The hydroponic growing might sound like a strange concept, but it simply means growing plants whose roots are submerged in water. Plants are placed in a non-soil growth medium (like clay pebbles), which encourages the growth of a balanced root structure. Nutrient-infused water is circulated through the system, delivering ample oxygen.
But before you start growing hydroponically, you’ll need to pick the right system to start with. Here are our suggestions:
Our Picks for the 5 Best Hydroponic Bucket Systems
1. PowerGrow Systems Deep Water Culture Hydroponic Bubbler Bucket Kit – Best 5 Gallon Hydroponic Bucket Systems For Indoor Gardening
If you’re looking for the best 5 gallon bucket system for a fair price, this one from PowerGrow Systems is a good choice. It comes with just about everything you need to get started – you get four 5 gallon buckets, and each has air tubing to connect to the pump. Also included are air stones to properly aerate the buckets. Each has a basket to put your grow medium in, and all buckets have watertight seals.
This kit performs fairly well, and it has several convenience features. One is a water level indicator so you can make sure you top up water and nutrients as needed. Each bucket is also equipped with a drain, which is a feature you don’t often see in hydroponic kits. The pump that comes with the kit is a bit small at 6.5 W, so you may find that you want to upgrade to a larger pump for more efficient aeration.
The main reservation we have with this one is the pump – while it’s technically possible to use a pump of this size, many users have had to upgrade it to get enough circulation. Additionally, the tubing is somewhat stiff. This isn’t necessarily a huge deal, but it can make it harder to connect the system. We do still recommend this product.
|This is a very affordable way to get into hydroponics||The included tubing is stiff and difficult to handle|
|It comes with everything you need except plants and a growing medium|
|It comes with complete instructions|
|And it also comes with a one-year warranty.|
Made in USA.
2. Artisun Technology (DWC) Hydroponic Bubbler Bucket Grow Kit System – Best Easiest to Maintain Hydroponic Bucket Systems For Plants One Types
A DWC hydroponic bucket system is an excellent way to make sure your plants receive ample oxygen and nutrients, and this quality one from Artisun Technology is an excellent choice. Notably, this system comes with a reservoir bucket. It’s a good idea to have one of these, as it ensures that your plants get as much nutrient-rich water as they need. This system also comes with four five-gallon buckets (plus the reservoir), an efficient pump, baskets, and tubing. It even includes clay pebbles – an excellent growing medium.
This is a system that performs well, and it has the added benefit of being easy to maintain. Each grow bucket is replenished by the reservoir as the plants consume water. This saves you from needing to top off each bucket individually. The pump also has an appropriate capacity for a setup of this size, so you likely won’t need to worry about it stopping working.
We don’t have many reservations about this one – it’s fairly affordable, and it comes with almost all you need. However, a possible reservation is the size of the kit. Since you have an extra reservoir bucket, the setup takes up a good bit of space on the floor. Additionally, the buckets do not come with drains, which makes complete water changes difficult. We like the idea of a reservoir bucket, and we recommend this one.
|Included reservoir replenishes water daily||The fifth reservoir bucket may take up too much space|
|The included pump is strong enough to aerate each bucket|
|It comes with clay pebbles, which is a great bonus|
|Silicon washers make it almost impossible for water to spill from the buckets|
3. Artisun Technology Dutch Bucket 10-pack – Best Dutch Bucket Hydroponic System For A Professional Gardening
These buckets don’t make up a complete hydroponic setup – you will still need a pump. They’re also designed to be used in a system that’s different from deep water culture. These buckets are meant to be used with a dripping irrigation system suspended above the plants. The bottom of the buckets will connect to a drainage line that takes excess water back to the reservoir. Depending on what types of plants you grow, you may find that either a dripper system like this one or a DWC may be best.
If you need a Dutch bucket for a hydroponic system, these ones perform well. While there’s no pump to evaluate, the hydroponic buckets themselves are made of sturdy plastic, and the drain fitting is very secure. This is vitally important, especially if your setup is an indoor one. If you choose these buckets, the manufacturer recommends a submersible pump that runs on 110V. Additionally, you can connect as many of these Dutch buckets if you want, making this set a good choice if you want to set up a large operation.
