Hydroponic Cannabis: The Pros, Cons, Setups, And More 

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Added 20 March 2023

Hydroponics — sounds fancy, right? But should you grow cannabis using this method, or should you stick to conventional growing methods?

Tricky, we know.

Hydroponics can be the ideal option for many growers, but it is best avoided by others. It has a ton of benefits and quite a few drawbacks. Plus, it’s one of the most hyped techniques, what with reduced water consumption, space usage, and many other benefits. 

But, is it really worth growing cannabis using hydroponics? Or, are traditional techniques better? After all, growing in soil is a natural way to grow not just cannabis but every crop you can imagine. 

Learn all about the pros and cons of hydroponics in this article so that you can make a more informed decision. Read on to know more.

What is Hydroponics?

what is hydroponics

Etymologically, “hydro” refers to water, and “ponos” relates to labor. Put them together, and you get the word “hydroponics,” which means working water. But the concept is a little more complicated than that. 

The practical definition of hydroponics is that it is a process of growing plants like cannabis using water rich in nutrients. Hydroponics is a way of growing plants without using soil or other traditional methods. 

Instead, hydroponic plants are grown in sterile containers using a growing medium that supports the roots and water rich in nutrients that are naturally available in the soil. 

To grow cannabis hydroponically, you need things like filtered water, a growing medium to support the roots, oxygen, nutrients, and light — these are the foundations of hydroponics. And with this method, you can grow plants faster with higher yields while retaining maximum control over their growth. 

What are the Benefits of Hydroponic Cannabis?

What are the Benefits of Hydroponic Cannabis?

There are many advantages to growing cannabis hydroponically. You can grow multiple plants much faster, the plants tend to produce better buds, and you can control every detail of the setup without relying on nature. But there’s a lot more to this. Let’s take a look at the benefits of growing cannabis hydroponically.

1. Cannabis Plants Mature Faster with Hydroponics

With hydroponics, you can massively speed up your cannabis cultivation since this form of growing allows you to precisely control the environment while supplying the nutrients directly to the roots. The plants grow a lot faster.

Thanks to this, you can harvest multiple batches of cannabis per year, resulting in a higher yield than traditional growing methods. This is especially advantageous for commercial growers who want to maximize their profits. 

2. You No Longer Need to Rely on Soil

If you have ever grown cannabis in soil (or any other plant, for that matter), you already know how meticulous you have to be about the soil. The soil must be organic, high quality, and rich in nutrients for healthy plant growth. 

Such healthy soil is difficult to maintain and, in some regions, tricky to get your hands on. For many growers, high-quality soil can also get expensive. 

Fortunately, with hydroponics, you can overcome the problem of high-quality soil. As mentioned earlier, hydroponic plants do not use soil, so you don’t need to invest much time and energy in that aspect.

With a hydroponic setup, you only have to invest in a growing medium like perlite, rockwool, or vermiculite, which will support the roots. And your water will deliver all the essential nutrients straight to the roots. 

3. You Won’t Require a Lot of Space

Some hydroponic setups can help you save a lot of space, which is beneficial if you want to grow many cannabis plants but don’t have the space for them. Hydroponics allows you to cram more plants in a smaller grow room without affecting your yield. 

Plus, you don’t need a garden to grow plants. You can grow cannabis hydroponically anywhere — even in your cupboard or a small bucket — you need the correct hydroponic setup. So, even if you live in a small condo, hydroponics can help you grow plants quickly. 

Another aspect of space optimization with cannabis is that, unlike soil-based cannabis, hydroponic cannabis does not expand its roots as much in the search for food and water. Since water and nutrients are supplied directly to the roots, they stay compact, so you don’t have to worry about having enough space between plants’ roots.

4. You Control Every Aspect of It

When you’re growing cannabis outdoors in soil, you don’t have much control over how your plant grows. Sure, you can modify a few things here and there, but ultimately, nature calls the shots on your plant regarding temperature, humidity, light conditions, air, etc. 

Nature knows best, but it is also unforgiving, so if the weather turns bad, it can affect your plant in many ways. Additionally, if your local climate is unsuitable for your plant, it won’t grow as healthy as expected. 

The solution? Hydroponics as it allows you to control every aspect of your plant’s growth, from the water supply, nutrients, and light to air conditions, humidity levels, pH, and much more. Thanks to this meticulous control, you can fine-tune your plant’s growth and grow it as you want. 

