Since there are many different options when it comes to hydroponic systems (here’s how much some different hydroponic systems cost), it can be hard to decide what method may work best for your hydroponic garden. Some hydroponic systems work better than others depending on the plant our growing and the space you have. Here’s a quick overview of some of the different types of hydroponic systems.

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

With NFT  hydroponic systems, the nutrient solution is pumped into channels that can hold a varied amount of plants. The channels are slightly sloped,  so the nutrient solution flows through the channel, over the plant’s roots dangling roots, and back into the hydroponic reservoir. NFT hydroponic systems don’t often use grow medium and foam net pot inserts are typically used to secure the plant.

Due to the size of the channels, NFT hydroponic systems work best for plants that have a small root system, like leafy greens.

NFT Hydroponic System

Of the different kinds of hydroponic systems, NFT hydroponic systems are the most scalable. The simple concept makes it easy to set up a system to grow a lot of plants, which makes it one of the go-to methods for commercial growers.

Learn more about NFT hydroponic systems


Deep Water Culture (DWC)

With DWC hydroponic systems, the plant’s roots are suspended in the nutrient solution and the air is provided directly to the roots with an air stone or diffuser. Plants are placed in net pots with grow medium to help secure them. Because plant are sitting in nutrients and being supplied with unlimited oxygen, they grow like crazy.

Deep water culture works great for almost all plants but works especially well for large plants with big root systems or ones that grow an abundance of fruit. You’ll be amazed at how big the root system gets and how quickly it happens!

DWC hydroponic system

The hydroponic bucket also called a bubble bucket, is an excellent example of a DWC hydroponic system. You can also check out this article on How To Make A 5 Gallon Bubble Bucket. Plastic totes are also used frequently instead of buckets.

Learn more about DWC hydroponic systems


Wick Hydroponics

The wick system is the most simplistic type of hydroponic system requiring no electricity, pumps, or aerators. Among the different types of hydroponic systems, it’s the only one that 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 plants into a reservoir of nutrient solution.

Wick hydroponic system

Since wick hydroponic systems don’t supply the plant with a lot of nutrient solution, these systems only work well for small houseplants and herbs. Plants that don’t require much water grow well in wick systems.

Learn more about wick hydroponic systems

Ebb & Flow/Flood & Drain System

Ebb and flow hydroponic systems (also called flood and drain), are popular with many home hydroponic gardeners.  In ebb and flow systems, plants are placed in large grow beds filled with grow medium. The grow bed is flooded with nutrient solution 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.

Ebb and flow hydroponic systems can also be set up to drain with an automatic drain, removing the need for the pump to be set up with a timer. Automatic drains allow you to flood and drain the system quicker and more frequently, increasing nutrients, oxygen, and growth.

ebb and flow hydroponics system

Ebb and flow hydroponic systems work great for almost all types of plants including some root vegetables. Though its possible and they would grow well, I wouldn’t recommend growing plants that get really large in ebb and flow systems just because of the real estate they take up. In addition to the grow bed space, you also have to account for the depth of the grow bed for a larger plants root system and the grow medium/water it will take to fill it.

Ebb and flow hydroponic systems are popular with hobby hydroponic grower because they work so well and are also customizable. I built a small ebb and flow system in my garage to grow lettuce.

Learn more about ebb and flow hydroponic systems

Drip Hydroponics

Drip hydroponic systems are easy to use, set up, and can be tailored in several ways making it ideal for those who are commonly making changes. With these systems, the nutrient solution is pumped through tubes directly to the base of the plant. At the end of the tubes are drip emitters that allow the nutrient solution to drip at an adjustable flow, saturating the grow medium.

Drip hydroponic systems can be non-circulating or circulating systems. Non circulating systems drip slowly to provide the plant with enough nutrients at a consistent rate. Circulating system drip more often, with excess nutrients flowing back into the reservoir like in the image below.

Drip hydroponics systems work great for a variety of different plants. With the ability to tailor both the system setup and flow rate, drip hydroponics can be set up to work with whatever plant you want to grow.

Learn more about drip hydroponic systems


Aeroponics

Aeroponics isn’t the easiest methods of hydroponic gardening, but it’s a simple concept. Plants are suspended in the air and nutrient solution is sprayed over the plant’s root system.

The nutrient solution is pumped into piping that’s fitted with mist nozzles. As the pressure builds the misters spray the plant’s roots and the solution falls back into the reservoir. You could have a system that looks similar to the one below which looks similar to a DWC tote hydroponic system, but instead of an air stone in the reservoir, you have a water pump. The smaller the solution particle size, the faster the absorption by the plant’s roots.

aeroponics system

With the right setup, aeroponic hydroponic systems can grow just about any types of plant. The difficulty lies with making sure the mist nozzles are able to spray the entire root systems. Plants with larger root systems can make this difficult.

