Hydroponic nutrients are one of the most important purchases you will make for your cannabis grow operation. The right nutrients, mixed in the right proportions, can make or break your grow and will greatly affect the quality and quantity of your bud. In this article we are going to go over the basics that you need to know in order to choose the right nutrients for your grow op. There are a lot of factors that will affect your decision, including Whether you are growing in hydroponics or soil, your budget, your experience level, and the amount of time and effort you want to put into customizing your system. We will focus mostly on pure hydroponics nutrients on this page too, but there are some important differences between soil and hydro nutrients that are necessary to understand before purchasing your fertilizer.
The basic requirements for purchasing concentrated nutrients are to make sure you are getting the right NPK ratio (more details below), that they are made specifically for either hydro or soil depending on your grow method, that they have adequate micro and macro nutrients and that the nutrients are chelated, or combined with an organic molecule in order to make them more readily absorbable by your plants’ roots.
Nutrients Needed For Cannabis
When shopping for cannabis nutrients, you are going to see a lot regarding their NPK ratio. NPK stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium, the three most important nutrients for all plant life. Obtaining the right balance of these three nutrients during each stage of your cannabis plants’ growth cycle is the key to getting the best yields every single harvest, and of course, the best quality bud.
The two different stages of cannabis growth require different NPK levels:
- Vegetative: High Nitrogen, Medium/High Phosphorous, High Potassium
- Flowering: Low Nitrogen, High Phosphorous, High Potassium
Hydroponic nutrients also include other necessary minerals and micronutrients, including magnesium, calcium, iron, sulfur, boron, cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum and zinc.
Soil Vs. Hydroponic Nutrients
It is important to make sure you purchase nutrients specifically designed for either soil or hydroponics, depending on your grow setup. Soil fertilizers contain organic solids that can clog hydroponic watering systems. Microbes in soil help to turn organic material like guano, worm castings, etc. into usable nutrients for your plants, but in hydroponics it is necessary to feed your plants the micro and macro nutrients directly. Soil nutrients may not include all of the micronutrients listed above. Soil nutrients also tend to have higher levels of phosphorous, lower levels of nitrogen, and purely organic sources rather than chelated.
pH and Electrical Conductivity in Hydroponics
In addition to purchasing nutrients, when growing hydroponically you will need to keep an eye on both the pH levels and the Electrical Conductivity (EC) of your system. pH is super important because the incorrect pH, whether too acidic or too basic, will prevent your plants from absorbing the full quantity of nutrients that they need in order to thrive. This means that you will spend more money on nutrients, and yoru plants will suffer, leading to a decrease in your yields. Cannabis requires a pH of between 5.5 and 6.5 at all times. In order to maintain proper pH you can either adjust your nutrient solution manually using a pH tester and pH Up and Down solution, or you can purchase a pH dosing machine to do it for you. Either way, you will also need to purchase pH Up and Down solution. If you adjust your pH manually, make sure to dilute the solution first so that you do not cause precipitation in your nutrient solution.
1. General Hydroponics Flora Grow, Bloom, Micro Combo Fertilizer Set
This trip from General Hydroponics is a classic in the hydro world and has a legion of dedicated fans who won’t use anything else. This is the original three part nutrient system, and it allows you to completely customize your grow op. The FloraMicro is your base nutrient, used throughout the entire life cycle of your plants. Bloom and Gro are added in during vegetative and flowering stages, respectively. The levels of all three should be adjusted based on your plants needs. This may seem pretty complex, but you can find easy to use feeding charts on the General Hydroponics website. This is a great set of nutrients for any level of experienced, from beginners to experts. These nutrients are super concentrated as well so they last a long while. You can purchase the trio in quart, pint or gallon sizes.
Price: $30.69 to $86.49 depending on size
- Trio allows for maximum customization of your nutrient schedule
- Not very expensive
- Very well established brand with a lot of positive customer reviews
- Very good customer service
- Not organic
- Has artificial colors
- Some customers have had issues with receiving shipping-damaged bottles
Find more General Hydroponics Flora Grow, Bloom, Micro Combo Fertilizer Set information and reviews here.
