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What are the beads this guy is scooping out in this video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/3Gjd5DRyeks

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

That look like Hydroton, which explained above is expanded clay.

It is highly porous and holds moisture very well, and is used in a lot of Deep Water Culture/Aquaponic/Hydroponic applications.

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That's a lot cheaper than the previous answer. – black thumb Mar 20 at 22:53
    
If you are looking for economic solutions, you might also look into expanded shale and growstones, but I've never used them personally. – SprintCycle Mar 20 at 22:56
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It's for a hack-a-thon project, so we're shoe stringing the project. – black thumb Mar 20 at 23:00
    
Cool, are you guys doing anything code related? What is your objective? Is there a project page? Good luck with it – SprintCycle Mar 20 at 23:07
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I am (slowly) working on a pH/Nutrient controller with Raspi. Interested in similar type projects and how they're executed. – SprintCycle Mar 20 at 23:21

These are called by various names but the one I am familiar with is LECA. It stands for Lightweight Expanded Clay aggregate and is made by this company.

Having seen this material used in twenty and thirty year old installations I can attest to its durability. Lightweight? Not so much.

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