Grow Tent Setup: The Complete Guide
Are you wondering about setting up your very first tent? You’re in the right place! Grow tents are one of the most important tools when it comes to indoor gardening and setting them up is a simple process once you know what’s needed.
A grow tent allows you to recreate nature under your very own conditions. Basically, when you’re using a grow tent properly, you become the weather.
It’s important to remember: Your grow tent itself is only the exterior structure. To have a reliable indoor gardening system, you’ll need some other pieces of equipment and organize them in a way that will help you create a constant and suitable plant growing environment. This is called dialing in.
The most complicated part of this process is getting your grow tent setup just right the first time around. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!
Why Should You Even Use a Grow Tent?
Running a tent simplifies indoor soil and hydroponic gardening. It allows you to grow crops all year long regardless of the seasons because you’re able to control the growing environment completely. This means better harvests, more organized growing, and fewer problems with pests and diseases.
On a more technical note, there are two important reasons that make setting up a grow tent the ideal choice when running an indoor garden:
Efficient Use of Space & Total Environmental Control
Having a grow tent eases up many of the concerns related to growing indoors, like building a grow room and organizing that space. On top of that, grow tents allow you to have different growing environments in the same room — right next to each other if you want! It doesn’t get much better than that.
Grow tents provide an ideal environment for your plants, especially if you’re a hydroponic grower. Since they allow for a cleaner environment than the usual outdoor setup, hydroponics is especially suitable for grow tents.
Haven’t tried growing hydroponically yet? I’ve got a whole section on hydroponics! Here’s a quick introduction to how the basic hydroponic systems work so you can choose the one you like best:
Ease of Use and Simplification of Gardening
With a grow tent, you:
- No longer have to actually build a grow room
- Can set up and transport your growing environment easily
- Save money compared to a grow room
- Can deconstruct and entire setup in just minutes
Grow tents also simplify the use of other growing equipment. For instance, quality grow tents come with a variety of ports that fit different sizes of ventilation fans, built in holders for grow lights, holes for the wires, waterproof floor trays, reflective coating on the inside to improve light utilization, light proof heavy duty exteriors, windows and much more.
Grow Tent Setup: The Materials
Here’s a list of materials and other tools you’ll need for your very first grow tent setup. I go into more depth about each section below as well.
You don’t need everything on this list, but serious growers often have all of these (and more):
- Temperature and Humidity Gauge
- Basic Assembly Tools
- Tape and Fasteners
The space available to you is usually the biggest limiting factor, so make sure you pick a tent with enough vertical height to accommodate the type of plants you want to grow and the extra equipment too.
If you need help in choosing a good grow tent, we’ve made a nifty little guide where we go over all the details you need to know at the moment of choosing the best grow tent for your needs: Choosing the Best Grow Tent For You
Grow Lights, Reflectors, Holders & Straps
Your grow light is what gives your plants energy for processing the nutrients you’re giving them. They're one of the most important pieces of equipment you'll buy, so you have to make sure you choose a grow light that is suitable to your grow tent.
Give them too much light and you’ll end up needing extra ventilation to keep the heat out and will risk burning the plants if they get too close, on the other hand too little light and you'll have an under-performing garden.
The truth is that there is a sweet spot for grow lights and we should try to be as close as we can to it at any time!
If you’re using an HID grow light a good rule of thumb is that you’ll need roughly 45-70 watts per square feet of tent space. This means that the ideal wattage of HID grow light for a 3 by 3 foot tent would be anywhere from 400 to 600 Watts.
This rule also holds true if you’re using low intensity LED’s (Mars, Epistar, etc).
You can learn more about choosing the best grow light for your specific needs by following my guides:
- The Best HPS Bulbs
- Metal Halide Grow Lights Explained and Reviewed
- Ceramic Metal Halide Grow Lights Explained and Reviewed
- The Best Full Spectrum LED Grow Lights
Regardless of the type of light you end up choosing, you will need grow light rope ratchets to hold it up safely. I recommend the 1/8" Rope Hangers from Apollo Horticulture.
If you're growing in a very small tent...
When running a very small tent (2’ x 2.5’ or smaller) you should pay special attention to your lighting choices. Try to not choose a ridiculously large light setup as the heat generated will easily fill the tent and make your gardening much harder.
I recommend high quality broad spectrum LED grow lights for tents of this size.
Air Flow and Ventilation
Will your grow tent be very hot?
Will your grow tent need to be smell-proof?
If you answered yes to either of those questions, you need to pay extra attention to your grow tent ventilation.
