Understanding the basic needs of a plant and how to provide those needs is the key to success.

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Don’t Overcomplicate Things by following these 4 Tips!

This was originally a series of posts on our Facebook Page @GS Hydros

There are 1000’s of experts that haven’t finished their first year of growing out there. Seek help when you need it at our Facebook group Hydroponics Help.

My first recommendation is to just do it. Read these tips and get started. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there. Don’t get swamped to the point where you are confused about what you are doing.

You are simply trying to grow a plant. That’s it.  Before we get into that, I quickly want to make a recommendation. Buy a system that’s designed to work. A good system has a lot of development that’s gone into it. If you’re not a DIY person or you’re new to hydroponics, there is a learning curve that takes place. This curve includes all the nuances of what makes a system work well, just work, or flat out fail. You can save yourself a lot of aggravation and time by spending a little more and getting a system that will perform for you. Once you learn how to grow in hydroponics and learn how and why the systems work, then you will be ready to build a system should you want to.

We want you to be successful when growing and get great yields without the hassle, and that’s what our systems are designed for.

Plants need 4 basic things to grow.



Co2 (carbon dioxide)


Tip 1

Light: One of the first obstacles for new growers is usually not enough light. This will cause plants to stretch, have weak and produce less fruit or smaller fruits.

Since lighting is expensive, many new growers may want to consider an HPS & MH combined ballast setup. The wing reflector ones like the one pictured are under $200 for 1000 watts. Be aware they do use more power than LED or fluorescent lights.

The pictured light is a 400-watt HPS used to supplement the fall and winter light and control the light cycles.

Be sure to follow all the instructions with lights. HID light bulbs CAN NOT be touched by a bare hand. This can cause damage and possibly burst the bulb. I have been using HID bulbs for 20 years, and I’m careful to never touch the bulb. I have never had a problem with these bulbs.

We have a more detailed post on lighting here.

Tip 2

Water: Since water is one of the things plants need to grow, clean water is important. One of the problems for many people who are new to hydroponics is the water they use. Tap water when you are on a municipal source (IE City Water) may look clean. Still, it’s loaded with chemicals to purify it and other contaminants because of its sourcing.

Some of the things found in common tap water are Chlorine, Flouride, Herbicides, Lead, Mercury, Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE), Nitrates, Perchlorate, and a variety of Pharmaceuticals.

What are the options? You can buy bottled water or set up a filter system that will remove the impurities from the water. Something like an in-line filter or (RO) reverse osmosis system.

I’m not a big fan of using RO water for hydroponics. Having a well is ideal, but most of us don’t. When using an RO system, you remove nearly everything from the water. Including minerals and other nutrients, your plants can use. This means you have to add all that back to the water. When using a regular filter, you can remove some of the more harmful things like lead and mercury but leave some minerals, but these will not remove every contaminant. This comes down to personal preference. There is always the option of collecting rainwater also.

Clean Spring Water is available at most grocery stores in 2 to 3-gallon containers. You can also buy the water dispenser refills with 4 or 5 gallons. There are services you can get that will deliver this water to you. This can be a decent option if you’re new to hydroponics, as it’s far cheaper than smaller bottled water. Those containers can then be used to collect rainwater if you have a means of doing so.

Water usage was one of the reasons we reduced our reservoir size from 17 Gallons to 2.5 to 4 gallons. This reduces the waste of both nutrients and water. Be prepared though, our 6 plant system at full grow can use a gallon of water or more per day.

Tip 3

Co2: While this one seems simple, I have seen it cause problems for new growers. Especially those using grow tents or inside closed-off rooms with little ventilation.

The more Co2 you have, the better. Co2 is the main building block of your plants. When you have good Co2 flow, you will have larger fruits and flowers.

Co2: While this one seems simple, I have seen it cause problems for new growers. Especially those using grow tents or inside closed-off rooms with little ventilation… The More fresh air, the better your growth will be.

