How to Grow Autoflowering Cannabis Plants in a Hydroponic Setup

A hydroponic setup is the way to go if you want to grow really frosty flowers with a high amount of terpenes.
30 December 2020
18 min read
How to Grow Autoflowering Cannabis Plants in a Hydroponic Setup

Conținut:

Hydroponics is a well-known technique for cultivating soilless indoors, this technique consists of soaking the roots in a nutrient solution and lots of oxygen. Using this method means that there is no soil and plants grow in a sterile, inert growing medium.

The hydroponic method provides the nutrients, water, and oxygen directly to the roots. As there is no need for massive roots or extra energy to absorb the nutrients, the plants grow much faster and bigger, here's a hydroponic grow guide and some tips to help you decide on the best way to grow autoflowers hydroponically in your growing space.

1. What are pH and PPM Levels?

Before talking about the different hydroponic setups we must advise that in hydroponic grow is essential to measure pH and PPM levels every day. We use the pH meter to know how alkaline or acidic our solution is and the EC meter is used to measure PPM levels (PPM means particles per million).

 

Autoflowering cannabis in hydro: check the ph

Use pH meter to check nutrient intake of your marijuana plant.
 

A simple way to understand it is we measure pH levels to be sure our plant’s nutrient intake is optimal. We measure PPM levels to make sure we are giving the right amount of nutrients to our plant and to ensure our plant is absorbing nutrients.

2. Measuring and Adjusting pH and EC Levels

In hydroponics, it’s essential to measure pH and PPM levels every day, preferably every time we feed our autoflowers. You should measure runoff and the solution going in, and compare.

PH levels should be around 5.5-5.8. If they are too high or too low your plant will have problems absorbing nutrients. You can use a pH-adjusting solution (pH up or pH down) and measure again until it’s as close as possible to the desired amount.

PPM levels go up for each stage so here’s a table to better visualize them:

Autoflowering cannabis in hydro: optimal ppm levels

Optimal PPM levels on every stage of a weed plant growth.
 

Note: If PPM levels are too low or too high, your autoflower will show symptoms of under or overfeeding.

3. Hydroponic Setups

No matter which hydroponic system you choose you’ll need:

  • a water pump;
  • an air stone;
  • a timer;
  • a reservoir;

Make sure that you pick a large enough reservoir so it can hold enough water and nutrients for a couple of weeks.

The reservoir has to have a lid so your solution doesn’t evaporate. You’ll need another reservoir to hold water where you can test and adjust pH. We recommend having a third one in case one of the other two breaks. The reservoir containing the nutrient solution should be insulated so you can control the temperature.

Hydro Setups: Ebb and flow & Continuous Flow

This hydroponic system is quite simple and it's the most popular choice within growers because it doesn’t require too much work, it’s low maintenance, and very productive. This system is ideal for beginners.

Ebb and flow works by placing our reservoir under the growing bed. The water pump turns on to fill the growing bed (where the plants are) every 15 min with our solution. When it reaches its higher level, the pump turns off and the solution is then drained through a pipe.

In this setup, you can use coco fiber, perlite, or clay pebbles to support your plant. Growing hydroponically you need some kind of medium so the roots can hold themselves onto something. 

Autoflowering cannabis in hydro: ebb and flow and continuous flow

The hydroponic setup for Ebb and flow/Continuous Flow is basically the same with minor changes in the size and height of the drain pipes.
 

With basically the same setup as the Ebb and flow, the Continuous flow technique is the opposite. This method consists of providing a continuous flow of solution. The never-ending stream of water flows around the roots, allowing them to absorb what they need from it. As opposed to the Ebb and flow this fills all the way to the limit and then drains all at once.

 

ProsCons
Easy to buildProblems with breakdowns
Nutrient abundanceUnstable pH
Low costCan result in nutrient deficiencies

 

Hydro Setups: Deep water culture (DWC)

Deep water culture is a style of hydroponic growing that may or may not use a medium like perlite, coco, or clay pebbles. In a DWC setup, you have a reservoir filled with a mix of water and nutrients, the lid holds special pots or nets with their roots stretching down having part of them submerged in the solution, this way they have nutrients available all day long and can absorb nutrients when they want to.

Autoflowering cannabis in hydro: dwc

Hydroponic grow: Deep water cannabis cultivation.
 

As we know, oxygen is essential for plants, so you need to use an air pump (aka air stone) in this setup to keep the solution oxygenated.

 

ProsCons
Faster growth Completely depends on the air pump
Little maintenanceHard to maintain water temperature
No need for a lot of equipmentPH may fluctuate a lot in smaller setups

Hydro Setups: Nutrient Film Technique

The nutrient film technique consists of exposing the roots to the air permanently and keeping a thin flow of water along the bottom in which the tips of the roots are soaked, providing the nutrients they need while the rest of the roots are exposed to oxygen.

