All plants need nutrients to grow and thrive, no matter if you’re growing them outside or in a hydroponic system. Without the right mix of nutrients delivered at the right time, plants will either grow very slowly or fail to grow at all. Also, some plants are very sensitive to different soil conditions, and oversupplying nutrients can be almost as harmful as too few nutrients.
Looking for the best hydroponic nutrients for your plants can be very intimidating since there are so many products on the market. Here’s a list of nutrients we think are good for helping plants grow and bloom and a good introduction into the world of hydroponic nutrients.
- The Best Hydroponic Nutrients in 2019 Reviewed
- How to Choose a best Hydroponic Fertilizer
- Liquid vs. Powdered Fertilizers
- Convenient or Effective?
- Organic or Synthetic Nutrients in Hydroponics
- Wrap Up – Hydroponic Nutrients
The Best Hydroponic Nutrients in 2019 Reviewed
#1. General Best Hydroponics Nutrient Flora Grow, Bloom, Micro Combo Fertilizer
General Hydroponics is one of the most well-known and trusted brands when it comes to hydroponic products, and their fertilizers are some of the most popular and most frequently bought products.
The Flora line consists of three bottles: Grow, Bloom, and Micro. Each of these bottles contains a specific mix of micro- and macronutrients that are recommended for each phase in a plant’s lifecycle. For instance, you’d start with Grow when your plant is a seedling until it’s a mature plant.
For those that are concerned about this sounding very complicated, the combo kit does also come with specific instructions on what you should be using when, and in what ratios.
FloraMicro provides the base fertilizer that you’ll be using at all times, regardless of where in its growth cycle your plant is. It contains a special blend of calcium, nitrogen and a mix of various micronutrients that plants need.
During the growth phase, plants need a lot more extra potassium and nitrogen to grow well. FloraGrow contains higher levels of potassium, nitrogen, and various other macronutrients to help the plant in this growth phase. It will speed up growth, and you’ll end up with a healthier plant.
When a plant starts flowering, it needs extra nutrients and energy to produce flowers and fruit. That’s when you start adding in FloraBloom to your nutrient mix to ensure that your plant is getting all the good stuff it needs, namely sulfur, magnesium, and phosphorous. This will help your plant produce more, higher-quality blooms.
The kit does come with specific instructions on how to make up your nutrient mixture for the various stages of growth. If you’re willing to do some reading, the kit shouldn’t present any problem.
#2. General Hydroponics GH5100 General Organics Go Box – Best Nutrients
Another offering from General Hydroponics, the Organics Go Box is the go-to option for people who want to use organic fertilizer. A word of warning though, while the product may say organic, the meaning may be different from what you expect it to mean. In fertilizers, particularly hydroponic fertilizers, there are no 100-percent organic or non-organic options. Most fertilizers will contain some synthetic nutrients that are too prohibitively expensive to produce organically.
The General Organics line is designed for those who want to sell their plants and still be able to label them ‘organic.’ Most of the nutrients sourced in this product come from botanical extracts and other natural sources, but you can never be sure that all nutrients come from organic sources.
However, if you’re determined to stick to organic fertilizers, General Organics is your best bet. The Go Box contains all the fertilizer mixes, as well as individual nutrients that you will need when running a small-scale hydroponics system.
The two main bottles are the BioThrive Grow and BioThrive Bloom. Each is specifically tailored to a phase in the plant’s growth cycle, where it needs more or less of a specific macro- or micronutrient. You use the Grow product during the plant’s growth phase, as it contains extra nitrogen and potassium to help your plant grow rapidly and healthily. When the plant reaches the flowering stage, you move onto Bloom, which includes nutrients to help the plant produce more flowers and fruits.
The Go Box also contains the other products in the General Organics line, such as the BioBud, BioRoot, BioWeed, BioMarine and CaMg+ products. These allow you to tailor your nutrient mix to your specific plants.
