Can hydroponic air stones stop plants from drowning, help crops grow, and prevent algae from growing in your reservoir? You might be surprised at just how valuable they are.
Most people know that plants need CO2 and sunlight to grow. But just like many other organisms, plants rely on oxygen, absorbing it through the stomata and roots for aerobic respiration. While plants can still process energy without oxygen, they’re forced to use anaerobic respiration — a far less efficient process.
If you want to have an efficient hydroponic production, you’ll need to understand how air stones work, why they’re important, and how you can maintain them. In this blog, we’ll cover all those topics and more, providing you with a succinct overview of these essential hydroponic components.
What Is an Air Stone?
An air stone creates small oxygen bubbles by forcing oxygen out of the stone with a pressurized air pump.
It’s a necessary component that provides plants with oxygen, helping turn fats and sugars into chemical energy in a process known as aerobic respiration. Air stones are typically made of limestone or other porous rocks.
In addition to providing aeration benefits, the bubbles produced by the air stone also disrupt the surface of the water, adding turbulence that turns over the nutrient solution, so that the nutrient solution doesn’t stagnate.
This keeps nutrients evenly distributed throughout the solution, as bubbles disturb the solution, effectively mixing it. Additionally, because the solution stays in constant motion, aeration can also prevent scum or algae buildup from developing in your reservoir or hydroponic channels.
How Do Air Stones Work in Combination with an Air Pump?
Air stones don’t work by themselves. They need to be paired with an air pump that forces compressed air through the stone.
Typically made from aluminum, these pumps are powered by an electromagnetic motor that intakes, compresses and discharges air to the air stone. Because these systems are heat-intensive, they also typically feature radiation fins that dissipate heat.
Always position your air pump above your reservoir, as this prevents water from back flowing. Never place or operate your air pump in water to avoid electrocution. In the case of accidental submersion, disconnect the air pump from power before removing.
Why Are Air Stones So Essential?
Without an air stone, your crops will slowly start to die. This is because plants require oxygen to grow healthy crops. Without oxygenation, crops struggle to produce fruit because they lack the chemical energy to develop them fully. When plants are forced to use anaerobic respiration, they will develop slowly and ineffectively.
In certain hydroponic systems that submerge plant’s roots, air stones become even more imperative. If aeration is not provided, plants can develop harmful conditions like root rot, where the roots begin to drown and decay.
This can cause foul smells and can result in the death of your plants. Rot can also spread to other roots, even after oxygenation has been returned to the nutrient solution, which means that addressing oxygen deficiency is one of the most pressing issues for hydroponic growers.
How Many Air Stones Do I Need in My Container Farm?
In our container farms, we typically utilize two small air stones in our rectangular 35-gallon reservoir (132 Liters). We have used larger air stones in the past, but these are typically used in larger, more cylindrical nutrient solution reservoirs.
Placement of air stones can sometimes matter more than the amount of air stones. Because aeration disturbs the water, you should spread out the air stones to ensure that there aren’t any areas with still water.
Picking the Right Air Stone for Your Hydroponic Farm
When you’re buying an air stone, you want to make sure you’re buying the right one for your container farm or hydroponic project. There are a few things to consider before making an air stone purchasing decision.
The ideal size of your air stone depends on the size and form factor of your nutrient solution reservoir. For instance, in a large cylindrical 100-gallon reservoir, you may only need one larger air stone positioned near the bottom of the reservoir. This should be enough, as the aerated bubbles will rise, providing movement for the contents of the entire reservoir.
In rectangular reservoirs, we typically recommend at least two air stones, positioned on either side of the container. Smaller air stones should work in these systems, but if you notice areas of still water, you may want to reposition or increase the size of your air stones.
Air Stone Maintenance
Inspect your air stones at least every two months to ensure they’re in good working condition. Over time, bacteria, debris and calcium can accumulate on the air stone, and can sometimes cover pores, reducing the unit’s effectiveness.
If this occurs with your air stone, disconnect the air stone from the pump. We recommend scrubbing the air stone with a clean dish sponge or firm bristle brush. If debris is difficult to remove this way, place the air stone in boiling water for at least 15 minutes. Next, immerse the air stone in a solution of one part bleach, three parts waters. Soak for 12 hours, then remove, connect to an air pump and run it in clean water for at least 10 minutes. Let dry, and youcan reposition your air stone inside your reservoir.
In conclusion, hydroponic air stones play a crucial role in ensuring the health and development of your plants in a hydroponic system. They provide essential oxygen for aerobic respiration, which is vital for efficient plant growth and energy production.
These porous stones not only aerate the nutrient solution but also prevent stagnation and the growth of algae in the reservoir, contributing to the overall success of your hydroponic setup.
Curious about how you can optimize your hydroponic growing option with a climate-controlled container farm? Contact us to discuss how a Pure Greens Container Farm can help you establish a secure, water-saving hydroponic system today.