Building your own hydroponics or self watering tub is easy and inexpensive.
There are many approaches, some more complicated than others. For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll focus on a couple basic units from which you can expand or modify to your liking. First, you’ll need a few tools. These are the ones I have found handy.
Razor knife Framing square Router or Dremel moto-tool with a spiral cutting bit, saber/jig/hole/coping saw or other method of making circular cuts. Cordless drill and bits. Skill saw, table saw, handsaw, or other method of making accurate straight cuts Tape measure. Compass Some other things you might find useful are files, rasps, sand paper, hole saws, eye hooks, jack chain
The materials you’ll need are: 1) Two large tubs. One to fit inside the other. The outside one (or both) should be light proof to inhibit algae growth. The first tank simply acts as a double walled containment system in case of spills or leaks, the second one fits inside acting as the nutrient tank that supports and contains everything else. If you buy them so they are nested then the first will hold the plants while you change nutrients as well. If you plan on using five gallon buckets a small hole near the top of the first tank is a good idea to allow air in when you separate the two. (If you have ever put two wet five gallon buckets together and tried to pull them apart again you know what I mean.) I like the tubs in the picture. They are sold as storage bins at home depot and office supply stores. And have attached wide opening tops and a small lip to support a tray/lid holding your plant pots. Again, get the black ones if you can. If you can’t find them or they do not fit your needs try Rubbermaid tubs, bus tubs, 5 gallon buckets or paint the exterior until it is light tight. Whatever you use, it should be sturdy. You don’t want something that will not bend when moved holding water, which weighs over eight pounds a gallon. Don’t skimp too much on quality. You’ll be glad in the end. “Quality is the bargain to savor, the bitterness of low quality lingers long after the sweetness of a low price.” 2) One water pump. Fountain pumps work ok, if you are just watering with clear water, but if you are constantly running nutrients through it you might find the salts build up and/or wear on the parts possibly causing premature failure. For these cases you might spend the extra money for a pump that is saltwater/grey water capable (grey water is water with suspended particulates ) You don’t need a big one, 40 to 60 gallons/hour is
I’m sure there is a formula out there that plumbers use to figure reductions sizes out but I am too lazy to worry about it. Probably 15-30 dollars. (Three prongs). I use Belkin models. Still. but feed directly from the nutrient rich water and so do not need to spread out much. I like it because it adds protection for the programable timer in the case of power failure. about 15 to 25 inches should be enough. 3) One good digital timer. pressure. If you want to be technical. Look for them on ebay. Also you might need to look at tube clamps. I use Amertac or Intermatic timers with great success. The amount you need will depend on your particular set up. It will give you a low flow to trickle on your planters that you can regulate with the timer settings. and/or amount of time you leave the timer on. I use Neoprene fuel line. 7) Planters. 4) One grounded. (I like growing in soil and just fertilize by hand a couple times a month. Priced at 15 to 30 dollars. hardware and lighting stores. for true hydroponics with nutrient salts I would spend the extra money for one that is salt water rated. I have found small 40gph fountain pumps on Ebay for as little as 2. more is better. I have never had to replace one yet though.00 a piece (delivered) when buying in bulk. Ebay. It must be light proof to stop algae growth. Little giant makes some serviceable pumps. You don’t want one that creates so much pressure behind it that the water comes gushing out and erodes your medium. Interior diameter will be dependent on the output of your pump. For these instructions one or two 10" planters are used.) That makes them cheap enough to replace if one goes bad. available at Home Depot. Home Depot or garden centers. For these instructions You’ll need a T fitting and maybe a coupling dependent on your pump choice. 6) Various in line connectors for tubing. For these plans you could easily expand to four or six planters by reducing the diameter of your planter pots and increasing the number of your hose outlets. Reduction fittings. MAKE SURE IT IS GROUNDED. Also beware of how fast your planters drain and adjust the water intake. For things like drip irrigation or aeroponics you’ll need additional fittings. If you are running several lines from a main feed line make sure the secondary lines are about ½ the size of the main line to keep pressure up to an acceptable level. You will want it to have some battery backup in case of power failure to preserve you programs. It should be programmable to the minute with at least 21 on/off settings a week (3 per day) and grounded. but be careful. What you will need will depend on your personal tastes. (Remember I grow in soil. Ebay and variety stores 5) Black Tubing. Surge protection is desirable but not necessary. drain holes. Remember to decrease the size of your hose outlets as you add more to the mainline. Couplings. not true hydroponics) For hydroponics you can reduce the planter size somewhat since the roots do not need to draw nutrients from the soil or expend energy to penetrate it . Get one that will pump the liquid up to a height sufficient to elevate it over the edges of the planters. Some examples are T fittings. Aquarium shops.
