Types of Hydroponic Systems

Do you want to turn your yard, back garden or even just a corner of your kitchen into a hydroponic garden? Great idea. The point is that there isn’t one hydroponic system.

Hydroponics is a vast field, with many different scientific and technological solutions, each with its peculiarities, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

This is why we need to see different types of hydroponic systems all in detail, because choosing the right one for you can make the difference between a successful garden and a happy gardener and, well, a less gratifying experience.

What are the types of hydroponics systems?

There are seven types of hydroponic systems: the Kratky method, deep water culture (DWC), wick system, ebb and flow (or flood and drain), nutrient film technique (NFT if you like acronyms), drip system and aeroponics. 

These system also vary in complexity, the simplest being the Kratky method while most people regard aeroponics as the most advanced. Still, without further ado, here are all the hydroponic systems in detail.

Types of Hydroponic Systems And How They Work 

1. The Kratky method Of Hydroponics

The Kratky method

This is a very rudimentary system, so much so that it is outdated and only used by amateurs who want to dip their feet into hydroponics or just for fun.

Still, it gives the idea of the key principles of hydroponics: all you need is a jar or tank and the nutrient solution. You will put your plant or plants with the areal part out of the solution and the roots dipping into it.

It’s that simple. You will only need to make sure that the stem and leaves are out of the nutrient solution, and for this you can use a grid, a mesh pot, or even the shape itself of the container. A simple vase with a narrow neck will do the job perfectly well.

You must have seen sweet potatoes grown in vases; that’s the Kratky method for you.

Note that some people do not even use a nutrient solution, but simple water.

This System Has Some Great Advantages:

  • It is very simple.
  • It is very cheap.
  • It has very few components.
  • It has very low maintenance needs.

Still, It Has Some Disadvantages That Determine And Limit Its Use.

  • It is a passive system; by this, we mean that there is no pump to bring the nutrient solution to the roots. This may be good from a financial and maintenance point of view, but it limits your control over the feeding of your plants.
  • The nutrient solution will run out after the roots have absorbed it. Depending on the shape and size of the plant, it may be difficult or even impossible to top it up.
  • This system does not provide aeration to the roots.
  • It is only suitable for small plants and small gardens.

So, this is a very amateurish method; fine if you want to have a small decorative plant in a beautiful vase on your table, but not if you want a reliable source of food and even less if you want to go professional.

On this note, there is currently a trend to transfer epiphytic orchids to this method, as they are naturally suited to living without soil.

2. Deep water culture

Deep water culture

This is the “mother of all hydroponic systems”, the most classical, even historical method we have. However, it is not a favorite with hydroponic gardeners, and we will see why in a moment. It is fairly simple and a “step up” from the Kratky method.

It is based on a tank (called a grow tank) where you have the nutrient solution and at least an air pump to provide oxygen to the roots.

This is at its simplest. Having an air pump allows you to grow more plants and more successfully with a single grow tank.

However, the basic model is seldom ever used. Usually, gardeners prefer to have two tanks and two pumps:

  • A grow tank with the plants dipping their roots in it.
  • An air pump, with the air stone in the grow pump.
  • A reservoir for your nutrient solution (often called “sump tank”). This makes it easier to mix the nutrients and the water. Try stirring them in a grow tank with the roots of the plants in the way… This way, you can get a more homogeneous solution and mix it comfortably.
  • A water pump that will take the nutrient solution from the reservoir to the grow tank.

The Deep Water Culture (DWC) Has Some Advantages:

  • It is an improvement on the rudimentary Kratky method.
  • It is simple and cheap; it only has a few elements, which means low set up costs, and it also means that there are fewer parts that can break.
  • It allows you to top up the nutrient solution.
  • It has a form of aeration of the roots.

