New to hydroponics

farmerbill1952(8)October 24, 2013


I am planning on doing the hydroponics, planting vegetables only. I currently have 12-4-8 all purpose plant food (already bottled mix), MG. I have read a lot about the micronutrients. would anyone know if this could be sufficient.

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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

No good. US

only contains Manganese and Zinc in appropriate hydroponic percentages. It is missing both macro and micro nutrients, such as, (Macro) Calcium, Magnesium, Iron
(Micro) Copper, Molybdenum, Boron.

This fertilizer is not formulated for hydroponic use, although it seems to contain an incomplete set of EDTA chelates which individually are useful in hydro; it is a liquid fertilizer meant for soil growing plants and is not worth experimenting with. If you wanted to make it work, only using very hard water, it might give some results hydroponically if you added a very small pinch of boric acid (eye wash) and a rusting nail.

Otherwise you need a hydroponic specifically formulated fertilizer, there are many options and the prices run the gamut from cheap to astronomical, price not necessarily corresponding with value.

Canadian sold Micacle Gro's label has some chelated iron, if the label I saw is ok, which is the major problem with this product for hydroponics. Check your label to see if it has iron unlike the US label I found on the internet which lacks it; a 0.10% iron would be around the minimum.

For the US product it is not clear whether the nitrogen is derived principally from nitrate. That would be highly desireable, and in its absence most likely the veggies you grow will not survive easily.

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Thu, Oct 24, 13 at 18:27

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 6:20PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

The product contained iron pre-2005, and if yours is not liquafeed it might still be ok, but understand this label analysis below will help anyway... However the MG 12-4-8 all-purpose liquafeed brand current US Label shows 100% of the nitrogen is urea derived nitrogen so that product cannot be used for straight hydroponics at all. Additionally potassium chloride is already probably too high (the chloride part is the problem).

MIRACLE-GRO® LiquaFeed® All Purpose Plant Food, 12-4-8
Net Weight 4lb 12oz (2.15 kg)
Total Nitrogen (N) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12%
12% Urea Nitrogen
Available Phosphate (P2O5) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4%
Soluble Potash (K20) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8%
Manganese (Mn) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0.05%
0.05% Chelated Manganese (Mn)
Zinc (Zn) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0.05%
0.05% Chelated Zinc (Zn)
Derived from: Urea, Potassium Chloride, Potassium Phosphate, Manganese EDTA, and Zinc EDTA.

The 12-4-8 Shake'n'Feed all purpose has similar problems, although it is closer, it still is not good.:

Shake ‘n Feed® Plus Moisture Control All Purpose
Continuous Release Plant Food 12-4-8
Guaranteed Analysis F1144
Total Nitrogen (N)* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12%
2.7% Ammoniacal Nitrogen (N)
2.0% Nitrate Nitrogen (N)
7.3% Urea Nitrogen (N)
Iron (Fe) (Total) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0.9%
0.001% water soluble iron (Fe)

(the form of the iron is likely no better than the rusty nail.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 8:18PM
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thanks for the information. The area I live in does not have the micronutrients that I will need. I have checked some of the internet sites, and there are many to chose from. If you would have a good recommendation please let me know.

Once again thank you


    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 10:01PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

F Bill,

I just spent 10 minutes giving you an overview of some fertilizers but when I posted it I got a message that one of the fertilizers is not permitted to be mentioned due to there being promotion by unsavory marketeers.

So, better explain a little about the sort of set up you are contemplating, how many plants, whether DWC, raft, NFT, drip tower, etc. just to give us an idea, and how hard you are willing to work at it and whether you want preformulated liquids or want to deal with powders which are more economical but require a bit more work and have no sexy marketing names attached to them to pump up the people susceptible to suggestive advertising.

I use a three part powder because of the flexibility it gve me for whatever crops I come up with, you can get it shipped but you need to buy 25 lbs. It is called SouthernAg 5-11-26 and requires mixing with agricultural soluble grade calcium nitrate and epsom salt (available at WalMart and everywhere). But your needs may be different.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 11:16PM
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My setup will be a total of 22 plants(using two 18 gallon plastic sterlite containers, using air pump aquarium utilizing two lines(black). my net pots will be in the top of the container. I am retired now so I have a lot of time on my hands. I might need to go the most economical way which would be the powders, even though I have never done that process before. My goal is to plant tiny tim tomatoes, pepper, lettuce, in other words only vegetables.