. fused power strip/surge protector. misting or sprinkle heads possibly. Priced 3 to 30 dollars at Home Depot.probably fine for most small to medium set ups.
9) Nutrients and planter medium of your choice. plant and grow. water and plants. For soil I would suggest Jiffy 7 Peat Pots. sphagnum moss. plywood. For soil I would get a good high quality soil base and experiment with some of the recipes you can find on the web. It is solid and works fine as long as you don’t get it too wet. It is cheaper. Just make sure it is sturdy enough to support the weight of the planters filled with your medium of choice. Other methods I have used is using the lid of a five gallon bucket or other container lids. Just water. easier. For this demonstration I will only use two. 2 quarts pro-mix. I have used Eco-grow in the past with good results). A good basic recipe I have used is: 1 quart earthworm castings. Subdivide your top into as many areas as you wish. They are excellent and come in self contained compact biscuits that expand with water. try rock wool cubes. more available. 2 teaspoons bone meal and spray with kelp meal 1 once per week. 1 quart pearlite. aluminum or similar sturdy. I like soil and use the hydro system as a self watering unit only. pH meter or test strips (meters are much better). hard material sufficient to cover the tanks assembly and support the weight of your plants and planters above your nutrient water and support the assembly when you take them out to change nutrients. Measure diagonally from corner to corner from both corners to find the center of your subdivisions. very coarse sand or combinations of these and other well aerated. They are similar in use and hold air and moisture well while germinating. Pressure treated plywood is even better if you can find a small piece. It is unlikely that you will need more than about 18 x 30 probably less or so but it will depend on your tank assembly as to exact measurements. 1 teaspoon of blood meal. but it swells and will eventually fall apart in constantly wet conditions. In this example I use vinyl faced MDF because I have a lot of scrap from our cabinet manufacturing. vermiculite. moisture retaining materials. If you go totally hydroponics There are many good inert moisture retaining materials like broken terra cotta. ph up/down solutions. gravel. (See photos) If you are using a five gallon bucket you can use the lid that fits or if you use a different container you might use the lid that comes with it provided it is sturdy enough to support everything. (Many are available. Layout your holes with a compass using
. Plywood would be a better choice. With these you do not disturb the fine root system developing from the germinating seedling when transplanting to the planters.. none. 10) Starting mediums for germination.. prepacked nutrients assuming you are not mixing them yourself. small long wire handled brushes to clean tubes and fittings on occasion. For hydroponics. less work and maintenance. and more forgiving if you make a mistake. You’ll also probably want things like a TDS Meter (Total dissolved solids). “0" mess. plastic. pumice stone. pearlite.8) One small sheet of material like MDF..
Begin by measuring whatever you have chosen to use as your containment tank and cutting a sheet of material to fit inside riding on the inner lip of the container.