 

Autoflowering cannabis in hydro: nutrient film technique

After years of utilizing this technique, growers realized the downsides to this technique which were quite bad, some growers quickly ran into problems such as root rot so they upgraded the nutrient film technique in a form where the roots are suspended in net pots which ended up being very similar to the Ebb and flow method but with thin layer of water constantly flowing underneath the roots.

 

ProsCons
Easy to inspect roots for diseasesCannot stop the water flow
Less water and nutrient consumptionWater can heat up faster than in other setups
Prevents nutrient build-upMust check regularly

Hydro setups: Aeroponics

Aeroponics is a technique very similar to the DWC technique mentioned previously. The setup is the same, a reservoir filled with a solution of water and nutrients. The difference is, instead of submerging the roots, we leave them hanging in midair, using a sprinkler to mist water directly on the roots every 3-5 min.

Autoflowering cannabis in hydro: aeroponics

With aeroponics method the roots are hanging in midair and watered directly with a sprinkler every 3-5 min.
 

The reservoir must be lightproof and waterproof which helps create a highly humid environment. There’s no need to use an air stone as the roots are literally surrounded by oxygen.

 

ProsCons
Maximum nutrient absorptionRequires constant attention
Easier to move plants aroundInitial cost can be high
Healthier plantsRequires a bit of technical knowledge

Hydro setups: Drip Irrigation and Continuous Drip Irrigation

The Drip irrigation method consists of having a large reservoir with tubes that is reaching each pot individually. On the tip of the tubes, there are drippers that are placed above the grow medium (this method can be used with hydroponic mediums or soil).

You have to program a timer that controls the amount of solution and frequency your plants get fed. When the timer turns on, a water pump is activated, watering your plant for the exact amount of time you programmed, not a drop more, not a drop less. Normally they are watered in increments of 15 mins and for a duration of around 4 min. You don’t even have to be there to feed them. Ideally, you would be just checking if the system is working properly and that's it. 

Autoflowering cannabis in hydro: drip irrigation and continuous drip irrigation

This is a perfect option for beginners. Except checking on the system once in a while it doesn't require much hands-on action.
 

There is an adaptation of the drip irrigation technique called Continuous drip irrigation. It uses the same setup but instead of watering when the timer turns on, the water pump never turns off, providing a continuous flow of solution for the plant. Like in the DWC technique, this way the plants can be fed whenever they need to and will result in faster growth and much bigger plants.

 

ProsCons
Minimizer evaporation thus saving waterMust be controlled closely
Healthy soil due to optimal wateringsTubing might get clogged
Little runoff results in a richer soilEquipment must be on 24/7

Hydro setups: Wick System

A wick system (aka wicking) is another method used to grow cannabis hydroponically but unlike the other methods cited before, this one is relatively low-maintenance, easy to use, and can be done for cheap so it’s recommended for growers that want to start growing hydroponically but want to start with a simple setup.

 

Autoflowering cannabis in hydro: wick system

A wick system is the cheapest hydro system but it could be easier to get root rot so you have to be extremely careful.
  

This system basically consists of using the principle of capillary action to provide water to your plants so as your plants draw nutrients to the roots, the wick pulls the nutrient solution from the reservoir, basically watering the soil.

 

ProsCons
Simple and accessible for beginnersNot suitable for big plants
Minimal maintenanceNot very efficient at delivering nutrients
Uses less electricity than other hydro setupsEasier to get nutrient build-up in the soil

 

This is a huge benefit because it makes it almost impossible to overwater your marijuana plants, although due to the wicks being always moist, it’s possible to get root rot so it’s essential to maintain good growing conditions.

4. Best Autoflowers To Grow In A Hydro Setup

Growing hydroponically consists of feeding your plant and maintaining good conditions for the roots to grow in, just like when growing in coco or soil so any strain will do exceptionally well in a hydro setup.

Orange Sherbet Auto

If you have enough space in your grow room try cultivating one of the big yielders like our Orange Sherbet Auto. Hydroponic setup will let her fully develop resulting in a huge yield.

Orange Sherbet Auto
Orange Sherbet Auto
Gene
Mostly Sativa
Genetică
Orange Sherbet Auto
Înflorire
9-10 weeks
Recoltă
500-650gr/m2
Înălțime
110-150cm
THC
up to 24%
CBD
Very low
Autoînfloritoare
Yes
1 fem
13,00 €
2 fem
24,00 €
3 fem
36,00 €
5 fem
55,00 €
10 fem
99,00 €
25 fem
215,00 €
50 fem
365,00 €
100 fem
590,00 €
500 fem
1 950,00 €
1000 fem
3 400,00 €
Pack
3 fem
Adaugă în coș
36,00 €
 

Growing this strain in a hydroponic setup will let her fully develop, growing up to 150cm and producing huge yields.

