How to grow hydroponics for beginners

How does hydroponics growing work?

Hydroponics is a soilless growing technique whereby the roots of a cannabis plant are suspended in nutrient rich water. There are a number of growing mediums you can use with hydroponics including, clay pebbles, rock wool, peat moss, vermiculite and coco coir. Hydro is becoming an increasingly popular indoor growing method because of the speed at which you can grow and the level of control it gives you over the nutrients. Hydroponic systems give you much more precise control over the growing environment and nutrients, which when perfected can give growers enormous yields. In this article, we will explore the benefits of growing weed hydroponically using the DWC (deep water culture) method and provide tips for beginners.

In DWC hydroponic systems, plants are suspended in net pots above the water solution. The roots grow down into the solution, absorbing nutrients and water directly through the roots. The water is aerated using an air pump and air stone, providing oxygen to the roots, which helps prevent root rot and other problems that can arise from stagnant water.

A cannabis plant grown hydroponically using DWC
A cannabis plant grown hydroponically using DWC system

What are the different methods of hydroponics growing?

There are lots of different types hydroponics growing, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Here are some of the most popular methods:

Deep Water Culture (DWC)

As mentioned earlier, DWC is a hydroponic method where plants are suspended in mesh pots above a reservoir of nutrient filled water. The roots of the plant grow through the mesh pot and dangle into the water feeding on the nutrients. There is also usually an air pump to supply oxygen to the water and keep it fresh. This method is relatively simple and easy to maintain, making it an excellent choice for beginners.

Diagram explaining how to grow hydroponics for beginners using the DWC system

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation involves delivering a nutrient-rich solution directly to the base of the plant using a network of tubes and drip emitters. The water then drips down through the growing medium where it is absorbed by the roots. Any excess water drips right the way through into a reservoir of water below the plants and is cycled back around. This method is highly customizable but slightly more complicated than DWC as it requires pumps, pipes and other various pieces of equipment to keep the system running. 

Diagram explaining how to grow hydroponics for beginners using the drip irrigation system
Diagram showing how the drip irrigation as a method of hydroponics growing works

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

In NFT systems, plants are suspended above a channel with the roots dangling down, and a thin stream of nutrient-rich water flows over them. The system is tilted to one side so that gravity forces the water to collect on one side where it is pumped back round the system again. This method is a highly efficient method and a way of using less water than other hydroponic methods. Although again the setup process is a little more complicated which means it may not be the best for beginners.

Diagram explaining how to grow hydroponics for beginners using the NFT system


Aeroponics involves suspending the plant roots in the air above a reservoir of water. The nutrient water is then sprayed over the roots as they dangle in the air above. This method is highly effective, producing rapid growth and increasing yields, but it requires more advanced equipment and maintenance. Aeroponics is a great technique, however, it is best left for those with experience using other hydroponic methods first.

Diagram showing how Aeroponic system as a method of hydroponics growing works

Wick sytem

The wick system is a passive hydroponic system used to grow cannabis without the need for electricity or pumps (the oxygen pump is recommended but not essential). It works by using a wick made of a porous material, such as cotton, to draw nutrient-rich water from a reservoir up into the growing medium where the plant’s roots are located. As the water is consumed by the plants, more is drawn up through the wick to replace it, providing a continuous supply of water and nutrients.

The wick system is a simple and low-cost method of growing plants, making it ideal for beginners or those with limited resources. The one downside is the simplicity of the setup, because no pumps are used nutrients are slower to reach the roots and so its likely that you won’t see the same speed of growth and yields as you would with other methods.

Diagram showing how the wick system works as a method of hydroponics growing

Ebb and flow system

The ebb and flow system, also known as flood and drain, is a hydroponic system where cannbis plants are grown in a tray or container filled with a growing medium, such as pebbles or rockwool. The tray is periodically flooded with nutrient-rich water from a reservoir, which is then drained back into the reservoir, creating an ebb and flow cycle. This allows the plants to receive water and nutrients while also getting access to air, promoting healthy root growth.

A timer is typically required for the ebb and flow system to ensure that the plants receive water and nutrients at regular intervals and avoid the risk of overwatering. Without a timer, you would need to manually operate the system, which would be time-consuming and inefficient.

Diagram showing how the Ebb and Flow system as a method of hydroponics growing works
ILGM Robert sale banner

What are the benefits of growing weed hydroponically?

Growing cannabis in hydroponics is more complicated than soil, however, there are some profound benefits to using a hydro system, faster growth and bigger yields are just two of them. What other benefits of growing with hydroponics are there?

