DIY 18 gal DWC totes -- FULL tutorial

Dr. Green Fang

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This is going to be "thick" and an extreme bummer to type all out, but this is for the greater good!! :D

Hope you enjoy this walk through of creating an 18 gal DWC system.

Parts and equipment list:

- 4x Rubbermaid Roughneck totes
- 4x 8" Mesh Pot (the kind for 5 gal bucket, looks like this)
- 4x 4" mesh pot (to hold hydroton and block your access port)
- 4 feet (or more ..I'd get more) of 3/4" black hose
- 19mm Rubber Grommet
- 3/4" plastic Elbow Connectors
- 7/8" Butter Fly drill bit (Mostly known as a Spade bit)
- Drill bit the size of the air hose (will get specifics later and edit this thread)
- Utility Knife (and brand new blades!)
- Patience!

Let's get this started!! :D

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^ Firstly, you'll want to purchase your totes or containers of some type (this tutorial will work for any bin you choose to create, for the most part)
I bought 18 gal Rubbermaid Roughneck totes. I have a few reasons why I choose this tote, but mostly it was for a robust composition (lots of water going in these) and the top lid was nearly flat. MOST totes that are strong seem to have all types of angles on the tops...
These totes are about $8 at your local Wally World.

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^ You'll want to have all this stuff handy. This is the 3/4" elbow connector, 19mm rubber grommet, 3/4" rubber hose.

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^ 4" mesh pot for the access port

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^ Put your drill on reverse for plastics!! I can not stress that enough. At least with butter fly bits + plastic!

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^ When you line up your hole, you want to pick a spot that works for your grow space. For me, the 4 bins are going to be in a square formation, and I have two doors on my tents. 1 door has a "lower" access area than the other..so it's easier to use. Either way, since I have two doors, I want to make sure my drain hoses will line up to the easiest point to get and drop them to floor level to then attach a pump and pump them out. For me, making sure the hoses were in the central area of the tent, and in the middle of the totes was a key move, for ease of bending down the hose and attaching the pump. Also, you don't want to drill too far down near the bottom of the tote, mostly so you have an entirely even seal with the rubber grommets in the holes.

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^ Cut the 3/4" hose to 12" (if you're using my totes, if not your size depends on your container). Make sure all cuts are clean and quick. You want to keep it that way when dealing with plastics and rubber.

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^ Ok.. so....I haven't done this in about a years time. After working in this room for over 10 hours straight, I was getting to drill the holes. I put the drill in position and just went for it. The most JAGGED darn hole ever. I had no spare tote and just ruined one of my only 4...You bet your arse I got right up and went directly to Wally World... 35 minutes away, over an hour round trip later, I got back and went back to work. Either way, just after I ruined it, I thought it would be a good idea to quickly ruin some more holes and then do it the correct way and take a picture of it! You see, with plastic and drilling holes (with butter fly bit), you have to "melt" the plastic not cut the plastic. So, with the drill on reverse, using a 7/8" drill bit you put the drill into position, and basically let the weight of the drill work the bit down. It takes about 30 solid seconds to get through and do the hole properly. The second the drill goes through the hole, make sure the drill continues through the hole and you turn off the trigger immediately! This is so you don't bounce around and cause jagged edges. You see, the rubber grommet will somewhat "fill" the gouges and general imperfections, but it can not be too crazy.

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^ This is what a proper hole looks like, and then how it looks with 19mm grommet filling the hole.

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^ Next, wet the 3/4" elbow connector (I used my mouth.. yep...lol) and then work this thing into the hole. Remember, you don't want to ruin the rubber grommet, so mentally think of that.. but...you still have to slam this sucker in there! Work, work, work it right up to the second "rib" on the connector. Don't just push it straight in, but actually spin and push at the same time.

