Deep water culture marijuana growing is very popular because it supercharges your marijuana plants to create massive roots, faster growth, heavier yields, and more THC.
But before jumping right in to growing cannabis with deep water culture (DWC) hydroponics systems, let’s get expert advice.
We talked to Michael Straumietis, founder and owner of hydroponics nutrients company Advanced Nutrients, because he’s grown marijuana in DWC, NFT, greenhouses, soil, rockwool, coco coir, perlite, hydroton, aeroponics, NFT, fogponics and god knows what else.
Straumietis says deep water culture hydroponics is the “second most powerful marijuana hydroponics growing methodology.”
“The most aggressive is a modified aeroponics mist system,” he explains, “but they’re much harder to run.”
Deep water culture evolved from “bucket culture,” he says.
The principle is you’re submerging your roots not in soil, rockwool, or some other solid media but in a mixture of empty space (air) and aerated reverse osmosis water infused with hydroponics nutrients.
Several manufacturers make DWC systems, he explains, and each of those DWC systems has differences in how easy they are to set up and run, and in how well they grow your marijuana.
In almost all DWC systems, each DWC marijuana plant has its own bucket, and hangs in a net pot through which roots grow into a broth of air, and oxygenated, nutrients-rich water.
In most cases, each bucket has its own aerator (an air stone driven by a pump), and the net pot has hydroton or perlite in it to help anchor the marijuana plant.
In some deep water culture systems, Straumietis says, the buckets are all connected to a main reservoir (sometimes called a “top-off reservoir), and nutrient-rich, oxygenated water is constantly circulated between the buckets.
Yet another DWC variation has hydroponics nutrients water top-fed and recirculated.
These differences need to be examined before you buy or build a DWC system, Straumietis says, but the research and learning are worth it.
“Talk about ‘explosive growth,’ deep water culture can take a three-inch clone and grow it into a two-foot tall, three foot diameter monster marijuana plant in three weeks,” Straumietis reports. “You see huge root balls of the most healthy marijuana roots ever.”
Everything good about growing marijuana is accelerated and maximized when your marijuana plants get a massive DWC dose of oxygen, water, and nutrients delivered directly to the roots without any root zone media to get in the way, he says.
“You see maximization of cannabis root mass, growth rate, stalk size and sturdiness, flowering readiness, bud size, resin gland production, overall cannabis plant vigor and resistance to diseases and pests,” he says.
As you’d guess, deep water culture is a high-tech way of hydroponics marijuana growing, so a lot can go wrong if you don’t choose or build the right DWC system and run it properly, Straumietis advises.
The most obvious thing, Straumietis notes, is “you gotta have a reliable electricity supply.”
The same goes for growing marijuana in aeroponics, but for different reasons.
“In DWC your marijuana roots are mostly submerged in water and they’ll literally drown unless the water is well-aerated; your roots need at least 30% if not more dissolved oxygen at all times,” Straumietis says.
Providing oxygenated water requires electricity to drive two important pieces of hydroponics technology: a chiller to keep the water temperature no higher than 65-68F at all times, and an aerator to stir up the water so oxygen is constantly being added to it.
If you don’t have a sophisticated power generator that automatically kicks on if municipal electricity goes out for more than a couple of minutes, you’re gambling with your DWC marijuana plants, Straumietis advises.
“Deprived of fresh, constantly-circulated, nutrients-rich, oxygenated water, the roots start to die,” he says.
One big problem Straumietis sees is when marijuana growers use certain types of aerators that rely on electrical motors driving aeration that delivers heated oxygen into the nutrients water.
“Water temps higher than 69-71 degrees Fahrenheit means your water isn’t holding as much oxygen. High water temps can be caused by heat-driven oxygenation or a too-hot grow room and no chiller. Warm water creates conditions for pathogenic root attackers that can brown and rot your cannabis roots fast,” Straumietis warns.
Straumietis says he favors deep water culture over aeroponics mist systems because mist systems have more “parts” that can go wrong—specifically the misters.
You need a circulating pump and a chiller with DWC and aeroponics, he says, but don’t necessarily have to have an aerating pump with aeroponics, for the obvious reason that aeroponics mist is oxygenated by its very nature, and there’s a lot of air in which the roots grow.
On the other hand, aeroponics misters often fail, Straumietis warns, which is why he opts for DWC.
“The other place people get into trouble with DWC and aeroponics especially is by using the wrong hydroponics nutrients. The pH and PPM of your water, and quality of your water, make a huge difference,” he says.
“You absolutely have to have your pH in the exact right place,” he continues, “because there’s no solid root zone material to buffer your roots. And if you overfeed or underfeed, again you can have drastic problems.”
Straumietis says he pushes Advanced Nutrients scientists to completely understand how hydroponics nutrients interact with true water culture like aeroponics, deep water culture, and NFT marijuana growing systems, to “make sure Advanced Nutrients products are totally compatible with pure hydroponics growing so you get the most from DWC, aeroponics, NFT, and other hydroponics systems.”
“Pure hydroponics isn’t a ‘natural’ way to grow,” Straumietis says. “Marijuana roots evolved to sit in soil and suck nutrients elements out of it. Pure hydroponics supercharges your cannabis plants and gives you ‘supernatural’ growth rates, potency, and yields.”
Straumietis recommends Advanced Nutrients pH Perfect hydroponics base nutrients to anyone running water culture, aeroponics, or NFT systems.
When you’ve got nothing but oxygen, water, and nutrients around your roots, you MUST have nutrients elements that are sourced and configured to be instantly absorbable, he says.
“Not only that, you want accurate, ideal, consistent, constant pH at all times, and you only get that with pH Perfect base nutrients.” Straumietis explains. “Hydroponics marijuana growers have discovered that Advanced Nutrients is the only manufacturer that tests and designs hydroponics nutrients to help you take advantage of the phenomenal marijuana growth rates, potency, and yields DWC and other pure hydroponics systems give you.”
Straumietis advises growers to watch the marijuana DWC videos in this article, “but remember these growers are just giving you their opinions, and some of what they say might not work well for you.”
“Deep water culture marijuana growing requires more expertise than growing marijuana in soil or media like rockwool or peat-based soilless mix,” Straumietis explains. “I’m going to give you more insider information about DWC fine-tuning in later articles.”