Phototron

I recently saw a Phototron advertisement and was wondering if you could tell me if this would be suitable for marijuana growing? The most powerful model emits 18,900 lumens. Do you think this would be a good investment?
Donny,
Palatine, Illinois

The Phototron is a novelty machine which produces minute quantities of bud. It has a growing space of only a few cubic feet and provides only a small fraction of the light produced by a 1000 watt lamp, and light is the energy which powers photosynthesis. So the more light the plants receive in the spectrums they use, the bigger they will grow. To put it simply, light equals growth.

The Phototron stands slightly less than a meter high. It is a flat-paneled cylinder with an inside diameter a little less than 50 centimeters. Inside, a number of fluorescent tubes illuminate the area up close, so all the light stays in the garden close up to the plants. For this reason plants in the garden are well lit. The problem is the size of the garden. It is only a few cubic feet and can hold a limited amount of vegetation which results in a low total yield. The size limitation may also cause heat buildup problems. Most stories of people using the device have not been happy ones. However, I have received two letters from satisfied customers over the many years this device has been around.

For the same price you can buy a 1000 watt lamp (which produces about 130,000 lumens) and accessories to set up a real garden of about 1.5 square meters that would produce a couple of kilos a year.

Readers with grow questions (or answers) should send them to Ed at:
Ask Ed, PMB 147, 530 Divisadero St., San Francisco, California 94117, USA
You can also email Ed at [email protected], and send queries via his website at www.quicktrading.com.
All featured questions will be rewarded with a copy of Marijuana Question? Ask Ed. Sorry, Ed cannot send personal replies to your questions.

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  482. Tempus Teapot on

    Ed Rosenthal’s review of the Phototron is honest, but it’s also incomplete and a little out-of-date. The units currently available range 240 – 540 (or thereabouts) watts, but that lighting is from compact flourescents that yield high candlepower per watt, and that light is used very efficiently due to the enclosed, mirrored environment. And there are ways of adding additional lamps in the center for tinkerers out there.

    Heat-buildup problems are easily resolved by opening panels, but special ventilation panels with fans are available. In my experience, this is more important for circulating air (enclosed environments can stagnate and promote mold, ruining crops).

    Yield is indeed relatively low – I can sometimes get 1.5 ounce per unit in a 3-month cycle, but that can be enough for personal use and maybe enough left over to share.

    The other catch, is that it can take a little trial-and-error, modifying your growing methodology and taking the instructions with a proverbial grain of salt, so the first and second crops may not be a great success. Many users bail out at this point, which is why you can often buy perfectly good units used on eBay or in Craigslist.

    The Phototron DOES have some advantages over other home-growing methods: It’s relatively simple, self-contained, and ready-to-grow; It’s very compact, great for closets or if you simply have a small apartment with no growing room. It doesn’t put too big a dent in your electric bill, which also means it doesn’t draw too much attention if anyone’s playing Big Brother with monitoring your power use. And while you can forgo the pyraponic growing methodology (similar to hydroponic) and simply place a potted plant inside, the sterile sphagnum medium attracts much less bugs and pests than potting mix. I wouldn’t recommend for producing any sort of quantity, and you can yield much more from a single seed outdoors or in a growing room, given adequate time, but if you only need enough for personal and social use, have limited space, and want a potentially-quick turnaround, or if you want to grow plants in isolation from each other, the Phototron is a very practical option.

