What Water Should I Use in My Hydroponic Garden?

The AVA Byte uses soilless pods on top of a reservoir or a Deep Water Culture (DWC) hydroponic system. Therefore, the water in your Byte is one of the main sources of nutrients for your plants; the nutrients are transmitted through the water and constantly circulated by the pump in the same water in the reservoir. This means that water choice is very important for your plants to live a happy and healthy life.

Tap water is usually acceptable, but chlorine and other chemicals can cause stunted plant growth, limescale, or other types of unwanted deposits. The main contestants for water in your hydroponic garden (or AVA Byte) are tap, well, filtered, and distilled, and this article will go over each one so you can find the most suitable water type for you and your garden.

Tap Water

Water pouring out of a tap in a kitchen.

Tap water is a common type of water used for home gardeners. It is easily accessible, inexpensive, and if you can drink it, so can your plants, right? Well, yes and no.

What’s in Tap Water?

The top concern for tap water is water chlorination. The purpose of chlorine in tap water is to kill bacteria and other microbes in order for it to be safe to drink, but this is not an ideal environment for good plant bacteria. Normally, tap water is safe for outdoor gardens and potted plants because the water navigates its way through the soil, removing the chlorine in the process. However, as hydroponics do not have the traditional soil , there is no way for the chlorine to be naturally removed from the tap water.

Chloramine (also known as secondary disinfection) is another important chemical in tap water. It is a mixture of chlorine and ammonia, and the combination lasts longer and is harder to break down than chlorine, providing a longer-lasting disinfection as the water moves through pipes to the public.

The third main concern for tap water is dissolved minerals. The amount of dissolved minerals in water (such as calcium, magnesium, and sodium), is commonly known as hard and soft. The quantity of dissolved minerals depends on the rock formations that the water runs through before it reaches the water treatment plant. Water hardness is measured in PPM (parts per million). Soft water will have PPM under 60, causing minimal hydroponic growing problems. 60-80 PPM is moderately hard, and over 180 PPM is very hard water. For higher hydroponic hardness levels, 200-300 PPM is ok, anything higher is concerning for your plants.

What are the Issues with Plant Growth?

A high presence of chlorine and chloramine has the potential to harm your plants, including stunted growth of sensitive crops such as lettuce, salad greens, and strawberries. However, the severity is dependent on the plant species and amount of chemicals. Therefore, it’s best to be able to control the concentration through various water treatments.

In very hard water, plants are at risk of an overabundance of minerals (such as magnesium and calcium), as they only require small amounts. Sodium can also be quite harmful to hydroponics, as plants do not require sodium or sodium chloride. Even in small amounts, sodium can cause problems with your plants, especially in your Byte because of its recirculatory system. Plants differ widely in their sensitivity to sodium, but some of the effects are stunted growth and cell development.

Solutions

Tap water is still usable in your AVA Byte, and when treated properly, it can help your plants thrive. An easy way to get rid of chlorine in tap water is to gather enough water for your Byte into a bowl (the more water, the better to avoid losing too much to evaporation), and place it in the sun for 12-24 hours. This will allow the chlorine gas to evaporate from the water and reduce the chlorine level so it’s safe for your plants.

To get rid of chloramine, a little more effort is needed. If you like, you can still place the water in the sun, although it would take considerably longer for the chloramine to evaporate (1-2.5 weeks). Instead, you can run the water through an activated carbon water filter (such as a Brita filter), or use Campden tablets, which is a sulphur based compound that can be used to break down chloramine.

If you are having problems with high PPM, you can either make or buy distilled water and dilute it with tap water to reduce the level of PPM so that it is more suitable for hydroponics. You can also use a reverse osmosis water filter, or an activated carbon water filter, to dually remove chloramine and lower water hardness at the same time. Another tip is to ensure that the reservoir in your AVA Byte does not reach a low water level of approximately 2L (halfway to the maximum fill line).

Well Water

Metal bucket full of well water

Well water is untreated groundwater that is extracted from an underground aquifer (underground layer of permeable rock containing water) by the use of a pump. If well water is tested and safe to drink, it can have more minerals and a smoother taste to it, in comparison to municipal water.

What’s in Well Water?

