DWC Root Slime Cure aka How to Breed Beneficial Microbes

Discussion in 'DWC/ Bubbleponics' started by Heisenberg, Aug 26, 2010.


    Heisenberg Well-Known Member

    When a clear snot forms on roots in a DWC, and the normal course of treatment for root disease doesn't work, you probably have something called brown slime algae, which actually isn't algae at all, but a cyanobacteria. It loves oxygen and doesn't need light to grow. It doesn't care if your res is chilled or not. Safe levels of H202 slows it a bit but doesn't cure it. It can show up for DWC growers for no apparent reason even after years of successful grows. Once it shows up it's often a nightmare to get rid of. It WILL eventually spread to other DWC tubs, although it almost never gains a foothold on older well developed healthy plants/roots.

    Several root conditions will cause a slimy build up; doesn't mean you have the brown slime. Common root disease is almost always caused by improper res conditions, and they improve greatly when those conditions are corrected. This isn't true of the slime. When to suspect brown slime algae is when you are doing everything right and still can't get rid of it. People who get this try the normal stuff... More bubbles in the water, cool res temps, and h202 treatments. The slime may appear to be gone at first, but comes back strong in as little as 12-36 hours. It starts out subtle like a clear coating of mucus on the roots with no odor. Plants often still appear healthy for a while, but all root production stops. In a very short time it will cover the entire root base and become thicker and sometimes turns yellow. Eventually it strangles the roots which causes pythium to set in, and at that point turns brown and finally has an odor.

    The treatment is to clean up and sterilize the root base, and then populate the water with beneficial microbes. Simply running a continuous sterilizing agent such as SM-90, Zone, ect will almost certainly end with the slime as the winner. Some people have had luck running bleach or physan 20 continuously in the water, but most do not want there plants soaking in these particular chemicals. Making a microbe tea is cheap and easy, and IMO the proper way to fight this slime in a perpetual DWC garden.

    Clean up the root base as well as possible. Best thing to do, if you can, is hold the plant over the sink and use the sprayer to vigorously rinse the roots, trying to get all the dead roots and gunk to slough off. It's also okay to give the dying roots a slight tug to see if they come off. Now let the roots soak in a mixture of whatever sterilizing agent you have. Physan 20 works great. This is a good time to sterilize any equipment and give the res a good scrub. After a few hours, no more than 12, of soaking in the solution rinse the roots really really well again, prepare a fresh res, and inoculate the res with beneficial microbes. Wait another 12 hours before adding nutes.

    *** The smaller your roots, the less likely the are to survive a strong h202 treatment. In my experience using h202 will increase your recovery time.

    Once the slime is gone be sure to practice proper res maintenance, which includes keeping any type of organic material out of the res. Trying to sterilize the res water is often a losing battle. In fact, since most hydro sterilizers fail to kill this stuff, when you sterilize the water you are removing competing microbes and opening the field to slime. There are people who use RO filters and then run their water through a UV sterilizer and still end up with the slime. The answer always seems to be beneficial microbes.

    Below is my previous introduction to preparing and applying a microbe tea.

    In DWC the roots sit in water constantly putting them at huge risk for disease. Some people have great luck using nothing at all. Others find sterilizing products keep their roots white, but a few of us have found that even with proper res maintenance and doing everything right, we still get a slimy build up on the roots. This is when a microbe tea can really make a difference by robbing the slime of housing, food, and actually attacking it.

    By making a microbe tea with a diverse selection of organisms you will have a super tonic for you res that will ward off nasty gunk and build up while at the same time keeping your roots stimulated and growing. Best of all it can be made for just pennies per batch.

    Ok so we wont be starting from scratch. You have to buy a few products. But instead of using the products directly in the res, you will be breeding them in a tea. This way, you can use a fraction of the regular dose and make your products last much longer. Plus, you will end up with a freshly active tea that is more diverse than anything you can buy on the market.

    Aquashield ($12) The product composition consists of: Bacillus subtilis, Paenibacillus polymxa, Bacillus circulans, and Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. This gives you a base population of beneficial bacteria. (Aquashield can be replaced by any inoculation that contains bacillus bacteria.)

