How Often Should I Change Out My Nutrient Reservoir—Really?

How to Maintain a Hydroponic Nutrient Reservoir


  1. These notes are for a wide range of vegetables used for human consumption..
  2. A wide range of vegetable types need a wide range of nutrient and pH levels.Guides are available from the internet and some nutrient suppliers.
  3. Check the water quality with your TDS/PPM EC meter from a sample before putting it in your reservoir.Tap water measuring 300 ppm or greater indicates that you may need to run either a reverse osmosis system or distill your water. You want to be sure of the total PPM of the water you are putting to your plants before adding nutrients, is between 0-50ppm, anything over 100 is acceptable just be wary of some of the micro nutrients that might be in your test water. See the "Tips" section for ideas on tap water usage.
  4. Use a digital probe to measure the strength and pH of the nutrient solution every day and do this close to the same time every day.Make notes in a diary to keep track of events and changes.
  5. With nutrients in your reservoir, you can't get a proper reading with paper strips or test tube drop kits.For more accurate readings of your test equipment, test after the nutrient has been run through your system at least once (twice is good).
  6. Adjust the pH of your nutrient solution using propriety solutions such as pH Up or pH Down accordingly.Note: An adjustment in your solution's pH will affect its strength. The most affective is a pH of 5.5-6.2 never go higher than 6.5 or lower than 5.5 no matter what vegetables you are growing.
  7. Use a TDS/PPM or EC meter to check the strength of your nutrient solution.If it is too strong, add water. If it is too weak, add a little fertilizer. [See Warnings] Make sure you re-test the pH after making changes.
  8. Change/top-up the solution in your reservoir when the TDS/PPM meter shows it to be at or below that which the plants require.
  9. A proper top-up nutrient should not be used more than 3 to 4 times between full nutrient changes.Do not use full nutrient for top-ups.
  10. It is good practice to have a nutrient reservoir as large or larger than the empty volume of the tub(s)/container(s).For example if a 20L tub is used then at least 20L of nutrient should be used, preferably more, twice as much is a good minimum. The volume of the growing medium not with standing in the volume calculations. The largest size nutrient reservoir (within reason) that can be implemented is better.
  11. Know that nutrient life is dependent on is volume and the requirements of the plants as well as the plant's transpiration rate, all of which vary greatly.However, ideally you should nutrient the water everyday, when you are starting out.
  12. When the nutrient is considered past its useful life it can poured on dirt grown plants.
  13. Hydroponic gardens grow better outside, but local weather conditions may affect it and should be taken into account.When growing outside all forms of falling water should be prevented from falling on the garden and so diluting the nutrient solution.
  14. When growing inside provision of suitable lighting may be required.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Use organic nutrients in your reservoir, or try running a compost tea through the system.
  • Question
    At what pH should my water solution be changed?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    It depends on the plant you are growing, as some plants prefer a higher pH while others prefer a lower one. Most plants wont survive in acidic environment, however.
  • Question
    What are some good hydroponic nutrients?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Some good hydroponic nutrients would be calcium, zinc, manganese, chlorine, potassium, copper, magnesium, sulfur, iron, and phosphorus.
Unanswered Questions
  • How do I maintain my hydroponic nutrient reservoir?
  • Please let me know how to build or construct tubing structures for hydroponics. Can you explain through videos?
  • Can I grow tubers or legumes hydroponically?
  • For a half gallon of water, how much of the three main nutrients do I use to start in a hydroponics system?
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  • Make sure the fertilizer you use in a hydroponic system is complete. Match the solution's type and strength to your plants' needs.
  • Tap water may contain chemicals which can adversely affect your plants. If you can smell chlorine or are unsure it is best to let your tap water stand for 24 hours prior to adding to your reservoir. Using chlorine remover for aquariums will add another unwanted chemical to your reservoir. By letting your water stand, you equalize the temperature of the water to that of the room, thereby making the water less likely to shock the plants' root system.
  • It is a good idea to run plain water or 1/4 strength nutrient through the system during its regular timed flushes once or twice in between major or complete nutrient changes, to leach out any fertilizer buildup. Keep in mind this will weaken your prepared nutrient mix so a re-test and adjustment will be in order after a plain water or 1/4 strength flush.
  • Not less than two flushes per day (morning and evening)should be provided, but as many as one flush per two hours may be needed. A good guide is to watch the leaves, and when they show signs of wilting, add a flush at that time.
  • Oxygenation of the nutrient solution is paramount for nutrient uptake. Where possible, allowing return nutrient to splash back into the reservoir will suffice. If this is impracticable an aquarium air pump and stone rated for the size of your nutrient reservoir may be required.
  • A lot of water treatment facilities have changed from Chlorine to Chloramine. They are doing this because it is cheaper due to the fact that Chloramine does not evaporate out of the water like Chlorine. If you ask the water company it "evaporates in 2 or 3 days" but with some online research you'll find many opinions that "it does not evaporate but breaks down into possibly harmful bi-products" The bottom line is you need a water filter that is capable of removing Chloramines. Standard RO is not enough, you still need to purchase a Chloramine removing pre-filter for your RO system.
  • A larger reservoir allows a greater capacity for buffering against PPM/TDS EC changes, plant water use and pH. It's best to aim to create the largest reservoir you can fit comfortably in the allocated area that you have.
  • The number of nutrient flushes through the system per day will depend on what type of plants, their size/maturity, whether or not they are fruiting, and the air temperature and humidity.
  • Keep your nutrient solution temperature between70⁄78 °F (−17.3 °C)-21/25C. These are ideal figures, but readings slightly over and under as low as 12C 53F will work, however plant growth may be slower for lower temperatures.


  • Some city's water that contain chlorine also contains bromine which may harm your plants, a way to get rid of this bromine is to fill a barrel (not your reservoir) with cold water, the next day you will notice that the walls of the barrel will have little bubbles sticking allover, just tap your barrels sides a few times until all of these bubbles float up to the top. This is called perking and is a very affective way to expel bromine, its also a lot cheaper than using aquarium tablets (See Tips for tap water use)
  • Chlorine is rapidly dissipated from agitated water when exposed to air.
  • Chlorine in tap water will not kill your plants, it can actually help them resist mold and mildew build up at the stock base.
  • Do not use a top-up mix from a maker of a full/complete mix with another maker's top-up mix as the nutrient levels in each maker's mix will be different, you will radically alter the balance and your plants will suffer.
  • Sanitize your reservoir/pipes/tubes/tubs/pumps prior to use by pouring boiling water over all areas to be exposed to nutrient solution if your reservoir has become infected. With reasonable care hydroponic gardens do not become infected/contaminated.
  • If adding new fertiliser to an existing nutrient solution, be aware that you will also be adding more micro nutrients/trace elements as well. These nutrients DO NOT get used anywhere near as much as macro nutrients. As a result a build up of these micro nutrients in your reservoir will cause problems with your plants. Many nutrient makers sell a "top-up" mix just for this purpose. If replacement top-up nutrients are not available then use the spent nutrients on your dirt garden/lawn or where-ever, and make a fresh new batch each time.
  • Plants will suffer from high over nutrition/over fertilization very quickly; an undernourished plant may last longer than an over nourished plant but will suffer from lack of nutrients.

Video: Nutrient Mixing 101 | Hydroponic Reservoir Management | Grow Room Tank Mixing

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