If you are new to hydroponics, you may prefer to buy a complete kit. This way, you don’t have to worry about the right size tubing or the proper pump. Because this set only includes buckets, net pots, lids, and drain fittings, you will need to separately purchase tubing and a pump. If you have some experience with hydroponics, we recommend this kit.
|This is an affordable set, given that it includes 10 buckets||The lids of the buckets are somewhat flimsy and prone to cracks|
|The drain fittings fit securely, preventing leaks||This isn’t a complete starter kit, which may be an issue for those very new to hydroponics|
|It offers an option besides deep water culture|
|This system is easy to expand upon if needed|
4. Hydrofarm RS5GAL4SYS Root Spa 4 – Best Affordable Hydroponic Bucket Systems for Larger Operations
These Hydrofarm hydroponic buckets come in sets of four, but you can easily purchase three sets for an impressively-sized 12 bucket hydroponic system. Notably, for this option, you don’t need water stones — the manufacturer states that the tubing alone will add enough air to each bucket in the system. If you prefer the use of air stones, they are compatible with the system. The included pump circulates 7.8 L/min to each set of four buckets.
These buckets perform well. The pump provides enough power to keep each bucket aerated, and all fittings are secure. However, for truly optimal aeration, you may want to invest in a more powerful pump. Setup is also fairly simple, which is ideal for those who aren’t too familiar with hydroponic systems.
In many cases, purchasers of this set find that the product arrives missing critical pieces. However, the manufacturer will quickly send replacements if needed. Additionally, as is the case with some other hydroponic kits, the pump may not be strong enough for all growing setups. Still, we think this is a quality starter kit, and we recommend it.
|This is a fairly affordable way to get into hydroponics||In some cases, you may need a stronger pump|
|You don’t have to use air stones, which makes the setup simpler||These buckets are also not equipped with drains|
|Water indicators help you know when it’s time to top up the water|
|Watertight seals reduce the risk of spills|
5. DIY Hydroponic System – Best Do It Yourself Hydroponic Bucket Systems For Adventurous Growers
You may be wondering whether it’s possible to build your own hydroponic setup. The short answer is yes. However, it takes a good bit of work – you’ll need to drill all required holes and fit the components yourself. This approach is also nearly twice as expensive as purchasing a hydroponic kit. We don’t necessarily recommend this method due to the effort and cost involved. If you do want to do it yourself, here’s what you will need:
5.1 BayTec 5-Gallon Plastic Buckets, 6-Pack
Five-gallon buckets are ideal for most hydroponic setups, and these food-grade buckets are sturdy enough to handle plants. You will need to drill holes to attach tubing, but this isn’t too difficult.
5.2 Hydro Flow 3/4″ Rubber Grommets
These are designed to create a seal around hose attachments in your system. They are a fairly affordable part of the process, and they’re also easy to install. Grommets are vitally important because they prevent water leaks.
5.3 Hydrofarm AAPA15L Active Aqua Pump
Every hydroponic system needs a pump to circulate water, and this one provides the power needed for most 4-bucket systems. It’s a 6W pump that cycles 15L/min, and there are four attachments for air tubing. For larger setups, you can purchase a second four-outlet pump, but you also have the option of purchasing a larger pump altogether.
5.4 VIVOSUN Air Stones, 4×2
In some cases, you may choose to not use air stones, but they can really improve the air quality in your system. Air stones take the air from a pump and then turn it into very small bubbles, improving the water’s overall oxygenation.
5.5 Mother Earth HGC714112 Hydroton Original Expanded Clay Pebbles
With hydroponic growing, you need a soilless medium to help your plants reach their full potential. Clay pebbles are an ideal medium, and these are especially high-quality. They’re made from mined and kiln-fired clay, and they also won’t disturb your plants by floating. These come in a 10-liter bag.
5.6 Deep Blue Professional ADB12296 Silicone Air Tubing
You’ll need quality silicone tubing to connect your buckets to your pump, and this 25-foot tubing is flexible enough to use. You’ll need to cut the tubing to your own specifications.
5.7 Viagrow V6ML-6 Wide Lip Mesh Bucket Net Pot
Net pots are designed to support both plants and your grow medium. These are 6″ in diameter, which is typical for net pots used in hydroponic systems.
|Making a set up yourself can be rewarding||This can be time-consuming, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s easy to damage components|
|You can generally customize a DIY setup more easily||This method is almost twice as expensive as purchasing a pre-made kit|
|You can hand-pick each component|
|DIY systems can sometimes be easier to expand|
Best Hydroponic Bucket System – Buyer’s Guide.
When Were Hydroponics Invented? How Do They Work?
Hydroponics might sound like something out of the future, but this method of growing – cultivating plants with only water, nutrients, and a non-soil growth medium – has been around since ancient times. Babylon’s Hanging Gardens and China’s Floating Gardens are two notable examples.
Hydroponic growing almost always results in plants that reach greater sizes. In many cases, it also drastically increases yields. This is because this method of growing lets growers control almost every aspect of a plant’s development. Nutrient solutions specific to each plant type ensure that each has what it needs to grow, and increased oxygenation speeds growth as well. In a hydroponic system, a plant’s roots don’t have to continuously expand to find more nutrients, so more energy will be directed into leaf, flower, and fruit growth.
