Water level and beginner question.

ooruth7March 28, 2008

This forum is very useful for me. I dont know much about gardening and didnt know anything about Hydroponics until I had to pick an experiments for Biology project.

My experiment is to compare two of the same plants but one grown in a Hydroponic system and the other one grow in the regular soil media with proper care and watering.

My first question: After I construct my Hydroponic apparatus and pour in my nutrient solution that will be aerated by a fish airpump, how high should I maintain the solution level?

I will be buying tomato plants that are young and wash of the soil and place them in rockwool chopped media in a messed pot. If the roots of the bought plant are large enough that they extend outside the messed pot, how much of the root much be submerged in the solution. If the roots aren't long enough to extend outside the messed pot, should I have my water level so it makes contact with the rockwool or high enough that the solution makes contact with the root itself? I hope i made that clear. Can anyone please clear up the solution level or different root situation.

2. I am planning on using rockwool but does anyone have any good alternatives? going to use CHOPPED rockwool

3. I am going to use tomato plants as of now. I don't know if this is a good choice. I would like suggestions to a plant that is easy to grow, has quick growth, and stuff. Thinking in terms for a science project.

4. http://www.instructables.com/id/Hydroponics---at-Home-and-for-Beginners/

^^ I am following those instructions, does anyone want to add anything else?

5. I will obviously need to aerate my solution, is too many bubbles bad? If i had a large airstone for like 5 gallon container?

6. Okay I need to stay low budget and have to share this with parents that will attend the science fair in our school so I cant use high tech devices like meter and stuff because then the parents will just go: "its easier to do it good old way" If i get water from the tap water, i heard that you will need to let it sit or better if you aerate it before use. So if i do that and pour in my nutrient solution, will i be fine? I am going to change the solution every two weeks.

Please clarify the solution levels and other questions. Dont worry I will come back with more questions to annoy you. Sorry

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My two cents:

The rockwool must receive water, or your plant will likely die, even if some roots are in the nutrient solution. I skimmed the article you linked, it's not clear how he's assuring that the rockwool stays moist. He also says rockwool is made from fiberglass. It's not. It's fiber rock! Cotton candy made from rock. Very cool, imo.

Anyway, based upon what I've read, mostly on this forum, I'd suggest you follow his directions, but also purchase a mop, cut off 5" strands of that mop, and attach them so that they go into the rockwool and also into the nutrient reservoir. That will allow the nutrients to get sucked up into the rockwool, without permanently flooding it. It doesn't seem like an optimal solution, especially for research purposes, but to do it right would cost a lot of money :(.

3. Lettuce grows MUCH faster than tomatoes. Any type is good, but I like semi-heading (Boston, Bibb) just because it tastes good. Tomatoes will certainly work well, but lettuce will get you results faster. If you are planning to grow them outside, it's close to too late in NJ.

5. You can't aerate too much. The air bubbles are replenishing oxygen in the water so the roots can breathe. The more the merrier.

6. Forgive me if you already know this, but make sure you are using hydroponics nutrients, and not something like Miracle Grow. Miracle grow is great for plants in dirt, but it's lacking minerals that you need when growing plants in water. Plants normally get them from the soil, but those grown in water don't have that option.

7. Good luck with your experiment. I hope you will post your results here.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 9:48PM
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iliketoast thank you very very much. You advice helps a lot.
So you are saying that no matter how long the roots reach into the nutrition solution the solution level should be high enough so that the Meshed container is submerged into the solution like an inch constantly.

I will just be comparing growth of soil grown plant compared to hydroponic grown plant. So I will be monitoring growth and also take leaf color and those things into consideration.

I after I build my rig and get everything in order I will post back picture and ask you guys for more advice. I will be following that instructable.

Question: Is it okay if I water from above to get the rockwool moist?

Here is a link that might be useful: instructable

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 10:12PM
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No, that's not really what I said, or at least not what I meant. It might work, provided you are aerating the nutrient solution, but I have no experience in that method.

If you will excuse my crude drawing skills I'll show you the small difference I was recommending.

Those wicks are the only difference (well, that and keeping the nutrient solution from touching the rockwool). And those wicks are merely strands of cotton cut from a mop.

Cut 6" long or so with one end tucked into the rockwool and the other allowed to dangle in the nutrient solution, they should suck up just the right amount of water to mix with the air already in the rockwool to make the roots extremely happy. They'll have ample air to breathe and ample food too.

Since you are doing this as a scientific study, you should report the 'capillary action' that makes those wicks work. Google it. I bet it will help you get an A!

