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What Is Hydroponics?

Posted by Team GroBox on

Growing food indoors can be tough.

There’s often not enough sunlight, and soil can be messy.

By utilizing a soil-less method of growing agriculture, hydroponics helps solve that problem, and takes it one step further.

You can grow plants not only soil-lessly, but can also save on space, water, and obtain a higher yield of crop.

You might ask, “just how can hydroponics achieve such amazing results”?


There are a quite a few different techniques that hydroponic growers utilize. But they all involve plants obtaining nutrients soil-lessly from a water-based solution.

Instead, plants are suspended in a medium such as clay pellets or water. Other variables such as light, oxygen, and nutrients are all carefully controlled to create an environment most optimal for each and every plant.

Each technique has its own strength, and there is no one right way to begin growing hydroponically. To help you gain a better understanding of what technique would be best for you, we’re covering six of the most common hydroponic growing techniques seen today.

Ebb And Flow

The first hydroponic technique that we’ll be covering is known as an ebb and flow system (or flood and drain). As you may be able to guess from the name, this system utilizes a pump to fill a grow tray with a nutrient solution before draining back into a reservoir at a regular interval.

As the pump fills the grow tray with the nutrient solution, the plant’s roots receive an optimal amount of nutrients. When the water drains away, the roots receive huge amounts of oxygen keeping them healthy while simultaneously avoiding root rot. If there is a power outage, your plants will generally survive a couple days and you can water your plant manually

In terms of set-up, this system is generally one of the harder to start with because it requires more parts. Additionally, you’ll need to make sure that your grow tray does not under or overflow. However, it’s also easily one of the most effective and forgiving hydroponic systems that you can use if set-up correctly.

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

Another complex, yet effective hydroponic system utilizes the nutrient film technique (NFT). Similar to the ebb and flow method, a NFT system also uses a pump to force nutrient solution into a grow tray containing plant roots.

However, instead of the pump running in intervals allowing the grow tray to flood and then drain, the pump in a NFT system will run continuously pumping solution over the roots of the plant. The nutrient solution, or “film”, flows over the roots but doesn’t submerge them. The solution then drains back into the reservoir.

The planting tube is angled so that the solution will be pumped into the higher end, and drained out of the lower end after passing by the plant roots.

Similar to ebb and flow, NFT requires a lot of parts for set-up. Once set-up, it is very easy to maintain.

We would also recommend that you research what hydroponic system your plants prefer as some may prefer one technique over the other.


Aeroponics is one of the most exciting types of hydroponic systems because unlike other hydroponic systems, aeroponics utilizes mist to deliver nutrients and water to the plants.

In such a system, misters pull nutrient solution from a water reservoir, and spray the solution onto the plant roots. Since plant roots are not submerged in solution, they are exposed to a lot of oxygen leading to healthy roots and plants.

One problem with an aeroponics system is that misters can be clogged relatively easily if not maintained, and roots will need to be misted frequently to avoid drying out.

However, if set-up correctly, an aeroponics system can be used very effectively to grow agriculture.

Deep Water Culture (DWC)

On the other end of the hydroponic systems spectrum exists deep water culture. Deep water culture, or DWC for short, is one of the most simple hydroponic systems to set-up.

It’s a fantastic system to start growing hydroponically with, is not too expensive, and is easy to maintain.

At the most basic level, a DWC system will involve the use of a grow tray suspended in water and an aerator to keep the water oxygenated. Nutrients can then be added to the water as needed.

Some downsides of DWC are that the roots are constantly submerged in water. This means that you have to be careful to monitor the temperature and pH of the water to avoid root rot. In addition, if the power goes out, your plants will drown in a few hours if you don’t have a back up.

If you’re just starting out with hydroponic growing, a DWC system would be great to try setting up because of its low cost and minimal parts.


For larger agricultural growers, a drip system is fantastic to allow for flexibility and customizability of multiple grow sites.

As the name implies, this system utilizes a dripper that is inserted into each plant medium allowing you to precisely provide every plant with the correct amount of nutrient solution. Any solution leftover is then recycled into the reservoir to be reused as needed.

Because the drippers allow for easy swapping between plants and have adjustable drip rates, this system makes it simple for growers to maintain control over their hydroponic system.


Similar to deep water culture systems, a wick hydroponic system is very simple and easy to set-up.

At its most basic, a wick system involves the use of a material such a rope to pull nutrient solution upwards before being absorbed by plants in the grow tray above.

If you’re just starting out with hydroponic growing systems, the wick system would be fantastic to use to learn since no electronics are needed making it easier to set-up and maintain.  

To learn more about how a wick system works, check out this link on capillary action!


Growing food can come with many challenges.

You may have weather problems resulting in a lack of sunlight or water. Pests can completely decimate your crop. Or you may not have any outdoor space to use for a garden in the first place.

A hydroponic system can help take care of all of these problems as these systems are often enclosed, use their own light and nutrient solution source, and can be used almost in any location.

Just to recap, we’ve covered six of the most commonly used hydroponic systems, listed below:

  • Ebb And Flow
  • Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

  • Aeroponics

  • Deep Water Culture (DWC)

  • Drip

  • Wick

Each of these systems have their own benefits and drawbacks, but we’ve covered the basics of to help give you a well-rounded overview of hydroponic systems.


We’d love to hear your thoughts!

What system are you most excited about, and what do you think will have the greatest impact on agriculture in the future?

Comment below, or send an email to MJ at :)

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