Still, It Is Far From Perfect:

  • The nutrient solution is virtually still. This is a major setback, because still water is a breeding ground for pathogens (like bacteria), algae growth and in some cases even fungi and molds.
  • A simple air pump does not provide good aeration. In many cases this is not even sufficient, but the problem is that it is uneven: if you put the air stone at one end of the grow tank, the plants nearer to it will absorb most of the air, leaving the ones at the other end without. The best place is in the middle, but still the plants around the margins will not get their fair share.
  • It is not suitable for vertical gardens, hydroponic towers and in general for any solution that tries to maximize space by growing plants on different layers. Grow tanks with this system are heavy and bulky.
  • You can only clean it thoroughly when it is not in function; you need to empty the grow tank to do that, which means that if you have algae growth etc., you cannot solve the problem unless you remove all the plants or wait till when you change crops.
  • Last but by no means least, it is not suitable to all plants. This is because some species (e.g. peppers and raspberries) cannot stand having their roots “wet” all the time; they need spells of dryness otherwise they may rot.

There are two more things to say about DWC. You can improve aeration with a very porous and inert growing medium; however, because the solution is stagnant, this will tend to become an ideal home for algae and bacteria.

Finally, the Kratky method is often regarded as a rudimental deep water culture system, so some people classify within it.

While it can be used for large gardens, it does give you some control over the feeding and aeration of your plants, deep water culture is currently falling out of luck with professional gardeners because of its many disadvantages.

3. The wick system

The wick system

I like this method; it is simple but ingenuous. It is not the best hydroponic system by any means, but what I like is that it solves many problems of deep water culture with a very simple and cheap solution: a wick.

With A Wick System You Will Need:

  • A grow tank
  • A reservoir
  • One or more wicks (felt ropes, ropes, any spongy material)
  • A growing medium (coconut coir, expanded clay, porous and inert material that holds on to the nutrient solution then releases it slowly).

Simple. No water pump and, if you really want, you may use an air pump for extra aeration.

How does it work though?

You will simply dip the wicks into the reservoir (make sure they get to the bottom) and put the other ends into the grow tank.

Add some solution to the grow tank so that the tips of the wicks are in it; fill the tank with the growing medium and plant your beloved lettuce or flowers…

What happens next?

Nature and physics will do all the rest: because of a phenomenon called capillary action, which plants also use to move water within their bodies, the nutrient solution will slowly but regularly and constantly spread from where there is more to where there is less. Just like it does in a sponge.

This means that as the roots absorb the solution, the tips of the wicks will naturally absorb it from the reservoir.

A bit like a plant will absorb nutrient and water from the ground according to how “thirsty and hungry” it is, so will it in a wick system.

But there is another “trick” that makes this system very convenient and ingenuous… You can put the grow tank above the reservoir and place a hole in the bottom; this way, the excess solution will not stay in the grow tank, causing stagnation and possible infections, but it will be recycled very simply and efficiently back into the reservoir.

This Method Has Some Obvious Advantages:

  • It is simple and cheap.
  • It does not depend on technology and electricity. No worry if you have a power cut then…
  • It recycles the nutrient solution.
  • It auto regulates the quantity of nutrient solution you give to your plants according to their needs. It basically responds automatically to the needs of your plants; if they eat and drink a lot, it gives them more…
  • It provides good aeration.
  • It reduces algae growth and pathogens compared with DWC, but it does not stop them completely.
  • It is almost self sufficient; you don’t need to operate the pumps, check the nutrient levels in the grow tank etc. You will need, though to keep an eye on the sump tank.

Even This Method, Though, Is Far From Perfect:

  • It is not suitable for vertical gardens and towers. It is not even well suited for multi-layer gardens; you can put grow tanks on top of one another, but the nutrient solution drainage requires some piping; what is more, the wicks cannot be particularly long.
  • Even if it is better than the DWC, it still does not solve the problem posed by plants that need their roots to have dry spells. Even the wick system provides a constant supply of nutrient solution and water.
  • Again better than a DWC solution, the wick system still has problems with algae and bacteria, and even fungi. This is because the grow tank will be humid all the time.
  • It is not suitable for larger plants; this is for two reasons; to start with a practical one: how can you put a heavy plant on a trellis or table so that you can place the reservoir underneath? You can, but you can see the difficulty too. The other reason is that larger plants may need a faster nutrient absorption rate than you can provide with a wick or series of… The wicks, in fact, also limit the amount of nutrient solution you can give your plants at any time.
  • For this reason, it is not ideal for large gardens and crops; you hit a ceiling to the distribution of nutrient solution which limits the biomass it can sustain.