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 6:22PM
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ooruth7, perhaps a photo might help, although I like iliketoastÂs artistic rendition!

I concur that lettuce would be a great fast growing veg to use for your project. It also allows you to use a cheap readily accessible medium like Perlite, not much support needed, you can direct seed and it is good at moisture retention. The medium in the mesh pots in the photo is perlite.

The second photo shows lettuce and spinach in the back and cilantro in front. Lettuce was approx 3 weeks old after direct seeding in Perlite.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 8:35PM
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ooruth7, one more thing after thinking about your post.

IÂm not sure what youÂre design is for your rig but thought IÂd offer the following bubble bucked design link. Instead of buying and cutting up a Rubbermaid bin (like in the design) you could hit a local restaurant for a discarded food grade container and lid, the kind they get their dill pickles in etc. It works just as well and itÂs free!

BTW, you can easily get by without the nutrient level hose on the side.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 9:02PM
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I am using the bubbler method/deep water culture

if I notice my rockwool is dry? Should I pour nutrient solution from the top. Like I am watering it?

iliketoast I am gonna do exactly what your diagram shows. Thanks guys!

ottawapepper i dont know how to grow a plant from seed up so as of now I am planning on buying w/e herbs I can get my hands on that are already grown with roots. I am gonna look into seed growing in hydroponic so i can give it a shot. I would love it if you guys can guide me with the seed stuff.

Do you guys aerate your pots? I got myself an airpump and airstone so my roots are well aerated.

"If the water doesn't touch the rockwool it will just dry out, so you'll have to run the water/nutrient level at about half way into the rockwool to keep it moist. " Jay Lawerence from: http://www.4hydroponics.com
^^ This is what some guy said
[I am gonna aerate]

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 11:46PM
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"if I notice my rockwool is dry? Should I pour nutrient solution from the top. Like I am watering it?"

Yup. Do that whenever you feel like it. It will be good for your plant, since it's aerated nutrient and it is going to drain. Luck!

Nice photos ottowapepper! A picture is worth a thousand poorly drawn diagrams :).

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 12:20AM
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ottawapepper so you grew lettuce from seeds and took you just 3 weeks to grow that much!?!?!
I gotta find myself lettuce seeds. I am planning on germinating lettuce seeds in moist paper towel and then once they sprout I will put them in rockwool netted pots.
I have room for 3 pots total. One will be lettuce seeds, other will be fast mustard grass seeds (something like that), the other one is something I am still thinking about.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 4:34PM
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ooruth, a couple of things to considerÂ

I would just directly sow a few seeds in the mesh pot with rockwool. Once they sprout, pull out all but the strongest looking sprout. Leaf lettuce would be your best choice.

Looking back at my notes, it was 24 days after the seed sprouted. It took 4 days to germinate the seed so the results really show growth closer to four weeks after sowing. Sorry for the miscalculation in my earlier post. Another thing to weigh when evaluating my results is that I am growing under a 400 watt high intensity discharge (HID) light. If you are using a lower intensity florescent grow light, you will probably get different results. IÂd love to hear how you progress.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 6:43PM
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My teacher has several lose lights and she is giving me a light. Not sure how intense it is..probably not that much since they are expensive. I will let you know the intensity if i find out. She told me that she has felt so I am gonna use felt for my wick instead of the mop strands. Hope felt is the same thing as mop strands. Does a bounty paper towel do the same? It is supposed to absorb liquids really well :D lol.

I got an Whisper Airpump since it has to be quiet in classroom and it is good for 10-30gallons and I have a 10 gallon container with 10inch airstone. The bubbles from the airstone are too little. see the link...they are half as many bubbles as that. Thinking about getting a 30-60 gallon airpump.

I am gonna germinate some peanuts since i got them handy. Lets soo how that goes.

Here is a link that might be useful: My bubbles are half this

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 7:33PM
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Heh, you sound like a future farmer, ooruth! Sadly, there's no longer any money in it, but it's a good skill for anyone to acquire. I would suggest that you don't grow peanuts though. They are completely unsuitable for hydroponics. They take 4-5 months to mature.

They also flower in the air and attempt to send that flower into the ground to make a peanut. That's quite uncommon, and might not be possible with a hydroponic system. I suspect that they cannot do that successfully in a hydroponic garden. It's fairly cool to watch in a dirt garden though.

