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Hydroponic Systems Are The Best Way To Grow Cannabis

Francis Cassidy
hydroponics system at work growing lettuce

Now you can have hydroponic systems cannabis grow without soil or pesticides.

Cannabis has come a long way from the arid soils of central Asia. Nowadays, few growers would subject their ladies to infertile desert soil, but some go even further and reject soil altogether. Ever seen those rows of plants with roots dangling in the breeze being slowly misted? Well, aquaponic and hydroponic systems are commonly used growing methods that don’t rely on soil biology alone to produce healthy vibrant cannabis plants.

What are Hydroponic Systems?

Hydroponic cannabis refers to cannabis grown in an inert growing medium as opposed to nutrient-rich soil. In a hydroponic system, the grower applies water that’s high in nutrients to a growing medium as a way to provide the nutrients the plant requires for growth.

Hydroponic systems effectively replace soil with a growing medium that supports both the plant and its roots. It helps expose the roots to the nutrient solution while also helping ensure they stay better aerated.

hydroponic systems graphic

The Advantages of Hydroponic Systems

Hydroponic systems exhibit two primary advantages. The first is as a way to increase yield, the second is to speed up the growing process.

Headaches can quickly arise for the novice when growing cannabis in soil indoors. Pest issues, the inability to recycle soil, and the constant monitoring of soil pH levels are common issues and make it an art that’s often difficult to truly master.

With hydroponic systems, the growing medium is reusable and the grower can easily control both soil pH and the application of nutrients. The ability to control such parameters with precision allows for higher-yielding potent plants.

An additional advantage of a hydroponic system is in improving efficiencies. With the constant exposure to the ideal quantities of both water and minerals, the plant can focus its energy on growing, rather than on the search for nutrients through soil.

The Architecture of Hydroponic Systems

Several types of hydroponic systems exist. But more commonly, hydroponic systems consist of a reservoir where a nutrient solution is held. Using an air stone to oxygenate the water is common, while a pump transports the water to the plants above on the grow table through a drip line.

Each pot has a porous bottom for excess water to escape and return to the reservoir below. The roots, which also extend below the pot, may find their way into the excess water where they feed on nutrients. An overflow drain will then return the water from the grow table to the reservoir below. It’s a simple and effective closed-loop system that when done correctly, yields high-quality medicine. But what happens when you throw some fish into the mix and design an aquaponic system?

hydroponic systems wouldn't have a fish like this in it. this is aquaponics

What are Aquaponic Systems?

Welcome to a world where the fish do the work. Cannabis and fish are rarely combined, but aquaponic systems combine the aforementioned hydroponic systems with aquaculture — the process of farming fish. To the uninitiated, this can seem like a bizarre idea. But it provides a closed-loop system that enables both plants and fish to thrive via some potent natural synergies that mother nature laid down some time ago.

Aquaponic systems work by recycling fish waste that’s dissolved in water through the plants. The roots of the plants suck the nitrates and as a result clean the water before it’s returned to the fish. The result is a symbiotic relationship between both fish and plant where both thrive under natural processes.

The Advantages of Aquaponic Systems

Set up correctly, an aquaponic system will yield both big buds and big fish — a two-for-one of sorts. As the plants grow, so do the fish. The fish provide the nutrients for the plant and the plants clean the water for the fish.

The growth rates experienced with aquaponic systems exceed those of conventional methods. This is due to the fact that the roots are able to take in high levels of oxygen, thus absorbing more nutrients as the catalyst for growth.

The issue of climate change is fast becoming an ever-more important topic of discussion. And when it comes to water usage, aquaponic systems use up to ninety percent less water than soil-based growing techniques. This is due to the way in which water recycles within the closed-loop system.

Finally, one of the primary advantages of aquaponics is the sustainable nature of the farming method. The fish do the heavy lifting. By feeding them food that’s specially developed for aquaponic setups, the system stays free from harmful toxins. With only the essential nutrients in circulation, the system provides clean healthy cannabis and fish for consumption.

an aquaponics system at work in a graphic

The Architecture of Aquaponic Systems

Aquaponic systems are closely related to hydroponic systems. The principle difference is the nutrient source. In aquaponic systems, the nutrients come from the waste produced by fish. That waste finds its way to the plant roots before the purified water comes back through to the fish tank.

When cultivating cannabis in an aquaponic system, the plants need some extra nutrients. The primary compound found in fish waste is nitrogen. And when it comes to cannabis cultivation, growers will need to add additional nutrients for optimal growth and development.

To combat this, aquaponic systems require a “double-root zone.” This is where the bottom section of the pot is submerged in water with the top section being purely soil. This clever method allows additional nutrients to be added to the soil without affecting the water beneath.

Both the soil and water sections can be separated with burlap. This ensures that only the roots penetrate into the water, while the soil is held above to prevent contamination.

hydroponic systems wouldn't have fish like this. This is an outdoor aquaponics system, diy

Aquaponic or Hydroponic Systems for Home Growers?

For home growers, the question of which is easier to set up and maintain is simple to answer. Hydroponic systems require less money to set up and are less complex to manage for the novice grower.

Aquaponic systems are an incredible concept, but they come with some drawbacks. Not least is the setup and the extra plumbing involved. The interconnected parts of this closed-loop system must stay intact and functioning; that includes the fish. If one were to die for example, then the resulting effects can trickle down to microbe balance and eventually negatively affect plant health.

Running costs are also an important consideration. While aquaponic growers don’t have to apply the same quantities of nutrients, they still need to feed the fish. In order to encourage a steady metabolic digestion rate and consistent waste, the fish may have to eat two to three times per day, the cost of which quickly adds up.

Benefits of Hydroponic Systems Win

Hydroponic systems, on the other hand, are a much more convenient method of growing for many. With lower setup costs and fewer potential pitfalls when in operation, a hydroponic system provides a rewarding way to grow cannabis. It doesn’t come without its problems though, and even without soil, familiar problems can quickly arise.

Dr. Zamir Punja from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia published results of a three-year-long study into root diseases affecting hydroponically grown cannabis plants. They were able to identify a host of problems from stunted growth to brown root lesions and root rot. The cause of which was the presence of two particular pathogens.

For better plant growth, many DIY enthusiasts prefer aquaponic or hydroponic systems. If you’re medicating with the cannabis you grow, you certainly don’t want added chemicals making you sicker. And that’s where the natural systems of aquaponic and hydroponic systems come into their own.

Francis Cassidy

Francis Cassidy is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics. With a particular focus on the cannabis industry, he aims to help ensure the smooth reintegration of cannabis back into global culture. When not writing, he's to be found exploring his new base in British Columbia, Canada. You can follow his other works including his photography on his blog thestrayphotographer.com

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