Ultimate Hydroponic System Guide
In my opinion, growing hydroponically is the best and quickest way to grow marijuana. I absolutely love hydroponic systems because of it’s ease of use, rapid plant growth, and the ability to almost be entirely automated.
The myth of hydroponic growing is that it takes a lot of time and work while being very complicated. The reality is quite the opposite. Once you have your hydroponic system set up, it takes less than an hour a day for you the maintain your crop. This maintenance time can also be reduced significantly with the use of timers and monitors.
Imagine being able to take a two week vacation during the flowering cycle of your grow with no worries about coming home to dead marijuana plants. This can only be possible when growing hydroponically.
There are many types of hydroponic system that you can choose from. You can even mix and match techniques to best suit your schedule and grow space. For example, running a automated “drip system” with an “Ebb and Flow” tray and reservoir. Or maybe running several “Bubble Buckets” with the “Nutrient Film Technique”.
The options are endless when it comes to hydroponic systems. Below, I will breakdown the common types of hydroponic systems so that you can choose the best system for your environment.
Types of Hydroponic Systems
Drip systems are one the easiest hydroponic system to set up. Drip systems basically involves “dripping” nutrient rich water directly to the roots of the plants. This drip can be constant or set up in intervals with an automated timer.
Here are the necessary parts required to build a Drip System:
The reservoir will hold the water mixed with hydroponic nutrients (my preferred method is the Lucas Formula). This nutrient rich water is then forced through the plastic tubing and emitters by the water pump. This will ensure that your marijuana plants will always have the correct amount of moisture and nutrients it needs to thrive.
Although an optional item, I highly recommend setting your Drip System with a simple timer. This will allow you to schedule your plant feedings at specific intervals throughout the day. All you have to do is hook up your water pump to the timer and set the timer to your preferred schedule. Your timer will turn on/off your water pump thus creating a complete automated Drip System.
Ebb and Flow
Another popular system is called an “Ebb and Flow” (also know as “Flood and Drain”). This hydroponic system works by flooding a tray of marijuana plants with nutrient rich water for a specific interval, then drains the water back to its reservoir until the next watering cycle.
It is best to purchase a pre-made Ebb and Flow system to prevent any leaks or overflows. However if you do choose to build your own, you will need the following:
- Plant Tray
- Water Pump
- Plastic Tubing
- Drain Fittings
- Tray Stand (to raise the tray above the reservoir)
(for detailed build instructions, please see this article)
Place the plant tray on it’s stand above the reservoir. Fill the tray with your preferred hydroponic medium and evenly space out your marijuana plants.
Fill the reservoir with your water/nutrient mix (again, preferred method is Lucas Formula) and place the water pump inside the reservoir. The water pump will force your water mix through the plastic tubes and into your plant tray.
It is important to place your tray above the reservoir to ensure that the water will flow back down into the reservoir after the watering cycle. The last thing you want is water overflowing out of the tray.
This flooding of the tray will efficiently feed your marijuana plants directly at it’s roots. Setting up a timer to your water pump will allow you to schedule your feeding schedule at a specific time and duration throughout the day.
This is very convenient because, like the Drip System, your Ebb and Flow system is completely automated. Very little maintenance is needed. You just need to check up on the water in the reservoir to ensure proper pH and nutrient levels.
Deep Water Culture
Deep Water Culture is very simple and inexpensive system to set up. Some even consider DWC as the purest form of all hydroponic systems.
This Deep Water Culture system holds plants on top of a container or bucket (also known as “Bubble Buckets”) and allows the plant’s roots to submerge directly in nutrient rich water. An air stone inside the bucket provides constant circulation of oxygen for the roots of the plant.
DWC is perfect for the DIY grower making this a great hydroponic system to build. You will need the following items to complete this build.
- 5 Gallon Bucket (or any sized container)
- Net Pots
- Air Pump
- Air Stone
- Plastic Tubing
Cut out a hole in the lid of your bucket or container that is big enough to fit your net pots.
A few inches below the lip of your bucket ( but above the water line), drill out a small hole that will easily allow you to insert the plastic tubing.
Place your air stone on the bottom of the bucket and connect the plastic tubing to it. Connect the other end of the tubing to the air pump located outside the bucket.
Fill the bucket with your water and nutrient mixture to your desired water level. Once you have planted your marijuana plant inside the net pot, place that net pot in the hole of the lid.
You can now turn on your air pump and sit back as you watch your marijuana plants flourishing. The air pump will need to be turned on and pumping oxygen into the buckets at all times 24/7.
You do not want the roots of your plants to sit in stagnant water for too long. The circulation of oxygen inside the bucket will prevent any mold or other diseases from attacking your plant.
These Bubble Buckets are very versitile because you can set up as many buckets as you want, as long as it fits under you grow lights. You can literally have an entire grow room filled a bunch of these buckets. Just make sure that each Bubble Bucket is provided with the correct amount of nutrients and sufficient oxygen.
Nutrient Film Technique
Similar to an Ebb and Flow system, the Nutrient Film Technique involves pumping water into your plant tray and drains the water back into its reservoir. Unlike Ebb and Flow, this flowing water runs constantly 24/7. There is usually very little to no grow medium used in the plant tray. The constant flowing water provides nutrients and oxygen to the roots of your plants which will encourage rapid growth.
You can assemble a Nutrient Film Technique hydroponic system the same way you do with an Ebb and Flow system. Another option is to use pvc piping or even rain gutters as a alternative to a plant tray.
Set up your reservoir with your nutrient rich water and turn on the water pump. The pump will force the water across all the plant roots and drain back down into your reservoir to continue the cycle.
You will need to monitor your reservoir’s water and nutrient levels a little more closely because the constant cycle can speed up evaporation when compared to other hydroponic systems.
Aeroponics is the process of growing your plants using a combination of the mist from nutrient rich water and air. This mist is sprayed directly to the roots of the plants in an enclosed environment.
Like the Nutrient Film Technique, Aeroponics do not use any growing medium. The plants are simply placed in a net pot and enclosed in a sealed container. The roots of the plants hang in the air and are misted with nutrient/water every few minutes or constantly.
Since there is no grow medium involved, the roots risk drying out if they are not misted regularly. If deciding to go with an Aeroponic hydroponic system, it is advised to purchase a short-cycle timer. This type of timer will run the water pump for a few seconds every few minutes, pushing nutrient/water through the emitters and on to the roots.
Wrapping it Up
As you can see, there are several options and techniques to choose from when deciding on a hydroponic system. You can also mix and match techniques to optimize your grow for the environment you can provide.
Hydroponic system primarily provides the 3 basic elements of growing marijuana, Air, Water, and Nutrients. Your marijuana plants should flourish as long as they receive those basic necessities.