There’s a long-standing debate among marijuana growers about whether not hydroponics or soil is the best way to grow plants. Regardless of where you stand, it’s undeniable that hydroponic systems have their benefits.
Soil provides support for plants because it develops a physical structure for the roots to hold on. But hydroponic systems are hugely popular for growers who want to have more control over the growth process. In a hydroponic grow system, the physical support provided by soil can easily be replaced.
There are quite a few different types of hydroponic systems on the market, making it challenging to know which one is right for you. To make the decision easier, we’ve narrowed down our top picks for the top five hydroponics systems preferred by cannabis growers.
Last updated: March 23, 2020
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- What to Look for in a Hydroponic System
- Top 5 Hydroponic System for Growing weed
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Top 5 Hydroponic Systems for Growing Weed Indoors
#1 Bubble Boy (DWC) Hydroponic Bucket System
The Bubble Boy DWC bucket system is a practical and affordable way to grow plants hydroponically. The Bubble Boy system uses what is known as deep water culture (DWC). In DWC systems, the roots are suspended in highly oxygenated, nutrient-rich water.
Using high-quality hydroponic fertilizers, the plant’s roots don’t have to convert nutrients for the plants to use. This allows your plants to grow faster and more abundant. Aeration is an essential feature of a DWC system, which is why the manufacturer has included a sizeable dual outlet air pump within this system as well as an air stone.
The air pump and the air stone provide better diffusion and increased oxygenation. This combination guarantees the production of healthy plants in a short period. The Bubble Boy system is also equipped with a durable black reservoir as well as factory-pressed basket lids. The lid helps to protect the plants against algal growth.
- The system is highly oxygenated and nutrient-rich
- Comes with hydroponic fertilizers for fast growth
- Superior aeration allows for better diffusion
- Factory-pressed lid protects plants against algal growth
- Large bucket capacity
- Bucket may leak
- Does not have enough hydro stone for some larger grows
#2 General Hydroponics Waterfarm Complete Hydroponic System Grow Kit
The Waterfarm by General Hydroponic features a unique four-sided construction that allows you to pack modules closely together to create large, as well as high-density installations.
This growing system is one of a kind. It will grow plants of all sizes and is flexible enough to provide all the characteristics of larger systems at a reasonable cost. The hydrofarm, as a complete unit, is engineered to be a standalone system. It features a classic single plug and uses a bucket system. It incorporates an NFT system utilizing a nutrient film technique.
The Waterfarm Hydroponics System utilizes a pump to carry nutrient-rich water from the reservoir upwards to a drip system. The drip watering system distributes the solution to the growing chamber.
You can add a small piece of air stone into the reservoir to improve oxygenation. This helps the plants to grow at a steady pace.
- The four-sided net pots allow for high-density installations
- It is a plug and plays design that is easy to use
- Drip ring uses a nutrient film technique (NFT) effectively
- Large gallon reservoir capacity
- 1-year warranty
- The pump is a bit noisy
#3 SavvyGrow DWC Hydroponics Growing System
SavvyGrow DWC hydroponic system provides you with a unique deep water culture hydroponic system, which allows you to grow plants faster, cleaner, and with no pesticides.
This top-rated hydroponic system is perfect for beginners and is a good starter kit for indoor growing. This hydroponic system is a sizeable grow tent that measures 16 inches long and 10.8 inches wide. It has six plant holes, and each hole is 5.5 inches deep and 2 inches in diameter.
The package comes with a sachet of hydroton clay balls, which acts as the growing media for the plants. There is also an air pump that runs at the bottom of the reservoir.
With this system, you’ll also get two air stones, which provide plenty of air bubbles, providing adequate oxygen for your plants. The reservoir is very sturdy and thick for durability. The unit has a locking lid that ensures the inside of the tank is dark and also prevents algal growth.
- A complete kit that is low maintenance, easy to set up and use
- Three to five times faster compared to soil media
- Deepwater culture distributes nutrients effectively
- Reliable air stone provides sufficient oxygen
- No chemical pesticides or toxic fertilizers used
- Vague DIY instruction manual
- Reservoir may leak
#4 AeroGarden Ultra with Gourmet Herb Seed Pod Kit
The AeroGarden is a top-of-the-line indoor hydroponic system, which is highly resourceful for growing fresh flowers, salad greens, vegetables, and herbs.
The system uses deep water culture to distribute nutrients naturally without the presence of GMOs, pesticides, or herbicides. The unit measures 17.25 by 11.25 inches. It is fitted with seven plant sites. The system has a growing area of 4.5 to 24 inches high.
The system comes installed with an LED grow light, which is tuned to a precise spectrum. The spectrum promotes photosynthesis, allowing the plants to grow naturally and rapidly.
The LED lighting has red LEDs for bloom/flora, blue LEDs for larger yields, and white LEDs for expedited growth.
The AeroGarden comes with a user-friendly control panel with an interactive LCD display. The panel has simple prompts that are super easy to maneuver. The LCD shows you the number of days the plants are planted when to add nutrients, and the new tip available.