Grow tips

  • We recommend LST to open up the canopy and allow light to reach the lower flowering sites, increasing yields even further.
  • It’s most likely that you’ll need to provide support to the branches due to the heavy buds so make sure you keep an eye out to prevent the branches from snapping.

Wedding Cheesecake Auto

Another great strain to grow hydroponically is our Wedding Cheesecake Auto which grows up to 130cm with several side branches, just like the Orange Sherbet Auto

Wedding Cheesecake Auto
Wedding Cheesecake Auto
Gene
Indica / Sativa
Genetică
W. Cheesecake
Înflorire
8-9 weeks
Recoltă
450-600gr/m2
Înălțime
90-130cm
THC
up to 24%
CBD
Very low
Autoînfloritoare
Yes
1 fem
13,00 €
2 fem
24,00 €
3 fem
36,00 €
5 fem
55,00 €
10 fem
99,00 €
25 fem
215,00 €
50 fem
365,00 €
100 fem
590,00 €
500 fem
1 950,00 €
1000 fem
3 400,00 €
Pack
3 fem
Adaugă în coș
36,00 €
 

By maintaining good growing conditions throughout the whole grow cycle you can expect huge yields of up to 600gr/m2 so it’s definitely a must for hydro growers.

Grow tips

  • This strain responds very well to LST so we recommend tying down the branches early in the vegetative stage to allow the buds to develop to the maximum.
  • We recommend using bigger pots (11-12L) to allow your plant to develop to the fullest and allow your plant to show its full potential.

5. Most Common Mistakes When Growing Hydroponically

Even though you might get excited to get better yields and bigger plants, growing in a hydro setup is not super easy and it has a learning curve to be able to do it properly and successfully so here are the main mistakes that will bring problems into your cannabis garden.

Ignoring pH Levels

The pH level is vital for your plants to be able to absorb nutrients properly, if the pH level oscillates your plants will have a hard time absorbing nutrients, showing signs of deficiencies and ultimately dying.

 

Autoflowering cannabis in hydro: ph levels

Measuring and adjusting the pH levels is obligatory when growing hydroponically.
 

So to avoid this you will need to measure the pH at least once a day and with a good pH meter, remember that your plants grow thanks to the nutrient solution that feeds them so if the nutrient solution is off, your plants might not grow.

Using improper nutrients

Using improper nutrients will not only prevent your plants from growing to their fullest but can also end up clogging your hydro setup because some fertilizers may not dilute entirely and can end up clogging tubes and drains so make sure you use the best hydro fertilizers you can.

Incorrect lighting

Another super important factor is the light fixture, using the wrong kind of lighting or using a light that it’s not strong enough won’t allow your plants to perform photosynthesis properly and your plants won’t grow as strong and big as you would want to.

 

Autoflowering cannabis in hydro: led lights

Led lights produce a full-spectrum so are usually preferred by growers.
 

Now, there's a lot of debate about which ones are better, LEDs or light bulbs but the truth is that you can get really good results with both, it's just a matter of knowing how to use them but LEDs are usually preferred by growers due to their full-spectrum.

Not cleaning properly

It’s essential you clean your setup before using it and after every grow cycle because the nutrient solution can end up getting harmful bacteria or you can end up with a hydro setup full of algae so you should clean not only your equipment but the entire grow space your plants are in.

6. In Conclusion

Autoflowers grown in hydroponic setups can grow much taller and quicker due to the constant feeding of nutrients and water. They can develop faster and produce frostier buds with more terpenes than plants growing in normal soil, resulting in overall better quality.

We highly recommend considering these techniques and we promise the end result (if done correctly) can be infinitely better than any plant grown in soil. 

 

 

External references

  1. The results of an experimental indoor hydroponic Cannabis growing study, using the 'Screen of Green' (ScrOG) method-Yield, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and DNA analysis. - Knight, Glenys & Hansen, Sean & Connor, Mark & Poulsen, Helen & McGovern, Catherine & Stacey, Janet. (2010).
  2. Hydroponics Cultivation of Crops. - Gaikwad, Dinkar & Maitra, Sagar. (2020).
  3. The Techniques of Hydroponic System. - Mariyappillai, Anbarasu & Arumugam, Gurusamy & V B, Raghavendran. (2020).

