Best Growing Medium For Hydroponics Complete Guide

Best Growing Medium For Hydroponics Complete Guide

Best Growing Medium For Hydroponics, Plants grow in materials referred to as growing media. In traditional farming, you mostly use soil as the growing medium. However, in hydroponics, soil is not your only option.

Because of this, don’t forget to focus your attention on finding the best hydroponics systems as well as appropriate materials for plant growth. Your hydroponics’ growing medium selection is just as crucial as your system selection.

Best Growing Medium For Hydroponics

Best Growing Medium For Hydroponics

Why Medium For Hydroponics is essential?

The purpose of the growing medium is to aid in giving plant roots the moisture and oxygen they require. It also holds the plant upright and supports the plant’s weight.

The media’s ability to maximize the amount of nutrient exposure to plant roots is another function. People will use the nutrient solutions to moisten the growing medium. And the nutrient will be delivered to the root system through the wet media.

Gardeners who use these other than soil have less to fear from pests and diseases that are carried by the soil. They are able to grow stronger, better plants as a result.

Some growing media, such as sand, gravel, peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite, may be familiar to you. The reality is that there are countless, expanding media all around us. Even the air can be utilized by the roots as a productive growing medium. However, each has advantages and disadvantages. Selecting the right growing medium is a really important task. A perfect one will have a significant impact on plant growth and yield quality. And now for the query

Why is a good growing medium so special?

An ideal medium is one that, when all objective factors are taken into account,

  1. is environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and produced organically.
  2. maintains a constant air to water ratio.
  3. holds nutrients with a medium cation-exchange capacity.
  4. aids in shielding plants from pH alterations over time.
  5. Is affordable and simple to locate
  6. is manageable and lightweight enough to transport.

Of course, it’s challenging to meet every criterion you have in mind, but in this post I’ll provide you with the essential information about the most widely used growing media, including their benefits and drawbacks. The most important thing is that I’ll assist you in determining which growing media will work best for your circumstances.

To jump to the medium you want to learn more about, click the button.

Media for Hydroponic Growing


Perlite is a well-known growing medium that has been around for a long time. Traditional gardeners typically use it to aerate soil mixtures.
Perlite is a type of volcanic glass that is mined and is produced under high-intensity heat. Then, like popping popcorn, countless tiny bubbles emerge. As you might expect, it is very porous and light.

Perlite makes an excellent standing wicking action, making it a good material choice for wick-type hydroponic systems. However, I do not advise using this medium for quick and powerful watering systems like the ebb and flow due to its porous and easy-to-flow nature. It is quickly & easily washable away.

Perlite is rarely used alone despite having a neutral pH, excellent air holding capacity, and ease of flow. People frequently combine it with other growing media, such as vermicule, coco coir, or soil. Vermicule and soil are a typical combination in an equal amount (50-50)

Working with perlite has a few drawbacks, including the need to protect your inhalation because perlite is made up of small, porous particles. To prevent the dust from bubbling up, wet it first and then rinse it.


An affordable price
high retention of air.


  • Lightweight, not appropriate for all system types.
  • Effects of the medium’s dust on the environment and human health

Suitable for drip and aeroponic systems.

Conch Coir

Ultrapeat” is essentially a byproduct of the coconut industry. People make it from the brown husks surrounding the coconut shell. Coconut Coir, also known as “Coco-tek,” “Cocopeat,” and “Ultrapeat,” is essentially a byproduct of the coconut industry.

This is one of the most effective hydroponics growing media because it is completely organic, extremely inert, and holds water very well, but it also has a great air to water ratio that prevents plants from drowning.

Coconut coir is environmentally friendly and renewable; unused material can be disposed of or composted.

Due to these, coconut has recently become a material that is used so frequently in hydroponics.

A common formula used by growers is 50% of the coconut fiber & 50% clay pellets. Coconut coir can be used alone or mixed with other growing media like perlite, expanded clay pellets, etc.


Excellent aeration and water retention
organic substance
friendly to the environment


Upon repeated uses, decompressed.
Drains poorly, so it’s frequently combined with other media.

Suitable for use with drip irrigation, aquaponics, and ebb and flow systems.


A type of hydrated laminar mineral that resembles mica is vermiculite.
Similar to perlite, vermiculite is transformed by subjecting it to intense heat in order to expand the substance into tiny, odorless pellets.

Vermiculite is a great soilless planting medium because it is non-toxic, sterile, moisture-resistant, and close to neutral in pH. In addition, it is very light and holds water very well, unlike perlite, but it does not maintain aeration as well as perlite.
The relatively high cation-exchange capacity of this growing medium aids in preserving the nutrients for later use.