4. Ebb and flow (or flood and drain)

Ebb and flow (or flood and drain)

By now you must have seen that the key problem that hydro ice has faced in its development has not been how to bring nutrients and water to the plants, but how to provide oxygen and aeration. The first solution came with the ebb and flow system.

The principle is to irrigate the roots regularly and for short periods of time. This way, they will not be in water continuously but have the time to breathe, without drying up completely.

To Set Up An Ebb And Flow System, You Will Need:

  • A grow tank
  • A reservoir
  • A reversible water pump; this is a pump that can send water (here, the nutrient solution) in two directions, out to the grow tank and then suck it back and send it to the reservoir.
  • An air pump; not everybody uses it, but many gardeners like to still aerate the solution in the reservoir.
  • Pipes to lead the nutrient solution to and from the grow tank.
  • A timer; yes, you won’t be switching on and off the pump all day long; you can just set the timer.

Of course you can also use a growing medium with ebb and flow; actually it is advisable, but your garden will still work without. We’ll see what it implies in a moment.

How does it work? Put simply, you will use your reservoir to mix in the ingredients, then, the timer will tell the pump when to send the solution to the grow tank and when to drain it.

This way the solution will be available regularly but in between the irritations the plants will “have their feet dry”.

Here, however, is the big point: how to set the irrigation times?

This is the key skill you will need for an ebb and flow system. You will irrigate, in fact in cycles. A cycle has two phases: an irrigation phase and a dry phase.

Usually there is one irrigation phase of 10-15 minutes every two hours of daylight. As you can see, most of the time pump will be switched off.

To be precise, the minimum irrigation phase is usually 5 minutes but for most gardens you will need longer time.

What is more, we said, “Every two hours of daylight;” this includes any time where you have light on (grow lights).

You see, plants do not need as much nutrition and water when they do not photosynthesize. If there is no light, their metabolism changes.

So, the number of cycles per day depends on the number of (day) light hours you plants get; on average, this is between 9 and 16 cycles a day.

It all depends on the climate, the temperature, atmospheric humidity, as well as on the type of crop you are growing.

“How about at night,” you may ask?

In most cases you will keep your system at rest during the night. However, if it is very hot and dry, you may need one or two nighttime irritations.

Finally, if you use a growing medium, this will hold the nutrient solution for longer and then release it slowly to the roots of your plants; so, you can have fewer irritations and at longer spans.

However, the irrigation time itself should be a bit longer (about one minute), because the growing medium takes some time to soak with the solution.

Advantages Of Ebb And Flow System

Now you know all the basics of the ebb and flow system, let’s look at its advantages:

  • The greatest advantage is that it provides excellent aeration.
  • Very importantly, the nutrient solution is not stagnant around the roots; this means that you vastly reduce the chances of algae growth, or bacteria, pathogens and fungi setting up camp in your garden.
  • You can control the feeding and watering of your plants. In fact, you can change it according to their needs or the climate.
  • It is suitable for most crops, including those that need dry spells and root crops, which are a bit troublesome with the systems we have seen so far for obvious reasons: the tuber or root may rot…
  • It can be developed vertically; this is not the ideal system for vertical gardening in my view, but it has been adapted to it.

Disadvantages Of Ebb And Flow System

On the other hand this system is not a favorite with amateurs and people who are new to hydroponics for good reasons:

  • It is complex to set up; you will need a good irrigation system (often the grow tank is actually a series of plastic pipes), you will need a good reversible pump, a timer etc…
  • It is complex to run; you may have already been put off by all the details about cycles and phases etc… Clearly in terms of simplicity, this system does not score very high at all.
  • It depends on many components; that’s always a bit of a problem because if they break, you will face problems. In particular, the ebb and flow system heavily depends on the pump functioning well. If it gets stuck, you may miss one or more irrigation cycles maybe even before you realize it. You can understand that letting the roots of your plants dry is much more serious than delaying topping up nutrient solution which has run low.
  • It requires a sound knowledge of the crops you grow, their nutritional, watering and humidity needs.
  • The pump gets clogged fairly regularly. This is mainly because it has to work a lot; roots may break and end up in the pump, for example, or leaves may collect there… So, it does require maintenance.
  • Even the piping breaks and gets clogged; being in constant use, the number of small accidents like these is much higher than with other methods, also because the pipes are filled with rather large quantities of fluid every time, unlike in the drip system or nutrient film technique.
  • Finally, the pump can be noisy. If you want a hydroponic garden in your living room and the pump goes off while you are trying to have a nap on the sofa, you may suddenly grow a dislike for your ebb and flow system. 

