Different Types of Hydroponic Systems

Deep Water Culture (DWC)
Deep Water Culture (DWC)

Hydroponics systems might be a little complicated for beginners. However, there are several hydroponic systems used by experts to ensure the accessibility of technology to regular people who want to it. Since farming experts and scientists are continually developing agro-technology, these systems easily classify the different approaches to hydroponics. This way, they can be utilized even better. There are 6 types of hydroponic systems. Let’s take a look at each one of them. 

Read: Beginner’s Guide to Hydroponic Systems.

1. Deep Water Culture (DWC)

Deepwater culture is a type of hydroponic system which is known to be the easiest. It is also coined as the reservoir method since it involves the roots of plants being in contact with a water-based nutrient solution. Be careful, however, because a certain amount of light can disrupt the growing process. This is due to the possibility that algae may grow, destroying the whole set-up of the system. 

What’s great about the deepwater culture method is that there are no risks to clogging or dripping, making it the ideal choice for organic hydroponics. With this kind of set-up, you can rely on organic nutrients to save the grace of your future harvest.

Materials for DWC

To try out deepwater culture, one must obtain an aquarium air pump that allows the solution to have a regulated amount of air. This is essential to a plant’s growth. You would also need materials such as a 4-gallon bucket, an airstone, net pots of at least 10 inches each, your grow medium (preferably Rockwool), and some cleaning materials.

Pros & Cons

Deepwater culture is pretty common and easy to do. However, there are disadvantages that you need to take into consideration before building this type of hydroponic system.

Pros

  • Easy to maintain, fewer tools needed
  • Faster growth rate because of better oxygen and nutrient intake
  • Requires fewer materials and effort to set up
  • Fewer expenses needed for fertilizer because of the assembly
  • Increased cell growth rate because of the set-up 

Cons

  • Given the small system, factors can fluctuate unexpectedly
  • If water isn’t regulated properly, plants have a chance of drowning in water
  • Failure of air pump effectivity can gradually affect plants’ growth
  • The temperature of the water system may be a bit difficult to regulate

Cost

Many social businesses are developing ready to use hydroponic kits to help people who want to explore systems like deepwater culture. For starters, you can get deepwater culture sets online for only P800.00. However, if you’re going to upscale your assembly and have more plants, bigger kits can cost P2,000.00 or higher depending on the size, materials and complexity.

2. Aeroponics

Jumping off from suspended water, aeroponics is a type of hydroponics system which focuses more on misting. The premise for aeroponics is that the roots of the plants are misted by a solution filled with nutrients to ensure that the roots get enough exposure for mineral absorption. 

The two main methods to do this would be using a regular spray nozzle to get the mist up to the roots or second, using a pond fogger, an ultrasonic transducer expected to produce cool mist through water vapor.

Materials

If you want to try aeroponics, you would need simple materials such as a nutrient pump, mist nozzles or a pond fogger, simple baskets, PVC pipes and tubes, PVC slips, a container for the nutrient solution, baskets, a chamber for the roots, water-tight vessels, and any type of timer.

Pros & Cons

Unlike the previous system, aeroponics is a bit more complicated. However, there are some advantages that can outweigh the effort needed to put up this whole system:

Pros

  • Faster absorption rate because of the lack of a medium
  • Higher productivity rate of plants
  • Easy to move set-up 
  • Does not need a big space to set-up
  • Less hassle to tidy up, replace, or add new plants if needed

Cons

  • Needs enough knowledge on nutrient density and pH levels for better results
  • Would require the farmer to be very hands-on
  • Can get affected if there is a power outage (due to the equipment needed)
  • High dependency rate on the set-up
  • Higher set-up cost

Cost

In the Philippines, many researchers are trying to develop ways to make aeroponics more accessible and less expensive. Although it can be costly if you want to have the traditional way, there are ways to create do-it-yourself set-ups just at home with simpler materials. 