Thanks for any info

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 1:42PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

That sounds like a fun way top start out to improve your "blue thumb" (what I call getting good at hydroponics).

One thing when posting in these kinds of places, there are a lot of helpful people with different perspectives that are so helpful. But each person has their own concept and experience just like artists. What I'm getting at is not to assume because you have selected what you consider a small beginner system that everyone understands the exact details. When you say two black lines, honestly I'm one who doesn't know for sure what you mean. To me black lines are tiny lines that you can use for drip irrigation from the top as well as bubblers. But you mention them like they are on the air pump(s). Folks usually use clear lines for the air pumps in what I know,since no water passes through them where algae will have water (and necessary light). So my next guess would be you are not using an airstone, but that kind of line with pinholes to deliver the air. That's my assumption anyway and you wanted tips:

1. 18 gallon sterilite containers you have. I have used these, and composition wise just want you to know you have the safest plastic imaginable. However these containers are not very rigid. As TIME GOES FORWARD, they really deform, relaxing when the weight is something over 12 gallons (mine need a 16 2/3 gallons to level properly with new plants). There are three types, the regular, Tuff1 and and Ultra with latches. Ultra has the least available area, so I got both the Tuff1 and regular. Even the Tuff1 buckled too much for me to keep going, so I ended up putting a regular one inside a Tuff1 one and using it doubled like that. There is an additional benefit besides the structural integrity (which still isn't perfect & bulges somewhat). A single one passes too much sunlight if you use it outside, but double, both colored ones dont and in Summer they also insulate better something like a double pane window.

2. As for the air lines, I am sensitive to costs as I'm caring full time for a family member in twilight years, so there are no frills in this lifestyle. That said, if you choose to go with air pump aeration, I would recommend you buy this same thing I did if you can see your way to do it. They cost a whopping $11 dollars each shipped and supposedly with this seller you need to buy two for free shipping but it looks like you can check out with one at the price.

4 inch round airstones on Amazon

One that I received from that seller was slightly bent from shoddly USPS & envelope choice, where the connection was to the hoop and was leaking air, but rather than deal with returns I just wrapped it in teflon tape and it's not had any problem. These are high performance airstones as far as I see and have given me super results; I am very happy I made the investment as they do a great job for my 18 gallon containers and I only need one each at 1.3 liters per minute per airstone (I split a 60 gallon aquarium air pump's output)

3. Fertilizer, powder for economy & flexibility. Really it isn't hard and if you like to tinker you'll never go back. If you want to buy 25 lbs, you can get what I get for between $50 and $65 shipped, or you can just try it out from this seller (caveat emptor, treat ebay seller like any used car salesman and don't assume they have any knowledge of what they sell, just be sure it is not premixed and you get the pure fertilizer) on eBay who wants $10 for a pound shipped and get the tomato blend 4-18-38, which will be fine for your purposes:

eBay trial sized (1 lb) tomato hydroponic fertilizer (part 1)

you'll need to pick up some clean epsom salt like these 4 lbs from Walmart (Part 2)

you'll need this type of calcium nitrate to mix in (part 3)

I don't endorse any of the sellers, buyer beware, but that's what looks like a good way to go.

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Fri, Oct 25, 13 at 15:29

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 3:25PM
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I made a incorrect statement as the sterlite is not 18, but 30 gallon container. From what you have stated this is really going to give me problems. Probably, I never needed one that big. That is my error in judgment.

Anyway, I have two black lines(connected to an air stone(10 inch for air--Walmart purchase). My reasoning for the black lines , was an algae concern. So, in your opinion would the black lines hurt anything?

I really appreciate your input on the previous post they are extremely useful.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 7:20PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Bill, no problem about the black airlines, as long as they don't also carry water inside them they could be anything that works. The reason for opaque (black, etc) is only to prevent algae from receiving sunlight and feeding on the nutrients establishing a scum where the light falls, but if there is no liquid inside, it's not a concern.

By all means the usually blue or aqua colored long squared or cylindrical airstones work, but I am just really impressed with the stream of very small sized bubbles that those recommended 4" disks use (area-wise they are probably similar to a 10" incher), but for me the difference was day or night in durability and quality.

