Hydroponics is a highly effective soilless method for growing crops in a completely controlled environment. The main advantages of this technology are: limiting the development of diseases, pests and weeds; up to 95% less water consumption compared to conventional methods of growing plants; save space; enables the cultivation of plants in areas where the land is uncultivated; earlier ripening and higher yields without compromising quality (plant energy is concentrated in growing instead of fighting weeds, pests and seeking water).

The way hydroponic systems work may seem a bit complicated, especially in the beginning, but in fact the moment you study them you will find that things are quite simple. There are 6 types of hydroponic systems: Drip systems, Ebb & Flow, N.F.T., Water Culture, Aeroponics and Wick). The roots of plants need 3 things: water, nutrients and oxygen. What distinguishes the types of hydroponic systems from each other is the way in which these 3 components are delivered to the roots. Below we will look in detail at all types of systems ..

No matter what they are called, all hydroponic systems are based on these 6 types, being either one of them or a combination of 2 or more. Once you get acquainted with how the 3 basic elements reach the roots in each of the systems, you will be able to quickly and easily recognize them.

What to do before choosing your hydroponic system.

Before building a hydroponic system, it is important to first consider the type of plants with the space in which you need to grow them. Then you need to make sure that the system is tailored to the needs of plants (size, oxygen reaching the roots, water consumption, etc.). While a system may be suitable for growing some species, it may not be the most the good choice for others.

It is possible to grow almost all types of plants in any type of hydroponic system, if you adjust it to maintain the needs they need, even when they reach their maximum size.

However, when growing different types of plants, it will probably be much easier, will require much less maintenance and will be cheaper if you grow different plants in separate hydroponic systems, adjusted to the respective needs, instead of putting all species in one big system working one way for all.

Artificial lighting is not required for hydroponics. It depends on where you intend to build it. You can choose between natural sunlight or artificial light. If there is a way to achieve this, sunlight is recommended because it is free and does not require any additional equipment. However, if you are in a place where natural light is not enough, or just the season, you will need to put at least one artificial light source to grow healthy plants.

Drip Systems - Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation systems are one of the most widely used types of hydroponic systems in the world, both for domestic and commercial manufacturers. This is mainly because their concept is simple and requires several parts, but it is still a very versatile and efficient type of hydroponic system. The way the drip system works is by dripping nutrient solution on the roots of the plants to keep them moist.

Drip systems can be suitable for both small and large plants, but are especially useful for those whose roots occupy a large area. This is because large volumes of water are not needed to irrigate the system, and drip irrigation works very well in large areas, as well as when using a large amount of growing medium for large plants.

The way drip systems work is very simple. The nutrient solution is pumped from the tank through pipes to the surface of the growth medium, from there drips through a dripper. Once the solution has soaked the roots and the plant environment, it drains through gravity through pipes directed back to the tank. An important condition is that the pot with the plant should be at least 15-20 cm high from the top of the tank, so that gravity can do its job.

There are two types of drip irrigation systems.

Recirculation drip systems / (systems with full utilization of the solution)

For domestic manufacturers, recirculating drip systems are by far the most commonly used. Solution recirculation systems simply refer to the reuse (cyclization) of the nutrient solution used, once the solution has moistened the roots, it is returned to the tank, where it can be recycled through the system, using it again and again. Recirculation systems are also called 'recovery' systems, as they refer to the recovery of used nutrient solution so that it can rotate through the system again.

As in any recycling hydroponic system, the drip system may change over time in terms of pH and concentration as the plant consumes nutrients from the water. Therefore, it is necessary to periodically check the pH and EC levels and adjust them if necessary. Also, change the solution regularly to maintain nutrient balance.

Tips for use

What injectors / drippers to use:

• expanded clay and growth cubes - sludge injectors

• coconut, soil, 60/40 - drip injectors


  • If you are looking at stone wool cubes, be sure to remove all the nylon roofing felt.
  • Be careful not to overload with soil or bury the leaves of plants.
  • If you use expanded clay or rock wool - first wet them well and let the water drain before transplanting the plant.
  • Soil and coconut should be moist.
  • Use a timer to turn irrigation cycles on and off.
  • Add food to the tank according to a program, given the period in which your plants are.
  • Before starting the system, open the valve and allow the pump to turn the liquid for about 5 minutes.

