Introduction: Modular Hydroponics - SkeetaGator

Picture of Modular Hydroponics - SkeetaGator

I tried to add a video, but it was invalid so here's the link. Please excuse the music. Youtube wouldn't let me use the original choice, so this is what Youtube picked. It's actually not bad.

Skeetagator on Youtube

This is the love child of two other instructables. The Even Simpler Flood and Drain System - The Mosquito and the Modular Hydroponics - Low Profile Reservoir. Using Gatorade bottles and soft tubing to form a pressure seal, I was finally able to get air and water tight seals between the planters and the drain pipe, sooooooo ....

The unit that I built here is only 19" long, but it should be able to be implemented on a much larger scale easily. As the pipe increases in length, the required volume of air will increase, but not the required pressure. Redundant, individual air pumps would provide the required air, keeping the fill cycle reasonably short, while also providing security against pump failure.

Please also excuse the photos. This was built and tested, rebuilt and tested, rebuilt .........., so the photos describing the steps are of a disassembled, finished unit. My apologies, but it does show how each planter and the reservoir are still separate "modules?", however loosely.

Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

1 ea Length of 4" diameter drainage pipe. I used a 19" length of 4" PVC.
2 ea 2L Pop Bottles w/caps(NOT Pepsi)
Gatorade bottles w/caps as req'd
7/16" OD clear Vinyl tubing as req'd (4.75 inches per Gatorade bottle)
1/4" Aquarium air tube as required
1 ea small, self tapping screw

Drill
1/2" Drill bit
1/16" Drill bit
13/64" Drill bit
Hot melt glue gun w/glue
Heat gun
Utility knife
Long pry bar thin enough to fit though the neck of a 2L bottle


Step 2: Reservoir

Picture of Reservoir

1. Cut drainage pipe to length.
2. In a straight line, on what will be the top of the reservoir, measure and mark the location of the holes for the planters. I used 4.5 inch centers.
3. Drill 1/2 inch holes for each planter. Take care to drill as straight as possible, for proper planter alignment later. Smooth away any burrs or they will cut into the Vinyl tubing later.
4. Bevel the ends of the pipe at approx. 45 degrees.
5. Apply a generous amount of glue to the bevels at each end of the pipe, around the full circumference, being careful not to increase the diameter of the pipe. Allow to cool fully.
6. Cut the top half off one of the bottles and insert over one end of the tube as far as it will go.
7. Cut the bottom off the other 2L bottle and insert the upper piece over the other end of the tube about 2 inches.

STEPS 8 AND 9 MUST BE DONE QUICKLY IN A VERY WELL VENTILATED AREA DUE TO TOXIC OFF-GASSING FROM HEATED PVC AND OTHER PLASTICS

8. Heat the clear plastic dome of the bottle from step 6 so that it shrinks tightly around the pipe, melts the glue and tightens over the end of the pipe. Be careful not to overheat the clear plastic or damage the threaded area with the heat AND heat the PVC pipe AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE.

9. Heat the clear plastic from step 7 so that it tightens firmly around the pipe and then, using the pry bar and heat gun, shape the neck so that it faces up as in step 4 of Modular Hydroponics - Low Profile Reservoir.

10. Trim excess plastic away from tube using a utility knife.

Note - Both ends could be facing up, but it's only necessary for one. The other end is also the cap end of a bottle, rather than the bottom, because provides access into the tube.

Step 3: Skeetagators

Picture of Skeetagators

Sorry for the name, but "this" design is Gatorade specific. This is the Mosquito referred to in the introduction, slightly modified to create an easily removable, reusable, seal with the curved surface of the reservoir.

1. Remove the green, turny, valve thingy from the cap of the Gatorade bottle. It will pop right off with a little force, exposing the nozzle.

2. Stretch one end of the 7/16" inch Vinyl tubing with needle nose pliers and slip/force/wrestle it onto the nozzle as far as possible. It must extend past the part where the nozzle gets thick again. This "valley" under the tubing is what will help form a good pressure seal.

3. Repeat as necessary.

Step 4: Air Control Cap

Picture of Air Control Cap

1. Screw 13/64" hole and 1/16" hole into one of the caps.

2. Tap the 1/16" hole with the self tapping screw. The angular notch in the threads of the screw forms a variable air vent when adjusted.

3. Insert the tip of the air hose through the 13/64" hole.

Step 5: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

1. Remove the bottle and feed the tube into the 1/2" hole. Force the Vinyl covered nozzle into the hole as far as it will go. Spinning may make this easier. It WILL stop at the point where the neck of the nozzle expands again.

2. I drilled a vent at this point, for test purposes only, in the bottom of each Gatorade bottle, but to make a planter, simply cut the bottom off and fill with grow medium.

