My Automated Terrarium "Degobah"

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ioperate

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Was away from the hobby for a few years doing a lot of travelling, now settled again and have my terrarium fully setup.

I've always been a fan of small terrarium setups and have never been able to properly control the environment in my previous setups so I build my own automated garden. It was important for me to be able to automate watering when I'm away at conferences and such so the base is set up to be able to remotely flood the garden. When I'm not away i hand water.

Based off an outdoor garden shelter from Costco:
http://www.costco.ca/Palram-Plant-Inn-Elevated-Garden-Bed.product.10364133.html



I reinforced the flimsy base and put in a flood table made from 2x6s and plywood. Sealed with a sturdy pond liner.




Lighting is provided by a 600w Phillips metal halide hortilux BLUE on a Gravita Digistar 600w digital ballast. I'm only running at 400w right now as I'm still introducing new plants and letting them get used to things before trying out 600w. http://www.eyehortilux.com/products/Metal-Halide#blue. I'm really liking this bulb, its not hard on the eyes and has a great balanced spectrum for orchids. There's not a lot of red but has some, apparently orchids don't need a lot of red to flower so we'll see how it goes. So far no problems initiating blooms on parishii, mount toro and a couple oncidium NOIDs.



The digital ballast was giving off a HUGE amount of electromagnetic radiation even though its supposed to be shielded. This completely interfered with the probes from the Ecozone vivarium controller. Worked with the guy who makes the ecozone (very helpful dude) and ended up using a huge ferrite after narrowing down the source to being the cord from the ballast to bulb. A tonne of wraps of the cord around the ferrite and the EM was gone.


It's housed in a cool tube air-cooled reflector. The inlet of the reflector has a Horti-Control "Dust Shroom" filter to continuously filter the terrarium down to 0.1 micron.


On the shelving outside the terrarium sits the ducting, fan, cooling system, humidity fogger and Ecozone Vivarium controller to run the system. All electronics are on the third shelf above all water tubing etc for safety.



The system is setup so air is pulled through the hood and over the light - then into the sealed rubbermaid where the fogger sits to pick up humidity (on the ground) - then across the "Ice box" radiator to cool the air (second shelf) - into the inline fan (second shelf) and is pushed into the side of the terrarium. I can't remember the CFM of the fan, its a lot, have it on a motor dimmer to control the flow and probably runs at about half. Pumps a lot of air flow through the box, enough to keep all the leaves moving.

The rubbermaid is big, can't remember how much water it holds but it takes about 1-2 weeks for the fogger to go through it all. Fogger is an Ultrasonic Mist maker with 3 heads. http://www.thehouseofhydro.com/three-head-mist-maker.html



The cooling system is built based on the Hydro Innovations Ice Box (black rectangle thing). http://www.hydroinnovations.com/products/ice-box-6-or-8. Water at 50F is circulated through the Ice Box when the Ecozone detects that the terrarium needs cooling, the air flows over the cold radiator dropping the temp, once its reached the desired temp the water pump shuts off. Can drop the temp of the reservoir even further but its not necessary right now. With the res at 50F I can drop the terrarium to 55F pretty easily.



Below the Ice Box and fan sits the reservoir and chiller. Reservoir is a ~4 gallon coleman cooler. Chiller is a JBJ mini Arctica 1/4 hp. I first bought a 1/10hp but it was a bit weak so switched it for a 1/4. It easily keeps the reservoir water at 50f. Two pumps sit inside the reservoir, both are eheim compact+ 3000s which run at ~750gph. http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=28124. One pump runs continuously to pump from the reservoir to the chiller. The second is controlled by the Ecozone to turn on and off when water needs to pump up to the ice box radiator to cool the terrarium.




When the Ice Box is running and the room is cooling quite a lot of condensation takes place from the rapid drop in dew point so a small tube goes from the bottom of the ice box to drain it back to the humidity tub.

When I need to go out of town and water remotely I have a big rubbermaid reservoir I fill with nutrient solution under the greenhouse. A small pump floods the terrarium until it reaches the top of the return drain that sits up about 4 inches in a standard Ebb and Flood setup. This can be triggered remotely by the networked Ecozone controller. Haven't needed to use it since I've been in my new place but will need to drill some holes in the sides of the aircone pots I use, also need to set the smaller pots up on something so they don't flood completely.



