Hydroponics Systems

So you have decided to grow plants using a hydroponics system, or aquaponics system, instead of soil. Great! But which hydroponic system should you use?

There are multiple systems and techniques you may utilize. Some use only one type of hydroponic system, while others combine different techniques. Let’s look at which hydroponic systems are available in the realm of hydroponic growing.

Aeroponics

Aeroponics is a hydroponic system where the roots of a plant are suspended in an air chamber (or growth chamber), and periodically misted with a nutrient solution.  This hydroponic method is unique in that it requires no grow medium, allowing for superior aeration of the root system.

There are a wide range of options available to hydroponic growers using Aeroponics. Some Aeroponic systems are very basic and easy to operate, right out of the box. AeroGarden – a commercial brand of grow systems – make a great entry point into Aeroponic systems, or into hydroponics in general. These hydroponic systems come with all the needed supplies to get you up and growing your hydroponic garden in no time.  Other Aeroponic systems are a bit more complex and often employ pumps and timing features. These more elaborate hydroponic systems are better-suited for people wishing to grow larger and more diverse plant varieties.

Advantages of using an Aeroponic system

  • Excellent aeration of roots (constant high oxygen levels)
  • Fast plant growth
  • No grow medium required
  • Easy system to maintain, and space-saving
  • Less water and nutrients are used
  • AeroGarden are ideal for hydroponic beginners

Disadvantages of using an Aeroponic system

  • Cleaning of root chamber required
  • Dependent on system to function properly (any problem with pump, etc. may harm plants)
  • Administering of the proper nutrients at the correct time is crucial to plant health

Recommended Systems

Brand/Series Important Features size/weight

Miracle-Gro

AeroGarden Extra

• Easy to use, great for hydroponic beginners

• Grows 7 plants at a time

• Comes complete w/ 30W full spectrum grow light, herb kit, and nutrients

• Timer turns light on/off and sends a reminder when water and nutrients are needed

• 12.5 lbs.

• 75" x 11" x 16"

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Miracle-Gro

AeroGarden Harvest

• Easy to use, great entry into hydroponics

• Grows 6 different plants at a time

• Comes complete w/ 20W full spectrum light, herb kit, and nutrients

• Timer for light, and alerts when the system needs water or nutrients

• 6.66 lbs.

• 13" x 5" x 11"

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General Hydroponics

Rainforest 66

• Great for medium to large plants

• Vortex Sprayer works to provide oxygen to nutrient solution

• Includes 17-Gallon reservoir with lid, sprayer, 6 lid inserts, plastic cups, liners, caps, and Flora kit

• 32.2 lbs.

• 22.9" x 19.1" x 26.1"

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General Hydroponics

AeroFlo 2

• 60 sites for serious aeroponic growing

• Excellent oxygen/water/nutrients ratio

• complete w/ 36 net cups, pump, plumbing and fittings, coco inserts, nutrient solution, and leg stands

• 121 lbs.

• 75" x 11" x 16"

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Clone King

25 Site Aeroponic Cloning Machine

• Complete aeroponic system for cloning

• Includes 25 sites, reservoir w/lid, spray with misters, 317GPH pump and inserts

• 13 spray head for full coverage

• Organic - no need for growth hormone or chemicals

• Expect 100% success rate

• 6.95 lbs.

• 14.5" x 11.5" x 14.5"

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Deepwater Culture (DWC)

One of the simplest methods of hydroponic growing involves the use of a Deepwater Culture (DWC) system. Often referred to as “the reservoir method,” this hydroponic system involves suspending the plant roots in oxygenated, nutrient-rich water. Air pumps (or air stones) are used to oxygenate the nutrient solution, which prevents the roots from drowning. Most Deepwater Culture hydroponic systems use plastic buckets as a base, and suspend net pots within the buckets to hold each plant.

Advantages of using a Deepwater Culture system

  • Easy to step up and operate
  • Plants grow fast because roots receive a high amount of oxygen
  • No drip or spray emitted to clog the system
  • Works well for organic hydroponics because no drip or spray emitters are used (organic nutrient solutions tend to clog drip/spray systems)
  • Uses less water and nutrients

 

Disadvantages of using a Deepwater Culture system

  • Algae can grow in buckets, so it is important to keep light from penetrating the system
  • Water temperature should remain under 70 degrees (water chillers can be used, if needed)
  • Air pump malfunction can result in rapid decline of plant

Recommended Systems

Brand/Series Important Features size/weight

Hydro West

Aquabuckets DWC Hydroponic System

• 4 site, 5 buckets, with mixing cell and 200 mesh filter

• Constant, recirculating oxygenated water provides a good mix of nutrients, CF and stabilizes pH levels

• Made from high quality material, all parts and fittings needed are included

• 20 lbs.