For your experiment, you should really choose one of the following, if you want to be fair to both hydro and dirt:

Basil (or almost any herb)

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 12:45AM
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I wish Home Depot sold Lettuce I would have gotten that.
Lettuce, Tomato (I can find this anywhere), and herbs. Those are my top 3 and I have room for 3 netted pots on my container.

iliketoast: I come from a family of farmers. Why father is the only one who studied something other than agriculture but we own a few acres of farm land (in inida). I dont have a green thunb :( I am afraid that my plants will die that is my OCD is annoying you guys.

I will take like 50 billion pictures asking you if this is right or wrong.

Herbs, Tomatoes, Lettuce

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 4:51PM
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No worries about asking lots of questions... it is part of the learning process.

I'm surprised you can't find lettuce seed? It's fairly common around my parts.

IÂm sure youÂll do fine with tomato and a couple of herbs. Keep us up to date on progress!


    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 5:37PM
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I have a question about pH. I know pH factor is really big. I will be doing this experiment in my science class so I will ask my teacher for distilled water or pH neutral water (hoping they get it). I am using rockwool which has a high pH so if I had to adjust my pH (mostly down to 6) what are the way to do it other than buying a pH down. Is there a home product that I can use as a solution. I wouldnt mind checking pH everyday and pouring in w/e the solution is everyday.

Looking at the pH chart on Wiki would Lemon juice work? It cant hurt the plants in anyway like Cola would.

any solutions?

Here is a link that might be useful: I learned lemon juice from that.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 8:11PM
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Good research work on pH and lemon juice.

Yes, lemon juice does work but, from my experience (I tried using lemon juice when I first started out with city tap water) the effect did not stick / last long and I was adding more on a daily basis. Mind you, I strongly suspect that my city water has a pH buffer in it. Now I have resigned myself to using pH down.

If you can get distilled water, youÂll probably have much better results using lemon juice than I did. IÂd love to know how well it works using distilled water and whether my difficulties really were related to pH buffers.

Hint, Hint; just an FYI, if you havenÂt researched why pH is important and how in affects plant development, you may want to do so. IÂm sure that will be one of the questions your teacher will be asking.

Keep up the good work, pretty soon youÂll be giving me advice at the rate youÂre going!


    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 8:56PM
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Today I bought lettuce seeds and one herb seeds.
One type is called Black-seeded Simpson and the other is called Green Ice lettuce. The herb i got is called: Basil, Genovese (Ocimum basilicum). I picked those two lettuce seeds based on it growth time. On the back of the package it show how long it should take the plant to grow and eat. It showed 45 days. That was fastest time so I picked those lettuce seeds. Hopefully that time can be cut down to somewhere around 20 because of Hydroponics.

"It took 4 days to germinate the seed so the results really show growth closer to four weeks after sowing." Bill
What method did you use to sow your seeds?
I am looking at Papertowel method or w/e my PhD teacher says. I got this forum and her so I got good support.

Okay I am going to go step by step on this. I will update you with images and stuff and hopefully you can identify when its time to plant and other things.

I didnt order any starter cubes just chopped rockwool for medium. I still have a backup with two already grown plants.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2008 at 7:45PM
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Hi ooruth,

IÂm not familiar with the variety lettuce you purchased. My lettuce was leaf lettuce, IÂm not sure how head lettuce would do.

I germinated my lettuce and herb seed directly in my mesh pots that were filled with Perlite. IÂve never used rockwool so I canÂt comment. Maybe iliketoast or another member can offer advice based on experience.

HereÂs a shot of my lettuce seedlings after I thinned out the weaker plants to just one. I sowed 5 Â 10 seeds per pot and tossed all but one.

One last thing based on my research, you should make sure you wear a mask when cutting rockwool. Apparently the fine fibers can cause lung problems. At least thatÂs what IÂve read. Again, IÂll defer to others in the forum to correct me if IÂm wrong.

Looking forward to the pictures,


    Bookmark   April 6, 2008 at 5:55PM
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Chopped rockwool is just as good as starter cubes for germinating seeds. Just plant a bunch of seeds 1/8" (3 mm?) deep in the stuff and wait a few days. They'll come up without a problem, and you'll be snacking on them in a month :).

Aside: Just to test out a theory, I threw some cucumber seeds into a dutch bucket (a hydro system that contains about a gallon of EC with water constantly dribbling on it), and they germinated and are doing fine! No net pots, no rockwool, just a pile of little round red rocks. Amazing.

Plants are awesome.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 7:54AM
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Alright I guess I will be using the "Baggie Method" for germination. I also decided to pick up Perlite at the local Lowes store soon so that the seeds can firmly be planted into a growing medium once they sprout since rockwool isnt that compact.