Finally the brain of the system is the Ecozone Vivarium controller. http://ecozonevivarium.com/products-vivarium-controllers.aspx. It has a lot of cool features, a number of which I don't use as they are more applicable to keeping reptiles and such. One probe goes from the controller to the terrarium to monitor temperature and humidity, I bought a second temp only probe that sits in the reservoir so I can monitor how the water temp changes when cooling is needed.



The system has some nice features for daily and monthly temperature and humidity changes. It changes the temperature gradually when it transitions from day-night over about 3 hours. Also the monthly temp/humidity changes happen over a set transition period replicating a more natural change of season.

For daily maintenance stuff I have a garden hose from a tap in the furnace room to fill the humidity tub every week or two. I water by hand and the runoff empties out the terrarium through the ebb and flood holes in one corner into a bucket I place below. Empty this by hand lugging it over to the sink.

Next i'll post my plant list and some pics!
 

NYEric

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Welcome to the forum from NYC. I tried an enclosed system but had too much moisture so I would recommend open air at some space. You may have this covered. Good luck and keep us posted.
 

ioperate

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My plant list:

Paph callosum
Paph celebensis
Paph fairrieanum
Paph venustum
Paph esquirolei
Paph hookerae
Paph. Pacific Thunder 'Fernbrook' AM/AOS x P. Tokyo Great Excellence ‘Figaro’ HCC/AOS

Paph delenatii
Paph malipoense
Paph micranthum
Paph Armeni White (armeniacum x delenatii)

Paph parishii “Awesome"
Paph rothschiliadum "Fergus"
Paph lowii ‘si'
Paph. lowii album 'Albino Beauty'
Paph hynaldianum
Paph dianthum
Paph. philippinense var laevegatum 'Glen Eyrie'
Paph stonei
Paph Mount Toro (philippinense x stonei)
Paph Michael Koopowitz "OrchidsCanada" (philippinense x sanderianum)
Paph. Chiu Hua Dancer (sanderianum 'Henry’ x gigantifolium 'Dark Warrior’)
Paph Dollgoldi (roth x armeniacum)
Paph. Platy Swith ‘Maxima' (platyphyllum x Saint Swithin) x Paph. Norito Hasegawa ‘Banana Split' (armeniacum x malipoense)


Phrag Fritz Schomberg
Phrag besseae
Phrag. Red Wing ((3N) Robert C. Silich x 'Robs Choice' AM/AOS (4N))
Phrag. caudatum sanderae ('Green Rapunzel' x 'Slippery Slope' AM/AOS)
Phrag. kovachii (Tesoro Morado x Chuck Aker #1)

Psychopsis Mendenhall 'Hildos' FCC/AOS (Butterfly x papilio)

Plus a couple of my girlfriends Oncidium/Paph NOIDs

Not all plants are here yet, waiting on a few from Orchid Inns trip to Canada in October. Big shout out to John M for hooking my up with some beautiful plants to rebuild my collection!!! :smitten: Parishii in spike with 7 flowers on each!

I water at 80-100ppm N with K-lite. Supplemented with some kelp every now and then to boost some root growth, especially after a transplant. Everything is in a standard mix of medium bark, charcoal and perlite. The phrags have some Aussie gold paph mix at about 50/50 with my regular mix to hold more moisture. Takes about 5 days for things to dry out.





 

ioperate

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Welcome to the forum from NYC. I tried an enclosed system but had too much moisture so I would recommend open air at some space. You may have this covered. Good luck and keep us posted.

Hey Eric, ya I've been a bit worried about this myself. Humidity is 70-85%. I have the strong fan continuously blowing and have been keeping an eye out for any sign of mould setting in. None so far. The box isn't completely sealed, probably not enough to benefit from increased C02 retention.
 

ioperate

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Input on seasonal temps

Was hoping the forum could give me some input on seasonal temp variation. I haven't been able to find a lot of literature on this other than specific plants natural habitat. Best info I could find was from Walter Bertsch's series of 3 publications from AOS in the 70s . . Here's a link to part 1 that was reprinted and is online from an orchid society: http://www.nutmegorchids.org/Apr.11_newsletter.pdf

Anyone have a link for the other two parts?

