better spot getting more natural light. And if using artificial light, I use bare vertical bulbs, because glass and reflectors waste light. I surround a vertical bulb with vertical grow towers. Make them hang from a hook, and then you can move them farther from the light if they stretch to close. A 400 w will properly grow a 4' x 4' x 4' tall area, which is, btw, double the grow area as your flat 4' x 8', and using the same 400 watts you currently use. Also, vertical bulbs stay cool without fans. The air closest to the bulb gets warm and rises. With no reflector to trap the hot air, it simply rises and creates a natural convection current

Thanks Jon. I didn't realize how much more info there was to these lights! Thanks for all the info you guys are sharing here.

Oh yeah, one more thing, and Vlad already mentioned it. Heat is the chief waste product on any light, and isn't bad if you also need heat. Using a remote ballast, the ballast heat can be reclaimed, for instance, by placing it under a growbed. I once put a 1000W mag ballast in a heavy poly bag, and put it inside the fish tank. For the record, that was not a good idea.

Yeah, I'm thinking that the heat will be a benefit to my indoor garden through the long winter months out here. I'm hoping to grow peppers, tomatoes, chards, herbs, and lettuce. The area is only 32 square feet, so I'm hoping I can get by with one light and a wall of mylar surrounding the beds. I'm going try and sell the UFO lights on ebay or craiglist to help offset the cost of the new lights.

This is the ignitor I use with my ballasts (the ballast pictured is the 250Watt, my 400 are the same brand, type and series...just rated for 400Watts) it is a Phillips SN 58S ignitor. With this set up I can use it to run straight MH bulbs, straight HPS bulbs, and of coarse my Son-T's (and Jon's CMH bulbs if I could ever get my grubby little fingers on some here).

It is rated for 100 to 600Watts. Easy as hell to wire up, replace, change around etc...My rigs don't look pretty, don't have fancy dials and blipping diodes, aren't dimmable, but they are dependable workhorses that have done me right and are totally

versatile and will power whatever type of HID bulb I feel like running. They're cheap, utterly dependable and should I ever need to...easy to fix, though I've not had to do any fixing on these yet.

Now, while I agree that 600Watters seems to be the "sweet spot"...I think that you could grow a freaking jungle in your 4'x8' space with a pair of 400Watt HID's. Even a 250 for one half (cliantro, lettuce, herbs etc...) and a 400Watt-er fot the other half I believe would be more than 'fine'...

Try some of Jon's suggestion to scrounge up a pair for cheap...

@Jon, what happened with the ballast in bag?

You had to ask. Well, the unit I anchored is a shelf bought ballast, switchable 1000W, I think sun systems. Anyway, beautiful unit all white with fancy plugs, carrying handle, and cooling fins cast into the case. I originally thought to wrap it in burlap, then double or triple bag, but I was worried that that the added insulation would let the ballast get too hot, so I single bagged it and crossed my fingers. Worked for a week or so, then the cooling fins punctured the bag and drowned it. I pulled it out, aimed a fan at it, and let it dry for a week, plugged it back in, works fine.

Can I mail you a CMH bulb, Vlad? I'd be happy to, and I have a brand new horizontal 400 catching dust. Plus it's summer, and I'm not using any lights til winter, if I even use lights again. Free, no charge, just cause I like you. No idea what customs and tariffs there are from a single bulb from a private source. :)

Well at least the ballast still works. Maybe you can slap some 'sticky-back-rubbery-something or other or putty on the fins and try it again?

Thanks a TON for the offer buddy, but I'd feel weird having you spend good money on something like that. (hehe...one of the guys in my band is a customs official, so getting small packages from a private source to me as a private citizen has become much easier/cheaper. Big and small even stuff, like rolls of DuraScrim, or anything from a company are still an expensive PITA, though a bit less paperwork to deal with now). Thanks again, I really do much appreciate the offer.

Suit yourself, Vlad, the offer still stands. It kind if sick, now that I think about it, to lure you in to get a taste of a product you can't get any more of. Kind of cruel actually, like free cocaine samples. :)

Haha...usually if I wait long enough many of the products I need eventually become available here...like latex paint...sheesh.

Non-tongue and groove 2" blue board is another I'm waitin' on (and probably won't get). There is no more hydroton in the entire country and hasn't been for a while (I shit you not, since well before the new year, and it's not for lack of calling, e-mailing, snooping around either. Vermiculite is another one that people are freakin out and pissed about...unavailable ANYWHERE here for a good 3-4 months now...and until a couple of weeks ago, the wine making folk were flustered and frustrated as to why you couldn't seem to find/buy potassium bicarbonate here anymore...Don't get me wrong it's a great place to live in it's own (peculiar) way...until you have to get anything done that is. It wasn't always this way of coarse. But after the wars of the 90's and the NATO bombing of attrition, resulting in the destruction  of most ALL major industry (and a lot of not so major ones, like the maternity hospital that my cousin works at, it was just re-built and re-opened this past year...the policy has been to bring ruin upon whatever little capacity for production was left in order to more effectively "privatize" all industry. (Or better yet, force the country to become an importer of things they use to export or make themselves). This has obviously had many repercussions, some quirky and funny, some downright sad...at any rate if I can't figure out how to make my own CMH bulb by the time my Son-T's wear out, I just may take you up on the offer 

(Sorry about the threadjackin' diatribe guys, just thought I'd throw another log on the campfire)...

Sounds like you need to open a good old fashioned hydro shop. Vlad's head shop, grand opening.
Just a follow up note. After installing the Mylar to surround the grow beds and running the lights (still the UFO lights) my plants are starting to bush out now instead of bolting up. I have seeded with some lettuces and hope to see a difference in their growth patterns. Thanks again for the suggestion!

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