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^ Then, attach the 3/4" hose to the elbow. To do this, I put the elbow facing the bottom of the tote, put the tote on the side then used the palm (kinda) area of my hand to hold the connector whilst working on the 3/4" hose. Before I tried to connect, I wet the connection (yep...my mouth again.. you can use water+soap if you like, but no need). Make sure you sink the hose all the way over the 3rd "rib" of the connector :aok:

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^ I took an 8" water catch tray and used it to trace my center circle that will be used for the mesh pot with the plant.


....continued in next post....
 

Dr. Green Fang

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....continued....

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^ Also, using a water bottle (or some circle just smaller than 4") I traced that to get my access port. Take a mental note while cutting these two holes. The bit pot hole should be centered BUT.. should be off just a bit to one side....just millimeters. Make it "favor" one side, so that you know you have enough room for the access hole. When you cut these using a razor, go over it firstly slow and scour the circle in. This way, when you really sink the blade on the second time, you have a good path to go with. Be careful, as you can "skip" or slip and cut WAY past a spot on accident, then *boom*...you're screwed and need another tote cover! Be careful, and remember.. I warned you to be careful. I don't want to hear you cut your freaking finger off. Don't be dumb. :D

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^ This is generally what it will look like after. You may have to take your utility knife and "freehand" the hole a bit, to get things to fit in. If it's too tight, that's ok you can always SHAVE (shave people, not hack..) a bit of the hole out so things fall into place.

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^ Here is the somewhat finished product. You want to drop your two mesh pots in and test them out, making sure you're satisfied with all holes and understand what you're working with. Unfortunately (I say this because it was a pain)...I didn't have an 8" mesh pot empty to test with. So this is a good idea of finished product WITH a plant :D

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^ Good music is a must whilst working :aok:

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^ Let's not forget to drill the hose hole. Put this somewhere near the top around the rim. Depends on where you want it and your space.

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^ When you're satisfied, put in 2.5 (or so) gallons of water (not nutrient solution) into your bins to test them out. Setup your airstones and air pump system, after you've filled an amount into your totes. I mean, you can fill whatever amount you want, as long as it goes over the bottom hole you made. The more you use, the easier you can tell if you'll have any types of leaks, BUT...the more water you have to get out quickly, if indeed you do have a leak lol.
After you're satisfied with no leaks, you have air stones going, you've given it a good 30 minutes and checked well (with a flash light) for leaks, you can then mix up your nutrient solution and fill your bins. I happen to use 8.5 gallons of solution when I first create the setups. This puts the solution right about 1/8 of an inch to 1/4 of an inch below the bottoms of the 8" mesh pots, after they are in with plants. At this point, you should've had 1 - 2 weeks of these plants already been transplanted into whatever medium you're going to DWC with (I suggest hydroton) and the roots should be wanting to spit right out the bottom of the mesh pots anyways. Within 24 hours, you should see some roots poking out of the bottom. As long as you use a GOOD air pump and GOOD air stones... I can not stress that enough!
*side note here*...I was a TOTAL bonehead, and did my 4" mesh pots incorrectly on 1 of my totes. 2 of the tops of the totes should have the 4" mesh pots on the RIGHT and 2 of the other tops of the other totes should have the 4" mesh pots on the LEFT!!!! This is so you have super easy access to the center of the tent openings, for checking PPM's / PH and to do add back solutions. Luckily for me, I figured this out in the end, and put the odd one in the front of my tent so that all I have to do is open wide the doors when I need to access it. STILL a pain in the ***, and you bet your bum I'll get another top and fix this later on... but oh well. I figure between this, and drilling the holes incorrectly for this tutorial, it will all help you in mentally preparing! I had been working many hours that day... I did 16 1/2 hours STRAIGHT on my feet the entire time. I ate once that day, and stood while I did it lol. Anyways, I'm getting off track. Just think about all positions... "measure twice, cut once" as my dad would always say.