2. General Hydroponics MaxiGro and MaxiBloom Dry Nutrients
Powdered nutrients are even less expensive than concentrated liquid nutrients, and are just as easy or easier to use. This series from General Hydro is a two part set, with a separate fertilizer for veg and flowering stages. MaxiGro is used to encourage rapid growth of seedlings and clones, as well as through the vegetative stage. MaxiBloom is used to promote big, healthy buds during flowering stages. Powdered nutrients are easier to store and transport, and they do not have the same risk of making a mess when you mix nutrients. If you have a very large grow, or you store your nutrients in a different location than your plants, powdered nutrients can make it much easier to transport back and forth.
Price: $15.34 to $80.08 depending on size
- Two part system is easier to use than three parts
- Very inexpensive
- Powdered nutrients are easier to store and transport
- Less customization available than three part systems
- Zip lock bag may lose its ability to seal properly over time
- Some customers received damaged packages
3. Advanced Nutrients Bloom, Micro & Grow
Advanced Nutrients is a great company with a really nice line of hydroponic nutrients and supplements for growing cannabis and other plants in hydroponics. This premium three part nutrient system is formulated to give your cannabis crops the perfect balance of NPK as well as other macro and micro nutrients to maximize growth, yields, and quality. This system offers a pH perfect formulation to reduce the need for pH adjustments (Note: Even if a nutrient system says pH perfect you still do need to check the pH regularly for best results). This set of nutrients boasts a wide variety of amino acids, fulvic acid and non-ionic surfactant, which all work together to help your plants absorb all of the nutrients efficiently.
Price: $37.37 to $239.16 depending on size
- pH balancing formula
- Contains amino acids, fulvic acid, and all micronutrients needed for cannabis
- Three part system for customization
- Comes in multiple sizes
- Relatively expensive
- Some find the brand to be over-hyped
- pH perfect may be misleading as you still need to check pH regularly
4. Roots Organics Buddha Grow & Buddha Bloom Fertilizer
Roots Organics is the only organic line of fertilizers on this list. While their Grow and Bloom fertilizers are technically formulated for use in soil, many customers have had good results using them in hydroponic systems. These fertilizers are very smooth and do not have any cloudiness or large organic particles to clog up your watering system. This organic fertilizer is especially effective with deep water culture systems, due to the lack of sprinklers or hoses in those systems. Keep in mind that soil based fertilizers have slightly different nutrient levels than hydroponics-specific fertilizers, so you may end up needing to supplement. However, if you have a soil based or outdoor grow, this set of fertilizers is perfect for an all organic setup.
Price: $17.99 to $109.99 depending on size
Buy the Roots Organics Buddha Grow Fertilizer here and the Roots Organics Buddha Grow Fertilizer here.
- 100% Organic
- Won’t clog hydro systems
- Perfect for soil systems
- Made in the USA
- Pretty expensive
- Not designed for hydro
- Some reviewers received expired bottles
5. FoxFarm Big Bloom, Grow Big & Tiger Bloom Liquid Fertilizer Nutrient Trio
FoxFarm is my personal favorite brand for nutrient solutions, and they have a whole line of basic nutrient trios for both soil and hydro set ups. This trio is specifically formulated for hydroponics, but if you have a soil set up you can click here to find the soil formulation. This trio consists of Grow Big, Tiger Bloom, and Big Bloom. Big Bloom is the base fertilizer that should be used throughout all growing stages. Grow Big is a special formula for the vegetative stage of growth, in order to promote healthy and abundant green growth. Tiger Bloom is designed to maximize your yields and produce the biggest, healthiest, most potent buds. FoxFarm is a well established company, with thousands of satisfied customers who use their fertilizers for each and every grow.
- Formulas are available for both soil and hydro
- Well established company with a lot of happy customers
- Great customer service
- Very effective for all stages of growth
- Some customers received open bottles
- Three part formula is more complicated to use
- Some growers experienced salt build up
Find more FoxFarm Big Bloom, Grow Big & Tiger Bloom Liquid Fertilizer Nutrient Trio information and reviews here.
