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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
  • Considerdefoliation
  • Stake up big buds (yo-yos or stakes)
  • Lower nutrient levels after week 6-7
  • Harvest

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

A beginner’s guide to hydroponic growing

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Contents

  1. What is hydroponic growing?
  2. How does hydroponic growing work?
  3. Is growing hydroponic easy?
  4. Do hydroponic plants grow faster than soil-based plants?
  5. What are the benefits of hydroponic growing?
  6. What are the drawbacks of hydroponic systems?
  7. How do you grow hydroponics at home?
  8. Bottom line

As a cannabis cultivator, you have an array of choices when it comes to growing your own herb at home — outdoor, indoor, and greenhouse cultivation, to name a few. But what about hydroponic growing mediums? Could this futuristic-sounding, soil-free method be the right solution for you? In this beginner’s guide to weed hydroponics, you’ll learn everything you need to know to start your own hydroponic garden at home.

What is hydroponic growing?

Hydroponic growing is a horticultural method for growing crops, including cannabis, without the use of soil. In place of soil, growers use a mineral nutrient solution in a water-based solvent. Occasionally, growers may also use clay pebbles and sand.

Hydroponic growing is a horticultural method for growing crops, including cannabis, without the use of soil. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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How does hydroponic growing work?

A good water-based nutrient solution forms the basis of all hydroponic systems. Like other growing mediums, hydroponics requires the other building blocks of ample light, air, and space.

Is growing hydroponic easy?

While a soil-based garden may be easier to start, hydroponics facilitate easier nourishing of cannabis plants over time. Nutrient solutions allow for more precise dosing and direct feeding of the plants in a hydroponic grow system. The roots of the plant directly absorb the administered nutrients, often making growth an easier and more efficient process. Plus, once you’ve set up the hydro system reservoir, there’s not much maintenance to worry about.

Do hydroponic plants grow faster than soil-based plants?

A hydroponic garden may exhibit a growth rate that is between 30% and 50% faster than that of a soil plant. The combination of nutrients, water, and oxygen in the roots are responsible for this faster rate of growth in hydroponic systems.

What are the benefits of hydroponic growing?

Besides the two most obvious benefits of a hydroponic garden (easier nutrient delivery and faster growth rate), there are several other advantages for cannabis cultivators to consider.

Some benefits of hydroponic growing are easier nutrient delivery, faster growth rate, water conservation, space saving, and year-round growing. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Water conservation: In rain-deprived places like California, water conservation is crucial. A hydroponics system may use 20 times less water than traditional soil cultivation. Water in this type of growing medium can be reused, meaning that none goes to waste.

Space saving: A hydroponics system is a major space saver that may require 20% less room than soil cultivation.

Clean and green: There’s no need for pesticides in the sterile environment of a hydroponic garden, so you can go green and organic when raising cannabis plants.

Year-round growing: Hydroponics systems can thrive in a variety of environments, but an indoor garden is especially desirable as you can grow your cannabis plants year round.

Potency: Once you harvest the buds, there’s a good chance they’ll be more potent than if you had grown them in soil. Some dispensaries even charge a premium for buds grown in hydroponic systems.

As many benefits as hydroponic systems offer, the growing medium also comes with some potential disadvantages.

What are the drawbacks of hydroponic systems?

It can be time-consuming and expensive for those setting up hydroponic systems for the first time. There are two other main drawbacks to consider before trying this growing medium.

Monitoring: Part of the time investment involves near-constant monitoring of the garden to ensure the health of the plants. If one cannabis plant in a hydroponics system becomes diseased, the entire crop may fail and die. Damaging microorganisms also thrive in wet environments and could threaten the health of the plants before harvest time.

Technology: Hydroponics is a good method for the tech-savvy cultivator who understands that a power outage can spell disaster. Even if the system runs on a back-up generator, an extended outage could leave you watering your garden and administering plant food by hand.

If the pros of hydroponics outweigh the cons, you may be ready to try your hand at employing this growing medium in your home.

How do you grow hydroponics at home?

A dedicated space indoors is the best location to grow hydroponics at home. In addition to the hydroponics system, you can furnish your garden with supplemental grow lights to maximize the health and volume of the cannabis harvest.

For outdoor growing at home, a sunlit patio or deck make ideal locations. But if you live in a cold climate, it would be better to keep your hydroponic cannabis garden inside. Otherwise, the plants will be subjected to the elements and vital water could evaporate if you do not consistently monitor nutrient solution levels.

Before you get started, you’ll need to gather the following supplies:

  • Hydroponics starter kit
  • Oscillating fan for ventilation
  • Carbon filter
  • Grow tent
  • Hangers for grow lights
  • Cannabis seeds with the strain of your choice

Once you’ve gathered those basic supplies, here are some quick steps to take to get your hydro system started at home:

  1. Assemble the hydroponics system. Each system will be slightly different, but you can expect a starter kit to include a water tank, water pump (often part of a timed circulation system), LED grow lights, and a nutrient solution. Starter kits can be purchased online for less than $100.
  2. Combine the nutrients and water in the tank or reservoir. Start up the pump and wait about 30 minutes for the nutrients and water to blend. Add beneficial bacteria and keep an eye on pH levels. Between 5.5 and 6.5 is the sweet spot for hydroponic gardens.
  3. Plant the germinated seeds and monitor progress through the seedling stage, which lasts about 3 or 4 weeks.
  4. As plants move into the vegetative stage and flowering stage, you may choose to make a few adjustments. For example, during the flowering stage you may opt to try the cultivator’s strategy of defoliation to accelerate healthy growth. Nutrient levels should also be lowered during this phase as harvest approaches.

Bottom line

A hydroponic garden requires an initial investment of time and money but can be an excellent way to grow cannabis quickly and with minimal waste of resources.

In this beginner's guide to weed hydroponics, you'll learn everything you need to know to start your own hydroponic garden at home.