Building your first hydroponic system can be a daunting task. Fear not, as building hydroponic setups is actually very easy and cost effective. Of course, systems range from beginner level (deep water culture) to advanced (aeroponics). Here I will go over some of the basic equipment used in the easiest systems.

Basic DWC System

Basic DWC System

  • Reserviour: This is the storage container that holds the water/fertilizer mix. These are usually 5 gallon buckets, storage totes, or 55 gallon barrels.
  • Air Pump: Roots need oxygen to survive, if water is left stagnant for long enough, the roots will remove all of the oxygen and promptly die. This can be countered with an air pump connected to an air stone in the reservoir. Air pumps should always be placed above the reservoir, in case of power failure the pump won’t be ruining by a rush of water through the air line. Air pumps are cheap and usually use less than 10 watts of electricity, so don’t skimp on these.
  • Air Stone: Air stones turn a solid stream of air from the air pump into a lot of tiny bubbles. Air stones help with absorbing air into the water. Air stones come in all shapes and sizes and are most definitely required in hydroponic systems to keep the water oxygenated properly and plants growing quickly.
  • Water Pump:Used in nutrient feed technique and aeroponic systems, as well as many other varieties. Water pumps can range from little fountain pumps all the way to full sump pumps for larger systems.
  • Growing Medium: Popular hydroponic growing mediums include pebbles, river rocks, marbles, rockwool, perlite, expanded clay pellets, and lava rocks. As you can see, hydroponic growing mediums can be nearly anything that supports the plant, won’t rot, and won’t leach chemicals into the water reservoir. The cheapest growing medium is finding gravel and washing it with diluted bleach.
  • Net pots Net pots are small plastic pots used to hold hydroponic plants, they are filled with medium and have lots of holes in them to allow root growth into the water. These can be quite pricey (some hydroponic shops will charge 50 cents or more per net pot) and net pots can be made easily from old plastic containers of all kinds. Get creative and you will save a lot.
  • PH and nutrient meters The most important part of hydroponic growing is keeping the PH and nutrient level in check. These meters go from cheap chemical based ones to very expensive electronic meters that give constant readouts of the PH and ppm. They both work, so buy what is appropriate to your budget.