Best Hydroponic Systems for Growing Cannabis: Reviews

Growing marijuana using hydroponic systems has always been helping cultivators grow their marijuana faster than using the traditional soil method. It’s usually difficult for beginners to grow hydroponic weed, but once you get the hang of it, you will see how amazingly you can grow bigger plants faster with minimum effort.
It is recommended by many growers to start practicing before you try it. For example, you can start by planting cannabis plant in soil and grow it that way to get the feel of it. Or you could also grow something like lettuce or tomatoes or spinach hydroponically as a test. So I will start with the things that you need get started with your hydroponic setup and then list out the best hydroponic systems for growing weed.

Following are the things that you will need to grow cannabis in a hydroponic garden:

1. You will need a space to grow your cannabis, like a grow tent
2. Lights or lamps that can impersonate sunlight
3. Soil like coco coir or peat
4. Flower or vegetable Pots
5. Nutrients for your plants
6. pH tester for checking acid levels
7. Timer to control the lights
8. Proper ventilation if you use hot lamps like HPS and if you also need to control odor.
9. Seeds or clones

Depending on factors like strain and how healthy the plant is, each plant that you grow will result in a couple of ounces of marijuana,
Let me quickly first run you through the basic necessary process of growing marijuana quickly.

The growing process for any marijuana species is almost the same – whether you choose the favorite Sativa for its high effects, or Indica for its calming and healing power. You might have to clip the top of an Indica to make it shrub out more, but how you water and feed both these kinds of plants is the same. First, check the temperature in your grow room and make sure that it is between 80 and 85 degrees F (not more than 90 degrees), as that’s the optimal temperature for growing cannabis. Second, use filtered water to water your plants so that you avoid feeding your plants with chlorine and fluoride. Also ensure that the water is slightly acidic, with a pH value between 5.5 to 6.5, with 6.15 about right. Third, comes the lght system that you will use. You need to determine the color and temperature of light before choosing a lighting system. Various colors ranges will have various impacts. You can get help from CCT (correlated color temperature) to determine as CCT rating tells the magnitude of the temperature of HID fluorescent lights. Simply follow the instructions of the light system that you have keeping in mind the proper height and coverage. Hang the light in such a way above the plant keeping in mind the correct distance so that the light reaches out to all the corners of your grow area. A grow tent lined with Mylar can help reflect the light back onto the plants. Once the plants are in the flowering stage, identify the sex of the plants and separate the males and females because if you aren’t trying to get seeds, you shouldn’t let them reproduce. Females will have distinctive white hairs on them and males will have balls. Get rid of the male plants because you cannot smoke them, they’re only good for pollinating. Also, keep in mind to cut off supplementing the plants with any nutrients at least before two weeks of harvesting. Just keep watering the plants usually, don’t overdo it. This will help in cutting down any nutrient flavoring. When the time for harvesting comes, trim the plants with a bud trimmer or by hand and then dry them. Leave the dried buds in an airtight container for about a month to cure.

Types of hydroponic systems for growing marijuana:

Deep Water Culture, also known as Hydro Pots: Hydro pots are cheap and easy to put together and use, especially for beginners. It consists of three parts:

1. A bucket or reservoir for storing the water-based nutrient solution.
2. A basket or mesh stuffed with peat or Rockwool soil. This is for the roots to grow through and reach down to the nutrient solution
3. An air stone, similar to the ones in fish tanks to provide air to the nutrient solution.

For each plant you plan on growing, you will need one Deep Water Culture unit. One per plant. There would be a five-gallon bucket with nutrient-rich water at the bottom, a basket filled with peat moss or clay where the cannabis will be planted and the air stone bubbling down inside the liquid at the bottom. If you have more than one plant, you have to link all these individual buckets with irrigation pipes or tubes into a single reservoir that sends the nutrient water out to each plant. You really need to be careful about two major things: contamination and stagnant water. Make sure to protect the nutrients at the bottom of the primary container from light and contamination, and also ensure that the air stone doesn’t stop working.

Please find below an example of a good Deep Water Culture system for a beginner.

General Hydroponics Waterfarm

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General Hydroponic’s Waterfarm model is an easy and inexpensive hydro pot perfect for a grower who is just getting started. It comes with the following features: 1. A 2-gallon container reservoir 2. A smaller basket container 3. Clay pellets 4. An air stone 5. Air pump 6. Nutrients, and 7. The important tubing including drip feed. The good thing about this model is that you can connect each of these units into a larger configuration to help you grow more plants at once. Make sure to keep checking the pH or acid levels in the beginning as your young plants start to grow and make adjustments as required.

Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Bucket Kit 5 Gallon, 6 inch

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The PowerGrow System comes with the following features: 1. A FDA-approved food safe 5-gallon bucket 2. A basket lid 3. An air pump 4. Air stone 5. Tubing and 6. Rockwool plugs as a growing medium.

