How To Build A Recirculating DWC System

One of the best ways to care for your plants at home is the recirculating deep water culture (DWC) system. While this may not be the most common method of treatment, it actually allows your plants to thrive in almost ideal conditions that promote growth and wellbeing.

Not only is it effective, and good for your plants, it is easy to set up en masse, allowing you to grow large numbers of plants with less maintenance than similar methods.

The roots of the plants are submerged (or suspended) in both nutrient-rich solution and oxygenated water in DWC. The fertilizer and water solution are stored in a reservoir for use by the plants. DWC systems come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the one we'll be exploring today is RDWC, or, to use its full name, recirculating deep water culture.

Follow this guide, for step-by-step instructions on building your own recirculating DWC system, and learn how they can make a huge impact on your harvest. If you decide to take a shortcut and buy a premade system we recommend the Bavnnro RDWC Hydroponic Bucket System or the Artisun Technology RDWC Grow Kit.

Also Read: DIY Hydroponics At Home: Your Guide For Success

What You Will Need

In order to set up your own recirculating DWC system, you will require the following:

How To Build A Recirculating DWC System

Step One

The first thing you need to do is get a large reservoir tank for the storage of your nutrient solutions. You will need to connect this tank to the smaller reservoirs or buckets for every plant. All of the small buckets or reservoirs will then be connected together by pipelines.

The purpose of the larger tank is to pass or provide fertilizer solutions to smaller buckets. It will now be recirculated or returned to the huge tank. An inline water filter is used to recirculate and control the water. The roots of your plants will be totally submerged in this nourishing solution.

Step Two

Get an air pump and air stones to place in the large reservoir and each bucket. Air stones, when used in conjunction with air pumps, produce bubbles that aid in gas exchange and adequate aeration. As a result, your plants' roots will be well oxygenated, which is essential for their survival in your recirculating DWC.

Step Three

To keep your plants contained, use net pots. Because of the holes in the net pots, your plant roots will be able to reach below the nutritional water solution. Then fill the net pots with a suitable aquatic growing medium.

Step Four

After you've completed setting up your deep water growing system, check the pH level. For optimal results, keep the pH between 5.5 and 6.5.

Replace the nutrition solution in your reservoir weekly or every two weeks. Check the nutrient levels in your reservoir with an EC meter and a PPM meter at all times, for the best possible results.

The Benefits Of A Recirculating DWC System

There are several benefits to using a recirculating DWC system, as opposed to other similar systems.

In a typical deep water culture, the hassle of looking after each system's pH and nutrition levels is ever-present. This means that, although typical deep water cultures can be great for a small system when you want a larger system with more plants, a recirculating deep water system should be your first choice.

It is possible to grow tall, large plants in a recirculating deep water culture system. Fertilization is not necessary because the plants are constantly submerged in nutrient-rich water solutions. Plants will also develop faster because nutrients are taken immediately and easily. Furthermore, the well-oxygenated system aids nutrition absorption.

Note: A recirculating deep water culture system's components are easily accessible and quick to set up. This system is cost-effective, and it doesn't require much maintenance once it's up and running.

Your recirculating DWC system grows plants as quickly as possible, making it ideal for getting the most yield in the shortest amount of time. Thanks to the shared everything system, you can also save time by tending to all of the plants at the same time when it comes to nutrition changes.

Maintenance becomes a snap with only one system to keep track of, but you must still keep an eye on it. Because one pot is connected to the others, any issue that affects one quickly spreads to the others.

Buying A Pre-Made Recurring DWC System

While it is possible to buy a pre-made RDWC system, the results are often varied and unpredictable. It may also be daunting for new gardeners to get to grips with some of the more complex systems available for purchase.

Building your own RDWC system allows you to personalize your gardening experience, as you are in complete control of the project. It also allows you to cater to what you need as an individual, as one person’s usage of an RDWC may vary widely from other users.

It can also be more cost-effective, as only you will know exactly what you need, and in what quantities. While building your own RDWC may seem like a hassle at first, having the ability to set up your own system, having it be personalized for you, and knowing that the yield of your work was entirely off your own back, can be extremely satisfying.

Simply combine your nutrition and continue to run the pumps. Make sure you set up your plants so that the roots of your seedlings are in contact with the liquid, place them in the growing medium, and just like that, you should start to see the fruits of your labor within mere days.

How Long do Hydroponic Plants Last? Answered By Experts

Hydroponic plants are grown without soil, and instead, use a nutrient-rich water solution. They can grow in any climate, indoors or outdoors.

Unfortunately, the question of how long do hydroponic plants last has no definitive answer because depending on many factors like;

But let's explore the question a little further.

Plant lifespan: Hydroponics vs. Soil

The lifespan of a plant grown in soil can easily be determined by looking at its root system. A plant with a healthy, dense root structure will live for years if cared for properly.

Plants that are not planted in soil typically have to manage nutrients differently than those which are rooted into the ground. Hydroponic plants tend to use less water and fewer resources because they don't need to support the root system.

However, plants that are not planted in soil will go through stress when they sense that water is scarce because their roots can't access it fast enough. This may cause them to wilt or rot if left untreated for too long.

The key thing to remember about hydroponic plants is that your ability to provide them with the right level of light, water, and nutrients will determine how long they live.

5 steps to keep your hydroponic plants alive longer

Here are some steps that should be taken to keep your beloved plants alive longer in your hydroponic system before harvest season:

  1. Regularly monitor the pH level of your water. If you notice that it's too acidic or alkaline, then adjust accordingly to keep it in a healthy range for plant growth (between five and seven).
  2. Keep nitrate levels within an optimum range between 25-150 ppm at all times. The lower the nitrogen content, the better because this will slow the growth of your plants and they will last longer.
  3. Expose them to as much light as possible, but avoid direct sunlight for more than a few hours at a time so that you don't scorch their delicate leaves.
  4. Avoid temperature extremes because these can cause stress too. Keep it between 60-90 degrees Fahrenheit (15-32 Celsius).
  5. Don't forget to keep the water level at an appropriate height, as this will help your plants develop sturdy root systems that last longer.

