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A simple, recirculating hydro setup...

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Well, here goes. This thread will be a description and discussion on setting up a simple, recirculating hydroponic growing setup, using expanded clay, designed for use in small scale growing, like in a cupboard. Of course, the system can be expanded on, if you should need to, but this is only a basic setup to get the average newbie to indoor mj cultivation going.


Here's a list of what you'll need. This design is for a two plant system, and I won't discuss lighting here.


2 growing containers. - These can be made from nearly any plastic container with a minimum of 10L capacity for clones, or 20L minimum for seed plants. The plastic buckets used by bakeries for margerine and jams are good, and last a long time. You'll need to make them lightproof, so if they allow light through, either paint them, cover them with thick tape or panda film.


19mm, 13mm and 6mm polypipe. - This will be the water pipes, moving water between reservoirs and to the pot, and as drain lines to return nutrients to the nute reservoir. The 19mm is used for drain lines, and the 13mm and 6mm line is used for the feeding lines. There are some who use 4mm line for feeding, but these tend to block up with salts over time, and so the 6mm is preferred. There are two main types of polypipe, one is very stiff and used in most reticulation systems, and the other is a little thicker and more flexible, and this type is usually what you'll find at a hydro shop. The second, more flexible type is preferrable, so try to get it if you can.


19mm, 13mm and 6mm "L" "T" joints. These will be the connections for the polypipes, and these pieces are also used to create drain holes which can be connected up. I tend to use the "T" pieces as the drain pipes, with the bottom end in the pot, one of the outside ends facing up and one facing down, which is where the water comes out. The 19mm is best used for drains, as the size allows quick movement of water, but 13mm will do as well. I shall describe how to fit these "L" and "T" pieces to the pots as drainage later on.


2 Plastic storage crates with lids. - You can pick up cheap, clear plastic crates from most department and harware stores, like bunnings, and use these as reservoirs. Of course, if you can get a coloured, and therefore lightproof crate, this is better, but the clear ones can be covered in panda film or painted to prevent light from getting in. I recommend getting a 60 or 80 L crate for the "feeder" reservoir, and a 45 - 60 L crate for the "nute" reservoir. I'll expand on the concept of "feeder" and "nute" tanks later.


1 Water pump - For a simple, two pot system you should be okay with a pump of around 600Lp/h, but bigger and more powerful pumps are okay. The main thing to look at is the pumps "head height". This figure, usually found on the side of the box, tells you how far the pump is able to move water vertically above the waterline. So if you have a 600Lp/h pump with a head height of 120cm, the pump is able to move water about 1 meter above the waterline and still be able to provide good flow. (The head height is the absolute limit of vertical height, so take 20% off this figure to find out the effective head height for growing) The pump is the heart of a hydroponic system, so make sure you clean and maintain it. Once a month give it a good clean, and the better the brand, the longer it lasts. The industry standard is Rio, but there are many other types out there which are perfectly okay too.


1 Air Pump - The air pump is used to aerate the nutrient solution in the nute tank. This aeration not only provides dissolved oxygen to the plants when fed, but also keeps the system clean. Algae needs stagnant water to grow, so if you have an airpump running it will keep the algae from getting a foothold. You could also use H2O2 as an oxygenator, and this will also keep your system clean.


1 Float Valve - You should be able to pick up one of these at a hydro shop, and has a pipe connection at one end, and an arm which holds the float, usually a plastic ball. This is a great little device, and in this system of "feeder" and "nute" reservoirs it is a essential item. The float valve sits in the "nute" res, and connects via 19mm pipe to the "feeder" res. When the plants are fed, the water level in the nute tank will drop, and as plants use more water than nutrients, when the water returns to the tank, the overall solution strength is increased. When the water level in the nute tank drops, so does the float, which in turn opens the valve and allows the fresh, ph adjusted water from the feeder tank through. When the level raises back to the original level, the valve shuts off. This system keeps the nutrient tank at the same levels, and this keeps the solution stable. It also means that instead of daily topping up the reservoir manually, which can be a very watery and heavy job as the plants get bigger, you only have to top up the "feeder" tank once a week or so with fresh water. As a time and effort saver, the float valve rocks.


Okay, to construction. Here's how to make the pots. Take your pot, and mark a point on the side about 4 -5 cm from the base. This is where your drain line will be placed. The gap between the base of the pot and the drain hole will leave a small reserve of nutrient for the plants to feed on between irrigations. It also provides some insurance against pump failure. To attach the "T" or "L" joint, either use a drill of appropriate size to make a slightly larger hole, and then use a rubber grommet (you should be able to get these at hydro stores) to create a waterproof fitting. You can also use a soldering iron or lighter to melt a hole slightly smaller than the fitting, and while the plastic is still hot, push in the "L" joint so that it fits snugly, and sets watertight. If you can make an airtight bong without grommets, you can do this. If you are having trouble making it watertight, you can wrap some electrical tape around the part of the joint which goes into the pot, and this will be squeezed by the edge of the hole, creating a waterproof fitting! To ensure that your drain lines don't get blocked, use a small piece of plastic flyscreen to cover the end inside the pot, and fix this in place with some electrical or cloth tape. This will prevent any small media particles from blocking the drain, which will happen, believe me! The pots are filled with expanded clay, and rinsed out several times with ph-adjusted fresh water to remove any excess dust or crud from the media. When the water runs clear, then you can install them into the system.


