Category Archives: Types Of Hydroponic Systems

How To Build A 5 Gallon Hydroponic Bucket

The 5 gallon hydroponic bucket may be the most simple hydroponic systems both to make and take care of. I like to use my 5 gallon hydroponic bucket systems for those plants that produce a lot of fruit, need a lot of water and/ or get big. I usually use hydroponic buckets when growing like tomatoes, watermelons, cucumbers and pumpkins, and they grow big! Why does the deep water culture hydroponics work so well? The plant roots are suspended in the nutrient rich water that is pumped full of oxygen, giving the plant what it needs. Instead of using energy to expand the root system in search of water and nutrients, the plants can instead focus all that energy on the production in growth and on its fruits.

Deep Water culture

Making a  5 Gallon Hydroponic Bucket

The 5 gallon hydroponic bucket is extremely easy to make! You probably already have many of the supplies around your house. Here is a list of materials I used to make my hydroponic bucket system:hydroponic bucket

  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Bucket lid and net pot ( You can purchase net pot bucket lids)
  • Grow medium
  • Aquarium pump
  • Air hose
  • Air stone
  • Check valve

If you don’t have a hydroponic net pot bucket lid then you can make one by cutting a hole in the bucket lid and using a smaller net pot. You can make your own but when the plant gets big a wobbly net pot is a headache. I would recommend filling your bucket with heavier grow medium, like river rock, to keep it upright if growing larger plants. Fill your hydroponic bucket with water and mix your hydroponic nutrient solution.

Hook up the air stone to the air tube and place the check valve on the end before connecting to the air pump. The check valve will stop water from coming into your air pump. Place the air stone in the nutrient solution, the bucket or net pot lid on the unit and it’s ready to go. A reservoir drain can also be added to the hydroponic bucket for easier water changes.

Deep water culture hydroponic systems can be made it reservoirs bother larger and smaller than a 5 gallon bucket. Air stones and pumps come in varying sizes means there are endless ways that you can make a simple hydroponic system!


What is Aeroponics?

Aeroponics is considered more of an advanced hydroponic method of gardening. Some do not consider aeroponics to be a true hydroponics method as the plant roots are not submerged in water. Instead with aeroponics, plants are often placed in small holes or slits to stabilize the plant while the roots are suspended in the air. The nutrient solution is sprayed over the roots while being exposed to maximum oxygen. Though considered more advanced, aeroponics isn’t really that difficult and operates under the same principles as other hydroponic methods. Aeroponics work great for a variety of different vegetables and herbs and could also be used for some root vegetables. Vine plants such as tomatoes and watermelons, leafy greens and many herbs are all known to grow well with aeroponics.

What Is An Example Of An Aeroponic System?

Simple aeroponic systems can be set up with little space needed. A good example of a simple aeroponics setup would be the tote system. In this example holes are drilled into the top of a tote lid, plants (with or without net pots) are placed in the lid so the plant roots dangle in the air. In the tote there is a water pump that is hooked up to capped tubing. Screwed into the tubing there are several spray emitters that will direct a mist of nutrient solution onto the plant roots. The pump with sprayer is secured into the bottom of the tote and water is then poured into the tote to cover the pump. Once the aeroponic system is turned on, the pump will push the water up the capped tube spraying out of the emitters and dampening the plant roots. The nutrient solution then falls back down into the tote to be recycled through the system again.

aeroponic spray

Here’s an example of an aeroponic tube with spray emitter.

Benefits Of Growing Plants Using Aeroponics?

There are many benefits to growing your garden using aeroponics. According to NASA, gardens that are grown using aeroponics are likely to use around 98% less water, and 60% less nutrients. On top of being extremely efficient, there is no need to use pesticides with indoor aeroponic gardens. As with other hydroponic methods, gardens using aeroponics generally allow you to harvest more with less growing time.

What Is Nutrient Film Technique- NFT Hydroponics?

Nutrient film technique, or NFT for short, is a very simple hydroponic method. It’s basic design, makes it popular for both hydroponic gardening at home and on a commercial scale. NFT hydroponics systems are usually set up to grow multiple plants in one large system. NFT hydroponics is a great method for growing leafy greens and plants with a shallow root system. Lettuce is one of the most popular plants grown using this type of hydroponic method.

NFT hydroponics

Lettuce growing using NFT hydroponics.

How Do NFT Hydroponic Systems Work?

Though NFT hydroponics can be set up in many different ways, the systems all work on the same basic concept. Plants are placed in a shallow pipe or tube and oxygenated nutrient solution is pumped from the reservoir into the piping, which runs through the dangling plant roots. Water flows to the other end of the tube to the drain back into the reservoir. Since NFT hydroponics methods cycle nutrient solution through the system 24/7, there is no need for timers. NFT hydroponic systems are dramatically affected by interruptions to the water flow. Even short periods without the system running can have a major impact on your NFT hydroponic garden and can result in a loss.

