The term hydroponics refers to a modern process of gardening where plants are grown in a soil-less set-up using inert media. Hydroponics gardening has gained a lot of popularity and many farmers are now using this improved farming techniques to achieve sustainable food supply.
A hydroponics system is a man-made structure that contains the inert media or water where the crops grow until maturity. Most common hydroponic systems are designed in form of trays, Towers, or Flames depending with the gardeners’ specifications as well as the available gardening space.
Hydroponics systems can be set indoors or outdoors to provide the plants with optimal conditions for growth. However, the gardener must refill the system with essential nutrient solutions at given intervals to address the issue of nutritional imbalance.
An ideal system should have electricity supply, water, nutrient-filled media, aerators, and the right number of plants. You can consider making a simple Hydroponics system at home if you have the required expertise or purchase one from a trusted supplier.
This post will give a detailed review of the best hydroponics systems that any gardener can buy in order to enjoy high productivity with less inputs.
#1. Ebb and Flow Systems
This type of hydroponics system is popularly known as Flood and Drain system. As the name suggests, plants are grown in a tray that is filled with growing medium through a “flooding cycle”. How does it work? The Ebb and Flow system comprise of a tray, water reservoir below the tray, a water pump, and a timer.
The flooding cycle is scheduled at a given interval to serve the plants with nutrient-filled solutions a number of times in a day. The water pump fills the tray with the solution medium until it is flooded. Then using the force of gravity, the solution flows back into the reservoir through an overflow pipe to be oxygenated pending the next flooding cycle.
The most commonly used mediums in Flood and Drain system are granular, grow rocks, gravel among others. Ebb and Flow system can be used to grow plants indoors or outdoors. Growing medium are mostly made of pots to facilitate flexibility of the whole system.
Pros of Flood and Drain System
- Uses less water and power
- High level of flexibility
- Suitable for both indoors and outdoors
- Easy to construct as per your specifications
Cons of Flood and Drain System
- Prone to mechanical failure and plants can be affected if the pump and timer fails.
- The system requires a lot of solution-filled medium to function properly.
#2. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) System
Most hydroponic gardeners use NFT System to grow faster growing plants such as lettuce, herbs, and veggies. Nutrient Film Technique systems are very simple to design and they are constructed using the following materials;
- Container/pot that will act as a reservoir for nutrient medium
- Tubes to distribute water from the pump to the NFT tubes
- Submersible fountain water pumps
- Return system that will facilitate the flow of nutrient solution back to the reservoir
Regardless of the design, a good NFT system must have a very shallow nutrient medium that flows downwards through the tubing system so that the plant roots can absorb the essential nutrients.
Pros of Nutrient Film Technique
- The system uses less nutrient medium due to the recycling method
- Easy to design and it does not require too much expertise to operate
- One can grow a variety of plants
- Less growing medium is needed since there is minimal wastage
Cons of NFT system
- The plants are highly affected by any interruption in the flow system that might arise from mechanical, or power failure. It can lead wilting of the plants.
- Plants root can overgrow causing blockage of the drip system.
#3. Deep water culture
Deep water culture system involves building a floating net pots platform with your plants suspended on a nutrient solution reservoir where the plants get constant supply of essential components for growth.
The plants roots are able to absorb water, oxygen, and essential nutrients for optimum growth. Most of the platforms that hold the plants are made of Styrofoam and the system works better when growing plants with shorter maturity periods.
Deep Water Culture hydroponics system works by using an air pump to oxygenate water. The system also uses an air stone whose role is to bubble nutrients required by the plant roots for optimum growth.
The materials required to construct a deep water culture system are readily available and they are not expensive.
Pros of Deep Water Culture
- Cheap and easy to construct
- Easy to operate
- Recirculating helps in reduction of waste materials
Cons of Deep water culture
- Only works better with plants that thrive in too much water environment
- The system only supports plants with shorter maturity periods
#4. Wick system
This type of hydroponics system is by far the most basic system of gardening. Wicking system does not require any pump or electricity to function because it doesn’t have any moving system. It can be used to grow a few plants and flowers as a DIY system.
