DIY compact ebb-flow system
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Old 05-03-2015, 07:31 PM
naoki naoki is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2012
Zone: 2a
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Posts: 975
DIY compact ebb-flow system Male
Default DIY compact ebb-flow system

I just made a small ebb-flow hydroponic system for my Disa uniflora. I thought that some people may be interested in. Most parts are from Lowes/Home Depot.

  • Sterilite 27 gallon plastic container (for the grow box), $15.55 from Walmart.
  • Rubbermaid Roughneck 18 gallon plastic container (for the reservoir), around $12.
  • PonicPump 12005 (submersible pump used for fountains, 120GPH @ 0' lift, 6W), about $14
  • Watts PL-1871 1/2" Bulk Head Union, $10.98 from Lowe's
  • Watts LFS-385 Brass Hose barb (1/2" ID x 1/2" MIP), $4.58 from Lowe's
  • kbi TMS-0500 1/2" MIP to 1/2" CPVC adapter, $5.10 from Lowe's
  • 1/2" CPVC street elbow, $0.98 from Lowe's
  • 1/2" CPVC (short section)
  • 1/2" vinyl tubing (5/8" OD x 1/2" ID), 7' for $3.15 from Lowe's
Total: about $67

I got two plastic containers: one is for the growing space and the other is for the water reservoir.

First, I made the drain hole to the growing case. Since the plastic is a bit flimsy, I decided to use a bulk head union. Without thinking too much I started to drill with a hole saw.

Oops, it is not a good idea, and this is what happens. I should have used a supporting block and/or duct tape.

Well, I had to go back to Walmart to get a new box. This time, I used a soldering iron (toxic but less likely to screw up). I put a nail to the soldering iron because I didn't want to ruin the soldering iron tip.

The bulkhead is attached:

Here are the other parts needed.
From left:
Brass Hose barb (1/2" ID x 1/2" MIP), which is screwed into the bulkhead from outside, and it is connected to the return tube to the reservoir.
1/2" MIP to 1/2" CPVC adapter
1/2" CPVC street elbow
1/2" tubing

Attached the hose barb adapter to the outside. I had to use the Teflon tape for plumbing for this connection (otherwise, it was leaking).

Here I'm showing a street elbow (one side is male, and the other side is female) attached to the MIP to CPVC adapter. I'm drilling two small holes (5/64"). These small holes make the water to drain out slowly.

Now, I cut a small section of 1/2" CPVC. The length of this pipe determines the water level when the water is pumped in to the growth case.

Now I attach the assembled elbow to inside of the bulkhead. Here is the inside view of the bulkhead.

Screw in the MIP to CPVC adapter. Then attach the elbow and the drain pipe. The CPVC parts are not glued, just friction fitted.

I made two tables from a cedar siding plunk that I happen to find in the backyard and legs are from some branches that I found in the firewood pile. Later, I painted these with water-proofing Elastomeric paint (frequently used for roofing). Also I made a hole to the top right for the water supply tube. The water pump supplies water through the tubing through this hole.

Assembly done:

I made a green table from left-over lumbers and set up the system inside. I made two holes to the cover of the reservoir: one for the tube going to the growing box and one for the returning tube.

Here the water is filled up. The water will gradually return to the reservoir through the two small holes of the elbow. I adjusted the height so that it reaches to 2/3 of the pot. I can adjust the water level slightly by tilting the elbow.

Finished view. I'm hanging a DIY LED. This is 20W COB LED from ebay, with heatsink from a washing machine. It is crappy LED (and not strong enough for Disa), and I'll probably change it with a more efficient one. 2015 version of Vero 18 and 29 should be available really soon.

Some of Disa was growing in Perlite+sphagnum moss. I top-dressed with aquarium gravel, so they don't float up when water is filled up. Some of them weren't doing well, and I hope this Ebb-flow will help them.

The water pump is connected to a digital timer which has 1 minute resolution. Then it gets turned on twice a day for 10 min. The plants will be soaked in the water about 15-20 min each time.

It took a bit of time to make the table, but the ebb-flow system part would take about 30 min to assemble. I used a tall container for the growing box because our ambient RH is low, and I wanted to keep RH high. For now, I'm keeping it open top since it can keep around 60-90% RH. In the winter, I'll probably need to put the cover.

Last edited by naoki; 10-03-2015 at 04:12 AM..
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Old 07-19-2015, 03:33 AM
naoki naoki is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2012
Zone: 2a
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Posts: 975
DIY compact ebb-flow system Male

The growth of D. uniflora seems to be better with the Ebb-flow (compared with my manual daily watering), but it is not still optimum yet. I lost 1 plant. There were days with too much smoke from wildfire, and I couldn't keep windows open, so the room became pretty warm, and this could be the cause of the decline.

One of them bloomed. It is supposed to be orange type. It is red-end of orange.

Disa uniflora '319' (orange) on Flickr

The column structure is pretty different from others I'm familiar with, and I couldn't figure out where the pollinia is located until I looked it up on internet. The two pale yellow tubes contains skinny (but pretty big) pollinia. The darker yellow part at the bottom of pale yellow part is the part of pollinia. The stigma is the white part near the bottom with 'Y'. It was already making several growths for next year, so I decided to pollinate it even though it was a bit risky. It makes a huge fruit. I hope that it will oversummer well.

Disa uniflora '319' (orange) column on Flickr
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Old 07-19-2015, 06:46 PM
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MrHappyRotter MrHappyRotter is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2013
Zone: 7b
Location: Raleigh, NC
Posts: 1,198
DIY compact ebb-flow system Male

Great info and cool picture. I'd love to see a Disa in bloom ... I don't recall ever having seen one in person, but living in the southern USA, that's not surprising.
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Old 10-03-2015, 04:15 AM
naoki naoki is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2012
Zone: 2a
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Posts: 975
DIY compact ebb-flow system Male

A bit of update:

The summer is the difficult time for these cool growing Disa. The survival rate wasn't as high as I hoped for even with the ebb-flow system and there are quite a bit of death over the summer. But I may have some survivors which might grow for the next year. So it is a little bit of progress forward. The next step may be that I need to add refrigerated unit like what Tennis did in his informative page. But it seems a bit costly.

Seeds were harvested from the orange individual, so I need to sow it quickly.

Here is another individual which flowered at the end of September (quite out of season). This is D. uniflora 317 (from Wally Orchard of Afrodisa) 'NT3'.

Disa uniflora on Flickr

Disa uniflora plant on Flickr

I decided to put this build thread to my blog so I can access it easily (link, no new content, though).

---------- Post added at 11:15 PM ---------- Previous post was at 11:12 PM ----------

Originally Posted by MrHappyRotter View Post
Great info and cool picture. I'd love to see a Disa in bloom ... I don't recall ever having seen one in person, but living in the southern USA, that's not surprising.
I lived in Durham for a while, and yes, it would be a challenge to grow Disa there! I remember even growing Phrag besseae was pretty tough there (and I killed it).
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1/2, water, cpvc, elbow, mip, lowes, growing, reservoir, adapter, system, ebb-flow, hole, bulkhead, holes, tube, plastic, tubing, street, barb, hose, box, container, soldering, time, drain

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