I never tried a 30 gallon tote but I'm also not very optimistic. It all sounds nice when you start, but then they start to look like blobs instead of totes. Just think, 30 gallons weighs over 250 pounds, so calling it a tote is a bit a streeeetch if you follow my meaning. Some people do have barely recognizable tote blobs and I can't say I've tested the limits, it just doesn't look like a good idea especially if placed somewhere a potential burst could cause damage besides the obvious headache.

I believe there is a 14 gallon size, and I think Sterilite if you really want them make a 10 gallon. Not 22 plants but probably five or six per on the 10 gallon and that size might allow the stress - 8.5 gallons weighs around 70 pounds, if your back is ok, it happens to be right around the size that can be moved by a typical fit guy, though water does sloush around.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 11:00PM
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Hey pupillacharites,

Thanks for the information. I am going to town tomorrow and try to locate tuff1, I think, 10-14 gallons, I will just reduce the amount of plants for that specific TOTE. I liked your idea of doubling up the totes, since I will have the operation inside a storage building(12 X 20). I definitely do not want a leak since my heater(electric) is on the floor.

I had thought about placing the heater on a timer, but that probably is not a good idea, since the manufacturer states NOT to connect to a power strip.

I will keep you updated on this

thanks for the information.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 11:25PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Good luck Bill. If you are not married to the Sterilite virgin PE (and one is PP) plastics, I have not used this tote but it is similar to your original vision of this and seems to have a following among others in the know, though I have not really looked at what it's made of or its strength for that matter. It is easy to find and can be had for as low as $10.

27-gallon Tough Tote black w/yellow lid

Others can tell you better about sizing but check out the archives. Grizz mentioned in an old thread, no closer than 8" for peppers and that sounds like your low demand tomato and pepper stuff; if you want lettuce and other lighter eating or leafy stuff you might keep different strengths of fertilizers in each one, like a 2/3 pepper solution in one and a full strength pepper in the other.

Variety needs to be picked right. Be sure you have plenty of light, equavilent to sunshine if it is indoors, normal indoor lighting just doesn't provide enough energy for the plants to produce so people buy brighter lights and put them right above.

Getting one tote to fit nicely inside another is not as easy as it sounds. Two Tuff1 totes don't let the center one settle down low enough. I was lucky that the regular 18 gal sterilite fit just right and sat decently in the tuff1 18 gal sterilite.

Please do keep us posted !

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Fri, Oct 25, 13 at 23:59

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 11:50PM
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Got a question...I presently have (6) T5 fluorescent 14 watt, 24 inch placed on a board consisting of a total of 6 lamps. Is that enough for a grow light?

Thanks for any input


    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 10:16PM
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I would suggest using Dutch Master's nutrients, it was super easy and clean. I have had amazing results with it and for the price, it beats canna and house and garden.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 2:58PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Welcome ProGro!

I would like to try the Dutch Master product since all the attractive women involved in the website and conventions and so forth make me think it is a amazing, explosive, incredible growth product and cheap better option.

Ten liters of two part liquid Dutch Master Gold Range Nutrient (5L of A and 5L of B) will cost around $100 shipped from the cheapest "resellers" --others charge twice as much shipped--- in their marketing "program" will be enough for 17 reservior changes of a 26.5 gallon reservior, or around $6.00 per change at best.

The three part powdered stuff recommended above can be purchased for less money and is enough for 150 changes of the same reservoir at the same fertilizer strength (EC = 1.5 or 960 ppm using an Eutech meter).

That is typical of the difference in cost between sexy marketed salt and commercial farmer salt powders generously less than $1.00 per change for that size res.

I guess until I find a more economical source I'm stuck with the stuff without the hype.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 5:24PM
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A source of micronutrients that you can usually find in wal-mart is african violet fertilizer. You'll have to figure out the proportions (and it may prove uneconomical) but it is normally available.
I like sterlite tubs because the stiffer plastic doesn't bow out from the water inside like rubbermaid can.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 10:19AM
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Grizz, do you have a Wal-Mart nutes recipe for tomatoes? I am thinking Miracle Grow, that African violet fert, some old rusty chicken wire, and maybe a little Epsom salt.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 10:53PM
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Nah. At my current rate of use, the 25# bag of soluble hydroponic solution I bought will probably last me 15 years.
At one time I had a MG / epsom salts recipe that grew herbs and decorative leafy plants really well but I can't for the life of me figure where I put it.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 4:29PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Most African Violet mixes have increased urea content over recent years due since it's cheaper to make and fine for African violets. The Best Grow (or something like that) available at places like Lowes I think has about 50/50 ammonium/nitrate ratios, and better yet is Dyna Gro Plant Food. Also, they are usually lack two or three micros like molybdenum and boron. Sometimes the water or impuities in them allow them to work, but trying to make a recipe with MG or violet stuff is going to come out much more expensive than say, even buying a two pound bag of GH MaxiGro with free shipping on Amazon.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 12:48PM
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One more question! My 30 gallon tote sterlite heavy duty, will have an aqua culture (2-60 gallon) air pump-dual outlet air port. I was planning on placing two 10 inch air stones in the bottom of the tote, but I am thinking maybe I can get by with one air line(air stone), that way I can have two totes instead of one.

