Hydroponic Nutrient Solutions

Introduction to Hydroponic Nutrient Solutions

Are you are an experienced hydroponic gardener? If not, we recommend that you buy pre-mixed hydroponic nutrients. It can be difficult for a beginner to make a homemade hydroponic nutrient solution.

Many gardeners don’t want to go to the bother of making their own hydroponic nutrients. Ready-made hydroponic nutrients usually provide a balanced diet. This will allow you to focus on other aspects of plant care.

You can adjust your nutrient solution later depending on the stage of development and conditions of the plants. However, ready-made hydroponic nutrients are more manageable. In addition, their nutrient concentrations are easily identifiable.

You can find hydroponic nutrients for sale at many large nurseries and hydroponics stores. These usually contain all the essential nutrients and trace elements.

The best hydroponic nutrient brands provide nutrient solutions containing essential macro and microelements. They also include crop enhancers because they give your plants an extra boost. For example, they typically include root boosters, amino acids, microbes, enzymes, vitamins, F-1 (fulvates), H-2 (humates) and a non-ionic surfactant.

Choosing a Nutrient Brand

Choosing between brands can be confusing and it can be expensive and time-consuming to do comparison testing. Based on our experience, these exotic nutrient solutions can make a big difference to yields.

There may not be much difference between manufacturers. However, you should avoid lesser-known hydroponic nutrient suppliers. Many of these “hydroponic nutrient manufacturers” don’t actually make all of their own products. Sometimes the manufacturers sell a very different product to you because they switched suppliers. This can harm your plants.

The best hydroponic nutrients will depend on many factors. There are many variables that need to be controlled to carry out a successful comparison.

To discover the best hydroponic nutrients for your plants you should do your own experiments. We recommend setting aside a few of your plants for that purpose. Be sure that you place them in the same environment to ensure accurate test results.

Commercial Nutrient Solution Providers

General Hydroponics – Hydroponic cultivation by NASA on the International Space Station is done with help from General Hydroponics. They claim to be at the cutting edge of scientific research into hydroponic systems and perfecting nutrient formulas.

Advanced Nutrients – Advanced Nutrients provide 2-in-1 and even 5-in-1 solutions that contain base nutrients with added ratios of chelated macro and microelements. They have a large selection of solutions and formulas to suit your skill level and needs. In addition, Advanced Nutrients claims to have developed the first-ever pH-perfect nutrients.

Botanicare – Botanicare first started developing experimental plant nutrients in 1999. Since then, they have grown into a leading nutrient provider. They provide an online nutrient calculator that could be useful for your hydroponics activities.

CANNA – A Dutch company, CANNA products with a wide range of high-quality gardening fertilizers and plant nutrients.

Fox Farm – This company is a family business dedicated to producing the finest quality garden products available anywhere. Their soil mixes, soil conditioners, and fertilizers are specially formulated to replenish the soil.

Technaflora – This is a Canadian company offering a variety of nutrients and additives for hydroponics and specialty gardening.

Dutch Masters – This is a family-owned brand of plant fertilizers, originally from Australia. However, they are now global. They specialize in optimal nutrition for cannabis plants.

DIY Hydroponic Nutrient Solutions

hydroponic nutrient solution

If you believe you’re experienced enough to create your own hydroponic homemade nutrients, we recommend you use fertilizer salts.

These are the most common type of homemade hydroponic nutrients and are very basic and cheap, assuming you can buy them in small quantities.

You can buy them in bulk from plant food suppliers, plant nurseries, and agricultural agencies. Unfortunately, if you buy hydroponic fertilizer salts from these suppliers you often have to buy in twenty-five to fifty-pound bags.

This will not be practical or cost effective for you unless you are buying for a large-scale commercial business or an extensive hydroponic garden. We recommend that you instead buy fertilizer salts from online sites such as Amazon because these suppliers sell them in smaller quantities.

Here’s a list of recommended fertilizer salts for those who want to make their own hydroponic homemade nutrient solution.

SaltWhat it supplies…
Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts)Magnesium and Sulphur
Potassium sulfatePotassium and Sulphur
Potassium nitrateNitrogen and Potassium
SuperphosphatePhosphorus and Calcium
Calcium sulfateCalcium and Sulphur
Ammonium phosphateNitrogen and Phosphorus

The following is a workable, tried and tested hydroponic homemade nutrient solution. However, there are many different nutrient formulas. If you include the elements in balanced amounts, the plant should be fine. The plant will extract from the solution what it requires.

Above all, every plant is different and exists in different conditions. You should experiment with what works best for you.

The recommended quantity is the weight in ounces that experts recommend in a 100 Imperial (120 American) gallon water solution.

Homemade Hydroponic Nutrient Solution

ElementQuantity
Ammonium sulphate1.5 ounces
Potassium nitrate9 ounces
Monocalcium phosphate4 ounces
Magnesium sulfate6 ounces
Calcium sulfate7 ounces

Combine the element with trace elements and 100 gallons (120 American gallons) of water, or 1 ounce per 3.7 Imperial gallons.

In addition to the three key elements of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium you should include at least 8 trace elements in your nutrient solution. These include zinc, copper, sulfur, manganese, iron, calcium, magnesium and boron, chlorine and molybdenum.

Chlorine and molybdenum are already present in either the water supply or salts mentioned above. You should add those because this will avoid toxicity.

Function of each element in a hydroponic solution:

Trace ElementFunction
NitrogenNecessary for the production of leaves and in stem growth. An essential ingredient in building plant cells.
PhosphorusRequired in the development of flowers and fruits and aids in the growth of healthy roots.
PotassiumUsed by plant cells during the assimilation of the energy produced by photosynthesis.
SulfurAssists in the production of plant energy and heightens the effectiveness of phosphorus.
IronVital in the production of chlorophyll. Manganese aids in the absorption of nitrogen. An essential component of the energy transference process.
ZincAn essential component in the energy transference process. Copper needed in the production of chlorophyll.
BoronRequired in minute amounts, but it is not yet known how the plant uses it.
MagnesiumOne of the components of chlorophyll, magnesium also is involved in the process of distributing phosphorus throughout the plant.
CalciumEncourages root growth and helps the plant absorb potassium.ChlorineRequired for photosynthesis
MolybdenumAssists in some chemical reactions.

The trace elements that are added to these formulas must be mixed separately. One recipe is given below. Note that you can use a mortar and pestle to grind elements to a very fine powder.

Trace elements Solution

ElementQuantity
Zinc sulfate½ teaspoon
Copper sulfate½ teaspoon
Iron sulfate1 ounce
Manganese sulfate1 teaspoon
Boric acid powder1 teaspoon

These ingredients should be ground well and stored dry and you should use half a teaspoon per 100 gallons or 120 American gallons of water.


Hydroponic Guide Sections

To learn more about other aspects of hydroponic gardening, see the following sections of our guide.