Ebb and flow systems are among the most effective and energy efficient hydroponic systems around. Think about it: Drip systems and DWCs run a pump anywhere from 12 to 24 hours a day, and wicking systems are only efficient for watering small amounts of plants. Ebb and flow hydroponic systems, on the other hand, use pumps intermittently throughout the day and give plants more than enough nutrition no matter how many plants you’re growing.
So why don’t more people do it?
Well, to be frank, it can be pretty tough to dial in. There are multiple factors to consider and not a lot of room for error with ebb and flow systems. Thankfully, they’re not too hard to get the hang of, and that’s exactly what we’ll help figure out.
In this guide we’ll take an in-depth look at ebb and flow hydroponic systems: what they are, how they work, and how to find the best system and medium for your needs. By the time we’re finished, you’ll be able to give it a shot in your grow room or grow tent.
- What Is Ebb and Flow Hydroponics?
- Advantages to Ebb and Flow Systems
- How Do Ebb and Flow Hydroponic Systems Work?
- Types of Ebb and Flow Systems
- Coconut Coir
- Expanded Clay Pebbles
- The Best Ebb and Flow Hydro Systems for Your Indoor Grow Room
- Growing with Ebb and Flow Hydroponics
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
Ebb and flow hydroponics refers to a method of growing plants by periodically flooding the plants’ roots with water and nutrient-rich solutions (ebb), and then draining the solution back into a reservoir where it’s stored for use later (flow). After a certain amount of time, the water floods your plants and the cycle (flood cycle) repeats itself.
This creates a starve/endulge type of feeding for your plants that forces them to grow faster than they would in any other hydroponic setting. Plant roots will starve for water, then receive an abundance of it to swallow as much as possible before it’s taken away. During that time, roots will starve for oxygen, then receive a large amount of it when it’s drained.
This entire process forces your plants’ metabolism to work faster than it normally would when it receives a steady stream of oxygen and water like in other hydro settings.
Ebb and flow systems outshine other hydroponic systems. Some may be easier to use, but none are quite as effective as ebb and flow setups can be. There are three key reasons as to why that is.
More control over your plants’ metabolism: In these systems, plants eat as much as possible, soak in nutrients, then search for more. To do so, their roots grow, air pruning themselves and creating larger root networks. Those new roots then take in even more water and search for more roots when water’s no longer available — meanwhile your plants are growing bigger and faster. A drip system, on the other hand, provides a slower stream of nutrition — it will still grow a great plant, but with steadier metabolism, which means it may not have taken in as much nutrition.
Energy efficiency: A simple ebb and flow system runs 1 timer and 2 to 3 pumps. The timer runs for 24 hours, but it's a low wattage component. Pumps run for around 10 minutes about 4 to 8 times a day, which totals only 40 to 80 minutes a day. Compare that to drippers, air pumps, and bubblers with other systems that have to run 24 hours, which is 1440 minutes, or 18 to 36 times longer than ebb and flow pumps. While pumps and drippers may not draw much energy initially, their energy consumption adds up over 24 hours.
More consistency than other systems: Where other systems rely on drippers that can become clogged up or pumps that need to be run 24 hours a day, ebb and flow systems have a fairly fail-proof setup. For the most part, the large tubing in most ebb and flow systems doesn't get clogged. In addition, because air pumps and bubblers don’t work nearly as hard as they do with other setups like DWC hydro systems, they tend to last longer and work more consistently.
In all fairness, there are some flaws to ebb and flows, too. One particular issue is that when one plant has a nutrition issue, all of your plants are probably going to feel it. Ebb and flow systems flood all of your plants with the exact same water, so if the pH levels are off or there’s something wrong with your feedings, each of your plants is going to be affected.
Moreover, the larger your system is, the more uneven your feedings can become. If you’re using a 12 site bucket system, for example, the plants furthest away from the reservoir will receive nutrition last. They'll also be the first plants to receive oxygen, which they receive for much longer than other plants, and will starve for water the longest. Plants closer to the reservoir may sit in water for longer and receive less oxygen in between feedings. If you’re not careful, you may have disproportionate growth throughout your garden.
While this is a minor issue, when pumps aren’t working properly, it can become a problem where your plants are being fed disproportionately. That means plants may either be sitting in water or drying out longer than others, and the survival rate of your plants will reflect as such.
Ebb and flow systems work in two steps.