    ZHO Powder ($10) The product composition consists of: Glomus intradices, Glomus aggregatum, Glomus etunicatum, Glomus mosseae, Trichoderma harzianum, and Trichoderma koningii. This gives you a base populartion of beneficial fungi. (ZHO can be replaced by any inoculation that contains myco fungi)

    Ancient Forest ($14) - Soil amendment provides a high diversity of microorganisms, including more than 35,000 species of bacteria and over 5,000 species of fungi. (AF can be replaced by any earth worm casting)

    EDIT* Mycogrow soluble is the cheapest and most diverse inoculant we have found. It can replace everything here except the ancient forest.

    The recipe is really simple. Start with non-chlorinated water. I make 2 gallons at a time, but you can easily adjust the additives for whatever amount you wish to make. Now put the water into a bucket and throw in a couple air stones. The more air the better. You want the water to be almost turbulent from the bubbles. Now, add 15-30ml of aquashield and about 1/4-1/2 scoop of the ZHO powder. You will be breeding these into the billions so it doesn't really matter how much you start with, just don't overdo it. Now take an old sock or pantyhose and fill it with about 2 handfuls of EWC or Ancient Forest. Tie off the sock and place it in the water above an air stone, or better yet, feed an air stone down into the sock itself. If you want, you can just throw the EWC directly into the water and strain it out later with cheesecloth or even an aquarium net. Next, add about a tablespoon of molasses to wake up the microbes and give them something to eat. We will only be feeding the microbes in this tea; never add food for the microbes to the res itself. It's okay if the bennies in the res starve. You will be replacing them every few days. Now let the tea bubble at room tempeture for 48 hours. It can be used after 24, but will be more active and diverse at 48. If you use EWC you will probably notice a foam eventually, this is normal. After 48 hours you can store the tea in the fridge where it will stay fresh for about 10 days. Once it starts to go bad it will develop an odor. If you ever detect an odor from your tea, throw it out and make a new batch. Fresh tea can have a range of smells from earthy to mossy to shroomy. Bad tea smells like gym socks, fecal matter, or decay.

    Initially, add about 1 cup to your res for every gallon of water, and then add 1 cup total every 3 days after. If you can, pour a little over the base of the stalk to inoculate the root crown. Your water might get a little cloudy but your roots will stay white and stimulated. When you use tea and practice proper res maintenance you can feel confident your roots will be healthy. By multiplying the microbes this way your products should last a great deal longer. Once you have eradicated slime and simply want protection from future outbreaks, adjust the tea dosage to 1 cup per 10 gallons about once per week.

    If you are interested in why the tea works, or what products you may use for substitution, continue reading the rest of the thread. It is a journey I took with others to learn a great more about the tea. If you want to see how I use this tea in a cloner, jump to here.

    ***In an attempt to address frequent issues which bloat the thread

    You can substitute just about any product you want. Any EWC will give you a good base of microbes. Any product or combo of products which contain mycos, bacillus, and trichoderma will do the trick. Don't worry about matching my exact ingredients. The exception is AN microbe products. Stay away from AN microbe products!

    If you notice a dark sort of slime form after you treat with tea, stay the course. As long as you see new shoots growing you are on your way to recovery. The after-slime is harmless and will not expand or stall roots. New root tips are what you want to see.

    Do not use tea with h202, sm-90, Zone or any type of sterilizing product. Do not filter tea beyond 400 microns.

    If you have slime attacking plants with very small roots, adding housing to your res like a lava rock or koi pond mat will make a big difference. Place the housing in your tea brew for the duration and then move it to your res.

    No one has reported sprayers clogging from using regular tea. But, if you are concerned you can also try aquashield by itself without brewing. High pressure nozzles will kill most microbes, medium pressure and simple sprayers are fine.

    Take care of impropoer res conditions FIRST. Even the tea will not save you from disease if you do not have enough oxygen or proper temperatures. Res water should be 70-75 F with bennies. Air pump should be at least 1wt per gallon. Light proof your buckets!

    If this solution works for you please post in the thread and tell us your story.

    I'm happy to answer questions in the thread. You will get a faster reply here than messaging me. Remember, all advice I give is intended for a synthetic DWC grow.

    Some FAQ's

    Can I run a perpetual batch of tea?

    No. The key to fighting slime is a diverse microbe population. No matter what you do to your brew, diversity will peak and begin to decline around the 48 hour mark.

    Can I feed the bennies in my res instead of letting them die and replacing them?

    No, you would be feeding the slime as well. Some bennies will live on in your roots, most will die. It is simple to replace them which we do every three days while fighting slime, and about once a week after the slime is gone.

    Will the chlorine/chloramine in my tap water kill off my bennies?