Social businesses offer services that can allow you to set-up your own aquaponics system for only P1,000.00! Although doing this would require you to look for suppliers more tediously, some sellers sell ready-to-use set-ups ranging from P2,000.00 to P8,000.00.

3. Drip Method Hydroponic Systems

Compared to the mentioned systems, the hydroponic system called Drip System is done by coming up with a nutrient-induced hydroponics medium. Then, having it drip to your plants’ roots in a very natural process. Conventional alternatives to this would be “slow draining medium,” wherein an emitter would have to be used so the plants can absorb the minerals coming from the nutrient feed. 

One main concern to this would be clogging, which results in the nutrients being concentrated in only one part, making it less healthy for the plants. 

Materials

If you’re interested in setting up your drip system hydroponics system, you would need the following materials such as a water emitter, pH kit for testing, medium or water-soluble nutrients, drip controllers, growing medium (rock wool, hydroton rocks, or vermiculite), manifold, air pump and air stones, water pump, solution reservoir, and a flood tray.

Pros and Cons

Compared to the rest, the drip system has significantly more pros and cons. To walk you through it, here are a few to help you decide on which method to follow-through with:

Pros

  • Allows the farmer to be flexible with regards to plant growth
  • Lesser chance of disrupted system
  • Low maintenance
  • Farmer has control over factors like nutrient supply, pH, and water
  • Does not require a lot of expensive equipment

Cons

  • Requires large chunks of space and growth area
  • Higher waste procurement
  • More difficult to set-up compared to the other systems

Cost

If you try to look for social businesses online, many offer drip system kits for a low price. For those shopping online, you can get DIY Drip System kits for as little as P1,300.00 up to P5,000.00 depending on the scale, the size, and the number of plants the kit can accommodate.

4. Nutrient Film Technique

The NFT or Nutrient Film Technique is a type of hydroponics system that focuses on creating a flow for the nutrient solution to pass through to the roots of the plants freely. The platform for this involves the whole pipe to be slightly tilted so that the nutrient solution can flow downwards. This is to ensure that all plants get enough nutrients to absorb for themselves. 

Because of its very efficient methodology, the NFT is said to have good results because the plants don’t get flooded. Meaning the plant gets enough oxygen, thus, higher growth rates. Although this is an effective system, the materials used to create the platforms for the nutrient feed aren’t as accessible as the other hydroponics systems.

Materials

To create your own hydroponics set-up using the NFT system, you would need a relatively large container for your water-based nutrient solution, a large enough fountain to submerse certain plants in, tubing systems for regulated water distribution, tubes to allow plants to grow, small baskets, and a channel to return or recycle nutrient solutions is acting as a reservoir.

Pros and Cons

The pros and cons of conducting your own NFT setup are as follows:

Pros

  • Less waste produced
  • Maintaining the health of plants is more manageable (in terms of disinfection)
  • Salt build-up is less likely to happen
  • Can save up more on water and nutrients
  • No medium required, so roots inspection is less needed

Cons

  • Roots may dry out if there is not enough water
  • Blockages may occur more frequently
  • Sensitive to sunlight, may result in algae
  • Dependent on the functionality of pumps & reservoirs
  • Requires a specific type of water to help the plants grow properly
  • More costly compared to other systems

Cost

Since NFT requires materials that require a significant amount of space, the cost can be minimized depending on how much plants you wish to grow. However, in a more general sense, the price for setting up your own hydroponics system following the Nutrient Film Technique can reach to about P43,328.00. 

Although it’s a bit pricey, you can always lessen it by getting smaller and shorter materials and having a small-scale set-up only. 

5. Wick Hydroponics

Unlike most of the previous hydroponic systems, the set-up of wick hydroponics does not need any electricity, nozzles, pumps, emitters, or aerators. Uniquely, this is the set-up that you can assemble even if you do not have any electricity source. 

To start your wick hydroponics set-up, you would need a growing medium where small houseplants and herbs can thrive in. The trick with the wick system is that you insert a string-like nylon wick crossing from the reservoir of the nutrient solution to the growth medium where the plants are in. It’s like ensuring that the string-like material is inserted in both the medium and the nutrient-rich water-based solution. 

