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5 Common Types of Hydroponic Grow Systems


Hydroponics is growing plants without soil. Within a hydroponic system, plants are grown in an inert growing medium. The plant grows in a controlled environment with a pH balanced nutrient water solution. Since the plant is suspended directly above the water, the water nutrient solution is delivered directly to the roots. This allows the plants to intake the food with little effort, as opposed to soil where the roots have to search within the soil to find the those nutrients and extract them. This saved energy is spent on vegetative and flowering growth.


“With hydroponics we see faster vegetative growth, and much higher yields.”


When grown side by side, a clear difference appears between hydroponically grown and soil grown plants. With hydroponics we see faster vegetative growth, and much higher yields. Hydroponics is a great way to grow many other vegetables, fruits, and flowers. It is taking off in the commercial world as well as urban agriculture.


There are 5 common types of hydroponic systems that a grower or gardener can use. These include: Deep Water Culture, Wick, Ebb and Flow, Drip, and N.F.T.


Deep Water Culture

The hydroponic system we recommend for novice growers is the Deep Water Culture  (DWC) system. We think it is one of the simplest of systems. DWC  is the practice of growing in aerated water, such that the plants’ roots dangle in a nutrient rich water source. Net Cups are filled with a growing medium like clay pebbles to act as soil for the plant. The net cups are suspended at the top of a bucket filled with nutrient-rich water. An airstone at the bottom of the bucket pumps bubbles into the water “aerating” it. The roots of the plant grow through the growing medium and net cups and stretch directly into the bubbly nutrient-rich water.



The Wick system is a passive hydroponic system. Passive means there are no moving parts. The Wick system is one of the simpler systems. A wick soaks up the water from a reservoir and distributes it to the plants, through the growing medium. Wicks can use a variety of growing mediums such as Perlite, Vermiculite, and Coconut Fiber. Wick systems aren’t as popular for growing cannabis because cannabis plants uses more water than the wicks can distribute.



Ebb and Flow

The Ebb and Flow system works by flooding the area the plants are growing in, and then letting the entire area drain. Flooding is usually done by a submerged pump set with a timer. The Ebb & Flow system can be used with a variety of growing mediums. The grow area can be filled with Grow Rocks, gravel, or granular Rockwool. These all allow the water to drain away. Using individual pots filled with growing medium, makes it easier to move plants around in or out of the system.



The Drip system is the most widely used hydroponic grow system in the world. The drip system’s popularity spawns from its simple operations. A timer runs a submerged pump and nutrient-rich water drips onto the base of each plant through a small drip line. Plants are usually planted in a grow medium other than soil, such as clay pebbles.


Nutrient Film Technique

The Nutrient Film Technique (N.F.T) uses constant flow of nutrient-rich water to grow plants.. The plants are suspended over a reservoir, which catches the excess water. A pump cycles the water back to the plants. There isn’t typically a growing medium, the plants are held in a net cup, and the water drains through the bottom of the roots into the reservoir. Nutrient Film Technique requires keeping plants upright without a grow medium for roots to anchor in.