How to Use Clay Pebbles in a Hydroponic Garden

How to Use Clay Pebbles in a Hydroponic Garden - Green Garden Tribe

Have you ever imagined that you can grow plants without using soil? The invention of clay pebbles has made it possible to grow plants without using soil.

But, how to use clay pebbles when you have a hydroponic garden?

Growing plants without soil is a popular and practical concept. More and more people are enjoying their harvest using clay pebble and hydroponic garden techniques. Clay pebbles are an excellent growing medium typically used in hydroponic gardens.

What is a Hydroponic Garden?

Hydroponics is a system of gardening where you grow plants using water instead of soil.

A typical hydroponic garden consists of a container and a reservoir. The system is as simple as pumping water into the container from the reservoir. Water in the container is drained back to the reservoir to recirculate and pumped back to the container. Water is pumped at set intervals.

Plants grow faster in a hydroponic garden (30% to 50% faster) and with a larger yield than in a garden with soil. Pests, bugs, and diseases are most likely not to infiltrate a hydroponic garden.

Without maintaining your garden to prevent weeds and pests, having a hydroponic garden can make you concentrate on growing your plants.

You can grow vegetables and herbs in your hydroponic garden. Hydroponic gardens are often placed indoors.

It is easy to build a hydroponic garden. It can be done as a do-it-yourself project. It is easier to maintain, too.

To build a hydroponic garden:

 Start by building the hydroponic system.
 You can use a tote bin for the base and a PVC pipe to form a spray manifold.
 Add a fountain at the bottom of the tote bin to allow water to flow upward, passing through the manifold.
Add your crops to the net cups. The water will then spray the mesh net cups, and the cycle continues.

What plants can you grow in a hydroponic garden?

 Herbs are small plants, and many homeowners love the idea of harvesting fresh herbs nearby.
•  Small and lightweight root plants. Kale, spinach, and loose-leaf lettuce are ideal for growing in a hydroponic garden.
• You can also grow bigger plants such as strawberries, celery, and tomatoes if you have a sturdy hydroponic garden bin.

Advantages of Hydroponic Gardens

Many newbie gardeners, especially those living in small homes, have taken to hydroponic gardening because of its many benefits.

Faster Plant Growth.

Plants in hydroponic gardens need less energy to develop roots; thus, more energy is diverted for plant growth. This results in not only faster growth but a greater yield, too.

Roots in hydroponics also aerate better than when in soil. Plants also grow individually because they are placed in separate cups.

Hydroponics is Cleaner

Since there is no soil to contend with, hydroponic gardens are not as messy as soil-based gardens.

More Efficient

Little labor is needed to maintain a hydroponic garden. You do not need to work the soil or apply pesticides or do weed management.

Fewer Weeds and Pests

A hydroponic garden is a controlled environment making it difficult for weeds and pests to infiltrate. All types of weeds and pests that thrive on soil are eliminated in a hydroponic garden.

Growing Mediums for Hydroponic Gardens

The elimination of soil in the growing system is one of the best advantages of a hydroponic garden. Without contending with the many issues that come with soil gardening, you can concentrate on growing your plants. The same holds true with your plants; without having to develop roots in soil-based gardens, they can divert all their energy to growing.

Plants in hydroponic gardens, though, still need to have a growth medium to replace soil. Plants still need a medium where they can embed their roots and support the plants to grow.

The growth medium you choose for your hydroponic garden needs to have good drainage and absorption capabilities.  Your growth medium should also match your needs so you can be assured of bigger yields and easy maintenance.

Here are some of the most commonly used growth mediums in hydroponic gardens.


Heating flakes make perlite of glass (silica) until it expands in size, similar to popcorn. It is lightweight and porous. It allows plants to be more open to the air while still maintaining their water-retention qualities. Perlite is typically mixed with heavier media for drainage improvement.


Cocopeat, sometimes called coconut fiber, is powdered husks from coconuts. It is a suitable medium for growth in hydroponic gardens because it is entirely organic.

The probability of your plants surviving in a cocopeat growth medium is greater (should something untoward happens) because of its large water and oxygen capacities.

Floral Foam

Floral foams are green and rigid. They are what florists use for their flower displays and bouquets. They have large and open cells that distribute moisture in the material so the roots can quickly expand and grow. The flat foam should not be allowed to continually be exposed to water because it will have logging issues.


Modern hydroponic gardens use Rockwool as their growing medium. It is made from heated and “spun” basalt rock turning the material into interconnected fibers. Rockwool retains water well so your plants will not get dehydrated should your pumps give way.

The dust and fibers and from Rockwool can harm your plants. This growing medium also has a high-level pH, so you need to be conscious of the nutrient solution’s pH level added to your plants, so they remain healthy.

Clay Pebbles

Clay pebbles are probably the most popular growth media used in hydroponic gardens.

What are Clay Pebbles?

Clay pebbles or hydroton or light expanded clay aggregate (LECA), or hydroponic clay balls are hydroponic substrates that are about the size of peanuts or marbles. They are round balls made from expanding clay.

Clay pebbles are small clay balls that undergo high-temperature heat (11000F to over 2000°F). When fired in a rotary kiln, they will pop and create the pores of the pebbles.

