Friday, August 8, 2008

Bringing it All Together

Another approach to channel organization is the "Star" system which arranges the channels radially. The good news is that this solves the problems posed by the parallel organization. The bad news is that it has some problems of its own. The solutions are:
  1. You can get to all the channels much more easily.
  2. The nutrient return to the tank is easy since they are all arranged radially.
  3. You can manage each channel individually since they are all fed individually.
So what's not to like? Well into every life a little rain must fall, as my mother used to say. The Star-architecture has a few issues:
  1. Each channel requires its own support structure. I solved that with the pedestal mount which works pretty well and is fairly each — but you need two per channel.
  2. Distribution of the nutrient requires a nutrient feed tube for each channel. I do that by bungie-cording them onto the channel, but
  3. That requires a manifold to distribute the nutrient. You can see it sticking up there out of the tank. Each channel nutrient distribution tube has it's own feed. These can be "turned off" by removing the (whatever they call'em — thingie) and replacing it with a plug which screws in.
  4. Notice the black stuff (that's a ground cover plastic and it is essential) — You have to keep the nutrient dark (as in let no light in) or you will be the charitable host of algae which will eat your nutrient and gum up your pumps.
  5. Oh and did I mention the overhead structure which just got more complicated too. Each channel needs an overhead structure from which to suspend strings on which to attach and support the plants. Like the channel support this requires two verticals per channel.
So all is not a rose garden. But still the star system is cool. The header has a picture of a six tube star system as it was put into practice. I've obviously inspired some imitators since other hobbyists have sent me pictures of their stars. Once you've created the pieces (which are mostly just cut to length and drill a few holes) you can put the system up in about an hour or two. It comes down more quickly but you have to clean out the channels and as experience has taught me, sanitize them as well or you're inviting plant diseases in subsequent years.

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