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Growing a hydroponic garden is a lot like keeping your body healthy. It needs water and nutrients. And there are both good bacteria (that you want to get in) and bad bacteria (that you want to keep out).

Some indoor gardeners, unfortunately, focus more on adding the things their plants need than on keeping out potential dangers. You’ve got to have a balance of both for your garden to flourish. It’s not hard.

All you have to do is remember that, like your body, your hydroponic system needs regularly cleaning and maintenance. It’s like showering and brushing your teeth. In other words, you need to establish a routine to clean your reservoir. Here’s what to do.

Why should I clean my hydroponics reservoir?

Let’s stick with that brushing your teeth analogy. What happens when you don’t brush your teeth regularly or let sugar and plaque build up in your mouth? Bad bacteria colonize your mouth and create cavities.

Digital bacteria

These aren't real bacteria, but you get the idea.

A similar phenomenon happens in a hydroponics reservoir.

When you don’t clean the reservoir, bacteria take over your system. And when too much bacteria builds up, it makes your plants sick.

Setting a reservoir cleaning routine

I get it. Having an indoor garden is rewarding. Cleaning a hydroponics reservoir is a chore.

But making an established schedule for reservoir cleaning is going to make the whole process easier. If you only do it when you think about it, chances are sludge is going to build up in the reservoir, and you’re going to have to put more effort into cleaning it.

Instead, make it easy on yourself and just give it a routine cleaning once a week. This way, the reservoir doesn’t have time to build up a bunch of gross bacterial cultures, and you can get the chore of cleaning it over with quickly. All you need to do is drain and replace the water in the reservoir. Then wipe down the inside to remove any bacterial film that has grown over the week. There shouldn’t be much.

You can also clean out pump filters and the outsides of air stones at this time.

Tips to keep it simple

The best way to keep up a routine is to make it as easy as possible. Here are suggestions.

If you can afford it, add a filtration system to your hydroponic setup. Clean, filtered water is the easiest way to prevent reservoir buildup. If you can’t add a filter system right now, no worries. Your plants don’t need a completely sterile environment.

Another optional way to keep your system clean is to add either hydrogen peroxide or enzymes to the water. Do not add both together. Hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria in the system. Enzymes, on the other hand, break down decaying plant matter (like dead pieces of leaves or roots, or algae) that would otherwise be food for bacteria.

As with people, sometimes plants get sick regardless of a gardener’s care, but good system maintenance can prevent many plant diseases. Check the Indoor Cultivator blog regularly for more hydroponic growing tips.