Tip 4

Nutrients: This will be the most complicated learning curve you have when starting hydroponics. My recommendation for new growers is to start with a 2 or 3 part series of nutrients to get you through your initial grow. Once you get good at these, then you will be ready for additives. Some sets are complete lineups from the nutrient companies, and they are geared towards the more advanced grower. My philosophy is to learn ad you grow. It’s far easier than trying to learn everything before you ever start.

For your first grow, I recommend that you use 75 to 80% of the recommended nutrient levels. This will give you a little more room for error.

There is a lot of information about meters. I have been doing this for over 20 years, and I have used cheap meters to do it. I don’t usually buy the absolute bottom of the barrel meters because I like backlights and 4 digit screens on my TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meters. With that being said, get a set of meters, learn how to read them, and test them. This is a key ingredient for a successful growing cycle.

I include pH in with nutrients because it is the pH level that either prevents or allows the plant to uptake the nutrients. Too high or low pH can also damage your plant. Below I have posted a sheet to help you figure out what your nutrient and pH levels should be.

pH levels are different between soil and hydroponics, so ensure that you are searching for hydroponics levels, not soil when looking online.

There are many additives that come into the mix. Also, these are more about overall results. Some are about the prevention of problems or solving problems. My go-to is FloraNova Grow & Bloom. It’s a great set that includes the micros and is highly concentrated. Outside of rooting enzymes and Hydrogen Peroxide, I’ve had great results with just these nutrients.

In addition to nutrients, I highly recommend having some Hydrogen Peroxide on hand. This is a main preventative, and you can add it to your nutrients to prevent problems like Root Rot, Algae, and Bacteria.



Visit us on our Facebook Page @GS Hydro or if you have specific questions, join our Hydroponics Help group, where we can help you when you need it.


Why you need them and what to look out for!


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Meter’s are definitely a topic of discussion in nearly every forum that has hydroponics groups. From Facebook to Twitter, meters are a point of contention between many growers.

The reason for this is generally quality and the ease of use.  The main point of contention even between experienced growers is the quality of any given specific meter. There are many myths and truths about meters, and I’m here to give my opinion on the topic. I want people to grow in hydroponics because we sell systems. I also understand how expensive it is for people to get into hydroponics at the begging. There are lights to buy, nutrients, systems and of course meters.

Out of the Box

I use test solutions to check my meters. For instance, I know my tap water is running a pH of 7.3 to 7.5 on a pH meter.  By saving some tap water in a jar that I have taken a good reading on, I will have a means of spot testing my meter later. This will allow me to quickly confirm it’s still reading accurately. I can mark the jar with the verified pH and use it as a test solution to check my calibration periodically.

I can verify this to a point with a test solution. The best way to create a test solution is to use the solution powder that comes with most meters. First, however, I highly recommend that you calibrate a new meter. They have been tossed around during shipping and need to be calibrated out of the box. If you’re not sure how to calibrate your meter or would like to see the process before you do it, there are plenty of videos online that will show you how. Always verify the process by following the instructions included with your pH meter.

I use some 1-pint mason jars to store those solutions in a dark place then reuse them. I only do this after I verify they are still in the correct range. If they are not, then toss them out and mix a new solution before calibrating. Another use for these solutions is to test whether or not your meter needs to be calibrated.

Meter Set

Cheap Meters are useless or stink? Not really…

This is far from the truth. Cheap meters require a little more care and have a learning curve. Most are very similar until you get to the upper-quality range. The difference between 2 cheap meters and 2 of Hanna’s low-end meters, one for pH and one for TDS, is the Hanna’s will cost you around $60.00. They are good meters with some nice features. With the cheap meters, you can buy a set for around $20.00, sometimes less. That’s a third of the cost, and if you’re new, you will probably look to trim the costs of setting up a system.

Cheap meters require a few things. First, read the directions, so you know how to properly read the meter. For instance, cheaper meters will read differently than higher-end meters. Many of these meters will read EC like this 1200 and ppm like this 600. The EC reading does not display the decimal point after the first number. So an EC reading of 1200 is actually an EC of 1.2 or 600 PPM. I suspect one of the reasons for this is they didn’t have to change the design of the LED screen to show the decimal point.

