Deep water culture systems are some of the most popular hydroponics systems- especially for beginners and especially for those who want to go the DIY route. The reason why is pretty simple, there’s a limited number of parts involved and most parts you need are easy to get with little to no modification needed.
If you’ve decided that a deep water culture system is the system for you, read our deep water culture step-by-step guide.
As mentioned in our Hydroponics for Beginners: Choosing the Right Hydroponic System, where we compared and contrasted popular systems, the deep water culture has some strong advantages. These include easy setup, low setup cost, and low maintenance. We’ll break each of these down into greater detail, but first, let’s look at how a deep water culture system works in the first place.
How a Deep Water Culture System Works
Unlike other systems that pump or drip water to the plants, in a deep water culture, the plants sit at the top of the water reservoir with their roots hanging into the water. This is obviously how they get their water and their nutrients, but it’s only part of the equation. The air stone sits in the bottom of the reservoir, where it’s job is, you guessed it, aerate the water.
The water sits just below the net cups (pictured to the left), with the roots hanging down inside (don’t worry, your plants won’t drown). As far as the setup goes, it’s pretty much that simple simply because it doesn’t need to be any more complex. After all, any hydroponics system, at its roots, is just a way to get nutrient dense water and air to the plant while bypassing the whole soil and irrigation steps (among other things). Your plant will grow as tall as they can while the roots grow long enough to reach the bottom, in many cases. Now, on to the strengths and weaknesses of the DWC system.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Deep Water Culture Systems
Yes, we sell complete deep water culture hydroponics systems. We’re a store. It’s what we do. So, if you want to bypass the whole parts, drilling, and setup phase, you can pop on over to our store where we have a plethora of DWC systems that can pot anywhere from one plant to 9 plus. Here are just two of the many we sell. If you’re interested in doing it yourself or simply want to know more about the benefits and drawbacks of this system, read on. Also, when it comes time to buy your nutrients and other parts and supplies, just remember who gave you awesome step-by-step guides and the in-depth articles that helped you choose which system to go with in the first place 😉
Low Setup Cost
Deep water culture systems are relatively cheap. They won’t set you back very much, which is great news for anyone dipping their toes into this whole hydroponics thing. Here’s your entire parts list for a deep water culture system. All in all, if you’re piecing one together on your own, it’ll set you back maybe 30 bucks.
- Air stone
- Net pots
- Drill bits for the top and side hole(s)
If you’re just wanting to get started right away and you aren’t wanting to build your own, take a look at our cheap deep water culture system, created in house here at Hydroponics Supply Store to allow beginners an inexpensive path to get into hydroponics.
Ease of Setup
Unlike other systems where you’re gong to have to worry about grades, water seals, timers, or drainage, with a deep water culture system, you can be setup pretty quickly. Setup pretty much consists of this: a water reservoir, such as a small personal storage container, holes drilled on top where the net pots will sit, water in the reservoir, and an air stone in the water.
Setup time is going to be just an hour or two, if you’ve got everything ready to go. With other systems you’ll have to wait for sealants to dry and other things that will stretch out your setup time to several hours or multiple days, depending. With the deep water culture system, just drill your holes in the reservoir, fill it with water, stick some nutrients in, add in the air stone, plug it in and you’re pretty much finished. Like I said, easy, right?
Deep water cultures are as pretty much “set it and forget it,” at least as close as you can get for hydroponics systems. You’ll still need to keep a close eye on your plants, the nutrient levels, water PH, etc, but as far as the system itself is concerned, the biggest problem you might run into is your air stone dying on you, which is low probability.
The Downside of Deep Water Culture Systems
Want to expand your setup. Too bad. Well, actually you can, but only if “expand your setup” actually means “start a new system.” Why? because short of drilling more holes into the top of your reservoir, there’s no way to add on. The reservoirs aren’t module, and unlike an NFT system, you can’t add room for more plants beyond what the top of the reservoir can hold.
DWC systems need to be mindful of fluctuations to water temperature, nutrient strength, and pH levels. In multiple bucket systems that do not recirculate, each bucket needs to be examined individually.