Drip Hydroponics vs DWC Systems: Which Is Better?

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By Emily Cooper

Drip hydroponics and DWC hydroponic systems are two methods of growing plants in water. They each have their own set of pros and cons, which can make it difficult to decide which one is best for your garden. Which is the better hydroponic system?

To help you make the right decision, we’ve put together this comparison to see what system will work best for your needs!

What is drip hydroponics?

Drip Hydroponics is a popular way of growing plants. It involves suspending the plant in some sort of growing medium (like coco coir, Rockwool, or perlite).

It Uses gravity along with a drip emitter to feed water containing nutrient solution through tubing until it reaches each individual container where the roots are located. The entire system sits above an air pump that oxygenates the water and provides CO to the roots.

Did you know? It’s one of the most popular irrigation systems for growing hydroponic plants.

What is DWC hydroponics?

DWC stands for Deep Water Culture system, which is a type of cultivation where plants are suspended in some sort of growing media (usually clay pellets) inside a reservoir filled with nutrient solution that’s oxygenated from an air pump below.

The roots dangle at a certain water level and hang freely, where they’re able to absorb CO directly.

Drip hydroponics vs DWC: Comparing both methods

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons for each system.

Drip Hydroponics


  • Supplies CO to roots via air pump.
  • Plants can be placed in any growing medium you choose, like coco coir or Rockwool (though deep water culture uses clay pellets).


  • Requires more equipment (especially if you’re using an ebb and flow system instead of a top drip system).
  • Use CO to help plants grow, which can be expensive over time.

Deep Water Culture


  • No need for an air pump because roots get enough oxygen from the water itself
  • No need for an air stone because the water is already oxygenated.
  • Less expensive than drip hydroponics (you don’t have to buy a CO tank or tubing).


  • Can be more difficult to set up if you’re not familiar with how it works, especially if you want certain plants like tomatoes or cucumbers.
  • Requires regular refilling of the nutrient reservoir (can be a pain if you’re away from your garden for long periods of time).

Both DH and DWC have their pros and cons, but one isn’t necessarily better than the other. It all depends on what type of setup will work best in your home.

Do you have a greenhouse? If so, a drip system might be the best choice for you because it’s more efficient.

If not, DWC is going to be your better option since there isn’t much equipment needed and plants will get enough oxygen from the water itself.

How much does it cost to set both systems up?

  • The average cost for a drip system is around $75, which includes the basic equipment needed.
  • The average cost for DWC system is also around $50. Of course, this depends on whether or not you buy the items used in the setup new or secondhand (which can cost a lot less if done right), but it’s still going to be cheaper than drip hydroponics.

Plant growth, harvesting, and yield

Both have pros when it comes to plant growth, harvesting, and yield.

Drip systems are able to provide enough CO for plants throughout the entire process-from seedling all the way up until harvest time. This is due in part because of the air pump that supplies oxygen from below while also providing CO.

DWC systems are able to provide enough oxygen for the plants, which allows them to grow faster than they would if left without it (though not as fast as drip hydroponics). When you combine that with the fact that DWC doesn’t require an air pump or CO tank, you can see why this method is so popular among growers.

DWC systems also have the ability to deliver more oxygen than drip hydroponics, which means plants can grow bigger and faster.

Both methods yield similar results in terms of how much you’ll be able to harvest at any given time because they’re both equally effective (though it does depend on your growing skills). If you want a bigger harvest, you may have to adjust your watering schedule for both hydroponic systems.

Ongoing Maintenence

Both require ongoing maintenance, but the amount of time you’ll spend doing it is much different.

Drip systems can be a pain to maintain because they take up more space (with all the equipment needed), and using CO tanks for your air pump costs money over time. Thankfully, there are ways to cut down on the cost of CO, such as buying a generator that runs off your car’s cigarette lighter.

DWC systems don’t take up much space and they’re easier to maintain than drip hydroponics because you only have to refill the nutrient reservoir every few weeks (which isn’t bad at all). You’ll still need an air pump and an air stone, so those will cost money to run over time.

Keeping everything working properly depends on the individual grower’s skills with maintenance as well as how often you’ll be away from your garden during harvesting season. DWC systems are a little easier in this department due to the less frequent refilling of the reservoir with nutrient solution.

Environmental impact

A drip hydroponic system is efficient because it delivers more oxygen than other types of hydroponic setups, which means less energy is used over time with your air pump or generator (though you will still need CO tanks). They also use nutrients that don’t harm the environment, so it’s good for the planet.

DWC systems are efficient in their own way because there isn’t a need for CO or an air pump to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your plants (though you will still use energy from an outlet). Nutrients won’t harm the environment either when used with this method.

The final verdict: Which hydroponic system is better?

drip hydroponics vs dwc systems

Each have their pros and cons that make them both very appealing depending on your situation.

Drip systems are more expensive than DWC because you need separate containers for growing (which can be expensive) and an air pump, whereas DWC systems are more affordable because they use one container to grow in.

DH is better if you want a higher quantity of produce from your garden since the roots get fed nutrients constantly via gravity. This allows them to develop thickly so that when harvest time comes around it’s easy to get a lot of product from each plant.

DWC hydroponics is better if you want to produce quality over quantity since the water provides nutrients directly to the roots, ensuring that they absorb exactly what they need and no more. This produces healthier plants with less chance of nutrient deficiencies or toxicity which can affect yields but increase flavor!