3. Screw on bottles, line them up as best as possible and leave to rest while the vinyl finishes reshaping itself.

4. Cap the ends of the tube, with the "Air Control Cap" going on the upright turned end.

Attach air hose to pump. Fill tube with just enough nutrient, through planters. Test.

Any unused planter holes can be plugged as required.

Comments

pacifcace (author)2009-07-26

It seems like the reason you insist on using the gatorade bottles is the ease of connecting them into the system and using the size of the inlet to maintain pressure and fill/drain rate, but could you do the same thing using any other bottle (I'm thinking of a 20oz or 1 liter pop bottle) with a 7/16" tube and super glue/silicon sealant to bond the top to the surface of the pipe? I plan to build one of these, but since you have one and obviously have far more experience with them than I do I thought you might be able to tell me from personal experience what you would think of trying something like that before I do it and end up covered in water.

downgrade (author)pacifcace2010-07-10

In my experience, change super glue to plastics epoxy and you should be good to go. Much stronger, and the new stuff (ok I haven't used epoxy in about 10 years, so new to me) sets in under 10 minutes (although give it a day before using it I would say) but says it's not good for submerging, so just put a film of silicone over it to keep the water off and you should be good to go. if your tubing doesn't like glue much so I would recommend going to the hardware store and buying one of the male to male tubing connectors and glue that in the cap, the problem being that it's one more spot for a leak to occur, but you could just add a tube clamp and be fine, just look a little ugly I'm sure.

wiley coyote (author)pacifcace2009-07-28

I'm not very experienced at all ... the experts at the store were only salesmen, so I figured I'd figure it out myself and do it cheaper and more reliable. These are my first attempts actually, and I'm sharing the progress. They've all been successful in there own ways. I actually haven't pursued this design further than testing, and to see the potential. If you can make it watertight and removable without having to twist it, I would say you're good. Just be quick to turn off the air pump in an emergency. I've found that matching a tube to a pre-made nozzle has saved me a lot of hassles. Good Luck.

eyerobot (author)2010-02-03

I think your designs are great, I have been avoiding hydroponics for the simple reason that i didnt want to purchase a water pump.
But the air pumps are a dime a dozen at thrift stores.

So with your inspiration, I will attempt to tackle this project.

downgrade (author)eyerobot2010-07-10

True you can find air pumps for a few bucks, but you can find decent water pumps for 10 to 20 bucks pretty easily if you want to make a larger system (just have to find a place selling them if you are against buying online) but, no problem with going this route either, although you could even just go with the wick system, just need to buy some absorbent rope, or you could do a deep water culture, all that requires is an air pump as well.

wiley coyote (author)eyerobot2010-02-08

Thank you.  I had big dreams for this one, but decided to go with only one water tap off the reservoir as an air leak along any of the taps will cause the system to fail.  My construction methods are somewhat questionable, however, and could easily be improved upon.  I also recommend setting the timer to go off before it starts bubbling and use the bubbling sound as an indication to fill, as the vibrations can get pretty large, and the sound annoying.

If I remember correctly, this one was pretty easy to operate by breath alone, so it could be human powered in a blackout.... an added feature.  :)

Good luck.

transimago (author)2009-04-03

your ideas and designs are great. kudos!! As I don't have a heat gun, I'm looking for alternatives. so, I have 2 questions for you: 1. could a hair drier be used to heat the plastic (would it be hot enough)? 2. since it is necessary to have the air inlet above the water level... could I connect the drain pipe to an elbow, close the other end of the elbow (which would face upwards) with a cap, and drill this cap to place the air hose and valve? I'd appreciate other suggestions... thanks a lot!

wiley coyote (author)transimago2009-04-07

Thanks. 1. Possibly. It would depend on the hair dryer ...... and the thickness of the plastic as well, from what I can see, so try the thinnest possible. 2. The water level would still seek equilibrium and the pressure would still need to be released above the water's surface ..... I think. Other than that and barring unresolvable air locks, I can't see any reason why not. I'm currently "working" on an additional reservoir/trough planter that can be used as a "overflow tank", eliminating the use of such a "finite" amount of nutrient and, therefore, reducing "maintenance". It will be connected to the drain/feed pipe via a homemade one way valve ..... hopefully .... I think .... maybe .... perhaps. That's why I use junk. You gotta ponder hard and you get to test for free.... as long as you only destroy junk parts that is. Hence the procrastination, I , uhhhh, mean .... pondering.

robbtoberfest (author)2009-01-16

I'm really liking these heat shrink method I've learned on two instructables now. This is nice!!!

Making this thing is how I stumbled on a useful application and it worked soooooooo well, that I saw other applications while dealing with the scrap. Re-use the re-used. If I had a sheet big enough, I'd make a drum with different tensions on it like a steel drum and see what I got. Other than too much time on my hands, that is.

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