Maintaining a hydroponic system is not easy. There are so many different things to monitor and maintain, such as pH levels, nutrient strength, temperature, airflow rate, and more.
In this guide, we'll go over 6 of the most important monitoring tools that you need to keep your hydroponic system healthy.
This way you won't have any surprises when it comes time to harvest!
Also Read: Why Does pH Drop In Hydroponics?
Why do I need to monitor my hydroponic system?
Monitoring your system is very important for two main reasons:
First, monitoring your hydroponic system can help you prevent problems before they start. If pH levels are off or nutrient strength is too weak then you will see deficiencies in your plants and crops that could be easily avoided with proper care.
Second, by keeping an eye on the health of your plant through constant monitoring you will be able to maximize your yield by harvesting at the right time.
The monitoring equipment you will need
It's essential that you use all of the below pieces to keep an eye on your system.
pH Test Kits
Using a pH test kit will allow you to monitor the levels of acidity and alkalinity in your hydroponic system. If pH is off, it means that other aspects like nutrient strength will be too.
pH test kits are cheap and simple to use, but they're also very accurate. For example: if you buy a kit for testing soil then there's a good chance the numbers and measurements won't be accurate enough for hydroponics.
Aside from a test kit, you'll also need to use a pH meter to monitor pH levels in your hydroponic system. This device is very accurate and will give you real-time readings of the acidity or alkalinity present in your reservoir, growing mediums, or both.
A TDS meter is always used to measure the total dissolved solids (TDS) present in water. Basically, it tells you how much fertilizer is left over after a nutrient solution has been used on your plants and crops.
It's important that you monitor TDS levels so that they don't get too high or low as this can cause problems for plant growth and development.
Clean water is vital for a healthy hydroponic garden. Using an EC/PPM meter will allow checking the purity of your water. This way you will know if there are any contaminants or chemicals present in it that could potentially affect plant growth.
This is also important because some hydroponic systems use non-potable water, meaning that they collect rainwater instead of using purified tap water. If this is the case then your plants and crops could be exposed to harmful substances.
Checking the temperature of your hydroponic system is crucial as this will tell you if there are any problems with airflow. For example, the temperature of your growing medium should be about 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) cooler than that of the air in your room.
Temperature fluctuations and low temperatures can cause plant stress or death so it's important to watch out for this. You can use a thermometer to detect these anomalies.
Timers and controllers are great for making sure that your hydroponic system is monitored 24/7, but they're mainly used to control the watering cycles of your plants.
Different types of timers are available depending on what you need them for and how advanced you want them to be. They all work like a standard household timer in the sense that they run on AC power and can be set to switch on and off at certain hours.
Lastly, using a journal or app to keep track of all your hydroponic monitoring equipment is very important. You can use this to track the pH, TDS, EC/PPM values of your water and growing mediums as well as the temperature of your reservoir or room.
This way you will be able to see if there are any patterns in these measurements that indicate a problem with nutrient strength or pH levels.
How do you monitor nutrients in hydroponics?
To monitor nutrients effectively, you must get a good understanding of what nutrients are and how they work. Once you understand this, it's easy to monitor them properly.
The first thing is making sure that the pH levels in your hydroponic system match those on the nutrient bottle or bag. This information should be readily available from any reputable brand if not then adjust accordingly with a PH test kit.
The next step is to make sure you are supplying your plants with the right amount of nutrients for their stage of growth and development. There's a formula that helps calculate this, but it really depends on what type or hydroponic system you're using as well as how big your yield will be once it reaches maturity.
You'll also need to check the EC/PPM of your reservoir or growing mediums. A nutrient solution with too much concentration will cause damage and stress for plants, so it's important that you monitor this.
Finally, watch out for temperature fluctuations as these can affect growth rates in hydroponic systems. This is especially true if your system uses water that is not pre-treated and filtered.
What hydroponics systems need the most monitoring?
Some systems require less attention than others, but it's always good to keep an eye on what is happening in your hydroponic system.
An aeroponics system, for example, will require the least amount of monitoring because there aren't any growing mediums or reservoirs involved with this type of cultivation. All you'll need to do is check the pH levels and EC/PPM values of the nutrient solution and adjust them as needed.
A deep water culture system is also low maintenance, but you'll still need to keep an eye on your EC/PPM values and check for signs of overfeeding or deficiencies.
Hydroponic drip systems are a bit more complex because they typically use growing mediums such as rock wool, perlite, or coco coir. But the good thing about these is that they can retain water for longer periods of time which means you won't need to check the pH levels and EC/PPM values as often.
A traditional ebb-and-flow system will require more attention because it involves reservoirs where nutrients are constantly added. It's important to check the pH levels, EC/PPM values, and temperature of your system at least once a day. You should also make sure that you flush or change out your reservoirs when needed depending on what type of hydroponics system you end up using.
As long as you keep an eye on your system's health throughout the growth cycle then there will not be any problems when it comes time for harvesting. If something does go wrong, however, then you will need to act quickly and use the right equipment.