Troubleshooting Hydroponic Nutrient Issue | Nutrient Lockout | Nutrient Deficiency | Tip Burn & Calcium Deficiency | Magnesium Deficiency | Chlorosis and Necrosis | Interveinal Chlorosis on New Growth | Chlorosis on Older Leaves | Senescence | Fungus Gnats | Shore Flies | Spider Mites | Thrips | Aphids| Lack of Proper Aeration | Too Much Light | Poor Air Circulation | Poor Water Quality | Too Many Plants Per Square Foot (PPSF) | Too Many Leaves On Top (TOM) | Algae Growth | Seedling Problems |
Hydroponics, or growing plants without soil, has become one of the most popular ways to grow your own food. However, there are some common problems that can arise in even the best systems. In this blog post, we will provide information on how to diagnose and troubleshoot common problems associated with hydroponics.
Most of the time, plant problems in hydroponics arise because of nutrient deficiency, nutrient lockout, crop age, plant pests, etc.
So, if you start seeing any problems associated with hydroponics, you first need to determine if the problems are due to nutrients or not!
Checking a few points, as shown in the figure below, will help you know if the problems associated with hydroponics are nutrient-related or not!
Let's start digging into common problems associated with hydroponics! Let's first start with the nutrient issue!
If your answer to all of these questions is 'Yes' and you are still seeing problems with your plants, then it is likely you have issues relating to nutrients.
In this blog post, we will discuss 18 of the common problems associated with hydroponics and discuss how to resolve them!
Nutrient Lockout is one of the most common problems associated with hydroponics. It occurs when all the important macro and micronutrients are present in your hydroponic medium but still, the plant cannot absorb these nutrients. This usually happens when the pH levels are either too high or low than the crop target range, or due to nutrient build-up in the system, or if your media is saturated. If this happens, you'll see early warning signs like leaf yellowing and curling, weak plants, and sometimes stunted growth.
Low nutrient levels are a result of not having enough nutrients or too much salt buildup in your hydroponic system, which will lead to low yield and stunted plant growth.
The most common problem growers have with their plants is tip burn.
This is characterized by a dark brown or blackish looking scorching on new growth and is caused mainly due to calcium deficiency.
In some instances, although enough calcium is present in the nutrient, the plants struggle to absorb it from their growing mediums. In such cases, reducing the amount of Nitrogen has been shown to be helpful.
Magnesium deficiency can be caused by low levels of magnesium in the medium.
Magnesium deficiency usually causes interveinal chlorosis and necrosis in the leaf tips.
The leaves of a plant are the primary means by which it absorbs light, water, and nutrients.
If there is not enough chlorophyll in these tissues then they will turn white or yellowish (chlorosis). The tissue may also die together to form brown patches known as necrosis.
Chlorosis and Necrosis may happen either due to pest/microbe attack or due to nutrient deficiency.
Interveinal Chlorosis on New Growth
If the leaves of the plants are turning yellowish and the veins remain green - that's called interveinal chlorosis. -This is a common problem with many plants and is mostly caused due to deficiency of micronutrients such as iron in hydroponic systems. High pH can often lead to iron deficiency.
Chlorosis on Older Leaves
This type of chlorosis on older leaves can be caused by a lack in Nitrogen. Nitrogen is a major component of chlorophyll, so if there is not enough nitrogen available to the plant then it will start showing signs of deficiency.
Natural senescence is the process of leaf aging and death. Check your hydroponics, if only the older leaves are showing chlorosis and dying, this could be due to senescence.
Fungus gnats generally look like mosquitoes, and feed on the roots of plants.
While the adult fungus gnats don’t cause problems, their larvae can cause real problems for crops.
The larvae gnaw on the roots of plants, often creating wounds, providing entry points for other pathogens.
Read more about hydroponic pest control.
Shore flies are a lot less destructive than Fungus gnats and look more like a fruit fly than a mosquito.
Spider mites are a common problem in hydroponics and in greenhouses. The two-spotted spider mite is one of the most common garden pests.
They feed by piercing the plant's leaves with their mouthparts, causing damage to cells that can lead to stunted growth or even death of your crops!
Spider mites can be seen on flowering plants like tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, and strawberries as a speckled dull appearance on the top surface of leaves; it progresses to leaf chlorosis and eventually results in leaf drop when bad infestations occur.
Often times these are found near upper surfaces so it's important to have pesticides that will protect both upper and lower portions of leaves too!
Spider Mites love dry weather conditions and grow well on fertilized crops - if you see webbing around your plant's edges then chances are there could be an infestation nearby!
If you suspect an infestation then look closely under leaf undersides where eggs are laid. Eggs are usually yellowish or brown in color and look like tiny grains of rice-they're hard to see, but if you have a magnifying glass handy then it will help!
Thrips are a common pest in hydroponic systems. Thrips are small, thin insects that suck the sap from plant leaves. They're hard to see because they move quickly & often hide on leaf undersides or between bud clusters.
Aphids are a common pest in hydroponic systems and can also lead to other pests such as ants, whiteflies, mealybugs, or scale insects which all feed on plants sap for food.
Aphids are often responsible for transmitting various viruses within plants.
Read more about hydroponic pest control.
Sometimes there is a lack of dissolved oxygen in the system, which can lead to anaerobic bacteria growth and algae blooms. This may lead to several problems.
Too much light can cause the seedling to dry out. A common mistake is putting a grow lamp too close or forgetting that plants need darkness at night time.
Poor air circulation could be caused by too many plants in one area, lack of ventilation or poor fan placement.
Using the water that has too much calcium or other heavy metals may adversely affect plant growth. Usually it is advised to use deionized (or at least filtered water) in your hydroponic system.
This could be due to overfeeding your system. Too much feeding may lead to an increase in nitrates and phosphates, leading to algal blooms. The algal blooms can have a negative effect on plant growth due their competition for light with larger leaves at or near water surface.
If you are experiencing too much leaf growth on top, it may also have been caused by either overfeeding your system or an increase in nitrates and phosphates.
Algae growth by itself is not as much problematic to your hydroponic system, but they often do help increase infestation by fungus and gnats which is not a good sign for your hydroponics system.
Over watering also sometimes causes algal growth on the surface of the seedlings.
New hydroponic gardeners mostly may experience a hydroponic seedling problem or hydroponic seedling dying. Some of the main reasons for seedlings death are:-
Read more about how to clean and maintain hydroponic system?