Water Culture Hydroponic System Setup Guide

Water Culture Hydroponic System Setup Guide

Today, we learn water culture hydroponic system. Talking about hydroponics systems, there are six main types to choose from. These are:

  1. Deep Water Culture (DWC)
  2. Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain)
  3. Wicking
  4. Drip
  5. Aeroponic
  6. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

Now, there are also multiple variations of each of these different types of hydroponic systems, but these are the categories of basic designs.

ALL these systems are hydroponics because they are the soil-less method of plant cultivation and because of course you’re feeding the plants by a nutrient-rich water solution instead of planting them in soil. The only disparity is each system is HOW they transport the water, oxygen, and nutrients.

Dear Growers, as promised our team is constantly working to provide you best information about raising your plants in the hydroponic system. So today we are here with the guide for growing plants in water culture hydroponic system. Water Culture systems are about the simplest and most used of all six types of hydroponic systems. While being technically simple, they are still very efficient for growing plants hydroponically. This type of hydroponic system is widely used by home hydroponic growers as they really like simple yet efficient hydroponic system, but this is also preferred by commercial growers on a large scale as well. Primarily the water culture systems are a simple and easy concept. It’s also a very reasonably priced type of system to build easily, and this is one more reason why it’s popular with home growers. Even though the concept is simple, there are plenty of creative ways to use and build water culture systems out of different materials and in different shapes.

Deepwater culture system abbreviated as DWC is often misused as a synonym of Water culture hydroponic system. So what is “DWC,” and why isn’t listed as one of the six types of hydroponic systems? Well, that’s because it’s merely not a different type of hydroponic system at all while it’s just a variation of the already existing type of hydroponic system called a water culture system. As already discussed it is the hydroponics in its purest and simplest form yet most effective type of Hydroponic systems. The reason why it is the most preferred indoor gardening hydroponic system is that it requires the LEAST quantity of material and supplies.

Read: NFT Hydroponics System Guide.

Let’s get into details and know-how to get started:

What is Deep Water Culture (DWC)?

As the name suggests, DWC – Deep Water culture or Direct Water Culture is a hydroponic growing system that maintains plants roots in a well-oxygenated solution full of nutrients and water permanently.

This is unlike other hydroponic methods like the Ebb and Flow, Aeroponics, and Drip System, in which growing plants are only watered on a constant basis but not 24/7. The word “Deep” of Deep Water Culture implies that the developing roots should be sunken deep in the nutrient solution present in the reservoir constantly.

Hence, the reservoir that contains the plants must be able to hold a sufficient amount of water. The more amount of water in it the more will be stability in the nutrient solution and hence less maintenance, monitoring and less stressing about refilling your reservoir.

In case of other hydroponic systems, plant roots are suspended, exposed in the air and are watered continuously by pumps, but in the deep water culture, they emerge in the nutrient solution which has been oxygenated 24/7.

How does DWC Work?

Here in this system roots of growing plants are suspended in nutrient solution 24/7 but what if plants become too much suffocated because of ever available water? As extra is not always favorable, you may have seen some of your plants die off because of over-watering.

But you need not worry as it’s not the case in the DWC, because, besides water, you provide developing plant roots with adequate oxygen, and provide a suitable environment, temperature, nutrients, lights due to which they thrive well

The Principle behind working of DWC

Water Culture hydroponic system operates very easily. The plant is suspended in plant baskets right over the nutrient solution in the reservoir for this styrofoam is often used or plants can be suspended through holes cut in the lid covering reservoir. The plant’s roots hang down from baskets or holes directly into the nutrient solution where they are submerged in the solution. The specialty of DWC is, the plant’s roots remain submerged all the time. Usually, the nutrient solution depth doesn’t need to be deeper than 8 inches. That’s really only needed for larger plants that have larger root systems that need more space and more water requirement.  Simply when using a container like a bucket it needs to be filled high enough to reach the plant’s main root near the top sufficiently. Plants like most of the varieties of lettuce can easily be raised using only 4-6 inches of water in water culture systems. The roots don’t suffocate because they get the air and oxygen they need from the nutrient solution in the form of dissolved oxygen present in the water itself. What you need most in a system full of water like the DWC is oxygen which is also a critical factor for any plant growth. DWC makes the oxygen continuously available by using an air pump and this is how In DWC, plants absorb sufficient oxygen along with the desired nutrients and water around it all days. This helps them to get more rapid growth, and in many cases even better than grown in the soil-counterparts. As the plants’ roots are in the water 24 hours a day, it becomes important to keep the air pump working 24 hours a day too. A lack of air pump in DWC means that plant roots will suffer from being waterlogged and deoxygenated which ultimately may cause the death of the plant. Basically, the air pump helps in rising air bubbles, more the air bubbles the better growth in water culture systems. The bubbles rising should make the water look as it is boiling at a heavy progressing boil. The air bubbles should be rising up through and should make direct contact with the plant roots and provide oxygen to it.