The key items that are required when building a wick hydroponics system are; A container/bucket to hold the plant, a container/bucket to act as a reservoir, Growing medium, and wicking rope.
The plants grown under this system absorb nutrients from the reservoir through capillary process with the aid of a wicking rope. The system works well for smaller plants such as herbs and lettuce which does not require much water and nutrients to grow.
Pros of wick hydroponic system
- Easy to setup and maintenance cost
- Inexpensive since the user does not require energy or pumps to run it
- Works perfectly for smaller plants
Cons of wick hydroponic system
- Only suitable for smaller plants
- The system is less efficient in nutrient delivery to the plants as it only relies on the capillary process
- Plants do not enjoy an even absorption of both water and nutrients.
- Not all nutrients that are added to the medium are absorbed by the plants. Therefore, there is higher need to re-emptied the reservoir and refill with fresh medium to avoid nutritional imbalance
#5. Drip system
Drip hydroponics systems are designed in two ways; recovery and non-recovery systems. The drip system is operated using a submersed pump in a nutrient solution reservoir that is used to pump the nutrient solution once the timer is on. The pump is used to make the solution flow through small drip line which eventually drips at the base of each plant.
When using a recovery drip system, a reservoir is already set aside which collects all the excess nutrient solution flow that drips off so that it can be re-circulated back into the system. Watering cycles also requires regular inspection to ensure they are functioning properly.
The non-recovery system as the name suggests is a drip system where excess nutrient solution is not collected and re-used.
When operating a drip system, a proper working timer is essential (especially with non-recovery system) as it ensures that there is minimum run-off.
Pros of drip system
- Suitable for growing plants at a large scale even for commercial purposes
- Minimal use of water and growing medium
- Durable and can be used to grow a variety of plants
- Affordable as the systems are readily available at fair prices
Cons of drip system
- Higher wastage especially in non-recovery system
- Prone to mechanical failure
#6. Aeroponic system
Constructing an aeroponic system involves more technical skills compared to other forms of hydroponics gardening. The system is a bit expensive but most gardeners prefer this system since the plants are able to grow quickly due to efficient oxygen supply.
Aeroponic system functions by having a nutrient pump that mists the root zones of the hanging plants with the nutrients at a given interval using a timer. As opposed to other systems where the roots are submerged, aeroponic systems is mostly preferred as it uses minimum nutrients and water.
The misting cycle is essential in ensuring that the plants roots have constant supply of oxygen. It is suitable for growing plants outdoors and in a wider space.
Pros of aeroponics system
- Uses minimal nutrients and water
- Adequate supply of oxygen ensures quicker plant maturity
- Harvesting is also easier especially when growing root crops
Cons of aeroponics system
- The system is expensive to install
- The sprinkler heads can clog regularly in case there are a lot of dissolved nutrients
- Plants roots can easily dry in case of a mechanical failure
#7. Hydrofarm hydroponic megagarden system
The hydrofarm hydroponic megagarden system is a modern system that is an all-in-one system. The gardener can comfortably grow up-to 15 plants in this megagarden. The system is also designed to occupy limited space and comes with the following components;
- Fifteen-5-inch grow pots
- Growing media
- 7.5 gallon reservoir
- Water pump
- Rock wool starter cubes
- PH testing kits
- A bottle of nutrients for your initial stages
Benefits of hydrofarm hydroponic megagarden system
- It’s an all in one system
- The system is affordable
- Easy to operate and suitable for beginners
- Only limited to a small number of plants
- You will be required to buy ventilation and lighting equipment
#8. AutoPot 4Pot Gravity Fed system
This hydroponics system is suitable for individuals with smaller space. The system is fitted with 4 buckets which are 4 gallons each and the plants get nutrients and water through gravity as the name suggests.
