A Beginners Guide: Hydroponic Nutrients

A Beginners Guide: Hydroponic Nutrients

Nutrient management is the crux of a healthy hydroponic system. (Read the article: )

For even more information about Hydroponic Nutrients, enroll in our Upstart University program and check out our Hydroponics Nutrients & Fertilizers course at

Great nutrient management occurs when growers are:

1) Aware of all necessary plant nutrients and where they come from
2) Supplying adequate nutrients in correct ratios to plants
3) Monitoring and measuring how much of each plant nutrient is available in their system at any given time
4) Making economic and work-flow conscious decisions about how to source and supply nutrients.

Most plants (and all of the crop plants that you’re likely to grow) rely on 16 nutrients to grow and reproduce. Of these, three are available through water uptake and gas exchange (the air): Carbon through CO2, hydrogen, and oxygen.

The remaining thirteen nutrients are the mineral nutrients delivered to plants through nutrient solutions (dissolved fertilizer).

The overall nutrient level in a solution is measured in EC, or electrical conductivity.The units used to measure EC are ppm or mS/cm, although ppm is used more commonly for measuring total dissolved solids. That’s a different measurement for a different blog post. Hydroponics really need to understand the second unit, mS/cm. This is often just expressed as the “EC level”. (For example, “The EC of the solution is 1.8,” with no unit.)

Ideal mS/cm is typically between 1.2 and 3.3. There’s a broad range of acceptable EC levels, and each crop has an ideal range.

Supplying the correct ratio of nutrients in adequate levels is only half of the nutrient management picture; the other task for farm managers is to keep those nutrients available to plants, and the main factor influencing that availability is pH.

Nutrients are soluble at different pH values. Check out an absorption chart (there’s one in the article version of this video) to learn more.

Adjusting pH to your ideal range can be done with pH Down or pH Up, which are acids or bases (respectively). Never add both at once!

There are two main forms of fertilizer: dry and liquid.

Dry fertilizer is mostly used in commercial settings because there’s a lot less to ship (you’re not shipping water), making it more cost effective. You can also tailor dry fertilizer better to your needs, because it comes in separate parts.

Liquid fertilizer is simple to use and great for home and hobby systems. It’s easier to manage since you can just add a certain amount of one liquid to your system water, but it’s more expensive to ship. (Most people on a small scale only buy a little at a time though, so shipping is less important.)

The best way to mix a solution is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you’re not using an auto-doser, you’ll still mix it the same way, but you’ll add it to your system bit by bit in equal ratios and test it until it’s at the right level. You’ll get better and better at this over time.

There are a multitude of handheld measuring devices and testers. Our favorite suppliers are Blue Lab, Hanna Instruments, and AutoGrow. We’ve used each of these and are currently using AutoGrow’s NutriTest, a handheld meter which measures both EC and pH with the same device. There are a variety of options out there.

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Timestamps/What’s Covered:

00:24 The 16 Plant Nutrients
04:27 Electrical Conductivity
06:39 pH
09:22 Fertilizer
12:00 Nutrient Solubility
14:00 Mixing Solutions
17:13 Measurement Devices
18:10 Review
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Music by: Scott Gratton




What do you think?


Written by Aleksandar

Video MakerContent AuthorYears Of Membership


  1. If only all YouTube videos were like this. No fluff, no flair, organized presentation, appropriately touched on every relevant topic, and provided additional resources and references.

  2. When you use tap water, there are already chlorine and other minerals in them. How does electrical conductivity work in measuring fertiliser concentration vs chlorine or other mineral concentration

  3. Hi ZipGrow. I'm really surprised to see you still at it. Had heard you sold up and moved on for big bucks. You earned the right to big bucks but glad to see you're still putting out content since you're perhaps the biggest contributor to this kind of hydroponic information necessary to successfully make it work. So nice one brother. Hope the lockdown hasn't adversely effected you all. Hope to see more of your videos sir. Kind regards from Ireland.

  4. Absolutely excellent video. Really informative. I live in Thailand where instructions on fertilezers etc are in Thai. We can however buy A and B dry mixes etc. Many thanks for this!

  5. Magnesium is needed by the body to control and prevent a antibody overreaction ( your lungs fill up with puss trying to kill the virus , great , but you can't breath and die) a very important nutrient , especially today.

  6. I purchased a A & B nutrient solution. The company suggests after mixing part A to water is to leave it sit from 4-5 hours before adding part B. No reason given. Is this necessary?

  7. As I start my journey into hydroponics I am cursing my high school guidance counselor for discouraging me to register for chemistry & physics. Fortunately I stumbled into a career that has been fruitful but I felt that I was missing something my whole life because I did not have the proper education in these areas. I couldn't tell you the purpose of nitrogen, phosphorous or potassium until I watched your video…. thank you for the education!!

  8. This is the bollocks

    No serious this is class, good info man. I always appreciate the underlying knowledge that let's you problem solve and work out how to get what you specifcally want out of something

    Your the guy!!!

  9. Fantastic video! Thank you. Just getting into hydroponics and found this really informative. Can I get your thoughts on mixing the nutrients … would it work if I mix the calcium nitrate in warm water first, let it cool down, then add the NPK + magnesium sulphate directly to the same bucket?

  10. I want to grow lettuce in my hydroponic,can I use common fertilizer for it?,if yes how can I mix it in to right ratios and do you think the crop will grow well using the common fertilizer?and What crop can you advice for this?

  11. I was not so clear on the kind of nutrients used in the hydroponics,right now I have a clear understanding on it,just unfortunately they don't get to sale this kind of agro things around my country so much,so I will have to just use the common fertilizer in my hyroponic project.

  12. If I mix my three food solutions following the label dosing level on a new tank of hydro water – then do I still need to check ec -or the hydro water should be put me at least initially within the correct pH range?

  13. This is a very useful video indeed! I made a video on my channel about what Hydroponics is and it quickly became the most popular video this year. Just shows how important Hydroponics has become! Definitely gonna share this video with my friends who are interested in the topic.


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