The Best Hydroponics Systems

The Best Hydroponics Systems

The best hydroponic systems for your indoor garden allow you to get better yields and take your grow to the next level.  Hydroponics systems have been around in some shape or form for centuries and many borrow aspects from ancient irrigation techniques.  There are some distinct advantages you benefit from when growing in hydroponics.  This style of growing allows your plants to receive the perfect nutrients at all times and as a result of this, your plants will grow faster and stronger than when soil is used as your medium. If you want absolute control over your grow space, hydroponics will give you the ability to make precise adjustments to your plants feeding cycle.


Hydroponics allow you to monitor your nutrient and PH levels more precisely and depending on the hydroponic system you select, your plant's nutrients are delivered via drip, mist, or stream directly to the roots.  In turn, your plants are able to utilize the maximum growing energy produced by photosynthesis. 


There is a variety of different hydroponic systems on the market today and there is no one style that can be considered universal. In order for you to decide what system is best for your garden, you need to understand the 6 different types of hydroponic systems.

The 6 Different Types of Hydroponic Systems


Drip System


A hydroponic drip system is comprised of a nutrient reservoir, a water pump, tubing, and some form of drip nozzle.  Water is pumped from the reservoir, through the tubing until it reaches the drip nozzles.  These nozzles are designed to restrict the water flow from the tubing down to a slow drip.  This slow drip allows your plants to absorb only the nutrients they desire while the unused water is flushed through the plant and recycled for the next feeding.

The main advantage of this style of hydroponics is the ability to swap out mediums and plants with ease.  Because drip systems can be gravity fed, they can also be attached to rainwater reservoirs for use at off-grid facilities.  A gravity fed drip system trades the pump for a raised reservoir.


Drip systems are a great way to get into hydroponic gardening but there are still some important components that you may need to monitor.  Always check your pump to make sure it is functioning correctly.  If your pump becomes clogged all of your plants are going to dry out.


Drip nozzles are another component of this system that requires added attention. If a single drip nozzle becomes clogged, it is possible for it to go unnoticed for some time.  To avoid this you need to check your nozzles every couple of day to ensure they are providing an even drip throughout your system.  General Hydroponics EcoGrower is a great example of an efficient drip system that can produce healthy yields.

Wick System

A wick system utilizes a fabric wick to draw moisture from the reservoir into your medium.  The reservoir is placed underneath your plants and then the wick is run up from the reservoir into your growing medium.    As your medium begins to dry out, capillary action causes water to run up your wick and replenish your plant's water supply.  Wick systems are an easy way to get into hydroponics and they are much easier to build on your own when compared to some of the other popular styles of hydro gardening. 



This style of hydroponics does not incorporate any moving parts and does not require any electricity to function, making it the most affordable of the six types of hydro to start.  Special wicks are sold that are resistant to molding and rotting.  This helps prevent destructive root rot from taking hold and destroying your crop.  If you are in a pinch, you can use tiki torch wicks or even mop head strands to get the desired results.  It is going to be difficult to find a more affordable hydroponics system and few hydro set-ups can compare to the ease of use of this system.


The main disadvantage of a wick style hydroponic system is the increased chance of nutrient restriction.  If you are growing larger plants or plants that flower, a wick system is not going to be the best choice. The reason for this is because wick systems are less efficient at delivering nutrients in large doses.  If you are planning to grow large plants you will need to additionally hand water to ensure they stay healthy.  Bellacia produces an inexpensive water wick that is perfectly suited to grow lettuce and strawberries.

Flood and Drain

Flood and drain systems are considered the best for first-time growers for many reasons.  This low-pressure system is well suited for use in indoor gardens.  A flood and drain system requires a reservoir, a pump, and a plant tray.  Your plant tray is usually placed on or directly above the reservoir.  Water is pumped up into the plant tray until it reaches an overflow that drains the excess water back into the reservoir.  There are some distinct advantages to this style of hydroponics.

A flood and drain system allows you to place your plants in any configuration within the fill tray and because of this, you can easily rotate where a plant sits to ensure the best possible light exposure.  Flood and drain systems seldom clog and are considered one of the most reliable forms of hydroponics found on the market today.  The added flexibility of the fill tray allows you to use multiple mediums as well as individually sized cups or cubes. 

You can grow your plants large in this type of hydro system and beside the low-pressure water pump, there is very little electricity used. Flood and drain systems can be set to fill every couple of minutes guaranteeing your plants are able to access the nutrients they require, as they need them.  Because of the frequency at which the fill tray is soaked, your plants are unlikely to every experience stress from lack of watering.