The whole idea of the wick system aims for the plants to absorb water through the string, serving like a “straw” when the plants need the nutrients for its growth.

Materials

Since the wick system hydroponics is relatively easy to do, you only need a few materials to assemble it. These include buckets to place your houseplants, a container for your reservoir, a grow medium (permulite, coco coir, or vermiculite), your nutrient-rich water-based solution, and string-like material to serve as your wick.

Pros and Cons

Although it may sound easy, assembling the Wick System type of hydroponics has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here’s some to help you understand it deeper:

Pros

  • Low maintenance and very affordable
  • Materials to assemble it can be alternatives only, not specifically the ideal equipment
  • Does not need a lot of attention or supervision
  • Using an effective growing medium can increase oxygen levels for your plants
  • Not complicated to assemble

Cons

  • Fungi is more expected to grow because of the lack of water circulation
  • Replenishing the reservoir must be frequently done to maintain the nutrients in the solution
  • Slower growth rate compared to other systems
  • Only best for small plants because bigger plants would need more nutrients

Cost

Given that setting up the Wick System hydroponics assembly is more flexible than the others, the price is also very encouraging, especially if you’re resourceful enough. So far, few kits are being sold that are ready to use. But the individual materials can be easily accessible through different online shops or hydroponics stores. In total, you would need just about P900.00 to P1,500.00 for it, and you could even lessen it if you have some materials at home already.

6. Ebb & Flow or Flood & Drain System

The Ebb & Flow hydroponic system is one of the most popular systems for many stay-at-home hydroponic enthusiasts. In this system, various plants are semi-submerged in grow medium placed on big grow beds. To ensure that the plants are healthy, the grow beds are packed with a nutrient-rich water-based solution, and a drain regulates the water so that it does not go beyond the grow medium and drown the plants. Using a timer, a water pump is used to supply water to the set-up, and after a given time, the pump is turned off, and the water drains the grow bed naturally, leaving the plants with enough nutrients to absorb its own growth.

Materials

To set up your own Ebb & Flow system, you need a bit more stuff to ensure its effectiveness. First, you would need a reservoir to put in your nutrient-rich water-based solution, the nutrient solution for the plants, a timer, a water pump, a container for the growing medium, the growing medium itself, enough tubes to connect the reservoir, and another tube in charge of the draining, and some buckets and storage totes for possible improvisations if anything goes wrong.

Pros and Cons

To create your own Ebb & Flow Hydroponics System, there are specific pros and cons you have to consider before entirely investing yourself in setting up the made assembly. In evaluating the pros and cons, you can ensure that you aren’t wasting any of your precious resources:

Pros

  • User-friendly in terms of building and usage
  • The flood-drain concept makes the set-up high on nutrients
  • Cheap and affordable set-up
  • Materials can be easily improvised if there is a need

Cons

  • Electricity outages may affect the set-up because of the pump
  • Technical knowledge in draining & hydroponics may be essential
  • Harder to regulate factors such as pH level, water temperature, and solution changes
  • The chance for salt build-up leading to plant deficiency

Cost

Since the set-up requires some appliances, the Ebb and Flow hydroponics system may cost a little more than the previously discussed system. If you look it up online, you can find water pumps for the cost of P4000.00 up to P5000.00. Moreover, if you look for the other material costs of the Ebb & Flow System separately, you can find relatively cheap grow beds ranging from P875.00 to P1450.00, depending on the size and quality of these grow beds. However, if you don’t have the time to look for materials one by one, you can also purchase a full ready-to-use kit ranging from P15000.00 to P16750.00. 

Some sellers offer “grow kits” that can differ in cost. It can really depend on the type of system the seller promotes through the product. But of course, we can expect that the bigger or more space needed to assemble the kit, the more expensive it can get. But for those who just wish to try it out and see if it’s efficient, there are smaller kits available. Definitely perfect for those who want to get a feel of it first!

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