Do hydroponic plants grow faster than in soil?

Yes, they do. Although the speed at which a plant grows depends on various factors.

However, the nutrients available to plants in hydroponic systems tend to make them grow faster compared with those that are rooted in soil because they don't have any other resource for nourishment except what's provided by their water source.

How often do you add nutrients to hydroponics?

When using a low-energy system, nutrients may only need to be added every once in a while so that the water remains healthy and nutritive.

On the other hand, high-energy systems will require more attention because you'll have to add them at least twice per week. But remember: less is better when it comes to the nutrient concentration.

How long does a full hydroponic crop cycle take?

An entire crop cycle can take anywhere from two weeks to a few months depending on the plant and the hydroponic system used.

But here are some guidelines for the most popular plants in hydroponic gardening:

Hydroponic growing is easier than soil, but still requires patience and love. From the seed and seedling to the flowering stage and eventually the harvest, it's important to stay on top of your game, otherwise you would yield much.

How do you know if your plant needs extra hydroponic nutrients?

If the tips of their leaves are turning brown, then it's time to add more nutrients. Alternatively, if they're turning yellow or pale in coloration, then that means there aren't enough minerals available for them.

When plants become droopy and wilted after being watered, then they're probably not getting enough nutrients.

However, if you notice that their leaves are losing color and showing signs of toxicity (such as brown spots), then it's time to flush the system with clean water immediately because this is a sign of excess nutrient buildup.

Remember, plants like equilibrium too! They need an ideal pH level in order to grow and thrive, so monitor it regularly.

How often do you need to change hydroponic water?

Water should be changed every one to two weeks because the nutrient content will build up over time, which can cause damage.

If you don't change it often enough then this may result in growth issues for your plants and they'll die much faster than necessary.

What about when I'm not around?

You can set up an automatic system that will monitor and maintain pH levels, nutrient concentration, and water levels for you.

That way your plants can grow without the need of an owner around to care for them.

Conclusion: So how long do hydroponic plants last?

Generally, a hydroponic plant will last longer than a plant grown in soil.

There are many factors that will determine how long your hydroponic plants last, but if you provide them with the right conditions and care they can live for several years, before you decide to harvest them.

How Do Air Stones Work?

Growing plants from the comfort of your home can be a slow and complicated process, especially when using soil and minerals to keep your seedlings alive. But did you know that you can grow plants without the need for soil?

Known as hydroponic systems, this technique is a scientific method used to grow plants, which utilizes two of the most important elements needed - water and air.

Whereas water can be easily obtained from a tap or hose, making sure that the water is aerated can be a more difficult task, especially when you consider that the root systems will need oxygen to thrive.

So how can you make sure that your hydroponic system has the correct amount of air? By purchasing your very own air stone of course.

These amazing pieces of technology can be used to quickly aerate the water in your tank, providing the basic necessities that your plants need to grow. So if you want to know how air stones work, then you have come to the right place.

In the following article, we are going to show you how these amazing inventions work and why they are an important part of any hydroponic system.

We will also explain the different kinds of air stones available and how you can find the best product for your plants. So if you want to know how you can aerate your hydroponic system in a fast and efficient way, then we have everything you need to get started…

Why Should You Use Air Stones? 

If you are interested in constructing your own hydroponic garden, then the addition of an air stone is pivotal to ensuring positive growth.

Check out our top recommendations for the best air stones for hydroponics

Vital oxygen

Air stones have become a fundamental part of hydroponics because they can be used to supply the tank with the necessary amount of oxygen needed. This is important as the plant’s root systems will require air to receive the nutrients they need to thrive and develop.

Aeration and growth

When plants are grown in soil, they will usually receive the nutrients they need from the earth, which are then absorbed through the plant’s roots. However, because hydroponic gardening eliminates the need for soil, they can’t provide the levels of oxygen needed on their own, which is why air stones are pivotal to delivering the nutrients they need to ensure plant aeration and growth.

Diffusion of air

Not only are air stones capable of producing the oxygen levels needed, but they are also easy to implement and can be used to enhance the diffusion of air in the water. Because of this, they are particularly useful when constructing Deep Water Culture systems (DWC), as they can supply the oxygen needed to aerate the nutrient-rich water.

Air stones produce this oxygen by creating bubbles in the water, which then spread and become absorbed by the root systems. Some of the best air stones currently available can even push the bubbles so that the plants acquire the various nutrients that they need.

Clean contaminated water

Because hydroponics relies greatly on water, it is common to use tap water to fill the tank, which can be dangerous as tap water is known to contain traces of alkaline and chlorine.

Fortunately, air stones can be used to combat this problem as they come with the added benefit of being able to clean the water. However, it is also advisable to check the water’s ph level before introducing it to your hydroponic system.

How Do Air Stones Work? 

Air stones are small rounded objects that are commonly made using porous materials, which are then attached to a tube that needs to be connected to an air pump.

Once the flow of air has been administered, the pump works to compress the air through the tube and into the stone, where it then takes the form of small bubbles being released into the water.

In hydroponic systems, such as Deep Water Culture, the bubbles are then used to oxygenate the plants, which allows them to thrive and enable the production of flowers and produce. This is accomplished by the bubbles defusing in the water and being absorbed by the specimen’s roots, which then benefits the plant.

When used in greenhouse hydroponic systems, air stones can be used to aerate the plants while maintaining the optimum temperature for growth and development. Beyond this, air stones also create a current in the water, which can be used to detract mosquitoes and insects from laying their eggs in the tank.

This demonstrates how significant air stones are when it comes to initiating the aeration process, with the technology being a pivotal part of various hydroponic methods. However, if you wish to naturally aerate the water, then this can be done by creating a current in the water to produce oxygen.

What Types Of Air Stones Are There? 

Now that you understand how air stones work, let’s take a look at the different types of air stones currently available on the market. The following examples are considered the best and the most common:

Coke Can Air Stone

Otherwise known as a cylinder air stone, this air stone takes the form of a large reservoir and is suitable for hydroponic tanks that require constant airflow and circulation, which means it can be used on any system between 5-10 LPM.