First, nutrient-rich water is pumped from the system’s reservoir — this water floods your plants’ grow tray or buckets.The water covers the roots, then stops for a certain period of time. In that time, plant roots absorb as much of the water as they can.
When the flood time is over, the water drains back into the system’s reservoir. During this stage, your plants absorb the last bits of nutrients they can, take in oxygen, and air prune their roots for vigorous growth.
The process itself is simple in theory. The hard part is figuring out how many times to flood your plants with water. Don’t worry, we’ll show you how to tailor your flood times to your grow room’s needs in a bit.
Two of the main types of ebb and flow systems that you can use are bucket/pot systems and flood tables.
Ebb and flow bucket systems use individual containers, like buckets, for each plant to grow in. These systems are great because they give you maximum control over the spacing and placement of your plants.
Bucket systems are super versatile. Most come in at least 6 site setups, but they can be increased and decreased as needed. If you want to grow 1 to 5 plants, you can set it up that way, or you can expand to as many plants as you can water. A system like the Greentree Hydroponics Multi Flow 6 Site Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System, for example, can utilize as few or as many of the buckets as you need. You can even use an expansion kit and increase to a 12+ plant grow when the time comes.
It's worth mentioning that these systems do take up a good amount of space. You’re going to be working with a reservoir tank that takes up at least 1 to 2ft of space in your grow room, plus your buckets and controller. There's also the tubing that goes along with it. So if you want to use a bucket system, make sure you’ve got room for it and all of the parts that come with it.
With an ebb and flow flood table, you let your plants sit in air prune fabric pots, rockwool cubes, or net pots inside of a large table. The entire table is periodically flooded with nutrient-rich water, allowing all of your plants to take in water at the same time no matter where they are. The table is then drained, allowing your plants to receive oxygen in between feedings.
Flood tables utilize advanced drainage systems. This helps prevent mold, root rot, and other conditions that can damage plants. These hydro setups are also open-air systems, further aiding in mold and root rot prevention.
The Platinium 100 Series Ebb & Flow system is a great example. It comes with a 3ft x 3ft table capable of holding 8 to 10 mature plants. It also has multiple drainage straights to help water flow back into the reservoir when needed.
One challenge that comes with flood tables is that they’re stationary. You can move your plants around your table, but your table stays put, which may create an issue in your growing area if you don’t have the room. Then take into account your reservoir, and you’ve got quite a bit of physical space dedicated to your hydro setup. Even then, with a little bit of planning, you should be good to go.
Really, no matter if you’re going with a bucket system or a flood table, it’s important to choose which works best for your plants and your grow room capabilities.
If you’re not sure how much space you’re able to use, we suggest going with a bucket system. That way you’re not stuck with a big, non-customizable system that’s hard to work with. Just make sure you have enough room for your reservoir (again, about 1 to 2ft in diameter) and at least 1 to 2 mature plants — then expand if and when you’re ready.
If you have at least 2 x 2ft of room in your growing area and 8ft ceilings, a flood table can work wonders for you. You can fit as many or as few plants as you’d like in the space inside your flood table — just make sure you have sufficient room for your table, plants, and reservoir.
Like with any grow system, ebb and flow hydroponics setups thrive on the medium and nutrition you provide. In hydroponic growing, we want mediums, or "media," with inert, neutral nutrition so that we can give plants the nutrients we want. Let’s take a look at the mediums available to you, as well as the nutrients you’ll need for a successful ebb and flow garden.
The medium you choose is important to your system. This medium will determine how often you have to water your plants, which will determine their overall growth.
More feedings means more nutrition, which means bigger plants. That also means less wiggle room for feedings, and if you slip up, your plants can suffer quickly. Here are just some of the options available for your plants:
Coco Coir — This medium is absorbent and great at retaining water in between feedings. This is good because you won’t need to use as much water to feed your plants. It can lead to possible overfeeding if you don’t space flood cycles out with enough time to let your plants absorb sufficient nutrients and oxygen before their next feeding. Don’t worry, though, this just means you’ll need to pay attention to your plants a little more to get a rhythm of when they’ll need to eat.
Coco coir is effective when used in bucket ebb and flow systems.
Using coco coir/perlite blend will help with drainage. The more you add, the less water you’ll retain. The less you add, the more water you’ll retain.
