How to Breed Beneficial Microbes for DWC Root Slime Cure aka Heisenberg Tea

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1highman

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This was written up by Heisenberg and I thought that it would be highly beneficial for hydro growers.

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 around 75f 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.

Correct.
 
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Tavosvo

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Nov 10, 2012
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I've been using this stuff for a month now. Easy to make and no problems with my roots! They are black/brown stained from GH micro and liquid karma, but damn it sure smells nice and fresh earthy in my res - all good!

If you google gh organic flush there is a great thread about using said tea as a flush. Pretty cool.
 

JM

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Jan 2, 2011
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Hot damn! Thread stuck and :slap: :slap:
 
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1highman

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I've been using this stuff for a month now. Easy to make and no problems with my roots! They are black/brown stained from GH micro and liquid karma, but damn it sure smells nice and fresh earthy in my res - all good!

If you google gh organic flush there is a great thread about using said tea as a flush. Pretty cool.
Yea the tea is pretty awesome Tavosvo, I've also found with this tea that you don't have to keep a watchful eye on your rez temps either, you can actually let your rez temps rise a bit with no worries at all.
 
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leeold7

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Oct 14, 2011
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Several attempts organic hydroponics = fail

Thanks for this article

Another day

Let's try it
 
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Tavosvo

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Nov 10, 2012
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Several attempts organic hydroponics = fail

Thanks for this article

Another day

Let's try it
Go for it brother! It doesn't have to be full organic, I'm using GH 3 part and some botanicare additives. Only thing organic going in my res is this tea!
 
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Alex Delarge

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Jun 6, 2012
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Instead of buying mycorrhizal fungus continually, it can be reproduced by watering bahia grass (which produces enormous root systems rapidly) with your mix, then harvest the roots for fresh fungus. Marty Kraft many videos on this. Has some videos on youtube, especially "Growing Mycorrhizal Fungi" which is in 3 parts. Dr. David Douds is the expert.

His paper is at
http://wyndmoor.arserrc.gov/Page/2005/7559.pdf

The You tube video is at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=FDkOC71jlVY&NR=1

Need to find storage procedures for long term storage.

If anyone would like to add info, about this process, contact me, and I will edit the post. Do not like to clutter sticky's!!

TIPS-

Bahia grass must die cold and dry. If it is warm and moist, it will prematurely grow, then die, and be useless.

Local Mycorrhiza need only be added, if planning on growing in local soil. Hydro, soil-less, bought soil, etc., will not benefit.
 
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