DIY HYDROPONIC SYSTEMS

11 Intriguing Types of Hydroponic Systems

There are many options to choose from when it comes to hydroponic systems and even more when you include hybrid and deviation designs being invented on a regular basis. Which types of hydroponic systems you choose will depend on your experience, what plants you wish to grow, and space you have in your growing location.

 

 

All Hydroponic Systems have one of two main nutrient delivery options

 

Passive Hydroponics 

Also known as Semi-Hydroponics, Passive sub-irrigation, or Hydroculture, Passive hydroponics is the method where all the nutrient and water is delivered to your plant’s roots via a wick or static solution. The plant roots usually grow in an inert medium, but it is not required in some methods.

 

Active Hydroponics 

Active hydroponics is the method where all the nutrient and water is delivered to your plant’s roots via a submersible pump. Medium is not required. There are two types.

  1. Active drip or top-irrigation– All the nutrients and water are delivered to your plant via a series of pipes to the top of the plant which then drips down to the roots and reservoir.
  2. Active sub-irrigation – Nutrients and water are delivered to your plant via a series of pipes to the bottom of the plant container or reservoir to flush the roots with fresh water and nutrients.

 

Aeration

Most systems will use some type of added aeration. The most common aeration system is an air stone and air pump like most fish aquariums use. Aeration of the nutrient solution delivers even more oxygen to the plant roots which promotes healthier, faster plant growth. It is extremely rare to ever have too much oxygen in the solution for the roots.

 

 

Types of Hydroponic Systems

 

Kratky Method

Kratky Hydroponic systems
Kratky Hydroponic systems, Shutterstock
  • Passive hydroponics
  • Kratky method plants are either grown in net cups on floating Rafts or pallets, or in containers of non-circulating water and nutrient reservoirs like a Mason jar, Bucket, or reservoir container.
  • Does not require a submersible pump
  • Usually does not run an aeration system

 

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Wick Method

Wick Hydroponic System
Wick Hydroponic Systems, Shutterstock
  • Passive hydroponics
  • Wick Systems are one of the most basic forms of hydroponics and are incredibly easy to set up. Virtually every type of sub-irrigation system that’s ever been marketed operates on some variation of the wick system. The Hydroponic wick system is great for beginners or people looking to try hydroponics.
  • The system uses two or more wicks to deliver water from the reservoir up to the roots suspended in a medium via capillary action.
  • Sometimes uses an integrated aeration system

 

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Deep Water Culture Method, DWC

Deep Water Culture Hydroponic System
DWC Hydroponic System, Shutterstock
  • Can be Passive or Active Hydroponics
    • Passive Hydroponics ( most common)
      • Rafts or Styrofoam floats
    • Active Hydroponics
      • Bato or Dutch Buckets ( Arguably a drip system)
      • Most commonly top-irrigation
    • DWC plants grow in a medium such as Rockwool, coco coir or peat grow Plugs placed in net pots.
    • Can be set up in multiple variations and configurations that may or may not be automated.
    • Usually runs with an integrated aeration system

 

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Ebb and Flow or Flood and Drain Method

  • Active Hydroponics
  • There are three popular methods or techniques – The Bucket Method, The Flooding Tray and the Rotary Method

 

1. The Bucket Method 

Flood and drain Hydroponic System
Ebb and Flow Bucket Hydroponic System, Shutterstock
  • Active Hydroponics
  • Very unique Flood and Drain method that combines the use of Dutch buckets to hold the plants instead of a Tray.
  • Plants are placed in a pot with medium. This makes this system very portable to move individual plants around or remove them from the system.
  • The buckets filled with growing medium is mounted over the water and nutrient-filled reservoir
  • At regular intervals, a timer triggers a submersible pump in the reservoir to fill the upper tray of medium and plants with nutrient solution.
  • When the pump timer turns off the nutrient solution drains back down into the reservoir.
  • Usually runs with an integrated aeration system

 

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2. The Flooding Tray Method 

Ebb and Flow Flood Tray System
Ebb and Flow Flood Tray System, GrowWithoutSoil.com
  • Active Hydroponics
  • Most popular commercial Ebb and Flow method
  • Plants are placed either directly into medium in the tray or placed in a pot with medium in the tray.
  • The tray is mounted over the water and nutrient-filled reservoir
  • At regular intervals, a timer triggers a submersible pump in the reservoir to fill the upper tray of medium and plants with nutrient solution.
  • When the pump timer turns off the nutrient the solution drains back down into the reservoir.
  • This system can also use a series of Bell, Loop, or U-siphons to automatically drain the tray.
  • Usually runs with an integrated aeration system

 A quick bit about siphons

 

 

