Growing your own cannabis has never been more accessible now that you can buy off the shelf hydroponic systems. But on the other hand, it’s also become more complicated, with countless rigs and systems to consider on the different ecommerce sites.
But once you know that they all fit really neatly into 6 easy-to-understand systems, the knowledge overload goes away. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the best hydroponic systems you can use in 2023.
It should be mentioned that while we’re highlighting these systems as cannabis systems, you can grow nearly anything you want. However, the converse isn’t true, you can’t use any hydroponic system for growing cannabis.
Bearing that in mind, let’s have a look at the different systems we’ve highly recommended.
Quick glance at the best hydroponic systems for cannabis:
- PowerGrow DWC Hydroponic Bucket System – Best for DWC System
- HTGSupply 5-Gallon Bubble Boy 4 Banger – Best Budget DWC System
- AirCube Active Oxygen Ebb and Flow Grow System – Best for Ebb & Flow System
- General Hydroponics Systems – Best for Drip System
- Rainforest 66 Aeroponic System – Best for Aeroponic System
- LAPOND Hydroponic Grow Kit – Best for NFT System
- Oak Leaf Hydroponic Cups – Best for Wick System
Best Hydroponic Systems For Cannabis Reviewed
Deep Water Culture (DWC) Systems
Arguably one of the most common systems, this hydroponic method has few parts and is as basic as it comes. All you need to do is to keep your plant’s roots in a nutrient solution. If you’re a beginner, or you just want a plug ‘n play system, the DWC utilizes a simple bucket, net pot, air pump, and additional extras.
The plant will grow and develop by simply floating its roots in the solution. But you will also require a method to introduce air to the water solution. This can be done via air stone, to aerate the water and roots. The roots need to breathe so that they can absorb nutrients.
Growers allow their roots to be semi-submerged so that they can breathe, but the air stone alone should provide enough oxygen for the roots extending below the water line.
So, which rigs within this hydroponic technique should you consider?
PowerGrow DWC Hydroponic Bucket System, 5 Gallon
This simple-to-set-up “root spa” is perfect for any skilled cannabis grower. What differentiates this system from the rest of the DWC is it is sold with rockwool seed starting plugs.
Along the side of the bucket is a blue water height indicator.
With its air stone you can start growing right away.
There are a ton of upgrades to the pump and additional buckets available. But overall, this is priced right.
We’d suggest going with a single bucket system to start.
But there are a few pros and cons to consider:
- Great for beginners
- Tough and hard wearing
- Easy to use
- And lastly simple to set up
- Air stone is not the best quality
- Pump could be upgraded
Overall, this is a unit that will get any cannabis grower into the game. Without having to take a deep dive into the hydroponic world.
Not to mention the bucket is tough and the sturdy base of the unit.
For those keen to grow more than one plant via a DWC setup you can switch to another hydroponic system.
HTGSupply 5-Gallon Bubble Boy 4 Banger
With 4 sites in this system you can grow four mid-size plants in one unit, utilizing the aforementioned simple air stone system.
Growers have been pleasantly surprised by the results from this budget friendly hydroponic solution. And the price includes the growing medium.
This being said, the unit isn’t big enough for four large mature plants, so you’ll need to change your lighting schedule at the beginning of the flowering stage to pump out some extra buds on each plant.
Let’s talk about its pros and cons:
- Easy to use
- Simple to install
- Multiple plants
- Growing medium included
- 6 gallon is not enough for large plants
- Pump could be stronger
As a cheap method of growing different strains at once you can’t fault the Bubble Boy.
If that doesn’t sound like cannabis growing heaven to you, we’d suggest moving towards an ebb and flow system.
Ebb And Flow System
As the name would suggest this system works via a method of ebbs and flows. Water is pumped from a large reservoir around the system, flowing past the plants’ roots, and then back into the reservoir.
These systems can hold a number of pots, which are usually suspended into the flowing waterways. Depending on the details of the setup, you may need to install an air stone to assist with aeration.
The reservoir is a good place for gardeners to add nutrients and conduct tests on the pH of the water. An ebb and flow system also lends itself to being transformed into an aquaponic system.
Be aware that water reservoirs, flood trays, and pots can end up holding stagnant water, which can contain pathogens. This means you will be spending time ensuring that the system is clean. Also, it’s worth mentioning that when the chambers that hold the pots are being flooded they can suffocate the roots. So ebb and flow systems can have a steep learning curve and high running costs.