Set the on/off times on your timer accordingly after testing the flow rate. Run irrigation/drip lines from the main line off the pump. razor knife to accomplish this. jig saw. Clean any filters and the nutrient tank out about once a week or so when you change nutrients or if you notice your flow has decreased. Using t fittings and/or reduction fittings that fit the inside diameter of your hose. but the salts may wear the parts excessively in which case you may want to invest in a pump designed for salt/greywater. Also you’ll probably want to elevate the pump slightly and place some sort of screen over the intake hole to keep debris from entering the pump and hose lines. You may also need a bigger pump and/or mainline to provide enough water/pressure. Your hole needs to be slightly smaller than the top diameter of your planter so when it sits in the hole the planter will not fall through. If you are pumping nutrient salts in solution you might get way with a fountain pump. It will need to have enough lift (Distance from the floor of your tank to the highest point needed) to pump over the lip of your planters.where the lines intersect to center your holes and cut them out. You might use a hole saw. Also check your hose lines for algae growth. You may want to secure the ends of the hoses to the planters so they don’t move when the pump comes on. for just fresh water feeding. Look at the photos and diagrams. Mount your hoses inside the nutrient tank instead of running to the top of the medium and equip with misting heads on the ends so the spray hits near the top of the net. If you have many lines coming off the main water line you will need to reduce the size of the off shoots. This can be done easily with twist ties or plastic ties. A small nylon net held with a rubber band works well for this. Remember. Your hose diameter will be determined by the pump you buy. a fountain pump works well. In this case instead of planters use a net and maybe sphagnum moss to support the plant roots. keyhole saw. You will want to increase the daily feedings in this case which means
. Make sure your planters drain as fast or slightly faster than the pump will circulate the water so you don’t have a flood. At this point the rest is just assembling the parts. Many light weight pumps may benefit from being weighted down to hold them in place in the bottom of the tank. saber saw. Algae will eat your nutrients up very quickly and deplete gases dissolved in the water as well as clog waterlines. running down and off the roots back into the nutrient tank. Try strapping it to a brick if that is the case. In the example the line is the same size because it only feeds two pots and is the most basic example. so buy the pump first. For a small system 40 to 60 gallons per hour is good. Find a convenient place to drill a hole for the hose/hoses and cut a small notch in the edge to fit the power cord into. A slight variation on this design is to mist the roots (aeroponics) instead of watering the medium. moistening the roots. (See photo) Fit your hose through the hole provided for it and connect to your pump of choice.
. I have used pearlite or vermiculite in the past with pretty fair results..you’ll need a timer capable of multiple feedings every few hours. It should be looped around the plant just inside the edge of the planter and buried down about a inch to limit evaporation. Hydroponics is a good way to grow fabulous plants. or the green tips. start at #6. my problem. If you are not into experimentation and maintenance. Count on experimentation to fine tune all of these systems. Be careful in your assessment before making major changes. but it seems straight forward enough. leaves die & drop off and/or growth is slow. and more forgiving if you make a mistake. Go to #2. Your wick should be heavy cotton cord or lamp wick and needs to run from deep in the nutrient solution up into the medium of your choice. The lift you can get from capillary action is limited so check to make sure the wick will move enough water to keep your medium damp. You might have to experiment with mediums to find one that retains and distributes a good amount of the moisture. but it is definitely not set and forget. leaf margins are not curled-up noticeably. a) Affects only the bottom or middle of the plant. you may have a Nitrogen (N) deficiency. You should also have some experience at looking at the condition of the plant to determine nutrient balances. cheaper. To Diagnose your plants begin with #1 below. The following is a simplified diagnostic tool that I have found useful in the past. the best way to grow is in soil. This system requires no pumps or timers. This idea is similar to a drip line that you might use to run water from a local creek to a covert planting site outdoors.
