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How to build a hydroponic chamber

Anyone that has ever owned an adult Green iguana let alone several of them can attest to how much these magnificent herbivores are capable of eating in a day, in a week... or in a month. If you have a large collection of reptiles that require vegetables in their diet you know just how expensive it can be to keep them all properly fed. With rising food prices in today's economy many reptile owners are faced with the difficult decision to continue feeding their pet, or to find it a new home simply because of the cost of keeping it.

Here at, we keep several adult pairs of Green iguanas and their offspring. We have Bearded dragons and Blue tongue skinks, Box turtles and Sulcata tortoises. All of these animals cost a lot to feed. To help cut the cost of keeping we have ventured into producing our own food. Initially, we had our gardens outside, but due to drought and pests, our yield was very minimal and the invested time and money was not worth the effort. After this realization, we decided to focus on indoor hydroponics and are so far pleased with our results.

In the paragraphs to follow, you will read detailed instructions and tips on how to construct your own hydroponic chamber capable of growing, but not limited to, lettuce, squash, zucchini and tomatoes.

To construct a hydroponic grow chamber, you will need the following items just for the grow box alone. I will provide 2 examples. In addition to maintain an indoor garden, you must also provide proper lighting, which will be covered in minimal detail, as this is not the focus of this article.

Design one
You will need:

1 3 gallon opaque rubber made box or size of choice
6 1 inch media baskets
1 Maxi-jet 400 pump
4 1/4 inch i.d pvc elbows
3 1/4 inch i.d pvc T
3 Feet 1/4 pvc
1 Air pump
1/16 inch dill bit
1 inch hole saw
Hack saw
Expanded clay pellets
Razor blade
A few feet of 1/8 inch air line tubing

1st, using your 1 inch hole saw and drill, cut 6 holes in the lid of the 3 gallon rubber made box in a staggered pattern; so that when you are done, the holes will be in a zig-zag patten. With a razor blade, cut away any thin pieces of plastic to give you a nice smooth edge, allowing the baskets to sit snugly in their hole.
2nd, Time to cut the PVC. You will Want to cut your PVC into several sections... 4 total for the front and back, 2 total for the sides, 2 total for the center and 1 for the vertical center piece. Allow space for the elbows and Ts. When it is done, the PVC manifold should sit as close to the bottom of the rubber made box as possible (after being attached to the pump.
3rd, starting with the pump, position it so that the pump lays on it's side with the water out facing up. Attach your vertical center piece (approx. 1 1/2 - 2 Inches in length) to the water out.
4th, attach a pvc T and then attach both center pieces to the T, so that you have a pump with a T shape design coming vertically off of it.
5th, to each end of the center pieces attach the other two pvc Ts, allowing you to extend the manifold in a horizontal direction.
6th, to each horizontally positioned T, you will attach 2 pieces of pvc (one on each side of the T) for the front T and 2 pieces for the back T. Cap each exposed end with an elbow.
7th, after each piece has an elbow, insert the side pieces into the elbows, completing the manifold.
8th, place the pump and manifold into the rubber made tube to ensure that it fits. With the pump in the center of the tub, the manifold should be as close to the pump and the bottom of the rubber made tube as possible, and the pvc manifold should barely touch the sides of the tub. If adjustments must be made, take the manifold apart at the appropriate places and reduce the size of the pvc.
9th, once the manifold and pump fit correctly, place it in the tub and put the lid on. Using a sharpe marker, place a dot or two of ink on the manifold through the holes that you cut out earlier with your hole saw. Be sure that the dots of ink line up well with the one inch holes ( you may choose to place your dots at an angle for the one inch holes that are towards the center). These ink dots are were you will drill your 1/16th inch holes for water to spray the baskets. MAKE SURE THEY LINE UP!
10th, remove the lid and the manifold from the tub. With a 1/16th inch drill bit, drill at each ink dot you marked (be sure NOT to go through the other side).
11th, take the manifold apart and remove all pieces of drill shrapnel, as these will block and clog your spray holes. You can clean you pvc of shrapnel at the sink using water and a baby bottle brush.
12th, reassemble your manifold and place it back in the tub.
13th, dump your clay pellets into a strainer and rinse them well. Once the water runs clear you can distribute them between your baskets. Fill up your tub with the proper solution, put the lid on, put your baskets in their hole and your ready to grow.

Add a 1/8 inch hole in the lid and insert it into your bucket, and down into the bottom bucket. Attach the other end to your air pump. By oxygenating the water, it will aid in preventing root rot.

Design two
You will need:

2 Five gallon buckets with one lid
1 Maxi-jet 900 - 1200
1 Square media plastic basket 4 - 5 square inches
1 10 - 15 inch of 1/4 inch pvc
1/4 inch drill bit
1/2 inch hole saw
Expanded clay pellets
Sharp cutting instrument. ie. jig saw

1st, With the jig saw, cut a square out of the center of the lid so that your media basket will slide in, yet allow the basket lips to rest on the lid, preventing it from falling though.
2nd, In the bucket that the lid will sit on (top bucket), using your drill and hole saw cut one hole dirctly in the center of the bucket and cut a second hole somewhere off to the side.
3rd, Attach your pvc to the exhaust of your Maxi-Jet (any power head will do. I am partial to Maxi-Jet). Once attached, place this in the bucket with no hole cut in it (bottom bucket)
4th, If your media basket does not have holes in the bottom, drill some 1/4 inch holes in it. About 6 -12 will due.
5th, With your pump and pvc in the bottom bucket with the pvc facing up and the cord hanging out, place the top bucket into the bottom bucket. The pvc will come though the hole in the center of the bucket. The second hole is for drainage into the bottom bucket. At this point, you may have to cut the of the pvc so that it is about 3-4 inches from the base of the media basket.
6th, Rinse your expanded clay pellets and fill your media basket and insert it into the square cut out in the lid. Place your lid onto the bucket and you have a hydroponic bucket system.

For information regarding nutrient solutions, lighting and plant selection, please refer to a hydroponic company.