How to grow weed using hydroponics for beginners

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Are you tired of buying expensive weed from dispensaries or dealers? Have you ever considered growing your own weed? Growing weed can be a rewarding hobby and it allows you to take control of what you are smoking, but it can also be a daunting task for beginners. One method of growing weed that is gaining popularity is hydroponics. Hydroponics is a big topic and is made up of loads of different variations on the same principle of soilless growing. In this article, we will cover the best methods for beginners and how you can begin growing your weed hydroponically.

What is Hydroponic Growing?

Hydroponics is a method of growing cannabis without soil. Instead of using soil, plants are grown in a nutrient-rich water solution that provides all the necessary nutrients for the plant’s growth. Hydroponic growing systems can range from simple DIY setups to complex commercial systems.

There are different types of hydroponic systems, but the most popular ones for growing weed are deep water culture (DWC), drip irrigation, and ebb and flow. DWC is the simplest and most affordable system for beginners. It involves suspending the plant roots in a nutrient solution and providing oxygen through an air pump.

What are the Pros and Cons of Hydroponic Weed Growing?

Pro’s of hydro:

Faster Growth: Hydroponic growing allows plants to grow faster and produce higher yields compared to soil growing.

Better Nutrient Control: In hydroponic growing, you have complete control over the nutrient solution, which means you can adjust the nutrients to meet the plant’s specific needs.

Reduced Water Usage: Hydroponic growing uses up to 90% less water than soil growing, making it an eco-friendly option.

No Soil-borne Diseases: Hydroponic growing eliminates the risk of soil-borne diseases, which can affect the plant’s growth and yield.

Con’s of hydro:

Initial Cost: Setting up a hydroponic growing system can be expensive, especially if you opt for a commercial setup.

Technical Knowledge: Hydroponic growing requires technical knowledge and experience to ensure the plants are growing correctly.

Equipment Failure: If the equipment fails, it can cause significant damage to the plants and result in a complete loss of the crop.

Maintenance: Hydroponic systems require regular maintenance, including monitoring the pH level, checking the nutrient solution, and maintaining the equipment.

Soil vs hydroponics: Is hydro or soil better for weed?


There isn’t really any right or wrong answer to this question because it is really depends on your preferred style of growing. Soil has been the traditional method of growing weed for years and is still the most popular way to grow today. Growing in soil is usually less expensive and a lot less complicated than hydroponics, and it also provides natural buffering that and can help maintain pH levels which many claim gives soil grown weed an edge when it comes to flavor.

On the other hand, hydroponic growing is much faster and can produce bigger yields faster, because you use synthetic nutrients. Hydroponic systems also allow for better nutrient control and eliminate the risk of soil-borne diseases, however that being said many of my fellow growers have experienced issues such as nutrient burn more often when growing with hydroponics.

So ultimately it all comes down to personal preference, your experience level and your location. If you have access to a huge garden with good soil and plenty of sun then maybe growing outdoors in soil will offer you the best results. Whereas in a cooler region where it is necessary to grow indoors, using hydroponics will provide bigger yields and faster results. Although either way, if you’re a beginner, it is best to start with soil growing and then progress to hydroponic growing once you’ve gained more experience.

What’s the Difference Between Active and Passive Hydro Systems?

There are two main types of hydroponic systems: active and passive. Active hydro systems use pumps to circulate the water, whereas passive systems use a wick to soak up the nutrient solution and feed it to the roots of a plant. If you were to make a DIY passive hydro system the wick can simply be the growing medium itself, so if you used rockwool to grow your plants in, this will act as the wick and absorb the water delivering it to the roots. Active systems are much more complex than this and require more maintenance, but they also provide better control over the growing environment. Passive systems are simpler and require less maintenance, but they may not be suitable for larger plants and won’t deliver as much nutrients to the plant in one go as an active hydro system would.

What are the best growing mediums for hydroponics?

A growing medium is anything that is used to support and house the roots of the cannabis plant. This can be soil, coco coir, compost, clay pebbles or a mixture of various mediums. A good hydroponics growing medium needs to  provide support for the plant’s roots and facilitates the transfer of nutrients and oxygen. Here are the best growing mediums to use in hydroponics growing:

Pebbles: Pebbles are an inexpensive and readily available growing medium that works very well with hydroponic systems. They are easy to work with and provide excellent support for plant roots. Pebbles also allow for good drainage and aeration, which help to keep your cannabis plants in good health.

Coco: Coco coir is another popular growing medium for hydroponics gardening. It is made from the fibrous husks of coconuts and is an environmentally friendly alternative to peat moss. Coco coir is lightweight, has excellent water retention properties, and provides adequate aeration for plant roots.

Rock wool: Rock wool is a popular growing medium that is made from molten rock spun into fibers. It is sterile and pH-neutral, making it ideal for hydroponics gardening. Rock wool provides excellent support for plant roots and is an excellent choice for plants that require a lot of water.

Which of these mediums is best for beginners?

Pebbles are probably the best cannabis growing medium for first time hydroponics growers. They are cheap, easy to use and available in almost all large garden centers. They are also easy to work with and provide good drainage and aeration, which is important to prevent issues such as root rot from occurring. Also because they are reusable they are cost-effective and more environmentally friendly.

What is the best hydroponics system for beginners?

There lots of different types of hydroponics systems out there, from ebb and flow to drip to N.F.T. Each of these systems has its own positives and drawbacks, but some of them are a little bit complicated and cost more to set up so which is bet for beginners? For beginners, the DWC (Deep Water Culture) system is the best option. It is a simple and inexpensive system that is easy to set up and maintain in your house.

What is the DWC system?

The DWC system involves suspending plants in a nutrient-rich water solution that is oxygenated by an air pump. The roots of the plant then grow down into the water, absorbing the nutrients they need to grow.

