Deep water culture systems, also called DWC, are simple yet highly effective hydroponic systems. They are also inexpensive and extremely easy to build. Here’s how to build your own simple DWC hydroponic system.
But first, the supplies…
Supplies Needed To Make A DWC Hydroponic System
|A tote with lid – It’s important to get a tote that is made of sturdy plastic, if not the sides will bow from the weight. I think the black totes with yellow lids work the best. The size you get depends on the number of plants you want and how big they will get.||View Product|
|3 or 4 inch net pots– Using quality net pots will save you a lot of headaches. The cheaply made net pots lack a lip, so they easily fall through. For more info check out this article.||View Product|
|Clay pebbles – I prefer to use hydroton clay pebbles. Hydroton offers the perfect moisture and air ratio while providing decent plant support.||View Product|
|Aquarium air pump– I don’t recommend going with the smallest or cheapest air pump. As the roots grow large you’re going to need as many air bubbles as possible. When it comes to oxygen, the more the better.||View Product|
|Air Hose – I’ve found there are two types of air hose. One is clear, a little thicker, and doesn’t bend as easy. The other is cloudy and more flexible. Either will work fine, but I prefer the clear for outdoors and cloudy for indoors.||View Product|
|Check Valve – The check valve is important. It will help keep water from coming through the air hose and into the pump when the power is off.||View Product|
|Air Stone – Stay away from the small air stones, as they won’t produce as many air bubbles. I recommend using the largest air stone you can fit in your reservoir. The more air bubbles the better.||View Product|
|Tools Needed: Drill, Hole saw kit, Drill bit|
Building The DWC Hydroponic System
I’m building this hydroponic system to go into my 4×4 hydroponic grow tent. Since I’m wanting to have several systems running at the same time, I’m using a small 7-gallon tote of this hydroponic system. I plan on using it to grow some basil and mint.
Step 1. Cut Holes For Net Pots and Air Hose
Before you start cutting you need to decide where your net pots are going to go. When you’re growing less than 5 plants this is pretty easy. I recommend setting the net pots out on the tote lid and marking the spots.
Once you decide on the location of the net pots, use your hole saw to cut out the holes. This is where having quality net pots with a lip will come into play. Make sure the holes are big enough to fit the net pots but not too big where they completely fall through.
Now switch out the hole saw for a drill bit the same size as your air hose. Drill a hole at the end of the tote lid that we will use to run the air hose through.
The great thing about this system is that step one is the most work when it comes to building it. Now it’s time to assemble it.
Step 2. Set up the air system
The next step is assembling the air system that provides oxygen to the plant’s roots. Cut your air hose with enough length for it to go from the middle of the reservoir to wherever your pump is going to be. My grow area is pretty compact so I’m cutting mine at about 3 feet.
On the one end of the air hose connect your air stone. Push the other end of the air hose through the bottom of the drilled hole in the tote lid and connect it to the check valve. It’s important to make sure the check valve is going the correct way to allow air flow.
Next cut another couple of inches worth of the air hose. This is going to connect to the other end of the check valve. Then take the open end of the air hose and connect it to the air pump.
Your DWC assembly is now complete! If your plants aren’t ready this is your stopping point. If your plants are ready, you’re on to the next step.
Step 3. Mixing Up The Nutrient Solution
If your plants are ready then the next step is mixing up your nutrient solution.
When it comes to adding water, you should add enough to cover the bottom of the plant’s roots. Note how many gallons you’ve added to reach that point so you can calculate how much nutrient solution you will need to add later. I suggest making a water level mark on the tote so you don’t have to measure the water amount after every water change.
Next, add your nutrient solution per the recommended dosage. Wait about 15 minutes then measure the pH and adjust the pH to the proper level if needed.
Step 4. Adding Plants
The last step to getting your new DWC hydroponic system running is adding your plants. You can start with bare-root plants or seedlings in mediums like rapid rooter plugs or rockwool. Just pour a little hydroton into the net pot, set your plant in it, and pour the expanded clay around the plant until it’s level with the top of the net pot.
Deep water culture is one of the most popular methods of hydroponics due to its simplicity and great production. It’s cheap to build and is one of the simplest systems to put together.
If you’re new to hydroponics or just looking to add another simple system to your hydroponic garden I definitely recommend building a DWC hydroponic system.
When you’re done building your DWC hydroponic system be sure to share pictures of it on the Hobby Hydroponics Facebook Group Page!
February 9, 2020 at 12:37 pm
How far do you keep the water below the net pot? Also, is it good to have a mini float valve (installed onto my RO system) to keep the water at that level in my DWC?
Your website is awesome by the way. It takes a LOT of work to do something like this. The layout of your site and amount of content you have on here is impressive.
February 9, 2020 at 1:35 pm
Thanks for the feedback Paul, I really appreciate it! It does take a lot of work, but comments like yours make it worth it. I’m happy my love for a hobby can help others!
As to your questions… The water level in DWC systems should be below the base of the plant. In the beginning, the water level is going to be close to the base since the roots are pretty short, so the water will cover the bottom of the net pot. As the roots grow, you can lower the water level an inch or two below the net pot. As long as you aerate the water the roots won’t drown.
The only downside to installing a float valve is that it will dilute your nutrient solution. It’s a good idea to keep it topped off, large plants in DWC suck up a lot of water. Just make sure you do full water changes on a regular basis to keep up the strength of your nutrient solution.
July 2, 2020 at 5:07 pm
Hi Micheal at the outset let me tell your website and your content is very helpful keep it up.
I am planning for a commercial hydroponic setup growing a mix of leafy vegetables as well as cherry tomatoes zucchini and jalapeños can you give some pointers towards what system nft dwc or growbeds or a mix of them .
The temperature of my location averages around max 32c & min 22c tia.
August 1, 2020 at 11:14 am
Thanks for the feedback! For leafy greens, I would recommend NFT systems. For the larger plants, you’ll probably find a drip system is the easiest for large scale growing.