5. You can Customize the Feeding Regimen 

In a similar vein, you also get to control the feeding regimen of your plant to the T. Soil is already rich in some nutrients, which can influence your plant’s growth. The same cannot be said about hydroponic cannabis as you’re in the driver’s seat. 

For a hydroponic setup, you have to use a nutrient solution containing the nutrients you want your plant to get. So, you can customize the nutrient regimen as per your goals. For example, you can give the exact nutrients to your cannabis that will make the plant grow tall and bushy with more bud sites. 

Sure, this requires a lot of research and effort to formulate the correct ratios of nutrients, but the results are always worth it. If you’re growing cannabis for resinous buds, this process makes it a lot easier. 

6. It’s Better for the Environment

Wait, how can growing plants be harmful to the environment? There’s one primary reason — cannabis is a thirsty plant. According to rough estimates, an outdoor cannabis plant can consume up to 3,000 liters of water per season

However, some hydroponic setups use just 10% of the water compared to a conventionally grown cannabis plant since the water is reused and recycled constantly while growing hydroponic cannabis. 

When you are growing cannabis hydroponically, the water is circulated to the roots, where some of it is absorbed, and the rest flows back into the reservoir. The same water is constantly recirculated until it is devoid of nutrients or too dirty. 

Since water is already a crucial issue in many parts of the world, it is best to grow cannabis hydroponically. This will not only save water but also a lot of money in terms of water bills. 

And, it’s not just about cannabis. Many farmers across the world are now understanding the benefits of hydroponics since it has the potential to save a lot of water. Along the same lines, cattle grazing is also a huge problem, where thousands of acres of land are set aside for cattle grazing. Eventually, it leads to soil degradation and the elimination of local vegetation. In many cases, the local vegetation is reduced to such an extent that it never regenerates. With so many problems in traditional agriculture, choosing hydroponics is not just good for yields but for the planet as well. 

7. Lower Risk of Pests and Other Common Ailments

There are two ways your plants stay protected from pests and other common ailments when you grow cannabis hydroponically.

First, since your setup does not have soil, you don’t have to worry about soil-borne pests and diseases like gophers, groundhogs, Fusarium, Rhizoctonia, etc. Your plants will be safe from such issues with a hydroponic setup.

Second, your plants will grow in a closed system, which is meticulously controlled, so the chances of foreign pathogens and insects making their way into your indoor garden are less. It can still occur, but the risk is much lower compared to outdoor cannabis growth.

8. You Can Automate a Lot of the Processes

Growing cannabis is labor intensive since you must monitor your plants and the environment, provide the proper nutrients, and keep everything in order. Fortunately, with a hydroponic setup, you can automate many of these processes. 

For example, you can automate the feeding routine of your setup, install smart thermostats to keep the temperature and humidity in check, set up timers to control the light cycle, etc. And thanks to the advent of AI, you can also use various sensors and devices to keep a close eye on your plant’s growth and health easily. 

Sure, this may take some time to set up (and money), but it is worth it if you want to grow cannabis on a larger scale. It can take the load off your back so you can focus on the essential duties of your cannabis cultivation. 

9. Noticeably Larger Yields

All the benefits listed above come together for perhaps the biggest benefit of growing cannabis hydroponically — improved yield. Thanks to the closely monitored and controlled setup, customized nutrient routine, lower risk of pests and ailments, et al., your plants will surely yield better. 

This is why many commercial growers have switched their gardens to hydroponics. The yield and ease of growing cannabis are unmatchable.

What are the Drawbacks of Growing Cannabis Hydroponically?

What are the Drawbacks of Growing Cannabis Hydroponically?

The benefits sure sound inviting for a new grower, but there are some drawbacks to hydroponic cannabis as well. Knowing these drawbacks is crucial in helping you make an informed decision regarding your cannabis garden. Here are some of the biggest drawbacks of hydroponic cannabis.

1. It can be an Expensive Affair

Sure, hydroponic cannabis will give you a tremendous yield, but it comes at a cost, which is often too high. For an efficient hydroponic setup, you need to invest in a lot of equipment, which can burn a hole in your wallet. 

For instance, you need water pumps, containers, lighting systems, oxygenators, an air circulation system including fans and air conditioning, climate control systems, nutrients, and much more. 

For most new growers, such an elaborate hydroponic setup is not necessary. However, there’s a catch — you can make a hydroponic setup for a fraction of the cost if you choose the correct setup. 

There are many hydroponic setups, but a few, like the space bucket method, are surprisingly cheap to set up for a new grower. Even DWC isn’t really expensive. And, you can reduce the cost if you build your own systems. So, to make sure this drawback does not get in your way, choose the proper hydroponic setup that suits your budget and preferences. 

