There are currently too many hydroponic setups on the market to count, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Most hydroponic systems are tweaked variations of these 3 setups.

Aeroponics

Advantages:

  • Fastest grow time
  • Most oxygenated roots
  • Least water wasted
  • Least fertilizer wasted

Disadvantages:

  • High initial cost
  • High level of expertise required
  • Most prone to technical problems

Overall:

Aeroponics is without a doubt the hardest hydroponic system to setup and maintain. The difference between aeroponic systems and more traditional hydroponics is that aeroponics uses sprayers to spray the roots with the nutrient solution.  The reason the aeroponic sprayers are used is the roots have much more access to oxygen than hydroponic setups where the roots are fully submerged.  If not taken care of, the sprayers can become clogged, if that happens the plants in the aeroponic system can die within hours.

Deep Water Culture

Advantages:

  • Can grow the largest plants
  • No pump means less likely to fail
  • Cheapest

Disadvantages:

  • Slower growth

Overall:

Deep water culture setups are the most beginner-friendly and most stable of the hydroponic setups. The ease and low cost of setup makes up for the slower growth rates deep water culture systems experience verse systems that give the roots more oxygen. When I say slower growth rates, I mean about twice as fast as soil, keep that in mind. Deep water culture setups can be built cheaply with pretty much any large container, whether it be a 30-gallon tote or 5 gallon bucket, an air pump, and some hydroponic nutrients.

Ebb & Flow

Advantages:

  • Fast growth rates
  • Very versatile

Disadvantages:

  • Higher cost than DWC due to the pump and growing medium

Overall:

Deep water culture setups provide a balance of cost, ease, and growth rates. Deep water culture systems work by pumping nutrient solutions from a reservoir into a grow bed at scheduled intervals. For example, many systems will use 30-30 timing, that is 30 minutes with the roots flooded to absorb nutrients, and 30 minutes drained to absorb oxygen. This system can be turned into all shapes and sizes, ready to fit just about any grow.

In closing, every hydroponic setup will yield different results, the best way to start growing vegetables using hydroponics is to test multiple small systems, and have fun doing it.