Clay Pebbles — Also known as “hydroton pebbles,'' this medium doesn’t retain water at all. With pebbles, plants send their roots though the spaces between the pebbles to find nutrition while also receiving tons of oxygen that helps them prune and grow huge root zones. With such big root zones you’ll get huge plants, but with that comes huge responsibility. Roots exposed to that much oxygen will dry out quickly, so you have to be vigilant about your feedings. Underfeeding will stagnate growth and stress your harvest, while overfeeding will cause nutrient deficiencies that’ll lead to crop failure.
Pebbles are most effectively used in bucket hydroponic systems, but can also be used in flood tables with net pots and even fabric prune pots.
Rockwool — This medium consists of tightly compacted fibers that are porous and create a network of intense root growth like clay pebbles do. Like coco, rockwool retains water, though it doesn’t hold too much water, which can put plants at risk of root damage. Rockwool lets roots get the necessary oxygen to process nutrients and prune themselves while retaining water so your plants don’t go as hungry as often. However, getting the hang of feeding times can be tricky — depending on the type of rockwool, it can either retain more water and require less feedings, or vice versa.
Rockwool is most effectively used in flood ebb and flow systems, but it can be implemented in bucket systems as well (usually accompanied by pebbles).
Of course, anything you can use in hydroponic systems with inert pH is up for grabs. For example, you can use just perlite instead of mixing it with coco coir, and you can use coco chips instead of coco coir. Whatever medium you choose, make sure you make sure you can efficiently and effectively use it with the system you plan on using.
Whatever medium you choose is going to be neutral, which means you'll have to add water and nutrients from the very beginning.
You'll want to make sure the nutrients you use contain nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Your plants will need these nutrients at different stages of their lives, so be sure that your feeding regime has these key elements.
After you add nutrients (not before), make sure the pH level of your water is around 5.5 to 6.5, and keep it there for the remainder of your grow. Your PPM will fluctuate throughout the life of your plants, as it’s a sign of how much they’re eating, so keep an eye on your plants to ensure they’re eating the right amount of food.
When the pH of your nutrient solution is off, it’s best to use adjusters like PH Down and PH Up to get your water where it needs to be. Make sure to do this after you add nutrients, as nutrients are going to naturally throw your pH off a little.
When your PPM is too high, add filtered, pH neutral water (or as close to neutral as possible) to your nutrient-rich water. When it’s high, it’s a sign that your nutrients are too concentrated and your plants won’t be able to break them down effectively. Normally PPMs won’t be low unless you’re not feeding your plants enough nutrition, so if they're lower than they should be, check to make sure you’re adding the correct amount of nutrient solution to your water.
When you provide your plants with the proper growing medium, nutrients, and water levels, you will be able to successfully grow strong plants using an ebb and flow hydroponic system.
Now that you have the knowledge of what ebb and flow systems are and how they work, it's time to get your hydroponic system going. The best place to start is figuring out the system you’re going to use, so let’s narrow down your selections.
There are plenty of ways to determine what sort of ebb and flow system will work for you. The most effective way of finding the right setup is by measuring your growing area and going from there. Let’s go over some common room sizes and see what’s best for each setting.
2ft x 2ft to 2ft x 4ft spaces like small grow tents and closets do well with 1 to 2 bucket systems. In these spaces, you can fit 1 to 2 maturing plants comfortably inside of the space, then place your reservoir outside of the tent or closet.
A table may be too big to fit in a small space. Even with a built-in reservoir, you’d still need to take out the entire table every time you need to change feeding solutions, which will set your harvest back.
We recommend going with something like the Greentree Hydroponics Multi Flow 6 Site Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System for smaller grows. This type of system will let you grow 1 to 2 plants comfortably, or push the limit with 4 plants in that space.
4ft x 4ft to 6ft x 6ft spaces like medium grow tents and bedrooms can use both bucket systems and flood trays.
Traditionally, most growers using grow tents these sizes will use 6 to 12 bucket systems so their reservoirs can sit outside while the space inside can be utilized for growing as many plants as possible.
For this, we’d recommend going with something like the Greentree Hydroponics Multi Flow 12 Site Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System that can be increased or decreased to fit your grow tent’s needs.
On the other hand, growers using their bedrooms tend to go with 2ft x 2ft to 4ft x 4ft flood tables. With plenty of room for the table, a reservoir, and all accompanying equipment, a flood table of these sizes will let you grow 4 to 8 mature plants.