Top 10 Strains To Grow In Hydro

Amnesia Haze Auto
Amnesia Haze Auto
Aburul preferat al lumii...
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1 fem
9,00 €
2 fem
16,00 €
3 fem
24,00 €
5 fem
40,00 €
10 fem
70,00 €
25 fem
150,00 €
50 fem
250,00 €
100 fem
420,00 €
500 fem
1 450,00 €
1000 fem
2 400,00 €
Pack
3 fem
Adaugă în coș
24,00 €
Californian Snow Auto
Californian Snow Auto
Crăiasa zăpezii din Statul de Aur
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1 fem
9,00 €
2 fem
16,00 €
3 fem
24,00 €
5 fem
40,00 €
10 fem
70,00 €
25 fem
150,00 €
50 fem
250,00 €
100 fem
420,00 €
500 fem
1 450,00 €
1000 fem
2 400,00 €
Pack
3 fem
Adaugă în coș
24,00 €
LSD25 Auto
LSD-25 Auto
Latura psihedelică a vieții
Buy seeds from 11,00 €
1 fem
11,00 €
2 fem
20,00 €
3 fem
30,00 €
5 fem
45,00 €
10 fem
80,00 €
25 fem
175,00 €
50 fem
300,00 €
100 fem
490,00 €
500 fem
1 650,00 €
1000 fem
2 800,00 €
Pack
3 fem
Adaugă în coș
30,00 €
Orange Sherbet Auto
Orange Sherbet Auto
Monstru terp super acru și cu aromă de portocală
Buy seeds from 13,00 €
1 fem
13,00 €
2 fem
24,00 €
3 fem
36,00 €
5 fem
55,00 €
10 fem
99,00 €
25 fem
215,00 €
50 fem
365,00 €
100 fem
590,00 €
500 fem
1 950,00 €
1000 fem
3 400,00 €
Pack
3 fem
Adaugă în coș
36,00 €
Purple Lemonade
Purple Lemonade
Cea mai bună tulpină mov pe care am creat-o vreodată
Buy seeds from 13,00 €
1 fem
13,00 €
2 fem
24,00 €
3 fem
36,00 €
5 fem
55,00 €
10 fem
99,00 €
25 fem
215,00 €
50 fem
365,00 €
100 fem
590,00 €
500 fem
1 950,00 €
1000 fem
3 400,00 €
Pack
3 fem
Adaugă în coș
36,00 €
Six Shooter Auto
Six Shooter Auto
Varianta blindată a canabisului
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1 fem
11,00 €
2 fem
20,00 €
3 fem
30,00 €
5 fem
45,00 €
10 fem
80,00 €
25 fem
175,00 €
50 fem
300,00 €
100 fem
490,00 €
500 fem
1 650,00 €
1000 fem
2 800,00 €
Pack
3 fem
Adaugă în coș
30,00 €
Tangie Auto
Tangie Auto
Mare randament, mare THC, campioană la aromă
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1 fem
11,00 €
2 fem
20,00 €
3 fem
30,00 €
5 fem
45,00 €
10 fem
80,00 €
25 fem
175,00 €
50 fem
300,00 €
100 fem
490,00 €
500 fem
1 650,00 €
1000 fem
2 800,00 €
Pack
3 fem
Adaugă în coș
30,00 €
Wedding Cheesecake Auto
1 fem
13,00 €
2 fem
24,00 €
3 fem
36,00 €
5 fem
55,00 €
10 fem
99,00 €
25 fem
215,00 €
50 fem
365,00 €
100 fem
590,00 €
500 fem
1 950,00 €
1000 fem
3 400,00 €
Pack
3 fem
Adaugă în coș
36,00 €
West Coast OG Auto
West Coast O.G. Auto
Cel mai rapid OG de pe Coasta de Vest
Buy seeds from 9,00 €
1 fem
9,00 €
2 fem
16,00 €
3 fem
24,00 €
5 fem
40,00 €
10 fem
70,00 €
25 fem
150,00 €
50 fem
250,00 €
100 fem
420,00 €
500 fem
1 450,00 €
1000 fem
2 400,00 €
Pack
3 fem
Adaugă în coș
24,00 €
White Widow Auto
White Widow Auto
O mașină de tricomi cu profil incredibil de rășină!
Buy seeds from 9,00 €
1 fem
9,00 €
2 fem
16,00 €
3 fem
24,00 €
5 fem
40,00 €
10 fem
70,00 €
25 fem
150,00 €
50 fem
250,00 €
100 fem
420,00 €
500 fem
1 450,00 €
1000 fem
2 400,00 €
Pack
3 fem
Adaugă în coș
24,00 €
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