When the stone is turned on, it produces a unique range of large and small bubbles, which take on a distinctive cylindrical shape.

Golf Ball Air Stone 

As the name would suggest, this type of air stone often takes the form of a small blue sphere, which resembles a golf ball in appearance. They are considered to be the standard air stones and are known to produce fizzing air bubbles.

When you purchase this particular type of air stone, they will usually measure around 25mm in diameter, which means they are mainly suitable for tanks with 5 LPM air pumps.

Ceramic Disc Air Stone 

Distinguished by their flat round shape, these air stones are made using a ceramic compound, which makes them long-lasting and versatile. Because of their surface area and flat design, these stones can produce enough air bubbles for larger tanks.

In terms of airflow, this particular air stone is capable of producing between 2.5-10 LPM, which is perfect for hydroponic gardening.

The Correct DWC Water Level Needed For Hydroponics

A DWC setup is one of the most effective and sort after types of hydroponics systems.

They allow you to grow plants in a non-soil environment with nutrient-rich water, and they're relatively easy to set up.

When it comes time to add more water to your system, there is some confusion about how much you should be adding at a time.

Let's talk about the correct DWC water level needed for your system so you can get back to growing plants like a hydro legend.

New to DWC? This Home starter kit is exactly what you need to start growing hydroponically with Deep Water Culture. It's ideal for 6-11 plants and comes with everything you need to get going.

Also read: Best DWC Hydroponic System

What is the exact water level needed for DWC?

So the water level should be high enough to water the plant roots, but not too high that it causes oxygen depletion in your reservoir.

What is the exact water level needed for DWC?

The best way to check this is by using an EC (electrical conductivity) reader. This will give you a reading of how much nutrients are dissolved in the solution and can be used as a pretty quick guide for knowing if there's enough nutrient flow through the system.

However, this is not an exact measurement of water level in your DWC reservoir, and you should still monitor the plant roots to ensure they're submerged at all times.[/note]

Eye check: If you see bubbles coming from the bottom holes of your net pot where excess oxygen is escaping, then you know for sure, the water level is too high and needs to be lowered.

As well as that, it's worth checking your air pump for minimum and maximum levels - if the plant roots are above this line in the DWC system, they will not get enough oxygenation from the airstone.

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How can the water level boost your plant's growth?

Having the correct water level is vital for your plant's survival. Many people struggle with their DWC hydroponics system because they do not understand the proper water level needed for hydroponics.

There are a few things you should consider when determining what an excellent deep water culture water level would be, such as:

The answers to these questions will help determine the DWC water level needed for your specific plant and system.

The correct topping up method to use for DWC systems

Your DWC water level will decline naturally over time because of the photosynthesis process, giving your plants a chance to grow. You will have to top up the water level with a nutrient solution when it is low.

Two main topping up methods can be used for deep water culture system: dripping and flooding. Regardless of the method you choose, DO NOT overfill or underfill - this can cause problems such as root rot which would kill your plants.

When you top up the water level, use a measuring jug to measure out how much nutrient solution is needed and pour it into the DWC system until just below the air stone.

Ensure there are no gaps in between each plant or other holes for this excess liquid to go through as it can cause plant root problems.

Why this method works

It allows you to top up the water level without needing to remove any plugs, tubing, or equipment in order to fit a container underneath - which could cause algae growth and bacteria build-up.

The nutrient solution will simply rise through each plant's root zone when it's dripping into the system.

Best Approach? If you want to increase your DWC water level quickly, as it will push out any excess liquid very fast - but this means that you have less control over how much nutrient solution goes into the tank and there could be gaps in between each plant for some of it to go through which can cause root problems.

The slowest method of topping up your DWC system, but you have more control over how much nutrient solution goes into the tank.

You will need to remove plugs, tubing, or equipment in order to fit a container underneath - which could cause algae growth and bacteria build-up.

How to prevent water evaporation

As photosynthesis does its thing, your water will be exposed to some light rays. This will result in some of the water evaporating.

When this happens, your plants will be left with insufficient amounts to keep them happy and healthy. If you want to avoid that happening, it is best to install a cover over your DWC system like an ebb-and-flow lid or some other type of cloche. These can help prevent evaporation.

Worried about overheating?

If you are worried about your air ump overheating, or if you have a small system that is not worth the expense of adding covers to, there are other ways around it.

You can place 'evaporation control inserts' into your DWC container until they reach water level. These will absorb some of the light rays and reduce evaporation.

Use a floating plant

Another option is to use a floating plant cover in your hydroponic reservoir. This will help control the humidity of the environment and reduce water loss through transpiration by plants' leaves, which can lead to dehydration.

Change the hydroponic system reservoir

The absolute last-ditch solution (which you should only resort to if everything else fails) is to reduce the frequency of your reservoir changes. This helps to not lose too much water and can provide enough for your plants in between top-ups.

You should always aim to maintain a constant, stable level in order for optimal plant growth in DWC hydroponic systems.

What is the correct water level for a seedling in DWC?

You should aim for the water level to be between 12.95cm and 14.05 cm deep in your DWC bucket when you are using net pots for seedlings.

However, the best way is to place a ruler into the reservoir or use some kind of measuring device that can determine this measurement accurately.

How many gallons of water does a DWC plant need?

Smaller plants need less water, but larger plants need more.

[note]Pro Tip: Use half a gallon (or liter) per plant for every week the crop is in veg and then one to two gallons (roughly four liters) when it's in bloom.

So what do we mean by "half a gallon per plant"?

This is the water level at which you want it to be for most of your growth.

For example, if you have four plants in a DWC system then half of eight gallons (two liters) would be four gallons (15 liters).

Conclusion: DWC hydroponic system levels

Your DWC system shouldn't be any higher than the bottom of the basket. At the most, maybe an inch beneath the small spot of air between the two.

If your plant's roots don't touch the very bottom of your basket, just bring the water level up slightly, to reach the roots.

Are those pesky roots poking out of the bottom and sides? Then drop the water, so it's sitting below the basket.

