Ozone is similar to oxygen, whereas oxygen has two “0” atoms – Ozone has 3. The symbol for an oxygen molecule is 02 while ozone is 03. The third “0” molecule in ozone is unstable and will break away when it comes in contact with a microorganism, it ruptures their cell walls and kills them off en masse.
Ozone Generators in Hydroponics
Ozone can readily eradicate hoardes of microorganisms – bacteria and viruses, mold, mildew and fungus, assorted pollutants and airborn contaminants while simultaneously hastening the decomposition via oxidization of any dead organic materials that it comes in contact with.
In low doses ozone is harmless to Humans, animals and our cherished plants. In fact it is commonly used in low doses at many hospitals as a sanitizer against airborne pathogens. In high doses ozone is not necessarily a good thing so far as people and pets are concerned. In fact it can be deadly, so all precautions advised by the manufacturer of any equipment you may procure should be strictly followed. See: Ozone Generators that are Sold as Air Cleaners
Ozone generators are becoming increasingly affordable and are very advantageous in Hydroponic Gardening – whether Commerical or Hobbyist. An ozone generator when properly implemented can defend crops against microrganisms, spores, molds and so forth. It helps to oxygenate root zones and can basically disinfect entire grow rooms.
In addition to going to war with microorganisms on your behalf, ozone will also help to eliminate many of the larger insect pests. In this case ‘large’ is a relative term. Spider mites, whiteflies and many of the tiny insects that infest greenhouse and hydro crops are destroyed by slightlly higher levels of ozone. Their respiratory systems are destroyed and they die off. The levels of ozone required to kill a bug is not 100% beneficial to plants but it is less harmful than what the bugs had in mind. Elevated levels are also not the greatest for you or your pets either so all precautions should be taken.
Selecting a suitable ozone generator is vital. As previously stated high concentrations of ozone can be deadly and two little ozone will be insufficient and ineffective. Commercial growers will need a massive output for large scale grow rooms. Hobbysists and small scale micro growers can get by with as little as 70 to 100 milligrams per hour.
In addition to generating atmospheric ozone to sterilize grow rooms, some versions have adapters that allow for ozonating water. In greenhouses and hydroponic grow rooms ozone generators are like gold. Mold, fungus, bacteria and the assorted microscopic pathogens than infest these botanical realms can be effectively controlled.
In hydroponic scenarios you strive to disinfect your water. Although there are multiple methods employed to achieve this – oxidation is the most effective. Oxidizers are in common usage in the horticultural industry, frequently via chemicals. These chemicals are not always readily available to hobbyists and home growers, when they are, their cost is at times prohibitive. Many of these chemicals, as they break down will react adversely with the nutrient solution and become less effective or alter the effectiveness of the solution.
Ozone, when it breaks down becomes oxygen. That unstable third oxygen molecule breaks away from the 03 [ozone] making it 02 [ Oxygen]. The waste product of spent ozone is oxygen, an essential element for healthy plant growth. Aqueous ozone actually provides accelerated levels of dissolved oxygen to the root zone, more so than oxygenation alone could ever achieve. Bascally it kills two birds with one stone Disinfection and Oxygenation.
The quantity of Dissolved oxygen in water is a key indicator of the life-sustaining ability of the water / solution. All life on Earth requires ample atmospheric oxygen in order to survive. Aquatic life needs the right amount of dissolved oxygen in the water to survive and thrive. Plants when grown in aquatic or hydroponic scenarios thrive on dissolved oxygen which is readily supplied by Aqueous ozone.
A study published in 2010 by the Journal of Horticulture and Forestry  demonstrated that Aqueous ozone [water born] applied to Rockwool significantly reduced pathogen levels while having no discernible impact on plant productivity.
“…aqueous ozone could be applied directly to the surface of rockwool growth substrate in both tomato and cucumber hydroponic culture without adversely influencing growth. It was alsoevident that some level of pathogen suppression was achieved through the application of O3(aq).”
Some Risks Associated with Ozone
Organic nutrients or supplements in freshly ozonated solutions will also be hampered and tampered with. Ozone is non-discriminating and will kill off beneficial micro organisms as well as harmful ones , including Mychorizae & Trichoderma which are beneficial fungi sometimes used in hydroponic gardens. Excessive ozone will also result in the loss of of manganese and iron in nutrient solutions.
Ozone will stay active in water for about 45 minutes before reverting to oxygen, you can still use organic supplements if you time your applications correctly. Wait at least an hour or so after Ozonating your water before adding any organic supplements.
Ozone is a valuable tool for disinfecting and enhancing hydroponic water quality – HOWEVER -The proper operation of ozone generators and related equipment is a highly complex topic, this article barely scratches the surface as there are multifold variables. In a nutshell when properly implemented modern ozone generation can provide a safe, reliable and cost effective venue for improved hydroponic performance.
Ozone used incorrectly is toxic , therefore proper implementation, installation and operation of equipment is imperative. Ozone equipment should never be “jimmy-rigged” and recommendations of manufacturers and reputable groups should be strictly adhered to.