• 12" x 12" x 25"

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PowerGrow Systems

Deep Water Culture Hydroponic Bubbler

• Easy to use, set up, and maintain

• Allows you to grow 8 different plants in one system

• Deep water kit includes quality pump, air lines, 8 air stones, 6" basket lids, and 8 5-gallon buckets

• 1-year warranty, FDA-approved bucks

• 36 lbs.

• 12" x 24" x 30"

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PowerGrow Systems

Deep Water Culture Hydroponic Bubbler Bucket Kit

• Simple to operate and easy to set up

• Allow you to grow 4 different plants using one system

• Deep water kit includes air pump, air lines, air stones, 10" basket lids, and 4 5-gallon

• FDA-approved buckets, 1-year warranty

• 17 lbs.

• 12" x 12" x 30"

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Drip System

The drip system is commonly used as a hydroponic system, both in commercial and home growing. The concept is simple: a slow feed of nutrient solution is dripped on to the roots or grow medium, slowly and continually supplying a plant with the health and moisture it needs. Recirculating drip systems reuse and circulate the nutrient solution back to the reservoir. This ensures that the roots stay moist and healthy enough, but without flooding the grow medium, as is done in some other hydroponic systems. Because the nutrient solution is constantly recycled in drip systems, pH levels may change with this recirculation. It is important to monitor these levels to maintain a consistent and healthy pH. To prevent roots from drying out or becoming oversaturated, slower drip systems should utilized a slow drain grow medium (such as rockwool or coconut coir), whereas faster drip systems may benefit from quick-drying hydroponic grow mediums (such as clay pebbles or growstones).

Advantages of using a drip system

  • Easy to set up and control, with only a few part/components
  • Less wasteful due to recycling of water and nutrients
  • Works well growing plant which are constantly hungry for water
  • Drip systems are available to suite all hydroponic growers, from beginner to advanced

 

Disadvantages of using a drip system

  • Drip lines and emitters are susceptible to clogging from nutrient, sediment or algae build-up
  • Pump can malfunction, causing plants to suffer
  • pH level may become unstable due to recycling of water/nutrients, thus monitoring and adjusting is advised

Recommended Systems

Brand/Series Important Features size/weight

General Hydroponics

EcoGrower Drip Hydroponic System

• Ability to grow large plants

• Spider drip system is air driven

• Complete kit includes 17-Gallon reservoir, spider drip system, pumping column, lid and inserts, net cups, CocoTek liners, air pump, Flora nutrients, and clay pebbles

• 30.8 lbs.

• 18" x 23" x 26"

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General Hydroponics

Waterfarm Module

• Simple system with easy set-up

• This module includes outer reservoir, inner growing chamber, drip ring and pumping column

• no air pump or clay pebbles included

• 2.7 lbs.

• 7.9" x 10" x 15.1"

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Ebb and Flow

The hydroponic system known as ebb & flow (also called “flood and drain”) works by flooding nutrient solution into the growing area at specific times. Once flooded, the nutrient solution then drains slowly back into the reservoir to be reused. This process repeats itself with the help of a pump and timer, ensuring the plants receive optimal moisture and nutrients. Since many varieties of plants require periods of dryness (which aids in root expansion), the method of ebb and flow is quite an effective and popular hydroponic system.

Advantages of using an Ebb and Flow system

  • Fast growth
  • Easy to set up and maintain
  • Ideal for plants which thrive in cycles of dry conditions followed by high water exposure
  • Flooding allows for high nutrient uptake
  • Recycling of nutrients and water allows for less waste
  • Very popular for use in Aquaponic growing systems and kits

 

Disadvantages of using an Ebb and Flow system

  • Certain plants have a low tolerance to water exposure (like strawberries), so this system may not be the best choice for growing some particular plants
  • Systems with pumps are susceptible to malfunctions and clogging issues
  • Recycling of nutrient solution may cause unstable pH, so monitoring and adjusting are advised

Recommended Systems

Brand/Series Important Features size/weight

Viagrow

4X4 Ebb & Flow Hydroponic System

• Rapid, efficient growing of up to 25 plants in a small space

• Automatic delivery of perfect amounts of water, oxygen & nutrients

• Includes 50 L bag grow rocks, submersible pump, tubing, 25 - 1 gallon pots, timer 40-gallon reservoir, lid, white flood tray stand

• 111 lbs.

• 54" x 54" x 48"

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DL Wholesale

Oxygen Pot Systems 6 Bucket Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System

• Efficient and complete system for rapid hydroponic growing

• Aerated fabric grow pots allow roots stay well oxygenated

• Includes 55-gallon reservoir, six 5 gallon buckets, aerated fabric grow pots, inserts, timing control module, pumps, tubing and fittings

• 25 lbs.

