Jun 9, 2016 9:05 AM

Homemade Hydroponics Systems: Step by Step

Building your own hydroponics systems may seem like a complex task. However, if you follow our instructions, it can even turn out to be a fun thing to do. Homemade hydroponic systems have many advantages. The most prominent of them is that you spend less money in comparison with purchasing a new system in a shop.

omemade Hydroponics Systems

There are three types of hydroponics systems you can build. The first one on our list is the most complex option—a multi-flow system. In this system, the gravity is responsible for flooding the trays with plants with water and necessary nutrients. A switch control is needed to regulate the water levels. When you use a multi-flow system, growing many plants at a time is not a problem anymore. However, homemade hydroponic systems are not meant for large-scale growing.

The second option is an easier to build ebb and flow system. This system is inexpensive and allows you to grow a fair amount of plants at a time.

The last option is the easiest and the cheapest one—water culture. However, the number of plants that you can grow using this system is limited.


Be ready to spend some time looking for the necessary hydroponics supplies to build the system. You will need the following things:

  • Some pots for your plants. In case you decide to build an ebb and flow system, choose plastic pots. If you prefer creating a water culture, buy mesh pots;
  • Styrofoam. A water culture system requires Styrofoam that is about an inch thick;
  • Tubing. This part is very important and will play a key role in your future systems. Choose the tubing carefully—multi-flow systems work better with PVC tubing, water culture systems use air tubes, and ebb and flow systems will work with any quality tubing;
  • External pump. Pumps are necessary for all three systems. However, if you are building a multi-flow system, be sure to use a pump with a switch system to automatically regulate water levels;
  • A reservoir. In this matter, you are limited only by your imagination. You can use anything from a fish tank to a simple bucket;
  • Plant trays. Remember that a multi-flow system can be used to grow a large number of plants, so you had better buy several trays;
  • Growing medium;
  • Knife or scissors;
  • Air stones if you build a water culture system;
  • A drain system for ebb and flow.

Water Culture

Let us begin with a method for creating a water culture system.

Basically, you can use anything you want as your future reservoir, but the item is better to be non-transparent (paint your old fish tank black) to prevent the light from promoting the growth of algae. A useful tip: if you have to paint your fish tank, apply a strip of tape from top to bottom before applying the paint. When it dries off, remove the tape, and you will be left with a space that shows how much water is left. However, this is not a must-have as you can determine the level of water using a floater.

Take some Styrofoam that will be your future floater. Measure your reservoir and cut the Styrofoam a little smaller than the size of your tank. The perfect size of the floater is only a ¼ inch smaller in case your reservoir has the same measurements at the bottom and the top. If the top is bigger, cut the Styrofoam to be 2''-4'' smaller.

Next, you have to cut the holes in the Styrofoam for your pots. Trace the bottom of each of them and cut along the line with a knife. Then, cut a small hole on any end of the future floater for the air line to run into the reservoir.

Take a pump and connect the air line to it. To the other end of the pump attach an air stone. Make sure that the air line is long enough and can reach the bottom of your reservoir. If you are not sure which pump and air line to buy, consult a local hydroponics shop.

Now, your system is ready to be set up. Fill the reservoir with nutrient water, place Styrofoam, insert the air line into the appropriate hole, place plants into each pot hole and turn on the pump.


Now, let us try building a multi-flow system. Though this system is a little more complex, it will not take a lot of time build.

Take six of your pots and place them on a stable surface.

Connect all of them with the PVC fittings and tubes. Plug in the water pumps and the controller unit to regulate the water flow. If you buy some hydroponics kits that are specifically built for a multi-flow system, they already have a useful option to turn on and off according to the water levels. The difficulty of building this system lies in that you need to acquire special components for it to work and connect them carefully. Unfortunately, it cannot work with the average components at hand as other systems do.

Ebb and Flow

Setting up ebb and flow should not be too difficult for the beginners. If you are an experienced grower, this option is likely to be a piece of cake for you.

Set up your reservoir and put a plant tray on top of it. Be sure to keep it level; set a structure to support the tray if needed.

Next, you should connect the tubes of the flow/drain system to the water pump and set the pump in the reservoir. Check that the overflow does not spill out and goes back into the tank. Connect the pump timer and place the pots with plants in the tray. Voila. Your plants are growing in perfect conditions.

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