This being said, there’s nothing nicer than the sound of running water. Think of it as part growing solution, and part garden feature.
So, which ebb and flow system would we pick?
With six large fabric pots, automatic timer, and modular system the AirCube Active Oxygen Edd and Flow Grow System offers it all.
As the system uses fabric pots, rather than the usual plastic net pots it air prunes the roots of your plants. Air pruning is when your plant’s roots penetrate through the fabric wall and prune themselves.
The major benefit is your plant will never get root bound in the pot. Also, you can use any grow medium in the pots as you please.
Another benefit of fabric pots is they organically control the temperature, with heat dissipating naturally.
Also the base of the pots are adjustable, allowing you to tailor it perfectly for your cannabis plant.
With a collapsible reserviour, you can store it conveniently out of the way when not in use.
With three size options for reserviour of 25, 60 to 105 gallons and expandable AirCube Buckets, this is perfect for any sized set up.
But let’s take a look at this system’s pros and cons.
- Innovative pots
- Large pots
- Can be tailored to exactly what you need
- Expensive but worth it
- No grow medium included
Overall, this is a lovely plug and play solution. We think that it is a great overall ebb and flow system.
But what is a drip hydroponic system?
Drip systems are popular because they are simple and directly supply the roots with what they need to make strong, healthy plants.
They work by pumping water and nutrients from a reservoir, via a drip system, straight to the plant. While simple, you can experience some issues with clogs and blockages due to nutrients and additives in the water getting stuck in the drip adapters.
There is a wide variety of setups that drip systems can be offered in, but we’re going to stick with the hydroponic options.
We’d be honest and say that even entry level gardeners could create their own drip irrigation systems, but there are a few off the shelf drip units offered by General Hydroponics that are really worth investing in.
General Hydroponics Systems
General Hydroponics offers a number of drip units to the public. The company is better known for producing the market’s best hydroponics-specific additives (nutrients and fertilizers etc), but today we’ll be looking at their hydroponic drip systems.
The General Hydroponics Waterfarm Complete Hydroponic System Grow Kit is simple to use and set up. It comes with a General Hydroponics fertilizer kit, which is handy as each product is scientifically produced to optimize your cannabis plant’s growth at every stage of its life.
Also included is a rigid square bucket, which allows you to efficiently store the units next to each other, a drip ring, pump, and clay pellets.
What are our pros and cons with this system?
- Allows for high-density installation
- Consumes little water
- Easy to use
- Simple to install
- Noisy pump
- Does not lend itself to being use with oils
As an overall package you can’t go wrong selecting as a professional or novice.
But what if you require more growing area?
The next level up would be the General Hydroponics EcoGrower Drip Hydroponic System which has room for six medium-to-large sized plants.
It also comes with the General Hydroponics fertilizer kit, an air pump, a 17 gallon reservoir, pumping column, and the six net cups.
Really serious growers could invest in the General Hydroponics 8-Pack Hydroponic Grow System. With 8 WaterFarm units connected to a single controller, you can easily grow a large crop.
This is a great system, but it’s quite expensive if you’re growing your cannabis just for yourself.
- Easy to expand operations to 12 pots
- Smart central controller
- Proven to allow fully grown cannabis plants
- Cannabis plants will require keeping only 8 pots on the system
- Requires higher levels of nutrients
If drip hydroponics isn’t as challenging as you desire, you can also use an aeroponics system.
As a method of growing plants hydroponically, this is fairly new. An aeroponic system doesn’t circulate water or submerge the roots into the nutrient mixture, but rather sprays the roots with a mist.
This mist is infused with the nutrients that the plant requires. Aeroponic systems also lend themselves to being great for cloning cannabis
This is a useful system because the infusion of nutrients takes place only when required, however it’s also tricky because the misters can clog.
And depending on your system the levels of complications can vary widely. But in general if you are planning on creating massive plants it’s best to invest in a more complex system to ensure your plant gets exactly what it needs.
General Hydroponics RainForest 66 Aeroponics
The Rainforest 66 Aeroponic System, created by General Hydroponics, can handle 6 medium-to-large sized plants.
It comes with a set of sprayers that gently distributes water, oxygen, and nutrients over the plant’s roots. The package has everything you’ll need, including the cups, liners, and caps, along with the General Hydroponic fertilizers.
While this is an amazing product there’s a few pros and cons.