For a flood table option, we recommend going with something like the Platinium 100 Series Ebb & Flow, that measures 3ft x 3ft and can fit up to 6 mature plants comfortably inside, with room to feed a lot of smaller plants alongside them.
7ft x 7ft spaces and larger like master bedrooms, basements, and extra large grow tents can benefit from large flood tables. In areas this large, you’ll likely need multiple flood tables, which is usually better than getting a large multi-bucket system. Remember: The larger a system is, the longer it’ll take to get nutrients to all of your plants, which means some plants may be getting less nutrition than others, resulting in uneven harvests.
For these spaces, we recommend getting something like PLATINIUM Ebb & Flow - 120 Series flood table setup. Measuring around 4ft x 4ft, you’ll be able to fit a large number of plants in here, and with multiple systems, you can grow warehouse-size yields each season.
Of course, there are growers who use bucket systems in these settings, and that’s 100 percent acceptable. In fact, that’s how a majority of industrial operations work. Just make sure you have plenty of booster pumps ready to deliver water to plants that may not get as much water if the pressure isn't high enough in long water lines.
Once you’ve decided what sort of system you want to use, it’s time to figure out what medium is best for you and your grow room.
Coco coir is a great all-around medium to use. It can retain a good amount of water, but it’s loose enough to drain quickly. The great thing is that you can amend it with perlite to help it drain even faster, giving you the ability to provide your plants with as many or as few nutrients as possible.
Traditionally, coco coir is the number 1 choice for bucket systems. It’s simple to use and can be amended to your needs, unlike rockwool and pebbles where you don’t have a choice in the matter.
Of course, with the right pots, you can use coco with a flood table. However, if you choose coco coir with a table, we suggest using coco chips, as traditional, loose coco coir has a slight possibility of falling out while flooding.
Clay Pebbles let you give your plants the maximum amount of nutrients and oxygen, as they don’t retain any water. They require you to give your plants more feedings than usual which, when regulated, can result in bigger, accelerated growth.
In ebb and flow hydroponics, pebbles are used primarily with bucket systems. Because pebbles drain water quickly, they could use a bit of retention in between feedings.
Flood tables get rid of water from pebble-based plants so fast that they require constant feedings. That’s why most people who use pebbles with flood tables often use them in conjunction with rockwool cubes.
Rockwool is super absorbent and retains lots of water. Plants using rockwool require very few feedings, which is convenient for growers looking to shave a little bit off of their water usage and keep their plants in check. Their structure is created for roots to take in a lot of air while soaking in nutrients throughout the medium, resulting in huge plants.
Due to their water retention and ability to create intricate root networks, rockwool is most effectively used with flood tables.
Once you’ve selected your ebb and flow system and picked out the medium that you’d like to try out, it’s time to start setting it up! At this stage of the game, you should also have your plants ready to be transplanted, so after we’re done setting this up you’re going to be growing in no time.
Bucket (Modular) Systems
Start by filling fabric bags (or any chosen bucket) ¾ full with your chosen medium, then placing them into the buckets you’ll use for your system.
- For coco coir users, you’ll first need to break down your medium (if necessary) before filling your buckets. If you’d like, you can also mix perlite with your coco at this time to help with drainage. Remember: The more perlite you mix, the less water you’ll retain, and thus more feedings you’ll do. As such, you'll need to pay more attention to your plants.
Space your bucket(s) in your growing area to maximize light coverage.
Size and connect all of your tubing to your bucket(s).
Fill your reservoir with water, mix your nutrients per instructions, and balance your nutrient-rich watering solution.
Make a pocket in your medium for your plant, then insert it in the medium, covering it completely to ensure roots don't get hit by any light.
If you’re using buckets, fill them with your medium. If you’re using only rockwool, take a cell that's at least 3 to 4 times bigger than your starter cell, carve out a hole the same size of your starter cell, and insert it into the rockwool.
- For seedlings or freshly cut clones, simply insert the plant taproot side down into the rockwool medium you’re using.
Place your buckets or rockwool cubes in your flood table. Like before, space the cubes or buckets in a way that maximizes light coverage onto your plants.
Size and connect all the tubing you’ll need from the reservoir to the table.
Fill your reservoir with water, mix your nutrients per instructions, and balance your nutrient-rich watering solution.
Once your plants are planted and set up in your system, turn your system on and get started.