Key features you want on cheaper meters.

A four-digit LED Display. Some of the very cheap meters will have only 3 digits on the screen of their TDS meters. When you reach 999 PPM, it will convert to x10 or just not display the 1 after you are at the 1000 PPM mark. This I don’t like. It just increases the difficulty of reading the meters. Fortunately, this isn’t very common but keep an eye out for it when purchasing your TDS meter. So take a good look at the description and see how the display is set up. The savings is so small it’s not worth it in this case.

Back Lighting. I like at least my pH meter to have backlighting. I have both, and when I check pH at night when the lights are off, it’s easier to read. Many TDS meters do not have backlighting even when the pH meter does when buying sets. I usually test TDS once a day and pH twice.

The Margin of Error. Most meters operate the same, but the margin of error is a key feature to be aware of. Most lower meters seem to fall into the +/- .02% range. Do not buy a meter unless you know the margin of error.

Meter Maintenance

All meters require maintenance event the high-end meters. When using cheaper meters, it’s even more important. Don’t drop them, rinse them off regularly, and don’t allow nutrient solutions to dry to the meter probes. These are good rules for every kind of meter. I keep a small freshwater container around to rinse my meters off at the end of every day.

So yes, there is more to do with cheap meters and more precautions such as regular tests and cleaning.

The last thing I will mention is batteries. I see many problems that look to be related to batteries online in the hydroponics groups. If your meter starts freaking out, the first thing I would check is the batteries. Cheap meters come with cheaper batteries. Replace the batteries with a really good set, and you will be surprised at how well your meters will maintain their accuracy.

Most of the cheap meters take the LR44/76A 1.5v Battery. Check your battery type by pulling the batteries and reading the type before you order.


High-End Meters

High-end meters come at a price, but they do provide a sense of security and confidence in the meter that you may not find when using the cheaper meters. Many people have a hard time trusting their meters or accepting that they can vary in readings. Low-end meters do not adjust to nutrient temperatures as well and require some maintenance to keep in good working order. This is the driving force for people to spend money on higher-end meters.


Any meter is better than no meter, and caring for your meters is an important aspect of maintaining your hydroponics systems. This isn’t about keeping up with the Jones’s. This is about finding a functioning meter that will get the job done in your price range.

Visit us on our Facebook Page @GS Hydro or if you have specific questions, join our Hydroponics Help group, where we can help you when you need it.

Lighting Basics (Choosing Lights)

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Lights are one of the biggest learning curves for new growers.

Learning about lighting for the first time can be overwhelming. Especially considering everyone has their own favorites and opinions on the topic. Every manufacturer claims they make the best lights, so reading about the light from the manufacturers can make your head spin. The real conundrum is answering the question is “what light is the best for your situation”? There are learning curves when we are new to something, and lighting is a big one with indoor gardening and hydroponics.

There are a variety of lights available, from the old school HID (High-Intensity Discharge lights) known as HPS (High-Pressure Sodium) and MH (Metal Halide) and CMH/CDM (ceramic) to modern Fluorescent’s and LED.


If you want to keep lighting simple then I recommend a full spectrum LED. These lights can carry you through all grow cycles making the idea of switching light type during your grow a moot point. 


Lighting does cause a bit of confusion and begs the question. Which one is best?

Simply put, they all work. The real question is, which ones do you want to invest in?

Cost is usually the greatest factor in choosing a light. I personally like the light to work well for the amount of money invested. I use both HID and LED lighting and have only tested LEC lights. I tried fluorescents, and even the best of them didn’t compare to HID or LED lighting.

There are a few things you need to consider before you choose your lights.

How much money do you want to spend?

When setting up a new system, the first and most pressing issue is the amount of money you want to spend on that setup.

Lights are a big expense, and that expense should be looked at in two ways. First, the cost of the light its self, then the cost of running that light.

