Deep Water Culture (DWC) & Bubbleponics – Hydroponics Explained

Many people looking to get into hydroponics won’t know where to start. With so many different types of setups, the possibilities are endless! This could be a bad thing for someone with no experience. So, to try and dispel the fear around hydroponics, today I’ll be covering the most common and easiest type – Deep Water Culture (DWC) hydroponics.

If you’re not interested in the information, then scroll down for a detailed list of equipment you need to get started and an instruction guide.

Have questions about hydroponics or gardening in general? Feel free to contact me via the contact page and I’ll get back to you straight away. I  might even write an article!

What does deep water culture mean?

Deep water culture simply means that the plant will be sitting in a (preferably deep) reservoir of water, with the roots in contact all the time. Note – it’s not a good idea to keep the stems submerged! Just the roots.

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A plant being lifted in a DWC system. The roots would normally be submerged entirely.

But what about nutrients? Water doesn’t have any, right?

Correct. That’s why we add nutrient solution into the water, which gives the plant more than enough to grow and thrive. The “Flora” series by General Hydroponics is very popular, however there are other choices available. This is actually one of the massive benefits of hydroponics. As you’re able to feed nutrients directly to the roots, without a medium, and in whatever concentration you choose, greatly expedited growth is common. Some people have even halved their growing times with certain plants!

flora-nova-grow-e1499551121334.jpg

What about root rot? This is where bubbleponics comes in…

You’d be right to think that having roots submerged in stagnant water for days on end can cause problems. In fact, it’s a very common problem that new growers run in to. There are different supplements and other methods you can use to avoid it, but bubbleponics has it’s own benefits so I believe it’s the best. Basically, you add an air pump into your system, aerating your water/nutrient mixture. That way, roots get a lot of oxygen directly to them (improving growth) and reducing the growth of rots and diseases.

epicenter_bucket_in_undercurrent_dwc_hydroponics_system
Bubbles in a DWC bucket, this is what aeration looks like.

This sounds very complicated, why not just grow in soil? (Pros and Cons)

Good point. Soil is much cheaper, much easier to setup initially, and can work perfectly fine for most people! Hydroponics setups are for those that really want more from their plants. It’s possible to have far higher density, higher yield per crop, and everything is so much more in your control! You can grow indoors with grow lights and create a completely artificial climate for your plants, allowing you to grow things that you never could do in your garden bed!

Is it expensive?

No, not at all! Well, actually, kind of – it depends. As with anything in life, you can spend a small fortune investing in a large circulating DWC system with all the bells and whistles, or you can do it on the cheap. In this part of the article, I’ll explain the idea behind how to set it up. You can then take it onto yourself to choose how to slim it down and cheap out or upgrade!

What do I need?

  • A pot of some sort.
  • A mesh basket to put your plant in.
  • Clay pebbles and rockwool to grow your seedling in.
  • Water, preferably distilled, but tap can be okay.
  • Nutrients, depending on the stage of growth.
  • Air pump and airstone.

If you’re happy to do this DIY, you could set it up for less than $50! However, if you want a more pre-made system, it could be around $100. It really depends on your local market as well.

dwc-system
A basic DWC/bubbleponics system.

 

How do I set this up? (refer to above image)

  • First, fill your bucket with water and add in your nutrient solution as per the directions on the back of the bottle.
  • Connect your airstone to your pump and position it at the bottom of your bucket.
  • Fill your mesh pot with clay pebbles.
  • Gently soak your rockwool and place a seed roughly halfway deep inside it.
  • Place the rockwool in the clay pebbles, making sure at least a little bit is submerged in the nutrient solution (it will absorb it and keep the seeds wet enough).
  • Turn on your water pump, and let your seeds grow!
  • Keep in mind, nutrient mixture will lose nutrients over time – it’s a good idea to change it every 1 – 2 weeks depending on the plant. Simply prepare it in another bucket, lift out your plant for a short time, empty then refill, and put your plant back in. It’s as simple as that!

This guide only covers the hydroponics side of things. Things like pH are extremely important in a successful grow. For more info on pH levels and why they matter, see here, or visit the “Guides” page on my blog for more information on general growing 🙂

So now you’re equipped with the theory and the practical knowledge to setup a fully functioning DWC (bubbleponics) system. What are you waiting for? Get out there and do it!

As always, happy growing 🙂

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