Let’s get into the thick of it: feeding your plants. After you’ve mixed and adjusted your nutrient-rich water, it’s time to give that water to your plants.
Like with any medium, overwatering your plants can lead to nutrient lockout and rot, while underfeeding can lead to root failure, too. All this will result in slow growth and possible plant death. That’s why it’s important to strike the right balance so that your plants can grow effectively.
There are a few factors that will determine how often you feed your plants:
Plant Size/Growth — Young plants don’t need many feedings, but as they get older (and bigger), they’ll require more feedings.
Medium — The more water your medium can hold, the less feeding your plants will require. The less water that medium can hold, the more frequent your feedings will be.
Environment — The humidity and temperature of your grow room will play a big factor into how hard your plants work to absorb their nutrition before it’s absorbed by heat. The hotter and more humid it is, the more often you’ll need to feed your plants.
With that in mind, let’s start planning out your feeding schedule. Your nutrients' packaging will typically tell you how much of each element to give your plants, but it won’t tell you how often to feed them. That’s because all plants are different and all mediums help them in different ways. Therefore, you’ll need to make sure to pay attention to your plants in order to find out how much nutrition they need to thrive.
A good rule of thumb is to keep in mind that the more water your medium retains, the less waterings you’ll need, and vice versa. Mediums that retain a lot of water — like rockwool — will require less feedings, sometimes once or twice a day, whereas mediums that retain less water require more feedings, sometimes up to once every two hours.
With that in mind, we have some easy-to-follow instructions for feeding your plants based on the mediums you’re working with.
Since rockwool retains so much water, you won’t need to feed your plants very often. To start, give your plants one 10-minute flood each day when your lights come on.
Check your rockwool each day and measure how fast it dries out. You’ll find that toward the flowering stage, you’ll be feeding your plants once every 8 hours (3 times a day), and toward harvest, feeding will increase to around once every 5 hours (about 5 times a day).
While it may retain a lot of water, coco can also be amended with perlite to drain lots of water, too. That said, there are a few approaches to flooding coco coir-grown plants.
Coco mixed with 0 to 25 percent perlite should start out flooding plants for 10 minutes 2 times a day.
Coco mixed at 25 to 50 percent should start out flooding plants for 10 minutes 3 times a day.
Coco mixed at over 50 percent will flood plants for 15 minutes 2 times a day.
As you can see, the more perlite you have, the longer you’ll want to flood your plants. That’s because they’ll be draining water pretty quickly, so to retain more water, all you have to do is flood a little longer.
Keep an eye on your coco’s moisture levels. As your plants get older, you’ll need to flood them more often.
Coco mixed with 0 to 25 percent will flood plants for 10 minutes 4 times a day (once every 6 hours).
Coco mixed at 25 to 50 percent will eventually require you to flood plants for 10 minutes 5 to 6 times a day (that’s once every 4 to 5 hours).
Coco mixed at over 50 percent will eventually require you to flood plants for 15 minutes 4 to 5 times a day (once every 4 to 5 hours).
Clay pebbles have the least amount of water retention at virtually 0 percent, which means longer feeding times and more frequent feedings. To start, give your plants two 15-minute floods each day.
This will inevitably increase as your plants get bigger. Toward the flowering stage, you’ll be watering around 4 times a day (once every 5 hours). Toward the harvest stage, that number will increase to 8 times a day (once every 3 hours).
As we mentioned, all plants are going to require various feedings depending on their size, environment, and genetics. Regardless of what medium you want to go with, you’ll need to pay attention to your plants to ensure you’re giving them the right amount of nutrition as they grow.
Provided your environmental conditions and nutrition are where they should be, here are some signs your plants’ feeding needs to be adjusted:
When plants start drooping when your lights are on, it’s a sign your plants are being given too much water. Your leaves will usually start to either darken or show signs of nutrient block such as burn marks or heavy discoloration.
When plants start to shrivel, it’s a sign you need to increase flood frequencies because they’re being underfed. They will start to yellow and drop off, as well as get spots from the inability to receive necessary elements.
We’ve helped you lay the foundation of your next ebb and flow grow. Now all you have to do is pick the system and accessories that work for you.
Best All-Around System: Greentree Hydroponics Multi Flow 6 Site Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System
Regardles of which medium you want to use or how much attention you want to pay to your growing operation, the Greentree Hydroponics Multi Flow 6 Site Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System is perfect for any grower in virtually any space.