Has anyone had any dealings with this

Thanks for any input


    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 8:11PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Your certainly can "get by" with one per res as long as there is a circulating current created inside the tub. So the short answer is yes, just situate it for maximum water movement and be sure it won't flip into a position that screws up the movement.

As time progresses airstones can degrade. As I mentioned earlier, a high quality airstone provides smaller bubbles and doesn't clog or fall apart as quickly, whatever the cheaper ones have problems doing. My reason for using airstones is because of the fine mist small bubbles can achieve when set up that way, which can send lots of fine droplets into the root zone above the water and in the net pots. It is actually a poor man's crude aeroponic effect. I wouldn't be happy if all I got out of the airstone was water circulation, but that's me and my expectations. So you really need to learn by doing, where you'll experiment and see what you want. 'Getting by' vs. taking pride is a very personal call depending on crop vigor as well as designs and environmental conditions. Some roots just drown more easily and how you engineer the small details like water level etc., will all be part of the successful formula. Can you divide the 460 HP of a Corvette into two 230 HP sporty Daewoos and still get acceleration? Yup ...

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 2:18AM
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Hey pup,

I have my 30 gallon hydro container unit up and running now. I have placed urea free 20-10-20 micro nutrients mixed(1/10 tsp per gallon or total 3 tsp). The manufacturer told me not to exceed this. the nutrient I ended up using is "Gro More 20-10-20 Urea Free". I hope they were correct in this assumption. I went ahead and installed two air stones in lieu of one I originally intended and placed in the bottom and glue gunned them to the bottom of the container reservoir. I drilled holes in the top edge and upper edge of the container and placed zip ties due to the bowing since there is so much water inside the container. The liquid is bubbling very good and not splashing too much. my air pump is an aqua culture (2-60 gallon) air pump-dual outlet air port.

So, how large should the rock wool cube plants be when placing in the container top?
( I placed my within a week after sprouting-Tiny tim tomatoes plants and lettuce)

Can the roots still be inside the rock wool cube, or should the roots be protruding from the cube?

(My seedlings are small and no roots are sprouting outside of the rock wool cube)

Also, I noticed when the cubes inside the clay pellets the rock wool are saturated with the m.nutrient, I hope this is a good thing.

Thanks for your help Pap


    Bookmark   November 10, 2013 at 10:25PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Good luck with it Bill. I confess I have not used your basic rockwool much, since I've gotten away with straight hydroton and a sack of perlite. If I were doing lettuce though I would use it, so I'm not the expert. You will want the roots starting to protrude from the bottom a little bit. I would get my plants going vigorously before any transplant even if just sleeving it in. Careful they won't get folded, pinched and squashed, at least with reasonable care.

As for your fertilizer, it has potential, however there is no mention of Boron. So Google up what Boron deficiency looks like and keep an eye on them with that in mind. It also has no calcium and no magnesium, two important macronutrients, so be sure you have rather hard water or there will be tip burn and crinkling. As for the application rate, the advice you got is not wrong and ought to work well in the first week or two. 1/10 of a teaspoon per gallon, I don't know the weight which is how these need to be specified but it is going to be between a half and one gram per gallon. However after two weeks, this will border on insufficiency. I would start around 35 grams per 28 gallons (actual used water since it isn't to the top) res. This fertilizer pretty much locks you in there, as you really want to use 75 grams to give the correct amount of nitrogen for maturing lettuces. The problem is it is rather rich in ammonium nitrogen, and if you push beyond 40 grams, it will start to be toxic from all the ammonia. This fertilizer could be used better if you have a community of nitrifying bacteria like is found in fish situations. 8/20 of your nitrogenis ammonia (ammonium) based.