The Best Size Bucket For Hydroponics Using The DWC System

Hydroponics is a sustainable and efficient way of growing plants. You can grow more crops in the same amount of space as soil gardens. It also helps to reduce the amount of water needed for your garden significantly.

The DWC (deep water culture) system is one type of hydroponic system that has been around since the 1960s and has proven to be very successful at producing vegetables and fruit on a large scale.

When choosing what size bucket to use with this system, it's important to consider how many plants will be placed inside it as well as their height and width requirements before making a decision.

So let's look at the options.

Also Read: Best Hydroponic Systems Reviewed - Your Guide To Buying A Full Kit Online

Does bucket size matter in hydroponics?

Yes, bucket size does matter in hydroponics, and it depends on what you are growing. Not so much bucket color, but let's save that for another day.

Some plants, like lettuce or strawberries will grow well in a smaller bucket because they don't need as much room to develop roots. Lettuce is quite shallow rooted so can easily be supported by a small container with just a few air stones bubbling away on the bottom.

Strawberries can be grown in a smaller container because they will produce new runners that extend out into the root zone, which is aerated by bubbling air stones on the bottom of your bucket.

What are the most common sized hydroponic buckets?

The most common sizes are 5 gallon buckets and 10 gallon buckets. This sounds like a lot of space, but there are ways to maximize the use of any sized bucket.

The size of your bucket will determine what you can and can’t grow. Large plants like tomatoes, cucumbers or melons will need a lot of space to flourish.

What's the difference between net pots and buckets in a hydroponic system?

A net pot is used for growing plants in a hydroponic system where the plant roots of the plant are immersed directly into water.

This is also known as an ebb and flow or flood and drain system, which means that there is flooding of nutrient-rich water to the net pots followed by draining back down to make room for more nutrients.

Buckets on the other hand are used in a DWC (Deep Water Culture) hydroponic system where the roots of the plant are never submerged into water, but instead, sit in oxygen rich air.

The buckets themselves also act as reservoirs to hold nutrient-rich nutrient solution that is pumped up from below and then trickled back down over the root zone for aeration (before being drained away again.

How much space do you actually need for a hydroponic system with a DWC bucket?

The ideal amount of space is around 18 inches in height for a bucket hydroponic system with the roots in air. There are several factors that come into play when considering the size:

How big should my hydroponic reservoir be?

That's actually a very tough question to answer, because the best size for a hydroponic reservoir is relative to the type of hydroponics system it will be used with.

Different types of plants require different amounts, so what works well for one may not work as well for another.

When you know which system or method you're going to use and the plant you want to grow, then you can determine a bucket size.

What size pots are needed for hydroponic specific plants, herbs and vegetables?

Let's look specifically at the ideal bucket sizes for each of the most common vegetables and fruits that hydro growers use.

Peppers

There are two different types of peppers. Bell peppers, which can grow to be much larger plants and require a lot of room for their roots to spread out, need the biggest buckets at around 30 gallons each. Hot or chili peppers typically don't get quite as big but still need about 20-25 gallon tubs.

Tomatoes

The most common type of tomatoes are determinate, which means they grow to a certain height and stop. They also provide all their fruit at the same time so there's no need for them to grow any larger than about 16 inches tall.

Their roots don't spread out very far either though, so hydroponic growers can get away with using buckets as small as 20 gallons.

Potatoes

These root veggies need a lot of room for their roots to spread out, so they're probably the most difficult plant to grow hydroponically. You can get away with using buckets as small as 25 gallons but the bigger and more stable your reservoir is, the better off you'll be and less likely it will fall over from weight or water spills.

Lettuce

This is probably the easiest plant to grow hydroponically and the go-to for first time growers. It doesn't require a lot of nutrient uptake, only needs at most about 20 gallons and grows fairly quickly.

Strawberries

This hydroponic fruit is really only suited for growing in an ebb and flow system, but even then it doesn't require a lot of root space. Any bucket that's at least 12-15 gallons should work fine.

Cucumbers

Ebb and flow hydroponic systems are ideal for cucumbers, which only need about 20 gallons. So you can skip these if you're eager to use the DWC method.

Conclusion: So what is the best size bucket for hydroponics?

It depends on what you're growing and what specific hydroponic system you're going to use.

The bucket dimensions come after you've planned your system out, so don't worry about it until you have the following in place:

  1. System you're going to use (do you need a net pot or bucket?)
  2. Space needed for that system (more space equals more plants obviously)
  3. Plants you're going to grow (One plant, multiple plants?)
  4. Environment (indoors or outdoors, which affects temperature and oxygen levels)

Hydroponics vs Traditional Farming: Which Is Better?

The hydroponics vs traditional farming debate has been an ongoing discussion for decades in the agriculture industry. Is hydroponic farming better than traditional farming?

For many, the answer is yes. Hydroponics cost less and also produce more yield in comparison to traditional methods of farming.

The main downside that hydroponics have is that they require a lot of energy to run well, but it pays off in the long-run as hydroponic farms are usually able to produce 10 times as much as a traditional farm would!

But let's a take a more-depth look hydroponic farm system costs and other factors that will help you make a better decision.

Is hydroponics cheaper than traditional farming?

The answer really depends on a number of factors. If you are looking at the price per square foot, then hydroponics is usually cheaper than traditional farming because it requires less space for production.

The soil in which plants grow also costs money and can be avoided with hydroponics where water takes its place.

However, if we look at the price per pound of production, traditional farming is often a better option. This happens because yields can be greater with conventional methods and there are no added costs for labor or equipment to maintain your hydroponic garden.

But don’t rule out hydroponics just yet! If you plan on producing only one item in certain quantities, then hydroponics may be cheaper. For example, if you want to produce a large quantity of tomatoes or peppers for canning purposes, traditional farming will cost more.

Why is hydroponics better than traditional farming?

Many people think hydroponics is better than traditional farming because it uses less water and it is easier to manage. However, you can grow much more food in traditional farming than hydroponics.