The buckets in this system are 2 gallons each, which is great for growing plants to harvest in small grow rooms and grow tents. That said, this ebb and flow system is also compatible with 5 gallon buckets that allow you to expand each plant’s rootzone for even bigger plants in larger growing areas.
While one 6 site system may not be enough for, say, an entire warehouse, this Greentree Hydroponics ebb and flow setup will be enough for nearly any closet, bedroom, or grow tent you use. Most growers typically use coco coir or pebbles with this setup. Of course, if you're looking to grow bigger plants, you can definitely use a combination of rockwool and pebbles to meet your growing needs.
Best Flood Table: Platinum Ebb & Flow - 120 Series
With a space of 4ft x 4ft, the Platinium Ebb & Flow - 120 Series flood table system is able to give you a great amount of room to grow as many plants as you can fit.
If you want to start out with a small grow and keep it small, you can do that. But if you want to go bigger with your grows or simply add more plants to your grow room or grow tent, you can definitely do that. All you have to do is place your rockwool or grow pots on the table and let the system do its part. There's no need to upgrade or swap out pots, let alone transplant between buckets.
Typically, this Platinum ebb and flow system work best with rockwool growers because rockwool blocks can be fully submerged. Unless you have a super deep flood table, grow pots limit the amount of water your plants can get. So if you’re planning on growing in a large area and want a lot of plants (or at least 4 to 5 good sized ones), this is the flood table you need for your operation.
Perfect for Growers in Large Areas: Greentree Hydroponics Multi Flow 12 Site Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System
If you think a 6 site system is a powerhouse, wait until you check this setup out. The Greentree Hydroponics Multi Flow 12 Site Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System gives you double the growing capabilities.
While this system usually commands spaces of 5ft x 10ft, it can be configured to fit your own grow room needs no matter the size. This makes it one of the most versatile ebb and flow hydroponics systems around.
The 60 gallon reservoir utilized by this ebb and flow system holds large amounts of nutrient-rich water for all of your plants. Of course, you can always upgrade to the 105 gallon tank at any time (especially when your plants get bigger and need more water) if you decide to go bigger. There’s also no need for any additional timers, as this system’s commander offers a built-in timer for precise feedings every day.
This Greentree Hydroponics 12 site setup is the perfect ebb and flow hydro system for coco coir and pebble growers. That said, you can always use a rockwool and pebble blend instead if desired.
Great for Rockwool Growers: Platinum 100 Series Ebb & Flow
If you’re not happy with pebbles and coco coir, the Platinum 100 Series Ebb & Flow is the perfect hydroponics system for rockwool growers.
Measuring at 3ft x 3ft and providing 3in of depth, you’ll be able to grow anywhere from 1 to 4 plants comfortably in almost any growing area. Not only that, but you’ll do so without taking up too much space.
This table will ensure your plants get all the water they need, with a drainage system meant to prevent mold and root damage while growing. Whether you want to grow in 2in x 2in cells, 6in x 6in cubes, or in sheets of rockwool, this system will flood your entire growing area with water whenever your plants need it, and then completely drain it when it’s finished.
Great for Growing in Small Spaces: Platinum Ebb & Flow - 60 Series
Do you have dreams of big plants but not a lot of room to make it happen? The Platinum Ebb & Flow - 60 Series system is the perfect compact ebb and flow hydroponic setup for small-time growers.
Measuring 2ft x 2ft and 10.5in high, this system can grow 1 to 2 plants with ease, whether you’re in a closet, corner of your room, or compact grow tent.
It’s also a breeze to put together and run — no big reservoir to make room for, and no intense tubing to connect. Just fill the standard reservoir with nutrient-rich water, place your plants inside, let the system run, and you’re growing in no time.
It’s recommended to use rockwool slabs or cubes with this system. Buckets will prove too large to effectively water your plants without spilling over the table, so it’s best to use rockwool that can soak in lots of water and keep it there until they’re ready to eat again.
Ebb and flow systems aren’t as intimidating as you might initially think — they just take some getting used to. That said, most systems have a bit of a learning curve and require you to put some effort into learning their ins and outs.
Picking up ebb and flow hydroponics can be tricky at first, but once you’re dialed in, you’ll be pumping out harvest after harvest with ease and precision.
