Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) Hydroponic Setup


Despite being able to get excellent results in soil, pots can take quite a lot of space and need individual watering. Growers will naturally grow more cannabis plants after each cycle but space and time may become an issue, so once growers reach the maximum number of cannabis plants, it may be time to look for alternatives. This is why hydroponic setups are becoming more and more popular among home growers. The Nutrient Film Technique makes it possible to grow more cannabis plants in the same space while allowing you to feed all of the cannabis plants the same nutrient solution and at the same time, saving you space and time.

1. What is the Nutrient Film Technique?

There are several different ways to make Nutrient Film Technique systems but all of them consist of a nutrient solution pouring down through a PVC tube where the cannabis plant’s roots grow and will absorb the nutrients.

The basics of an NFT hydroponic system.

Just line an ebb and flow system, NFT hydroponics for cannabis use water pumps to deliver the nutrient solution from the reservoir to the roots but unlike ebb and flow, an NFT hydroponic system for cannabis consist of providing a constant flow of solution instead of flooding and then draining.

While other NFT hydroponic systems for marijuana may be much simpler to make, NFT hydroponics for weed are much simpler to maintain because the system is constantly running and there’s no need to program a timer or anything extra.

1.1 Pros and Cons of Nutrient Film Hydroponics

Due to being constantly running, NFT hydroponics for cannabis has several advantages over other growing methods.

Pros of NFT

Just like any other hydro system, NFT hydroponics for marijuana offers:

  • Faster growth, bigger cannabis plants, and better yields;
  • Fully automated irrigation;
  • Reduced pest issues and;
  • No need for any substrate.

Apart from the pros mentioned above, NFT hydroponic systems for weed also allow you to save on water due to not being a drain-to-waste system. On top of that, another big advantage is that the cannabis plants can absorb what they want when they want (as long as the nutrient solution is correct) while minimizing nutrient lock and build-up due to not needing a medium for the cannabis plants to grow in. This also makes it possible to fix nutrient deficiencies almost immediately.

Cons of NFT

As for the disadvantages…there are certainly some. The main one is that you’re the one responsible for mixing the correct solution and it’s a bit harder than mixing a solution for soil because there’s the need to check the EC and pH, just like all other hydro systems. So it’s recommended to have grown cannabis at least a couple of times to successfully harvest in hydro.

Also, an NFT hydroponic system needs to be being constantly running because the roots need a constant supply of freshwater, this means that a power outage can end up killing your cannabis plants in just a couple of hours

2. How Do NFT Cannabis Setups Work?

The main elements in an NFT hydroponic setup are a tank, tray, and pump although the details can (and will) vary depending on how you want to make it and the specific needs for your grow space, anyways, let’s learn a bit more about the main parts.

Water Reservoir

The water reservoir sits below the tray and holds the nutrient solution. The water reservoir should be inside your grow tent and provide easy access in order for you to change the solution when needed. If you’re growing 4 – 6 cannabis plants then the reservoir should hold at least 20 liters. Don’t forget that the reservoir should be completely lightproof to prevent algae from growing inside.


The size of the tray depends on the number of cannabis plants. The tray should be fairly similar to the water reservoir in size because it will be placed on top of the reservoir. Remember that you should also choose the tray based on how you’ll be growing your cannabis plants. If you’re growing in rockwool cubes the tray should be more shallow but deeper if you’re growing in net pots.

Nutrient Film Technique hydroponic system running.

Water Pump

The submersible water pump shouldn’t be too powerful but it should be strong enough to take the water from the reservoir to the roots, in most cases, a 1 Liter/minute capacity should be enough. This pump goes into the water reservoir with a piece of tube that delivers the nutrient solution to the cannabis plants. Keep in mind that it’s highly recommended to get a pump with a flow adjuster so that you can adjust how much water your cannabis plants get.

Apart from the main equipment, you may need additional equipment. One of the most important things about growing hydroponically is the nutrient solution so you may want to get a water chiller in order to keep the temperature of the solution between 18-21°C. Below 18°C, the solution may shock your cannabis plant and slow down growth and at higher temperatures, the water won’t be able to retain oxygen.

Although not obligatory in this kind of setup, another good addition is an air stone (connected to an air pump, obviously) in order to oxygenate the solution and avoid any possible issues.

3. NFT System for Weed

As mentioned, there are a lot of different ways you can design and build an NFT hydroponic system. The best NFT hydroponic system for you will depend on the space you have available and the number of cannabis plants you want to grow. But it doesn’t matter how big or small it is, it’s recommended to include:

  • Water reservoir;
  • Air Pump;
  • Air stone;
  • Water Pump and;
  • NFT Channels;

The water reservoir should be of good quality because it’s the base of the nutrient film technique hydroponic system, so when buying the reservoir make sure to go for plastics that are safe for gardening. You can go for big plastic totes if you’re growing a high number of cannabis plants or just a 20-liter bucket if you’re growing 1 or 2 plants.

On top of the reservoir goes the tray or NFT channels. These channels can be PVC pipes which are cheaper and easier to manipulate but you can buy pre-made NFT channels if you don’t want to make them yourself. If using PVC pipes, you’ll need a saw and net pots in order to place the net pots or rockwool. The downside to PVC pipes apart from having to make the holes is that you’re using a round tube so you’ll have to check and adjust the nutrient solution flow rate in order to ensure all the roots get fed.

Another alternative for the nutrient film technique channels is rain gutters but there are a lot of different things that can be customized and used in NFT hydroponic systems. It’s not obligatory but most growers use net pots with a little bit of medium to hold the roots in place, and as they grow, they will naturally grow into the bottom of the channel.

Beginner vs Pro NFT side-by-side comparison.

Keep in mind that the length of the channels should be taken into consideration because the cannabis plants closest to the feeding tube will get more oxygen and nutrients while the other ones will get less so it’s recommended to keep the channels relatively short and compare plant growth. If some plants grow bigger than the others, it’s probably a good idea to shorten the length of the channels.

You may also need an air pump and air stone. Although not being as crucial as in DWC setups, for example, it’s recommended to have them in an NFT hydroponic system to avoid any possible problems. As for the tubing, get black tubing because algae need light to grow so black tubing will help you prevent algae which can end up clogging your nutrient film technique system or harming your plants. There’s almost no difference in price between black and clear or white tubing and it will definitely save you from trouble.

For a water pump, you can get basically any water pump that gets the job done. The specific pump depends on the number of plants. In order to know exactly what to buy, make sure to know the size of the water reservoir and go for a pump that can move that same amount (or a bit more) per hour. So if it’s a 100-liter reservoir, get a water pump that can move at least 100-liters per hour.

3.1 Important to Keep In Mind

Store-bought NFT hydroponic kits already come placed at the correct angle so that the nutrient solution can flow correctly but if you build your own nutrient film technique system it’s recommended to test it at different angles until the water flows perfectly and there’s no accumulated water in the channels. Another important thing to keep in mind is that the solution should completely cover the roots. In order to do it effortlessly, you can use an absorbent material such as a spreader mat which will allow all the roots to get fed equally while protecting the roots from the light.

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