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Hydrofarm

Active Aqua Grow Flow Ebb & Gro Hydroponic System

• Includes 12 pots (can be expanded to 48 pots) and a 55-gallon reservoir

• Self-managing with pumps and timer

• Automatic emergency shut-off valve safety feature

• Expansion possibilities, as each controller allows control from 6 up to 48 plant sites

• 72.8 lbs.

• 23" x 23" x 37"

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Viagrow

Complete 2 ft. x 2 Ft. Ebb & Flow Hydroponics System

• Complete flood & drain kit

• Automated ebb & flo hydroponic system delivers perfect amount of water, oxygen, and nutrients

• Includes 14 5-gallon reusable nursey pots

• Multi-pin timer with 48 on/off daily settings and easy to use trippers

• 41 lbs.

• 48" x 25.75" x 25.75"

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Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is a hydroponic system wherein a continuous, shallow stream of nutrient solution is re-circulated over the bare roots of plants. A tilted, watertight gully (channel) is used, enabling a downward gravitational flow of nutrient solution over the roots. No grow medium is required with the use of NFT, and only the tip of the roots ever touch the nutrient solution. This allows plants to receive high levels of oxygen. The main objective of using the Nutrient Film Technique in hydroponics is to achieve a fast growth rate in a limited space. Larger and fruiting plants may not have adequate room for root growth using this hydroponic system, but for many, Nutrient Film Technique is an efficient method of starting plants and growing smaller plants hydroponically.

Advantages of using the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

  • High oxygenation of plant roots creates fast plant growth
  • Continuous circulation and aeration of nutrient solution within channels makes for an easy system to maintain
  • Conserves water and nutrients by recycling within the system
  • No grow medium required

 

Disadvantages of using the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

  • Continual delivery of moisture is beneficial in early, vegetative growth, but not ideal for flowering and fruiting growth stages of plants
  • Limited space within NFT systems for root mass, limiting size of plant grown using this method

Recommended Systems

Brand/Series Important Features size/weight

Gowe

NFT Hydroponics system

• Easy assembly

• 36 sites of net cup, no grow medium required

• Timer controlled feed cycle can be intermittent or continuous and produces rapid plant growth

• Includes frame, hose, pump, timer, tube, foam cube and net try for seed starting

• 100" x 120"

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Wicking

The wick system is the most simplistic and lowest cost method within the realm of hydroponics.  There are very few moving parts to a basic wicking system: no pumps, timer, or electricity are utilized.  Instead, most wicking systems employ some sort of nylon, cotton, or other fibrous rope material to act as the agent which draws nutrient solution to the roots of a plant. Like other hydroponic systems, a grow medium helps to support the plant, aiding in moisture and nutrient retention, as well as aeration to the root zone. A plant grown using the wick system may benefit from grow mediums which drain well (perlite and vermiculite, in particular) instead of those which absorb too much nutrient solution (like coconut fiber or rockwool).

Advantages to using a wick system

  • Simplest of all hydroponic systems, so, like the Aerogarden, a good choice for the tepid novice
  • Inexpensive, not many moving parts and limited assembly
  • No pumps or timers, and no plumbing to clog
  • Works well for growing small plants, like herbs

Disadvantages of using a wick system

  • Simple wick systems are not adequate for the larger, heavy-feeding plants grown using hydroponics
  • Size of plant is limited when using the wick system because less water is available to the roots
  • Uneven absorption of water and nutrients
  • Susceptible to toxic build-up of mineral salts in the grow medium, so occasional flushing of medium (with water) is recommended

Recommended Systems

Brand/Series Important Features size/weight

Modern Sprout

Kitchen Herb Kit – Three Self-Watering Indoor Planters

• Easy, simplistic introduction into hydroponic growing

• Passive wicking hydroponics system automatically brings water up to the roots

• 3 kits, each includes reusable glass mason jar, stainless steel net pots, grow medium coco pith, wick, nutrients and instructions

• Eco-friendly materials, including organic basil, parsley and non-gmo mint seeds

• 4 lbs.

• 11.2" x 3.8" x 9.9"

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General tips for managing your Hydroponic System

  • Maintain water temperature between 65 and 75 degrees (employing a water chiller or water heater can help to regulate, when necessary)
  • Check pH to maintain proper levels for growing healthy, hydroponically-grown plants
  • Guesswork is not advised when mixing nutrients, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Change nutrient solution in the reservoir when necessary (usually every two or three weeks)
  • After finishing a grow cycle, remember to drain and thoroughly clean your hydroponic system (a small amount of non-chlorine bleach works well, so long as the system is completely flushed with clean water before the next grow cycle)
  • If your hydroponic system is not self-oxygenating, consider adding an air pump or air stone to help keep your system circulating efficiently and nutrient solution well-oxygenated