There are many hydroponic systems out there, but these are the main ones you will see.
- Ebb & Flow (Flood and Drain)
- Drip System
- DWC (Deep Water Culture)
- NFT (Nutrient Film Technique)
Aeroponics is a hydroponic method that uses nozzles to spray nutrient rich solution at the plants roots. These systems work great but they do have some disadvantages. The main disadvantage you will hear about is the nozzles clogging up with nutrient salt buildup. This type of system is usually the first choice for people looking to clone plants from cuttings.
Ebb & Flow
The Ebb & Flow or flood and drain system uses a pump connected to a timer that will flood the root bed then shut off allowing the nutrient solution to flow back into the reservoir. This cycle is repeated throughout the day. The drainage and water retention properties of the grow medium will determine how often the system needs to run.
Note: Perlite, Vermiculite and other light weight materials tend to float and should not be used with this system.
The Drip System is another popular method of hydroponics. It is real similar to the Ebb & Flow except it uses drip emitters next to the plants to supply nutrient solution to the top of the grow medium and the solution then runs back into the reservoir. It also uses a pump connected to a timer to regulate watering times.
DWC (Deep water culture)
DWC is one of my favorite hydroponic systems mainly cause it’s simple. It is also the method that many commercial hydroponic operations use. Much of the success comes from the fact that there is not much to it, leaving very few parts to fail. The way it works is the grow medium and the plants roots are suspended directly into the nutrient solution. The solution is aerated using some form of air pump and an air stone.
NFT (Nutrient Film Technique)
NFT is another common method of hydroponics which uses some form of channel in which a shallow stream of nutrient solution will flow. The system may have multiple channels that can be arranged in a horizontal or vertical configuration. A NFT system also uses a separate reservoir which will hold the nutrient solution and a pump to get it to the channels. The system may or may not use an air pump for extra aeration. This is not usually considered a bigger setup due to its complexity.