Learn more about aeroponic systems

The Kratky Method

The kratky method is the only passive form of hydroponics, meaning that it has no moving parts. Being such makes it the easiest, as well as the cheapest hydroponic system to make.

In Kratky hydroponic systems, the bottom plants roots are dangling in hydroponic nutrient solution. It’s important not all of the root system is submerged, as the space between the top of the reservoir and nutrient solution is where the roots will receive their oxygen. As nutrient solution drops, the plant’s root system grows longer, staying in the nutrient solution.

The Kratky method of hydroponics

The kratky method is simple, but there are drawbacks to this method of hydroponic gardening. Since the water isn’t moving is can become stagnet and can attract pests so make sure it’s covered well. It can be tough to control the water temperature, so it’s best to use when you know temperatures will be agreeable.

Learn more about kratky hydroponics


In Conclusion

Choosing your hydroponic systems is an important decision. Remember to take into consideration the type of plant your growing, the amount of space you have and how much customizing you would like to do. All of the different types of hydroponic systems can grow amazing plants, just make sure to do a little research to find which one will work best for your next hydroponic garden.

 

About the Author: NoSoilSolutions

My name is Michael and I'm all about simple how-to hydroponic gardening! I believe hydroponics gives anyone the opportunity to have a garden, no matter where they live.

16 Comments

  1. Dinali Caldera October 2, 2019 at 3:47 am - Reply

    Please send me the news letters. I would like to learn about Hydroponics

  2. roopali patel October 12, 2019 at 11:45 am - Reply

    pls described about the aquaponics

  3. Sister Marie Noelle (Overbrook School, Nashville, TN) November 13, 2019 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    Is there a way that I can get a printable version of the “Know Your Hydro” image of the 6 types of hydroponics systems for my classroom? This would be a wonderful display to go with our hydroponic projects. I don’t see any links to purchase it?

    Thank you!

    • NoSoilSolutions November 13, 2019 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      No need to purchase it, I will send it to you in an email. Feel free to use it in whatever way helps out, happy you found it useful!

      • Madison Dillon November 20, 2020 at 10:42 am - Reply

        Hello can I also have this photo? I am doing a college presentation on why the college should add hydroponics to their campus and I would love to have the awesome graphics included.

        • NoSoilSolutions November 22, 2020 at 7:24 pm - Reply

          Thanks for reaching out Madison! I sent it to you in an email.

  4. Poon tat November 18, 2019 at 4:16 am - Reply

    Please tell me why there is so many types of Hydroponics system, how is it difference and which one is the best?

    Please also tell me what is the differences of Hydroponics and soil-growing system. Which one is better?

    Thank you!

    • NoSoilSolutions November 18, 2019 at 8:18 pm - Reply

      I wouldn’t say one method is necessarily better than another, you just have a lot of options. It’s really about finding a system that meets your needs. For example- growing a lot of lettuce, you’ll probably go NFT, growing something big I would use DWC or ebb and flow, aeroponics works better for small systems.
      Feel free to shoot me an email to info@nosoilsolutions.com with what you’re wanting to grow and the area you’re trying to grow in and I can give you some ideas!

  5. Steve Kenyeres February 10, 2020 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    I’m interested in growing both cherry tomatoes and regular tomatoes,bell peppers and chile peppers,jalapenos and zucchini this spring.Would be interested in lettuce too,outdoors. I live in Southern California and have always grown these things plus a lot more but in soil.Any info would be helpful as I have never tried hydroponics yet.Thank you very much.

    • NoSoilSolutions February 11, 2020 at 5:39 pm - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by Steve! I have several articles on the site that should help you start your hydroponic gardening adventure. You should also check out the Hobby Hydroponics Facebook Group. Let me know how I can help!

  6. Siva May 16, 2020 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Can you please add me to the news letter. I am looking for Nutrition suppliers. Can you share the info.

  7. Marijane Camilleri July 29, 2020 at 10:18 am - Reply

    Am upstate NY. Ground is rocky and has a lot of clay. I would like to put up a greenhouse – maybe 30 foot x 12 foot (something like that perhaps). Would like to grow several different foods including lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, beets, cabbage . . . whatever I can grow for family consumption. Also herbs. Do you recommend Deep Water? Ebb & Flow? Aeroponics? Drip? I can probably do wick hydroponic for indoor herb garden . . .
    Thank you for your help!
    Marijane

    • NoSoilSolutions August 1, 2020 at 11:26 am - Reply

      Hey Marijane! The method you use probably is going to depend on how you want your greenhouse set up. You can use any of the methods or all of the different ones and have a great garden. I recommend joining the hobby hydroponics Facebook page to see some ideas of what other people have set up.

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