Utah Aquaponics

Your #1 Aquaponics Resource

How Does A Hydroponic System Work?

By on 11/16/2016

How Does A Hydroponic System Work?

A hydroponic system is a way of growing plants indoors without the use of soil. It offers many advantages, and that includes how very little waste it produces that can harm the environment. But how does hydroponic system really work?

There’s really no simple answer to that question, due to the fact that there are several ways of designing a hydroponic system. But here are some of the more common systems, as well as a brief explanation of how each one works.

Water Culture

This is an active system, which means that it involves some moving parts. But of all the active systems, this one is the simplest. It’s mostly used for lettuce, as this is a water plant that grows very quickly.

You have a floating platform with plants, with the platform usually made of Styrofoam. This floats directly over the nutrient solution, which is usually an aquarium. There’s an airstone on the bottom of the nutrient solution, connected to an air pump outside the fish pump. So you just put in the nutrients in the solution, and then the roots get the nutrients the plants need directly from the solution. 

About Hydroponic Systems

Wick System

In contrast to the water culture, this system is passive and it’s the simplest of all passive hydroponic systems. At the bottom, you again have a container of nutrient solution with an airstone powered by an air pump. On top of this is perched a grow tray with growing medium, such as coconut fiber or perlite. You have wicks that draw the nutrient solution from the container below into the growing medium above, to grow the plants.

This is very useful for many types of plants, but not quite ideal for others. It’s not good for large plants or plants that use up large amounts of water. The wick may not supply enough of nutrient solution quickly enough.

Drips Systems

This is arguably the most popular method of hydroponics used by growers around the world. This time, the fish tank that holds the nutrient solution doesn’t just have an airstone powered by an outside air pump. It also has a nutrient pump with a timer that moves the nutrient solution through drip lines to the top of the grow tray. This then makes sure that your plants have enough nutrient solution to thrive.

Hydroponic Drip System

This system comes in 2 versions. In the recovery drip system, the excess nutrient solution is collected and then transferred back to the aquarium so it can be reused. This makes it more efficient, and it also means that you don’t need an overly accurate timer for precise control of the water cycles. On the other hand, you have to monitor and adjust the nutrient strength and pH levels of the solution constantly, since the recovery of the unused nutrient solution will change the balance.

With the non-recovery system, you have to make sure your timer can maintain the proper frequency of water cycles. That’s so you can keep the plants fed, while you minimize the runoff. But you don’t have to check the nutrient solution so frequently.


With so many systems in use, there are bound to be differences. But each hydroponic system uses a growing platform and a container of nutrient solution, and there’s no need for soil at all.

About Hydroponic Grow Systems

Leave a Reply