The Different Types Of Hydroponic Systems

Dec 7, 2022

Hydroponic style gardening has been around for many decades

The term 'Hydroponics' is used to describe the act of growing plants without soil as a medium. In general we refer to hydroponics as a type of growing where the inputs are controlled and the plants are driven to obtain maximum yield and quality. 

In this post we will cover a few different systems and give you some pros and cons of each. There are a lot more systems available but to keep it simple we will just stick to a handful of systems.

DEEP WATER CULTURE - DWC 

Deep water culture is when the plants roots are suspended in a nutrient solution and the solution is aerated by using an air stone. Using Deep Water Culture systems will generally result in prolific growth because the plants have an unlimited supply of nutrient and air. See the Oxypot DWC Kit Here

Pros of using a DWC system:

- Fast Growth

- Visible Roots (Pretty cool)

- Affordable to get set up

- Minimal water and nutrient waste compared to soil

Cons of using a DWC system:

- Power needed to keep air pump running. If using recirculating system (RDWC) a second pump is needed to maintain water flow.

- User will need to monitor Ph and Ec Levels which Require instruments such as the Bluelab Ph and Ec Pens 

- Sickness or root disease can spread rapidly due to all plants sharing the same nutrient tank  

NUTRIENT FILM TECHNIQUE - NFT

Nft or Nutrient Film Technique is used to describe a system where plants are placed into a Channel/Gully and suspended over running water. The Gully is normally placed on a slope to allow the nutrient solution to pass over the plants roots and the back into the nutrient tank where a pump will recirculate the nutrient solution back into the channel where the process can start again.

Pros of using an NFT system:

- Fast growth, cheap to setup

- Less wasted water and nutrients as this system recirculates

- Can be used for vertical farming which helps to utilize small spaces 

Cons of using an NFT system:

- Roots can clog channels 

- Pump failure can lead to total crop loss

- Can be difficult to support large plants without using a net

DRIP IRRIGATION SYSTEM

There are a few variations of drip systems but we will focus on drip systems that use a dripper stalk which is placed directly into the plant pot. This method is the most popular for controlled environment growing and allows for precise amounts of nutrient solution to be delivered directly to the root zone. For dripper options see the NetaFim Drippers or Florflex drippers

Pros of using a drip system:

- The water/nutrient solution is delivered directly to the root roots thus saving water 

- Allows for precise control of nutrient delivery which can increase yields

- No risk of over spray or water contact with leaves or stems

Cons of using drip irrigation systems:

- Systems require maintenance

- Can be expensive to setup as you will potentially need pumps, timers & solenoids 

- Clogged drippers can quickly lead to crop failures 

AEROPONIC SYSTEM

Aeroponic systems use sprayer nozzles that generate a fine mist which is sprayed directly onto the plant roots. The roots are suspended over a tank of nutrient solution with the roots hanging above the solution. These systems can be expensive or very affordable depending on the quality. Generally more expensive systems such as the Current Culture cloners will use a larger pump that can provided a higher pressure to the sprayers. The Higher pressure means you will be able to obtain a finer mist which will lead to faster rooting. Don't stress, there are affordable options available too. The Seahawk 24 site cloning station delivers result and we have seen roots within 7 days from the time of cut!

Pros of using an Aeroponic System:

- Systems are generally easy to maintain 

- Roots are exposed to more oxygen which in turn leads to faster growth

- Less risk of fungus gnats and soil dwelling pests 

Cons of using an Aeroponic system:

- Pump Failure can lead to crop loss very quickly

- A chiller is sometimes need to keep nutrient solution at the right temperature 

- Plat roots can become submerged which ill lead to reduced oxygen 

FLOOD & DRAIN - EBB & FLOW

Some preferer these systems because it allows the roots to have a dry time where they are not constantly submerged in the nutrient solution. The idea is to fill a tray with a growing medium such as clay balls, a pump is then placed on a timer which allows the pump-to-pump the solution from a nutrient tank into the tray. A drain is then placed in the tray which allows the nutrient solution to return to the nutrient tank in a recirculating fashion. See our Flood & Drain Basics Here 

Pros of using a Flood & Drain system:

- Improved growth due to high levels of available oxygen 

- Water and nutrient savings because the solution is recirculated and delivered directly to the roots 

- Easy to Build or make a D.I.Y system

Cons of using a flood and drain system:

- High humidity can build up under the plants canopy especially if plants are place close together 

- Power failure or pump failure can lead to crop loss

- Fluctuations in Ph can cause issues if not maintained correctly 

 This was just a brief overview of hydroponic systems but make no mistake, there are a lot more systems and variations of systems available. Good luck on your hydroponic adventure HAPPY GARDENING!

*Credit To Nutrifield for the Graphics


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