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Old 09-23-2009, 07:37 PM
brsword brsword is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2008
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A Practical 150 gal Orchidarium-eBay cheap
Default A Practical 150 gal Orchidarium-eBay cheap

I wrote this months ago, it is a bit long, so I don’t know if it needs to be edited. But feel free to do what must be done

A Practical 150 gal Orchidarium-eBay Cheap..

First I want to say I am strictly a beginner at this, but have some practical building skills. I have a daughter-in-law and a sister-in-law who have orchids, which I have always admired. So on a visit to Trader’s Joe’s I purchased 3 or so orchids on impulse (Phalaenopsis) at a reasonable price, and I ventured into this hobby as an innocent lamb. Totally unaware of how captivating these flowers would become, I enjoyed these first purchases as they kept their blooms for many weeks. Hey, this was easy! But then, of course, the blooming came to an end. So I started the research on what made these things tick. In the mean time, I bought or was given a few more so then I had at least six. One or two developed the dreaded black spots, brown, and yellow or wrinkled leaves. Others were just not looking well “So, what up with this?” I thought.

Then I discovered “THE ORCHID BOARD”
Temperature, Light, Humidity, Air Movement, Media, Semi-Hydroponics, Diseases

What’s up with this stuff and what do all the initials and abbreviations mean? I never could pronounce long words, so the “nick names” were fine with me if I knew what they applied to. I started reading the board and books, more Internet reading and more books, and basically it came down to this.
Control their environment and I will cure my 6 orchids and bring them back to their glorious beautiful selves! Build an orchidarium!! Sounds easy, lets just do it.

So my venture into orchid growing was started. First I had most of the stuff I needed to build an orchidarium (or so I thought) and I needed another hobby to justify my woodworking shop and I needed to save “My Orchids”. So in Dec’ 08 I started building “my orchidarium”.
Not everyone has a 150 gal empty aquarium lying around, I suppose, but I did! It measures 6 ft long x 18” wide x 24” high. Bought it on eBay for local picked up for $75. Used it as a terrarium for visiting grandkids the past summer. Grandkids left and I returned the captured pollywogs, snake, frog and newts to the wild. I now had the main ingredient and usually the most expensive part. It sits on a strongly built 2x4 framed homebuilt table in a walkout basement near a window. It has 6 glass plates for the top with the ability to adjust them so venting can occur. Basement stays about 55-60 degrees in winter and up to 70 in summer. So not enough light and heat.
I bought a mini box heater on eBay for $18 delivered. It has a fan, heat control (750/1500 watt) and a temperature shutoff. I put it at one end and placed a flat stone in front so would not blow directly on plants. It produces about 135 º heat on the low wattage directly in front of it. The stone was not enough deflection and I burned a few leaves on some other plants. However the orchids were safely at the far end. Heater worked quite well. With some experimentation and a digital timer (Lowe’s $6) I was able to control the heat so it heated the tank to 80º during the day. Starting at 6 AM it took almost 2 hours to heat entire tank, as the heater does not run continuously, it cycles on and off. This is good so that one end of the tank did not get super hot while the other end had not reached the desired heat level, plus the fan was moving air. When the timer shut it off for the night at 9 pm, the tank cooled to the room temp of 55-60º in about 90 min.

Well, this was all fine but not enough air movement to keep tank evenly heated. It varied by as much as 15º from one end to the other and as much as 10º top to bottom. And of course I was reading more stuff on The Orchid Board about humidity, temp variance, light, semi-hydroponics plus etc, etc.
So the project really began in earnest. And, of course, I remembered I was doing this to save these 6 glorious Orchids.

I made a heat plenum chamber by running a 2” high strip of artificial decking material around the inside perimeter of tank and one down the middle. I placed 8”x 8” tile squares ($15 for a box on sale from Home Depot) on top of these and then a florescent light grid on top of tiles so pots would not sit directly on tiles. I left 1/2” to 1” spaces between tiles so there were vents that heat would escape. (See pics.) This gave me a 2” high heat duct running the length of the tank that would run under the pots. I figured that the heater would also heat the tiles, which would retain the heat and more evenly heat the tank. This cut the height of tank by 3” but I reasoned I could increase height later if I needed it.

