Types of Hydroponic Systems

Hello readers! In the previous blog, we saw how Hydroponics facilitates growing vegetables without soil, and how a basic hydroponic system looks like. By now all of you must be left wondering what are different systems through which hydroponics can be implemented? How do they work and what are ideal crops for these setups? Well, wait no more! This blog will exactly answer your queries about types of hydroponic systems, their pros and cons, and other crucial details about them.

There are several ways to classify hydroponic systems. The hydroponic systems can be classified as either active or passive systems. Active systems involve nutrient solution flow through the use of pumps whereas the passive systems exploit a wick or anchor mechanism of the growth media for nutrient exchange.


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Water, nutrition, and aeration are three major requirements for the health of plant roots. Based upon how the systems deliver these 3 requirements, hydroponic systems are classified into six major types as follows :

1. Wick System

Wick based system is a long known and easiest hydroponic system. Since this system does not involve the use of any pumps it is also a passive system. Just as the name suggests, the wick system functions by upward movement of nutrient solution from the reservoir to the plants through capillary action. Cocopeat, perlite, or vermiculite, or a mixture of these three works as an excellent medium for the wick system. However, owing to the inability of the wick to generate a strong and steady flow of the nutrient solution, this system is only ideal for small leafy vegetables and herbs. Moreover, the capillary action causes the medium to stay moist for prolonged periods, which in turn may cause root hardening.

2. Deep Water Culture (DWC)

DWC systems are active systems with the recirculation of nutrient solutions. Plants are grown in a net-pot with some growing media, preferably Expanded Clay Balls. The net-pots are placed and held on the top of the nutrient reservoir through floating lids made of styrofoam with the plat roots suspended in the nutrient solution. DWC systems require air pumps also for providing proper aeration and necessary oxygen to the plant roots. Since the DWC system involves floating rafts of plants, it is only meant for a few small leafy plants like lettuce.

3. Flood and Drain System

The flood and drain system is a highly efficient but rarely seen hydroponics system. Just like the name suggests, the plant roots within the growing medium are periodically flooded with nutrition solutions and subsequently drained. This periodic flooding and draining of nutrients the solution is executed through pumps controlled with timers and/or a siphon like a drain mechanism. The flooding of the growth media causes the media to soak up the nutrients for the plant roots to absorb. Rockwool, perlite, gravel or expanded clay beads, or a combination of these are excellent choices for growth medium in this system. However, since the periodic flooding of the nutrient solution is dependent on the timed pumps, this system is highly affected by power failure.

4. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

Nutrient Film Technique or NFT is the most commercialized and one of the very efficient active, recirculating hydroponic systems. This technique involves the suspension of roots of a plant placed within a net-pot, in a channel (NFT channel) with a continuous flow of nutrient solution. A submersible pump is placed in a reservoir to maintain the flow of nutrients within the channels as a thin film of a few centimetres (hence the name Nutrient Film Technique). The reservoir is supplied with oxygen through air pumps. Since this system uses long channels, it is suitable for growing most of the leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables. Owing to the active nature of this system, plant health is impacted by power failures due to the inability to maintain a constant flow of nutrients.

5. Drip Systems

Drip type hydroponic systems are highly common within the commercial setups and can be recovered or non-recovery types. The drip systems employ timer-controlled submersible pumps which upon the start of a timer provide the nutrient solutions to the plants through the drip lines. Based on whether this nutrient solution is recovered and directed back to the reservoir, these systems are called either recovery or non-recovery systems. Although the recovery systems are most efficient and cost-effective, they cause fluctuation in the pH of the nutrient solution within the reservoir; whereas the non-recovery systems are easier to maintain.
Rockwool, cocopeat, perlite is excellent choice of growth media for this type of system. Another disadvantage and point of maintenance for these systems is the clogging of the drip line and drip emitters after a certain period.

6. Aeroponic Systems

Aeroponic systems are perhaps the most advanced systems amongst all the hydroponic systems. Similar to the NFT, the roots of the plant are freely suspended and the nutrient solution is converted into the mist which is periodically sprayed with the help of timer-controlled specialized pumps. The period of spraying though is shorter than the other timed counterparts. Owing to the constant periodic spraying requirement, this system involves a high cost of setup and is highly reliant on electricity. A prolonged power failure may cause drying of plant roots and affect the
plant health severely.

Now that we have discussed various hydroponic systems, what are you waiting for!? Go ahead try your hand at a few setups and begin the learning journey towards growing your veggies.

Still confused or too busy to set up a system all by yourself? No problem. We at Grow Fresh Farm provide you with different kinds of DIY hydroponic kits and resources, for you to learn more before you proceed.

So what are you waiting for?

Happy Growing!