- Grows flowers, salad greens, vegetables, or fresh herbs
- Can grow up to seven plants at a time
- Full-spectrum LED grow light maximize plant growth
- The interactive LCD is easy to maneuver
- Seven-pod seed kit for full season growth
- LED panel may start flashing
#5 PowerGrow Deep Water Culture Hydroponic Bubbler Bucket Kit
The PowerGrow Bubbler Hydroponic Bucket Kit is an easy and inexpensive way to grow your plants hydroponically. This system distributes nutrients through deep water culture, which is super easy to use. The deepwater culture allows for fast growth with little effort.
In this system, the roots of the plants are submerged in a nutrient-rich and oxygen-infused water. The enriched solution promotes faster and healthier plant growth. The four identical, 5-gallon buckets are controlled by a single air pump, which does a great job of managing the four grow buckets.
- Highly effective deep water culture
- Grow buckets are FDA approved
- Each bucket is equipped with a water level indicator
- Comes with a high performing air pump
- Adjusting pH may be problematic
What to Look for in a Hydroponic System
There are several things you have to look for when shopping for the best hydroponic system, including the hydroponic method and the growing mediums you want to use.
There are several hydroponic methods or techniques you can consider. Before choosing a system, make sure that you know which way feels the most comfortable for you to use.
- Aeroponic System
This is the most advanced hydroponic technique on the market. It uses a small amount of growing medium, which can save you money in the long run. With aeroponic systems, the plant roots hang in the air and are misted with nutrient water. This method is ideal for growing smaller plants and herbs.
This technique does not easily support bigger plants due to the lack of substrate. Usually, the roots are held by a contraption with large plants.
Most systems that use this technique are equipped with a timer that is connected to a water pump that automatically mists the roots. Aeroponics systems are remarkably lightweight because they barely use a potting medium. These grow systems are suitable for small spaces.
- Deep Water Culture (DWC)
The aeroponics technique is considered the most advanced, but the deep water culture is the most popular technique for indoor cannabis growers.
Deepwater culture systems are usually fitted with plant sites/holes and a reservoir. The roots are supported by a growing medium, such as hydroton clay pebbles. With DWC systems, it’s essential to use a growing medium that does not retain moisture since the plant roots are always submerged in the solution.
DWC is probably the most straightforward system to set up, making it a suitable choice for inexperienced growers. You can even build your own deep water culture unit.
- Drip Ring Technique
The Drip Ring Technique is a simple technique that uses a timer which controls a submersible pump. Usually, the pump is connected to small pipes that are dipped to the roots of the plant. Typically, the pipes are fitted with sprayers that are easy to adjust to control the amount of water.
The pump is automatically turned on by the timer to provide a measured amount of the nutrient-rich solution to the plant. With this technique, you are advised to use a soilless mix to prevent water from accumulating, which can cause the roots to rot.
In most cases, drip ring systems use rocks to support the plant. The amount of water required for this method is minimal, making it the most cost-efficient technique.
- Ebb and Flow System
Ebb and Flow is essentially a sub-irrigation technique. The nutrient solution is pumped into a shallow growing bed to a depth of around an inch for about twenty minutes and allowed to drain back to the tank.
If you are a first-time gardener, then this is the ideal choice for you because it is easy to set up. The number of times the pump is switched on depends on the specific plant needs. The ebb and flow technique uses a loose growing medium, which can easily get stuck in the pump, causing power outages.
The second most important consideration when choosing a hydroponic system is the growing medium. The ideal growing medium is supposed to hold oxygen, water, and nutrients, and support the root system. The most popular and reliable hydroponics growing media are:
Hydroton is made from blends of different clay pellets fired in an open furnace to get rid of heavy metals as well as other contaminants. Hydroton pellets have excellent water retention and pH level sustainability that protects the plants against excess acidity. Some of the top-rated hydroponic growing systems use hydroton, and they usually have few insect problems, but may suffer from green algae.
You can use different types of gravel or stones as your grow medium. This is by far the most economical grow medium. Some of the best rock materials to use include river rock, lava rock, and pea gravel. Rocks are highly aerated.
- Coco Coir
This is a relatively newer growing medium made of fibers from the husks of coconuts. Coco coir can vary from one manufacturer to another. Coco coir has good water to air ratio and is capable of holding water for quite a while between watering. It also has good pH sustainability and slower drainage and drying rate. The only problem is that coco coir is vulnerable to insect infestation.
This medium is made from natural rocks that have been melted down and blown into mineral fibers with unparalleled water to air ratio. Rockwool has superior pH sustainability and remarkable water retention. Its extreme porosity makes it drain better than other mediums.
Rockwool is available in different sizes, mats, and plugs for propagation. The alkaline nature and porosity of Rockwool make it subject to the aggressive growth of mildews, molds, and algae.
For people who want to grow marijuana indoors, soil can be messy and too hands-on for indoor grow spaces. Hydroponic systems offer the potential for faster crop growth and more seamless growth cycles since they feed roots with a precise blend of essential nutrients with a balance of oxygen and water.
Hydroponics also use less water because you may reuse any irrigation water not directly consumed by the crop. With a hydroponic system, no need for weeding or herbicides. Therefore, your plants will never suffer the effects of harmful herbicides and be able to nurture their cannabinoids and terpenes.
We hope this article gave you some insight into the benefits of hydroponics systems and whether or not hydro is the right medium for your grow style.