The system is less complicated and can be setup very easily. Also the watering process of plants is automated making it less labor intensive.
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The downside of Autopot system is that it is only limited to up-to 4 plants and the gardener is also expected to buy other equipment such as grow lights and nutrients to fully grow the plants effectively. The system is suitable for both indoors and outdoors gardening.
#9. General Hydroponics Farm Controller
The General Hydroponics farm controller comes with a fully automated watering system. It’s designed to hold 8 waterfarm systems and a large reservoir with capacity of 13 gallons of water plus 8 gallon control units.
The general hydroponics waterfarm system is flexible and the number of pots can be added or reduced to suit the needs of the gardener depending with the available space. The system is one of the most popular hydroponics systems that most gardeners prefer due to its easy functionality as well as flexibility.
When shopping for general hydroponics waterfarm, budget for growing medium, grow lighting, and ventilation equipment as they are not sold together with this wonderful waterfarm system.
#10. Ezgro Original Hydroponics Garden Planter
Ezgro Original hydroponics garden planter is a perfect system that can be used for growing plants both indoors and outdoors. The system is designed in a vertical shape using stacks which are arranged at specific pattern moving upwards.
The vertical nature of Ezgro hydroponic system make it efficient by using minimum space since plants are grown in a vertical pattern.
Pros of Ezgro hydroponics system
- Uses less space, water, and nutrients
- It’s soilless thus eliminating most of plants diseases and pests
- Readily available at affordable rates
- Every kit comes with grow medium and nutrient solution for starters
- The system is durable as the pots as made using nested plastic
#11. Boxed Hydroponics
When you purchase a boxed system, you are able to get an enclosed chamber which comes with grow lighting, grow medium, wiring system, and environmental control systems.
Boxed hydroponics systems are perfect for indoor gardening and plants usually thrive better in a well-ventilated box system.
The best boxes are the one made of aluminum as it’s the best material for indoor gardens. They are readily available in the market at affordable prices. I would recommend boxed hydroponics system to any beginner as they are highly efficient and have low maintenance costs.
#12. Big Buddha Box Vertical Grow Hydroponics
The Big Buddha Box Vertical Grow Hydroponics is a vertically designed system that has the capacity to grow about 5x bigger and better yields compared to any horizontal traditional growing system per square foot.
The system is built to hold up-to 75 plants thus, giving you an option to grow as much plants as you can. Big Buddha Box Vertical Grow Hydroponics is mostly preferred due to its ability to generate higher yields.
The system employs VerticalPonic technology (Vertical growing system combined with SuperCloset’s SuperPonics Hydroponics technology) which guarantees maximum productivity.
When you purchase a Big Buddha Box, it will come with the following components;
- 75 Plants locations
- SuperCool Lightning cool tube
- Trellis System
- Air Force Pro Air pump
- SuperCloset Instructional DVD
This type of system is very easy to operate and can be used to grow plants even for commercial purposes.
#13. Hydroponic Rain Tower system
This system uses PVC fence post together with PVC pipes which holds the plant pots diagonally across the tower. A pump is the used to pump the nutrient solution from the reservoir to the top of the tower.
The system uses less grow medium and the gardener can choose the number of plants to grow in each tower.
Building a hydroponics rain tower system is cheap and the system is durable. Plants are also able to grow in a perfect environment which guarantees higher productivity. The rain tower system is mostly used to grow plants in outdoors gardens.
#14. DIY Small Container Hydroponics System
This is one of the simplest hydroponics systems that you can build in your house. The system uses old containers which can be converted into growing pots and reservoir. Once you have identified the containers you want to you, you can choose to use either automatic or manual system.
Automatic system uses electricity and pump while the other one depends solely on circulation of grow medium. Grow lights are needed to provide the plants with the necessary light for photosynthesis. DIY Small Container Hydroponics systems plants can be grown indoors and the containers can be painted on the outer side to make them more attractive.