The key to optimal growing with ebb and flow systems is using a setup that works for you. For example, if you’re more of a hands-off grower who wants to stay out of the grow room as much as possible, rockwool (and therefore grow tables) might be best for you. If you’re looking for huge plants and have the time and ability to look after your grow closely, you’re going to want to go with a bucket system with clay pebbles.
With the tips in this guide, you’ll be able to tailor your dream ebb and flow hydroponics system to fit your needs and growing goals.
How do I transplant my seedlings/clones into an ebb and flow system?
Funny enough, the transplanting of your seedling or clone isn't hard at all. The tricky part lies in what you do after transplant. First, focus on the question itself: how do you transplant your young plants into an ebb and flow system?
Like any transplant, once your seedling or clone is ready for their forever home, it's pretty much a 3 step operation
- Prepare your system with the medium you want to grow with.
- For bucket systems, fill your buckets with coco/perlite mix or pebbles.
- For flood tables, position your rockwool cubes or buckets (prefilled with coco or pebbles) around your table in a way they'll receive the best light.
- Dig a hole in the medium and plant your young plant.
- For coco and pebble growers, dig a hole about an inch down and cover the cell with the medium, leveling it out sort of like you do in soil.
- For growers using rockwool cubes to grow, cut a hole the same size and shape of your starter cell and insert it into the larger rockwool cube. Make sure the fit of the cell is snug inside of the cube and that it's level with the rest of the cube.
- Begin watering your plant according your its feeding schedule.
Remember that your plants were living off of just water when they were young, but now they need nutrients. Take extra precautions when feeding your young plants, as they're hyper sensitive to nutrient deficiencies and overloads. Most times you'll need to feed your plants 1/4 of what their recommended dosages of nutrients are from the manufacturer. However, double check the strength and content of your nutrients, as well as what your plant's nutrional needs are, to make sure you're not accidentally causing nutrient spikes.
What size buckets/rockwool should I use?
With as many curveballs as hydroponics can throw at you, one thing that's pretty much universal is that the buckets and rockwll you use should be condusive to the overall size plant you want to grow. That's to say, the bigger the plant you want to grow, the larger the bucket/rockwool you'll need.
- 1-3gal pots and 3x3x3" rockwool cubes can grow plants that get up to around 1-2ft tall.
- 5-7gal pots and 6x6x6" rockwool cubes can grow plants that grow up to around 4-5ft tall.
- 10+ gallon pots and 10x10x10"+ rockwool cubes grow plants up to least 6ft tall.
Of course, larger buckets/cubes mean more water being used. This is fine later on because your plants will need lots of it, but when your plants are young too much water can hault their growth. Be aware of the overall size of the bucket you're using and the medium you're using to grow in.
For example, coco and rockwool retain lots of water, so be careful to not flood your plants too much for too long when they're young. Pebbles, on the other hand, don't retain anything so make sure that you calibrate the length of feedings so you don't overwhelm them. This especially goes for growers transplanting their young plants into 5-7gal pots/6x6x6" cubes or larger.
How many plants can I grow with an ebb and flow system?
The amount of plants you can grow all depends on the room you have to grow in and the ebb and flow system you want to work with. The size of your growing area will determine what size system you can use, and the size of your system will determine how many plants you can grow in it.
Plant count all comes down to logistics, so here's what you'll want to do to figure out how many plant you can grow with an ebb and flow hydroponic system:
- Measure the size of your growing area, then take 1-1.5ft off of each side to account for walking room and equipment.
- Bucket System Growers: Once you have the size of your growing area, you'll be able to get an idea of how many and what size buckets you'd like to use.
- For example, if you have a 4x8ft room, you can fit a Greentree Hydroponics Multi Flow 6 Site Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System. That means you can grow from 1-6 plants in that growing area. With a larger growing area you can expand your plant count, and with a smaller growing area you scale down.
- Flood Table Growers: Thankfully flood tables fit anywhere you have the space. The question then becomes how many plants you should fit on that table. In this instance you'll want to consider your overall canopy size; i.e. the area where your plants' leaves are lit.
- For example, if you're working with a 4x4ft flood table and one plant has a canopy of 2x2ft, you can grow about 2-3 plants. More than 3 would crowd your growing area, which would hinder the growth of all of your plants.
- Now, if you're using that same table but with plants that have a 1x1ft canopy or smaller, you can fill them with as many rockwool cubes that will fit in there. While you'll want at least 1-2in. between each cube, you'd be able to fill that space with at least 6-8 plants comfortably.