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HIghlands / Ultra-Highlands


Ok guys... as many of you know, because of where I live, (south texas) i have been restrained in my growing of highlands and ultra-highlands plants... and no... it's not rajah that's got me all bothered to grow (truthfully, I don't think it's all that spectacular, don't get me wrong, I want one, but there are more striking plants)

I am all fired up to get N. Bongso, Lowii, Hamata, and some other fun ones...

But first, I need a tank that can beat easily maintained, I don't have the time, or compunction to freeze soda bottles every night, and my wife will draw the line at me re-routing the airconditioner...

which, in my mind leaves me with the chiller idea... to expensive...

Someone, I think Pyro was talking about running air hose through a refrigerator, all coiled up... or maybe it was a water hose... can't remember...

I am just thinking about putting a air pump in a little refrigerator, putting the air stone in some water, to keep humidity up, and let it rip... what do you guys think... on a timer to do this only at night, would I have success?

Me thinks I might give it a try...
ram puppy the air stone in water should do the trick but might not get up to 80-90% humidity. you might want to use a little fan that usally is in the refrig to move the air around. the air hose will put out to much air and not cool it right.
OK... I just finished setting up my experiment.

As follows:

10 gallon tank

Peat/perlite/orchidbark substrate.

There is a 100 CD silo cover in the center, inverted and filled with approximately 1/4th gallon of distilled water, I used the rest of the gallon to re-hydrate the peat...

The airpump is in the refrigerator below the tank, with some of the tubing going through the small freezer portion. As it exits the refridgerator, it is wrapped in paper towels (scrunched around it) and then in foil for approximately 2 feet. Then the tube is in-sight and is bare (the wife would not be happy with a foil wrapped line in plain view&#33
then for another foot it is un-shielded, and then into the tank. Inside the tank the line runs to a large airstone and into the cd-silo cover full of water.

There is a 2 bulb fixture at 18's pumping light in from the top, top of tank is sealed with glass and saran wrap.

The tank is also recieving diffused sunlight through the window now, it is approximately 1 ft from the glass, with a row of books seperating most of the tank from the window, so light is coming in through the top 3 inches, and the top of the tank. (it's cloudy outside right now.) if the sun becomes an issue, I'll lower the blinds...


the setup has been running for 15 minutes so far, daytime temps seem stable at 83/84 degrees farenheight, however, I don't think it has fallen into any sort of balance yet, the water is probably cooling, stripping cold from the air, and since i had the refrigerator open, the air in there is probably not as cool as it could be just yet.

The real test, will be to see the high temp during the day for a number of days, and record the lowest temp during the night for a couple of nights... I will probably take readings at midnight and 6 AM, for night temps...

Humidity is already in the 90's, so I don't think that is going to be an issue.

My plan is to see how this works for today and tomorrow... if temps seem to be ok, I will move my judith finn and N. Rocco X Fusca over, and see if their growth improves. If that does well, then I will move up the difficulty and rareity chain to where I want to be. Feedback welcome of course!
Don't know how doable this is but you might get better insulating for your air tubing with the foam water pipe cover they sell for insulating copper pipe under homes or that insulated foil heat tape wrap minus the heat tape. Just a brain drizzle I had and thought I'd toss out for consideration.
Hope your setup works
I'm trying the cheap homeade method before I start adding to the setup!
I have heard this idea before Steve. I used it on my Rajah way back when it was a little 2 inch dia plant and it faired well with it. I still say ice is the best way but like you said you can't too time consuming and pain in the butt, which it is! I know! I use the method!
Hmm....your setup sounds good and since the enclosure is so small it should work good at night esp. when room temps are cooler. Perhaps place it in front of the AC output at night?
this whole setups' got me lost ram, lol, is the tank.. in the frig? are there cut holes for the hose? do you have to move anything nightly? if i can understand it, and it works, i just might dabble a little bit into some highlands and ultras
if you have a pic yet, can i see it?
I would love to give you a pic, but the digital is down for the count...


basically I have a little mini fridge, like for a dorm room. it is one 'leg' of a desk I made with an old oak door. On top of the desk is the 10 gallon tank.