Irrigation tips:

  • Examine your plant in detail to estimate watering periods.
  • Do not allow your plant environment to dry out completely. Wetting even after complete drying is much more difficult.
  • Irrigation solution changes:
  • Completely change the irrigation solution every 21-30 days, for mature and fast-growing plants - every 14 days, cleaning the system and adjusting the pH of the new solution.
  • Check often that the injectors are working properly, with good permeability. Use preventatives against blockages.
  • When changing the irrigation solution, for plants grown in soil or coconut, it is useful to do one watering only with clean water, without additives.
  • Change the solution completely at least once a month, clean the system and adjust the pH.

NOTE: Turn off the pump when operating the system.

All basic steps:

  1. Place the plant in pots with soil / coconut / expanded clay / stone wool
  2. Add water and fertilizers.
  3. Set the timer to 2 x 15 minutes at the beginning, rising to 5-6 times a day in flowering.
  4. Check the pH weekly. The ideal range is pH 5.8 - 6.2.
  5. Every 14 days, empty and refill with fresh fresh nutrient solution.
  6. Prepare for up to 3 times richer harvest than manual watering

Non-recirculating / drip systems without solution recovery

Common to commercial producers, while at first glance it sounds like a waste of water and food, in fact commercial producers have very little loss in this regard. They achieve this by accurately calculating irrigation cycles using timers.

Maintenance of the solution in non-recirculating systems is much easier, mainly because the solution is not returned to the recycling tank. This means that you can fill the tank with a balanced solution with an adjusted pH and you will no longer have to monitor it, especially if you keep the solution in low motion so that heavier mineral particles do not accumulate at the bottom.

Ebb & Flow / Flood & Drain System

Ebb & Flow hydroponic systems, also called Flood & Drain (flood and drain), are easy to assemble and are very popular among home hydroponic gardeners. The growth medium is placed in the growth bed, which is then filled with nutrient solution. The drain allows the water to reach just a few centimeters below the top of the growing medium. The flow rate can be switched off by a preset timer after running for a certain period of time, allowing the water to return down the pump by draining the bed. Automatic drainage, such as a "bell" siphon, can be used to drain the growth bed without switching off the pump supply. This allows more movement of water and air over the roots, which causes more growth. Ebb and Flow systems are suitable for many different plants. Because this type of hydroponic system has an open growth space, the plants are not in mesh pots with a predetermined distance between them.

The N.F.T. system (Nutrient Film Technique)

N.F.T. Nutrient Film Technique systems are quite popular among home gardeners mainly because their design is very simple. N.F.T. The systems are the most suitable and are most often used for growing smaller fast-growing plants, such as various types of lettuce, herbs, baby spinach, etc.

NFT systems usually consist of:

Despite the huge variety in N.F.T. systems, they all have the same characteristic - a very shallow flow of nutrient solution. N.F.T. the systems are cascaded down through a pipe. Where the bare roots of plants come into contact with water and can absorb nutrients from it. The main drawback of N.F.T. is that plants are very sensitive to interruptions in the flow of water caused by power outages (or for any other reason). The plants will wither very quickly when the water stops flowing through the system.

The way NFT systems work is relatively simple. The nutrient solution is pumped from the tank, a thin layer (film) of it flows through each plant channel and moistens the roots. As the channel is slightly inclined, the excess solution flows through the lower end of each of the pipes back into the tank and so the solution returns to the system.

Despite the fact that the nutrient solution passes through the tubes in a very shallow stream, the entire root mass remains moist. Roots that are not soaked receive enough moisture from the air in the tube, thus having direct access to oxygen.

The recommended debit for N.F.T. system is usually between 1 and 2 liters per minute for each growth tube (60 to 120 liters per hour). For seedlings, the recommended flow rate can be halved and then increased as the plants grow. Cases where the flow rate is much higher or lower than that may be due to nutrient deficiencies. Nutrient deficiencies are sometimes observed when the tubes are longer than 10-15 meters. However, it has been shown that this problem is eliminated by placing a second nutrient supply line in the middle along the growth tube.

Water Culture systems

Water culture systems have the simplest mechanism compared to the other 6 types of systems. Although technically much simpler, they are highly efficient. These systems are popular not only among home gardeners, but also among large manufacturers. This is due to the easy and low-budget concept. However, there are plenty of ingenious ways to use Water Culture systems.

How the Water Culture system works: The plants are actually hung in baskets above the nutrient solution in the tank. The roots hang down through the baskets of the baskets and are immersed directly in the nutrient solution all the time 24/7. The roots do not suffocate because they receive the air and oxygen they need from the air bubbles rising throughout the solution, as well as from the oxygen dissolved in the water.

