The importance of Dissolved Oxygen in hydroponics

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December 11, 2023
min read
Hydroponics involves growing plants in nutrient solutions, either with or without an inert medium for mechanical support. It is a soil-less technique where plant roots are submerged in nutrient solutions. Dissolved oxygen (DO) in water indicates its quality and ability to sustain life. High levels of DO are crucial for promoting healthy root growth, facilitating aerobic respiration necessary for plant vitality.

Factors Affecting Dissolved Oxygen in Hydroponics

  • Temperature: The relationship between oxygen and water temperature is inverse and non-linear. Cold water typically holds more DO compared to warm water. Notably, differences in DO levels can occur between the surface and interior of water, especially in containers placed outdoors. Sunlight exposure heats the water surface more quickly than the bottom, affecting oxygen solubility differently at various depths. Effective water temperature control, ideally within 18-24°C, is crucial for maintaining consistent DO levels and supporting optimal root respiration3,4.
  • Water Movement: Water circulation and aeration play a crucial role in affecting DO levels. In flowing water, such as in streams, the movement helps distribute oxygen along with the current. For instance, when river water flows into a reservoir, its oxygen content spreads according to the mass of water in motion. However, oxygen concentration might decrease in the flow due to its movement. This differs from stagnant water in a container, where oxygen remains stationary and accumulates in one area. Consequently, water in a container typically has higher DO levels compared to flowing water4.
  • Nutrient Solution: nutrient concentration influences oxygen availability in hydroponic systems by affecting water's capacity to hold DO, increasing oxygen demand by plants and microorganisms, and potentially reducing oxygen availability in the root zone. Proper management of nutrient concentrations, coupled with effective aeration and oxygenation strategies, is essential for maintaining optimal oxygen levels and promoting healthy plant growth in hydroponic systems5.
  • Managing pH Levels: Maintaining pH balance is essential for nutrient uptake and root growth. Incorrect pH levels can lead to suffocation and nutrient deficiencies in plants. There's a correlation between dissolved oxygen and pH levels. Lower pH levels result in higher oxygen concentrations in water. Maintaining the recommended pH range will promote plant health and optimise nutrient solutions in your system6.

Measurement and Monitoring of Dissolved Oxygen

Recommended DO Levels: 5 mg/L and above are ideal for plant health. Levels below 5 mg/L can be detrimental and even fatal to plants. However, maintaining 5 mg/L in greenhouses can be challenging due to temperature effects on oxygen solubility.  

Measurement and monitoring of DO in hydroponic systems are crucial for maintaining optimal conditions for plant growth. Various methods are available for measuring DO levels, including dissolved oxygen sensors, meters, chemical titration kits, and visual inspection. Dissolved oxygen sensors offer real-time, continuous monitoring with high accuracy but require calibration and maintenance. Dissolved oxygen meters provide portable, on-site measurements, while chemical titration kits offer a cost-effective option for occasional testing but require careful technique. Regardless of the method chosen, regular monitoring of DO levels is essential for identifying potential issues and ensuring adequate oxygenation of the nutrient solution for healthy plant growth in hydroponic systems.

Optimising Dissolved Oxygen Levels

Employing effective aeration methods, such as air stones, air pumps, nano bubble machines, or venturi systems, introduces oxygen into the nutrient solution, promoting oxygen exchange and increasing DO levels. Controlling water temperature within optimal ranges and managing nutrient solution concentrations help maintain favourable conditions for maximum DO solubility, the optimal tempeature, of course, differs per cultivar. Ensuring proper oxygenation in the root zone, monitoring DO levels regularly, and implementing routine maintenance procedures further help maintain a healthy hydroponic environment.


Dissolved oxygen (DO) plays a critical role in hydroponic systems ensuring robust and significant root growth and allows for vital aerobic respiration. Temperature, water movement, nutrient concentration, and pH levels significantly influence DO availability. Controlling water temperature, employing aeration methods, and maintaining optimal pH levels, are essential for ensuring adequate oxygenation.

Written by:
Dr. Mohanna Mollavali

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