    If you DO get a Phototron, I have some recommendations:
    (1), while instructions call for as many as 50 seeds per germination cup and thinning seedlings down to one, use some common sense. Good seeds are expensive or hard-to-get. I plant 2-5 seeds per cup, with expectation of a couple of runts or non-viable, and transplant all healthy seedlings (taking care to spread a few inches apart)
    (2), while you must use fresh medium in germination cups, I’ve found that I can recycle sphagnum (taking care to remove as much root as possible) from previous crop cycles and blend with fresh medium for the new crop, the plants don’t notice any difference. I have three Phototrons, but only need one germination kit per crop cycle. That’s a savings of over $100 per cycle!
    (3), I STRONGLY recommend blacking-out the outsides of the translucent reflective panels, either with some sort of opaque material or with black primer and overpaint. Leave the inner face reflective, but making the panel opaque makes it a LOT easier to assure near-total darkness in the budding cycle, and has the additional advantage of making the Phototron less conspicuous.
    (4), I recommend the Feed-A-Tron, but don’t bother with the expensive Feed-A-Tron II: You can aerate just as effectively, and less expensively, with a regular aquarium pump and a flexible airstone.
    (5), Feed-A-Trons can be noisy, and kick in at random moments, which may be a problem if you’re trying to keep things inconspicuous. Wrap the pump in carpet padding to cut down on noise and dampen vibration.
    (6), get the “lazy-susan” turntable base. Being able to rotate the Phototron makes it much easier to groom and process plants.

  483. Tempus Teapot on

    Ed Rosenthal’s review of the Phototron is honest, but it’s also incomplete and a little out-of-date. The units currently available range 240 – 540 (or thereabouts) watts, but that lighting is from compact flourescents that yield high candlepower per watt, and that light is used very efficiently due to the enclosed, mirrored environment. And there are ways of adding additional lamps in the center for tinkerers out there.

    Heat-buildup problems are easily resolved by opening panels, but special ventilation panels with fans are available. In my experience, this is more important for circulating air (enclosed environments can stagnate and promote mold, ruining crops).

    Yield is indeed relatively low – I can sometimes get 1.5 ounce per unit in a 3-month cycle, but that can be enough for personal use and maybe enough left over to share.

    The other catch, is that it can take a little trial-and-error, modifying your growing methodology and taking the instructions with a proverbial grain of salt, so the first and second crops may not be a great success. Many users bail out at this point, which is why you can often buy perfectly good units used on eBay or in Craigslist.

    The Phototron DOES have some advantages over other home-growing methods: It’s relatively simple, self-contained, and ready-to-grow; It’s very compact, great for closets or if you simply have a small apartment with no growing room. It doesn’t put too big a dent in your electric bill, which also means it doesn’t draw too much attention if anyone’s playing Big Brother with monitoring your power use. And while you can forgo the pyraponic growing methodology (similar to hydroponic) and simply place a potted plant inside, the sterile sphagnum medium attracts much less bugs and pests than potting mix. I wouldn’t recommend for producing any sort of quantity, and you can yield much more from a single seed outdoors or in a growing room, given adequate time, but if you only need enough for personal and social use, have limited space, and want a potentially-quick turnaround, or if you want to grow plants in isolation from each other, the Phototron is a very practical option.

    If you DO get a Phototron, I have some recommendations:
    (1), while instructions call for as many as 50 seeds per germination cup and thinning seedlings down to one, use some common sense. Good seeds are expensive or hard-to-get. I plant 2-5 seeds per cup, with expectation of a couple of runts or non-viable, and transplant all healthy seedlings (taking care to spread a few inches apart)
    (2), while you must use fresh medium in germination cups, I’ve found that I can recycle sphagnum (taking care to remove as much root as possible) from previous crop cycles and blend with fresh medium for the new crop, the plants don’t notice any difference. I have three Phototrons, but only need one germination kit per crop cycle. That’s a savings of over $100 per cycle!
    (3), I STRONGLY recommend blacking-out the outsides of the translucent reflective panels, either with some sort of opaque material or with black primer and overpaint. Leave the inner face reflective, but making the panel opaque makes it a LOT easier to assure near-total darkness in the budding cycle, and has the additional advantage of making the Phototron less conspicuous.
    (4), I recommend the Feed-A-Tron, but don’t bother with the expensive Feed-A-Tron II: You can aerate just as effectively, and less expensively, with a regular aquarium pump and a flexible airstone.
    (5), Feed-A-Trons can be noisy, and kick in at random moments, which may be a problem if you’re trying to keep things inconspicuous. Wrap the pump in carpet padding to cut down on noise and dampen vibration.
    (6), get the “lazy-susan” turntable base. Being able to rotate the Phototron makes it much easier to groom and process plants.