I wish I could converse in teaspoon-speak, but I am not familiar with the density of this particular product. Teaspoons are considered flat, not rounded btw. I am thinking it is probably between 8 - 10 grams per teaspoon but is could be off. Anyway the nutrient content is in weight, so if you can get in the habit of weighing grams you will be better off controlling the amount you put in.

If all your plants seem to hit a wall suddenly, that will be ammonium toxicity, and the roots will go browning. If you use tap water, be sure it is hard water, *NOT* softened, and dechlorinated (leave it open and sitting in sunlight a full day, hopefully they aren't using chloramines at your water co.
Saturated isn't great, perhaps you can do better lowering the water. Don't have high expectations the first time through and treat it as a learning experience every chance you get. You seem really motivated so have fun figuring out how to improve this. Eventually you will want a hydro fertilizer, but this will get you started provided you have a good Calcium -Magnesium source like pretty hard water, and that you have some pH Down (acid) to adjust the pH very slightly acidic pH around 6.0.

Grow More Orchid formula
20-10-20 Green, Urea free

Total Nitrogen (N) ....................20%
8.0% Ammonical Nitrogen
12.0% Nitrate Nitrogen
Available Phosphate (P2O5)......10%
Soluble Potash (K2O) ................20%
Copper (Cu) ..............................0.05%
Iron (Fe)....................................0.10%
Manganese (Mn) ......................0.05%
Molybdenum (Mo) ....................0.0008%
Zinc (Zn) ..................................0.0525%

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Mon, Nov 11, 13 at 4:01

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 3:33AM
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Hey Pap,

Thanks for the excellent information you provided. So where can I buy boron for hydroponics?

Thanks Pap


    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 9:21PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Something like this pharma grade boric acid you may have in the medicine cabinet already would be fine, although pharma grade is overkill:

Boric Acid Powder USP at Walmart

Careful. and double careful. Boron is a micronutrient which means a miniscule amount is used. Use more and it will poison the plants. For this reason you need to be able to measure very small amounts. The application rate for boric acid into your working nutrient solution is just 1 gram of the pure powder per 150 gallons of water. Almost nutin! If you do 1 gram in only 75 gallons that will begin to be toxic to many plants. After dealing with these sorts of situation, hydro fertilizers that are premixed sure begin to look more convenient!

If you want to do a quick and dirty addition in tablespoon-talk, you can trust the following: Take a standard level tablespoon of this boric acid crystal powder (verify your standard tablespoon is the same as three level standard teaspoons) and mix it into a well cleaned 2 liter appropriated coke plastic bottle using distilled, reverse osmosis or pure filtered rainwater and dissolve the crystals completely. Once it is completely dissolved in the water (bottle filled to 2 liter capacity with the water), one tablespoon of the resulting solution will be the correct dosage for lettuce in a 28 gallon res, which is what you are using. However that would be for full strength nutes and you are not using full strength (which is why I said consider this a learning experience and you might get results). So if you are doing the 1/10 teaspoon thing you could use 1/3 the dose - for your case: one teaspoon instead of the one tablespoon from your 2 liter stock solution - so the proportion is in line with everything else you are doing.

This is quite weak due to the type of fertilizer you have (there is a silver lining to going weak, since you lack Ca, Mg, reasonably hard water may have enough of them to get your plants through, they will just grow slower since they aren't being fed a rich mixture. In other words you use a weak fertilizer, so don't add extra nutes at full strength since it will complicate the plant's uptake.

EDIT: Your fertilizer is still weak, so keep your expectations along those lines expecting nothing spectacular. The comments made earlier in this thread by others regarding African Violet fertilizer and enthusiasm for a Walmart hydro tomato fertilizer are from very sharp hydro people and in my interpretation are not being made as recommendations. They are being made more as experiements since coming up with an alternitative to a specialty hydro fertilizer by buying stuff at Home Depot and Walmart is sort of a persistant challenge for all of us to see if we can get things to grow. There are easier and more inexpensive ways to do this if you are willing to order online and in the long run they will come out cheaper and far more effective using a hydro product. Take MaxiGro hydro fertilizer from General Hydroponics as an example to get nice, problem free as they get for an all-in-one hydroponic fertilizer. It comes in a 2.2 pound package and it can be ordered from places like Amazon for around $14.50 including shipping. It has everything in the right proportion besides calcium and magnesium and even has a reasonable amount of them so that with typical water hardness, its the complete package except for the pH adjuster.

