Hydroponics Growing Systems One by One

Each of the hydroponics growing systems has its own way of supporting the plants. Plants require food, water, and oxygen for the roots to keep them from drowning. You can scroll down the page to see how each system works one by one, or you can use this menu to jump to any system. The main types of hydroponics growing systems are the…

People often do not realize that hand watering can be one of the simplest hydroponics growing systems, but hydroponics boils down to this…the food is in the water.

If you mix perlite, vermiculite, and coconut coir (all nutrient free) and use this to grow your plants in a container garden, you will HAVE TO include some plant food in the water when you hand water. By definition, this is an example of hydroponics gardening. A 50/50 mix of perlite/vermiculite would work just as well.

Coconut coir and vermiculite retain quite a bit of water. By using more of them in the soiless mix, the containers will stay moist between hand-waterings (every day or two). Sphagnam peat is the base of many commercial potting soils and can be used as a substitute for this purpose also.

Because of its simplicity, this is obviously an easy home method. This is one of the hydroponics growing systems that will easily support organics. No matter what type of system you choose, you will need to learn some hydroponics feeding tips.

reservoir hydroponics growing systems

The deep water culture method, also known as the reservoir method, is one of the easiest of all the true hydroponics growing systems. A container holds about two inches of nutrient solution. Several plant containers sit down in the nutrient solution. An aquarium air pump constantly bubbles in the nutrient solution, keeping the plants roots from drowning.

Often, small holes are made around the bottom 2 inches of the plant pots, allowing the roots to grow out into the nutrient solution. As in the example above, an effort is usually made to keep light from getting to the nutrient solution.

Wherever there is light and nutrients, algae will grow. Algae eat the nutrients you are trying to feed to your plants, and when pieces of algae die they attract fungus gnats. Fungus gnats lead to many other problems.

Because of its simple design and simple function, the reservoir method is a good choice for homemade hydroponics. Since there are no drip or spray emitters to clog, it is also a good choice for organic hydroponics growing systems.

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This system is well suited for volcanic lava chips media, or else a mixture of one part vermiculite to 5 parts expanded clay pellets. As with any hydroponics growing system, you will want to brush up on your hydroponics feeding tips before beginning.

In the flood and drain method, the plants sit in their own container separate from the nutrient reservoir. From time to time, a pump will kick on. The nutrient solution from the reservoir floods the upper container for a while, soaking the plant roots and the grow medium. The pumps than turn off, and the solution drains back into the reservoir.

Your choice of grow media determines how often and how long you flood the container for. Fast draining, clay pellets may be flooded for a half hour 4 times a day, while the slower draining rockwool can be watered less. This system is also well suited for growing in straight perlite or lava chips.

The parts and function of this hydroponics growing system are pretty basic, making it another good option for a homemade hydroponics system. With a good water pump, you can also use this method for organic hydroponics. It is always a good idea to have a filter before the pump in any system.

Of course, you will make any hydroponics growing system work its best with the right hydroponics feeding tips.

drip hydroponics growing systems

With the drip hydroponics growing system, the plants are again in their own tray, separate from the nutrient reservoir. A pump pushes nutrient solution through many small tubes, which feed each plant from the top. Different emitters can be placed on the end of each tube to make the drip slower or faster.

Once again, a faster draining medium (like clay pellets) will need faster dripping emitters (or more of them per plant). Slower draining media (like rockwool) would use slower dripping emitters.

The standard media for drip systems is rockwool, although clay pellets and lava chips are also sometimes used. Straight perlite should work well in this system also, although I’ve never tried it myself.

The flow rate is difficult to control on a drip system, and the emitters are famous for clogging. These problems are even worse when you try to make your own drip system. You will probably spend a lot of money and have a poorly working system if you try to build a homemade drip system (I know this from personal experience).

Furthermore, organic nutrients are full of small particles that ALWAYS seem to mess up the drip emitter. If you are trying to do organic hydroponics, this is not the system for you.

Nutrient Film Technique hydroponic growing systems

In this hydroponics growing system, plants are placed in a tray or gutter separate from the nutrient reservoir. One end of the tray is lower than the other, to encourage the flow of water.

A pump delivers a steady flow of water at one end, creating a constant stream of nutrient solution in the bottom of the tray. In order to make sure the water flowing through the bottom of the tray is nice and even, a layer of absorbant material (called capillary mat) is placed in the bottom.