I made a heat chamber for the heater with a piece of 2ft x 2ft aluminum sheet from local hardware store ($20) I cut it to the width of the tank and bent it with a clamping table into the shape in picture. You don’t need a clamping table, but I own one. Just bend it over a sharp edge of a table. This allowed me to place the heater under it and duct the heated air into the plenum chamber. I supported the ends of the aluminum sheet with more pieces of scrap decking material 6” high. Because I wanted continuous air movement, I also mounted a computer console fan I happen to have in the chamber (no cost for fan). This fan runs all the time, so when the heater shuts off the air still moves. The added benefit of this is that it cools the heater’s chamber so that it does not get super hot. I placed extra tiles on top of and in front of heat chamber for looks and function, as aluminum does get quite hot when heater is running.

I bought a 12” x 48” piece of coated wire rack used in closets and kitchens at Lowe’s ($12). I bent it to make a 6” wide shelf for the back of tank. Supported the ends again with surplus decking material 8” high.

I added a $25 Acu>Rite thermometer with max/min temp, humidity with remote that I could move around so I could measure how much the temperature and humidity varied from location to location within this Orchidarium I had created. (Yes, I had passed the dollar amount I had in mind for the project, so it was now an Orchidarium, not just a tank.)
It was getting too cold during the night as I did not want temp to drop below 60º. I adjusted the timer so the heater would come back on at midnight, 2 am and 4 am and run for 1/2 hr. This gave me the 10-20º drop I wanted for the temperature variance talked about in the books, etc. This is being adjusted for the summer, as the basement doesn’t get so cold.

Humidity was the next issue to be addressed. It was only running about 40%. Even with bowls of water in the “Orchidarium”. I wanted more. After all my six orchids deserved every chance.

We had a cat drinking fountain that the cats refused to use. “I will put it into service” says I. I placed it on top of the heater’s chamber where it was partial heated by the chambers heat so the water would evaporate. To increase this I bought an orchidarium fan on eBay for $18 with a clamp and flexible shaft so I could face it to blow onto the fountain basin and increase air movement and moisture. This worked really well. Humidity levels increased to 70% during the day with 80º-temperature average. At night or after watering with the decreasing temps it was almost raining in there. Humidity was 95-99% This soon decreases with the air movement and venting.

My six orchids could be assured I was not going to let them down.

Lighting was still crude. I was using a 4’ shop light with T-8 daylight tubes and a homemade fixture with T-12 tubes, 1 daylight and 1 plant grow tube. But it would have to do as I only had 6 orchids and I was not going to spend more for a fancy light than I did on this whole thing so far just for six orchids. But things were about to change.

Looking on the Internet for local Orchid clubs I saw an ad for The Susquehanna Orchid Society. An older member was selling off his 1000 plant orchd collection for the benefit of the club. Open to the public. His green house was not far from me. I bought 20 orchids. Some I gave to my daughter-in-law, but I now had 26 + orchids and many needed to be divided.

Eventually my continuing reading on the Orchid Board about S/H convinced me this was the way to go. With research I chose Dyna-Rok ll as my media. In repotting I split most of the orchids bought at the sale, so I now had close to 40 of various types.

With orchids enough to fill the orchidarium I did more reading on light requirements of the different types. I then purchased a medium priced light meter from Amazon for $30. After measuring the light at various locations in the orchidarium I concluded that the system I had was not up to the task of giving off enough light. Back to eBay. After much searching and waiting out a few auctions that I didn’t win, I discovered Greatlights4less on eBay. I bought a fixture that holds four T-5 bulbs (bulbs included plus 2 extra) for $140 + freight, about $160 total. This was the last big purchase. I also added another timer for the light ($3 from Harbor Freight), so that I could control amount of light for different times of the year. I put a piece of white board I had behind the tank to reflect light back in and to give a better back ground for observing the plants. Total cost on this: tank-$75, heater-$18, tile-$15, plastic grate-$10, aluminum sheet for heat baffle-$17, fan-$18, timers-$10, shelf-$12, max/min thermometer-$25, light meter - $30 and light-$140 was about $370 plus the freight to get some of the components, maybe another $30.