Many people believe that the nutrients used for growing plants are not healthy or safe either because they use too much chemicals like pesticides or because of how they're processed. It's true that some fertilizers contain harmful compounds, but they're not necessary to grow crops.

It is true that growing vegetables with hydroponics takes more time than traditional farming because you have to provide the nutrients yourself and monitor the system every day if it's automated, but many people think this extra effort makes your food healthier and safer for consumption.

How much does a hydroponic farm cost?

On average, setting up and running a hydroponic farm will cost you about $3,000. However, this figure can vary depending on the size of your hydroponic farm and the setup that you prefer. For example, you can purchase pre-made hydroponic systems or build your own.

If you are knowledgeable about gardening and want to create a small farm on the cheap, building an easy DIY hydroponic system is probably for you. You'll need some basic materials like PVC piping, tubing, nutrients, trays, net pots grow lights plus enough seeds to get started.

Is there money in hydroponic farming?

Yes, there is. However, this does not mean that everyone should go out and start their own hydroponic farm right now.

It’s important to look at the pros and cons of both methods before making a decision on how you want your business to run or what type of farming method you plan on using in order for it to be successful.

When it comes to hydroponic farming, the main concern is that you will need a lot of money up front in order for your business to be successful. This means buying all of your equipment and building materials as well as paying initial costs such as insurance and maintenance fees.

Quick Note: Although this method does save on land usage because you do not need to use soil, you will need a larger space in order for your plants to grow because hydroponics requires more growing room.

In traditional farming methods, there is no initial investment needed up front and on top of that it does not require any additional costs such as maintenance or insurance after the farm has been set-up.

Is hydroponically grown food healthier for you?

The short answer is that hydroponically grown food could potentially be healthier for you than traditionally farmed crops.

This is because there are less pests and diseases when growing indoors in a controlled environment which means pesticides aren’t needed to protect the plants from insects or pathogens.

The other added benefit of indoor farming is increased control over water and nutrient levels. When this is done properly it can also ensure a higher quality crop than what you would get from traditional farming practices.

All that being said, the hydroponic equipment to do these things costs money and runs on electricity so your initial investment will be much more expensive compared to buying produce at the grocery store or farmers market.

The Final Verdict on Hydroponics vs Traditional Farming

If you're a professional farmer or even a hobby farmer that wants to explore your options of hydroponics and the modern gardening techniques a lot of people are using these days, then it really comes down to a handful of things to consider:

How Much Does Hydroponics Cost?

Hydroponic gardening costs more compared to traditional soil cultivation for the typical hobbyist grower.

You need to spend more on equipment and deal with the cost of electricity. Yet, hydroponic farming can offer a more cost-effective option in the long run.

A large hydroponic farm business is likely to save money and resources, thanks to the unique features of hydroponic cultivation. A hydroponic system requires less space, uses less water, and eliminates the need for soil.

Also read: Best Affordable Hydroponics System

So, how much does hydroponics cost?

The answer depends on your preferences. A small aeroponic unit may cost less than $100. Larger systems designed for an indoor farm can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

In the following article, we’ll examine the costs of setting up and maintaining a hydroponics system.

What Makes Hydroponics Expensive?

Hydroponics costs more to set up compared to traditional farming due to the equipment. The typical hydroponics garden includes a variety of components, including:

Some hydroponics methods also require a timer or controller. For example, an Ebb and Flow system need a timer to control the cycle of flushing and draining the grow tray.

The hydroponics method that you decide to use also impacts the cost. All types of hydroponics belong to one of two categories – passive hydroponic and active hydroponics.

Passive Hydroponics

Passive hydroponics involves growing plants with a tank of non-circulating water. They don’t include pumps, tubing, or large tanks, which reduces the cost.

The most common types of passive hydroponics include the Kratky method and the wicking system. Both methods involve placing the plant in a container filled with a nutrient solution.

The only equipment needed for these methods include:

A wicking system uses a wick to draw nutrients up to the roots. With the Kratky method, the water level starts above root level. The roots continue to grow as the water evaporates.

The Kratky method and wicking method are easy to set up but require more work for large-scale food production.

Hydroponics gardening requires you to check the nutrient concentration and pH level frequently. As you can only grow one plant per container, checking multiple plants becomes a chore.

Active Hydroponics

Active hydroponic systems include a pump to circulate water. The water is pumped through the grow tray or pipes holding the net pots. Some of the most common active hydroponics methods include:

Deep-water culture (DWC) hydroponic systems include a container that holds one or more net pots. The roots extend down into a water tank containing the nutrient solution.

A pump keeps the water flowing continuously. These systems tend to work best with plants that have shallow root systems, such as lettuce and leafy greens.

Lettuce production is one of the most common crops found in hydroponic greenhouse facilities. It’s also a simple choice for any beginner hydroponic grower.

The nutrient film technique (NFT) is a hydroponic method that uses a narrow channel, such as a pipe, to hold plants. The narrow channels work well with vertical farming setups. You can easily stack an indoor vertical farm on top of another using the NFT method.

The channel is placed at an angle, allowing water to stream past the roots. The water is recycled through a tank that sits below the channel using a continuous flow, as with the DWC systems.

The Ebb and flow system doesn’t use a continuous flow of water. The water travels through the grow tray containing the plant roots and drains back into the nutrient reservoir.

A timer waits a set number of minutes before flushing the grow tray with water again. The ebb and flow of water provide increased oxygenation, which promotes healthier plants.

What Is the Least Expensive Hydroponics Method?

Countertop DWC systems are often the least expensive store-bought option. Some of the smaller units hold a single plant and basically consist of just a bucket and a water pump.

The passive hydroponic systems are typically the least expensive to build yourself, as you only need a bottle and something to hold the plant.

The NFT and DWC systems are typically the easiest and least expensive active hydroponic systems to build. Both options use a water pump that delivers a continuous flow of water, eliminating the need for a timer or controller.

Size of the Hydroponic System

The size of the system is another consideration. Small countertop hobby systems provide enough space to grow six to nine small plants with a maximum height of 12 to 14 inches. They often cost $200 or less and include everything needed to start growing, including a built-in LED grow light.