. Prime your wick and medium by soaking it in the nutrient water completely before burying it. A picture is worth a thousand words. Expect to have to change wicks when the plant is harvested as the roots will probably grow into and around the wick. It allows roots to continuously feed at will. look at #10. b) Affects only the top of the plant. For more info Ed Rosenthal has written several good books with specific advice. c) Seems to affect the entire plant equally. Keep reading until you find the condition that applies to your plant then read the nutrients section to learn more about it. It is far from complete. 2) a) The leaves are a uniform yellow or light green. It is more natural. It is very simple and inexpensive. much less work. 1) First. It’s effectiveness relies on its construction and maintenance. Another unique system that works surprisingly well takes advantage of capillary action in a cotton wick. Again. You have fine tune any system and to do the maintenance and upkeep required. I’ve never tried this system so there is not a lot of advice I can give beyond that. just look at the drawings and you’ll get the basic gist of the idea. the automated fresh water system combined with manual fertilization described above works well for this application. but will give you a good basis to start from.
damaged roots. go to #3. Or it could be from over-watering. while the leaf margins remain green.b) If not. Growth may be slow and leaves may be small. b) If not. soggy soil. even though they get 12 hours of darkness for over 2 weeks. When you top the plant you lose these and it take about two to three weeks to build the level back up again. but the veins are mostly green? Iron (Fe) deficiency. Leaves are yellowing and may turn brown. 4) a) If your leaves are browning or yellowing. and/or the tips may be twisted. Stems and petioles may have purple & red on them. 10) Are your leaves yellow or white.. b) If not. b) If not. go to #4. go to #11. or dead but the plant otherwise appears green and healthy. Necrotic spots may be between veins. Or your have yellow. even though the soil is moist. or copper deficiency (very unlikely). 7) for leaves that are curled under like a ram's horn. The night period is not completely dark and/or maybe too much nitrogen. 6) a) Perhaps the tips of the leaves are yellow. but the veins remain somewhat green. The hormones for growth and flowering are stored in the growing tip of the branches only. Look at a Potassium (K) deficiency.
.It is probably from over-fertilization (too much Nitrogen (N)). b) If not. perlite. It may be a Magnesium (Mg) deficiency. go to #7. 11) The leaves are light green or yellow beginning at the base. brown. phosphorus (P). b) If not. go to #10. b) If not. which may be curled or your plant may be too tall. keep reading. disease. or necrotic (dead) patches. especially around the edges of the leaf. 9) If your plants won't flower. Use a bloom formula fertilizer with little or no nitrogen. It is probably a Manganese (Mn) deficiency. so keep this in mind. It might be from over-fertilization. b)If not. 5) a) If the leaves are dark green and/or red/purple. However red or purple stems are common to many strains and are not a problem in and of them selves. or potassium (K). damaged roots.. or insufficient soil aeration (use more sand. or gold. or vermiculite to increase drainage. brown. go to #6. gray. Leaves are not twisted. and are dark green. Leaf may drop easily. It may also be due to too much pruning or cloning. go to #9. b) If not. It may be a Phosphorus(P) deficiency.. brown. Stems may be soft It’’s a good chance you have over fertilized especially Nitrogen (N). On occasion it may be due to not enough Nitrogen (N). go to #8…… 8) If The plant is wilted. Leaves may turn yellow or curl under. 3) a) If the margins of the leaves are turned up.
