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Hydroponic System Types
There are six main types of hydroponic systems to choose from:
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT).
Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain)
It can be very confusing to get started in hydroponics. Figuring out how it all works, how to choose a system, what to grow, and even HOW to grow are all challenging.
This guide will teach you everything you need to know about the specific types of growing systems in hydroponics
The key forms of hydroponic systems including their pros and cons
A sample build for each type of hydroponic system
Video walkthroughs for each system
This is a long and in-depth article, so if there’s a particular section you’re curious about, just use the table of contents below to skip to your desired section. Otherwise, read on!
What Exactly Is Hydroponics and How Does It Work?
Instead of soil, hydroponic gardeners use various types of growing material, including coconut coir, vermiculite, perlite, and more.
In a nutshell, the idea behind hydroponics is to remove as many barriers as possible between a plant’s roots and the water, oxygen, and nutrients it needs to grow (and thrive).
This can be achieved in several different ways, which is why we’ll look at the different types of systems you can use to grow hydroponically — but first, let’s consider the advantages and downsides of growing without soil.
The most obvious advantage of hydroponic gardening is that most plants grow at a much faster pace. It is not unusual for a plant to grow at least 20% faster than in soil. Furthermore, plants can normally produce at least 25% more than their soil counterparts.
Holland Hybrid tomato hydroponics vs. soil contrast. source
This occurs because you make it easier for them to obtain the nutrients they need to grow. When they don't have to work as hard to find pockets of water or nutrients as they would in soil, they can devote more energy to development.
It is important to note that you can only reap these benefits if you properly set up and manage your hydroponic garden.
The most significant disadvantage of hydroponics is the high cost of purchasing a system. However, it is my intention to teach you how to develop the majority of these systems yourself if you wish, which will reduce the cost.
Another disadvantage is the level of expertise needed to effectively operate a device. It's not THAT difficult, but it's much more difficult than growing the same plant in soil. This is due to the fact that you are creating an artificial environment in which you supply the plant with water, nutrients, light, and everything else it requires — which means you must also control those inputs.
If one of those components is out of control, or if you have an equipment malfunction, such as a pump failing, your whole garden may be jeopardized.
If you're looking for a unique
A wicking system is the most basic type of hydro system you can build. It’s been used for thousands of years, though it wasn’t considered a hydroponic system back then. It's what's known as passive hydroponics, which means it doesn't need any air or water pumps to operate.
A wick, which is sometimes as easy as a rope or a piece of felt, transports nutrients and water into a plant's root region.
Using a growing medium that transports water and nutrients well is one key to success with a wicking method. Coconut coir, perlite, and vermiculite are all good options.
Wick systems are ideal for small plants that don't need a lot of water or nutrients. Larger plants can struggle to get enough of either through a simple wick system. If you're looking for a unique
Benefits of Wick Systems
Truly “hands off” if you set it up correctly
Fantastic for small plants, beginner gardeners, and children
Downsides of Wick Systems
Not good for larger plants
Incorrect wick placement or material can mean death for your plants
To learn even more, learn how to build a two-liter bottle garden or watch my video tutorial:
2.Deep Water Culture (DWC) Systems
Deepwater culture, or DWC as I'll refer to it from now on, is by far the most user-friendly form of the hydro system. If you're looking for a unique A Deep Water Culture (DWC) system's operation.
In a DWC method, a reservoir is used to store a nutrient solution. The roots of your plants are suspended in that solution, ensuring a constant supply of water, oxygen, and nutrients.
An air pump with an air stone is used to inject bubbles into the nutrient solution to oxygenate the water. This prevents your roots from drowning in the water — an odd idea, but it has happened (and continues to happen) to many novice hydroponic gardeners.Benefits of Deep Water Culture
Quite low-cost and easy to make at home
As a result of recirculating, fewer inputs are lost.
Downsides of Deep Water Culture
It is inadequate for big plants.
Does not fit well with plants that have a long growing season.
3.Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) Systems
The Nutrient Film Technique, abbreviated NFT, is a common commercial hydroponic method. The simplest method for configuring an NFT scheme.
Plants are grown in channels with a nutrient solution continuously pumping through them and running along the bottom of the tube. As the solution hits the end of the channel, it is returned to the main reservoir and the mechanism is restarted. As a consequence, it is a recirculating device, similar to deep water culture.
In contrast to deep water culture, the roots of your plants are not totally submerged in an NFT system, thus the “film” aspect of the system's name.
Plants are put in these channels using net pots and growing medium, and they can be replaced or harvested one at a time.
Pros of Nutrient Film Technique
Only a small amount of growing medium is needed.
The use of a recirculating device results in less waste.
Downsides of Nutrient Film Technique
Any type of pump failure will completely destroy your crop.
Roots can become overgrown and clog the channels
4.Ebb and Flow / Flood and Drain Systems
Ebb and Flow systems, also known as Flood and Drain systems, are a less common type of system. However, they are still very successful and could be the best option depending on your circumstances. An illustration of a commercial flood and drainage scheme. the originator
Unlike the previous two hydro systems we discussed, an ebb and flow system does not expose your plants' roots to a nutrient solution on a continuous basis.
Instead, you grow in a tray with a rising medium in it. The tray is "flooded" with your nutrient solution many times a day, depending on variables such as:
The size of your plants
The water requirement of your plants
The air temperature
Where your plants are in their growth cycle
…And many more
Flooding is achieved by the use of a reservoir under the tray, a water pump, and a timer to control the flooding period.
After flooding the tray, gravity drains the solution back into the tank, where it is oxygenated by an air pump and air stone. It sits there, awaiting the next flood season, and the cycle continues.
Ebb and flow systems are common among hydroponic growers due to their versatility. Most of them will fill the tray with their preferred growing medium and add net pots to better coordinate their plants and monitor the roots.
Benefits of Ebb and Flow
Water and energy management
Highly adaptable to your unique requirements
Downsides of Ebb and Flow
Roots will easily dry out if environmental conditions are unfavorable or if the pump or timer fails.
Uses a lot of growing medium
Aeroponic systems are the most "high-tech" hydroponic setups you can make. However, once you understand how they work, they aren't all that complicated.
An aeroponic system, like an NFT system, has roots that are often suspended in air. The difference is that an aeroponic device accomplishes this by continuously misting the root zone with a nutrient solution rather than running a thin film of nutrient solution through a channel.
Some growers tend to mist in a cycle similar to an ebb and flow system, except the cycle is much shorter, with just a few minutes between mistings. It is also possible to mist continuously and use a finer sprayer to ensure that more oxygen reaches the root region.
Aeroponic systems have been shown to grow plants even quicker than some of the simpler systems like deep water culture, but this has not been verified to be true in all cases. If you want to experiment with this system, you will need specialized spray nozzles to atomize the nutrient solution.
Benefits of Aeroponics
Roots often are exposed to more oxygen than submerged-root systems
Downsides of Aeroponics
High-pressure nozzles can fail and roots can dry out
Not as cheap or easy to set up as other methods
To learn more, check out the video tutorial:
Drip irrigation is very common in commercial activities, although it is less common in recreational gardens. This is due to the fact that they are easy to run on a large scale, but are slightly overkill for a smaller garden. In any case, they're a fantastic way to develop hydroponically that you should think about.
A basic hydroponic drip system.
Benefits of Drip Systems
High level of control over feeding and watering schedule
Less likely to break
Downsides of Drip Systems
It Maybe overkill for a smaller garden
Fluctuating pH and nutrient levels (if using the recirculating system)
High waste (if using the waste system)