There are plenty of ways to grow weed at home, whether indoors or outdoors. One of the most unique growing methods is hydroponics.
This article looks at this soil-free growing technique, its pros and cons, and how to grow weed using hydroponics.
What is Hydroponic Growing?
Humans have been cultivating cannabis for thousands of years. In fact, some archaeologists suggest it may have been one of the first plants to ever be grown by human beings.
With all that history, it should come as no surprise that dozens of different methods, techniques, tools, and growing mediums have been developed and used by cannabis farmers over the centuries.
Hydroponic cannabis cultivation is a relatively modern invention that has recently exploded in popularity.
Simply put, hydroponic growing is a kind of horticulture that involves growing plants, such as cannabis, in water, without using soil as a growing medium. Of course, essential nutrients and minerals are mixed into the water throughout.
When you usually plant cannabis in soil or another growing medium, the roots will expand throughout to find and absorb the water and minerals within the soil. But hydroponics allows your plants to receive virtually unlimited and direct availability of the water and nutrients they need.
In most cases, hydroponic growing takes place in indoor grow rooms or greenhouses.
Now, let’s look at everything you need to know to get started cultivating cannabis with hydroponics.
What are the Advantages of Hydroponics?
Why should a grower divert from the tried and true method of growing weed in soil?
There are many advantages to hydroponics weed vs. soil. Significantly, hydroponics allows for more accessible, direct delivery of water and nutrients to the plant’s roots, which can mean much faster growth.
But there are many other advantages of hydroponics.
✔ Reduced Water Usage
As ironic as it may initially seem, hydroponics requires much less water than soil or other growing mediums. In fact, it is estimated that cultivators can use up to 10 times less water than traditional horticulture.
This is an especially significant advantage for those growers that live in drier climates that may experience less precipitation or impose water bans, such as parts of California.
✔ Less Space Required
In most cases, hydroponic cannabis setups are indoor setups. But, hydroponics takes up significantly less space than soil-based cultivation.
The direct access to water and nutrients eliminates the need for plant roots to increasingly expand throughout the soil in their quest for food. As the roots lengthen, the plant grows ever larger, requiring more and more space.
Hydroponics helps reduce that expansion. Of course, the cannabis plant roots will undoubtedly expand and lengthen, but not as much as their soil counterparts. This results in large harvests requiring significantly less space than other growing mediums.
✔ Effective Year-Round Regardless of the Season
Hydroponics is almost always done indoors, in controlled environments. As such, you can run a hydroponic setup year-round, regardless of the season.
✔ Higher Potency
Finally, and most importantly according to some consumers, hydroponics are known to increase potency of the harvested flower. The direct, unlimited access to water and nutrients allows cannabis plants to develop higher concentrations of desired cannabinoids. Or, put another way, hydroponics can result in some seriously dank bud.
What are the Downsides of Hydroponics?
Like everything in life, hydroponics isn’t perfect. And it’s worth considering the downsides if you’re serious about your home grow.
More Intensive Than Other Grow Methods
The primary shortcoming of hydroponic growth is the amount of work and management it requires. Hydroponic growers will need to routinely monitor the pH of the water and the amount of nutrients plants are receiving, as well as maintain the water basins and regularly clean the hydroponic equipment.
This maintenance will be necessary throughout the length of your growing cycle, and your plants will only be able to survive and thrive if you do so. It’s not a huge chore, but it is more intensive than other methods. If you want a home grow with the least effort, hydroponics isn’t for you.
Requires Tech Know-How
Compared to growing cannabis in soil, hydroponics is much more high-tech. You’ll need more equipment, like basins, oscillating fans, lights, and more than you would with something like an outdoor grow.
If you’ve never grown marijuana hydroponically before, you may feel a bit intimidated by the tech requirements. It can be difficult to decide which equipment or setups are best for you. As a result, many home growers stick to the traditional method of growing marijuana in soil.
How to Grow Weed with Hydroponics
First, you’ll need to get a dedicated grow space that is clean and spacious enough to facilitate cultivation over the length of the growing cycle. An indoor space is ideal, but you can use an outdoor greenhouse, as well, so long as it has dedicated power sources.
Once you find the right space, you’ll need the following equipment before you can start growing weed using hydroponics:
- Hydroponics growing system or DWC tanks
- Fan for ventilation
- Carbon filters
- Grow lights
- pH meter
- Marijuana seeds of your chosen strain
Now, let’s look at a step-by-step process to get your hydroponic home grow up and running.
- Assemble your system in your growing space
There are tons of options when it comes to hydroponic systems and starter kits. As such, their exact setup may vary.
Generally speaking, however, they all have the same constituent components:
- water tanks/basins
- grow lights
Decide how you’ll set up your lights, where your plants will sit, and how you’ll keep the area ventilated.
- Fill the tank and add the nutrients
Next, fill your tank with water. When adding nutrients to the water, consider the tank’s volume and follow the explicit guidelines included in the instructions of the hydroponic system or your nutrients. Allow the pump to circulate the water for some time, evenly distributing the nutrients throughout. Keep an eye on the pH – you’ll want to shoot for 5.5 – 6.5. If necessary, adjust the pH.
- Plant the seeds
At this point, you’re ready to plant your cannabis seeds. Your hydroponic system will likely come with seed pods that’ll house the seeds and, soon after, the plant itself. To expedite the process, you can germinate the seeds beforehand and plant them in the pods shortly after they sprout. However, this isn’t necessary, and the seeds will germinate in the pods. Over the course of a few weeks, these seeds will grow into seedlings and emerge from the pods.
- Adjust as necessary during the growing cycle
Cannabis plants undergo several stages of growth, and you may need to adjust your hydroponic setup depending on the stage. For example, during the vegetative phase, you’ll need to ensure that your plants receive plenty of nutrients, especially nitrogen. During the flowering stage, you may want to reduce the light and nutrients your plants receive during the day.
Once your plants are finished growing, you can harvest the flower as you would in any other cultivation method.
Weed and Hydroponics: FAQ
What species/strains are best suited to hydroponics?
You can grow any species/strain of marijuana using a hydroponic setup. However, indica strains are usually best suited due to their shorter height when compared to sativa plants.
Sativas, on the other hand, may be better for outdoor grows, as they tend to produce larger harvests – usually too much for even large hydroponic systems to handle.
Is hydroponically-grown weed more potent?
Hydroponically-grown marijuana can be more potent than weed grown in soil, but it isn’t a guarantee. Regardless of the growing medium, the potency of your yields will depend on the strain you’re growing and how carefully you control temperature, light, pH, and other factors.
What is the ideal PH level when growing with hydroponics?
The ideal pH level for cannabis in hydroponic grows is similar to that of other hydroculture crops: somewhere between 5.5 to 6.5.
Many cultivators aim for 6.3 for the best possible absorption of nutrients and minerals.
While monitoring pH isn’t unique to hydroponics, it’s much easier to manage with this type of cultivation compared to soil. If pH adjustments are necessary, all you need to do is add a little more water or a little nutrients, depending on which direction you’re trying to go, directly to the water tank.
The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.