Best Hydroponics Systems for Growing Autoflowering Cannabis Plants

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Added 29 June 2023

Autoflowering cannabis plants are excellent options for beginners or those who want to keep their cultivation easy and quick. 

Aptly named, autoflowers grow “automatically” regardless of the light cycle, unlike photoperiod plants that rely on the light cycle to progress from the vegetative to the flowering stage. 

Thanks to this, autoflowering cannabis plants are easy to grow — almost as simple as germinating the seeds and feeding them regularly for around ten weeks until the plants are mature and ready to harvest. 

However, for many growers, even growing autoflowering cannabis may not be as easy due to lack of outdoor space, or you may want to reap other benefits like more control over your plant’s growth, get higher yields, or protect your plants from soil-based diseases and pests. If that’s the case, you can grow autoflowering cannabis plants using hydroponics and not soil.

In this article, we will go through hydroponic systems that suit autoflowering strains in particular. 

Overview of Hydroponics Systems for Growing Cannabis

Overview of Hydroponics Systems for Growing Cannabis

You can grow cannabis using one of two growing methods: soil and hydroponics. You already know what soil-based cultivation is, but hydroponics is a method of growing cannabis or almost any plant without soil. The primary component of a hydroponic system is, as you can guess, water. 

But how exactly does a hydroponic system work? The system consists of a growing medium that essentially holds the plant in place. Under the medium, the roots are suspended and, depending on the setup, either continuously or periodically bathed in nutrient-rich water. The system also consists of grow lights and other peripherals that mimic outdoor conditions in an indoor grow room. 

Hydroponics is considered a superior way of growing cannabis because it is cost-effective and space-saving. Most importantly, it gives you ultimate control over your cannabis plant’s growth, and your plant gets to grow in a hygienic, clean environment. This results in higher yields and buds that are of better quality in terms of potency, flavor, and aroma.

Here are some more benefits of growing cannabis with hydroponics:

Increased growth: Hydroponic systems offer an ideal environment for plants, helping them grow effortlessly. As a grower, you need to ensure that you provide a well-balanced blend of water plus nutrients straight to the plant's roots. This ensures that the plants get all the crucial components they require for development, leading to quick bursts of growth. Since there’s no soil involved, the plants don’t have to spend lots of energy on growing extensive root systems, enabling them to allot even more of their resources to producing dense foliage and resinous buds. 

Enhanced yields: Since you have more control over the type and amount of nutrients you provide, you can ensure that the plants get what they need to perform well. Thanks to this control, you’ll be able to generate more yields, whether you’re growing at home or handling a commercial operation. By customizing the nutrient delivery along with the environmental factors such as light, temperature, and humidity, you can expect good yields. Of course, you can control the environmental conditions even when you’re growing in soil, but since hydroponic setups tend to the roots directly, cannabis plants typically thrive in them. 

Nutrient control: We already mentioned that you have more control over the plants with hydroponics. But, the area where you have maximum control is with the nutrients. Cannabis plants need a specific set of nutrients according to the stage of their life cycle. With hydroponics, you can tailor the nutrients according to the phase of growth. For instance, cannabis plants need higher levels of nitrogen during the growing phase compared to potassium and phosphorus. With this knowledge, you can customize the nutrients, allowing the plants to get a jump start right from the seedling stage. The advantage here is that you can avoid nutrient deficiencies, nutrient burn, or toxicity and help the plants grow as much as possible. 

Water conservation: Water shortage is a major problem in many parts of the world. Even if it’s available in your location abundantly, you can reduce water wastage that’s common in soil cultivation. Hydroponics is designed to reduce water consumption dramatically. Also, you can recirculate nutrients in most setups rather than letting them go to waste. As you may already know, hydroponic nutrients are expensive, so every bit helps. By keeping track of the pH and the nutrients, you can be at peace knowing that the plants will absorb them efficiently. 

Reduced risk of pests and diseases: Hydroponic systems automatically remove many of the usual problems connected with soil-based cultivation. Soil-borne parasites, weeds, and diseases are reduced, giving you fewer opportunities to use harsh chemicals or pesticides on your plants. However, this doesn’t mean that plants growing in hydroponics are never affected by pests. No, you’ll still find some growers battling against pests. Thus, you should still maintain optimal growing practices and hygiene to ensure that your setup is clean and free from contaminants. 

Other advantages include the compact nature of hydroponic systems. So, you can set up your “garden” even in your closet or, if you feel adventurous, even a bucket. Plus, you can maximize all other resources while growing cannabis with a hydroponic system. 