On the whole, I would only suggest the flood and drain system to experts and professionals. It is not really suitable for you if you want an easy to understand and run system, a very cheap one or one you can run at a very low cost.

5. Nutrient film technique

Nutrient film technique

In the effort to find a solution to the problem of aeration, researchers have developed yet another system, NFT, or nutrient film technique.

With NFT, you will only provide a thin layer (a “film”, in fact) of solution at the bottom of a fairly deep tank. By doing this, the lower part of the roots will receive nutrition and water, while the upper part will breathe.

When this technique was developed, researchers discovered that plants adapt to it by growing roots that reach the film and then spread horizontally.

So, don’t worry if your roots look a bit like a mop pressed against the floor; they are meant to be like that.

The important technical feature of this technique is that the grow tank needs to have a slight angle; it is not perfectly horizontal.

In fact, the nutrient solution will enter the grow tank on one side and flow down a gentle slope to a point where it is then collected and recycled.

It is a matter of a few degrees, as you don’t want your solution to stagnate but you don’t want it to flow away too fast either.

To Set Up A NFT System, You Will Need

The components you need are very similar to the ones you will need for DWC:

  • A grow tank, which needs to be slightly inclined. This is not necessarily a big rectangular tank; it can be pipes as well. In fact this system works well with long lines of plants.
  • A reservoir; this will be used to provide the nutrient solution for your garden but also to recycle it after it has irrigated the roots.
  • A water pump, which, of course will bring the nutrient solution to the grow tank.
  • An air pump; you will need to place the air stone in the reservoir, as the nutrient film will not aerate, because it moves gently along the bottom of the grow tank.
  • Pipes to bring the water to the grow tank and then back to the reservoir.

It is fairly simple. The main technical problem is the inclination of the grow tank, which is resolved quickly by buying a kit.

If you want to set up one yourself, maybe tailored to your space and needs, however, the ideal inclination is 1:100.

This means that you need to go down an inch or centimeter every 100 inches or centimeters. The angle is 0.573 degrees if you prefer this way of measuring.

But how about the growing medium? Most hydroponic gardeners prefer not to use a growing medium with nutrient film technique. There are some practical reasons for this:

  • The growing medium may end up stopping the flow of nutrient solution, or in any case it will disrupt its flow.
  • NFT does not need the extra aeration that a growing medium provides because part of the roots of the plants is permanently in the air.
  • This system does not need to keep feeding the roots and keeping them moist in between irrigation cycles, as the film is continuous.

This System Has Some Advantages:

  • It uses little water and nutrient mix. This is because the nutrient solution is continuously recycled.
  • As a consequence, you can reduce the size of the reservoir.
  • It is easy to inspect the roots; you can just take the plants out of the grow tank and, in the absence of a growing medium, you won’t have any problems removing them and replacing them.
  • This also means that it is easy to treat any root problem.
  • The fact that the roots are permanently partly in the nutrient solution ha nod partly in the air keeps the pants’ pH regular. In fact, the pH changes when the roots dry up or go through when they are not fed. A constant pH is important for the health and wellbeing of your crops.

There Are, However, Also Some Disadvantages:

  • NFT is not suitable for large plants; this is because the roots will not have the support of a growing medium.
  • Roots may block the flow of the nutrient solution. NFT tanks are usually pipes, as we said, and if roots grow thick and large, they may in fact stop the nutrient film.
  • It is not suitable for plants like carrots, turnips etc.; this is due to the very shape of the root; the tuberous part of the root is large, but roots that grow at its bottom are small; this means that they may not have enough strength to feed the plant from a thin nutrient film. Having said this, there have been experiments with carrots and NFT, but the results are still not fully convincing.
  • On the whole, nutrient film technique is mainly suitable for leaf vegetables. Even fruit vegetables and plants prefer a faster flow of nutrient than you get with NFT.
  • If the system breaks, the plants will end up with no nutrition and water, which may even ruin your crop, depending on how long it takes you to fix it.