#15. Hydroponic fish tanks
This is an improved hydroponics system that is designed to create a symbiotic relationship between the plants and the fish. Constructing a hydroponic fish tank is cheap as you are required to have only the following items;
- Fish tank
- Organic Radish sprout seeds
- Wheatgrass fish food
- Grow stones and gravel
- Water pump
The materials are readily available at any hydroponics stores or you can decide to purchase an already made hydroponic fish tank.
The system works by creating a self-cleaning cycle where the fish in the tank fertilizes the plants while the plants in return cleans and filters the water to make it safe for fish.
The system is cheap to maintain as it uses minimal water and nutrients and the gardener is able to enjoy higher productivity from both fish and plants.
#16. A-Frame Hydroponics System
Derived from its shape, A-frame hydroponic system involves growing of plants in a vertical garden. This kind of system is mostly used by gardeners with less space and it guarantees higher yields in a very small space. This system is very flexible as it can be moved from one area to another.
A-frame hydroponics systems are easy to construct since they are built with readily available materials including;
- Plastic reservoir
- PVC tubes and pipes
- A-Flame boards
- Grow medium
Grow medium and water moves through the pipes and plants are able to absorb nutrients as it passes along the PVC tubes. Plants are grown horizontally along the PVC tubes and the gardener has the option of adding or reducing the number of plants in A-Flame hydroponics system.
#17. HTG Supply Bubble Brothers
The HTG Supply Bubble Brothers DWC is fitted with six 3.5gallon buckets which are low profile to enable you conserve space. This hydroponics system is unique as it comes with a bigger air pump to produce a more powerful bubbling action.
The main components of HTG Supply Bubble Brothers are;
- 2-inch air stones
- 50-feets of ¼-inch air tubing
- Net-pot lids
- 10-litre bag of clay pebble grow medium
The system is suitable for small-medium sized growing setups. In addition, you can easily adjust the length of the tubing to the buckets to suit the available space.
The buckets can support the growth of variety of plants and the system offers an optimal environment for the growth of high quality plants.
#18. General Hydroponics AeroFlo 18
This type of hydroponics system is designed to offer ideal growth to small and medium sized plants up to three feet such as lettuce. It’s fitted with 17-gallon reservoir and 18 plant sites. Gardeners who want a compact and high performance system can comfortably use the AeroFlo 18 site.
This system is made up of the following components:
- 17 gallon reservoir
- Three 4 ft. grow chambers
- 3″ grow cups
- CocoTek Coco cups and Hydroton
- 3 part Flora Kit
- waterPower 120 pump
- injection manifold
- support structure
#19. H20toGrow Complete Hydroponics Kit
The system is designed to resemble deep water culture setup and can be fitted to a maximum of 18 by 12.5 inches of floor space. The system has a reservoir which is fitted with a water level indicator to help you refill the container easily.
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The kit comes with complete components and it is relatively small making it convenient to gardeners with smaller space. I would highly recommend this system to individuals with small and mid-sized setups and beginners as it offers affordable and efficient hydroponics gardening experience.
#20. Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Ultra (LED) With Gourmet Herb Seed Pod Kit
In this advanced hydroponics system, plants grow purely in water and the kit can accommodate up to 7 plants at any given time. It is fitted with high performance full spectrum 30-watt LED lighting system that offers optimum condition for photosynthesis.
This 7-Pod Gourmet Herb Seed Kit comprise of the following components;
- Genovese Basil
- Thai Basil
- Curly Parsley
- Thyme Mint
- Chives and Dill
- 3 Oz Patented nutrients
One thing that makes this advanced system unique is the interactive LCD screen control panel. The LCD control panel helps the gardener understand when to add water, patented nutrients and provides basic timely tips.
The control panel is also automated to automatically turn the lights on and off therefore, giving you an easy time when naturally growing your herbs. The LED lights used in this system are energy-efficient and easily replaceable in case of malfunction.
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