Can You Grow Autoflowering Cannabis with Hydroponics?

Can You Grow Autoflowering Cannabis with Hydroponics?

Coming to the most important question: can you grow autoflowering cannabis with hydroponics? The answer is yes, you can easily grow autoflowering cannabis with hydroponics while enjoying all the benefits listed above. 

With hydroponics, you can grow autoflowering plants even faster and bigger and ensure they produce bigger yields than ever — you’d be surprised at how big of a yield an autoflowering plant can produce! 

However, there is one downside to growing autoflowering plants hydroponically — the process will no longer be as straightforward as growing the same in soil. Hydroponic systems can sometimes be tricky to set up and do require a little investment, even if you choose the most basic setup. 

Best Hydroponic Setup for Growing Autoflowering Cannabis

Best Hydroponic Setup for Growing Autoflowering Cannabis

Now that you know you can grow autoflowering cannabis hydroponically, let’s take a look at some of the best hydroponic setups you can use. Remember, hydroponic setups come in a large variety, some of which are rudimentary and some of which are extremely technical, but these are just the most common types of hydroponic setups that promise incredible results with autoflowers.

1. Deep Water Culture

Choosing deep water culture hydroponic systems for autoflowers is a great idea because it's the most basic setup there is. Also known as DWC, and is ideal for a beginner who wants to dabble in hydroponics for the first time. DWC is the simplest setup of all since it is essentially just a bucket of nutrients with the plant atop it. 

In this setup, the plant is placed on top of the nutrient reservoir, and the roots are left suspended in the nutrient solution underneath. As a result, the roots have uninterrupted access to nutrients all the time. But you may ask, what about the oxygen?

To overcome the roots’ lack of access to oxygen, you can add an airstone to the reservoir that will oxygenate the solution, allowing the roots to absorb oxygen straight from it. Miss this step, and your cannabis plant may not grow properly or even die. 

This system is so effective that you will notice extensive root ball growth in a few weeks — the roots will grow big and dense since they have access to so many nutrients all the time. And the bigger the root mass, the bigger the plant, so even with this “simple” setup, you can grow a massive autoflowering plant with ease.

Massive growth isn’t the only benefit of this setup; another benefit is that DWC allows you to grow cannabis plants without investing much time in maintenance and upkeep. So, even if you have to go out for the weekend, you can leave your plant without worrying about it dying or starving. 

To create a deep water culture hydroponic setup for growing autoflowering cannabis at your home, you only need a few basic essentials. You need a large bucket for the reservoir, net pots filled with clay pellets to hold the cannabis plant up, and an airstone to aerate the nutrient solution. 

Of course, you also need to grow lights, nutrients, ventilation, fans, and climate control, but more on these later.

2. Aeroponics

On the other hand, you can also use aeroponics systems to grow autoflowers. Aeroponics is an advanced way of growing cannabis plants hydroponically and is very effective. What makes this technique so advanced is that it promises higher yields and allows more precision; however, it’s less forgiving than most other hydroponic setups. Aeroponics has the highest chance of failure if you don’t know what you are doing or start cutting corners.

In this method, you grow cannabis plants using pots, and the roots are suspended in the air all the time. But thanks to automated mister valves, the roots are doused in nutrient solution periodically. This ensures the roots are exposed to air, and the nutrient delivery allows the plants to absorb the nutrients immediately. 

Aeroponics also allows you to grow cannabis plants quickly while ensuring a bigger yield, but its biggest benefit is that it allows you to grow many cannabis plants in a small setup. You can stack your plants vertically, with the roots suspended on one side and grow lights on the other. 

There is one major downside with aeroponics — the entire system relies on the seamless functioning of the automated systems, especially the mister valves. Even if one of the mister valves misfires or stops working, it can significantly affect your plants. Your plants can starve if the issue is not fixed on time. 

Another potential issue with aeroponics is that it requires a lot of hardware, and depending on the scale of your operation, it can set you back significantly. So, if you are prepared to work with these potential issues, you should give aeroponics a try. Also, it’s pricier than other setups, so you should attempt to grow autoflowers in aeroponic setups only if you’re committed for the long run. Eventually, you’ll find that it’s a worthy investment, and it can help you produce excellent cannabis buds that are largely unparalleled by other setups. 

3. Ebb and Flow 

Ebb and flow hydroponic systems for autoflowers may seem intimidating, but it's not. Not only is it a popular and relatively easy hydroponic system to use, but it works kinda similarly to DWC. However, instead of having the roots constantly submerged in the nutrient solution, the roots are left to sit in a tray, which is periodically flooded with the nutrient solution. 

