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Which hydroponic system should you use? 4 best options

Updated: Mar 13, 2020

hydroponic popcorn shoots

Do you ever stop and wonder if there is other hydroponic system out there? What if it turned out that all this time you've been missing the right information on hydroponic systems?


Hydroponics is a outstanding approach of growing microgreens, baby greens and lettuce 365 days a year. It's a extremely popular horticulture technique, however new indoor growers should know that it require a certain amount of maintenance and skill.

NFT system

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

Nutrient film technique (commonly known as NFT) is a method of growing in which the microgreens have their roots in a depth-less stream of recirculating nutrient enriched water, in which are dissolved all the ingredients required. There is no solid rooting medium. A root mat is not fully in the depth-less stream of recirculating water and partly over it. The stream is very shallow and the upper surface of the root mat which develops above the water, it is slightly damp, is in the air. Around the roots which are in the air, there is a film of nutrients - hence the name nutrient film technique. If the root system is immersed in water, a situation comparable with water logged soil condition is achieved. The only oxygen accessible will be the dissolved oxygen in the recycling water. In order to bypass this situation, it is necessary to maintain the nutrient film principals.

ebb and flood system

Ebb and Flow / Flood and Drain

Ebb and flow systems (commonly known as flood and drain systems) mimic the way that plant root on the sides of streams are exposed to air when the stream is low but are in the water when the stream level is high. The grow medium is above the reservoir tank, which distributes the nutrient water to the flood tray and grow medium at a set time, so throughout the day the plant will go through moments of dryness as the nutrient water returns down through the roots back into the reservoir tank. The level of the water is measured so that the nutrient water doesn't overflow the flood table. An overflow drain in the flood tray also helps control flow by allowing the water to return back into the reservoir tank. The ebb and flow system recycles the nutrient water at timed intervals. These systems are mostly flat to ensure that the nutrient is delivered to all the plants. The system has a separate reservoir that sits underneath the system. A tube connects the reservoir to the system and a pump is used to send the nutrients from the reservoir and into the flood tray, where it will return back down into the reservoir tank. This system requires less pumping than an NFT system, in a few cases pumping nutrients to the plants only two or three times a day. Hydrocorn clay pebbles are the most popular medium to be used in the net pots in an ebb and flow system.

drip ring

Drip Irrigation

Most outdoor growers irrigate giant plots by setting up tube systems that can span over big distances on soil. In some cases a well is created to supply the water. A pump pushes the water up from the well and filtered. This is crucial because fresh water contains particles that will clog an irrigation system. A o-ring filter is a common type of filtering system used with drip irrigation. The water is pumped slowly through a main tube that splits into lines along the way. Each line is kept quite close to each plant, so plant spacing is critical. Some pressure valves and back flow valves may be needed to have the system work perfectly. The key to drip irrigation system is to keep the water close around the plant. Drip irrigation only puts water where the roots will get it right away and conserves a lot of nutrients and water. Drip irrigation works just like the ebb and flow method, except nutrients are carried to and from the plants much slowly, thru the drip irrigation ring. Drip irrigation is something that ebb and flow users can changeover to conserve nutrients. Rather or throwing out a reservoir and filling it up with new nutrients, drip irrigation uses up everything. Drip irrigation uses the least amount of water desired to grow leafy greens and is relatively simple for the experienced hydroponic grower to do.


Aeroponics improves the use of air around the root zone for plants to take in nutrients through water vapor for plant growth. The roots are dangling in the air and fed with a fine vapor of nutrient water for a very little period of time with more recurring interval. The standards of aeroponics are based on growing plants whose roots find the perfect condition with regards to oxygenation and dampness. These conditions take into consideration better plant nutrient intake in a more balanced way, with rapid development of plants. Excellent growing condition by controlling the temperature and humidity reassures a grower with high yields. Even the consumption of plant nutrient that is given to a closed system of the plant container is very limited allowing water savings. To produce a 2 lbs of eggplants in a traditional farm consumes about 66 to 92 gallons of water, growing hydroponically consumes about 17 gallons of water, while only 4 to 7 gallons is consumed in aeroponics. This system offers the opportunity to enhance crop production and diminish costs compared to traditional farming methods. Aeroponics successfully takes advantage of every vertical space for farming or production of the greenhouse and can be used for maximum production of food per area.

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