What Types of Hydroponic Systems are There?
As the science of hydroponics has developed, numerous types of setups have emerged. Here’s a brief rundown of the different types and their advantages:
These systems are popular because they are affordable to buy and relatively easy to create at home. Net baskets suspend each plant in water, and a pump aerates the water. An airstone helps with aeration. Once set up, these systems are fairly low-maintenance, which is a benefit for new growers. Because of their friendliness to new users and ease of maintenance, we have largely focused on these systems when selecting our top choices.
Drip systems, as the name suggests, pump nutrient-rich water from a reservoir into a pipe that slowly drips onto each plant. Excess water circulates back to the reservoir. Because these systems recycle water, it’s important to very closely monitor water pH. These systems are easy to expand to start a larger growing operation. If you’re a home grower or new to hydroponics, setting up and maintaining a system like this can be incredibly challenging.
If you would prefer a hydroponic system that needs no electricity at all, you might like wick systems. These simple setups have plants in a tray of the growth medium, and that tray is suspended above a reservoir of water. Wicks made of rope, coconut fiber, or similar materials pull water from the tray and deliver it to the growth medium.
Nutrient Film Systems
In these systems, a pump continually circulates nutrient solution so it flows over the root tips of the plants. This system exposes the top parts of the roots so they receive plenty of oxygen. If the pump stops working, the plants can die very quickly, so it’s important to keep a careful eye on the system.
Ebb and Flow Systems
These systems may work well with certain types of plants. In these systems, the pump runs on a timer — at certain times, the growth medium is flooded with nutrient-rich water. At other times, it drains out. This type of system lets you customize when your plants are flooded and may take some practice. Once it’s mastered, this method can lead to impressive yields.
These are the most water-efficient systems, although they can be very expensive to set up. Plants are situated so their roots are suspended in air, and they are periodically misted with nutrient water. These setups are very space-efficient, making them a good choice for apartments and other smaller spaces.
What Are the Parts of a Hydroponic System?
If you’re new to hydroponics, you might want to purchase a kit. This way, you will have the tubing you need (pre-cut into required lengths), a pump, and all buckets and net pots you need. Still, it’s wise to get a good general idea of each part of the system and why it’s important.
In most cases, experts recommend three-gallon to five-gallon buckets for deep water culture systems. This might seem surprising, but plant root structures can grow far outside of the net pot. A larger bucket also gives plenty of space for water and nutrients to circulate.
When purchasing buckets, it’s a good idea to make sure they include rubber or silicone washers. These provide seals around tubing connections and net pots, making it unlikely that anything will spill.
When selecting a pump for your system, it’s necessary to make sure you have enough power. If a pump does not produce enough oxygen circulation, plants can drown in water. It’s best to have a pump that cycles one liter per minute of air for each gallon of nutrient water in your reservoir.
Most tubing for hydroponics is made out of soft, flexible silicone. Although this might seem like an easy part of your system to select, there are some important considerations to make. Namely, most growers recommend black tubing. If your tubing is clear or otherwise allows light in, this may allow algae growth. Algae can cause problems for your plants, and it can start to clog the tubes in severe cases.
In all-inclusive kits, the manufacturer will pre-cut tubing to appropriate lengths. For a DIY system, you’ll need to purchase a larger length and cut it to needed specifications.
As the name suggests, net pots are simple, basket-like structures. They are designed to hold both seedlings and a growth medium. The growing plants’ roots can then extend out of the growth medium and through the sides of the net pots. The pots come in various sizes, and it’s recommended to make sure you have a seal around them to prevent leaks.
Oxygen is essential to plant growth. It encourages nutrient uptake and accelerates growth. It also kills off harmful pathogens that can kill plants. Because oxygen is so vital to growth, it needs to be constantly replenished in water. The air pump itself introduces a good bit of oxygen, but air stones ensure that tiny oxygen bubbles reach your system. These are much more easily dispersed, and they ensure that all oxygen is more evenly distributed.
Many deep water culture kits let you choose your hydroponic growth medium. We think clay pebbles are an excellent choice. They are reusable, fairly pH-neutral, and encourage a balanced root structure. If you prefer, Rockwool, vermiculite, and other substrates can be used.
In summary, hydroponics is a rewarding hobby to get into – you can grow fresh food at home, and in many cases, your system will require minimal upkeep. And best of all, deep water culture systems tend to be inexpensive and fairly easy to set up. If you take your time, do your research, and pick a solid system to start with, you’ll be on your way to growing healthy plants in no time.