If you want a larger system, you can expect to spend more. Grow boxes, high-end aeroponic systems, and indoor vertical farms with space for a dozen or more plants may cost hundreds of dollars.

Did You Know? A hydroponic farm business can be more profitable compared to traditional agriculture. It requires a bigger investment and higher operating costs but tends to generate more revenue.

The average acre of traditional farmland can generate $20,000 to $30,000 per year. An acre of hydroponics can generate $200,000 to $250,000 per year.

DIY Hydroponics Versus All-in-One Hydroponics Kits

When you buy a high-end hydroponic system for hundreds of dollars, you’re mostly paying for convenience. The most expensive systems are all-in-one units with quality grow lights, sturdy enclosures, and automated controls.

DIY hydroponics systems involve more work but save money. The biggest expenses include the pumps and lighting equipment. The structure that holds the plants can be made with affordable materials.

For example, nutrient film technique (NFT) and DWC systems are often made using PVC pipes or plastic buckets with holes drilled to fit the net pots. However, if you don’t have the right tools, a DIY active hydroponics system becomes more of a challenge.

Summary

Hydroponic gardening can be cost-effective for those who want to produce large yields. However, setting up a hydroponic system requires a bigger upfront investment.

Building a hydroponic system may require trays, water reservoirs, net pots, pumps, tubing, and other components. Premade systems are available but tend to cost a little more compared to the DIY approach.

While hydroponics costs more compared to buying a planter and fresh potting soil, you can grow more crops. A hydroponic garden typically produces quicker plant growth and fuller harvests.

The cost of a hydroponics setup varies depending on the size of the system and required equipment.

If you want to get into hydroponics but are worried about the costs, try starting with an affordable countertop unit.

What Size Net Pots Do I Need For Hydroponics?

Most hydroponic growing systems only need a 2" net pot, but the exact pot size that you need depends on what you are growing in your hydroponic garden.

Some hydroponic plant systems require larger net pots. Most plants don’t need a net pot larger than 3-4” but some require one as large as 6”.

For example, plants such as hydroponic lettuce and other leafy greens typically only need a 2" net pot, but some individual species still require larger net pots. Other types of plants, such as tomatoes and peppers, normally require a net pot that is 3-4”.

A net pot is a vital part of any hydroponic gardening system. It is important for you to consider the net pot that is right for the specific hydroponic plant that you are growing, and it is equally important to consider the growing media that you plan to use for this plant.

You might also like: The Best Hydroponics System For Your Home

What is a net pot?

A net pot is a special type of pot that has holes in the bottom and sides. This keeps the plant and the growing medium firmly in place, and allows the plant roots to absorb more water and the nutrient-rich solution.

Net pots are typically reusable, which allows you to use them over and over again in multiple hydroponic growing systems. The design of these reusable hydroponic net pots allows for optimal circulation and absorption of water, air, and nutrient solution.

Net pots are normally submerged in the growing system so that the plant roots are fully exposed to the nutrient-rich solution and the deep water culture.

Check out our top recommendations for the Best Net Pots For Hydroponics

Why is the right net pot size important when growing hydroponic plants?

A net pot that is too small will not have room for all of the water and nutrient solution that the plant needs to grow. This is damaging both to the plant's root system, and to the seeds the plant needs to grow.

On the flip side, if you use larger net pots than necessary, this is also damaging to your plants. If you use larger net pots than necessary, your deep water culture and nutrient-rich solution are likely to evaporate before your hydroponic plant can absorb them. This damages the plant's seed and root structure.

How do I determine what size net pots do I need for hydroponics?

The net pot size that you need depends on the hydroponic plant that you plan to grow in your hydroponic garden.

This guide will give you a helpful rule of thumb to determine what size net pot you need, but to be certain that you have the right one, you need to research the specific species of plant that you are growing in your garden. It is best to ask the retailer for advice when you are purchasing your net pots.

Hydroponic lettuce and leafy greens

To achieve optimal plant growth for hydroponic lettuce and leafy greens, it is best to use a 2" net pot. Species that grow larger than normal might need larger net pots, sometimes as large as 4".

Strawberry Plants

A hydroponic strawberry plant normally has the best growth in a net pot that's 2-3" in diameter.

Other plants in a hydroponic growing system

Plants such as tomatoes and peppers normally only require a 2" net pot, but some species require a hydroponics net pot that is 4 or 6". Again, the exact size that you need depends on the exact species that you are trying to grow in your hydroponic system.

Net pot for hydroponic gardening in a mason jar

When creating a hydroponics system in a mason jar, it is typically best to use a 2" net pot. If you are making a hydroponic system in a larger mason jar, measure the opening of the jar and decide what size net pot you need accordingly.

What should I put in my net pot?

There are a variety of different types of growing media that you can use in your hydroponic net pot. Some of the most popular growing media that people use include coconut coir, clay pebbles, coconut fiber, root ball, rockwool cube, and clay pellets.

Each variety of growing medium has its advantages and disadvantages. It is best to look into each one to decide which one is right for you and the plants in your hydroponic gardening system.

Soil is one of the few types of growing media that is not recommended for use in a hydroponics net pot. This is because soil does not absorb water well enough for a hydroponic plant to flourish and the seeds of the plant tend to rot.

The growing medium that you decide to use serves two purposes. It provides the hydroponic plant with water and nutrients, but it also secures the plant in the net pot.

Further reading: What Is The Best Size Bucket For Hydroponics?

Best Hydroponic Plants - Top Herbs, Vegetables, and Fruits To Grow Hydroponically

The best vegetables to grow with hydroponics include lettuce, tomatoes, and chard. In theory, you can grow practically any plant in such conditions. But do bear in mind that the ones that we have already mentioned will, most likely, do much better than the others.

So, are you thinking about creating a hydroponic garden and growing vegetables on your own? Of course, you would face some challenges along the way. But there are too many benefits that definitely сover all the ‘cons’.

How can you grow a beautiful and fresh vegetable with hydroponics and how does this thing even work? Let’s find out!