There is an air pump in the fridge, that runs an insulated line into the tank (about um... 4 feet total line outside the fridge) the line comes t hrough the top, where a filter used to sit, so the top has a hole cut in it, which I have sealed relatively tight, with saran wrap.

The tube ends in a glass of water (the glass being the inverted top of a CD silo 100 ct) so the cold air bubbles through the water, into the tank.

Theoretically, if I can keep the air cold until it gets into the tank, it should first establish a balance in temps between it and the water as it bubbles through it, then the water and air (humidified as it comes through the water) should cool the tank...

it has risen to 85 Farenheit now... that is with 2 flourescent lights and sunlight on it... tonight, I am expecting a nice cool down...

ccrider, does that make sense now?

You highlanders types.. is 85 an acceptable upper temp? My highlands experience is watching my highlands intermediates languash in my lowlands setup.
rampuppy, didn't think the tank was that small but from what you got set up it all sould do the trick. just make sure there are no leaks with the cooling system going into the tanks and it could do the trick
  • #10
well... looks like I am going to have to close the blinds here... was hoping the extra sunlight would help... but the tem has spiked to 92 in the last hour (i have western sun... so it really beats up my air conditioning...

gonna close the blinds now and see how things change...

there are no visible leaks in the system...
  • #11
well, I closed the blinds 15 minutes ago, and the tank has dropped to 85 Farenheit... this is very promising... that is a significant dip, especially during the day, when light is still leaking through the blinds...

I am psyched. though.. I need to put new bulbs in this fixture.. .they started flickering... I tookem out and one has a very loose post... Grr...
  • #12
85 is the max highlands should be at, they can tolerate like 90F jumps for like 5-10 minutes but it isn't good. As long as days are 85 and lower and nights are 65 and lower with high humidity at all times except it can dip low during the day. But wiht those guidlines you most likely going to succeed with a Lowii,Burbidgeae and perhaps a Heliamphora if your interested in them.
  • #13
Not sure how much cooling you will get but worth running for a week and monitoring the temps to see what happens.

I would be interested to hear what the temperature of the air is as it exits the tubing. Assuming it is near freezing when it coils through the freezer section, it would also give you an idea how efficient your tubing insulation is. You may want to test with some insulation around the sides of the tank that you wont be looking through. Or maybe to place around it at night when the lights are off...

  • #14
OK... it's night time, and I just got home, and turned out the light about 10 minutes ago...

My max temp for the day was 86 degrees, and it was 82 when I got home. (My airconditioner was not set as low as it usually is)

So, about ten minutes later, I am at 79.3 degrees... and that's only ten minutes, and the ambient temp in my home drops into the low seventies high sixties at night... so I when I wake up tomorrow morning, I'll have a good idea of the temp drop I am going to get.

Already thinking that way tony...

I am thinking about encasing the tank in wood except for the top panel, putting two more lights on top, and putting a bank of 5 inch fans in to cool the lights.... And of course, buildng a vented wood canopy over the lights, and moving the ballasts out of the lights and onto the floor.

I am also thinking of buying a higher powered air pump, if I can pump more cool air, it holds true I should be able to cool even more... better insulation will probalby happen around the tubing as well, but I want to see how well this works home style before I start spending money on it.

can anyone tell me how long the plants need to be exposed to lower temps? is there a minimum number of hours? cause I will need to calculate How fast the tank can cool, and how long that cool temp will last before morning hits and the lights come on.
  • #15
Since these are tropicals roughly 12 heat 12 cool hours.

