Different Types of Hydroponic System

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Hydroponics is the agricultural method of growing plants in the none traditional medium of water/air instead of soil. Against popular belief, hydroponics is an extremely old agricultural method but only became a household name in the last 20 or so years. There are many different types of systems that all have their advantages and disadvantages. Below I will be giving a short overview of each of the most common types.

Deepwater Culture Hydroponics

Deepwater Culture Hydroponic System Diagram

What is Deepwater Culture Hydroponics?

DWC Hydroponics is a method of growing where the roots of the plants are suspended in a well aerated nutrient solution. It is one of the simplest and most common type of hydroponics. It only has few parts including the root chamber, air pump, airline, airstone, and net pots. The pH and nutrient concentration has to be monitored regularly to ensure plant health. 


  • One of simplest especially for DYI
  • Cheap cost to get started
  • Very little can go wrong during grow


  • One of least efficient hydroponic system
  • One of the most high water usage of hydroponics

Drain & Flood Hydroponics

Drain & Flood Hydroponic System Diagram

What is Drain & Flood Hydroponics?

Drain & Flood Hydroponics does not have all the roots of the plants constantly suspended in nutrient solution. Instead there is a separate reservoir and root chamber where the aerated nutrient solution is pumped from the reservoir to “flood” the root chamber. Than the extra solution drains slowly back to the reservoir. This is all done on a set interval controlled by a timer.  


  • Less change of algae growth or diseases
  • Not many moving parts to break
  • Still very simple and cost effective for DIY system


  • Not much more efficient than DWC
  • Still high water usage
  • Pump has to be monitored to ensure it is operating or plants will die.

NFT Hydroponics

Nutrient Film Hydroponic System Diagram

NFT hydroponics is what I would call a mix of DWC and Drain & Flood. The nutrient solution is pumped into the root chamber on one side and drains out the other side circulating. The root system are exposed to more air than DWC but also has nutrient solution circulation like Drain & Flood. It is very popular for large scale operations of herbs and leafy greens.  


  • Great for large scale production
  • Allows for easier nutrient solution management 
  • Inexpensive initial costs to setup


  • If pump goes out, nutrient solution flow stops and crop failure if not noticed quickly enough
  • High water use

Low Pressure Aeroponics (LPA)

Low Pressure Aeroponic System Diagram

In general, Aeroponics is much different than other types of hydroponics. In aeroponics, the roots are suspended in air and misted with nutrient solution on a regular basis. Low pressure aeroponics the roots are heavily misted and many times reach down into the nutrient solution reservoir. In LPA, pumps are selected more for higher water volume than pressure. The mist is course and larger in size.  


  • Way more efficient than other types of hydroponics 
  • Still lower initial costs 
  • Way less complicated than High Pressure Aeroponics


  • Pump failures can lead to crop failure if not monitored regularly.
  • Higher water usable than High Pressure Aeroponics

High Pressure Aeroponics (HPA)

High Pressure Aeroponic System Diagram

High Pressure Aeroponics (HPA) has the roots completely suspended in the air. A very fine mist many times 100PSI in smaller system only discharges in the root chamber for few second very few minutes. It is by far the most efficient, complicated, and effective form of hydroponics. But systems are by far more complicated than other types of hydroponics. They include high pressure pumps, electric valves, accumulator tanks, pressure valves, and much more.


  • Most efficient with extremely low water and nutrient use
  • Best plant growth speed and crop yields of any form of Hydroponics. 
  • Many systems can continue to run without power or backup power for periods of time


  • Most costly system
  • Most complicated to setup and run
  • Pump failures can lead to crop failures within hours if not address quickly

Check out our new blog post Overview of High Pressure Aeroponics (Click here). We are creating a section dedicated to HPA due to it is our specialty. 


Aquaponics Hydroponic System Diagram

Aquaponics is many times similar to NFT where the nutrient solution circulates between reservoir and root chamber. But the big difference is the nutrient source. In Aquaponics, it is a balanced mini-ecosystem with fish instead of adding nutrients. The fish create waste that dissolves in the water for the plants to feed off. Many larger scale Aquaponics operations are farming both the plants grown and the fish being used. 


  • Extremely environmental form of agriculture.
  • Low need for additional chemical products to maintain nutrient solution.
  • Can grow plants and fish at the same time.


  • Complicated system and higher costs with similar yield results as other systems
  • Balancing the system to be most efficient takes a lot of knowledge of both plants, aquaponics, and fish care. 

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