2. You Need Some Technical Knowledge of Hydroponics

Growing plants is easy, but the better you get at it, the more difficult it gets. However, growing cannabis hydroponically is a different ballgame altogether. This method of growing cannabis requires you to know technical details about your equipment, nutrients, lights, climate, etc. 

So, even before you start germinating the seeds, you need to know a lot of literature on cannabis, so you know exactly what you are doing. Only then will your plant grow healthy and give a better yield. 

3. It can Consume a Lot of Your Time 

In a hydroponic setup, nature is not helping you with the light cycle, nutrients, and climatic conditions. Here, you have to manage all that, which can consume much of your time. This is not as simple as tossing a seed in your backyard and letting nature nourish your plant. 

Additionally, since your plant is growing in such a controlled environment, you need to constantly monitor the plant for any signs of problems, especially nutrient issues, and ensure it meets its needs on time. 

All of this can consume a lot of your time. So, unless you are okay with spending time every day tending to your indoor cannabis plant, you should not consider a hydroponic setup. 

4. Potential Loss of Yield due to Powercuts

A hydroponic setup relies on electricity to run, and if your grow room loses electricity, your plant can suffer from stress, and in extreme scenarios, it may even die. 

During a power cut, the plant may lose light, the climate control systems may fail, and the water supply may stop circulating — all of these are critical problems that should be avoided at all costs. 

Of course, this does not mean a few hours of energy loss will kill your plant. Your plant can survive a few hours of power cuts, but if it happens too often or longer, your plant may suffer the consequences of it. This is why hydroponics isn’t the best option if your house experiences a lot of power cuts. 

5. Risk of Waterborne Diseases

Remember how, with a hydroponic setup, your plant is not at risk of soil-borne ailments? There’s a flip side to it — your plant is at a higher risk of waterborne diseases since it entirely relies on water to grow. 

In a hydroponic setup, your plants are at a much higher risk of suffering from root rot, fungus, or mold infestations, which may take hold of your plant quickly and are often difficult to overcome. 

6. Most Hydroponic Setups are Unforgiving 

If you are growing cannabis outdoors and forget to water your plant one day, your plant will likely survive. The soil already has some water retained within. But the same rules do not apply to hydroponic setups.

Since hydroponic setups are well-timed and closely controlled, even minor hiccups can cause significant damage to your plant’s growth quickly. For example, if you fail to turn off the lights at night, your plant may experience light stress and even turn into a hermaphrodite quickly. 

This makes hydroponic setups a little challenging to manage, requiring an experienced hand. However, you can still grow cannabis hydroponically even if you’re a beginner. You just need to be a bit more careful and consistent with your approach. 

7. Its Organic Nature is Often Debated

Most growers and cannabis users want their cannabis to be as organic as possible due to the safety concerns of artificial chemicals or methods. And in the past decade or two, this debate has grown significantly in the cannabis community. 

Here, many users and growers often question the organic nature of hydroponics — is it even organic as it does not receive the microbiomes from the soil, for instance, or it grows in an artificial environment without soil? 

So, for some growers, hydroponics isn’t the most organic way of growing cannabis. Still, it is essential to know that it is possible to grow hydroponic cannabis without relying on any harmful chemicals or compounds. Even the nutrients you use in your hydroponic setup can be organic. 

Is hydroponics organic? That’s up for debate and depends on your semantic approach to defining what organic means. But with the suitable methods and use of nutrients, you can grow your hydroponic cannabis as organically as possible. 

What are the Types of Hydroponic Setups for Cannabis?

What are the Types of Hydroponic Setups for Cannabis?

Regarding the benefits and drawbacks discussed above, it is crucial to note that some depend on the type of hydroponic setup you use. For example, some hydroponic setups are expensive and require a lot of equipment — but this does not apply to all hydroponic setups. 

To make sure you get to enjoy the benefits you desire while minimizing the drawbacks, it is crucial that you choose the correct hydroponic setup for growing cannabis. Here are some of the most common hydroponic setups.

1. Ebb and Flow

One of the most common hydroponic setups used to grow cannabis is the ebb and flow method, which uses a plant bed that is repeatedly flooded (and drained) with nutrient solution. The roots sit in the plant bed.

The flooding and drainage of the setup depend on the strain you grow, your preferences, and other factors like the number of plants, climate, root size, etc. But this is a relatively easy hydroponic setup that can be used to grow cannabis. 