The more bubbles - the better. The water should look as if it is boiling and the rising bubbles should be in direct contact with the roots. In fact, there are two ways to provide aeration and dissolved oxygen in the nutrient solution:

- through an aquarium air pump with air stones, etc. (the smaller and more numerous the bubbles, the greater the contact surface with the water => the better);

- by falling water: Although this method is not popular among home growers, the surface reaction of falling water sprayed around is another very good way to aerate the nutrient solution. The higher the water drop and / or the higher the amount of water, the greater the aeration (dissolved oxygen). This method of aeration in Deep Water systems is more common in commercial manufacturers, as they use much larger volumes of water than domestic manufacturers.

Aeroponic systems

While the concept of aeroponic systems is quite simple, it is actually the most technological of all types of hydroponic systems. The plants hang in the air while the nutrient solution is sprayed on the roots through nozzles in the form of spray or mist for short periods. The more microscopic the drops, the faster their absorption by the plant. Regular spraying cycles protect the roots from drying out, but also provide all the necessary nutrients.

Main disadvantages of aerodrome systems:

-Technical knowledge is required - You need a certain level of competence in the management of the airport system. Knowing the amounts of nutrients your plant requires is essential, as you have no soil to absorb the excess / wrong nutrients that have been added.

- very regular cleaning of the chamber in which the roots are located is required and care should be taken not to clog the spray nozzles.

However, with careful use, aeroponic systems give exceptional results.

WICK systems

WICK (wick) systems are the simplest of all 6 types of hydroponic systems. This is because they do not have any moving parts, as they do not use pumps or electricity. However, some gardeners prefer to use air pumps in the tank to enrich the solution with oxygen. The whole system is very suitable for places where there is no access to electricity or where it is not reliable enough. Wick systems are preferred by beginners in hydroponics, they are even often used for educational purposes in schools because they explain the principles of hydroponics very easily.

Wick systems work by raising the nutrient solution up a nylon wick, thanks to its capillary properties, or in other words, the solution is sucked out of the tank like a sponge. Usually good Wick systems have at least 2 wicks of size sufficient to climb the required amount of solution. The container in which the plant is located is best to stand directly above the tank, so the path of water to the plant is as short as possible.

The main disadvantage of Wick systems is that they do not work with large plants that need more water. They are best suited for small fruitless plants, such as lettuce and herbs. Another disadvantage is the inability to cope with the nutrition of plants that need large amounts of nutrients, such as tomatoes, peppers (most fruit plants are fed in large quantities). Another problem with this type of system is that nutrients do not absorb water and nutrients evenly. Plants absorb what they need and the rest accumulates in the growth medium, which at some point can lead to toxic accumulation of mineral salts in the environment. This is the reason for the need to regularly wash the growing medium with clean water once a week.


Some may argue that aquaponics is another type of hydroponic system, but it is not. What makes aquaponics different is the way nutrients are extracted, no matter how they are served to the plant. The technique of aquaponics and the supply of roots with nutrients derived from the decomposition of fish waste could be applied to each of the 6 types of hydroponic systems. You just need to replace the ordinary irrigation tank with a fish tank.

Aquaponics is much more complex because the goal is to control nutrient levels naturally through microorganisms, bacteria and microflora that live in fish water to break down fish waste into nutrients that plants can use. In other words, aquaponics is the process of extracting nutrients from fish waste and creating fertilizers. But this has nothing to do with the technology by which water, nutrients and oxygen are delivered to plant roots.

How to adjust the pH of the nutrient solution

The right pH level is very important for hydroponic gardening. Most hydro fertilizers also contain a buffer that helps keep the pH of the solution within the required range, but it is possible for a jump or fall to occur, in which case the plants will not be able to absorb nutrients. If the measured pH is not within 5.5 - 6.5 (preferably 5.8 - 6.2), you will need to adjust it.

The best way to effectively adjust the pH of your hydroponic garden is to get a product that is designed specifically for this purpose. Most manufacturers of hydro fertilizers offer such regulators, in most cases called "pH down" (acid) and "pH up" (alkaline solution / base). These are designed specifically for hydroponic gardens, so when used properly, plants and the environment are safe. In addition to adjusting the pH, the regulators also contain a buffer that maintains the pH stability of the solution for at least a few more days.

7 most common growth media for hydro systems.

There are many types of growing media that can be used in hydroponics. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of which one works best. It all depends on the type of plants you grow, the type of hydroponic system and your personal preference.