This Deep Water Culture 5-gallon bucket kit is a perfect model for larger kinds of cannabis plants. It takes up a lot of floor space but handles huge tension like Big Bud and Brian Berry Cough. Additionally, it also comes with a water level marker and a bucket drain and the best, a 1-year warranty. One note of caution—when Rockwool can be irritating to the skin when dry, use gloves to handle until it’s properly moistened.

AutoPot 4pot System Gravity Fed Watering System – Hydroponics and Traditional Gardening

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AutoPot comes with a large 12-gallon reservoir and 4 smaller pots that hold 3.9 gallons each. It doesn’t have air stones or potting medium, but you can add those as per your requirement. The setup here is gravity-fed, so it sends nutrients to the plants only when the plants have used enough in its own pot to make space for more.
Even here, you have to make sure to avoid any contamination in the central reservoir to prevent the plants from suffering.

Besides Deep Water Culture systems, the second way to grow with hydroponics is Ebb and Flow, also known as Flood and Drain.

Ebb and Flow systems soak the roots of your plants with water and then drain the water away. So you don’t have to worry about using air stones because the water doesn’t stagnate at all. Sometimes a timer will come with the system, but if it doesn’t, then you will just need to get one. Again, keep an eye on any contamination in the central reservoir. Else all the plants will suffer.

Viagrow V4X4COMP Ebb & Flow Hydroponic System Tray, 4′ x 4′

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This Viagrow model is a four-foot by four-foot Ebb and Flow System and it comes with a tray and stand, potting medium, timer, pump, and tubing. There are 25 pots included in the box that can hold one gallon each, but you can replace them with larger pots also if you want.

The Viagrow manufacturer also sells smaller setups. The smaller setups come in handy because many jurisdictions have limited the quantity of cannabis a person or household can grow.

Top Feed

In Top Feed systems, the nutrient solution is held in a reservoir like Deep Water Culture systems. A pump on a timer comes on periodically and sends nutrient solution through a mesh of spaghetti tubing which opens out at the roots of each plant. The excess water that is drained away at the bottom of the pot is collected and sent back to the reservoir for the water to be reused in the next round of watering. Keep an eye on the functionality of the pumps, ensure it doesn’t break down. If it does, then the plants will lose out on water and die thirsty.

Nutrient Film Flow Technique

Nutrient Film Flow Technique is widely popular with hydroponic growers especially because of its simple design. Instead of using moss, clay, or Rockwool as the soil, these systems use something called a capillary mat. These mats are porous, and they keep the nutrients regularly circulating in the roots. The plants get fed, but not drowned, and nothing gets stagnant.

Aeroponics with Misting

Aeroponics is one of the most technical systems of hydroponics. With this system, your plants will have rainforest like atmosphere. It isn’t an excellent choice to grow plants in a closet or spare bedroom with this system. You need to have a good isolating grow tent to grow plants this way.

The roots of the plants get misted periodically while the plants hang in baskets or pots. This helps in growing the plants really fast, but you have to monitor every day very carefully. The pH level should be monitored and also keep an eye on the right mix of nutrients for the plants; else the consequences won’t be excellent.

General Hydroponics RainForest 66 Aeroponic System for Medium to Large Size Plants

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The RainForest 66 Aeroponics System comes with a 17-gallon reservoir, a sprayer, six plastic containers with CocoTek liners, and a 3-Part Flora Kit. It is an easy all-in-one setup to grow your weed. The nutrient solution is also aerated by the system before spraying it over the plant roots. You need to be careful and keep a watch for parasites like aphids if your setup is not isolated from pests. Another thing to consider would be the size of the pots—they are only six inches in diameter.

Growing mediums for hydroponics

There are different kinds of soils available in the market that you can use instead of real dirt usually used for cultivation. Many experienced hydroponic growers choose these materials for growing their plants. Listed below are the materials:

Peat

Peat is a popular choice among growers to be used as a base for growing because it is not expensive and is loaded with minerals. The most common types of this variety are peat moss and humus.

Sphagnum moss

Sphagnum moss is the type of moss which is the slowest to breakdown. It is lightweight and also carries a lot of water. It is a very good option for hydroponics but is more expensive than peat.

Coco coir

Coco coir is a by product of the process of coconut husking (it is made from shredded coconut husk). It usually tends to be more fibrous than the commercial peat. It’s high-absorbent and has an excellent ability of retains water or moisture for the plants

Rockwool

Rockwool is made by spinning molten rock similar to the process of making cotton candy, thereby providing a sterile and fibrous growing medium. It is also known as mineral wool and is spun into fibers and then finally formed into cubes or slabs which have the capacity of holding around 80% of moisture. It retains water and at the same time lets air to penetrate the roots of the plants. It’s alkaline, so make sure that you treat it before using it.

HEC (hardened expanded clay)

HEC pellets are an excellent choice for hydroponic systems because it drains well and lets the plant roots get enough oxygen. They don’t have much nutritional value though like moss.