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^ Here's some almost finished product shots, before training

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^ This is directly after training...yep, they are flattened! :D I did a combination of LST and Super Cropping here, and will give them a little more time to recover and transfer containers (transplant kinda) then flip em. In Veg state for these, I've done two rounds of topping, and LST / Cropping and vegged for nearly 8 weeks probably. They were 24" when I put them in.. I need to check how tall they are now and my distance to my lights....ok rambled again! Carrying on.

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^ Like I said, good air stones are a must! After trying many different kind, the 4" cylindrical stones (the two on the left in this pic) are easily my favorite stone. I do not like micro bubbles, I like larger bubbles and a larger foot print of bubbles. More and higher "popping" and splatting goes on IMO :D

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^ And lastly, here's a pic of them just a few hours after finishing, and they are already reaching toward the LED's



And that concludes this tutorial. I may edit along the way, and surely am looking forward to any and all questions / comments said from here. Thanks for checking out my DIY, I hope it helps you! :aok:



**DISCLAIMER**
I must tell you all, this plastic is not BPA free and all that jazz. Some people think very strongly against things being grown in non-food safe containers. I have not had a problem, but I guess if I had my way now, I'd buy all new bins for this. Just a bit expensive. Just wanted to give you that warning. :aok:
 

Dr. Green Fang

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Tutorial complete, and I'm posting here to let anyone know it's all good to type in here.

Ask away, speak away. Hate it, love it, ... all the things! Just want to hear your thoughts :aok:
 

zem

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hey Doc, nice job. you worked like what 14 hours straight? anyway, drilling holes in plastic is way easier using hole saws. i don't cut on reverse mode never had a problem, and i have cut countless holes... actually just today i cut a hole in plastic. It's great that you had so much motivation to drive one hour just for a tote.
 

Dr. Green Fang

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hey Doc, nice job. you worked like what 14 hours straight? anyway, drilling holes in plastic is way easier using hole saws. i don't cut on reverse mode never had a problem, and i have cut countless holes... actually just today i cut a hole in plastic. It's great that you had so much motivation to drive one hour just for a tote.
Yeah, after the day I had, I had it entirely in me to finish that room!!

Also, wow yeah nice.. didn't think a hole bit worked on plastic. Nice! :aok: Thanks for that one!
 

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Thanks Doc,

I have a noob question or two, that maybe some others may have. Just to clarify, the 4" hole is to check ppm/ph and add water back into. And the hose with the 90' elbow is for draining the system. Is it gravity fed or do you connect a pump?

Thumbs up for the awesome tutorial. Just so happens I have that tote kicking around, it may turn into a res soon.
 

Dr. Green Fang

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Thanks Doc,

I have a noob question or two, that maybe some others may have. Just to clarify, the 4" hole is to check ppm/ph and add water back into. And the hose with the 90' elbow is for draining the system. Is it gravity fed or do you connect a pump?

Thumbs up for the awesome tutorial. Just so happens I have that tote kicking around, it may turn into a res soon.
Ask away, no question too nooby for me! :D

You're correct on everything and then in the end you trail off.. the hose with the 90° elbow is connected to a 300 GPH pump when it's time to pump out the res. I attach to this hose, then put the hose so that it's horizontal with the ground. This primes the pump (puts liquid into it) and I suck it out into a 5gal bucket. usually 1 bucket will do it, but have 2 near by. I actually just did this tonight, as it was time to do my mid run change.

Thanks for enjoying the tut :aok:
 

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Thanks for the quick reply..

Could you elaborate a little bit on your res changes, the frequency ect.. I know its probably nutrient and plant specific, but how often do you have to check the water level / ppm / ph? I guess what im getting at, is how long do you, or could you, go before having to do add backs / top ups / or ph adjustments? Does it need to be monitored on a daily basis, or could you get by checking it weekly?

* how do you check the water level? A stick?* ;)
 

zem

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Doc I just noticed how you made your drain holes, it's way easier to use the elbow with 3/4" male screw type from one side, you can use a female from the inside to tighten them together and a rubber o ring in between, better than glue. it'e the way i do all holes and i have, let me count... 42 flood and drain holes that are made like that :D jeez i must have missed counting a few LOL
 

Dr. Green Fang

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Thanks for the quick reply..