In the end it was worth it. Orchids are doing well and adapting well to semi-hydroponics culture with few problems. Six months since I started this project I have new roots, new shoots, and even some blooms starting on almost all orchids. It contains over 40 pots of various sizes all in S/H. Low light orchids are placed at the ends or under the shelf. High light orchids are place in the middle or if small enough on the shelf. By venting I can maintain a 75 to 80 degree daytime temperature and a drop of 10-15 degrees at night. I do have to raise the height as many of the orchids are starting to exceed the height of the tank. Those that do are place near the venting slots and allowed to grow up through the top. Right now it is no problem as the basement temperature is staying in the 65-70 degree range. But by the winter I will have to increase the height. It is a bit over crowded, but orchids are blooming and being moved upstairs to the living area so the orchidarium is becoming less crowded.
Pictures are attached, it was fun to build it and it is essentially maintenance free. Every 10 days or so all pots are taken out and watered by soaking in a planter box filled with rainwater with the proper amount of Dyna-Gro fertilizer mix then allowed to drain through the side holes of the plastic “pots” to fill the reservoir. As you can see I used any sturdy plastic container for the s/h pots, from juice container, plastic pickle jars and Arizona ice tea containers. Very simple, very effective, many orchids which I thought were goners before this project due to root rot or whatever have been saved and are putting out new healthy roots and shoots. Someday hopefully, they will bloom.
And now with more gifts and donations and splitting I have almost 45 orchids. So what started as a project to save six orchids has turned into a major commitment to the hobby.

As orchids bloom they are brought up into the house proper to be enjoyed.
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Old 02-13-2010, 03:00 PM
jward jward is offline
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A Practical 150 gal Orchidarium-eBay cheap
Default Excellent tutorial

This was very helpful! Thanks for posting details on exactly what you bought. That made it more effective. Any lessons learned since your original build? I'm personally struggling with heating source now for my orchidarium / vivarium. I'll try and post a pic here. You can see my masdevillia mounted on the wall and I've lost one bud... I think it's just not warm enough as I have avg 80% humidity and great air flow due to 2 120mm pc fans running nearly constantly. Avg temp barely breaks 70 though...
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Old 02-13-2010, 04:45 PM
dounoharm dounoharm is offline
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what an epic adventure! great planning and ingenuity!!!
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Old 02-19-2010, 12:31 PM
brsword brsword is offline
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A Practical 150 gal Orchidarium-eBay cheap
Default Practical Orchidarium comments

Thanks you for the comments. Over all the experiment has been a success. However I did change some things. I have a sister-in-law who loves orchids and buys them often, but when they stop blooming away they go. So when she was about to trash them, I took about 20 to save. Repotted them in the semi-hydroponics medium gave at least 8 away and then tried to fit the rest in the orchidarium. Many of these that I repotted had root systems over 75% rotted away, as they were all packed in the typical moss medium that you find when they are purchased at Big Box stores or super markets.
In doing so I had to remove my humidity system (cat watering fountain) to make room. I did find that it is required, as humidity levels feel below 40% if I did not put water into bottom of tank.
The tank is too crowded now and plants are being taken out and just put near window in the house.
As far as a heating system for your size orchidarium have you tried waterproof heating pads underneath the tank. I used to use one under a small tank I had when I only had 3 orchids and it worked quite well to raise the temp about 10-15 degrees during day. I had it on a timer to shut it off at night and come back on at 6 am. Also try these under soil wires sold for germinating seeds, they shut off when soil reaches 70 deg., but they must be buried.
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Old 02-19-2010, 01:17 PM
aries23 aries23 is offline

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A Practical 150 gal Orchidarium-eBay cheap Female

Wow that story is amazing and truly inspiring as well. I have a 15 gallon aqaurium that we dont use anymore and I was going to trash it. Then I realized I could put my Mini orchid in it. I am going to purchase a t5 fixture at the pet store today. I am excited to add more orchids to this tank. I dont know exactly how I want the orchids to be placed. Its amazing how addicting it can be in buying more orchids right! Are you willing to give any away I would love to have a few more for my setup soon? How much electricity does this run you a month , sorry just a little curious.
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Old 02-19-2010, 07:39 PM
brsword brsword is offline
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A Practical 150 gal Orchidarium-eBay cheap
Default pratical orchdarium

I use my controlled environment strictly to bring the orchids back to bloom and to see what keikis I can get off them. They are really not a display when they are in the tank, just growing and shooting out shoots and roots. I have started using a drop of KeikiPro on any cut off leaf or bloom shoot, anything I cut off that is still green and alive. I am getting many more shoots and roots, I really have to start keeping notes as to when and what I have done to each plant so I can track cause and effect. Next time my sister-in law needs to get rid of plants I will send you some, but right now I want to see what I can bring to bloom. Then I will see what I would not mind sharing. I do have promising keikis that when I master the art of separating them I will share with you. Most of these are Phals.
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