#3. General Hydroponics Nutrients CALiMAGic
Unlike many other products we reviewed, CaliMagic isn’t a complete nutrient solution for your plants. Instead, it’s merely a mixture of calcium and magnesium. Just like animals, calcium and magnesium are vital to plant health and wellbeing, particularly when they start flowering.
Calcium is necessary to build strong cell walls in growing plants and acts as a messenger when plants are stressed, helping out with the stress response. It’s vital for plants with limited root systems to get calcium supplementation when they start flowering to prevent blossom end rot. Plants that are deficient in calcium will have abnormally dark leaves, shedding flowers, and weakened stems.
Magnesium is essential in photosynthesis and activates many enzymes in lots of biochemical processes, such as the production of ATP from AMP. One of the best signs of magnesium deficiency is when the veins of the leaves of the plant remain green, but the leaf in-between goes yellow.
Most of General Hydroponics’ products will contain calcium and magnesium in their pre-mixed nutrient offerings, but some plants have much higher requirements than others, particularly cannabis plants, tomatoes, and peanuts.
Since there’s no soil for the plants to get these nutrients from, there needs to be additional supplementation. CaliMagic is precisely the product to do that. If you’ve got fast-growing plants or are starting to notice the signs of deficiency of these two nutrients, you have to take action and start giving your plants what they need.
#4. AeroGarden Liquid Nutrients
AeroGarden is a hydroponic fertilizer line developed by Miracle-Gro and is aimed at all levels of hydroponics users, from small beginner systems up to larger, commercial ventures. Liquid Nutrients is a unique formulation that is designed to meet the needs of most plants in one bottle.
Unlike other products where you need to mix various ratios of stuff, here you just dilute the concentrated fertilizer by the recommended amount, and that’s it. No guesswork, no worry about whether your plant is in the growth or bloom phase, just pour and forget. This aspect is excellent when you’re starting.
There are so many things that can go wrong in a hydroponics system that having one thing be constant makes it easier to pinpoint the issue. Imagine if your plants were dying and you didn’t know if it was due to the grow lamp, the box you’re using, or whether you mixed the fertilizer wrong. By eliminating variables, you can ensure a consistent result.
However, since the AeroGarden Liquid Nutrients solution is a one-size-fits-all product, it’s not tailored to specific plants that may have special needs, like marijuana, and can’t be customized easily. It will probably ensure that your plants will grow throughout all parts of their cycle, but you won’t be able to maximize your efficacy, which is a problem if you’re running a commercial venture and you need optimal results, or if you like tinkering around with various nutrient combinations.
#5. Blue Planet Nutrients Liquid Seaweed
This organic fertilizer is derived from seaweed (Ascophyllum nodosum) and is packed with tons of macronutrients and trace nutrients to feed your plant in all stages of its growth cycle. It’s specifically designed for hydroponic systems and offers a one-bottle solution. We’ve already talked about the benefits and drawbacks of using a single product, and ultimately you need to decide whether it’s good enough for your needs or not.
Blue Planet is a well-known hydroponics fertilizer that is aimed at growers cultivating cannabis plants such as marijuana. It’s especially useful when cultivating mother plants to generate clones and also has some antibiotic properties as well.
How to Choose a best Hydroponic Fertilizer
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without the need for soil, usually in carefully managed indoor conditions. Due to the relatively small space that’s needed for a beginner hydroponic system, hydroponics is becoming a very popular way of growing plants in apartment blocks and other areas where people don’t have gardens.
Since there’s no soil for the plants to get nutrients from, all hydroponic systems need you to add the nutrients in yourself. This can be very scary since there’s no room for error. If you don’t provide the right nutrients, your plants will fail to thrive. This, combined with the vast range of best hydroponic nutrients on the market, can make choosing the best hydroponic fertilizer a tricky choice.