For this method, you first need an excellent substrate like coco coir or rockwool, a flood tray, a reservoir, and a basic water pump to flood and drain the nutrient solution paired with a timer. 

The benefit of this setup is that when the roots are not drowned in the nutrient solution, they are exposed to oxygen, and when the tray is flooded, the roots get to absorb the nutrients with ease. 

And since the entire system works on a timer, it is largely a set-it-and-forget-it setup, making it a relatively easy system to maintain and run for growing cannabis. 

4. Drip Irrigation Systems 

You may have already heard of this one since it is quite common for farms — drip irrigation allows you to grow a massive batch of plants with ease. The biggest advantage drip irrigation offers is that it ensures all the plants receive the same amount of nutrients all the time. 

Drip irrigation systems to grow autoflowers consist of a growing medium, and fortunately, even soil works best here. Apart from the growing medium, you need other components like some plumbing, nutrient solution, a reservoir, and a motor. 

If you are a beginner, you can use a recirculating drip irrigation system, where the nutrient solution is supplied to the roots, and the runoff is collected and drained back into the reservoir. This is an efficient and eco-friendly option. 

But if you want to take things up a notch or like a challenge or two sometimes, you can create a system that does not produce any runoff at all. You only drip irrigate the plants with the nutrients it needs and when it needs — neither less nor more. But the margin of error is massive with such a setup, and you need extensive knowledge of growing cannabis.

5. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

Lastly, there is the nutrient film technique to grow autoflowers, which is not the most common hydroponic setup, but many growers prefer this over other setups. This method is a combo of ebb and flow and deep water culture since it consists of a flood tray with a continuously flowing nutrient solution. The roots are constantly suspended in this thin film of nutrient solution.

The benefit of this system is that you don’t have to rely on a timer; a motor does all the work of constantly cycling nutrient solution through the tray, and the constantly flowing nutrient water ensures the water does not get stale and susceptible to fungal growth. 

How to Select the Best Hydroponic System for Growing Autoflowering Cannabis

How to Select the Best Hydroponic System for Growing Autoflowering Cannabis

As a cannabis grower, choosing the best hydroponic setup for growing autoflowering cannabis may be tricky — the options are vast and varied, and all of them offer tremendous benefits and promise terrific results. So, how do you choose the right one? Follow these tips to choose the best hydroponic setup to grow autoflowers:

  • Figure out how much space you have — NFT and aeroponics require a lot less space than something like drip irrigation or ebb and flow 
  • Consider your budget since some aeroponic systems, like space buckets or DWC, are dirt cheap and almost free if you are creative enough, but other systems, like aeroponics, can be significantly more expensive 
  • Your level of experience is another thing that comes into play when choosing the right system for yourself; you don’t want to pick a method that is less forgiving if you are a relatively new grower 
  • The number of plants you want to grow is another thing you should consider — if you want to grow just a single plant, a basic DWC or space bucket setup will suffice, but for more plants, you should consider something like NFT or drip irrigation
  • Lastly, follow your heart and pick a system that seems the most suitable to you, even if it means suspending your plant’s roots in a fish tank! (read, aquaponics)

Setting Up Your Hydroponic System for Autoflowering Cannabis

Setting Up Your Hydroponic System for Autoflowering Cannabis

You’ve decided what hydroponic setup you want to use, but you don’t know what’s the next step? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Follow these steps to set up your hydroponic setup.

1. Choose the Right Growing Medium

In your hydroponic setup, the growing medium will act as an anchor that holds your cannabis plant in place instead of acting as a source of nutrition. So, you need to pick the right medium to do the job well — this is the first step in setting up an effective, successful hydroponic setup.

Here are some of the best growing mediums you can use:


Made from molten rock, this fibrous growing medium is lightweight and porous, which gives it excellent water retention capabilities. Rockwool is one of the best-growing mediums for cannabis, but its only downside is that you must pay more attention to the pH levels. Of course, you have to check the pH levels at all times, no matter what growing medium you use, so it’s really not a major disadvantage. 

Coco Coir

Coco coir is one of the most common growing mediums for cannabis, and it is also completely eco-friendly. It is made from coconut husks, hence the name, and is renewable and offers excellent aeration and water retention. Most companies sell coco peat or coir with neutral pH levels, but it’s best to check the pH levels whenever possible. 