2. Deep Water Culture

Also known as DWC, deep water culture is an ideal hydroponic setup for larger cannabis plants that have bigger root balls. Here, your plant would sit above a large water basin, and the roots' lower half will be submerged in water, whereas the remaining roots will be exposed to air. 

This supply ensures a constant supply of both nutrients and oxygen to your plant’s roots, which leads to the roots not growing so big while also supporting terrific bud development. Plus, this system is also quite simple to set up and maintain for a new grower.

3. Aeroponics

The two systems mentioned above are simple, but not this one. Aeroponics is complex and only suitable for experienced hydroponic growers. In this setup, your plants sit above the water, but the roots are not submerged in water. Periodically, the roots are misted with water.

The benefit of this method is that it allows you the most control over the nutrient routine of your plant while allowing the highest levels of oxygenation for the roots — the result is often a massive yield.

The downside? You need to invest in an elaborate system that includes automated timers, misters, and a few other peripherals that are difficult to operate and expensive to procure. 

4. Drip System

While this system is a little expensive to set up, it is fairly straightforward to maintain for a novice cannabis grower. In a drip system, the plant sits above the reservoir containing aerated nutrient solution, and the water is constantly cycled to the roots via drip lines. 

5. Space Bucket Setup

Perhaps the cheapest hydroponic setup is the space bucket one — it uses a container with holes cut into the sides, a small computer fan, an air filter, and a grow light. It is cheap and enough to grow one cannabis plant discreetly. 

6. Nutrient Film Technique

The Nutrient Film Technique or NFT utilizes a very thin film of water rich in nutrients flowing over the plant’s roots. The roots are supported by a sloping tube or shallow channel. Like aeroponics, NFT also doesn’t have the roots submerged in water completely. Instead, they are suspended in the air and frequently receive the nutrient solution. 

A reservoir is used to pump the nutrient solution to the tube or channel. The water flows back into the reservoir, allowing for better water usage and reducing wastage. As the nutrient solution flows constantly, the roots also receive oxygen and nutrients while eliminating waste products. 

NFT, like many other hydroponic techniques, is very popular for growing cannabis as it has several advantages, including efficient water and nutrient usage, reduced pest problems, and the ability to grow several cannabis plants in a small space. However, it also requires careful monitoring and maintenance to ensure that the plants receive the right amount of nutrients and water.

7. Kratky System

The Kratky System is slightly different from other types of hydroponic setups as it doesn’t require, pumps, electricity, or aeration. In this system, you can grow the plants in containers filled with a nutrient solution while the roots are suspended in them. 

As the plants grow, they absorb the nutrient solution. Naturally, the water level decreases.  However, the roots will continue to absorb oxygen from the air space above the nutrient solution. Note that there has to be a small reservoir of nutrient solution at the bottom and sufficient larger air space above it, for this system to work. This allows the roots to access both water and oxygen as they need without the usage of pumps. 

That said, many cannabis growers have pointed out that Kratky may not be a great method to grow cannabis as the plants need varying nutrient solutions during the vegetative and flowering stages of growth. Also, since this system is all about still water, the plants will be prone to diseases including root rot. Other systems use an air pump to solve this issue, but Kratky doesn’t do that, it can be slightly challenging. 

Summary: Hydroponic Cannabis: The Pros, Cons, Setups, And More 

Hydroponics may seem like a new invention in gardening, but it is much older than you’d think. Experts have traced the origins of hydroponics thousands of years ago — as far back as 600 BCE in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. 

From Babylon to the 11th century Aztec, along with ancient Egypt, you can find traces of hydroponics throughout history. And since then, gardeners and farmers have gradually perfected the method of cultivating plants hydroponically.

Thanks to its long history, nowadays, hydroponics has become a reliable way to grow cannabis even in the most unusual places — even NASA scientists plan to use hydroponics to grow plants in space

And for a cannabis grower, hydroponics offers various benefits like better yields, precise control, customization, lower risk of pests and other ailments, and much more. Despite the drawbacks, hydroponics can help you become a better grower and improve the quality of your plants. 

So, what are you waiting for? Choose a hydroponic setup that suits you and start growing!


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Space buckets are not necessarily / usually hydroponic are they? Doesn't it describe a cheap and small footprint growing environment utilising 2 or more buckets joined together with a plant inside? Apart from that confusion it was a good article thanks.
I did a couple Hydroponic grows and found it to be a pain in the neck, and am back on soil.