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pH Troubleshooting in Hydroponic Growing Systems

Follow our tips for monitoring and adjusting pH in your hydroponic system. Follow our tips for monitoring and adjusting pH in your hydroponic system.

 

The single most important factor affecting nutrient uptake in a hydroponic system is a consistent pH. In fact, maintaining a consistent pH within the desired pH range determines whether or not nutrients will even be available for absorption.

Each individual essential element has a specific range at which it can be absorbed by plants. The desired pH range in a hydroponic system is between 5.5-5.9. Within this range all the essential elements are available for uptake. Because maintaining a proper pH range in a hydroponic system is so imperative to creating optimal conditions, growers should continually monitor the pH of their nutrient reservoirs.

Some growers may experience fluctuations in the pH, which cause the solution to fall out of the desired pH range. When this occurs growers should troubleshoot their systems by checking the three most common reasons for pH fluctuations: bacteria, hydroponic nutrients, and the water source.

Bacteria

One of the most common reasons for a constant downward (acidic) fluctuation in a nutrient solution is due to a bacterial colony. This bacterial colony could be in the medium, within the hydroponic system, and/or in the nutrient reservoir.

As plants uptake the nutrients the pH can fluctuate as well. The concentration of each nutrient in the overall solution changes as the plants take in particular elements.

A good indicator of a bacteria-caused pH fluctuation is the pH turns acidic soon after adjustment has been made, usually within a few hours. Cleanliness is the best preventative measure for bacteria caused pH fluctuation. Running a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide throughout the hydroponic systems between crops is a great way to lower the chance of a bacterial infection.

Hydroponic Nutrients

Each of the individual nutrients used by hydroponic growers affect the pH of the nutrient solution. High potency enzyme formulas and organic nutrients high in humic or fulvic acids tend to bring the pH more acidic. Potassium silicas or silica formulas tend to raise (more alkaline) the pH of the nutrient solution. Each time a new nutrient amendment is introduced growers should check their pH right after the amendment is added, five minutes after it’s added, and again after 10-15 minutes to see exactly how the overall pH is affected. Understanding the way each additive affects the solution can save the grower time and energy in the long run.

As plants uptake the nutrients the pH can fluctuate as well. The concentration of each nutrient in the overall solution changes as the plants take in particular elements. This, in turn, affects the overall pH of the solution. Continually monitoring the pH will give the grower clues as to when and how much the nutrient solution tends to fluctuate and when the optimal time to change the nutrient solution is (usually 7-14 day).

Water Source

One of the most overlooked contributors to pH fluctuation in a hydroponic system is the water source. As water is aerated in a hydroponic system, by either air stones or recirculation, the chemical concentration will change. The stability of the pH only occurs after the CO2 escapes due to the aeration process. One solution, that is becoming more common for growers of high-value plants, is to set up a water holding tank (usually set up with the grower’s reverse osmosis unit). This holding tank can be aerated before entering the hydroponic system, making the pH more stable.

In order to maintain flawless growth throughout the entire vegetative and blooming stages hydroponic growers have to maintain an appropriate pH range. By implementing cleanliness into their grow rooms, testing the effects on overall pH for each nutrient amendment, and aerating the water prior to using it in the hydroponic system growers of high-value plants can avoid some of the most common causes of pH fluctuation in their hydroponic systems.

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One more way to make sure all is well with the pH in your hydroponics system.
Last modified on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 04:09

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