The two main components to monitor with this system are the pump and the overflow.  If your pump burns out or becomes clogged there will be no water for your plants to drink and if your overflow valve becomes clogged you are going to have water spill over the fill tray edges and onto your grow space floor.  Viagrow produces a high-end flood and drain system that is sure to produce the increased yields you desire.

Nutrient Film Technique NFT

A nutrient film technique utilizes gravity to ensure all of your plants get the nutrients they require.  Reservoir water is pumped up into a tray or gutter that holds your plants individually.  One end of the gutter sits on your reservoir while the other side is raised slightly.  The water enters the raised side of the tray and is pulled past your plant's roots via gravity. Once the water reaches the end of the tray it is recycled back into the reservoir.  This style of hydroponics differs from ebb and flow because the pump is constantly running creating a never-ending flow of nutrients for your plants to drink from.  Water levels are maintained at a couple inches deep or by the use of a capillary mat, guaranteeing your roots are never exposed to drying.

There are some distinct advantages to this style of hydroponics.  Your chance of clogging is reduced because the entire system is low pressure.  This means your roots can survive much longer in the event of a pump failure.  The water that falls back into the reservoir creates bubbles adding to the aeration of your reservoir as well.  This style of hydroponics lends itself well to every type of grow medium.




One of the disadvantages of NFT systems is the fact that all of your plants are feed in the same order over and over again.  This can result in the plants at the end of your system getting fewer nutrients than the ones located at the front of your system. Another disadvantage is the frequency in which your plant's root systems can become knotted.  As you plants become larger, their roots will be drawn down the NFT tray with the flow of their water. This tendency for your roots to grow in the same direction results in roots becoming intertwined and growing together. This may make it impossible to harvest one plant at a time.

Deep Water Culture DWC

Deep-water culture systems are one of the most effective and efficient forms of hydroponic gardening on the market today.  The concept is simple and has stayed the same for decades.  Your plants are placed above a reservoir that is being heavily oxygenated via an air pump.  Their pots have holes placed in them to allow the bubbles to burst on the medium allowing it to absorb the valuable nutrients into the roots of your plants. 

Bucket systems are ideally suited for large plants and as a result of this, you can get the maximum yield per plant by utilizing on of these highly efficient units.  This style of hydroponic system has some distinct advantages over some of the previously mentioned systems.  Since you can veg your plants for a much longer period of time, you can allow for maximum root growth per plant.  As each plant receives its own dedicated bucket, it never encounters the roots of any of the neighboring plants. 

Algae is one of the main things to watch out for with this style of system.  Bubbling water, light, and air produce the ideal atmosphere for algae to thrive.  To prevent algae growth, the reservoir is usually blacked out from receiving light.  Because of the added productivity you get from these systems, they usually are more expensive and if legally, you are only allowed to grow a certain amount of plants in your home, this type of hydroponics system can deliver the maximum yield per plant.


In terms of yield size, nothing can compare to Aeroponic systems.  Aeroponics work like supercharged DWC systems in that they take the water from your reservoir and aerate to high levels.  In an aeroponics system, a mist is created within your fill tray.  On a microscopic level, this mist is much easier for your plant's roots to absorb.  Roots that are grown in a mist become very web-like.  They do this to take advantage of the added access they get from their nutrients already being broken down to a molecular form.  Plants that are grown in an aeroponics system can double the size of other those grown in traditional methods and in terms of production and quality, it's going to be hard to compete. 

Aeroponic systems are very precise and because of this, someone new to hydroponics may lack the experience to fine-tune their crop properly.  Much like any hydroponics system, your PH is very important but in an aeroponics system, an incorrect PH will have immediate effects on your root.  Because your roots are suspended in these mist-filled trays, they are very sensitive to any changes in temperature, PH, or PPM.

If you do not fully understand each of these and how they affect your plant's life cycle, you are probably not ready to handle an aeroponics system.  If you have a little more experience, an aeroponics system can unlock new levels in your production time and yields.  Like all growing techniques, your personal knowledge should be the main factor you consider when choosing your next system.  A hybrid-style aeroponics system is a great way to get into this style of growing.

The Best Hydroponics Systems - Final Thoughts

Now that you understand the different types of hydro systems, and how they operate, you are ready to choose the best hydroponics system for your needs.  Your budget, the size of your grow space, and your personal experience, should all be important factors that you consider when making this decision. 

The great news is manufacturers around the globe have continued to flood the market with new and innovative hydroponic systems.  Although many of these newer products lack the quality to sustain multiple grows, the products listed in this guide have the ability to last you your entire growing career.  Take advantage of your newfound knowledge and choose a hydroponic system that produces results that you can be proud of.

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  • David Hamilton
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