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.
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:
- Water temp – Having the ideal temperature is vital for plant health.
- Plant count – How many are you growing?
- Size – Are you using smaller buckets or larger buckets?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- System you’re going to use (do you need a net pot or bucket?)
- Space needed for that system (more space equals more plants obviously)
- Plants you’re going to grow (One plant, multiple plants?)
- Environment (indoors or outdoors, which affects temperature and oxygen levels)