No More pH Adjustments. Check it Out.

danielfpMay 20, 2010

Hello Everyone,

During the past several months I have been using weakly acidic cation exchange resins inside inline filters to control the pH of my hydroponic solutions. I have had absolutely great results. I wanted to start this thread to see if any of you would like to start to test this approach yourselves and share your results. I wrote an article about the general description of the method, resins, etc here :

I hope some of you decide to try this out. It is definitely an easy and economical approach to achieve constant pH levels. Thank you for your interest :o)


Here is a link that might be useful: Everything Hydroponics

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Thanks for the post, I bookmarked it because I need to be awake when I read it. But I understand it uses "ion exchange resins" and that not all work well. Again, I need to reread it, but is there any place that you can recommend to get these ion exchange resins?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 7:37AM
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Thank you for your followup :o) I use the two Amberlites mentioned in the article which are the ones reported to work in scientific literature. They have worked for me quite well. You can buy Amberlite IRC-50 from ebay :;hash=item334e0c3e8f. I happened to have some spare at the lab so I didn't actually have to buy them but they may be available at other chemical stores. Sadly both DP-1 and IRC-50 seem to be going out of production but their replacement Amberlite CG50 can also be used.

Here is a link that might be useful: Everything Hydroponics

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 7:49AM
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I'm somewhat interested as well and a google search didn't really produce any supplier lists.

Also, good to see you're still about Daniel.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 7:50AM
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Thank you for the followup :o) Yes, thankfully after finishing some work I had been doing I will now continue to develop my website and help others deal with their hydro problems. I have just modified the article to add some links of suppliers for Amberlite CG-50 which replaced DP-1 and IRC-50 as I said earlier.

I hope that some of you will test this approach and share your results. The resins are somewhat expensive but they last a life time. Using 25g of resin you could buffer a whole 25 gallon reservoir for a VERY long time (the resins can be renewed a very large number of times).

Here is a link that might be useful: Everything Hydroponics

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 8:04AM
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Haahahaaa better living thru more chemicals. Yes it works...okay so you want to add more chemicals to your hydroponic system to combat the use of that chemical nutrient mix that your using in the first place,. Please guys, please I'm rolling here. Please please don't take our chemicals away. How many chemicals will you stop at. Haahahaa don't mind me I'm just the guy in the back laughing to himself.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 9:26AM
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yeah gerogeiii, you're that guy who puts a squirt of chemical on his plants every couple of days. The irony makes me smile too.

daniel if a person were to use more than is required,say 100g of resin in 25 gallons, would there be a negative result?

to anybody else interested: I only need about 35 grams of this stuff. just over 1 ounce. a pound on that ebay listing was $100. If anybody is interested in sharing in the cost, let me know. I can buy it, split it, and ship it if there is enough interest.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 11:28AM
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Probably an excess such as that would start to cause some nutrient deficiencies as the resins would start to exchange acid protons for nutrient cations. The extent of this effect would depend on the particular affinity of the resin for each cation and the actual extent of the excess. I have been working with a 1g per gallon quantity and everything seems to be working just fine with the resins buffering pH to a very good extent. I have also tested a three fold excess with a single plant and it hasn't complained yet.

The available scientific literature does say that there are loses of Zn and Mg after about 7 weeks but most people would have changed solutions by then. I hope this helps ! Hopefully you'll be able to find someone to share the cost :o) I have also added some links to the post from labs where you can buy quantities from 25g.

Here is a link that might be useful: Everything Hydroponics

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 11:45AM
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Thanks Daniel for sharing this, as it sounds very interesting and promising so far. Have to look into it more in detail first though. If the products you mention are available at this end of Topic of the Cancer, I might test your method very soon and report back for sure as soon as some results show up. Btw: good for us that you aren't bind with any disclosure agreement on this one ;-)

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 12:22PM
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Sweet, very much doubt I could get my hands on it here though.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 12:46PM
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Hi Daniel,
I've read your article about the use of "cation exchange resins" and it sounds really promising. But there is one thing in the equation I didn't get so far - when it says:

>>These substances are polymer like matrixes which have functional groups on their surface that react with acids and bases and provide you with a constant pH level.Plausible and intelligible so far what they do and how it works, - but WHAT PH do they actually keep stable - does this concern or apply to any initial, corrected once, or even "whatever" PH of a solution or are they kind of 'calibrated' to keep some specific and unique PH as in 5.9, no matter what the "initial PH" of a solution, either corrected or not was?