I just let mine go with the flow in a way, let them heat up day and cool them off at about 9PM, then I take out the cooling bottles anywhere from 7-9 in the morning. So bascially when you wake up you can remove,turn the cooling stuff.
  • #16
OK... well I woke up 5 minutes ago and checked the temp, it's only 77 degrees in there... so I think I am going to have to tweak this idea a little more maybe with the ideas from above first...

actually, I think

1) going to insulate the line better
2) Maybe get a longer line, and coil more of it into the freezer

If that doesn't have a significant impact, I will get ANOTHER small pump I have, put it in the fridge, and double up on the lines to see if putting one large pump in will be beneficial.

if that doesn't work, then who knows... the idea has merrit, but it may require liquid cooling to actually work....
  • #17
The plants should cool off fairly rapidly once the light goes out. That way their respiration slows rapidly also. In the wild they are cooling down fairly significantly as the sun begins to set....

My chemistry is rusty and I forget the term. But basically air is does not have the ability to store/release large amounts of energy(heat). So it would require large volumes to absorb all the stored heat in the terrarium and heat entering the terrarium through the glass once it starts to dip below room temperature. Before you go crazy with more air pumps, insulations etc etc.. You should think about the cooler that coleman makes. It will run on 12v or 120v ac. I think it is a 40qt cooler for about 50 bucks at walmart. Replace the lid with a piece of plexiglass and place it under 3-4 tubes of light. The only tricky part is wiring up a thermostat/timer so that it can be set to hit 50-55 at night instead of running continuously for chilling drinks.
  • #18
Interesting topic.

I'm in pretty much the same situation as you Ram and until now I have not tried many highlanders for the same reasons.

The fridge on it's side with a perspex lid idea appeals to me but I don't want to have to run it 24/7.

Am I correct in thinking that for many of them (same as Ram - Rajah is not my dream Nep, I want to try dubia) will tolerate almost normal lowland temps in the day as long as they get it nice and cool at night?

Cheers, Troy.
  • #19
I have found most highlands/ultrahighlands to tolerate fairly warm temps during the day.  As long as humidity and air circulation are very high.  

With my current set up the under bench misters click on around 82-83 degrees then the vents open around 85 degrees and the first exhaust fan clicks on around 86-degrees.  There is a second exhaust fan that will activate around 88degrees.  MOST days only the one exhaust fan is running.. which means the temps run between 86-88 although on a really hot summer day both will be running so temps are getting to the high 80s-low 90s.  The key here is that the under bench misting clicks on before any of the exhaust fans and runs continuously and is the last system to click off as temps cool down at night... There is almost a fog of fine mist floating around the highlands during the day when the system is operating.  Actual plant temperature is probably a little lower then the temperature registering by the thermostats.  

My next system will be evaporative cooling pads however.  This would allow for much less water usage and cooler air temps then I can currently achieve.  

bottom line... mid to upper 80s with good humidity and air circulation.  90's are iffy and risk losing plants

I think you would find it fairly economical to run a fridge/freezer on its side. With a setback thermostat you could set it for 80 during the day and 55 at night and your probably only cooling to 15-20 degrees below ambient temperature. With a well insulated fridge it probably will not run all that much. Maybe Jeff can add more with regard to this.

  • #20
Running a fridge for 24/7 should not be a problem at all. The key factor is the very good insulation of the system. For plants of course warm day-temperatures are needed which can easily be reached by turning the fridge off by day. If light is powerful enough and the thermal capacity of all materials inside the fridge are low, the temperature will rise in short time. Risk of overheating is high in such a good insulated system, so using a fridge with two different thermostats set up for different day and night temperatures would be ideal.

Avoid using those small fridges with peltier elements designed for use in cars etc. Peltier elements do have a horrible bad efficience. Normal fridges are already very good insulated and they can easily made better by increasing the insulation with a layer of styrofoam - I suppose you won't set up such a system in your living room...

The temperature range Tony mentioned above, does match my experience and is suited for most Nepenthes - well some ultrahighlanders may need even lower temperatures. Nepenthes like N. bongso or lowii will already be happy with night temperatures of about 55-60 degrees.