How to Grow Hydroponic Cannabis at Home
Hydroponics is when you grow your cannabis plant in an inert medium like coco or a reservoir of water, and provide all the nutrients to the plant directly in the water.
Growing in coco coir can be considered a type of hydroponics since it naturally contains no nutrients and you must provide all the nutrients in the water. However, when you say “hydroponics” most people think of this:
When it comes to hydroponic cannabis…
Differences Between Soil & Hydro
- The optimum pH for coco and hydroponics is 5.5-6.5, while the optimum pH for soil is 6-7
- Nutrients must be provided from when a hydroponic plant is a seedling (in seedling doses to start), otherwise the seedling will grow slower because it only has what’s contained in the seed itself. In soil you don’t need to add nutrients for a few weeks since there’s already some in the soil
- Growing in coco coir (a growing medium that looks somewhat like soil but is actually made of dried coconut husks) gives you results that are somewhat between growing in soil and growing in a hydroponic reservoir of water – you get a lot of the benefits of both
Pros of Hydro
- Plants in hydroponic setups generally grow faster in the vegetative stage than soil-grown plants
- Less likely to get bugs
- Buds can feel more potent
- If growing in a reservoir you don’t have to worry about watering your plants when they’re dry, over/under watering, or removing runoff. Everyone is different but I find maintaining a hydro reservoir easier than moving the plants around or watering and using a wet vacuum to remove runoff (but we all have our personal preferences!)
- If growing in a reservoir you use a very efficient amount of nutrients since you only mix up new water a few times a month, and only toss old water after the plant has already used up a lot of nutrients, which can save quite a bit if you’re using expensive nutrients and is better for the environment (compared to drain-to-waste)
- You have more control over nutrient levels, PPM, and pH – for the mad scientists among us who want to get the most out of our plants as possible!
Cons of Hydro
- Hydro usually takes more preparation/setup than growing in soil. You’re providing more for the plant instead of letting the soil do some of the work for you
- It can be easy to get root rot in hydro if you don’t provide your plant with a good-bacteria supplement like Hydroguard.
- Soil-grown buds may have a more complex or stronger smell than hydro-grown buds, especially if grown in composted living soil without any liquid nutrients
- Growing in soil is more intuitive for many people, and some people already have experience with soil from other types of gardening!
Is Hydroponics Good for Growing Cannabis?
Have you seen cannabis plants growing with their roots just floating in a reservoir of water? This type of hydroponics is known as Deep Water Culture (DWC), and has been around for over a 100 years! As more growers gain experience with this medium, DWC has become increasingly popular for growing cannabis. Hydroponic setups are really neat and offer some big benefits over growing in soil!
Benefits of Hydro Over Soil
- Plants grown in a hydroponic reservoir tend to grow faster in the vegetative stage, resulting in bigger yields and faster harvests
- Hydroponic buds tend to be more potent and often cost more at dispensaries
- Once a hydroponic reservoir is set up, it does not take a lot of work or time to maintain. Instead of regularly watering plants and removing runoff, a hydro reservoir only requires you dip a PH Pen and top off with more water or adjust as needed.
Cons of Hydro
- Takes more time and effort to set up than soil or coco
- Buds grown in soil without added nutrients tend to have a stronger smell than buds grown with liquid nutrients like in a hydroponic setup (though if you’re trying to keep things low odor this might be a benefit).
- Unless you protect your roots by using the right supplements and equipment, your plants may struggle with root rot. Luckily if you follow the steps in this tutorial you don’t need to worry about root rot killing your plants!
Hydro is a no-brainer for me. Whenever I go back to a hand-watered grow like coco coir, I am always surprised by how much extra time it takes to water plants and remove the runoff. The most intimidating part of hydro is just getting started – after that it’s actually really easy to take care of your plants. In my opinion, hydro is far easier and less time consuming than growing in soil or coco coir once you’re set up. If you are interested in hydro, go for it! If you follow this tutorial you will succeed!
Today I’ll teach you how to set up your hydroponic reservoir for growing cannabis, and I’ll show you what you need to do each day for optimum growth ?
How to Grow Cannabis in DWC
So there are five major parts to getting set up. You need….
- Grow Environment – I personally recommend a grow tent as opposed to building your own environment from scratch.
- Grow Light – If you don’t already have a grow light, I recommend getting a 250W, 400W or 600W HPS grow light for your first grow. They are the most consistent type of grow light and get really great results in DWC.
- Nutrients – I highly recommend getting GH Flora trio, Calimagic (Cal-Mag supplement) and Hydroguard.
- Seeds – Learn where to get seeds
- DWC tank – Learn how to build your own (it’s surprisingly hard to find a pre-made tank considering how cheap all the parts are!)
Once you’ve got your gear and supplies, it’s time to get set up and start growing! Here’s a quick overview.