Another common growing medium for hydroponic cannabis is perlite, which is essentially a type of lightweight, porous rock that has good aeration and drainage, but you must use it with coco coir to improve its water retention and weight.


Hydroton, also known as clay pellets, are lightweight clay pebbles that are popular for having excellent drainage and aeration. Their biggest advantage is that they are easy to reuse after sterilization. However, since they have poor water retention, they may need to be watered more frequently. 

Use this information to choose a growing medium that suits your preferences, budget, and the type of hydroponic setup you want to use. However, all these mediums are excellent, and you can’t really go wrong with any of them. Just remember to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on preparing them and using them to grow autoflowering cannabis hydroponically. 

2. Prepare the Peripherals: Light, Nutrition, Pump, etc.

Once you have chosen the growing medium, the next step is to gather and prepare the peripherals. These are essential for a hydroponic setup as they allow you to create a healthy environment for your autoflowering plants to thrive in. Let’s start.


It’s hydroponics for a reason — the entire setup relies on water — so make sure you choose the right type of water for this operation. Your water should have a pH between 5.5 to 6.5, i..e, slightly acidic, which is ideal for nutrient absorption in cannabis plants. 

Depending on the setup you use, often the best type of water is tap water, but if you want the utmost control of the nutrient supply, you should go for RO water that is devoid of any minerals. Tap water, on the other hand, has most of the micronutrients and some macronutrients your plant needs already, but it’s best to go with filtered water as tap water can mess with the pH and EC levels. 


Just plain water won't be enough for a hydroponic plant since your plant is not growing in a nutrient-rich medium like soil. So, you’ll need to manually supplement nutrients to your plant by mixing them into the water. For this, you need to find the right nutrients that are specifically designed for hydroponic cannabis plants. 

When choosing nutrients, pick products from reputable brands with good reviews and clear instructions for usage. Also, use nutrients based on your plant’s growth stage since cannabis has different nutrient needs during each of its growth stages.


The next most important peripheral you need is the light that will mimic sunlight in your grow room. For a basic hydroponic system with a small autoflowering plant, you can get away with a standard CFL bulb or two. However, if you are growing anything more than one plant, consider investing in dedicated grow lights that are either HIDs or LEDs.

Your best bet is LED lights since they offer longevity, energy efficiency, do not heat up, and can be customizable. However, they can be expensive, so for most hobby growers, HID lights can work just as well, although you will have to manage the heat produced by these lights.

Air Circulation

Air circulation is a crucial aspect of growing cannabis — stale air is a recipe for disaster since it can lead to mold or fungal infections. So, to keep the air circulating in your grow room, you need to set up a couple of fans. Your best bet is computer fans for a small setup and an oscillating fan for a larger setup. 

Depending on your grow room, you may also have to set up ventilation to push old air out and fresh air into the grow room. And if you have nosy neighbors, you may have to install carbon scrubbers on the vents, too, to remove the cannabis scent from the exhausting air. 

Other Things 

Depending on your setup, you will also have to get your hands on other peripherals like a water pump, mister valves, plumbing, and a reservoir tank. 

3. Setting Up Your Hydroponic System

The time has come to finally set up your hydroponic system. Here, if you have purchased a hydroponic system from a gardening store, you only have to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to assemble the system. This won’t take more than a couple of hours, but a prebuilt system can be slightly more expensive. 

If you want to save money, you can build your own hydroponic system to grow autoflowering cannabis, but the steps will vary depending on the type of setup you use. We have posted dedicated guides on DIY hydroponic systems that you can refer to.

Regardless of your route, always ensure you test your setup for at least a few hours before germinating your seeds.

Summary: Best Hydroponics Systems for Growing Autoflowering Cannabis Plants

For many growers, autoflowering cannabis plants offer the best value, and if that’s the case with you but you don’t want to compromise on yield or lack the luxury of an outdoor setup, worry not. You should consider using a hydroponic system to grow an autoflowering cannabis plant in your home. 

The benefits of using hydroponics are tremendous — safety and security, healthier plants, better yields, control of your plant’s growth, etc. So, choose a hydroponic system that suits you best and get started. The entire ordeal may seem intimidating at first, but it is more than worth it. The quality of the autoflowering plants you grow will blow your mind and surprise you.



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Don't forget with autos to turn your LED lights down. Autos only need around 600 PAR as you have the lights on for 18hrs +.
Great info, going to adjust some things next time
NFT table (not pipe style) is ftw in smaller tents/space because height is only 20-25cm. Very easy too when dont need lift plants when adding more water or checking roots and no timers for pump. 😊