You should also read: Best Hydroponics System For Plants & Herbs

How Does Hydroponics Work?

In a nutshell, if you are a hydroponic grower, it means that you are not using any soil. The plants that grow in soil need to constantly search for the necessary nutrition with the help of plant roots. In the case of hydroponics – you deliver the nutrients to the plant directly through the water.

Growing plants in such a system lets you control exactly how much water, nutrients, and even light the plants receive. You can also keep an eye on the pH balance and protect your garden from various diseases (fungus in the soil, for example, can lead to plenty of unpleasant conditions).

Did you know? Plants that grow hydroponically can use only 10% of the water required for field-grown ones?

Why Can’t All Vegetables Be Grown in a Hydroponic Environment?

You can certainly experiment and try and grow practically anything in your hydroponics garden. However, some results might be disappointing.

That’s why experts recommend starting from growing hydroponic vegetables that are more likely to be a success. If you are an experienced grower who wants to try out something new, then you can try giving a shot even to the plants that are considered less ‘successful’.

Why exactly are not all vegetables 100% perfect for hydroponic gardening?

Some plants take up too much space.

With a soilless system, in the majority of cases, the amount of free space that you have is extremely limited. Especially, if you have decided to set up an indoor garden.

So, you might want to avoid working with the veggies that are too bushy or simply too big.

Some plants need bees to pollinate them.

The plants that have both female and male flowers on them need a little help from the bees. Without these insects, your green friends won’t thrive.

You can learn to pollinate the plants yourself, but it’s an extra step that you might not have time for (below we still mentioned a few veggies that will need your assistance, in case you want to go the extra mile).

Best Hydroponic Vegetables

What are the go-to veggies that you can try and grown in your hydroponic setup? Here are a few cool options.

Lettuce

Light: if you decide to grow your hydroponic lettuce indoors, you would need plenty of blue light (LED lights that have the blue spectrum). Do bear in mind that the vegetable does not like direct sunlight and hot places.

If your hydroponic garden is located outdoors, you would want to make sure that the leafy green gets around 10-12 hours on light daily.

What hydroponic system should you go for?

A deep water system is, unfortunately, not the most efficient one and the lettuce is more likely to catch a disease in such a system.

Ebb and flow is great for outdoors; drip system is one of the best indoor options as it can adapt to any size of the space and is silent; aeroponics is more suitable for the indoors and is a more advanced system.

The nutrient film technique is not the best pick for inexperienced growers.

Expect your lettuce to grow within 30 days or even less.

Quick pro tip: This vegetable is extremely sensitive to excessive light and heat. If the leaves are yellowing, browning, drying, softening, or drooping, make sure to adjust the lighting conditions.

Cucumbers

Even though cucumbers are a vining crop, they do well in a hydroponic system. Such cucumbers will have no seeds and thinner skin that doesn’t require peeling.

Light: these vegetables love light. They need 12-14 hours of light daily and are not afraid of full sun.

What hydroponic system should you go for?

If you are growing the vegetables indoors, a deep water system and an ebb and flow system will get the job done. For outdoors, go for drip systems and large ebb and flow systems.

The timing would depend on the variety, but usually, your fresh vegetables will be ready for harvest in 50-70 days.

Quick pro top:cucumbers are the kind of vegetables that need to be pollinated. You can hand pollinate the veggies using a Q-tip – rub it against the male flower and then transfer the pollen to the female (these ones have a small cucumber at their base).

Chard

Swiss chard is one of the fastest-growing hydroponic plants. You will be able to enjoy fresh vegetables in only around 35 days (pick no more than 5 leaves from a plant at a time).

Light: chard doesn’t mind direct sunlight and requires at least 8-10 hours of light per day. It does great in artificial lighting as well.

What hydroponics system should you go for?

You can use nutrient film technique systems, media beds, and float systems.

Cabbage

You can certainly grow such leafy vegetables as cabbage hydroponically but do remember that some heads grow large (up to around 8 lbs). Choose an appropriate hydroponic system that won’t be affected by the weight of the vegetable.

Light: cabbage needs at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. If you are attempting to grow the vegetable indoors, make sure to use LEDs.

What hydroponics system you should go for?

The most common choices include NFT, Kratky, deep water culture, aeroponics, and floating raft beds.

Quick pro tip:cabbage is a relatively heavy feeder. So, you would have to make sure that the veggies don’t run out of nutrient-enriched water.

Eggplants

There are plenty of different types of eggplants for you to choose from. If your indoor garden lacks space, you can easily go for the tiny cultivars.

Light: these vegetables need at least 8 hours of light per day.

What hydroponic system should you go for?

Eggplants are compatible with practically all types of hydroponic systems. However, if you decide to go for deep water culture, make sure to install the necessary equipment that would be oxygenating the water (to prevent accumulation of salts).

Wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting your beautiful eggplant as the vegetable has prickles that can irritate your skin.

It will take the eggplant up to 120 days to grow from seed.

Zucchini

Light: these guys require at least 14 hours of light per day. So, having grown lights, if you are growing zucchini indoors, is essential.

What hydroponic system should you go for?

Kratky is a good option for beginners. Experienced growers can go for aquaponics. Wick systems and ebb and flow systems provide good support for heavy plants as they utilize a growing medium (clay pellets, Hydroton, or sand).

Just like with cucumbers, you would have to pollinate the zucchinis (especially, if you have an indoor system). You can use a paintbrush to gently dab it into the center of the flowers and then transfer the pollen.

You will be able to harvest your first zucchinis in about 2 months.

Beans

There are quite a few different beans for you to choose from. Below we will be providing the necessary information to growing green beans in a hydroponic setting.

Light: these vegetables love full sun and should get around 12-13 hours of light on a daily basis.

What hydroponics system should you go for?

Beans grow best in an NFT system and an ebb and flow system. You can also go for the Dutch bucket system (opt for loose grow medium).

The best thing about growing beans hydroponically? These guys require very small amounts of nutrients.

By the way, you will be able to enjoy your fresh vegetables in about 2 months.