What Is Drip Hydroponics?

Drip hydroponics can work well for many different types of hydroponic gardeners. Since drip hydroponics can be so versatile, it’s used from beginners on up to commercial growers. The process is simple and allows you the ability to control exactly how much nutrients your plants are getting, Drip systems can be made grow a single plant on up to the thousands by commercial growers.

How Does Drip Hydroponics Work?

With drip hydroponics, water is pumped in tubing that can end at a single plant or can branch off with several tubes ending at many plants. Systems are usually set on a timer to kick on every so often. The nutrient rich water then flows over the grow medium and drips down over the plant roots. Drip hydroponic systems can be set up in either a recovery or a non-drip recovery method. With non-recovery methods, nutrient water that runs over the plant’s roots does not go back into a reservoir; it’s only used once. Recovery systems do just the opposite and reuse the nutrient solution after it’s dripped over the roots. The efficiency can not only save you money in some cases on water but also save you on nutrient solution.

What Types Of Plants Work Well In Drip Hydroponic Systems?

Drip hydroponics can be set up for almost any type of plant you would like to grow. Some plants need less water than others and drip hydroponic systems can be set up to easily control how much water your plants are getting. When considering your drip rate you also have to take into account what grow type medium you’re using. Different Grow mediums hold different amounts of moisture and some no moisture at all. With a timer hooked up, you can make sure the plants are set up on a regular schedule of watering and not being over watered. When using drip hydroponics your roots should always remain moist. Individual drip emitters can be placed in the tubing allowing different amounts of water to different plants.

drip system

This is an example of a simple single plant drip system.

Some Things To Watch For When Using Drip Hydroponic Systems

In addition to keeping an eye on the PH level, drip hydroponics comes with the task of watching for clogged tubing and emitters. This is mainly a concern with recovery systems since plant matter can flow with the nutrient solution back into the reservoir. Adding a filter to the drainage tube is a simple an effective way to help with emitter clogging, but make sure to clean it out often to prevent the drainage from clogging instead. Another thing to watch for is over saturation of nutrients in your grow medium over time. This is also a preventable situation that can be taken care of by periodically flushing your grow medium with just water.

What Is Wick Hydroponics?

The wick hydroponics are the most simplistic hydroponic systems there are. It can be a completely passive system so there is no need for pumps or electricity. Since there are no moving parts, there is no need to worry about any system failures or parts breaking. As long as your keep your reservoir full of nutrient solution your plants ready to grow. The picture below shows the workings of a simple wick hydroponic system. I’ve taken a 2 liter bottle and cut it in half, turning the top upside down. I placed a little water in the bottle and added a wick used for tiki torches. All that’s left is adding the grow medium and seeding and some nutrients.

wick hydroponic system

A basic wick system ready to add grow medium, a plant and nutrient solution.

What Plants Work Well Using Wick Hydroponics

Wick hydroponics works well for plants that don’t take much water to survive. Wick hydroponics works great for those that often have trouble remembering to water their house plants. Smaller plants such as herbs and lettuce work great with these types of systems. Larger plants have a larger root system and need more water. The wick does not bring enough water up quick enough to sustain larger plants or fruiting plants. Wick hydroponics is not the method to use if you’re looking to grow tomato plants on the back porch.

How Do Wick Systems Work?

As you can tell by the name, wick hydroponics, the most important part is wick. You need to use a wick that is absorbent enough to get water your plants roots and at the same will not rot or mildew. I have used tiki torch wicks but you can also use nylon rope, felt strips, or braided fiber in wick hydroponic system. Whatever you use for your wick material, make sure to wash it out first and it will wick more effectively. The number of wicks you use depends on the wicks you’re using and how much water your plant needs. Unless you’re growing a small single plant you will most likely need multiple wicks. The shorter your wick length can be on your hydroponic wick system the better. Smaller wicks move your nutrient solution more quickly to your plants.

What Type of Grow Medium Is Used In Wick Hydroponics?

A variety of grow medium can be used with wick hydroponics. Perlite, Vermiculite, and Coconut Fiber are some the most popular grow mediums used as well as hydroton expanded clay. You want a grow medium that is absorbent so to get the nutrient solution to as much of the roots as possible. Both the grow medium and your reservoir should never run dry. You will also need to rinse both your grow medium and the reservoir of your hydroponic system periodically to wash out excess nutrient mineral and algae build up.

What Is Ebb And Flow Hydroponics?

The ebb and flow system also called a flood and drain system. This is one of my favorite methods of hydroponics due to its ease of use, capabilities, and reliability. With the right system, you can customize an ebb and flow system to grow just about any type of plant with success.


How Does An Ebb And Flow Hydroponic System Work?