6. Botanicare KIND Base, Bloom & Grow Fertilizer
The KIND series by Botanicare is their leading nutrient system for hydroponics. This trip represents 15 years of combined research, knowledge and trial and error. These three formulas work together to provide optimal nutrition for your plants, in perfect balance for each stage of growth. This system was designed for maximum versatility, ease of use and effectiveness. It is manufactured in small batches, and does not contain any artificial dyes or coloring. These nutrients run clean, and will not contribute to salt buildup in your hydro system. With unique NPK ratios on each of the Base, Bloom, and Grow formulas, you get the most customizable system out of all of the trios on this list. This is great for people who like to grow other plants besides cannabis, because you can use the same nutrients in different combinations for any plant.
Price: $14.80 to $17.99
- Very inexpensive
- The most customizable system with unique NPK ratios
- Developed over a 15 year period with rigorous experimentation and testing
- No artificial coloring or dyes
- Not organic
- Not pH balanced
- Customer service is not as responsive as other brands
7. Humboldts Secret Base A & B Bundle
Humboldt’s Secret nutrients started with their Golden Tree additive, which contains all of the good stuff that cannabis plants need which is not usually found in base nutrients. This product was so successful that they came out with a line of base nutrients as well, including this 2-part system. This system is easier to use than three part combinations, but you can still get a good degree of customization from it. This nutrient combo can be used for plants other than cannabis as well.
Price: $36 with free shipping
- Easy to use
- Company has a good reputation
- Contains all essential nutrients
- Some ingredients are undisclosed
- Not a lot of info online
- Not a lot of reviews
8. Blue Planet Nutrients Elite 3-Part System
This three part system from Blue Planet Nutrientsis all you need to grow great cannabis every time. The Elite Series is tailored specifically for the nutrients that cannabis requires, and can help you get the most buds for the biggest yields you have ever had. This nutrient system is very affordable and comes in a set of three gallon containers, for just over $20 per gallon. Blue Planet achieves this by being their own distributor, so you are not paying for a middleman when you purchase their nutrients. You can find specially designed charts on their label with the exact ratios of each of the three base nutrients for each stage of growth. This system was created by a scientiest with a Masters in Plant Science from Texas A&M, one of the nations leading agriculture institutions.
Price: $69.95 for 3 gallons
- Developed by a Plant Scientist
- Fully customizable
- No middleman
- Not organic
- Artificially colored using dyes
- Not many reviews
9. Cutting Edge Solutions Grow, Bloom & Micro Nutrients
Cutting Edge Solutions is one of the cleanest and best quality mineral-based fertilizers available for serious hydroponic growers. This system is hand made and assured to be the highest quality, with no outsourcing or shortcuts at any point in the production of the nutrients. The three nutrient solutions that make up this system do not contain any artificial growth hormones, growth regulators, or dyes. This line is simple enough to be used by beginners, but effective enough to be valued by experienced growers as well.
Price: $27.81 to $35.95 per gallon
Buy the Cutting Edge Solutions Grow Nutrients here, the Bloom Nutrients here, and the Micro Nutrients here.
- No artificial dyes
- No growth hormones or growth enhancers
- Made by hand
- Relatively expensive
- Three gallons sold separately
- Not many reviews online
10. Growth Science Nutrients Base, Solid Start & Rock Solid Liquid Nutrients
Growth Science Nutrients three part system is a solid nutrient solution for beginner and experienced growers. In addition to the two base fertilizers, there are three additional solutions that make this a complete five part system. Base A provides nitrogen along with micronutrients, while Base B has phosphorous and potassium. Solid Start is the vegetative state formula that ensures healthy green plant growth, while Rock Solid is added in during flowering for big, high quality buds. Strength is the final part of this five part system, which helps to fortify and strengthen your plants in adverse conditions that may arise during growth stages. This system was formulated for gardeners of all experience levels, because although it may seem complex with five parts, it is actually very easy to learn to use effectively. This set is manufactured in California and is a great solution for healthy and productive cannabis plants.
Price: $30 to $67.50 per gallon
- Five part system for the best possible nutrition for your plants
- High quality with all of the micronutrients needed
- Made in California
- Very expensive
- May be complicated for absolute beginners
- Not many reviews