Whether plant life is grown to add to the biodiversity of our ecosystems, for food, or simply for
decoration in our homes and gardens, all plants require the same few essential nutrients to
Much like how we breathe and eat to take in the oxygen and fuel necessary to function, plants
need a variety of well balanced nutrients to sustain life, grow and reproduce.
When combining the perfect chemical and nutrient balance within a controlled hydroponics system, the yield and
quality of your plants is incomparable to that of generic gardening or agricultural techniques.
Understanding the fundamentals of the nutrient specific needs of your plants is vital to ensure a
healthy and thriving hydroponics system.
All sounds a bit complicated? Let’s talk about it.
To get the most out of your hydroponics system, you need to know the role of temperature and
temperature control within the system.
As a general rule of thumb, plants living in a hydroponics
system are suited to temperatures of 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, however it varies slightly
from plant to plant.
Plants are best kept at this temperature because plant roots are sensitive to a sudden change in
A rapid change in temperature when adding water into the nutrient solution
circulating your hydroponics system is likely to damage plant roots thereby making nutrient
absorption less efficient. This causes your plants to grow slower than capacity. In addition to
this, a plant with healthy roots, in a perfectly temperate climate will be much more effective at
keeping diseases at bay.
To ensure the nutrient-water solution is kept at the proper temperature for the highest plant
yield, it is most efficient to regulate the root zone temperatures of the system. This is where the
absorption of oxygen and nutrients is concentrated.
Hydroponics in cooler climates will easily lose heat to the surrounding air or ground.
There are plenty of quick fixes to be utilized in this case; insulate by implementing a low heat conducting
material where the system comes into contact with the ground, invest in electric heaters, or even
resort to cheaper options like bubble wrap to protect your pipes from the elements.
To cool down a system that is suffering from a hot summer or has been overheated by LED
bulbs, consider painting your system white, but most effectively try using a water chiller.
As mentioned earlier, the most important requirement of a hydroponics system is that it is
sustained with the proper nutrients in the correct quantities.
Once again, Different plants require differing volumes of nutrients, however the primary essential nutrients of all plants are the same.
Plants should have plentiful access to all the fundamentals to achieve their yield potential.
Essential nutrients are:
Nitrogen: This nutrient may be the most essential to a plant’s growth. It is a component
of chlorophyll used during the process of photosynthesis to absorb light for energy. The
more abundant the resources for photosynthesis, the faster a plant is able to grow.
Phosphorus: A main contributor to the conversion of sunlight into energy and movement
of nutrients within a plant’s vascular system, phosphorus is a vital member of this elite
nutrient group. Phosphorus is incorporated into the genetic material of the plant.
Potassium: Potassium is important for decreasing a plant’s susceptibility to disease.
Something which, in a hydroponics system of vast amounts of the same or similar plant
species, could be detrimental to its survival.
Calcium: This nutrient is a large building block of the roots and leaves of a plant. It is
used to form cell wall membranes.
Magnesium: Similar to Nitrogen, magnesium is a core element in the makeup of
chlorophyll. Without a source of magnesium, growth would be impossible. In addition,
the nutrient is important in the function of enzymes within plant matter.
Sulfur: Used to construct amino acids, and therefore proteins in plants, it is main building block of all flora. Not unlike the other nutrients listed, it also greatly contributes to photosynthesis. Sulfur also plays a role in the taste and olfactory sensations of plants
Proportions, variety, and quantity of nutrient solution are all important factors in creating a healthy plant structure.
But what is the best method by which to feed nutrients into your hydroponics system?
Hydroponics can utilize both organic nutrients and inorganic, chemical nutrients to fertilize and supply plants with the building blocks they require.
Organic nutrients are found in natural matter. It can be plant derived such as compost, where decomposing plants are concentrated into a nutrient rich material, or it can be sourced from animals via manure.
Organic nutrients have been used for thousands of years in agricultural practices all over the world. They have always been a safe and effective way to nourish plants however, don’t necessarily offer all of the benefits that modern day fertilization can.
Pros of supplying hydroponics plants with organically sourced nutrients:
● There are no harmful chemicals within the makeup of organic nutrient feed. All material introduced to your hydroponics is natural and therefore less likely to bring in unwanted waste chemicals that may, in some cases, interfere with the quality of the plant.
● You are less likely to oversaturate your plant solution with too many nutrients. An excess of food for your plants can be just as harmful as too little.
● There is less risk of contaminating the natural environment. If not disposed of properly, it is likely that somewhere along the line, the solution will be put out into the local ecosystem.
● Nutrients from organic feed have been shown to be absorbed less rapidly than the nutrients of its counterpart.
● Organic nutrients are generally safer to handle than any other plant nutrient source.
Inorganic chemical nutrients are scientifically constructed to help achieve the best yield in a short timeframe.
The man made substances are curated in a way such that the plant has access to all of the nutrients, in the right quantities, needed to ensure a good harvest, good plant health, and plant longevity.
Pros of supplying hydroponics plants with chemical nutrients:
● They are reliable. When using chemical fertilizer you are guaranteed to achieve the
same result every time. There is no uncertainty of having a deficiency in a certain
nutrient. Yield is optimized.
● They are cost effective. Chemical fertilizers are a more budget friendly way to ensure
your hydroponics system has access to everything it needs.
● You can pick and choose what nutrient solution is best for your specific plant needs.
Catering specifically to the plant you are growing is certain to give the optimum yield.
● You can easily store and access chemical fertilizers. Unlike organic nutrients, chemical
solutions are packaged in a way that makes implementation into the system, as well as
storage, easy and efficient. No compost barrel necessary.
● They keep the pests away. Chemical nutrients often have incorporated pesticides to
keep the insects that can ruin your harvest at bay.