When choosing a hydroponic fertilizer, keep the following things in mind: the number of components, the cost, and whether you want a liquid or solid formulation. Generally, when you’re starting with hydroponics, you want the simplest possible formulation that eliminates as many variables from the mix as possible. So you would want to go for a one-part, liquid formulation that meets your budget. Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, you can start using solid formulas to save money, and multi-part fertilizers to mix up your own ideal nutrient batch.
Liquid vs. Powdered Fertilizers
Liquid fertilizers are just that, you get a bottle with the fertilizer and some instructions on dosage, and you can start adding it into your hydroponic system immediately. Liquids are perfect for beginners who don’t want to mess around with the fiddly stuff while they’re getting comfortable with the system as a whole.
Powdered fertilizers are those that need to be mixed with water before use. They tend to be cheaper than liquid fertilizers and usually have a longer life-span as well. They’re a bit more fiddly since you have to measure out the correct amount of powder and add it to the right amount of water, but once you’ve worked that out, doing it again will be easier, and the value for money of powders will make it worth the effort.
When buying powders, you’ll notice that you can get multi-part and pre-mixed formulations. Pre-mix formulations have a generic nutrient profile that’s adequate to get most plants going, while multi-part formulations require that you mix in the right ratios of nutrients to achieve optimum growth in your plants. Which one you choose will depend on your experience level and whether you care about optimizing your plant growth to the max.
Convenient or Effective?
When it comes to best hydroponic nutrients, there’s often a trade-off between convenience and efficacy. In general, the more convenient the product, the less control you have over its formulation, which, if you’re growing a particularly tricky plant can result in reduced growth and longer vegetative time. You always have to decide whether you want optimal growth, or whether you’re willing to sacrifice some of that growth for a convenient product that’s ‘good enough.’
Obviously, if you’re a hobbyist that’s just growing some herbs for fun, then by all means, go for convenience. There are plenty of pre-mixed liquid products that are incredibly easy to use and will still give you good results. They’re also great for beginners who are learning the ropes and need a consistent set of nutrients without any worries about mixing.
Once you’ve gotten familiar with your system and how your plants grow, you may want to ramp up production, so that you get more growth and a quicker growing cycle. To get great results, you’re going to have to get products that are more inconvenient to use, such as powders and multi-part fertilizers that you have to mix yourself. This extra level of control does also add an extra level of work, but the results can be worth it, saving you days in vegetative growth time.
Organic or Synthetic Nutrients in Hydroponics
Thanks to the massive growth of the organic trend in the food market, many beginner growers (and lots of experienced ones as well) want to make sure their plants are ‘organic’ and want to use organic nutrients for their general hydroponics setup.
The truth is that in general, organic nutrients usually aren’t as good as synthetic ones. You need to use more organic nutrients to get the same effect as a smaller dose of synthetic nutrients. They are also much harder to work with due to solubility issues, and most of them smell terrible.
It’s also difficult to know what you’re getting with organic nutrients. Even products that advertise that they’re 100-percent organic sometimes aren’t. The only way to guarantee a truly organic fertilizer is to get the base products yourself and make up your own mix.
Synthetic nutrients are much more reliable and much easier to use. Synthetic nutrients are usually cheaper than their organic counterparts and last longer because the active ingredients are much more concentrated than in organic fertilizers.
Unless you’re selling your plants as ‘organic’ plants, the drawbacks of organic nutrients outweigh their advantages. They are more expensive, less reliable, and more challenging to use than synthetic fertilizers, so unless you’re making up that cost by selling your plants at an organic markup, rather stick to synthetic fertilizers.
Wrap Up – Hydroponic Nutrients
Choosing the best hydroponic nutrients for your particular system can be intimidating, as there are so many options, some of which may be relevant to you, others which may not be. Ultimately, the best fertilizer is one that meets your needs. Some products are more convenient than others, while other products work better for certain plants.
Finding the right hydroponic fertilizer will require a bit of experimentation, and our list will provide you with a solid foundation from which to start. Give these products a try and see which one works best for you and your system.