    It is best to use pure water to brew the tea, however adding tap water directly to your buckets in small amounts to top off will not kill enough bennies to matter. I add as much as a gallon of un-aged tap water to my 5 gallon res with no ill effects. If you are worried, simply add a little tea a few hours after watering.

    Can I add too much tea?

    As long as your tea is brewed properly it is really hard to add too much.

    I added tea, maintain proper res conditions, and still have slime!

    First be sure you are not simply seeing after-slime. (see above) If it is aggressive slime, then you are probably adding something organic directly to the res. Check each and every thing you put in your mix, and be sure foliar sprays do not drip into the res. Incorporate some type of housing into your res, such as lava rocks.

    You are not teaching us how to breed microbes, only multiply them.


    dbkick Well-Known Member

    Hey heisenberg. I just started my second brew tonite. just added the first brew to res today. I'm having issues though and from what I've been reading this stuff may help cure what i think is a rust fungus problem, I read ewc tea will also kill spider mites and aphids but I don't know that this is true. Do you know anything about EWC tea curing rust fungus? I'm gonna try a foliar with my next batch of tea but I may need something made just for that. I was unable to get the GH ancient forest but got some vital earth ewc instead. One other thing I noticed after a few hours my roots developed some sort of something on them, not even real sure what it is , maybe its normal, I've been focused on this rust thing.
    VoidObject likes this.

    Heisenberg Well-Known Member

    Your plants will actually sense the presense of microbes and send some food down to the roots to feed them, which can appear like a slight slimy coating. Also, if you add too much fungi a slime can appear, but that takes a lot, and also doesn't slow root growth. Sometimes if my tea wasn't filtered enough little pieces of dirt will be floating in it, it doesn't hurt anything but they will eventually stick to the roots, making them appear to have some sort of discoloration, but it's harmless. All of these things are subtle, if you have a thick slime coating the roots then it's not natural.

    I am not familiar with rust fungus. Not sure if you are referring to your water or your leaves. The EWC tea will strongly discourage anaerobic organisms, which are the ones that tend to cause problems. Rust fungus sounds like something that comes from your pipes, in which case I would get a UV sterilizer to run in my water for 24 hours before I used it for anything. Once a root mass gets afflicted it is extremely hard to purge. Once infected, the EWC will most likely not work unless you have completely sterilized the roots and all equipment first.

    I have no experience with using EWC as a foliar spray, but the trichoderma fungi in the ZHO is reported to have similar effects on foilage as it does in water.

    From wikipedia
    I sometimes get mold growing on my leaves when I clone in rockwool with a dome. I have always used dutch master Zone as a spray. If I have them sitting in EWC water, I don't want the spray to get in the water, so I instead dunk them upside down into a bowl of Zone.

    Beansly RIU Bulldog

    Good info heisenburg. Ive been wanting to do a DWC setup for a minute but Im unfamiliar with the system. Also, I really believe that getting the best bud possible means using beni bacteria and i could never understand how that could work in a DWC system. Is there something about beni bacteria and DWC setups that I dont know about?:dunce::-(

    Heisenberg Well-Known Member

    Most DWC setups do not require bennies. It is an unnecessary step with the exception of organics or if you are in an environment prone to root disease.
    jimmy1life, dungeontrees and ArCaned like this.

    Beansly RIU Bulldog

    So beneficial bacteria provide no benefits to DWC system other than to cure disease? Could you give me a few quick reasons to why use DWC? Im still gonna try it..
    Is it possible to do an organic DWC?
    Is it true that plants grow faster in a DWC?
    moloud likes this.

    Heisenberg Well-Known Member

    A plant will grow fastest when you give it ideal growing conditions. This involves giving it exactly what it wants to eat, exactly when it wants it, and in the correct amounts. That is easiest to accomplish in hydro, perhaps easiest in a DWC. We take out unnecessary factors and enhance what's left.

    Organics can be done in a DWC, however organic material itself becomes unnecessary in this setup. Organic material can not be absorbed by plants roots until it has been broken down and processed by beneficial microbes. Once the microbes are finished with the organics, it becomes chemical fertilizer. So, when you are depending on microbes to supply your nute chemistry, it becomes much harder to control. To simplify things and to give us the best control we just use synthetic chemical nutes to begin with.

    If your company is using pharmaceutical grade chemicals then your bud will end up being just as safe and as clean as organic bud. Taste is a separate issue.