The only reason the Orchid stuff will last so long is because it is being used as weak as dishwater. If you could use more total plant food it would work far better, but you are prevented from doing so since some ingredients are in a higher proportion than the rest and limit how strong it can be made. You would use about 1.5 teaspoons per gallon of the General Hydroponics stuff because the proportions are well suited for hydro and can be used at the strength long term success hydro growing requires. Weak solutions usually work in the seedling stage fine and are recommended for that, and can be out of balance since the seed was a nutrient warehouse for the initial growth. But then things usually go south when the plant outgrows that phase, usually after around 3 weeks. Even if you used a correspondingly weak solution of MaxiGro (less than the recommendation of 1-2 tsp per gallon) it would give you better results than the Orchid stuff since it is a complete fertilizer that needs no mad scientist adjustments. That's why the rate of MaxiGro is more, because the stuff the orchid formula is missing all the rest. Neither the orchid nor the Maxi have any filler, they both have similar potency ingredients.

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Tue, Nov 12, 13 at 12:44

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 11:47PM
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Very informative forum. Thanks to everyone! Has anyone done the fish culture combination. Koi fish are very profitable.

I am wondering if the fish provide a balanced nutrient or is there an ideal plant for this purpose

Here is a link that might be useful: Price Example

This post was edited by Mortimermaxwell on Wed, Nov 13, 13 at 13:33

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 1:31PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Not sure how this applied to the poster who is growing under lights in totes in a warehouse, so I'll only comment that keeping such a Koi system at pH = 6.8 is doable, for the plant species Brassica oleracea which have these cultivars: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale, Collards, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Kai-lan, and probably Brassica rapa as well (e.g., Pak choi).

Anyone looking to buy Koi should shop around for pricing and quality. The "Koi Fish Ponds" link provided by Mortimer has fish that cost far more than these (link follows), which appear to be of comparable or better quality, though I do not endorse nor know these people either and discussion is best let to aquaponic experts in their forums, so here is a link of greater interest to me:

Carolina Koi seller

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Wed, Nov 13, 13 at 16:52

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 4:01PM
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Hey pup

What is a good amount for epsom salt per gallon?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 2:52PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Bill, It really depends on the water you are using. That's how it is with Calcium, Magnesium, Sulfate, Sodium and Chloride. No easy answer as usual because the water which can provide a lot of this is all over the map in variability.

You want to shoot for a rate of 2.5 - 4 per 1 part for Calcium's ratio to Magnesium, and that is common in many irrigation and tap waters. If you want to add it just knowing you need some, do it in accordance with the rest of your fertilizer strength. 1 gram per gallon gives 26 ppm Mg which is nearly as much magnesium as you need, but the fertilizer already has some in it, so that is likely too much.

But a small amount may be extremely helpful (and necessary), but too much and it swamps and competes with your calcium which you are also short on. If completely in doubt and using weak fertilizer, add 10 ppm Mg or so, which is about 2 grams epsom salt per 5 gallons, or in 30 gallons, that comes out to be 12 grams total. Have you gotten a scale yet for weighing these things?

Epsom salt crystal size varies, so different weight of different products fit in a teaspoon winging it in teaspoon-talk. For the 4 lb Walmart Aarons USP Epsom Salt that costs $3 a bag, the bulk density is 1.05 (others range from 0.9 to 1.6). So for that product 12 grams = 2 1/3 level teaspoons.

Unless you have calcium, if using this product, toss in some gypsum. Gypsum is very hard to dissolve, but is rich in calcium. You might buy it for a few bucks at the Home store or Walmart (just be sure it is natural gypsum) or EBay, and it is very rich in calcium (and will cause undesireable deposits if used in to large amounts. 15 grams gypsum to complement your 12 grams of epsom salt would be the perfect complement to make hard water by adding 30 ppm Calcium, depending on water hardness since the fertilizers have basically no calcium and you are getting it all from your water. It can be dissolved in the water (but do not use hot water when dissolving gypsum, just warm room temp), and dissolve slowly.

If you can control Calcium you have won the major battle of the war. Epsom salt is cheap and the easy battle, but since Ca and Mg are linked you should worry about both at the same time.

