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Indoor controlled environment options

So I have a couple of nepenthes, but is feel that I can't reasonably provide the temperature drops they want, being that it will start to get too warm at night for nature to provide it for them anymore (highlander hybrid and ventricosa). So I was hoping to perhaps get a very small, portable indoor greenhouse or terrarium like container which is temperature controlled. While I did find some stuff on the internet, it was all for keeping stuff warm, none seemed to be good for cooling stuff down to the extent I would need.

Any advice guys, for those who don't have any outdoor stuff but still have indoor highlander nepenthes? How would you keep them cool? And don't say refrigerator, they won't fit and my mom would have a fit, and they are a bit too cold anyways. I thought of ice packs, but am concerned that they will contaminate the soil somehow. Freezing DI water and placing the cubes on the soil has crossed my mind, but I don't know if I could use enough to cool the plant without overwatering it.
freezing water is at best a short term option.... it would get old mighty quick.
frozen water bottles also act as a dehumidifier

Basement is easiest option if available
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I have heard of many different people trying many different things in situations similar to yours. By and large the most successful indoor cooling setups do involve a refrigerator or refrigerant of some kind. When your house and the entire environment surrounding your house wont naturally get down to highland temperatures it becomes a huge expenditure of resources to try and artificially create that scenario. If the nighttime temperatures outside still fall down into the 50's or low 60's then you can use the outside to cool your terrarium. Ice packs and ice cubes will become a mess and you will find quickly that they would be a hassle and largely ineffective. My suggestion to you is to limit the number of true highlanders you purchase and just see if your hybrids and N. ventricosa can stick it out with whatever temperatures the house/environment can give them. N. ventricosa is not a particularly picky plant and although it may not thrive in lowland conditions it probably wont die all the way back and come winter time it may resume to being healthy and vigorous. Many hybrids can withstand lowland/intermediate temperatures without much problem. The only problems with hybrids that I have noticed come usually when it is a primary hybrid and one or both of the parents is a particularly finicky highlander. Even then, some of these crosses prove to be hardy.

TLDR: without a refrigerant or swamp cooler, cooling your terrarium will be extremely difficult.
Where would I get a swamp cooler of small size? Another issue is that my summers are too hot and my winters are too cold, there isn't much time in the year in which temperatures work. Also, I live in a dorm for half the year, so no basement.

I wish I could perhaps get more lowlanders, but so many of them get really big, I can only house relatively small plants.
Probably, the best method for small highland (dorm) setups is using a vapor cycle (refrigerant) aquarium chiller....
However, unless you have one laying around, this can be an expensive investment.

Contrary to tribal knowledge I find Heliamphora do not need diurnal temperature drop.
Mine seem perfectly happy and colorful without it.
Beyond that.... I'm no nep person.... I only grow two :)
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i built a setup using a modified chest freezer and so far it works really well to get any temps I want. Donh and rjgeorgia also use the same system.
One option is to change to an easier problem.It's always easier to add heat than cool things. You can just switch to lowland Nepenthes in a covered aquarium, if you need to heat that it's easy to have a reservoir of water in the bottom with a submersible aquarium heater in it.

I'm just offering this as a suggestion because you only have two highland plants, it's not too late to shift focus. I don't know how small of a terrarium you have to have but ampullarias can easily be kept small, and there are enough different clones in circulation to keep it interesting. You easily could grow 2 or 3 amps in a measly 10 gallon tank under one 25 watt compact fluorescent.
Divaskid thanks for the idea of the set up. Mine would be smaller as I want it to be portable, I was thinking of getting one of those small terrarium kits (maybe just 2 ft wide and 4 ft long, not too tall). I currently just use a humidifier in my room, and open my window with a fan blowing on the plants at night). I am preparing in the future for when I have more difficult plants. I would switch to lowlanders, but they are often so big and fast growing I wouldn't be able to house many of them once they were mature and actually producing good pitchers. So I am kind of stuck with the small highlanders.