Vermiculite comes in a variety of types, so keep that in mind when selecting the right kind for hydroponic use.

Additionally, there is a chance of suffocating your plants due to its capacity to retain a lot of water (roughly 200%–300% of its weight). Therefore, it is frequently combined with other media. The most well-known would be perlite because the two materials work best together because perlite drains quickly and vermiculite retains moisture.
The mixture is frequently combined in a 50/50 ratio to prevent washing away in ebb and flow systems.

Can be used with an aeroponic or drip system.


Retention of nutrients and water


inadequate drainage ability
plants that suffocate people risk


Rockwool is not that strange to hydroponic growers because it has been used extensively recently, mostly on industrial farms. And the effectiveness of this material has been established, contributing to its popularity.

Granite and/or limestone rocks are the main component of this sterile, porous medium. These rocks are heated until they melt, then spun into incredibly thin and long fibers. Then, these fibers are compressed into cubes or bricks in the desired sizes.

Rockwool has many advantages of an ideal growing medium, including immunity to microbes and good water and air retention. This gives plant roots constant access to oxygen and prevents your plants from drying out.

  • One word of warning, though, regarding the pH level when using rockwool. By soaking the media in pH-balanced water prior to use, you can avoid the material’s high natural pH from changing the pH of the nutrient solution.
  • The fact that rockwool is not sustainable and does not degrade is another disadvantage. Rockwool fibers that haven’t been used are practically impossible to get rid of.
  • The medium’s dust emissions can also irritate people. It’s a good idea to wash it into the water once before using because this is bad for the lungs and eyes.

According to recent reports, the main reason why many hydroponic hobbyists stop using it is their sense of environmental responsibility and care. Many farmers don’t want to use materials like rockwool, which cannot be recycled and releases pollutants during production.
However, as a whole, rockwool is a very successful growing medium.


Excellent capacity for absorbing water and aerating


Unfriendly to the environment
The health is negatively impacted by dust.
Change the nutrient solution’s pH.

Can be used in nutrient-film technique, deep water cultures, ebb and flow, drip, and other systems. almost any system—aquaponics excluded.

Leca or Expanded Clay Pellets

Expanded clay pellets, also known as hydroton or LECA (lightweight expanded clay aggregate), are tiny, spherical balls that resemble marbles in size. Thousands of tiny bubble-shaped balls are formed by heating and expanding clay, which is how they are made.
Overall, this is a fantastic and successful hydroponic growing medium.

Clay pellets are light in comparison to rocks because of their porous makeup. However, they are still sufficiently heavy to provide the plants with sturdy support, and they are very good at carrying nutrients to the roots of the plants.

Clay pellets are an incredibly balanced water to oxygen medium due to their rounded and porous form. This reagent-grade medium has a neutral pH. It can be sterilized, cleaned, and reused.

Not to mention the drawbacks.
The spaces between each clay pellet make it a poor material for retaining water. They will quickly drain and dry out. Therefore, make sure the material is sufficiently wet.
The pellets are also more expensive and heavier than other media.


sustainable and reusable
Effective air retention and water drainage.


a poor ability to retain moisture
more costly than alternative growing media

Can be applied to drip, ebb-and-flow, and aquaponic systems.

Cubes Oasis

Floral foam in the shape of a sheet form is used to make Oasis cubes. The individual cells in the medium, which resemble cubes, each contain the ideal quantity of nutrients as well as air and water for plants to grow.

Oasis cubes are primarily used by growers as a starting environment for seedlings or plant cuttings rather than as a complete growing medium.

The medium has a pH of 7. Its cells are reasonably good at absorbing air and water, which is crucial for seeds or cuttings. Furthermore, the medium’s open cell structure allows the roots to grow and spread out without difficulty.


holds both water and air well.


not natural
Not sustainable
Used for germination and seedling growing phases.
starter cables

Another useful product for beginning plant propagation or seed germination is starter plugs.

This product can be a good option for eco-conscious hydroponic growers to think about. They can choose starter plugs that are composted of organic materials.

Starter plugs are frequently made from materials that retain moisture well, are not easily waterlogged, and at the same time permit the roots to expand and drive through the loose bottom, making them useful for the initial phase of planting.


Excellent for propagation and seedlings
Sustainable (depending on the material used) (depending on the material used)


suitable for cloning or seed starting.
comparatively pricey

Hulls of rice

The typical byproduct of rice crops, which is material that is typically thrown away, can be used for soilless growing.

This medium’s pH is not constant. Final composts typically fall between 5.8 and 7.2.
Remember to avoid using fresh rice hulls as they have not been sterilized and may contain weed seeds, decaying insects, and microorganisms. Better to use parboiled rice hulls (PRH), which has been stemmed, rice-free, dried and clean.

