Plants use oxygen for a number of activities, the most important being nutrient absorption. Without oxygen, plant roots will not have the energy to absorb nutrients and water, leading to stunted growth. Inadequate oxygen also leads to plants becoming stressed, leaving them more susceptible to pathogens.
Why do plants need oxygen in a hydroponic system?
As aforementioned, plants use oxygen for a number of activities. From absorbing hydroponic nutrients to breathing, Oxygen is an essential compound to plant life just as it is to us. In soil or other well-aerated grow media, oxygen is readily available. In outdoor grows, its usually not even considered.
In a hydroponic system, however, oxygen is limited. In certain systems, it can even be nonexistent, such as in a deep water culture (DWC) system where plant roots are submerged in water for the duration of their life. In cases such as these, plants can struggle to find dissolved oxygen in the nutrient solution. Dissolved oxygen helps plants absorb nutrients, and without it, plants will stop eating. The result of this is a halt in growth.
In more serious cases, plants can actually drown without oxygen readily available to the roots.
How do you oxygenate water in a hydroponic system?
Luckily, oxygenating the nutrient solution is incredibly easy and cheap. Using a hydroponic air pump in conjunction with an air stone or diffuser allows us to provide ample oxygen to the nutrient reservoir, which is then transmitted to the root zone of the plant.
The air pump sits outside the hydroponic reservoir, and connects to the air stone or air diffuser inside the reservoir tank. The air pump takes oxygen from the air and channels it into the air stone, which then emits hundreds to thousands of tiny air bubbles into the reservoir.
For more information on these products, check out our full guide to air stones and diffusers!
Do you need an air pump for your hydroponic system?
As mentioned earlier, certain systems need an air pump and stone more than others. For example, DWC systems will absolutely need one since roots spend the entirety of their lives in water.
Ebb and flow systems also need extra oxygen, since these systems flood the root zone for an extended period before draining back out. The roots need to be able to breathe while they are flooded, so they can absorb the nutrients.
Hydroponic drip and aeroponic systems tend to have decent oxygenation, but using an air pump and air stone will only further increase the strength and yield of your plants. For the price of these components, it doesn't make sense to skimp on aeration!
What size air pump do I need?
Air pumps are rated in liters per minute (LPM), and this measures the volume of air these pumps can move per minute. For hobby growers with small indoor hydroponic gardens, 1-40 LPM is probably plenty. Growers operating commercial hydroponic systems may need a pump that can move 200+ LPM into the reservoir.
If you want help sizing your air pump, give our expert growing staff a call at 888-815-9763 and let us help you!
Want to learn more about hydro systems? Stop by the hydroponics section of our learning center and check out some of our articles on the subject!