Step by step how to grow weed using the DWC hydro system

hydroponics dwc cannabis grow with large roots

Growing cannabis using the DWC system is straight forward and relatively cheap to set up and once you have the equipment you will be able to use it again on future grows. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to grow cannabis using the DWC system.

Equipment List:

  • DWC hydroponic system (including reservoir, air pump, air stones, net pots, and growing medium).
  • pH test kit.
  • Nutrient solution (specifically formulated for cannabis).
  • Grow lights (LED, HPS, or CFL)
  • Timer.
  • Humidity and temperature gauge
  • Fans (for air circulation)

Seedling Stage:

  • Start by germinating your seeds. The easiest way to do this is in a rockwool cube.
  • Fill your net pots with your clay pebbles and once the seeds have sprouted and transitioned into the seedling stage you can transfer the rockwool cube into the center of the clay pebbles.
  • Fill the reservoir with your nutrient solution. Make sure you use a pH meter to ensure it is falls between 5.5-6.5.
  • Place the net pots into the DWC system, making sure the roots are submerged in the nutrient solution.
  • Set up your grow lights and timer to a schedule of 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness. 
  • Once the seedlings have grown for 2-3 weeks you will be in the start of the veg stage.

Veg Stage:

  • Once the seedlings have established roots and are growing, it is time to move to the veg stage. Continue to monitor the pH and nutrient levels, adjusting as necessary.
  • Train your plants using LST (Low Stress Training) methods such as Scrog or tie and bend to increase yields.
  • Maintain a consistent light cycle of 18-24 hours per day.
  • Continue to monitor the temperature and humidity levels and adjust as needed.
  • Allow the plants to grow in the veg stage for approximately 4-6 weeks before moving on to the flowering stage.

Flowering Stage:

  • Once you reach the flowering stage, adjust the light cycle to 12 hours on and 12 hours off per day to induce flowering.
  • Continue to monitor the pH and nutrient levels, adjusting as necessary.
  • Use fans to increase air circulation and prevent mold or mildew growth.
  • Harvest your plants when the buds are fully mature and the trichomes are cloudy or amber in color.

Diagram of DWC setup

DWC hydroponics system diagram

Should You Flush Hydroponic Weed?

Flushing is the process of feeding your cannabis plants with just plain pH adjusted water that contains no nutrients. This is done 1-2 weeks before harvesting time to cleanse your plants and rid them of any residual nutrients before you cut them down and smoke the flowers. While flushing is not strictly necessary, it can improve the overall quality of your weed, providing a smoother, cleaner smoke. 

I would advise anyone growing using synthetic nutrients, which will apply to anyone growing hydroponically to do it. I am a firm believer of organic growing and knowing what you are putting in your body, so if using synthetic nutrients it’s important for me to flush thoroughly before I dry and smoke any bud. It really is down to personal preference, but even if just from a taste perspective flushing is worth doing.

Does Hydroponics Increase Yield?

Hydroponic growing alone doesn’t increase yield, however, along with proper training it is one of the methods that if used correctly can increase yields. Hydroponic systems provide a constant supply of nutrients and water allowing your plants can grow faster and producing more bud than you would normally see in a soil grow. That being said this is dependent on where you live, for any growers living in hot regions with lots of sun, outdoor growing cannot be beaten, it’s cheaper, with more space and plenty of natural light. Although for those of you that want to grow indoors, hydro normally beats soil when it comes to yield.

To really maximize your yields when growing weed hydroponically, it’s important to choose the right strains, starting out with a strain like Big Bud is always going to help you get those bumper harvests you want. 

It’s also important to remember that growing using hydroponics isn’t going to magically transform your average sized plants into huge beasts. Growing is a skill that must be leaned and using training techniques such as LST, topping and fimming need to be used in synchronicity with hydro to fully take your yields to the next level.

How Fast Does Hydro Weed Grow?

Weed grown in a hydroponics system is able to grow faster because absorbing nutrients is made easier for the plant. Instead of the plants roots having to burrow through soil in search of nutrients, hydroponics suspends the roots in a nutrient rich solution, meaning that food is always available to it. This means your vegetative stage can be cut down slightly as the plant will be large enough to flower earlier than if you were to grow in soil. Or alternatively you can veg for the same time and achieve bigger yields.

It must also be noted that the speed and vigor with which your plants grow is also down to the quality of your nutrients, the power of your lights and providing a good climate for your plants. Without all of these aspects met, your plants will not thrive.

What cannabis strains perform best in hydroponics? 

There are hundreds of cannabis strains that will thrive in hydroponics systems, and I would go as far as saying that every single strain can be grown using hydro. However, if you are growing indoors in a grow tent with limited space some strains might be better than others. Here are a few strains that are robust and generally perform well when grown with hydroponics. 

Northern Lights: An indica dominant hybrid Northern Lights is known for its resilience and ease of growth. It is also a relatively short and compact plant, making it a good choice for indoor hydroponic setups.

White Widow: Another classic strain White Widow grows excellent in hydroponics. It is a hybrid strain with a balanced effect and can produce good yields.

Big Bud: For those of you that are going for yields over potency, you can’t go far wrong with Big Bud. Hydro growers can expect 500-600 grams per square meter of dense buds.

Gorilla Glue Auto: Not only is this strain super potent producing THC levels of up to 25% but it is also capable of growing enormous when you use LST under a hydro setup. You can expect yields of 400-500 grams per square meter. Gorilla Auto stays relatively short and easy to maintain making it ideal for indoor growers with limited space.

Joe Musgrave

Joe Musgrave is a keen 420 blogger who writes about all things cannabis. After harnessing his green thumbed skills through years of working on cannabis farms, Joe now shares his knowledge with the rest of the online 420 community.

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