Faster Growth: Hydroponic systems provide plants with optimal amounts of nutrients and water, leading to faster growth rates and higher yields.

Higher Yields: Hydroponic systems give your plants a constant supply of nutrients which can produce significantly higher yields than traditional soil methods.

More Control: Hydroponic systems allow you to have more control over the growing environment, including nutrient and water levels, pH balance, and temperature.

Reduced Pests and Diseases: Hydroponic systems are less prone to pests and diseases, as they do not use soil as a growing medium. The majority of the time when you grow with soil any pest issues usually occur because they were in the soil to start with.

What is the difference between active and passive hydro systems?

Active and passive hydroponic systems differ in how they deliver water and nutrients to the plants.
Passive hydroponic systems, also known as wick systems, rely on a wick to draw up water and nutrients like a sponge from a reservoir that is below the plants. This is then absorbed into the growing medium where it is made available to the roots. The wick is usually made of a porous material, such as cotton, that allows water to move upward through capillary action. This type of system is simple and low maintenance, but it may not provide enough oxygen to the roots, especially for larger plants. It also does not feed the plant quite as fast as other systems that use a pump instead of a wick.

Active hydroponic systems work slightly differently and use a pump to circulate the water and nutrients around. There is usually a reservoir of water that sits under the cannabis plants, this is pumped up and fed into the growing medium where it is absorbed by the roots. Any excess water is fed back into the system and is cycled around again. Active systems deliver nutrients to the roots of a plant faster, normally cannabis grows faster compared to wick systems. This type of system is more complex and requires more maintenance, but it is generally more efficient and can support larger plants.

What growing mediums are best for hydroponics?

There are a few different growing mediums that are commonly used in hydroponic setups, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The choice of best growing medium depends on the type of hydroponic system, the size and type of plants being grown, and the specific needs of the plants.

Here are some of the most common growing mediums used in hydroponics:

Rockwool: If you don’t know what Rockwool is you have probably seen it before, it is the same material that makes up the yellow insulation that is used to build most modern houses. Rockwool is made by heating and spinning volcanic rock into fibers that resemble a soft spongy wool. What makes it so great for use with hydro is that it provides excellent support for plant roots and has excellent water retention and drainage properties, it is also sterile and pH-neutral.

Perlite: Perlite is like tiny lightweight pebbles that are made from volcanic glass. It is a really versatile growing medium and is also used as a way to amend highly dense soils. Thanks to its light and airy texture, if you have clayey soil that has poor drainage you can add some perlite to it to improve drainage.

Coco coir: Coco coir is a renewable and sustainable growing medium made from the brown outer fibrous husk of coconuts and has excellent water retention and drainage properties. 

Expanded clay pebbles: Also known as hydroton or LECA (lightweight expanded clay aggregate), are basically expanded clay pellets that are about the size of marbles. They are a lightweight and porous which means they provide good aeration and drainage, but can be expensive. Clay pebbles are in my opinion the best growing medium for hydroponics because their aeration massively reduces the risk of root rot. 

Deep Water Culture (DWC): DWC is probably the most simple to set up and use system that still gives you the results you will want from a hydro grow. it is a straight forward system that works by suspending plant roots in a nutrient-rich solution. An air stone is used to provide oxygen to the roots. 

How to set up a DWC system

Of course you can go and buy a decent DWC system for about $50, but you can also make one using some household items.

Choose a container: Choose a container that is large enough to hold your plants and the nutrient solution. You can use a plastic storage bin, a bucket, or a specialized DWC container.
Install an air stone: Install an air stone in the bottom of the container. The air stone will help to oxygenate the nutrient solution and prevent the roots from suffocating.

Add nutrient solution: Mix a nutrient solution according to the manufacturer’s instructions and add it to the container. The water level should be just below the bottom of the net pots that will hold the plants so that the roots will grow through the net and into the water below.

Add plants: Place plants in net pots that are filled with a growing medium such as rockwool, coconut coir, or clay pellets. Then, place the net pots in the container so that the roots are submerged in the nutrient solution.

Connect the air pump: Connect an air pump to the air stone and turn it on. The air pump will create bubbles and oxygenate the water keeping it fresh.

Monitor pH and nutrient levels: Make sure you check the pH and nutrient levels regularly and adjust as needed using extra water to dilute or using ‘pH up’ and ‘pH down’ solutions to fix any imbalances.

Joe Musgrave

An avid 420 enthusiast, grower, smoker and writer. Joe writes non stop, sharing his extensive knowledge in the field of cannabis with the wider online 420 community through blogs like ours at High Yield Strains.

Leave a Reply