Plants need enough air exchange in order to grow healthy, it’s as simple as that. But sometimes, if your room is too hot (like when using HID grow lights), appropriate ventilation will help your plants breathe, and will also helps keep your grow tent’s temperature and humidity within your ideal range.
I’ve previously written a guide on grow room ventilation that will help you understand all this in depth: Grow Room Ventilation 101
As a rule of thumb, it's recommended that the air in the tent is refreshed at least twenty times an hour to avoid problems such as mold, excess heat, and high humidity.
Here’s another useful tool, this is a cool calculator by PHRESH Filter where you can figure out your ventilation needs by just filling in your grow tent measurements and the amount of lights you have in your room.
This calculator will give you a value in CFM, which is short for cubic feet per minute. It is a measurement of the velocity at which air flows into or out of a space. Extraction fans are usually rated in CFM, this number will let you know with certainty your lowest airflow limit when figuring out your ventilation needs.
Sometimes, depending on the kind of crop you want to grow, you may need to filter the air that comes out of your grow tent to keep the extra pungent smell of some crops in check. For this, you’ll need a carbon filter, appropriate ducting, and a good inline fan:
Meters and Other Tools
There’s a plethora of other tools you may need to setup your perfect grow room, but to keep it simple I’ve decided to only list the most basic ones.
Step by Step Instructions
Assemble Grow Tent
With so many different brands of grow tents and all their slight differences, I’ve decided to keep this section simple, most tents are built very similarly and the building process is basically the same for all of them.
Here’s a video showing a basic tent setup:
The basic process of assembling a grow tent consists of two basic parts:
- Assembling the frame
- Putting on the cloth
That’s it. Other than that you may need to attach specific add ons that may not take more than five minutes to do. If your tent is very big you may have trouble assembling it by yourself. Remember to ask for help!
Grow Light Setup
Setting your grow light is as simple as setting up your holders, attaching the hood, and organizing your wiring to neatly go outside to your timer and plugs.
Here’s a video showing the basic grow light setup.
If you’re using a closed-hood HID fixture, you need to attach the ducting to the fixture and exhaust to the outside, here’s another quick video showing how:
Note: If you’re using LED grow lights, it gets even easier! Just attach your holders to your fixture and you’re all set! You have it a lot easier too since you don’t need such powerful ventilation thanks to the relatively cool operation of most LED grow lights.
The use of a carbon filter is optional. Carbon filters are designed to keep air clean and free of odors that may come out of your room. If you don’t need to keep your environment free of smells you don’t really need to install one.
Here’s a video of the basic exhaust fan + duct + carbon filter setup:
Again, make sure there’s enough cool air outside the grow tent in order to cool it, without additional air conditioning.
Note: Fans are more efficient when we use them to pull air, instead of pushing.
Dialing In & Safety Scan
After your grow tent is setup the most important step is dialing in. Dialing in is about figuring out a balance between your environmental factors, like airflow, humidity, heat and so on, and between your equipment in order to keep your grow tent running a constant environment.
This is also the time to test your equipment and run it for a while, make sure you put your environmental meters in your grow tent even without any plants just so you can get a feel of how it’s running and keep an eye on those numbers.
Make sure everything is securely fastened and not prone to fall, give you tent a slight shake to check if everything is safely placed. You don’t want your whole setup dying from a slight bump, do you?
Remember that when running a grow tent, you’re the weather. Find the settings you can most easily keep stable and work from there!
What About CO2?
To set up CO2 in a grow tent is not a simple task. You’ll need to setup a completely sealed room, a CO2 burner, a controller, an air conditioner, and a dehumidifier. And if any of your CO2 equipment malfunctions your grow is as good as done due to how many environmental factors have to be kept in check to run CO2 properly.
What To Do After You Set Up Your Grow Tent
- Choose the right hydroponic system
- Start your seeds
- Give nutrients and water regularly
- Watch, learn and grow with your plants!
Thanks for reading!
You should now feel confident at making your own choices when it comes to setting up for own grow tent. We’ve gone over the basic setup of a grow tent system and all the necessary equipment to run your own dialed in indoor grow and enjoy the simplicity of an almost automated system.
Remember, it’s always 90% grower 10% equipment! As easy as grow tents make indoor gardening to be, you’re still the central piece in this whole setup, never neglect your garden or your plants will let you know, plants never lie!
I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed my tutorial. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment telling me what you think about this guide, or if you still have any doubts or even if you think I’ve missed an important point. Even if you’re just thankful, just let me know...I love hearing from you!