HID lights provide a really good source of light and results. However, HID lighting is the most expensive to run. If you buy a 1000 watt HPS/MH light, you’re using 1000 watts of power. So, in my case, at $0.12 per kilowatt-hour, it will cost $1.92 per day to run a 16 hour per day cycle. That’s close to $60.00 per month to run that light. This is why I always used a 400 or 600 watt HID system. A 600-watt system runs $0.072 per hour, so a 16 hour light cycle runs around $1.15 per day. About $36.00 a month. The 600-watt HPS light gives you around 95,000 Lumens.

HID’s can now be bought with adjustable/dimmable ballast. This can save you money when you don’t need the max wattage, such as early vegetative stages of growth.

CMH/CDM lights run about 315 Watts per hour and give you 36,000 lumens for your money. I have never used these lights as my success with MH/HPS at similar power consumption per lumen works better for me.  They are about the same price as a dual ballast MH/HPS light set. Running about $140.00 for a 315 watt.

One of the things to be very aware of with HID lights is to not touch the bulb. Use cotton gloves or a cotton towel to hold the bulb. Save the boxes, so when you’re not using your bulb, you can cover it to keep it clean and safe from accidental touching. Touching bulbs can damage them. I have heard cases where the bulbs have burst during use, and this can be dangerous. I recommend you use a material like mylar or mylar fabric that is heat resistant in any area you are growing using HID lights.


Lower Cost to Run Lighting.

In my opinion, LED lights are the winners in this category.

A 600 Watt Equivalent LED Uses about 300 Watts, so that’s half the cost to run at about $18.00 per month.  These lights cost more than the HID lights to buy. This, however, gives around 50,000 lumens. It’s still not the same lumens as the HID lighting, but it’s a good alternative. However, they cost about 2.25 times more.  The HPS/MH light setup will run about $130.00. These will run you around $270.00.


Using a Grow Tent or Room to Maximize Your Lights Effectiveness. 

Grow Tent

Investing in a grow tent may be a good option for you. This is especially helpful if you live in a small home. By having the reflective walls provided by a grow tent or lining a small room with a reflective coating and using that as a grow room can save your money and increase your success.

Since the costs of running LED lighting over time is less then HID lighting, the savings can add up.



  Ventilation Kit

When using any light, they generate heat. In colder environments, this can be a great benefit as they help keep the growing area warm. At the same time, they can overheat the room in an unventilated area like a grow tent or closed-off room. We need fresh Co2 coming into the room constantly, so ventilation is usually necessary in any case. Some HID lighting comes with vented hoods in which you can hook an exhaust fan to directly pull the heat out of the growing area. The type of ventilation you need will be dictated by the area you are growing in.

For instance, our sunroom, it’s wide open and well ventilated. We still have a fan that brings air in and small fans we can set up to blow on the plants to keep them strong. In a grow tent which I sometimes use in the winter, we need to ventilate that. I set up a temperature control switch that turns the vent on and off at a certain temp. I set mine to come on mid-range.  So if the ideal temps for my plants are 75°f to 85°f, I will set the fan to come on at 82F. This way, at night, during the cool-down period, it doesn’t get too cool.

Where are you going to use it?

If you’re growing in an enclosed grow tent, I would stay away from HID lighting unless you’re also willing to invest in climate control measures. They make these lights with enclosed and ventilated hoods to help remove heat from the growing area. If you’re using these in an open area where the heat isn’t as much of an issue, then these lights will do the trick.

If you’re in an enclosed area, all the other options will work. However, the heat put off by LED lighting is far less and more easily managed.

Best Results

I have had a lot of experience with both HID lights and LED lights. Now, this is just my opinion, and it could be slanted from nearly 2 decades of using HID lights, but I still feel the best results are with HID, and the newer LED’s hold a close second. But as we discussed, running HID lights can get very expensive, especially if you have multiple lights.

Choose the Right Light for Your Situation

I now own a lot of lights. I have several HID’s and LED’s. I no longer use Fluorescent lighting, but I did for several years and settled in with LED’s for lower electric cost and better results than fluorescent light.

Look at the space you have first.

Then decide what types of plants you want.

Buy a light that will cover the area you are using.

If you need further help or have any questions please comment below. You can also visit our Facebook Group (Hydroponics Help) with any questions.