6 Different Types Of Hydroponic Systems

Since there are many different options when it comes to hydroponic systems, it can be hard to decide what unit may work best for you. Here’s a quick overview of some of the different types of hydroponic systems. Click on the name to find out more about each method.

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

Nutrient Film Technique is a popular hydroponic growing method for plants with smaller roots like leafy greens. NFT systems are most widely used in commercial lettuce operations.

The method is a simple concept making it very suitable for backyard hydroponics and larger scales operations alike. In NFT hydroponic systems, plants are placed in channels or tubes with roots dangling in hydroponic solution. The system is slightly slanted so that the nutrient solutions runs through the roots and down back into a reservoir.

Deep Water Culture

With deep water culture, roots of the plant are suspended in nutrient rich water and the air is provided directly to the roots. These systems work well for larger plants or plants that produce an abundance of fruit.

The hydroponic bucket or bubble bucket n excellent example of deep water culture. Plants are placed in net pot lids and suspended in nutrients. The plant’s roots grow quickly and in a large mass.

Wick Hydroponics

The wick system is the most simplistic type of hydroponic system requiring no electricity, pumps, or aerators. It can be a completely passive system, meaning no electricity is needed.

In most systems, plants are placed in an absorbent grow medium like coco coir, vermiculite or perlite, with a nylon “wick” running from the plant root into a reservoir of nutrient solution. The wick system brings the nutrient rich water from the reservoir to the plant. Wick hydroponic systems work well for small houseplants and herbs. This hydroponic system doesn’t work well for plants that need a lot of water.

Ebb & Flow/Flood & Drain System

Ebb and flow hydroponic systems (also called flood and drain), are popular with many home hydroponic gardeners because of its ease of use. In ebb and flow systems, the grow bed is flooded until it reaches a certain point.  A drain allows the water to only get a few inches below the top of the grow medium, so it doesn’t overflow. Power to the water pump is controlled by a timer. After running for a predetermined amount of time, the timer shuts off the pump which allows the water to run back down through the pump, draining the grow bed completely.

Automatic drainage, such as a bell siphon, can be used to drain your grow bed without shutting off power to the water pump. This allows more water and air movement over the roots which creating more growth. Ebb and Flow hydroponic systems are a great choice to grow a variety of plants.

Drip Hydroponics

The drip hydroponic system is a widely used method among both backyard hydroponics and commercial growers as well. It’s easy to use, set up, and can be manipulated in several ways making it ideal for those who are commonly making changes.

The nutrient solution runs through individual tubes to each plant, dripping over the roots and circulated back into the reservoir. Plants are usually placed in grow medium that’s moderately absorbent since the nutrient solution drips slowly.


While some people don’t consider aeroponics to be hydroponics, the process uses no soil and does use nutrient solution to feed the plants. Aeroponics isn’t the easiest methods of hydroponic gardening, but the idea of it is still a simple concept.

Plants are suspended in the air, often using foam inserts, with roots dangling in the tube or reservoir. The nutrient solution is then sprayed over the root system.

An advanced form of aeroponics called Fogponics is similar to aeroponics but a much finer mist. The smaller the solution particle size, the faster the absorption by the plant’s roots.

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