Unlike tap water, well water will not have the amounts of chlorine or chloramine in it because it is not treated by the city. However, well water may be harder than tap water because it can absorb more minerals from the ground. Since well water is not normally treated like tap water, it can often contain organisms or pathogens that should be removed before the water is used in your Byte.

What are the Issues with Plant Growth?

Similarly with tap water, plants can be at risk of the overabundance of minerals (such as magnesium and calcium). This can cause problems with your plants, especially in your Byte because water recirculates. Plants differ widely in their sensitivity to sodium, but some of the effects are stunted growth and cell development.

Because of its natural state, well water contains some harmful pathogens. The most common one is Pythium, a type of root rot that can attack plants present in sufficient spore concentration.

Solutions

If you are having problems with high PPM in your water, you can use an activated carbon water filter (such as a Brita) or distilled water to lower water hardness. Pathogens or minerals will be in a more concentrated amount in the reservoir of your AVA Byte, so another tip is to ensure that the reservoir does not reach a low water level of approximately 1-2 inches.

In addition to testing your well water regularly to make sure it is generally safe to use, you can also run the water through a reverse osmosis water filter to stabilize the water. Reverse osmosis also eliminates over 90% of the ions produced by well water and its bacteria, as well as all unnecessary minerals that were present from the groundwater.

Filtered Water

Filtered water being poured out of pitcher into a glass

Filtered water includes using an active carbon filter or a reverse osmosis filtration system to properly treat your water for the best growing experience. You can use either tap or well water in these filtration systems, and can be cost effective, depending on which system you decide on.

What’s in Filtered Water?

An active carbon filter is an effective way to eliminate chloramine and chlorine from water and lower water hardness (PPM) by filtering through large dissolved minerals.

A reverse osmosis filtration system is a very thorough system to filter your water. In addition, it is more effective than an active carbon filter. A reverse osmosis filter removes particles and dissolved minerals (such as sodium, calcium magnesium and fluoride) from water by passing it through a semipermeable membrane. This means that the filter absorbs and blocks out any unwanted particles and dissolved mineral molecules from the water, allowing only certain water molecules through for nutrient preparation. A reverse osmosis system also minimizes the fluctuation of the quality of water to decrease the concentration of several contaminants, including unwanted bacteria and pathogens.

Accessibility to Filtration Systems

To use an active carbon filter, you need to purchase a filtration container system, but it is fairly accessible and inexpensive. A Brita filter system ranging from $20 to $60, and replacement filters starting at $7 and ranging depending on how many are in each package.

A reverse osmosis filtration system can be purchased through a direct supplier, or commonly found at your local home improvement store. Because a reverse osmosis filtration system is more heavy duty, the prices range from $180 to $600, depending on how many features or filtration steps you would prefer.

Distilled Water

Bottled distilled water

Distillation is water that has been vapourized and condensed back into a liquid, removing the dissolved minerals from water, and resulting in a very pure water with a very low PPM level.

What’s in Distilled Water?

The main purpose of distilling water is to remove the dissolved minerals, therefore there is nothing in the water. What are the Issues with Plant Growth?

Distilled water will have no dissolved minerals in it, which can be considered a slight negative, as your plants need some nutrients and minerals to grow successfully, which cannot be provided if distilled water is used exclusively.

Solutions

Since distilled water includes next to no dissolved minerals, it is recommended to dilute distilled water with tap water to provide the needed nutrients and minerals for your Byte garden.

Distilled water can be acquired two ways: purchasing from the store in jugs, and making it at home. To make distilled water at home, you heat tap water until it turns to a vapour, then collect the water after it condenses back into water. You can find a more in-depth tutorial on how to distill water at home here.

Conclusion

So, which water is the best to use for your AVA Byte? Honestly, it is up to you to decide.

Tap water is suitable to use in your hydroponic system, but you should treat it by either letting it sit out in the sun to evaporate the chlorine, diluting with distilled water, or running it through a filtration system to minimize PPM and dissolved minerals.

Well water is also fine to use, although it will need regular attention and testing to make sure the well water is safe, as well as treating it for your indoor garden.

If you have any questions, are unsure of which type of water you should use, or if your water is affecting the plant growth, don’t hesitate to contact our support team: support@avagrows.com

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