In his paper he gives the general guidelines:
(1) Try to keep summer day temperatures under 80F.
(2) Best vegetative growth is achieved at relatively high night temperatures: 65-68F.
(3) Flower induction may require 55-60F or less at night, for 2-8 weeks.
(4) Once induced, best quality flowers are usually produced at about 60F nights and 68F days.

And this graph:


Sort-of based on this I have set up my terrarium to run at these day length/temps/humidity:





I'm not really sure if this seems appropriate for my collection as far as day/night length, temp variation etc.

I put in a May - Sept "vegative phase", then a Oct-Nov period of cold nights to induce flowering, then Dec - Apr cooler days for "developing flowers". With day/night length 12 hours most of the year moving up to 14 hour days during summer vegetative phase.

Thanks for your input guys!!! Please let me know if there are any questions and suggestions. If anyone is interested in the ecozone send me a PM and i'll send you the link to login to mine remotely and you can see all the settings etc.

Mike
 

Justin

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looks great but that lamp is probably overkill at that height from the plants. even 250W MH will be on the high side.
 

NYEric

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Hey Eric, ya I've been a bit worried about this myself. Humidity is 70-85%. I have the strong fan continuously blowing and have been keeping an eye out for any sign of mould setting in. None so far. The box isn't completely sealed, probably not enough to benefit from increased C02 retention.

The problem wont be mould setting in, it will be rot in the plants! :(
 

ioperate

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looks great but that lamp is overkill at that height from the plants. even 250W MH will be on the high side.

Yes I was also a bit worried about this too, I had the ballast from a previous non-orchid garden so thought I would give it a try. Have been running for 3 months at 400w and haven't seen any sign of blanching yet. I can drop the base another 6" or so if I need to and still fit the reservoir for automated watering or drop it even more and just move the reservoir outside for the short times its in use.

The spikes up even closer to the light don't seem to be bothered by it. As the room fills the strap leaved plants will shade the little mottled guys more and more.

If they continue to show no sign of stress from the light I'm going to pump them up to 600w and see what kind of growth I can get :evil:
 

Justin

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keep them at 400. higher will just burn the plants.

also have to say, nice work constructing the terrarium.
 

Lanmark

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Cool setup! I wouldn't go up to 600 watts. I think it could be disastrous! Do be cautious of rot as well. Orchids need water, but it's really easy to overdo it. Once rot sets in, the game is over.
 

ioperate

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Quite an impressive set-up. I'd be most concerned about controlling the watering, also.

I like to water by hand, keeps me checking on the plants more often.

Automating the watering from a common reservoir I think introduces the chance of spreading problems between all the chids so I don't want to use it unless I have to. I just have the ebb and flood setup to water for me if I go away. Ie. 2 week trip will need to flood the table on day 5 and 10. Anything longer I think I would ask a member from the local society to come by and orchid-sit lol.
 

Wendy

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That is a lot of light but if you've seen no adverse effects so far then stay with it. I grew mine with a lot of light when I had my grow room and the plants loved it. I'd be most concerned about watching the humidity/water situation. Be very careful that you don't start with rot in a too closed in environment. So far you seem to have managed it quite well though....very impressive! Thank you for sharing your setup. :)
 

abax

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What a great set-up and a lot of work involved that seems
to be paying off. I'm a bit disappointed that you're not
raising beautiful pussycats though. Everything looks very
neat and clean.
 