If you mix your soil. To much Fe without adding enough P can cause a Pdeficiency. and the use of water-softening filters (which should not be used). lower the pH to about 6. which can interfere with other nutrients. and Mg-deficiencies. It is likely to be a Zinc (Zn) deficiency.Mn gets locked out when the pH is too high. which can lock up Fe.chelated iron might read something like "iron EDTA".Plants will use a lot of N during the vegetative portion of its growth cycle. Manganese . so red stems are not a foolproof sign of P-deficiency. If you think you’’ve added too much try flushing the soil with plain water. Let the solution cool before use. but rarely.A Ph reading that is too high. Too much P can lead to iron deficiency. will render the iron unusable. a calcium (Ca) or Boron (B) deficiency. Alternatively. Read your fertilizer's ingredients . The lights are too close to the plant. just don’’t let it go. then turn brown or die. also be careful that you don't overdo Mg or you'll lock up other nutrients. Use chelated iron for maximum availability.. #12.. and when there's too much
. causing a K deficiency.It is common to have a Mg.b) If not.5 (for rock wool. Soluble nitrogen (especially nitrates) is the form that's the most quickly available to the roots like ammonia compounds. plus it can also be a co-symptom of N. Cl or ammonium nitrogen. pretty much like #11.. and check that you're not adding too much P. 12) If The leaves are twisted but otherwise. You can foliar feed at ½½ teaspoon/quart. The Nutrients: Nitrogen . #13. It’’s balancing act. in either the soil or the water. Iron . 13) If the leaves twist. genetic characteristic for many varieties. Magnesium . If the problem is Na. about 5. b) If not…… It maybe a weak plant. flush the soil with lots of clean water. but it's easy to overdo it. b) If not. Mg can get locked-up and made useless by too much Ca. Marijuana uses a lot of it and many fertilizers don't have enough of it. You should change fertilizers to a low nitrogen bloom formula so the plants are allowed to become N-deficient late in flowering for the best flavor. Phosphorous .7).Too much sodium (Na) will chemically displace K. while insoluble N (like urea) is broken down first by microbial action in the soil after which it maybe absorbed by the roots You should avoid excessive ammonium nitrogen. If you have an iron deficiency. for every gallon. K can also get locked up from too much Ca or ammonium nitrogen. get it? Potassium . K. Red petioles and stems are a normal. You can fix this simply enough by using ¼¼ teaspoon/gallon of Epsom salts that are first prepared by powdering them first and then dissolved in hot water. Too much N will also delay flowering. deficiency. and possibly cold weather. too much manure. Sources of high salinity are: baking soda (sodium bicarbonate "pH-up").During flowering some Phosphorous deficiency is to be expected. use 2 teaspoon dolomite lime.
and are usually from a high pH.0. A general guideline for TDS levels is as follows: seedlings = 50-150 ppm. period try a N:P:K ratio of about 10:7:8 (which of course is the same ratio as 20:14:16).5-6. Check Your Water . and the exact opposite during the flowering period. Heat . distillers. especially if your plants have a chronic problem.0). Tap water with a TDS (total dissolved solids) level of more than around 200ppm (parts per million) is "hard" and should be looked into. and Mn deficiencies often occur together. follow the fertilizer's directions for feeding tomatoes. Zn. and generally the more you pay the better the accuracy. Cold . Grow a few tomato or radish plants nearby for comparison.Too many minerals cause a condition called hard water. un-rooted clones = 100-350 ppm. A digital TDS meter (or EC = electrical conductivity meter) is useful for checking the nutrient levels of a solution. the tops may be curled. but the costlier reverse-osmosis units. which some dolomite lime will help fix. They run about $40 and up. large plants = 900-1800 ppm. These numbers are just a guideline. like equatorial sativa. keep it circulating and change it every 2 weeks. so use TDS level only as an estimate of actual nutrient levels. For the water. Don't overdo the micro-nutrients. Fe. 5. K. especially organdies. lower the pH if that's the problem so the nutrients become available. Soils with lots of peat or other organic matter in them tend to get too acidic. the micro-nutrients (Fe. You won't regret it. TDS. and mineral levels (as well as the pollutants. Mn. and de-ionizers will. If you use a reservoir. Check the pH after adding nutrients.iron. small plants = 400-800 ppm. Some varieties. General Feeding Tips . etc). If you can keep the roots warmer. Your hand should not feel hot after a minute when you hold it at the top of the plants. and look burnt. Invest in a digital pH meter ($40-80). dry. PH . the plant will be able to take cooler temps than it otherwise could. preferably a waterproof one.Cold weather (below 50F/10C) can lock up phosphorous. and for flowering plants. 