Could you elaborate a little bit on your res changes, the frequency ect.. I know its probably nutrient and plant specific, but how often do you have to check the water level / ppm / ph? I guess what im getting at, is how long do you, or could you, go before having to do add backs / top ups / or ph adjustments?

* how do you check the water level? A stick?* ;)
I add back once a week or a little more generally, and my add backs are 2.5 gal. I try to run 8-9 weeks, and will fully empty out the res's at week 4 then do a fresh Bloom boosted nute solution. I'll do my stronger nute add backs from week 4-6. Week 7 and on I just addback water. If the strain will go 9 weeks, I'll add back a hygrozyme + tea solution once, then run it another week while adding back water only.

I generally check the PH everyday and the ppm's every other day. I check the water level by stickin my head over the hole and looking. :D Flash light can help.
 

Dr. Green Fang

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Doc I just noticed how you made your drain holes, it's way easier to use the elbow with 3/4" male screw type from one side, you can use a female from the inside to tighten them together and a rubber o ring in between, better than glue.
I say this with the most respect and humbleness... but I have no idea what you just said lol :) Gosh, that sounds horrible, but I'm not sure what you mean.

Also, better than glue? I didn't use glue, I'm confused. I'm sure you just typed all that and it read fine in your head, but to me I can't follow.

...ooooor maybe I'm just a bit baked!! lol
 

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haha okay picture that you're screwing a male and female connections together, the male outside female inside tote plastic in between :D i don't know how you fit that 19mm thing watertight with no glue and no screwing :)
 

Dr. Green Fang

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The rubber grommet (19mm thing) expands and fills all areas in the hole, from the 3/4" elbow connector pushing it out. :)
 

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They make a fitting, mostly used for rain barrels. It has a male end, and a female end. They screw together with a rubber gasket inbetween. So you push the male end through the drilled hole, slide the rubber gasket on the back, and screw the female end onto the male :) I do beleive they are alot more expensive than the style you used. They're called a Bulkhead fitting. What zem is referring too.

I like your style Doc, seems quite simple, the bulkhead fittings are slightly overkill for a smaller res. They are used to withstand the pressure of large 100gal rain barrels.

View attachment fit.jpg
 

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yeah well, i don't have 42 bulkhead fittings, I just get the regular male female fittings and screw them together for cheap. i understand how the rubber grommet works, i just would rather not have to push on that plastic hole and better to screw 2 pieces together tightly. your method is good, i'm only suggesting another that might be of use another time :D
 

Dr. Green Fang

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yeah well, i don't have 42 bulkhead fittings, I just get the regular male female fittings and screw them together for cheap. i understand how the rubber grommet works, i just would rather not have to push on that plastic hole and better to screw 2 pieces together tightly. your method is good, i'm only suggesting another that might be of use another time :D
Absolutely! :aok: And I thank you for that, surely.
 

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I add back once a week or a little more generally, and my add backs are 2.5 gal. I try to run 8-9 weeks, and will fully empty out the res's at week 4 then do a fresh Bloom boosted nute solution. I'll do my stronger nute add backs from week 4-6. Week 7 and on I just addback water. If the strain will go 9 weeks, I'll add back a hygrozyme + tea solution once, then run it another week while adding back water only.

I generally check the PH everyday and the ppm's every other day. I check the water level by stickin my head over the hole and looking. :D Flash light can help.
Lol I can picture you sticking your head in there trying to look down the holes.. probly smells quite pleasant in there. Thanks for the info about your add backs. I will do just that if and when I give it a go.

If you could find something thats long, skinny, and floats to stick in that 3/4 inch tube it would work great to keep an "eye" on the water level.

I will have to go through some of your grow logs, I would probably find alot of answers to my questions in there. Like what is your "tea solution" ;)
 
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