Oxygen is essential for several functions in plants. The most important among these is nutrient absorption. Improper nutrient absorption leads to stunting plant growth and stress, which makes plants more vulnerable to pathogens.
Oxygen is as essential to plant life as it is to us. From breathing to absorbing hydroponic nutrients, oxygen is responsible for most major life activities. Plants can get an adequate oxygen supply from soil, and other well-aerated grow media if grown in an indoor setting. Oxygen supply is not become much of an issue in an outdoor garden.
Oxygen supply is limited in hydroponic systems. In some systems, it can even be non-existent. For instance, in a DWC (deep water culture) system, where the roots have to be submerged in water for their entire life, it becomes very difficult for them to access oxygen present in the nutrient solution. Dissolved oxygen plays a vital role in helping plants absorb nutrients, and without it, plants stop eating, resulting in halting their growth. In extreme cases, plants end up drowning and ultimately dying.
Oxygenating nutrient solutions is not the most difficult or expensive task in the world. All you have to do is install a hydroponic air pump and couple it with a diffuser or air stone. Your reservoir system will be supplied with ample oxygen, which will then be transferred to the plant’s root zone.
The air pump is installed outside the hydroponic reservoir and is connected to the diffuser or air stone inside the reservoir tank. The pump takes in oxygen and sends it to the air stone, which then transfers it into the reservoir.
As we have discussed, systems like the DWC require an air pump and stone more than others. On the other hand, Ebb and flow systems especially need extra oxygen to flood the plant’s root zone for a long period before draining it back out. For the roots to be able to absorb nutrients, they should be able to breathe while they are flooded.
Air pump sizes are calculated by liters per minute (LPM), which simply means the amount of air that can pass through the pump in a given minute. The size of the air pump will vary according to the size of your grow area. Generally, small hobby growers will do just fine with a 1-40 LPM air pump; whereas, large commercial growers need a pump with 200+ LPM.