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3. Rotary Method

Rotary Hydroponic System
Rotary Hydroponics System, Sergio D’Afflitto, Wikimedia Commons
  • Active Hydroponics similar to flood and drain
  • Uses a circular frame to hold plants in a wheel-shaped frame
  • Rotates continuously during the entire growth cycle.
  • As the plants rotate in the wheel, their roots are periodically dipped in the hydroponic growth solution at the bottom of each cycle.
  • Plants continuously fight against gravity which forces them to mature more quickly than when grown traditionally or in other hydroponic systems.
  • Runs continuously
  • Usually runs with an integrated aeration system

 

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Nutrient Film Technique, NFT

NFT Hydroponic System
NFT Hydroponic System, Shutterstock
  • Active Hydroponics
  • Plants are either placed directly into an NFT tray or are grown in Stone wool Grow Cubes then placed into the tray. In some homemade Hydroponics systems, they are placed in a Grow Cube in a net cup then placed into the NFT tray.
  • The NFT tray is situated to have one side higher than the other
  • A submersible pump in the reservoir pumps water and nutrients up to the higher side of the NFT  tray through a series of tubes and valves.
  • The nutrient solution trickles down the tray washing the plant roots on the way back down into the reservoir.
  • Can be run continuously or set on a timer
  • Usually runs with an integrated aeration system

 

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Drip Technique

  • Active Hydroponics
  • There are three popular methods or techniques

 

1. Bato or Dutch Bucket Method

Bato Bucket Hydroponic System
Drip Technique/ Dutch Bucket Hydroponic System, Shutterstock
  • Submersible pump in the reservoir pumps water and nutrients to the top of the media in the Bucket.
  • The nutrient solution trickles down into the medium washing the plant roots on the way back down into the bucket, then gravity fed back down into the reservoir.
  • Can be run continuously or set on a timer
  • Usually runs with an integrated aeration system

 

 

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2. Vertical Hydroponic system

  • There are also Multiple designs of vertical systems. These are currently the most popular.
    • Tower garden
    • Zip wall
    • Vertically stacked horizontal systems
Drip Hydroponic System
Drip technique/ Vertical Hydroponic System, Shutterstock
  • A submersible pump in the reservoir pumps water and nutrients to the top of the tower.
  • The nutrient solution trickles down a series of rings inside the tower washing the plant roots placed into slots around the sides on the way back down into the reservoir.
  • Can be run continuously or set on a timer
  • Usually runs with an integrated aeration system

 

 

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3. Run to Waste Method

Run to waste Hydroponic System
Drip Technique/ Run to Waste Hydroponic System, Shutterstock

In most traditional farming plants are grown as a Run-to-Waste system or recirculating system. The nutrient water solution is periodically sprayed or dripped onto the inert growing media, what ever nutrient water is unused by the plant drips out to be wasted or in some more environmentally responsible systems treated and reused. Can be set up in multiple variations and configurations that May or may not be automated.

 

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Aeroponics

Aeroponics Hydroponic System
Aeroponics Hydroponics System, Wikimedia Commons

Aeroponics is the process of growing plants without soil or an aggregate medium. Their roots hang suspended in the air and are sprayed with a mist of nutrient water. Plants are grown with their roots hanging suspended in air while a nutrient solution is delivered to the roots via a continuous or timed mist. Aeroponics is arguably the best of all the current hydroponic system types. There are 2 Aeroponic techniques.

 

Low-pressure Aeroponics (LPA)

  • Easy and affordable to set up.
  • Delivers mist to plant roots via large droplets.
  • Not as efficient as a high-pressure system.
  • LPA is more akin to a drip system.

High-pressure Aeroponics (HPA)

  • More complicated.
  • Uses less water and fewer nutrients than any other system (except Fogponics)
  • Potential to Grow plants up to 20% faster
  • Uses a fine mist with smaller water droplets that the plants can absorb more readily.

 

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Fogponics or Atmoponics

 

Fogponics Hydroponic System
Fogponics Hydroponics System

Fogponics is the new system on the block and holds great promise. It is similar to aeroponics in that it is a system for spraying the roots with nutrient water but with an ultrasonic fogger/nebulizer, compressed air, or heating element to form an even finer mist or vapor of much smaller particles of water (5–30 microns).  Studies show the size of the average water droplet matters most. If the average water droplet is too big, plant roots will not get enough oxygen. If the average water droplet is too small, roots will not receive enough nutrients.

 

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Dani

Dani

I'm Dani, I come from a long history of migrant farmers. In high school I wrote a paper about how my father brought us over the Texas border to give us a better life. During college, I worked part time with him in the farming industry. After receiving a degree in Urbanism from Columbia University, I started to realize how important the role of the food chain was to urban inner cities. I began studying different types of Indoor and vertical faming solutions. I started designing and building my own hydroponic systems and have never looked back.