Seedling Germination & Daily Care
- Set up reservoir – Water, seedling nutrients & pH. Make sure to add beneficial bacteria
- How to start seedlings – Make sure top feed is not butted directly against Rapid Rooter
- Top off reservoir regularly with nutrient water. In order for the beneficial bacteria in your reservoir to make a strong, healthy colony it helps to avoid doing a complete reservoir change for the first 3-4 weeks. Instead, top off your reservoir with vegetative strength nutrients when the water level gets low. This will slowly raise your nutrient levels from seedling to vegetative stage strength without stressing your plants, and giving your root colony as much a chance as possible to get established on your roots before you completely change the water.
- Train plants to grow flat
- Switch to flower when plant has reached half the final desired size
Flowering Stage & Harvest
- Switch to 12/12 light schedule
- Stake up big buds (yo-yos or stakes)
- Lower nutrient levels after week 6-7
What Is Hydroponics? An Overview of Growing Without Soil
The term hydroponics is relatively new, but the growing technique of replacing soil-based systems with nutrient-rich water goes as far back as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Cannabis can also be grown using this efficient procedure. Hydroponics by removing the use of soil and its sporadic nutritional control and replacing it with an endless stream of beneficial nutrients delivered in water.
How Does Hydroponics Work?
There are multiple ways of growing cannabis hydroponically. Basic hydroponic setups consist of a growing tray that is constantly being supplied with pH balanced and nutrient-rich water from its main water reservoir. A return pipe to the same water tank is also connected to avoid the tray from filling up and drowning the plant.
One of the most important aspects to consider when growing cannabis hydroponically is that the roots also need a regular fresh supply of oxygen.
For this reason, the last crucial part of any basic hydroponic growing system is an airstone. Once connected to an air pump and placed inside the main water reservoir, the airstone creates dissolved oxygen with its bubbles that help provide more oxygen to the roots of the plant.
More complicated hydroponics methods automize most of these processes with state-of-the-art technology that specializes in growing without soil.
How Do the Plants Feed?
The roots of the plant hang with freedom thanks to the lack of soil. This enables the upper part of the root system to have a continuous and fresh supply of oxygen. The bottom part of the roots is always exposed to a nutrient solution allowing the roots to expand with freedom and the plant to feed.
By controlling every aspect of the growing environment and choosing when to feed the plants, growing with hydroponics can help the plant avoid going into a state of chlorosis and most importantly, necrosis.
Nutrient deficiency in the plant can be avoided by always using the correct amounts of mineral elements and following the specific nutrient mixing procedure when preparing the water for the main tank.
Calcium is one of the many essential macronutrients used for cell growth, and chlorine is an example of a micronutrient used in trace amounts that aids the roots to grow faster and stronger.
Each of the many nutrients used to enhance this growing procedure needs to be mixed in the correct order making sure the plant receives the proper balance and ratios. Insufficiency or an abundance of either can cause the plant to go into necrosis.
Finally, and equally as important as the previous steps are that the pH levels need to be maintained at the optimal level. Frequently adjusting the levels as they react to the incoming nutrients is a standard procedure that needs be done regularly.
This calculated and efficient blend of nutrient-rich water needs to be switched out and replaced with a fresh mix at least once every fourteen days. In the meantime, the plants are usually flushed with pure water as the system is leached of any unwanted remaining water. Leeching the system with straight pH balanced water also removes any build up of toxic salt.
What Makes Hydroponics Better?
The constant and calculated feeding hydroponics provides the cannabis plant can amplify plant growth in a more controlled environment. Furthermore, it makes it easier to monitor any negative symptoms evolving in the plant.
Some people theorize that growing plants without soil is healthier for the plant and can be extremely beneficial in preventing any pets or plant diseases.
Naturally occurring species that are considered pests typically live in soil and hydroponic cultivation has the benefit of not using soil. By maintaining a highly sanitary growing environment with active ventilation that is always at the correct temperatures, undesired pest outbreaks are much less frequent and plant diseases can be easily eradicated.
This maximum control over nutrition also proves favorable in promoting year-round intense plant growth in much less space required than standard growing procedures.
Additionally, this method of growing plants also has a substantial amount of eco-friendly advantages over more traditional growing techniques. In most cases after each harvest, soil depleted of its natural nutrients is usually replaced or heavily fertilized. This is a colossal waste of resources that creates more pollution.
Reusing old soil with low fertility is a terrible idea for growing high-quality terpene rich cannabis; a significantly reduced harvest size and an abundance of harmful pests will be the outcome.
Hydroponics eliminates most of these traditional growing problems while managing to deliver a precise and constant flow of nutrients to the plant. There is no surprise why this unique way of growing was chosen by one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Without the need to guess or estimate the exact ammonium to nitrate ratios and the fact that its growing mediums can be recycled, hydroponics can be a far superior choice for growing terpene rich cannabis that is pesticide free and environmentally friendly.Hydroponics is an excellent method for growing cannabis and hemp plants. Learn the basics about growing marijuana and hemp without soil. ]]>