The Ebb And Flow Guide — How To Set It Up At Home To Grow Cannabis?

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Added 30 January 2022

Are you looking for a low-cost, high-efficiency hydroponic system to grow cannabis? Then, the Ebb and Flow method might just be the one for you.

Ebb and Flow is a clever automated system to grow cannabis. Plus, it’s easy to set up. Suffice it to say that it’s the most uncomplicated hydroponic technique you may have come across. 

The system isn’t very demanding — all you need to do is supervise it regularly to ensure it is running correctly, but you don’t need to micromanage it constantly, unlike other hydroponic techniques. 

Thanks to its efficiency, the Ebb and Flow is growing in popularity worldwide in the cannabis growers’ community. But, what is it, and how can you set it up for your subsequent project? In this article, we tell you all about Ebb and Flow.

What is the Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System?

Ebb and Flow, also known as flood and drain, is a clever hydroponic system that works on the feast and fast principle.

Typically, it periodically feeds the plant’s roots with nutrient-rich water. Once this solution drains from the roots, the growing medium is exposed to air for some time so the roots can oxygenate. The roots first feast on the nutrient solution and then fast during the oxygenation period.

This is a terrific way to grow cannabis easily as it ensures your plant gets all the nutrients regularly along with sufficient airflow. So, your plant’s roots can grow healthy and big with maximized air, water, and nutrient intake.

Plus, this method also prevents mold and pathogens from building up within the grow medium, keeping your plant healthy.

Here are a few Grow Diaries using the Ebb and Flow technique:

How Does the System Work?

The Ebb and Flow system is relatively straightforward. The plants are anchored in an inert growing medium — like Rockwool — that does not provide any nutrition but drains the water slowly (thanks to its water retention capabilities).

Then, the growing medium is placed within a grow tray that sits right over the nutrient reservoir. The grow tray and reservoir are connected with a drain tune flowing downwards and a pump that pushes the water upwards. 

The water is pumped into the grow tray at set intervals, and it drains back into the reservoir after some time thanks to gravity — leading to the feast and fast principle.

So, the roots are first flooded with water and left to remain dry for proper oxygenation.

Why Should You Choose the Ebb and Flow System?

The Ebb and Flow method is quickly gaining popularity for many reasons — being simple and easy to maintain is just the tip of the iceberg. Below are some reasons why this method may help you grow potent buds.

  • Reliable and Easy to Maintain

The Ebb and Flow system is sort of a set-it-and-forget-it system. Once you set it up, you don’t have to worry about upkeep as it takes care of itself. In addition, you don’t have to do much to maintain it for smooth running. 

Just flush the nutrient solution at the right time and ensure there is no problem with the system. As mentioned above, you only need to supervise the system, not micromanage it.

  • Automated Functioning

The Ebb and Flow system is largely automated. The water pump is connected to the timer, so the water gets pushed up at regular intervals every day. And the water drains down with gravity — you only need to refill the nutrient solution regularly!

  • Inexpensive and Easy to Set

Some hydroponic systems are expensive and difficult to set up (we are looking at you, aeroponics). But this system is unique. Setting it up will only take an afternoon, little money, and a few steps. That’s it.

  • Straightforward Functioning

The system’s functioning is also quite straightforward, so there are fewer details you need to keep an eye on. Thanks to the limited nutrient exposure and simple mechanism, you don’t have to worry about temperature control, oxygenation, pH, and other complications. 

And even if you have to consider temperature or pH, it is pretty easy to do so. For example, you can use a regular water heater or cooler in the reservoir tank and add alkaline or acidic supplements to control the pH of the solution.

  • Low-Key System

Are you looking for stealthy growing techniques? Well, say hello to Ebb and Flow. This system is quite modest — it is quiet, doesn’t require a lot of energy, and takes very little space.

  • Versatile

Additionally, you can modify it in any way you like. As long as you know the basics of growing cannabis in Ebb and Flow, you can design your system to fit your growing location, plant type, and size. You can grow cannabis in the corner of your room, balcony, table, or even in your closet with the Ebb and Flow system.

What Are Its Drawbacks?

Like any other system, Ebb and Flow also has a few drawbacks, such as the following.

  • Potential to Ruin Your Culture

If something goes wrong within the system — although the chances are low — it can potentially ruin your crop. This is because the system relies on precise timing for feeding and fasting the roots. 

  • Risk of Root Diseases

While the system doesn’t need any micromanaging, it still needs regular sanitization and maintenance. You must keep the system clean and replace the nutrient solution every week to prevent issues like root diseases and nutrient deficiencies. 

Additionally, you need to ensure the drainage is not too slow or too fast because improper drainage can lead to unhealthy roots or root rot.

How Do You Set Up Ebb and Flow for Cannabis?

Setting up your own Ebb and Flow system is easy. Below is an easy guide to DIY your own Ebb and Flow system to grow healthy cannabis.