Expense isn't a huge issue, as I save up my money and don't really splurge, I already have the lights, I just need a well insulated container for at night so I can cool my plants down. My dorm gets unusually hot all year round (I never had to turn the heat on even when it was -10 degrees F outside, it remained a steady 80 degrees, and sadly, AC is not available when outdoor temps are below 50 degrees in my dorm). I can't just leave my window open as it gets way too cold in the winter, but I can't just leave it closed either. Maybe I will just change the setting on my refrigerator so that I can stick them in there until I figure stuff out. 45 degrees should be ok temporarily, right?
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I gotta side with Heli on this one and recommend a chest freezer. We were actually talking about it earlier today. Lowes has a 5-cu ft freezer for $189 with dimensions of 28.375" x 22" x 33.25" and a 7-cu ft for $229 @ 37" x 22" x 32.6". All of the sides are already covered with reflective metal so all you have to do is remove the door and slap on a piece of plexiglass on top for a cover. You can use a ZooMed hygrotherm to get your night time drops (instead of using the freezer's internal thermometer) and whatever fogger of your choice for humidity. It is also tall enough to accommodate some vining once your nepenthes hit that stage.

It really is the best bang for your buck and easiest approach to achieving adequate night time temps and humidity. Plus at that size it would, well feasibly, fit into a dorm room. I am not quite sure how it would look stacked on a dresser but at least it is not HUGE lol.

This is about the only pic I can find of an empty one online (albeit the GE one):

You can also scroll to the very bottom and see Heli's setup here: http://www.terraforums.com/forums/showthread.php/128640-Heli-s-picture-thread/page69

I would also not worry about moving them back and forth from the refrigerator. A lot of times just moving the plant from different environments so often will cause more stress than simply skipping out on night time drops.
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I'm not sure I would recommend this to anyone but here is the latest I've posted on my Wine Chiller setup using thermoelectric cooling. For maintaining constant temps its working great, but providing lows at night and highs in the day I started having real condensation concerns.


Its been about 6m without any real issues, but I would assume you would want more space for Neps and then your clearly better off with a compressor unit. Think more of a "beer fridge" than a refrigerator.

I'd recommend getting some of the GOOD LEDs out there as they produce very little heat and when your goal is cooling things it will work out better to pay more upfront for the lower heat producing lighting.
  • #12
I got a "broken" wine chiller (peltier cooling) off Craigslist for $15, replaced the peltier module, removed the circuitry and hacksawed the control panel off and affixed it all to a ~1.5 foot long by 5 inch board. It sits under my terrarium and cools one container to 60-68 during the day, and 52-56 at night.
As for condensation, I just made a small shroud around the fan inside the container (can sling condensated water), and remove some of it with a baster every couple weeks.
Agreed with RSS on the size limitation though, but I am not complaining for a sub-$30 cooled enclosure.
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From my experience, the #1 problem for all growers who like highland and ultra highland plants is the night temps drop.

I spend one year just to ajust and improve my highland setup.

My setup is very simple.

In my apartment, i have a room only for my plants. I run a A/C next to my setup, the air flux directly on my terrariums. This way, even with the massive full spectrum i throw in the tank, the temperature stay cool, at 24C max. Each terrarium in that room have a .5 inches hole on the cover. This way, my plants have a gentle air flow running slowly inside the tank and the relative humidity stay at 85%.

At night, when my timers close my T5 tubes, i add 3 little icepaks inside each terrarium, and with my A/C running, i can reach 15C with 80%RH.

I had to ajust my a/c to the right angle, because the cold air have to hit all terras. I also have to monitor the vibration, because of the a/c. That was bad for my plants, shaking all the time.

Also, i had to buy new window store pannels, because the sun pushed a lot of heat in the room, at the wrong angle.
I had to move the plants, because helis species like hispida or neblinae need cooler roots night temps. So i move these plants on the cooler side of my terra, where the a/c air hit the pannel. Many others lil details i had to set also.

For my temperate plants who need dormancy, i just open a window next to the setup. This way, my plants just fall slowly asleep in november, and when they are 100% dormant, i bag them and put all these lil guys in the fridg at 3C until next april.
I just open the bags once a month to add 2-3 water myst shots and to see if everything is ok.

So, you will need to 'try and learn'. Each lil details are important, and at the end, you will run the perfect setup for your plants, in your growing space and with your local RH% and temperatures.

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