Water can easily drain from rice hulls. One disadvantage is that the material is decomposed after some time, so should be replaced very often.


Completely natural


deteriorate over time
Non-neutral pH


Pumice is a mined mineral just like perlite and is formed by a super-heated and highly pressured volcano.

Depending on the minerals in the region, it might be white, pale gray, or pale yellow. Pumice is typically darker than perlite, though.

This stone is relatively light, porous, slow to erode, and holds the air well thanks to the spaces between its particles. Due to this, the medium has a tendency to float on water, though not as much as perlite.
Pumice retains water well, but not as well as the mineral vermiculite, which is also mined.


excellent capacity to hold air


For some hydroponic systems, lightweight

  • Growstones are created from recycled glass that has been recovered from landfills or glass recycling facilities.
  • Some people might be concerned that because they are made of glass, they could get cut. Don’t worry; the recycled glass has barely been crushed, melted, and occasionally combined with calcium carbonates.

This medium has excellent air aeration, high porosity, and above all, it has average moisture retention to the root system.

To start, thoroughly wash and rinse the medium to get rid of any dust and small particles.

The medium is perfect for use either by itself or when combined with other growing media, such as peat or coco coir.


a healthy air to water ratio


cling to some roots, which can harm some plant species’ root systems.
a small amount of dust.
more costly than other forms of media.


Retail hardware stores and sawmills both produce sawdust as a byproduct. It is reasonably priced, and you can even find it or request it for free. Be careful not to water it because despite being lightweight, this material retains water well. Although biodegradable, sawdust takes time to break down. This medium’s pH is not constant. So, you should monitor your system’s pH more carefully.

To be on the safe side, you should be aware of the type of wood your sawdust is made of and whether it has been chemically treated or is tainted. If you are using this medium to grow edible food, this is definitely unhealthy. Therefore, confirm that and, if it has received chemical treatment, ensure that it is sterilized before use.

Sawdust is disliked by many hydroponic growers because it compacts quickly, alters pH, and may be contaminated. However, sawdust has had some modest success in Australia with hydroponic tomato growing and in Africa with soilless planting.




pH unstable
Bacteria can be caused by rot over time.
possibly not sterile

Wood Fibers/Chips

Wood chips or fibers are derived from wood, just like sawdust is. They are completely organic, making them a fantastic choice for growers who value the environment. Make sure once more that the wood chips you use did not come from contaminated wood and that they were sterilized before use.

Water holds well in wood chips. However, it is not as compacted and wet as sawdust.


Completely natural
able to effectively retain water


may include chemicals.
may bring pests and fungi.

Bog Moss

This material would be very familiar to soil gardeners as a great moisture nutrient retaining, organic soil-softening, and durable material. However, whether used alone or in combination with other materials, peat moss is also effective in hydroponics.

Peat moss is a dead fibrous material that develops in a wet, cold, acidic, and lack-of-air environment called peat bogs. In that environment, sphagnum moss and other living things decompose into a dense dark brown compact. Peat moss looks like this. This process goes on for a very long time—possibly even several thousand years. Peat moss is therefore not regarded as a renewable resource and is not environmentally friendly.

Because of its good ability to hold nutrients and retain water, this is a good medium for soil and hydroponic planting. Peat moss can quickly rehydrate after being wet and does not easily compact or degrade. These maintain the product’s lifespan of several years of use.
Additionally, unlike other organic compost, the medium doesn’t contain harmful weed seeds or microorganisms.

To add aeration and change the PH of this medium, people can mix peat moss with perlite, vermiculite, or styrofoam particles.


Water that is good for holding nutrients.
fails to compact
does not contain weeds or harmful bacteria


Not extendable
Acidic and low pH.
comparatively pricey


  • Sand is one of the most common materials on earth and is widely used in the construction, road building, glass industry, among other things, in addition to for growing, so soil and hydroponic growers would not find it surprising.
  • Because of this, sand is either inexpensive or free at locations like the beach.

Super-small, finely divided rocks make up sand. Since they have extremely small particles, water does not dry out quickly.

Sand is a fantastic starting medium, but since it is quite heavy, has poor aeration qualities, and typically needs to be cleaned, people should try other media first.

In order to improve the aeration of the medium, you can combine it with vermiculite, perlite, or coconut.


Cheap (or free) (or free).


Low aeration
The small size that some system types can block.


This growing medium has been in use quite early with great success. The gravel-based ebb and flow system is the most common.

As fragmented media from durable rocks like sandstone, limestone, or basalt, there are considerable gaps between each particle. This aids in supplying the roots with an abundance of air. However, it also means that the medium doesn’t retain water well, which can cause the roots of plants to quickly dry out.