Things You Need

  1. A reservoir with a lid
  2. A growing tray to sit over the reservoir
  3. Rubber piping 
  4. A water pump with timer — we recommend using a regular garden pond pump
  5. Cannabis potted in an inert growing medium like Rockwool cubes, clay pebbles, coco, or clean gravel

Steps to Set Up Ebb and Flow

Drill two holes in the center of the reservoir’s lid

Drill holes in your reservoir

Next, drill two holes at the base of the growing tray — right above the reservoir lid’s holes

Drill holes in the base

Now, connect one of the lower holes to the one right above it with an overflow tube. Make sure the overflow tube sits above the expected water level in the growth tray to catch excess water.

Connect overflow pipe

Next, connect the other two holes using rubber piping 

Connect inlet hose

Now, connect the water pump within the reservoir to the rubber pipe.

Connect water pump

Assuming you've already germinated the seeds and transferred the seedlings to net pots, you can now place them in the growing tray. However, make sure the pot is twice as tall as the growing tray’s edge.

Place plants

Finally, set up a timer on the water pump so it floods the growing tray for 15 minutes and allows drainage for another 15 minutes.

Connect a timer

Now, you have a full setup ready!

Ebb and flow

What Should You Consider When Setting It Up?

Ebb and Flow is easy, no doubt, but there are a few things you must consider when setting it up. Here are a few of those.

  • Growing Medium

You must first consider the growing medium, precisely the drainage speed. The growing medium must drain well but slowly to ensure it retains some moisture during the flood stage; however, it should also drain quickly enough to prevent pathogens and mold.

We recommend using Rockwool cubes, coco, or clay pellets to grow cannabis in Ebb and Flow. These mediums have good water retention capabilities but not enough to store water for hours.

You must also consider density buoyancy. Since the nutrient solution regularly floods the growing tray, a light growing medium will float under pressure. 

  • pH Level

Like any other hydroponic system, the pH is important for the Ebb and Flow for healthy growth. Since many nutrients are only soluble in a certain pH range, you must maintain the pH balance to prevent a nutrient lockout. 

We recommend maintaining a pH balance of 5.5 to 6.5.

What Should the Watering Schedule Look Like?

The watering schedule can be confusing for the new Ebb and Flow growers, but it becomes easier once you get the hang of it. 

And don’t worry, there are no hard and fast rules. 

First, let’s look at the factors that affect the watering schedule:

  • Plant type and size

Your plant’s biomass is related to the transpiration of water into the atmosphere. Therefore, the larger the plants, the more the flooding and drainage.

  • Light

Light also affects transpiration — the stronger and closer the light source, the more flooding, and drainage.

  • Temperature 

Similarly, temperature also speeds up water loss through evaporation and transpiration, so you need to flood and drain the system more frequently if you live in a hotter environment.

  • Humidity

Plants transpire more in dry conditions, too, so you have to flood and drain the system frequently if the humidity in your region or grow room is too low.

  • Growing medium:

If you use a growing medium with higher water retention, you need to flood and drain the system less frequently. For instance, clay pebbles require a higher watering frequency than Rockwool as they don’t retain water as well as the latter.

Considering these factors for your specific cannabis plant will allow you to come up with an estimate for your watering frequency. However, remember that it’s just a starting point, and you’ll have to fine-tune the frequency accordingly by monitoring your plant’s growth.

Also, here is a general guideline for the most common grow mediums used in average environmental conditions:

  • Expanded clay pebbles: 4 to 8 times per day
  • Rockwool cubes: 1 to 5 times per day 
  • Coconut coir: 3 to 5 times per day

Here, a day means the duration when the lights are on in the 18/6 vegetative phase. Never flood the growing tray when the lights are off.

Here’s another guideline based on your grow room’s environmental factors:

  • Twice a day: for a cooler, humid environment or if the grow medium drains slowly (like Rockwool)
  • Thrice a day: for warmer areas and fast-draining growing mediums (like clay pellets)
  • Four-times a day: for hot and dry climates with a fast-draining grow medium

Use these guidelines and estimates to determine how often you need to flood the growing tray with the nutrient solution. 

Is DIY-ing Ebb and Flow Worth It?

Should you invest in a prefabricated Ebb and Flow system or build your own? This is a question many new growers have. The answer depends on your budget and preference. 

You can, of course, buy a prefabricated Ebb and Flow system that’s more efficient to grow cannabis from your nearest horticultural store. In addition, they aren’t costly, and a good system shouldn’t cost more than $200, offering terrific value for money.

However, you can make your DIY system if a storebought system doesn’t interest you. As long as you’re resourceful, you’ll manage. Plus, it’s not overly challenging to make one at home if you follow the abovementioned steps. 

Summary: The Ebb And Flow Guide - How To Set It Up At Home To Grow Cannabis

The Ebb and Flow method is growing quite popular in the growing community. If you have basic experience with other hydroponic systems and want to take your cannabis cultivation to the next level, you should try Ebb and Flow.

But that’s not all — the Ebb andd Flow is fantastic for those that don’t have space for a large grow room. 

The system is pretty simple and easy to maintain, but you must supervise it regularly, set the right watering frequency, and follow the steps listed above. Pretty soon, you’ll have a fully functional system that grows healthy potent cannabis.


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