- Easy to use
- Simple to install
- Complete kit
- Good aesthetics
- Some parts are fragile with excess use
- Clogging of sprayers
- High attention required for upkeep
So, this being said, if you’re not keen to fiddle with sprayers, then there’s the nutrient film technique (NFT) system.
The original NFT is a hydroponic method where a shallow flow of nutrient dense water circulates past the roots of the plants, through watertight gullies or channels. These units use a timer that controls how often the water flows through the channels.
With the NFT method you don’t need any growing medium, so oxygen has easy access to the roots.
If you lack space in your grow area, the NFT system is exactly what you need. Be aware that nutrient build up can occur if the timer is set incorrectly, which in turn reduces the potential size of your plant.
LAPOND Hydroponic Grow Kit
A great beginners system, the LAPOND Hydroponic Grow Kit is easy to use and set up. It is also created from food-grade PVC, so no plastics contamination.
We’d suggest starting with the smaller set up before splashing out on the larger system. While you can install this indoors, we’d strongly recommend placing it in a yard where the plants can get the correct amount of sunlight.
This system also comes with a timer, which allows the pump to be on for 5 minutes of every 30 minutes. Also, this package comes with great sponge plugs for your cannabis plants.
But what are the pros and cons with this system?
- Ample space for large crop
- Can be installed indoors or outside
- Plants will be smaller
- Requires lengthy maintenance
- Must be placed in the exactly correct stop
- Nutrient buildup can wipe out an entire crop
If you’re looking for something even more basic, you could resort to the wick system.
With the wick system there is no need for pumps or electrical points. Water is drawn to the roots of the plant via fibrous material dipped in water.
The wick is able to transfer nutrients as well. If you were wondering how this is possible, it’s because of capillary action.
Wicking systems do require growing medium, great drainage, and additives like vermiculite to absorb water.
This method is usually used for house plants when gardeners go away for the weekend. But it will also work wonderfully for your cannabis plant. And via this method, there’s no way your plant will be over watered.
But which wick system should you purchase?
There isn’t one!
Most will recommend building your own, as they are super easy to make. This being said, if you are unsure what wicking material to purchase you can purchase Oak Leaf Hydroponic Cups.
In one instance Oak Leaf show how you can integrate these pots into a fish tank, which would be an aquaponics setup.
As you can tell, this is very cheap, and very easy.
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But what are the pros and cons?
- Cheap to install
- Easy to use
- Not able to boost yields
- Only a temporary solution
Now that we’ve gone through the different hydroponic units and products, let’s share how we came to our opinion about the product we’d select.
How To Select The Correct System For Cannabis
As you can tell, selecting the correct hydroponic system can be difficult. Not to mention that each method has multiple products promising the world.
But there are a few characteristics that we kept a firm eye on.
As we’ve mentioned, the sizes of these setups differ a lot. Make sure to purchase a hydroponic setup that can comfortably fit into the space.
If your space is too small you plants won’t get the correct airflow, leaves can get bruised, and more.
Making sure you select your setup on your environment is key to growing a successful cannabis crop.
We alway lean towards smaller and more compact systems.
Ease Of Use
A hydroponic system shouldn’t make growing cannabis more challenging, but easier. While some setups will have more advanced equipment and fittings, this should also add to the ease of using it.
With the correct setup all that should be required is a daily check of the water and plants.
Ease Of Assembly
Some setups will be more difficult to build. Especially if they don’t come with instructions.
Make sure that whenever you purchase a hydroponic setup that you can reach the manufacturer to assist you with setting it up. Or that it is so simple that you can complete it intuitively.
When calculating the cost of your harvest, your hydroponic setup and maintenance will also play into the overall expense of growing your crop.
An expensive setup will come with its bells and whistles, but as the self-wicking setup proved, you don’t need to spend a fortune to get your hydroponic system working.
This being said, which would we choose?
Our Pick And Thoughts
Our favorite is the PowerGrow DWC Hydroponic Bucket System. It is easy to use, cheap to maintain, and most importantly, can fit into a grow tent.
When growing cannabis you want to be able to manipulate the environmental factors such as moisture, heat, and light.
You can’t do this with outdoor conditions. Also a DWC allows growers to really push their plants to the limit of bud production.
And because it is a basic setup, you can make any repairs that it needs yourself. If you’re keen to make upgrades, they’re also easily done.
Overall, it allows cannabis growers the ultimate freedom to grow when and how they want.