NFT is another method that is both easy for the homemade hydroponics do-it-yourselfer and also a good choice for organic hydroponics growing systems. Once again the parts, the design, and the function are all simple. once again, there are no drip or spray emitters to clog.

There is one thing to consider, however. You must start with plants that have a root system large enough to hang down into the flowing nutrient solution. Your other option would be to top feed the plants with a drip system until their roots are large enough (which is a pain).

It doesn’t matter what type of media you start your plants in. Once they are in place in the system, the roots will be growing right in the water! This system, when the proper hydroponics feeding tips are followed, works very nicely.

wick hydroponic growing systems

In wick hydroponic growing systems, the plants are again in their own container, separate from the nutrient reservoir. Pieces of absorbant material (usually nylon rope) are buried partially in each plant container. The other end of the rope is allowed to dangle in the nutrient solution. The absorbant material pulls the nutrient solution from the reservoir up into the growing medium.

The system is easy to make as a homemade hydroponics system, and will support organic hydroponics without any problems, but there are a couple of things to consider.

Sometimes it is difficult to get the right moisture level in a wick system. You will have to experiment a little with more absorbant growing mediums (vermiculite/coconut coir). Also, I have seen the wicks suck up less and less water over time (especially when using organics).

If you want to give this method a try, I suggest a 50/50 mix of perlite/vermiculite. Perlite and coconut coir would work as well. Altogether, I think other systems are just as easy to use, and produce better results.

aeroponics reservoir for hydroponics growing systems

In these hydroponics growing systems, a large container like this contains several gallons of nutrient solution in the bottom. A pump pushes nutrient solution through spray heads that constantly soak every inch inside the container with a fine mist of nutrient solution.

aeroponics hydroponics growing systems

As you can see, there really is no growing medium in this method. The plants roots hang down into the container and grow mostly in air, except for the few that grow long enough to make it into the nutrient solution in the bottom.

The pump used is a high-pressure pump, and the spray emitters are made specially to deliver a very fine, highly oxygenated spray.

It is often very hard to assemble individual parts into a well-working system, and the individual parts can be expensive as well. Also, the fine-spray emitters will instantly clog if you try to use anything except high quality hydroponic fertilizers (no organics).

Of all the hydroponics growing systems, this is the most difficult to master and the most temperamental. Ph changes and nutrient imbalances occur more quickly because of the increased absorption rates and high levels of oxygenation. Furthermore, with no grow media to protect the roots, the plants react negatively to these changes much more quickly.

More recently, some innovative gardeners have begun to push this new area. Systems are beginning to pop up that are much simpler and that do not rely on pumps. Aeroponics does offer faster growth rates, which continue to drive the demand for it.

Picking the right lighting for your planted aquarium

Picking the right lighting for your planted aquarium can be intimidating and confusing. There are so many options to choose from, and so many ways to measure these options. The first step to understanding full spectrum aquarium lighting is to understand what type light your plants need, and what the measurements mean.

Color temperature, measured in Kelvins, is often the easiest measure to find, after wattage. It is a measure of the overall color of the light as it appears to the human eye. Lower color temperatures appear reddish while higher temperatures appear bluish with white in the middle of the range. Often, a temperature between 5000K and 10,000K is recommended for a planted aquarium. However, two bulbs with the same color temperature may in fact be emitting very different light, some more useful to plants than others. This has to do with the different wavelengths of light, and explains why relying on color temperature alone can be misleading.

Visible light is made up of many different wavelengths, mixed together. It’s the absorption or reflection of particular wavelengths that produce colors. Plants require certain wavelengths of light to carry out photosynthesis using chlorophyll. The light that chlorophyll absorbs is used to power photosynthesis. By examining the wavelengths of light absorbed by chlorophyll, we can begin to understand the needs of our aquatic plants.

As shown above, plants need the majority of the light to be around 400-450nm and 650-675nm (or blue and red light). The blue light is used for leaf growth, and promotes bushy, compact growth, while red light is mainly used for flowering and strong stems. They reflect most green light, thus explaining why leaves are green.