    It is very useful to use bennies in soil, but in hydro all the little benefits you get from them are negligible. When it comes to root disease, bennies are a magic bullet.
    jimmy1life and ArCaned like this.
    Mr.E Man

    Mr.E Man Member

    If only this tea didn't go bad! You happen to know if there are any of these useful microbes in Hygrozyme

    oh and BTW great thread... this is exactly what I have been waiting for. You must teach botany at harvard haha. Heisenberg huh? Wouldn't that make sense. I like your signature too. Oh and I love breaking bad... they need to make more episodes faster.

    Heisenberg Well-Known Member

    enzymes are basically the stuff that bacteria makes that breaks down organic material, like dead roots. Adding something like hygrozyme is like adding the good stuff from the bacteria without adding the microbes themselves. I know this sounds like a great idea, but in a DWC enzyme products can be a huge trigger of the slime. If you are already infected and you add an enzyme, the slime will feed and explode out of control in less than a day.

    jestermite Well-Known Member

    Hey Heis - Do you know anything about purposely running higher res temps with benes?

    Heisenberg Well-Known Member

    If you use bennies you can easily get away with slightly higher res temps, mid 70's is fine. I wouldn't go so far as to add a heater or anything. Some people, using bennies, run clone water at 80 to encourage faster rooting.
    fallinprince and ChandlerHandler like this.
    Mr.E Man

    Mr.E Man Member

    Could the hygrozyme help out our benes in the tea then?! Haha or will our wild type airbourne microbes completely conquer them?

    And on a similar note. Why does the tea go bad?

    Heisenberg Well-Known Member

    If used in the tea, I suppose enzymes would help break down the molasses quicker, but that really isn't necessary. In fact we want things to unfold on their own in the tea, which is why we let it brew 48 hours. Some microbes wake up in the presents of food, other wake up in the presents of other microbes (cos they are food).

    The tea goes bad because after a while it looses its oxygen and becomes anaerobic. Beneficial microbes tend to be aerobic and die off without oxygen, while pathogenic microbes thrive in an anaerobic environment.

    lovetogarden Member

    Thanks for sharing this great post, Heisenberg :) I have read a lot of great advantages that beneficial microbes can give hydroponics plants but I am still thinking if it's wise to just refrain from using hydrogen peroxide and just go ahead and add beneficial microbes in my reservoir. Luckily, I have never encountered any problems so far with my growing which is why I am a bit hesitant in adding more organisms in my system. Any thoughts?

    FeFiFoFUM Active Member

    I dont know nearly as much about how bennies work and couldnt even try to explain to you why, But I have been running them in my res for one week and a day now, and every plant I have given them to not only defeated the brown slime they had, but have grown at a much faster rate than other girls Ive grown, now I dont know for sure how much of that is the bennies on thier own or whatnot but I know bennies get rid of slime, and deals with root rot, better than h2o2, they allow you to run higer res temps, and making the tea seems economically more sound than continuing to purchase H2O2 , cause once you buy the ingriedients for the tea, itll last you well over a year, SO why not? and this is comming from someone who had six girls all just a week under the light get brown slime, that did NOTHING for the next two weeks, and now after a week of running bennies, have fully recovered, and doubled size!

    edited cause I forgot to say, Before I ran bennies H2O2 and SM-90 were staples in my garden. so I know first hand how much better bennies are than either of those two products.
    TWS likes this.
    Mr.E Man

    Mr.E Man Member

    So anyone who knows how to put an airstone in the bottom of a bucket could have an immortal tea? Have you tried this yet? I feel like it has more to do with the "superior" fitness of these other [pathogenic] organisms already plaguing our environment (or maybe not). Whats your take on this aeration idea?

    Heisenberg Well-Known Member

    Good thought. I dunno if it will work. You would have to feed them after 10 days because without food they die, and then harmful microbes will move in and eat their corpses. Bad stuff, especially slime, is able to survive in oxygenated water so they might take over the tea anyway after 10 days, even with bubbles. If you try it let us know the results.

    Making the tea is easy and bennies can only do good things for you. When all is said and done, it's cheaper than constantly buying sterilizing products and more harmonious to the plants.
    jimmy311 likes this.

    Thor1911 Well-Known Member

    Now when your two gallons bubble for two days do you have a cover on the five gal or not? Would the microbes need indirect light?

    FeFiFoFUM Active Member

    I didnt cover mine and they worked fine.

    Thor1911 Well-Known Member

    You think this will solve my slime problem? And how much will this raise ppm?

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