Bell Peppers

This is not the easiest veggie that you can grow in a hydroponic system. But if you have already mastered a few other vegetables, you can definitely give a bell pepper a go.

Light: 14-18 hours of light per day. Fluorescent lights are usually not intense enough for peppers. So, if you are growing the veggies indoors, opt for LED and HID grow lights.

What hydroponic system should you go for?

Always take the weight of the plant into consideration. Usually, ebb and flow, deep water culture, and drip systems work well with bell peppers. You can also go for a Dutch bucket system.

You would need to hand pollinate the peppers.

The lovely veggies will be ready for harvest in 50-80 days.

Tomatoes

Even though botanically speaking, a tomato is a fruit, nutritionists qualify it as a ‘vegetable’. Moreover, this plant is one of the easiest to grow hydroponically.

Light: the vegetables need 12-18 hours of light every single day. Young tomatoes require more blue light, while the blossoming vegetables would need red lights.

What hydroponic system should you go for?

You can try the Dutch bucket system (a development of the drip system). Fortunately, tomatoes will grow well in practically any system, with ebb and flow being the most popular choice.

Quick pro tip:if you don’t want your hydroponic tomatoes to grow high, take a pair of disinfected scissors and cut the main stem (make sure to leave 2 buds below the cut).

To Sum Up: What vegetables can you grow with hydroponics?

Now you know that you can at least attempt to grow practically any kind of vegetable in a soilless system. However, if you are just getting started, you might want to go for the most popular options that are very easy to grow.

Those include lettuce, tomatoes, and chard. Bell peppers, cabbage, eggplants, zucchinis, cucumbers, and beans might be a bit more challenging to grow, but you can certainly go for it if you want.

Simply remember to pick the right hydroponic system, grow light, and nutrient solution for your vegetable garden. Also, do keep an eye on such growing conditions as the temperature, pH, and EC level as these things directly affect the health of the plant.

Anyway, we hope that you have found this article helpful and we wish you the best of luck with your hydroponic farming!

When To Transplant Seedlings With Hydroponics

If you’re just getting into hydroponics, you’ll already be aware that it’s a great growing method, but it’s often a little different from the other techniques and sometimes you have to take a slightly alternative approach. That might leave you wondering when to transplant seedlings with hydroponics.

Depending a little on the plant, you should usually transplant seedlings when they have two or three sets of true leaves, and they are about three inches tall. By this point, their roots should be strong enough for the seedling to handle being moved out of soil and into water. At this point, you can move them.

You might also like:

Why Should I Use Hydroponics For Seedlings?

You might be wondering what the benefits of planting seedlings in a hydroponic system are. There are quite a few. According to GreenOurPlanet, hydroponic systems are great because they:

Young seedlings will benefit from hydroponic systems, and you will also be able to use significantly less water because the system is a closed loop. Even if you are just gardening at home, reduced water use can be a great asset, especially if you are focused on being eco-friendly and minimizing your impact.

Did You Know: hydroponics can save up to 90% of water and this could prove crucial to environmentally-friendly farming in the future.

Young seedlings will benefit from hydroponic systems, and you will also be able to use significantly less water because the system is a closed loop. Even if you are just hydroponic gardening at home, reduced water use can be a great asset, especially if you are focused on being eco-friendly and minimizing your impact.

Did You Know: hydroponics can save up to 90% of water and this could prove crucial to environmentally-friendly farming in the future.

Why Does The Timing Matter?

It may seem that timing shouldn’t really be that important when it comes to transplanting seedlings.

However, it is quite important, because your plants are at risk of transplant shock if they are too small to handle the water and the movement. You don’t want to lose a seedling because you haven’t waited long enough before transplanting it.

Of course, plants vary enormously, but most seedlings are easiest to transplant when they are around three to six inches tall and have a few of their true leaves.

Before transplanting, check that what you are looking at is definitely the plant’s true leaves; their first set of leaves is often nothing like their final leaf, so make sure you aren’t misjudging your plant’s growth.

If your plant is growing in a very small container, you may need to transplant it before it has got three sets of leaves in order to stop it from getting too root bound. However, you should be aware that the young roots will be much more fragile. Damaging them could cause stunted, weak growth, or even kill the plant.

Did You Know: according to Illinois.edu, the first leaves of a plant are called cotyledons, also known as seed leaves. They rarely look anything like the plant’s normal leaves.

How Should You Transplant Your Seeds Into Your Hydroponics System?

So, if your plants are ready, how do you move them into a hydroponics system?

Step One

First, you will need a bucket of clean water. You should then gently free your plant from its pot and shake off excess soil. Rinse the soil away from the roots in the water, handling the plant carefully so you don’t damage the roots.

Don’t get the stem wet. If you can’t get all of the soil off, leave it rather than risk damaging the roots.

Step Two

Spread the roots over a hydroponic net pot. You will need about a third of the pot filled with the soilless medium to start with, and once the roots are in place, you can add more of this medium. Keep adding it until the seedling is settled in place. Give it a very gentle tug to see if it is stable.

Step Three

Fill the reservoir with nutrients so that your plant has food. What your plant needs will depend very heavily on what kind of plant it is, so make sure you have researched specific guidelines to help give your plant the best chance of healthy growth.

What Is Transplant Shock?

You have probably heard of transplant shock before – it can happen outside of hydroponics, and is a common aspect of plant care. It’s basically when a plant is moved from conditions it is familiar with to a new environment, and this new environment stresses it.

Transplant shock isn’t good for your plants, but it will often occur to some degree when you move your plants around. Even plants that are being moved from soil into more soil can suffer from transplant shock. Moving from soil to water is an even bigger shock to some.

However, you can reduce the problem in a few different ways, such as:

Tip: if you want to grow different kinds of plants in your hydroponics system, you need to learn about cool weather crops and warm weather crops. These need very different treatment, so distinguishing which kind you have is crucial to success.

Final Thoughts

Seedlings should be transplanted when they are a few inches high and have a couple of sets of adult leaves. Transplanting earlier than this is likely to lead to root damage, which could kill the plant.