Please explain this part ;-)

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 1:40AM
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Very good lucas. yes I put a squrit every couple of days but it's dishonest to "denie" the second part. I have no waste water run off. But that's not the question you should be asking grizz? What about your consumers? Have they been moving to, the let's have more chemicals in our food or not? I mean how much tubing do you have to pump this thru to get it to work? Have there been human trials besides the Chinese? I mean grizz what's more important the process or the product?

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 2:38AM
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I 'd like to specify just in case it could lead to some misunderstanding: the question I am asking Daniel here, is a purely informative question of a person who is interested in the technical details, the functioning and the "workflow" of the method tested and presented by him.

Georgeiii, please let him reply first before you use any of what I said or asked for your own context and semantic purposes. ;-)

PS: I am sceptical by nature, but in fact more about things. You may call it "establishment of the truth" if you like. In some case it's not, in others more or less linked to a person, but that's not what I am aiming for, nor interested in. You can all stay who and what you are, with my full consent LOL.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 5:31AM
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Georgeiii, you seem to be misunderstanding the difference between chemicals in the water and chemicals in the food. Maybe you should go back and study how plants process nutrients.
BTW, I find the notion very interesting but don't personally have a need for it. My pH doesn't normally give me problems.
Of course, that's also doesn't mean I won't run a guinea pig project to try it out either.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 7:32AM
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Hello Everyone,

Ok. I understand that some people are skeptics and that is very welcome, certainly it is very good to ask questions and doubt things we don't know very well. :o)

First of all, I would like to explain ion exchange resins a little bit better. The above mentioned resins are made of cross-linked polystyrene a polymer insoluble in water which is used in many products in the food industry. From coffee cups to food trays, this polymers don't dissolve and they don't enter your body. The Resins are then functionalized to add acidic groups to the polysterene. The products still don't actually dissolve within the solution, they just interact with it in the same way that surface acid and basic sites found in clays interact with water to stabilize pH in soil. So you are not "adding chemicals" to your nutrient solutions, you are just adding a source of "active surface sites" which are able to stabilize pH. Nothing else, nothing more.

Also, it would be interesting to point here that ion exchange resins are used WIDELY in water, foor and pharmaceutical processing. They are used to eliminate hardness in softners, to take out heavy metals in polluted water, to purify pharmaceutical products, etc. Ion exchange resins are quite harmless and - as I said before - they merely provide reactive sites in solution without the actual contribution of any additional "chemicals" to it.

Regarding the actual pH buffering capabilities of the resin, the resin will not lend itself to any pH adjustment level you want. Each resin does have a fixed pH level in which it will work. These resins will maintain pH between 5.8-6.2 (small variations may happen due to differences in fabrication between batches).

I hope that with this explanation you will better understand what they do and how they act and that they won't add anything "harmful" to your solutions. They are widely used in the food, water, medical and pharmaceutical industries so saying that they are "toxic" or "damaging to your customers" has no scientific basis. In fact, the water you drink when you buy bottled water has probably gone through at least some ion exchange resin columns to ensure adequate purification.

I hope some of you decide to try this out and comment the benefits, certainly not only do these ion exchange resins provide you with a more "natural way" of balancing pH (since they prevent rapid pH changes that happen when you adjust with the addition of acids or bases imitating the slow-acting surface chemistry based buffering power in soils) but they also allow you to avoid the constant addition of acids or bases to maintain adequate pH levels.

Thank you very much for all the follow ups ! :o)


Here is a link that might be useful: Everything Hydroponics

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 9:09AM
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I am in fact very interested in trying this. I had no doubt the resin could be spontaneously classified as safe either.

Thanks Daniel, my question is more than answered: as I suspected this particular resin is kind of calibrated or conditioned (my way of putting it) to generate a specific, actually considered ideal pH . That's exactly what I was expecting and hoping for. ;-)

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 9:38AM
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Hi Daniel,
I Have Three questions;
1. Will these polymer resins eliminate the need for ammonium nitrate as a buffer in the nutrient formula?
2. Can chlorides in the nutrient formula cause the polymer resins to deteriorate or lose their effectiveness?
3. My Eco Enterprises catalog lists chlorine as a minor trace element. Is it necessary, beneficial, or are they pulling my leg again? I really can't trust anything they print since they tried that cobalt thing.
Thanks again,

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 6:46PM
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Hi Ken,

Thank you very much for your followup :o). I will now try to answer your questions :

1. Ammonium nitrate buffers nutrient solutions by providing a different source for N absorption therefore helping the plant to balance its uptake although they would not be stricly necessary to use with ion exchange resins its addition would certainly extend the period of time between resin regenerations.