Everything I ordered has arrived and I am ready to start once my teacher accepts my proposal which should be tomorrow. I will likely begin the seed germination tomorrow and then build the apparatus today or soon. If I start seed germination tomorrow, hopefully they will sprout by wednesday. Then I can plant the sprouts into perlite and then they can just have their quick growth.

I got the deep water culture ready with the nutrient solution and aeration is perfect. Then I will run strips of felt into the nutrient solution so rockwool and perlite stay moist. I will plant the sprouts into perlite and then nutrient water the netted pots so they are not dry at all. Then set it under light. I will check it daily for its water, pH, and "nutrient water" the netted pots every day to make sure they are happy with wet growing medium.

^^ thats the plan...anything wrong? Pictures should be in a few minutes.

Here is a link that might be useful: Baggie Method.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 3:49PM
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I got the pictures.
I just have all the supplies along with the netted pots inserted into the lid. Nothing much really. I read the label on rockwool and it didnt mention anywhere that I should wear a mask or gloves but I will be wearing them.

Waiting for Perlite and teachers approval for seed germination.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 5:01PM
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First, IÂm sorry if I made you nervous about handling rockwool. I should have been more specific. My comment was regarding handling dry slabs of rockwool. From what I have read, breaking it up will release micro fibers that can get embedded in lungs if no protection is taken. I donÂt think you need gloves. But then again, who knows what some laboratory rat may die from 20 years from now LOL. I have a theory that white laboratory rats cause cancer not the stuff they feed them LOL!

From your pictures, it looks like you have all the right ingredients for a successful project.

Good luck and keep us informed on progress please.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 11:34PM
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My biology teacher approved the project so I am ready to roll. I will be setting up on coming Tuesday or Wednesday. I germinated Herb seeds since my biology teachers said to do just the Lettuce and Fast Plant mustards. Since perlite is available I will plant seeds in it and also germinate seeds in the baggie method.

How did you plant your seeds? How in the world does your perlite look very moist when you were just using a wicking system.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 3:31PM
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Hi again ooruth7,

IÂm a little confused by your posted statement "I germinated Herb seeds since my biology teachers said to do just the Lettuce and Fast Plant mustards"

Lettuce and mustards are not herbs?

As for starting lettuce in baggies, you really donÂt need to. Perlite is very porous and retains water well. If you have an extra mesh pot IÂd fill it with Perlite and keep it sitting in ¼ inch of water after tossing in 10 or so lettuce seeds and giving it a gentle shake. Should have sprouts in 4 days.

Happy to hear that you got approval to go ahead with your project!


    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 8:24PM
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Since my teacher said no to herbs I germinated them for my own fun. Sorry for making that confusing.

Okay I will listen to your advise since that will simplify the procedure a lot. Cant i just sow the seeds into perlite and then place it in the DWC system with nutrient solution running 1/4 inch above the bottom of the pots?

How does having nutrient level 1/4 above the bottom of the netted pots have the whole pot full of perlite moist? This stuff seems like cotton. Well i will be finding out soon.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 9:26PM
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I will set up my Hydroponics DWC as I would. Then pour in Perlite and plant seeds in it having a wicking system. I will also run the water level like a inch above the bottom of the netted pots.

Beginning on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The herb seeds that I germinated are starting to sprout a tiny tiny bit. Some of them have a tiny white sprout.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 7:31PM
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I am a bit concerned about planting seeds in Perlite.
I got perlite yesterday and planted a few lettuce seeds in it and I highly doubt that they will sprout. The seeds are very tiny and perlite isnt that moist. I watered and touched it and its nothing close to the paper towel.

When i put perlite in the netted pots, perlite is falling out of the netted pots. So I placed chopped rockwool around the sides of the netted pots and perlite right in the middle and planted seeds in the middle. Perlite doesn't seem to be moist enough for the seeds to germinated.

I placed the extra netted pot in a inch of water with no wicks. I dunno if wicks will make much of a difference.

Any solutions?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 2:53PM
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Ottawa your message reminded me
Update: the plants are growing amazingly!
The Wisconsin fast plants have another 20ish days before they are fully grown (100%). They have already flowered (small flowers) and there are still a lot more buds that still didnt flower. They are growing a lot better than soil plants.

The soil lettuce doenst even look like lettuce at all. The lettuce just grew really long with two leaves and looks as if stopped growing. The hydro lettuce is way more developed than the soil. There is seriously no comparison. I def. got all students attention with hydro and its growth.

I will post the pictures i took really soon.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 12:03AM
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Great to hear that it's going really well.

You should be in for a good grade!


    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 10:58AM
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