A system based on gravel is difficult to transport because gravel is made up of rocks and is therefore heavy. But that has the advantage of being robust and reusable.
You can start using it for first-time growing or reusing after washing and sterilizing it.

This is a good, inexpensive starter medium for soilless growing, similar to sand, after which people can move on to other growing materials.


Cheap (or free) (or free).


Poor water retention, not suitable for heavy plant roots.


Despite how absurd it may sound, hydroponic plants can survive without any kind of growing medium. Aeroponic hydroponic systems allow plant roots to hang freely in the air while being periodically sprayed with water and nutrients.

So long as you give plants enough air, water, and nutrients, they can grow in the air without any problems.

A major benefit of plants grown in the air is that their roots can access plenty of oxygen (which totally comes at no cost).

On the other hand, this causes plants to completely rely on the system for their survival. In the event of a power outage, pump failure, or timer malfunction, it is reasonable to assume that the roots will quickly dry out and that plants will eventually perish.


enough oxygen.


Plant danger in the event of-of power, pump, timer failure

Can be applied to deep water culture systems and nutrient film technique systems.

FAQ Best Growing Medium For Hydroponics

What is the best medium for hydroponics? The four most popular growing media for hydroponic systems are mineral wool, expanded clay, coir, and perlite.

What is the cheapest growing medium for hydroponics? Sand Sand is the cheapest option on this list and is a great growing medium for plants that don’t require a lot of nutrients. It’s also pH neutral, so it won’t affect the pH of your hydroponic system. Sand can be found at most garden stores and is very easy to work with.

What is the best substrate for hydroponics? Many commercial growers consider mineral wool to be the ideal substrate for hydroponic production. Thanks to its unique structure, mineral wool retains water and maintains sufficient air space (at least 18 percent) to promote optimal root growth.

Do you need a medium for hydroponics? Common growing media include mineral wool, perlite, vermiculite, sponge, oasis cube, rice husk, and coconut coir. While some hydroponic systems do not use growing media, most do. It is important to choose a growing medium that supports plant growth and provides adequate drainage.

What are 4 examples of soilless media? Soilless media can be inorganic (e.g., sand, gravel, gravel, perlite, rock wool, vermiculite), organic (e.g., rice husks, peat, sawdust, straw, coconut husks), or synthetic (e.g., foam boats, sponges, plastic fibers , which absorb moisture ).) .

Can soil be used as a growing medium for hydroponics? Hydroponics does not use soil; and preferably using a completely inert and sterile medium.

What are the 6 requirements for hydroponics? The six essentials are light, air, water, nutrients, warmth and space. Hydroponics can be grown indoors or outdoors. In any setting, the plant needs five to six hours of light a day, access to electricity, and a flat area without excessive wind.

Which grows faster hydroponically or in soil? Hydroponic plants can grow 40 to 50 percent faster and produce 30 percent more than plants grown in soil. The combination of fast growth and a controlled environment results in consistently predictable yields.

What are the easiest plants to grow hydroponically? The easiest fruits and vegetables to grow hydroponically: Leafy greens – lettuce, cabbage, spinach, bok choy, watercress. Spinach. Tomatoes (requires a lot of light) Radishes. Beans – green beans, pinto beans, lima beans. Herbs – green onions, basil, mint, cilantro. Strawberry. blueberries.

How to keep roots healthy in hydroponics? Here’s a checklist you can follow to ensure healthy roots. Cut the roots regularly. A pure hydroponic system. Choose the perfect pump. Maximum use of beneficial bacteria. Use a thicker material for the bed. Avoid high/high temperature. Using the best root booster.

Is vermiculite or perlite better for hydroponics? Perlite is more suitable as a single hydroponic growing medium, although a mixture of the two is ideal. Vermiculite is good as a seed starting mix and is preferred over many other media.

Is coconut coir good for hydroponics? Coconut coir is a popular hydroponic growing medium for both commercial and home growers. Made from coconut husks, it is environmentally friendly and can be used to suppress weeds and maintain soil moisture. Coconut coir can also be used as a mulch to improve plant health.

Does a hydroponic system need to run 24/7? Plants need to absorb these oxygen molecules for plant growth and also not to suffocate. This is especially important in aquaculture systems where the roots are immersed in a nutrient solution around the clock.

What can I use as a nutrient medium? Currently, there are many alternative porous materials used as growing media in hydroponics, including organic media such as coconut coir, peat, pine bark, and inorganic media such as mineral wool, growing stone, perlite, and sand.

Is Epsom salt necessary for hydroponics? Epsom salt is often recommended to overcome magnesium deficiency not only in conventional soil gardening, but also in hydroponics. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, which is composed of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. These three basic elements are essential for healthy plant development.