Thus, this technique solves the problem of aeration and it is good if you want to grow leaf vegetables, if you are concerned about root health and if you want to use little water and nutrient solution; on the other hand, it is not suitable for many plants and it may have some “glitches” that can be pretty troublesome.

6. Drip system

Drip system

The drip system offers an excellent solution to the “big problem”: aeration. At the same time, it also provides constant nutrition and watering with a pretty simple concept: use pipes and hoses and a growing medium.

It is very much linked to drip irrigation in soil gardening, which is becoming very popular and is now basically the norm in hot and dry countries, where you will see long pipes and hoses used to irrigate crops, saving water and preventing evaporation.

This system was developed thanks to plastic pipes and hoses; these are flexible and cheap, and they have made drip irrigation and the hydroponic drip system possible.

It is easy to understand how it works: you use pipes and hoses to fetch the nutrient solution from a reservoir and send it to each individual plant.

Then you drip it or sprinkle it on the growing medium which will release it slowly.

This also allows the homogeneous distribution of nutrient solution. The advantages, especially if you want your crop to be uniform, are evident.

But What Will You Need For A Drip System?

  • A reservoir where you will mix your nutrient solution.
  • A water pump; this needs to be attached to a system of pipes and hoses that will then irrigate each individual plant.
  • Pipes and hoses; these are very cheap, but you will need to learn some rudiments of plumbing. Don’t worry; nothing you can’t manage easily.
  • A growing medium; while with other systems this is an option – even a strongly suggested one – with the drip system it is a must. You cannot drip the solution straight onto the roots; it would end up falling always on the same place, even damaging that part of the root system while the rest would dry up, wilt and die.
  • An air pump; also with the drip system, it is better if you air the solution in the reservoir.
  • A timer if you want to irrigate in cycles (we will come to this soon).

There are two connected areas of expertise you will need to develop: the growing medium and irrigation (cycles). Let me explain.

With this system the choice of growing medium is fundamental; each has different properties, advantages and disadvantages.

What is more, the choice of growing medium also affects how and how often you will irrigate your plants.

This of course also depends on the crop, climate and even the place where you grow you plants. However, how long the medium can hold on to the nutrient is a key factor to take into consideration.

You can range from continuous irrigation, where you will drip moderate quantities of the solution to your plants uninterruptedly to long irrigation cycles.

For example, you can use continuous irrigation if your growing medium is hydroponic expanded clay; on the other hand, with rock wool you will irrigate every 3 to 5 hours.

You will soon get the idea of how to regulate the irrigation cycles for your own system. It will need, however, some trial and error because no garden is the same.

Well Then, Let’s Look At The Advantages:

  • The drip system is suitable for all sorts of plants, including fruit trees.
  • You have perfect aeration.
  • You have full control on how much nutrient solution you give to each plant.
  • The same central system can easily be adapted to different crops, plant sizes etc.
  • It uses low quantities of nutrient solution. Most gardens also have a recovery system for excess nutrient solution.
  • It is very suitable for vertical gardens and towers. This means that you can get more out of the floor or ground space you have.
  • You can shape it so it fits into odd places; you may put the odd pot with a hose even on that little dusty corner on top of your fridge.
  • The roots are not in stagnant water; this, as you know, is good for the health of your plants as it lowers the risk of rot, bacteria and similar problems.
  • The fact that the each plant is irrigated individually is a barrier against the spreading of infections. If the plants share the same nutrient solution, the water within it can become a carrier of disease.
  • It is a quiet system; unlike ebb and flow that requires a fairly powerful pump, the only noise depends on your pump, while the pipes will be silent.

Even This System Has Some Small Disadvantages Though:

  • It has many pipes and hoses, so leakage is common. This is not usually a massive problem and you can fix it fast and easily.
  • In case your water pump breaks down, the chances are that you may not even notice it, which in turn means that you may leave your plants with no nutrient solution (and humidity) for a long time

Before moving to the next system, I would like to mention a variation of the drip system: the Dutch bucket system.

