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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

Hydroponics 101: Growing Cannabis as a Career

by Emily Miller | August 12th, 2020

The cannabis industry is full of jobs, from horticulture to marketing to finance, and more. It can be overwhelming deciding which path fits your skills best when deciding to pursue your dream of working in the cannabis industry. If you’re interested in hydroponics and cannabis horticulture, here’s a quick rundown of what it encompasses and the different methods you might encounter as a hydroponic plant grower.

What Is Hydroponic Growing?

Hydroponic growing is a method of growing plants without soil. When you break down the word hydroponic, “hydro” means water and “ponos” means work. This means that water rather than soil does the work, providing life to the plant with the addition of added nutrients. In traditional growing methods using soil, the roots of the plants have to find their nutrients in the soil, whereas with hydroponic growing methods, the nutrients are dissolved directly into the water and plants sit in what is called a wet grow environment, like clay balls.

Hydroponic horticulture systems also tend to take up less space than traditional growing methods, and the plants grow quicker and bigger.

Soil vs. Hydroponic Growing

When it comes to determining which is best for growing cannabis, there are pros and cons to both soil and hydroponic growing.

Cannabis plants like soil that is slightly acidic and drains well. It’s common for cannabis growers to add extra nutrients to the soil to make sure it gets all that it needs and perlite to help with drainage. There are pros to using soil to grow cannabis, such as the fact that it has been subjectively said it makes marijuana taste better, and it is easier to grow in dirt than with hydroponics, especially for those new to producing cannabis plants. There are cons however, such as the fact that the cannabis plant tends to grow slower in the vegetative state than it does in a hydroponic grow method, and it doesn’t tend to yield as much as hydroponically grown cannabis.

When it comes to using a hydroponic method, some of the greater pros tend to be that you have more control over the nutrients than you do with using soil, which is why craft growers have perfected this art to create small-batch cannabis harvests using special proprietary nutrient recipes. It also harvests faster and is less likely to fall victim to pests and soil-borne diseases. The cons to hydroponic growing methods of cannabis include that some believe cannabis doesn’t taste as good when grown hydroponically and the growing process can be complicated, making it an undesirable option for first-time grow operations.

Different Hydroponic Methods

Now that you understand what hydroponic growing is, and how it differs from soil methods, it’s time to explore the different methods of hydroponic growing. When it comes to hydroponic growing methods, there is deep water culture, ebb and flow, drip system, nutrient film technique, and the wick system.

Deep Water Culture: This method is when cannabis plants are placed in buckets filled with water, nutrients, and an air pump, allowing for a constant supply of oxygen.

Ebb and Flow: Cannabis plants are placed in a tray that contains a water inlet and outlet. The tray is then flooded, submerging the roots with oxygen and nutrient-rich water for a period of time, and then the water drains out.

Drip System: In the drip system method, cannabis plants are placed in a growing medium, with exposed roots, and are supplied with water from an external reservoir via drip pipes.

Nutrient Film Technique: For the nutrient film technique, cannabis plants are placed on an angled tube, allowing water to enter from one side of the tube and exit at the other. As with ebb-and-flow and drip systems, the oxygen and nutrient-rich water comes from a reservoir, and the roots of the cannabis plant are exposed to flowing water.

Wick System: The wick system puts cannabis plants in a tray above a tank of water, and the roots of the plant are in between the tray and the water. The roots are partially submerged into the water tank, allowing the roots to transport water from the tank to the rest of the plant.

It can be intimidating and overwhelming researching the different types of cannabis jobs that are out there, including cannabis grow jobs. Excelsior’s Graduate Certificate in Cannabis Control program is here to help with that, by exploring the different career paths available and teaching you the tools necessary to succeed in any path you choose. And we know that no matter what path you pursue, having an understanding of the complex regulatory environment will serve you well.

Choosing a career path in the cannabis industry can be intimidating. We take a look at growing cannabis hydroponically and how it works, and hope to help you in determining if this is the career path for you.