Once you've made your basic pot, you can work on the reservoirs. The feeder reservoir is used to provide fresh, ph adjusted water to the nutrient res, via the float valve, when the plants are watered. The feeder res must be higher than the nutrient res, as gravity is used to move water from feeder to nute tank. The attatchment of a "L" joint to the side of the feeder res is similar to the making of the pots. The connection however, must be not only watertight, but very strong. Make the drain line come out near the bottom of the feeder reservoir, and before you set it up in its final position, test out the connection to ensure that it won't leak when filled up. 60 L of water weighs 60 kg, and all of that pressure is trying to get out of a very small hole, so make it strong! Silicon sealant is very useful here. Once you are sure the connection is sound, then you've finished making the feeder res.


The nutrient tank is a little more work. The float valve means that the tank will only be about half full, as it needs room to operate. Attach the float valve to the inside of the res, with the inlet pipe outside. The end level of the reservoir is dependent on how you set it up, but you should aim for a filled level, (where the float valve is off,) of around 25L, with the more, the better.Whilst the float valve itself, or it's connection will not be underwater, you will have to connect it to the feeder tank via a 19mm pipe, so make sure you have good, solid connections. Doing it right the first time, and with a minimum of engineering, will save you a lot of trouble later. The lid of the nutrient tank needs a few holes in it, one for the pump line and electrical line powering the pump, and another for the return line, where the excess solution from the pots is returned. The less holes you have, and the smaller they are, the less light can get in and cause problems, but make sure they are big enough for your purposes. If you're using 19mm as drain lines, make the hole about 22mm wide, just to make sure. In-line filters are very useful on the return lines, but if you can't get these, just use a tea strainer. Cut an appropriately sized hole for the strainer to just sit on top of the lid, and then run the return line onto this. You can use cotton balls in the strainer to help out filtration too.


Now, this isn't finished quite yet, and I'm sure I've missed out a crapload of stuff, but as a beginning it should give you an idea on how to start out a simple hydro setup. If the idea of "feeder" and "nute" reservoirs is a bit much for you, then simply forget about the feeder res and float valve. You can run the system on the single nute res, but like I said before, you'll have to top up with fresh, ph adjusted water daily. I'm going to include a crude picture of the system, and if there are any questions about how to set this up, don't hesitate, as I'm certain to have forgotten some things. Nimer is a grower who uses a single res version of this, and some of his pictures may help to describe what my words cannot. Once I get a digi-cam, then this whole thing will be a lot easier, but until then, this will have to do! Good luck, and get growing!

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Guest Urbanhog

Thats pretty great.... why don't you add link to this thread in your signture? Like Pipeman's and Tom's signtures?


Just a suggestion.... great, thanks for your time putting the efforts posting this thread, I am sure it will be useful for many newbies in hydro set ups!




Urbanhog :)

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Cheers nimer, and thanks for the idea Urbie, I've done exactly that. One of these days I'll get a digicam and post images of the grow too... My current plants resin glands are unbelievable....


Nimer, could you post a couple of pics here of your setup? Pretty please? :P This may help to describe what I'm referring to in the post a little better. Although yours is a single res design, and we won't be able to see the float valve in action, it should still help clarify some things. Anyway, maybe a couple of pics of the res, pots and joints? Also a large, overall image of the grow would be excellent. Thanks mate, and I'll talk to ya soon.


Oh, and of course, any queries or suggestions for this design or description would be most welcome! If I don't make sense, tell me! The only stupid question is the one you already know the answer to. ::D:


p.s. Nimer, I just had a cool idea, how about I post the entirity of our conversation about this setup here too! It may help with some of the questions which are frequently asked by newbies. Just pm me and tell me if that's cool. :P

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I would be more then happy to have the pm's we sent back and forth put up. Only prob is that i didnt save any of the questions asked. But i am sure people can get a GREAT deal of info outta the 19pages u sent me withen a week ;-) I am on my lunch break now but i will put up some pics when i get home :-D about an hour away.


My side of the Pm's dont really ahve a use but i am sure it would be very beneficial if we went through and took big chunks of your data and added a questions before them. Thus creating a FAQ! I am happy to do this luke as i am off work tomarrow. Let me know what u wanna do.

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