So you have decided to try hydroponic gardening. Excellent decision! You probably already know that such items like LED grow lights, hydro nutrients, grow media, and those sorts of items are necessary to be successful. However, did you know that grow trays are as important? After all, you will need something to hold your plants so that your hydroponic system functions as it should. Let’s first explore why they are such a crucial component of hydroponic gardening, and then compare some of the best hydroponic trays on the market today.
Benefits of Hydroponic Trays
Though often overshadowed by flashier elements of hydroponics systems, the grow trays are an essential component to support the plants and contain the growing substrate. Grow mediums – such as clay pebbles, perlite, vermiculite, growstones, rockwool, oasis cubes, and coco coir – are placed within the barriers of hydroponic trays to create the grow bed.
Smaller grow trays are typically used for seed starting, seedlings, clones, or growing small hydroponic plants like herbs. Larger hydroponic trays enable growers to cultivate a much wider range of plants. Home hobbyists and commercial farms often use net cups – or net pots – to hold the plant’s roots within the grow media of these larger hydroponic grow trays.
In the hydroponic system of Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain), grow trays are often referred to as flood trays or flood tables. This is because a nutrient solution periodically floods the grow tray before draining back into the reservoir. The use of flood tables is not restricted to Ebb and Flow methods; other hydroponics techniques use hydroponic trays and flood trays as well.
Let’s take a look at how the most common hydroponic systems utilize hydroponic trays and flood tables:
Other hydroponic systems do not use a hydroponic table, per se. In Deep Water Culture (DWC), a platform is used to hold plants while they are submerged in the nutrient solution. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) uses tubes or channels to hold plants in place as their roots are exposed to flowing nutrient solution. Lastly, aeroponics does not require grow media or hydroponic trays, as these plants are typically bare rooted, suspended in open air, and misted with a nutrient solution. With that said, hydroponic trays and flood tables are versatile, and DIY hobbyist always discover ways to incorporate them into creative hydroponic system set-ups.
Hydroponic trays are versatile and adaptable. They can be used as the grow bed for plants, or for seed starting, seedlings, cloning, drip trays or humidity trays. We’ve even seen a few used as cat litter boxes! But let’s not go in that direction. For hydroponic growers, it is best to choose a hydroponic tray that is large enough to accommodate the size of your reservoir and small enough to fit comfortably within your growing environment.
The best hydroponic trays and flood tables are constructed of durable plastic and designed with a diagonal grid for directing water towards the drainage area. Shallow grow trays work well for seedlings and small plants – like herbs, wheatgrass, and microgreens – but their depth will not be sufficient for larger root systems. Deeper hydroponic trays and flood tables – with higher walls – can be filled with much more grow medium. Thus, larger hydroponic trays and flood tables are better options for dripping or flooding rockwool blocks and plants with more root mass.
You may notice that some hydroponic trays come pre-drilled with drainage holes. Depending on the type of plant you are growing, pre-drilled drain holes may be more convenient for you. However, most hydroponic hobbyists benefit from drilling the holes themselves. This allows the grower more flexibility in designing his/her own hydroponic setup. Therefore, various hydroponic trays, flood trays, and flood tables are manufactured without any pre-drilled holes. So grab your drill and get to work!
Here is a video of an Ebb and Flow hydroponic flood table configuration:
We have search far and wide for the best hydroponic trays and have selected our choices here. The first group listed below is comprised of grow trays which are ideal for germinating, seedlings, clones, micro greens, wheat grass, and other small plants. The next grouping includes the best large hydroponic trays, hydroponics tables, flood tables, and flood trays available. Then we finish off our review by highlighting a few tray stands for hydroponics. These help to keep systems running efficiently and growing spaces clutter-free.
Here is our recommended list of smaller hydroponic trays. We start will the most inexpensive models and continue from there.
- Great tray for hydroponics and seed starting
- Durable plastic construction with NO drain holes
- 10-pack of reusable trays; top measures 21″ x 11″, bottom measures 20″ x 10″
- Fantastic grow tray kit for germinating your hydroponic seedlings and clones
- Kit includes 11″ x 22″ base tray, 72-cell insert, 7” humidity dome, and 17 watts, 120-volt heat mat
- Also includes General Hydroponics’ Rapid Start Rooting Enhancer
- High-quality, durable, BPA-free plastic flat grow trays (no drain holes); won’t crack or bend
- Great for hydroponics and seed starting, and works well w/ humidity domes and heat mats
- Outer measurements of 21.25” x 11.25” x 2.5”
Here is our list of large hydroponic trays and flood tables. These are great for all applications of hydroponics.
- Versatile, high quality, heavy duty 1’ x 4’ tray for hydroponics and seed starting
- Features a diagonal drainage grid to direct water towards drainage outlets
- Measures 48” x 14.2” x 4”
- 2’ x 2’ hydroponic flood table grid pattern design and multi-level drainage channels
- Strong corners and thick, durable construction; made from UV-resistant ABS plastic
- Outside dimensions of 30” x 30” x 7.5”
- 3’ x 3’ hydroponic tray made of high quality and durable ABS plastic
- Botanicare’s OD trays are true to size and feature a diagonal grid for drainage and easy cleaning
- Dimensions: 36” x 36” x 6”
Check out this video about Botanicare trays:
- Constructed from thick, durable, high-impact ABS plastic
- This extra-large and super-deep tray claims to be the most sturdy and durable ebb and flow tray available
- Measures 54″ x 54″ x 7″ externally, and 48″ x 48″ x 5.5″ internally.
- Viagrow’s 4’ x 4’ Flood and Drain hydroponic tray is a complete grow station kit w/ all fittings, a 50L bag of grow rocks, 211 GPH submersible pump, tubing, net pots, timer, and 40G reservoir
- Grow lighting and nutrients sold separately
- Grows up to 25 plants in a 48’ x 54’ x 54’ area
Here is our list of tray stands for hydroponic growing applications. These are great items to purchase in conjunction with your hydroponic trays because they help to your growing environment to be more compact and all the components mesh together. Plus, they help promote smooth drainage from the hydroponic grow trays back into the reservoir.
- Fast Fit’s 2’ x 4’ hydroponic tray stand accommodates all brands of trays and reservoirs
- Heavy-duty construction and easy assembly – no tools required!
- Overall height: 25”; Height from lower bar to floor is 18”
- Hydrofarm’s 4’ x 4’ reinforced-steel tray stand supports hydroponic flood tables by providing even tray balance, equal water distribution, and superior drainage
- Features a light hanging crossbar for convenient grow light hook-up, is easy to assemble, and fits 4’ x 4’ flood tables
- Dimensions: 60” x 5” x 12”