The grow tray of an ebb and flow hydroponic system is slowly flooded with nutrient solution. This provides the plants with the nutrients they need. The amount of time it takes for grow tray to fill is controlled by the rate of flow from the reservoir. When the hydroponic solution is then drained when it reaches a certain level or after a set amount of time. As the nutrient solution drains from the grow tray it allows oxygen to the root system. The process is then repeated over again. This constant flooding and draining provide your garden an abundant amount of oxygen and nutrients that promotes fast, healthy growth.

Different Ways Ebb And Flow Systems Can Drain

Ebb and flow hydroponic systems can drain in a couple of different ways. In some ebb and flow systems,  the grow bed is flooded until the nutrient solution reaches a certain level. At that point a standpipe allows water to flow down a drain tube back into the system’s reservoir. The pump is usually set up on a timer to run for a certain amount of time and when that time is up, the water stops flowing, it drains back down the pump, draining the grow bed. After a set amount of time, the timer kicks the pump back on and the process is repeated.

Draining the systems automatically involves using a bell or loop siphon. Using one of the this “automatic” drains on your ebb and flow system allows you to run your pump 24/7, so there’s no need to use a timer. A loop siphon is a tube that is looped on the outside of the system and leads to the reservoir. When the water completes the loop it creates as vacuum, pulling the water from the grow tray and draining it until the air in the tube cuts the vacuum. Creating a bell to go over the standpipe drain of your system is also a method of creating a vacuum to drain your system. As the water goes down the standpipe and hits an elbow it creates a vacuum draining the system. When water breaks the vacuum, the system fills again.

What Grow Medium Works Best In Ebb And Flow Hydroponic Systems

There are a few different factors that you should consider when choosing a grow medium for your ebb and flow system.

Water retention– Ebb and flow systems work best with grow mediums that retain some moisture but drain well. Lava rock and hydroton clay pebbles both have these characteristics.

If you’re growing root vegetables– Root vegetables will need to be able to push grow medium to form a mass. Hydroton is more suitable for this than lava rock. Other grow medium like a vermiculite/ perlite mix also works well with root vegetables. Remember that you will need a deep grow bed to allow a solid root mass to have room to form.

Weight/ buoyancy- Your grow bed should be strong enough to hold the weight of your grow medium and water. Since your grow bed it being filled with water causing lightweight grow medium to float, disrupting the plant’s root system.

Deep Water Culture Hydroponics

Deep water culture hydroponics is a popular method for at-home gardeners. Not only is it effective, but it’s an extremely easy hydroponic system to assemble and maintain. For those that are new to hydroponics, using deep water culture hydroponics is a great place to start. Don’t let the ease of use fool you, this method of hydroponics is extremely effective.

What Is An Example Of A Deep Water Culture Hydroponics System?

For the simplest deep water culture hydroponic systems, you can look at the bubble bucket system. I’ve had great success growing hydroponic tomatoes in 5 gallon hydroponic buckets. With deep culture, the reservoir is filled with water and hydroponic nutrients to form your hydroponic solution. A hole is drilled into the lid of your container big enough for your net pot to set in. The nutrient solution should not reach all the way to the top of the net pot. You want to leave the bottom of your plant stem dry.

plant in deep water culture

Plants roots will explode in size to take in as much nutrients and oxygen as possible.

With deep water culture hydroponic systems, you don’t have to worry about using a grow medium that holds a bunch of moisture. I’ve used river rock and pebbles in my net pots with no issues. Depending on what you’re growing, it might be good to use a grow medium with some weight to it. With larger plants, it helps prevent tipping.

What Makes Deep Water Culture Hydroponics So Successful?

In addition to hydroponic nutrients, another major key to deep water culture hydroponics is the amount of oxygen the plant receives. The amount of small particle oxygen the plant’s roots receive is a major factor that makes deep water culture hydroponic systems so successful. Oxygen is essential for plant growth and it will need to be provided to the roots. In most deep water culture hydroponic systems, an aquarium pump is used along with an air stone to provide the oxygen to the plant roots. I would recommend using a larger air stone; the more bubbles you can make the better. The root mass of your plant will become large and you want your bubbles to go over as much of the roots as possible.

What are Some Disadvantages of Deep Water Culture?

There are a couple of things to watch for when gardening using deep water culture hydroponic systems. Especially since your plant’s roots will be sitting in the hydroponic nutrient solution at all times, make sure you’re not exposing them to too powerful of a nutrient solution.  Too much concentration can fry the roots causing nutrient lockout.  Another small issue I’ve had is checking the plant’s roots or changing to water, especially once the plant becomes full size. I recommend using a drain system to remove the water from the reservoir. Also setting up a place to set your system’s lid where the plant’s roots can dangle and not get crushed is a good idea. The air pump in deep water culture systems should run 24 hours a day, stoppage for a longer period will drown the plants could result in death.