2. Chloride ions are very common, they will NOT damage the resin in anyway.

3. Chloride is necessary but only in the smallest concentrations. A concentration of chloride of only 0.5 ppm is already sufficient and this is already within almost all tap water sources in the world or included as an impurity in other salts. Straight chloride ion additions are almost never done due to this reason. Beneficial effects of further additions (as NaCl for example) can be beneficial for some plants like tomatoes under some growing stages but this is mainly due to the increase in conductivity an NOT because of the Chloride ion effect. As a matter of fact NaCl is used to test the effects of "pure conductivity" increases in research since both of this ions have very limited interactions with plant roots regarding absorption.

I hope this helps Ken :o) Thanks again for your reply,

Best Regards,


    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 7:09PM
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To all concerned with the safety of chemicals;
Following a recent NaCl experiment, I tasted the results prior to dumping it down the sink. The Sodium chloride was completely undetectable bringing me to these conclusions; Most Americans (including myself) consume way more salt than they'll ever know and waste way too much water(LOL). As I replaced the salt in the pantry my eye caught another Morton product - Salt Substitute. Ingredients:Potassium chloride, Fumaric acid, Tricalcium Phosphate and Monocalcium phosphate. Through further investigation I discovered that the Potassium chloride (96%) is a great source of K. However it is the same stuff Jack Kevorkian used to euthanize people by injection and a teaspoon of it taken orally can put a child or elderly person into cardiac arrest. So before anyone condemns Polyester Resins I think they should check the ingredients of the items in there cupboards, medicine cabinets, cleaning supplies, Etc.
Which brings me to a question. What on earth is in that squirt you give your plants every couple of days, Georgeiii?????????????

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 11:06PM
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Great info on Amberlite! I am currently investigating other ion-exchange resins, buffering systems, and delivery systems, so this was of great interest to me!

One thing that continues to amaze me is the concern of "chemicals" getting into our food. It seems, that we forget, that everything is made of chemicals! Our food is just billions and billions of chemical compounds organized in a manner that appears to us as plant or animal.

Thus, just because something is a "chemical" does not mean it is not good for you (or your plants). Water can be extremely dangerous when consumed in too large amounts!

What we need to be concerned about is whether "chemicals" exceed toxic levels to the plant, or to the one consuming the plant. Elements such as Arsenic, Cadmium, and Cobalt (for example) can be harmful in much smaller amounts than compounds such as water, sodium bicarbonate, or calcium carbonate. If you check the posted guaranteed analysis, you will see that Advanced Nutrients Grow/Micro/Bloom contains tiny amounts of Arsenic and Lead. But, these amounts are inline with what could be found any any bottle of water that you may purchase as the amounts are below what is considered toxic at this time.

The same thing can be said about "organic" or "natural" fertilizers. There is nothing natural about taking organic compounds (bat guano, seaweed, fish meal, bone meal, oyster shells) mixing them together and putting them in bottles. Also, these so called "natural" products contain ammonium nitrate, urea, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, potassium nitrate ... all sorts of .... chemicals!

The only difference is that inorganic systems (chemical systems) are in such a form that is already appropriate for plant uptake.

Organic fertilizers must use microorganisms to break down the organic matter to produce inorganic compounds that are suitable for plant uptake.

I digress, but the point is, don't know ion-exchange resins just because they are more "chemicals". One, the ion-exchange resin does not ADD chemicals, only changes protons for buffer substrates and vice versa.

This is only the beginning. As hydroponics becomes increasingly more popular, i anticipate seeing all sorts of new products in the near future. The way we grow plants may resemble nothing like what we do now in the next few decades!

Lettuce Unite for Whirled Peas!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 5:12PM
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I think you might have seen some of the older organics that did not work very well? Ever hear of Botanicare Pure Blend Pro? The only "chemical" it has in it is Carbonates. Another thing is this fertilizer I mentioned is Hydro-Organic and does NOT need "microorganisms to break down the organic matter to produce inorganic compounds that are suitable for plant uptake". It is the whole reason it is "hydro-organic" and is not full on organic. You could grow a plant in pure perlite wher microbes are not present and feed it Botanicare and it will grow very well.

"The same thing can be said about "organic" or "natural" fertilizers. There is nothing natural about taking organic compounds (bat guano, seaweed, fish meal, bone meal, oyster shells) mixing them together and putting them in bottles"

Organic or "natural" health drinks. Nothing natural about taking grape, berry, lemon, lime mixing them together and putting them in bottles.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 5:53PM
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Thats what I thought ;)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 10:22AM
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