4:8:8. don't take well to cold weather.Also gets locked out due to high pH. Use chelated Mn. You can also have your water tested by your state’s university agricultural extension service if available or a private laboratory. while the major nutrients (N.9-6. carcinogens. but inaccurate. When in doubt about a new fertilizer. This is a common request. For the vegetative. Your water company should be able to provide an analysis of the water in your area. Regular water filters will not reduce a high TDS level. Use chelated zinc. Certain nutrients are "invisible" to TDS meters. Room
. Raise the lights and/or aim a fan at the hot zone. Zinc . mimicking a nutrient problem.1). Zn.The pH of water after adding any nutrients should be around 5. but a general rule of thumb is to use more nitrogen & less phosphorous during the vegetative period. Mg) can be less available in acidic soil or water (below 5.5 (in rock wool. and many factors can change the actual level the plants will need. so it shouldn't raise an eyebrow. Cu) get locked out at a high pH (alkaline) above 7. Generally speaking. If you have crust around the faucets this is likely. Tap water is often too alkaline.If the lights are too close to the plant.Plants are very adaptable. P. Soil test kits vary in accuracy. last week of flowering = taper off to plain water. which will usually list the pH. Foliar feed if the plant looks real bad. and will pay for itself before you know it. color based pH test kits from aquarium stores are inexpensive.
The Max Power way: Many of the above nutrient deficiencies above can be solved with little trouble by getting a really cheap (low potency) multi-vitamin with all the micro nutrients and grinding one very fine. It’s in the wrong form etc. grow in sunlight. I know a lot of you are saying that’s not right! You can’t do that. I use one per gallon of nutrient maybe once a month. Sprays . Remove any dead leaves. Mold and Fungus .Dark patchy areas on leaves and buds can be mold.yellowing leaves on un-rooted clones can be from too much light. Lower the humidity and increase the ventilation if mold is a problem.Foliar sprays can have a "magnifying glass" effect under bright lights. Humidity . I don’t have any figures to back this theory up but it seems to work. You can also find this and a few other trick on our blog:
we are slowly trying to build a fun. (The truth is that I have been known to boost the red spectrum a bit with low wattage incandescent bulbs during flowering in combination with other light sources.White spots on the tops of leaves can mean spider mites underneath. shriveled leaves can be from low humidity. medical card applications (currently for Oregon
.) Clones . Keep your garden clean. Some sprays can also cause chemical reactions.temps should be kept under 85F (29C) -.Thin. My reasoning is that incandescent light uses most of its energy to create heat in the form or resistance to make a filament glow. Don't use regular incandescent bulbs "grow bulbs" or halogens to grow cannabis. informational community of enthusiasts like our selves. Add the powdered vitamin to very hot water and stir until dissolved.plain tap water is fine.or 90F (33) if you add additional CO2. or the stem may not be firmly touching the rooting medium. This is a case where more is not necessarily better. Let it cool and add your fertilizer and water the plant normally. stretching plants are usually from using the wrong kind of light. but this is only a boost not the main light source. The puts 90% of its light energy in the red spectrum. yellow or burnt spots which can be confused with a nutrient problem. Insects . causing small white. wherever they are. Turn off any CO2 until they root..tall. We also have links to legal information. Invest in fluorescent lighting (good) or HID/HPS lighting (much better) which supply the highintensity light that cannabis needs for good growth and tight buds. Well. Do not add too many vitamins to the water. so feel free to contribute any comments to share with others. Insufficient light . If you have some anonymous pictures you would like to share Email them to us ( and we’ll add them to our gallery when it is up and running. 40-80 % is usually fine. Too much fertilizer can shrivel or wilt clones . Even better. I am not a chemist but I can tell you I have brought back more than a few anemic looking plants doing it this way.
are compiling recipes in our recipe blog.only but feel free to add your states info). We are happy to hear from you. and have cabinets and accessories for sale in our catalog. and general bitching and concerns in our founders blog. Cheers and good luck!
. Have a look at:
And feel free to contribute.