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Armed with this information, we know that any aquarium light will need to produce large amounts of blue and red light. Most bulb manufacturers include the spectral output graph of their products on or in the packaging. Examine this output graph and try to find a bulb that matches up with the spectral absorption graph for chlorophyll. The closer the match, the better the bulb will be for your plants. For example, the following graph is for a GE 9325K bulb.

The bulb matches up fairly well, although the spike at 600nm is not really red enough (650-675nm) for a plant to fully benefit. The blue light spike is however beneficial, and the spike in greenish-yellow light will make the bulb look bright to the human eye.

Although you may not notice a major difference between bulbs, a mix between a color temperature that you like and a spectral output that your plants like will help create healthier plants and a healthier aquarium.

How to Keep Fish Healthy

There are actually relatively few things you need to keep a fish healthy. However, any fish will need these things, so keep them in mind when you are getting prepared for your new friends:

You will need a tank.
Your tank will need to be large enough for the fish to swim round freely and large enough to disperse the fish’s waste until the filter can process the waste.
You will need a filter to process the fish’s waste into less harmful forms between your water changes.
You will also need to provide hiding places for the fish, so that the fish will feel comfortable and will not feel exposed and vulnerable.
For any tropical fish you will need a heater to keep the water warm to mimic the tropical conditions these fish are from.
When you first set up your tank, you will need to prepare it for your new pets, before you get any!

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Dechlorinate the water.

Make sure all the equipment is running.
Get the temperature adjusted and stable (if you’re getting tropical fish).
When you first get your fish, you will need to then get the tank established and stabilized. Primarily, this is going through the cycling process to avoid “new tank syndrome.”

Once you have the tank set up and cycled, you will need to care for the fish. Caring for the fish will include these tasks:

Provide regular aquarium cleanings and water changes.
Provide regular filter maintenance.
Provide regular feedings using a variety of healthy foods.
Observe your fish regularly to recognize any odd behavior.

Inspect your equipment regularly to make sure everything is functioning correctly and that nothing is in need of repair or replacement.

So, you can see, caring for your aquarium and your fish to keep them healthy is really very simple, and though patience is absolutely necessary when you first get started (in order to get through the cycling process with minimal stress and minimal loss), just getting into a routine with your fish will make them more enjoyable and less stressful in the long run.

Natural Algae Control

Algae control in a saltwater aquarium is important.

Having algae in your tank doesn’t mean anything is necessarily wrong, in fact, sometimes it will only grow under healthy conditions!

Algae need two things to grow, light and nutrients, two things that the much more desirable corals also require.

Outside of keeping the aquarium dark and not feeding the fish, there is not much the home aquarist can do to keep algae from growing.

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Luckily, algae is also an excellent food for many aquarium inhabitants. In fact, algae is almost a necessity for many herbivorous fish and inverts.

Many people are familiar with the many chemical means of algae control.

Unfortunately, most of these chemicals are copper based and harmful to not only corals, but also invertebrates and even some fish.

The other alternative is the labor-intensive manual removal method.

This involves scraping or pulling algae from the glass, rocks, and every other aquarium surface, taking up the aquarist’s valuable time, and giving reef aquarium maintenance a bad reputation.

There are many creatures that would gladly do the work for you! These are called “Reef Janitors,”and come in many shapes and sizes.

The most well known are the Hermit Crabs and snails seen commonly in local pet shops. The general rule of thumb for keeping reef janitors is 1 janitor per gallon of water.

This may seem like a lot in the beginning, but you’ll soon realize it may not be enough! In addition to snails and hermits, Sand Starfish and Sea Cucumbers are very important members of the crew.

They spend almost all of their time in the sand bed, and although not often seen, they are performing a very important duty. They keep the sand moving, thereby keeping it well oxygenated and free from debris.

There are many choices for inhabitants in a reef aquarium, but Reef Janitors are a very important and often neglected choice.

So before you fill up your tank with decorative animals, keep in mind the janitors.

Tangs, like the yellow tang and kole tang, will eat many types of algae.

Crabs, like the emerald crab, help to eat the hair algae most of the hermits won’t.

Hermit Crabs and Snails will eat most everything else, including left over food!

Just make sure you give those hermits extra shells to grow, otherwise you may end up missing your snails!

We all know that algae is inevitable in an aquarium, but with the right clean-up crew and a few guidelines to follow, algae control doesn’t have to be a problem.

In fact, you might not even know it’s even there!

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