With this system you grow plants in individual buckets, most often with a lid and of dark color, as this prevents algae growth.

The hoses go to each bucket and you can have “individual gardens” and, what is more important, microclimates for each plant. This is by far the best solution for large plants, like fruit trees.

Just by changing the growing medium (mix) you can obtain different patterns of nutrient solution release, for example, and suit them to your individual plants.

Similarly, you can change the irrigation with the size of the hoses, with sprinklers and droppers etc.

If I may give you my personal opinion, the drip system is my favorite by far. It is simple, cheap, flexible and fairly simple to manage.

What is more, it gives perfect aeration and full control on the irrigation of each plant.

Given the small disadvantages it has, if I were asked which system I would generally suggest above all, it would be the drip system.

7. Aeroponics


Aeroponics is possibly the hydroponic method that looks most advanced, high-tech and futuristic.

However, this too has been around for quite some time, as the term was coined by F. W. Went in 1957. What is more, it too was developed to solve the “big question”: how to aerate the roots of plants effectively.

While it looks like something out for a science fiction movie, the concept is quite simple: use a system of pipes to send pressurized nutrient solution to the plants.

When this passes through the nozzles it is sprayed to the roots in the form of droplets.

This means that the roots will receive moisture and nutrients but also be able to breathe freely.

However, as a consequence of this, you will need to keep the roots of the plant in an enclosed space, which is called an aeroponics chamber, and you will insert them into it through holes with flexible rubber collars. These are just technical solutions to a simple but effective concept.

With aeroponics, you will irrigate for very short times and very frequently. The exact frequency of a cycle will depend on the type of crop and on the climate, but it will also depend on how much pressure you use in your system.

In fact, there are two pressure systems used in aeroponics: LPA (low pressure system) and HPA (high pressure system).

With HPA, you have irrigation cycles that can be as short as 5 seconds every 5 minutes. This should give you an idea of the difference with ebb and flow or drip irrigation hydroponics.

Of course, you will also need to use a good pump, but what is more, you will need to refer not just to the capacity of the pump (how many gallons per hour it can shift, or GPH), but to its pressure power, which is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI).

Finally, you cannot use a growing medium with aeroponics; this is out of the question.

The reason is simple: you can’t comfortably spray the roots of your plant with the nutrient solution if you have solid matter between the nozzle and the roots…

Having said this, research and experience have shown that even deep root vegetables grow well with aeroponics.

Aeroponics gardens can be of different shapes, but a very popular one is that of a triangular prism with the two triangles as sides and one of the rectangles as the base.

Here you will find that the nozzles are usually on two levels along the two rectangular sides, a set higher up and then a lower row. This allows you to irrigate the roots from different angles.

Things You Need To Setup Your Own Aeroponics System 

Most people will order to buy an aeroponics kit, but if you want to build your own, here is what you need:

  • A reservoir; this should not come as a surprise by now.
  • A good pressure water pump.
  • A timer to set your irrigation cycles; no aeroponics system is constantly irrigating.
  • Pipes and hoses with nozzles or sprayers.
  • An aeroponics chamber; this is most often made of plastic, but any other durable, waterproof and rot resistant material that does not heat up may do. Iron, for example, will not be a good choice; it will become very hot in the Sun and then too cold at night or even freezing in winter. It is also ideal if it is Matt and not translucent, again, to avoid algae growth.

Note that you will not need an air pump; the roots are perfectly aerated and even the droplets aerate when sprayed.​

Aeroponics Has Quite A Few Advantages:

  • It uses much less nutrient solution; in fact, it consumes much less water than all other hydroponic systems. You will also need less nutrient mix.
  • It provides perfect aeration.
  • The aeroponics chamber is can be built in many shapes, including towers; this makes it a good system for vertical gardens.
  • It does give significantly higher yields than all other hydroponic methods.
  • It is suitable for a wide range of crops; only plants with large and complex root systems are not suitable (fruit trees, for example); this is because it is hard to spray them all, especially the central ones.
  • The nutrient solution is recycled.
  • It reduces the risk of infections drastically; a bit like with the drip system, the plants do not share the same nutrient solution pool; this means that infections find it harder to spread.