Vermiculite and Perlite

Vermiculite is used as an additive for soilless mixes, it is a mineral and holds moisture and nutrients very well. Perlite is also an absorbent additive which is mixed with coco coir and peat.

Tips from experts for you to grow healthy plants using hydroponics:

  • Water your plants every alternate day when they are young and then water them just once a day when they are in their flowering stage.
  • Use a hygrometer to keep an eye on the moisture levels. Water your plant when the potting substance feels dry on the top.
  • The leaves can show signs of too much or too less water. See if the leaves wilt or drop and water or don’t water accordingly.
  • Some leaves turn yellow and fall-off during the plant’s vegetation stage. You should stop giving nutrients and just keep watering because you will need to start harvesting in a couple of weeks from then.
  • Start harvesting when one-half or three-quarters of the white hairs have turned yellowish brown. Late harvesting makes for more relaxing marijuana.
  • When trimming, don’t leave the leaves because they can be used in making cannabis oil or butter.
  • The buds are dry enough when they snap off easily instead of bending.

How to test pH acid levels

Ensuring the correct amount of acidity is very important for growing healthy cannabis plants. Having the right pH will help in the proper absorption of nutrients.

The pH value of soil ranges from 1 to 14 with (1 is very acidic, 14 is very alkaline, and seven is neutral). The ideal pH value for growing weed hydroponically is 5.5 to 6.5, just a bit acidic. (In dirt, the pH value should be between 6.0 and 7.0.)

You can test the levels in —the nutrient solution and the soil or medium where the plants are growing. You can use the following tools for testing the pH level:
A tester pen
Strips
A liquid solution

Easy fixes for pH levels that are too acidic or alkaline

An easy-to-use pH Control Kit is sold by General Hydroponics which even includes a pH tester, so you don’t need to buy an additional one.
pH levels can be fixed or adjusted with household items like baking soda and vinegar, but these methods are not recommended for new growers, only experienced growers should use such stuff to tweak pH levels.

Ways to stop root rot:

What is root rot? Root rot is a condition that is seen mostly in indoor growing plants that arise from poor drainage. The roots of the plants start rotting. It is a fungus that spreads quickly through all plants on an interconnected system. You’ll see signs like withering leaves turning yellow, and the roots will not look white/creamy and healthy, they will look slimy, brown and smell terrible like mildew or rot.

Some tips on preventing root rot are by making sure that you don’t overfeed or water your plants. Keep water temperatures below 72 degrees. Keep the growing area clean – clean your system according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove dead plants. Ensure to protect your grow area from light and too much heat. Make sure to seal the area properly as that will give fungus hard time to spread or invade. If you are growing many plants, make sure to remove and unhealthy or affected plants to prevent the infection from being passed on to the other plants. Be cautious if you are using Hydrogen Peroxide as it kills most of the good bacteria and is hard to monitor and use.

You can try adding beneficial root bacteria to your nutrient solution to prevent or treat root diseases. Some of the formulas available in the market are as follows:

Hydroguard
SM90
Piranha
VooDoo Juice
Great White Root Powder
Subculture B
Rooters

I have used Hydroguard personally, so recommend to use this as it is inexpensive and can last you throughout your grow.

Also, make sure to supply your plants’ water with as much oxygen as possible. So plan to invest on air pumps and air-stones for your hydroponic system so that you can dissolve more and more oxygen in your water. Over of this much won’t affect your plants in a bad way at all. You can use the following for supplying more oxygen by supplying more bubbles:

EcoPlus Eco Air 2 – Two Outlet 3 Watt 126 GPH : It’s an air pump with two outlets
EcoPlus 728405 Round Air Stone, Large
Flexible 3/16-Inch,26-feet Aquarium Airline Tubing with 6-Pcs Suction Cups – It is a standard aquarium tubing to hook everything together

Nutrients for healthy cannabis growth

Nutrients are extra supplements for your plants for healthy growth. One of the best products is from General Hydroponics. It’s an excellent product for people who raise herbs for essential oils, too, because it’s all organic.

General Hydroponics General Organics Go Box

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The General Hydroponics Go Box is a good mixture of organic nutrients for marijuana (and other plants). It comes with a set of instructions and a schedule to teach you how to use them.

The box comes with pint bottles of BioThrive Grow and Bloom and 8-ounce samples of CaMg+, BioRoot, BioWeed, BioBud, BioMarine, and Diamond Black.

General Hydroponics Flora Trip Lineup

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This is recommended for beginners and is my personal favorite. But it is also used extensively by experienced growers. I have been using this in growing my cannabis hydroponically for about two years now. It comes with many micronutrients in small traces that aren’t found in other hydroponic nutrients.

This is it about growing weed hydroponically.

Find out which LED lights are the best for growing weed indoors.

Come back soon for more posts and reviews.

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