The market is full of many different types of hydroponics
systems, and it can be hard to pick the right one.
hydroponics systems you end up buying will have a big influence on how
much time and money you need to maintain your garden, which hydroponics
nutrients you buy, and what plants you are able to grow. There are two
main kinds of system: active and passive. Passive types deliver
nutrients via the growing medium, but active systems use a pump. An
active system will cost more and take more to maintain, but may get
Below are examples and explanations of the
most popular hydroponics type being used today.
The Aeroponics System:
This method is probably the most high-tech type
hydroponics gardening. Aeroponics Systems use little to no growing
medium. The roots hang in the air and are misted with nutrient solution.
The misting are usually done every few minutes. Because the roots are
exposed to the air, the roots will dry out rapidly if the misting cycles
e a hydroponic garden
in any indoor space.
A timer controls the nutrient pump much like
other types of hydroponic systems, except the aeroponics system needs a
short cycle timer that runs the pump for a few seconds every couple of
minutes. Other types of Aeroponics systems run constantly, requiring no
These systems are easily contaminated by rot-inducing
anaerobic bacteria, and should only be used by experienced gardeners and
The Deep Water Culture System:
This is the simplest of all active hydroponics
systems. Plants are in a basket of grow rocks, suspended over a
container of aerated nutrient solution. An air pump supplies air to the
air stone that bubbles the nutrient solution and supplies oxygen to the
roots of the plants.
Water culture is the system of
choice for growing leaf lettuce, which are fast growing water loving
plants, making them an ideal choice for this type of hydroponics system.
Very few plants other than lettuce will do well in this type of system,
although it can work well for the vegetative stage of flowering plants.
This type of hydroponics system is great for the classroom and is
popular with teachers.
A very inexpensive system can be made out
of an old aquarium or other water tight container. The biggest draw back
of this kind of system is that it doesn't work well with large plants or
with long-term plants.
The Drip System:
This method is probably the most widely used type of
hydroponic system in the world. Operation is simple, a timer controls a
submersed pump. The timer turns the pump on and nutrient solution is
dripped onto the base of each plant by a small drip line.
In a Recirculating Drip System the runoff is
collected back in the reservoir for re-use. The Water-to-Waste System
does not collect the runoff. The advantage of Water-to-Waste is that the
nutrient solution in the reservoir has never passed through the system,
so it is unchanged. In a Recirculating System, the nutrient solution can
fluctuate in both nutrient concentration levels and pH levels.
recommend a soilless mix for Water-to-Waste systems, because soilless
mixes retain more water. This way, the pump kicks on less often, so you
use less nutrient solution. With quality nutrients and a good soilless
mix, a Water-to-Waste Drip System can be one of the best ways of
gardening with lights.
The Ebb and Flow System: Ebb and Flow
works by temporarily flooding the grow
tray with nutrient solution and then draining the solution back into the
reservoir. This action is normally done with a submerged pump that is
connected to a timer. When the timer turns the pump on nutrient solution
is pumped into the grow tray. When the timer shuts the pump off the
nutrient solution flows back into the reservoir. Depending on plant
requirements, the tray can be flooded once, or several times, each day.
The main disadvantage of this type of system is that with some loose
types of growing medium (Growrocks, Perlite, etc.), there is a
vulnerability to power outages as well as pump and timer failures. The
roots can dry out quickly when the watering cycles are interrupted. This
problem can be relieved somewhat by using growing media that retains
more water (Rockwool, coconut fiber or a good soilless mix).
is the system we often recommend for first-time hydroponics gardeners.
It is simple, reliable, and easy to set up.
The N.F.T. System:
N.F.T. systems have a constant flow of nutrient
solution so no
timer required for the submersible pump. The nutrient solution is pumped
into the growing tray (usually a tube) and flows over the roots of the
plants, and then drains back into the reservoir.
plant is supported in a small plastic basket full of grow rocks, with
the roots dangling into the nutrient solution. N.F.T. systems are very
susceptible to power outages and pump failures. The roots dry out very
rapidly when the flow of nutrient solution is interrupted.
is usually no growing medium used other than air, which saves the
expense of replacing the growing medium after every crop. Normally the
plant is supported in a small plastic basket with the roots dangling
into the nutrient solution. N.F.T. systems are very susceptible to
power outages and pump failures. The roots dry out very rapidly when the
flow of nutrient solution is interrupted.
The Passive System:
This is almost
identical to growing a plant in a container
of soil. The difference is that instead of soil, you would use a
soilless mix. Soilless mixes can be a variety of substances
including rockwool, peat moss, coconut coir, perlite, vermiculite, tree
Wick System: This is by far
the simplest type of hydroponics system. This is a passive system,
which means there are no moving parts. The nutrient solution is drawn
into the growing medium from the reservoir with a wick. This system can
use a variety of growing medium. Perlite, Vermiculite, Pro-Mix and
Coconut Fiber are among the most popular.
The biggest draw back
of this system is that plants that are large or use large amounts of
water may use up the nutrient solution faster than the wick(s) can
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