Having Said This, Not Even Aeroponics Is Perfect:

  • The biggest problem with aeroponics is keeping the climate conditions stable within the aeroponics chamber (humidity, temperature and ventilation). It is easier with large chambers in stable places (greenhouses, even hydroponic “factories” etc.), but with small chambers this is harder. Air changes temperature much faster than water, and of course, it does not hold humidity as well.
  • On the whole, aeroponics is not suitable for outdoor spaces for the very reason above.
  • It has higher set up costs than other hydroponic systems; the pump costs more, the aeroponics chamber has its costs etc…
  • Aeroponics heavily depends on the pump working well; short cycles also mean that you cannot afford even fairly brief interruptions; a plant that is used to being fed every 5 minutes will suffer a lot if you leave it without water and nutrients for an hour. Not having a growing medium then, the roots risk drying up in a short time.
  • It uses more electricity; having a powerful pump working constantly does not come without a cost.
  • The aeroponics chamber needs a lot of empty space. It cannot be full of roots, as it needs to have a large volume you can use to spray the droplets. Thus, aeroponics is convenient if you “go up vertically” and not if you want a large but low garden. This is why pyramids, prisms and towers are the most common shapes.

Aeroponics, on the other hand, is very promising from the point of view of innovation.

We now talk about “fogponics” for example; this is a development of aeroponics where the nutrient solution is turned into a very thin mist and sprayed.

Aeroponics is certainly very appealing if you like cutting edge technology; it has the great advantage over other hydroponic methods of having low water and nutrient consumption and high yield at the same time.

On the other hand, it is only suitable for indoor or greenhouse gardens and it heavily depends on the power supply.

So many types of hydroponics… A difficult choice

As you can see, there are a lot of different hydroponic systems, each with its “identity and personality”; we go from the simple Kratky method that would look great in an art gallery or museum, to the ingenious but very natural wick system to aeroponics, to the one you would expect to find on a space ship…

It goes from the jug with a sweet potato school children grow on the window sill of their classroom as a science experiment to the labs and gardens of the International Space Station.

What is more, each type has branched off into a series of variants; so, the Dutch bucket system is a “sub sector” of the drip method, for example, and fogponics is “misty” form of aeroponics…

If on the one hand this may look daunting at first, now you know all the details of each system, as well as the pros and cons, you can look at it from another perspective…

You can now look at these many methods as different options and solutions, as a series of possibilities and systems that you can choose from

So, now, start with what you need;think about your space, what crops you want, how technologically inclined you are, if you have a lot of time or you prefer an “easy life” etc…

Then, go through the different methods again, and I am sure that you will find the one that makes for you!

Adriano Bulla

Written By

Adriano Bulla

After many years as an academic in London, Adriano Bulla became a writer, publishing books like A History of Gardening, Organic Gardening and Elements of Garden Design; he then decided to become a gardener, following his childhood dream, and has been following his dream writing and gardening professionally in Southern Europe, where he has specialized in new and innovative organic gardening fields and techniques, like permaculture, regenerative agriculture, food forests and hydroponics.

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One Comment

  1. Hello. Let me first start by saying your website is amazing. It answers so many of my questions. As a beginner gardener I found it very very helpful. I have some questions on using a hydroponic system. I’m an indoor gardener and found the soil method a hassle. Fungus gnats just about took over my home. The vegetables that did grow were not healthy looking at all. I was about to give it up until I saw the hydroponic systems. Here are list of my questions and concerning that maybe you can help me with. 1. Are the nutrients safe and how can you be sure? (Because of this I was thinking of making my own nutrients but wasn’t sure how. I saw something about using worm casting and molasses but wasn’t sure if this is the same type of nutrients it needed. I also heard of something called Trifecta plus but didn’t know if it was also a trusted) 2. Are there any particular hydroponic systems that you could recommend? 3. Do you think compost tea would be safe to use in the system? Thank you in advance for you help. It has been kinda difficult but I refuse to give up. I love gardening.