H

hbathong

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Impressive.
But I do not know how you can put all the listed plants in your collection into that terrarium. Is there enough space?
The humidity when the light is turned on is not an issue, but when it is off, I think in that closed case, maybe too high for paphs.
Other thing is with 400W MH, and base on the distances between your plants and the light, I think it is too bright, if you use a light meter to measure, not lower than 4000 fc with the plants right underneath the light. Some paphs will be tolerant with that much light, but will take a long time to adapt. And some will be burnt.
Be careful with insects when you bring in new plants. With that narrow space and too much plants inside, that will be a disaster.
Last thing is with orchid growers, we always want to buy more and try to find out room for new ones. But in this terrarium, you can not expand your collection more except building up a new room.
I did try 400W MH and HPS for my growing room (WxLxH = 8'x12'x6.5'), but finally I have found out under my condition, with paphs, putting them on shelves under fluorescences is more efficient. By that way I can grow more paphs with enough light for most of them and save more spending wattages for light.
 

ioperate

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Impressive.
But I do not know how you can put all the listed plants in your collection into that terrarium. Is there enough space?
The humidity when the light is turned on is not an issue, but when it is off, I think in that closed case, maybe too high for paphs.
Other thing is with 400W MH, and base on the distances between your plants and the light, I think it is too bright, if you use a light meter to measure, not lower than 4000 fc with the plants right underneath the light. Some paphs will be tolerant with that much light, but will take a long time to adapt. And some will be burned.
Be careful with insects when you bring in new plants. With that narrow space and too much plants inside, that will be a disaster.
Last thing is with orchid growers, we always want to buy more and try to find out room for new ones. But in this terrarium, you can not expand your collection more except building up a new room.
I did try 400W MH and HPS for my growing room (WxLxH = 8'x12'x6.5'), but finally I have found out under my condition, with paphs, putting them on shelves under fluorescences is more efficient. By that way I can grow more paphs with enough light for most of them and save more spending wattages for light.

Thanks for the replies guys. So I got all nervous about bacterial/fungal issues after reading the warnings and went and double checked each plant tip to crown. Everything looked really good so nothing to worry about yet.

The space is 16sqft (4x4) with about 4ft headroom. There's eight plants coming in October that will easily fit in there. There's a couple local greenhouse oncidiums (both in spike) and a hardware store phal hanging out that will be the first to go when things start to get tight. As the terrarium fills maybe I'll move smaller plants up to hang along the sides. Was also thinking about picking up another identical greenhouse from costco to eventually place beside this one, removing the intervening wall to double the space. Although I kinda like that my space is limited to avoid getting too many paphs!

All new plants go on about a week quarantine in another area of the house and get a full dousing of pesticide (Merit) before entering the terrarium. I agree with everyone that a pathogen in there will spread pretty quickly. I'm sure eventually something will pop up and hopefully I'm vigilant enough to catch it quickly. Also the continuous filtering of the air through the "shroom" I hope will help.

Every two weeks or so the box gets a full cleaning with dilute bleach and all electronics, fans, ventilation etc is checked. Also usually give the leaves a wash with dilute soap. Unfortunately the one downside of the fogger for humidity is that it causes a lot of minerals to deposit kindof everywhere, especially in the hood.
 

ioperate

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With regards to the lighting I've made the mistake before of not heeding more experienced peoples advice so will definitely keep a close eye on how things are going at 400w.

I don't have a light meter to see what my fc is. I used this thread as a very rough guide to estimate it when I was setting things up: http://www.orchidboard.com/community/growing-under-lights/8347-calculate-desired-light-levels.html

Under ideal lighting conditions not accounting for deterioration of the bulb and the reflector the strap leaved plants are getting around 3-4k at 2ft away or so. The smaller plants are 3ft away so more like 1.5k not factoring in the shading from the bigger plants.

I have a fair amount of experience growing all sorts of plants under HIDs and have grown orchids on the windowsill, under T5s and now under the blue MH. I think a lot of people use flouros out of convenience and because it suits their conditions. With proper humidity and airflow my leaves are completely cool to the touch and are showing no signs of desiccating or overheating. I'll be watching for any blanching or inhibition of leaf growth. It's only been 3 months and have seen some really nice growth, quite a bit more than I ever got in previous non-HID setups, I think the controlled conditions play a big factor as well as the spectrum of the blue MH that you cannot get from a flouro setup. I'm not at all convinced things a perfect but so far am hopefully optimistic :wink:

 

ioperate

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Have you tried RO water for the fogger to avoid mineral built up?

I actually haven't, I was under the impression that pure water didn't work as its the minerals in tap water that allow the fogger to do its thing . . .

edit - apparently this is wrong. RO and distilled water work fine. From the mist maker instructions apparently the water level sensor only works with tap water.
 

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