This is a diagram of a deep water culture (DWC) hydroponics system

What Is Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponics?

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Deep water culture, often abbreviated DWC,  is a popular hydroponic method used by many hobby hydroponic gardeners. Not only is it effective, but it’s an extremely easy hydroponic system to assemble and maintain.

For those that are beginners 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.

Here’s what you need to know about deep water culture hydroponics.

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

Tomato in 5 gallon hydroponic bucket system

A great example of a deep water culture hydroponic system is the 5-gallon hydroponic bucket, also called a bubble bucket system. 5-gallon hydroponic buckets are very simple to build and can grow large fruiting plants, both of which make them popular with hobby hydroponic gardeners.

With deep water culture hydroponic systems, you don’t have to worry about using a grow medium that holds a lot of moisture. The plant’s roots are suspended in a reservoir full of nutrient solution and oxygen is provided to the root system via an airstone or air diffuser.

The oxygen and air source are very important to DWC, because roots that do not receive constant oxygen will be drowned in the nutrient solution.

Deep Water Culture DWC Hydroponics

What Makes Deep Water Culture Hydroponics So Successful?

Deep water culture is so effective due to the fact that the plant receives an abundance of everything it needs to grow. The combination of sitting in nutrient water and oxygen causes the plant’s root system to explode in growth to become a large mass. 

The amount of oxygen the plant’s roots receive is a major factor that makes deep water culture hydroponic systems so successful. As you can see above, the root mass can become pretty thick. The more you can disperse the air bubbles to reach as much of the root mass the better.

When choosing an air stone for your DWC system, the larger the better. You can’t provide too much oxygen to the plant’s roots. The smaller the air bubbles the better, as smaller particles are more easily absorbed by the roots.

Tips For Using The Deep Water Culture Method

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when using the deep water culture hydroponic method.

Don’t burn the roots 🔥

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 concentration. A concentration too high can fry the roots, causing nutrient lockout.

Have a plan in case of power loss ⚡️

DWC systems need constant electricity to run the air pump. If the power goes out your plants will be affected. If loss of electricity does happen, drop the water level in the reservoir halfway so more of the roots will be exposed to oxygen but will still have access to the nutrient solution. This won’t stop the plants from being stressed but can prevent them from dying.

Plan for water changes 📝

Another small issue I’ve had is checking the plant’s roots or changing to water, especially once the plants get large. I recommend adding a drain system to remove the water from the reservoir. Also having a place to set the system’s lid where the plant’s roots can dangle and not get crushed is a good idea. The best way to do this is to have an extra reservoir to set your plant on.


Deep water culture hydroponics is one of the most simplistic yet most effective methods of hydroponic gardening. DWC systems are cheap to build or buy and can support growing large plants. All the benefits of DWC make it a popular classic among hobby hydroponic gardeners.

2 Answers

  1. Chad
    April 14, 2020 at 9:14 am

    I really liked your article, being new to hydroponics
    It’s hard to get good information out there a lot of online info I was reading was just trying to sell me different type of kits.
    I look forward to following your articles

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