By Stoney Tark
Those who are new to growing Cannabis Hydroponics, may find that using organics is the path of least resistance, allowing them to keep things as simple as possible.
Over time, as your skill level increases as well as your knowledge of different strains, the idea of growing using a hydroponic system may come into play and once you have the hydro bug, it is hard to go back to organics.
Below is everything you need to know about growing Cannabis in hydroponics, aeroponics, and aquaponics outlining the differences of each.
Cannabis Hydroponics Explained
To keep it as basic as possible, hydroponics means to grow a root zone within a soilless medium. By doing so, this allows the grower to apply the exact nutrition to their Cannabis plants promoting an instant uptake. Unlike growing Cannabis using soil and water, hydroponics promotes a much faster root system, bigger plants, and ultimately yields that can be 300-400% greater than organics.
Now you may have popped into the local grow store and had a good glance at the various plastic molded hydroponic systems they sell. It is difficult to understand how each system functions and what the benefits of them are. Hydroponic systems can range from top drip, bottom feeding, using misting nozzles and even submerging roots directly into water.
- An inert soilless medium is used within the different systems.
- Nutrient solution is fed directly to the plant’s roots.
- Water pumps and air pumps are required.
- Chemical nutrients must be used and fed to a strict pH and E.C plan.
Different Cannabis Hydroponics Mediums
In the same way that soil can be customized to the growers needs, cannabis hydroponics is universal in that sense also. There are various inert substrates that can be used and below is a better explanation of each and how they are used.
Coco: The husks of a coconut hair that have been treated and made ready for growing. Coco has minimal nutrient value and is known for its soft and airy appearance. When mixed with perlite, hydroton or rockwool, it holds plenty of oxygen and moisture. Used in dripper systems that drain to waste, coco is an excellent growing medium and a great start point for entry-level cannabis hydroponics.
Rockwool: Made from molten mineral rock that is processed and spun to create a fine wool. This is the same fiber used inside a loft to insulate and will often have a yellow color and come in various sizes ranging from 4-6 inch cubes. Used in NFT table and dripper systems, rockwool is easy to work with and very popular in commercial-scale farming.
Hydroton: These are the light brown clay balls you see commonly used in landscaping. Used in dripper systems and DWC, hydroton is totally inert and has no nutritional value whatsoever and one of the best things is that it is impossible to over water your roots when using 100% hydroton with a dripper system for example.
Perlite: Not a substrate that is used by itself, however when mixed with coco or soil for that matter, it will dramatically improve the aeration quality of the medium. A mix of 50% coco and 50% perlite are a popular choice amongst hydro growers. This small white dry material will increase air pockets as well as drainage.
Dripper Systems Explained
A dripper system is the entry level set up for anything making the move to cannabis hydroponics (you can also try out a wick system). The drippers are connected to a main pump that sits in the reservoir with the nutrient solution. A timer will feed the Cannabis plants for 15-minute intervals.
- Commercially used to grow vegetables and fruits in rockwool cubes.
- A great entry level system that can use a variety of substrate and feeding times.
Deep Water Culture Explained
D.W.C is much more complicated than dripper systems and requires submerging the root ball of the Cannabis plants in oxygenated water. The set up is very simple in terms of a bucket, air stone, and net pot, however the skill level and experience required is much more demanding than other systems.
- A water pump and air stone are required to be left on 24 hours a day.
- DWC uses more nutrients than any other system.
Instead of letting the roots sit in a nutrient solution, with aeroponics the roots are actually hanging in a chamber that is systematically sprayed with nozzles. The principal is to expose the hanging roots to both water and then oxygen.
- Plants will grow very fast in these systems so short growth times are recommended.
- Spray nozzles or fog misters can be used depending on your plans.
This style is a level up from the other systems covered above, as a certain type of fish fed a special diet is used. There is a far greater level of maintenance that comes with aquaponics and it is essential to the water nutrient rich and both fish and Cannabis plants happy.
- Aquaponics is an advanced level of farming and very popular across the world.
- The fish are fed a specific diet that optimizes all the nutrients Cannabis plants need.