Written by D. Peters 3.30.2021
After a few days/weeks of growing, you might notice a buildup of scum on the surface of your nutrient solution. This is because roots continuously shed their skin, which decays and builds up in the system, leading this nasty protein film. This may also be accompanied by browned or dying roots, known as root rot. Root rot can be caused by a wide variety of bacteria and fungi in the environment that find their way into your hydroponics system. Ideally, we want to keep these pathogens out of our systems and promote strong, healthy, white roots.
If root rot has already set in, remove the plant from the nutrient solution and rinse it in clean water, removing as much slime and dead root matter as possible. Next, rinse the roots in 3% hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for about 30 seconds before rinsing again with fresh water. Some growers regularly add diluted peroxide or bleach to their systems to maintain a sterile environment. While this works for some, this sterile environment is just a clean slate for those bad bacteria and fungi to make their way back into your system. What we really want to do is promote a thriving mini-ecosystem full of good guys that will fight off these rot-causing pathogens. This is where mycorrhizal fungi come in!
Mycorrhizal fungi play an important role in any healthy environment. They bind themselves to the roots of plants and feed off sugars produced by the plant. In turn, they break down organic matter in the soil or nutrient solution and allow it to be absorbed by the plant at a quicker pace, essentially acting like an extension to the root system! Furthermore, they provide various antimicrobial properties and fight off the pathogens that are trying to harm your plants. Adding these good bacteria and fungi to your system will improve the rate and health of your grows and prevent lots of headaches in the future.
You can buy these products in various forms from powders to liquid concentrates. You can’t really overdose them, but a little goes a long way, so no need to go too crazy! Just a few dashes of powder or a few mLs of concentrate and you’ll be good to go! One product made specifically for hydroponics is Great White Mycorrhizae
It can be found at local hydro shops, amazon, or various other websites. I’ve personally tested this product with great success. It can also be used for soil growing. Just add a bit of powder to the pot when transplanting and you’re set! If this product is unavailable to you, there are also various pond sludge removers that can help such as API Pond-zyme. Lastly, you can use various beneficial bacteria products made for the aquarium hobby. I have personally tested Dr. Tim’s Eco-Balance (Freshwater) with equally good results compared to the Great White.
Whatever product you decide to go with, you’re sure to see improved root growth and a lack of sludge from the get-go. Happy growing!