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Fri, Nov 15, 13 at 17:18

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 4:37PM
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Hey Pup,

Thanks for the expertise advise.

The water that I am using is just screened rain water, from my rain barrel.

I have calcium on order right now, should be here tomorrow.

I have not got a scale yet, not really knowing where to buy a good and accurate one any suggestions would be awesome Pup.

I do have hydrated lime but do not really think this is a good supplement to add.

As always Pup



I have not tried gypsum, I had not thought of that, but may hold off on that if it causes undesireable deposits.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 5:10PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Hi Bill, Sounds great that you got a source of calcium, I hope it is soluble Calcium nitrate? I need to know which things you are mixing in there though to give any intelligent answers, it matters, since for example calcium nitrate has nitrate nitrogen which you also really can use but it has to be in the right proportion considering the fertilizer (base and all additions) type and rate which I'm not sure where you've decided to take it to at this point.

As for the forming of deposits, all calcium fertilizers can cause it including chalk or lime (which can have magnesium, already in it). Whether you put gypsum in or not, you have it the moment any calcium and sulfate get dissolved, the solution is just one huge square dance of salts the moment nothing gets dissolved into it. It doesn't know the difference between calcium nitrate and potassium sulfate (sulfate of potash, a common fertilizer ingredient in many fertilizer base mixes) vs. calcium sulfate (gypsum) and potassium nitrate (another very common fertilizer ingredient in your base fertilizer)The trick is to balance the recipe so nothing is out of whack. The reason I'm not big on chalk/lime is because it is likely to form deposits and send the pH way alkaline. But normally that's pretty similar to what's in tap water anyway and why we use lots of acid to get the pH a little more acid by neutralizing it. The difference with the water and adding it ourselves is the water already has it naturally added so we don't worry about messing up - that is, the calcium is successfully in solution and usually available.

If you are using rainwater, you absolutely need to add Calcium and Magnesium since it is devoid of minerals, unlike tap water.

This economy $10 scale did the job fine for me for small quantities as long as it doesn't get banged around. Use this for guidance since I play it safe by not usually vouching for any particular sellers, so Buyer Beware, check the seller rating....

Ten buck Amazon scale weighs 100g maximum to the hundreth of a gram

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 2:06AM
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Hey Pup,

Yes I have the soluble Calcium nitrate.

Looks like my tomatoes are not going to make it. They are turning purple all over and dropping, probably too alkaline. The fertilizer probably was the wrong kind that I ordered a while back. The only things that I have mixed in the container is the ORCHID/20-10+-20, and probably is way too strong. The PH level is all out of whack, I have a reading of 7.5, give or take. I have used the correct amount of PH down to lower the PH level, but to no avail and just cannot get it below that and the tomatoes are suffering. I will start this process over in a few months with clean container water and a new type of fertilizer, think I will get some from southern AG, 25# bag and just try my hand at mixing the ingredients for certain plants. Hope this works out.

I am going to have surgery tomorrow so may be out of commission as far as the forum and gardening. Will be out of commission probably for a couple of weeks.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 8:45PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Real sorry to hear that Bill, but hopefully it got you interested to continue. The trouble with the Orchid fertilizer is it needs someone really into it who is looking for a challenge like I was saying about the other two guys that commented. Hang on the the orchid stuff. When you come back we can probably find a way to mix some to enrich certain plant nutrient mixtures. It will be night and day if you can get the hydro bag and it is well worth it in the long run. Even if you stop doing hydro it is an awesome fertilizer that IMO leaves MG in the dust, and still much cheaper by the pound.

Purple leaves is definitely a nutrient problem. But hopefully you had low expectations for that fertilizer. When I got my bag of hydro fertilizer suddenly everything became possible without stressing about the unbalanced mixture. Oh there are adjustments, but most of them are easy...the benefit of having the right tool can't be understated for anything you do.

Hope for the best on your health tomorrow. Things have taken a dive south here. Plants help mitigate that. Look what peaked out today to bring some joy:

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Tue, Nov 19, 13 at 0:45

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 12:42AM
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Hydroponics is essentially growing plants in water without using soil as a growing medium. Hydroponics gardening, with the help of superior-quality hydroponics system, can conserve the ever depleting natural resources like land and water. The water used in hydroponic system can be recycled to some extent. Therefore, hydroponics system is an eco-friendly way of gardening.

Here is a link that might be useful: Grow your own food

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 2:01AM
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