Read: Polyhouse Vegetable Gardening Guide

There are actually two methods of providing aeration and dissolved oxygen to the nutrient solution.

  • Air bubbles
  • Falling water
Air bubbles

For the purpose of aeration, an aquarium air pump and air stones are usually used to provide air bubbles to the nutrient solution for water culture systems, as well as other types of hydroponic systems. The air pump provides aeration and is connected to air stones with an air line/tube. The air stones are made of a porous rock like material; the small pores generate small air bubbles that rise to the top of the water containing a nutrient solution and makes oxygen available to the roots.

The smaller and more the air bubbles, the better aeration of the nutrient solutions. The reason is the simple concept of physics smaller air bubbles provides more contact surface with the water. This contact between the air bubbles and water helps to replace and recycle the dissolved oxygen taken up by the plant’s roots so that the roots stay oxygenated throughout the day.

Falling water

Though this method is not typically used in water culture systems for home hydroponic growers. Surface agitation from falling water splashing around is another superior way of aerating the nutrient solution. The higher the water is falling from, and/or the more quantity of water falling, the more force it has when it hits the water surface. The more downward force, the deeper will be the agitation and hence more aeration ultimately high amount of dissolved oxygen will be resulted. This method of aeration is more widespread in commercial water culture systems because they exercise large volumes of water compared to home growers.

Requirements to build a Water Culture system

Deep water culture is effortless to design on your own.  Just note down what all you will need:

  • Container to hold the nutrient solution (reservoir)
  • Aquarium air pump
  • Air line/hose
  • Air stones (or soaker hose) for creating small bubbles.
  • Plant Baskets, pots, or cups to hold the plants.
  • Some type of growing media.
  • pH meter.
  • pH kits.
  • These above- listed tools can be bought easily from your local hydroponics or gardening supply store or online. There are a few points to be kept in your mind about choosing a reservoir. You should not get a lighter color plastic container as light can pass through it and this will promote algae to grow, affecting the roots’ health.
  • For designing own DWC Firstly, you need to fill your reservoir with the hydroponic nutrient solution.
  • Then, you should check or adjust (if needed) the pH level of your nutrient solution range of 5.5 to 6.5 is usually preferred. If it drifts from the above- mentioned range, you need to adjust it by using some pH kits available in the market.
  • Now you need to fix the air pump to the airline, the airline to the airstone and place the airstone in the reservoir. Place the plants which have visible roots growing out of the Rockwool into the reservoir filled with nutrient medium dissolved in water. You can either surround your plants with the aforementioned growing media or growing media of your choice. Now turn on the air pump for proper aeration.
  • When the plants are young, for water and mineral requirement it is dependent on the growing medium hence it needs to make contact with the nutrient solution and absorb the nutrients from it to water up to the plant roots. As the plant matures, the root system will develop, absorb more nutrients itself and the level of nutrients will decrease in the reservoir.
  • Therefore, every 1-2 weeks and maximum up to 3 weeks, you should remove your plants from the reservoir to replace and refresh the hydroponic nutrient solution, then place the plants again back in the reservoir.

Which Plants to grow in DWC

The plants that are most appropriate to grow with deep culture systems are anything that doesn’t have to flower and have hardwood including many varieties of lettuces and lots of different herbs. These plants grow super quick and healthy. Besides that, you can also nurture tomatoes and peppers even though they take a bit additional effort. 

Advantages and limitations of water culture hydroponic system

Advantages of DWC
  • Rapid growth and credit goes to higher uptake of nutrients and oxygen from the nutrient solution
  • Aeration the roots improves plants’ nutrient absorption hence increase cell growth rate within the plants
  • Since the plant roots are submerged in deep water culture nutrients solution so there is no need for much fertilizer
  • Once you have set up the system, it requires slight maintenance. There are no nozzles, feeder tubes to clog
  • Very less moving parts and assembly makes it manageable.
Disadvantages of DWC
  • There are also a few disadvantages of the DWC system; however, the benefits really overshadow the negative factors, and these shortcomings can be put up with because any type of gardening does require maintenance. These disadvantages are:
  • If in case the air pump gets broken, there is a very small gap to replace it and if the air pump doesn’t work for a long time, the plant growth will rapidly turn down.
  • The nutrient concentration, water level, and pH may vary in small systems.
  • There is a risk of the plant roots sunken in the low-oxygen nutrient solution if an electricity outage or a pump failure occurs.

Well, we have discussed water, oxygen, and all necessities but What About Lighting for Your Plants?

The clear-cut answer is that you have to locate your hydroponics system where your plants can get a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight per day.  It’s a well-known fact is that your plants need light to grow and flourish. Sunlight provides all the lighting that your plants need to grow perfectly by the process of photosynthesis. If you cannot place your system in the direct natural light, then you will have to provide artificial lighting by placing your own indoor grow lights but you will need to select the proper lighting arrangement with the correct spectrum of light, intensity, and power required for plant growth.

Read: Top 10 Banks for Poultry Farming Loans.


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