The pores and the spaces between them make clay pebbles an airy and light growing medium that supplies air, water, and drainage.

Clay pebbles are porous, pH neutral, and do not release nutrients into the water. The spherical shape of clay pebbles ensures a good balance of water and oxygen.

Pebble clays are lightweight; thus, they are easy to harvest and transplant. They are easy to handle, too. Pebble clays are often used with Dutch bucket or media bed techniques. They are also commonly used in aquaponics and hydroponic gardens.

Benefits of Clay Pebbles in Hydroponic Gardening

Clay pebbles are often used in hydroponic gardens.

Offers Stability

Clay pebbles are a growth medium that makes the plant and its roots stable, while the nutrient solution you add embraces the plants’ roots.

Reliable Drainage

Clay pebbles are ideal for the healthy growth of plants in hydroponic gardens because they are suitable for water drainage. Clay pebbles absorb and store excess water for future use.

Clay pebbles also protect plants from damage because of excess water. Clay pebbles are placed alongside your plants or as a base layer to allow plants to get the right amount of air and water through them.

Aids Aeration

Plants in soil sometimes tend to suffocate and thus do not grow well. Clay pebbles are porous and lightweight, allowing them to hold air in them. This nature of clay pebbles allows the plants’ root system aeration to increase.

Clay pebbles are lightweight and have the needed space inside to catch air and release it when needed by plants. Your plants will grow better when they get enough water, air, and sunlight.

High Moisture Retention

Clay pebbles retain moisture very well. When you are in an area where water is scarce, clay pebbles can make the most of the water you add to them. This allows your plants to be hydrated at all times. It also keeps the nutrients poured in within the garden for the plants to absorb.

The high moisture retention of clay pebbles also allows the plants to take in as much water as they need and whenever they need water. This is so because clay pebbles store water within them. These reasons make clay pebbles extremely popular with hydroponic gardens.


Clay pebbles last longer than other growth media. They are perfect for soilless growing.

They can be used and reused multiple times to plant your vegetables, herbs, or anything you wish to plant in your hydroponic garden.  If there are organic substances in its surface or salt deposition, these can easily be washed away and reused. Clay pebbles do not come with an expiry date. Their lifespan depends on the number of times you use and reuse them.


Clay is the main ingredient in producing clay pebbles. Clay is 100% natural and eco-friendly. Water and soil are mixed with clay, and they are heated in a high-temperature kiln. They then become lightweight porous balls.

No harmful gas or any chemical component is involved in making clay pebbles make them naturally environment-friendly. Clay pebbles are made up of natural components and minerals that help plants grow faster and healthier.

Other Benefits

Some other benefits of using clay pebbles in your hydroponic garden include:

 pH neutral
 Do not add any more nutrients into the nutrient solution you added to your hydroponic garden’s reservoir.

More importantly, clay pebbles are cheaper than most growth media, and as mentioned above, they can be used and reused, making them cost-efficient.

How to use Clay Pebbles in a Hydroponic Garden?

Now that you know how clay pebbles are made and how they can benefit your hydroponic garden, you should learn here.

Once you are done setting up your hydroponic system, you now have to incorporate the clay pebbles to create your hydroponic garden that is ready for planting finally.

1. Wash the clay pebbles to get rid of excess debris and dirt. Rinse thoroughly.

2. Fill up your plant container with enough clay pebbles.

3. Sprinkle the seeds evenly and directly over the clay pebbles. You can also opt to transplant seedlings in your hydroponic garden. Transplants, when initially planted also in a hydroponic system, uses Rockwool.

4. Add a nutrient-enriched solution to the reservoir of your hydroponic system. Follows the package directions.

5. Empty the reservoir and add in a new batch of nutrient solution. You should be doing this at least every two weeks. If your plant has a high nutrient consumption, you may have to do this more frequently.

6 Fill (flood) your plant container with water about three to four times a day. You can set a timer to remind you to do so.

7.If you are using a combination of clay pebbles and another growing medium, adjust your flooding frequency. Some growing media and clay pebbles do not hold water in the same manner or length of time.

To ensure you have properly set up your hydroponic garden using clay pebbles, water should drain before it reaches the clay pebbles’ upper surface. If water reaches the upper surface of the clay pebbles, algae may grow and interfere with the growth of your plants.

Final Thoughts

Clay pebbles are an ideal growing medium for your hydroponic garden. They are lightweight and easy to use. They absorb water well to ensure they are always hydrated. Clay pebbles are an excellent alternative to soil.

You must know how to use clay pebbles in your hydroponic garden to ensure your plants grow faster and healthier.

Jenni M
Tribal Writer

Edited by
Patricia Godwin

Patricia Godwin

Patricia has many years of experience as a content writer on various subjects, but her first love is gardening. She’s never met a plant she didn’t like and, consequently, she writes about every type of plant you can think of. Once an avid gardener with a herb garden, a succulent rockery, and a rose garden – to mention a few. Nowadays, she’s constantly on the move searching for interesting plants to bring to your attention; and explain to you all the details you need to grow, care and maintain these plants.

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