Deep Water Culture System

If you’re just getting started with hydroponics then it can often more closely resemble some kinds of mad science experiment especially when you start reading about things like “deep water culture system” and ph levels.

The truth is it’s actually pretty simple once you master a few basic principles and hydroponic systems.

In this post, we’re going to be taking a look at the Deep Water Culture System, often know as DWC and understand a little more about what it is, when to use it and how to get started.

What is A Deep Water Culture System?

In a deep water culture system the root of the plant is constantly kept wet by the very fine splashing of tiny droplets of nutrient mix.

Plants are suspended with their roots hanging down into the reservoir. Unlike other hydroponics systems that use a water pump, a DWC system uses and air pump which aerates the water creating a “bubbling” effect that splashes the plant roots.

Checkout our guide to the best air pumps for hydroponics to find the right pump for you.

Despite the long name, the system can be as simple or complicated as you like, in fact, if you’re just getting started with hydroponics, you can test the system with just a bucket and an air pump.

The trickiest bit is ensuring the water level is high enough so that just the root tip touches the water and enough of the plant root is exposed to the air.

Benefits of Deep Water Culture

Various forms of deep water culture have existed since the Aztecs and the popularity of the system has stood the test of time for one very simple reason, how basic it is to setup.

In fact, we’d go as far to say that it’s probably the second most simple hydroponic system, behind the wick system.

There are a few other benefits too:

  • Once it’s up and running, there’s very little maintenance required
  • Fast growing times especially when growing things like lettuce in a hydroponic system
  • With few moving parts, there’s little to go wrong.

Downsides to Deep Water Culture Systems

As with all hydroponic systems, there are downsides and it won’t be suitable to all growers or plants.

  • Keeping a consistent water pH level and nutrient content can be challenging in smaller systems.
  • The air pump must run at all times otherwise you risk starving your plants

How To Build A Deep Water Culture System

As I mentioned earlier, building a deep water culture system is pretty straight forward and shouldn’t cost you much to get a basic system up and running.

Here’s what you need:

5 Gallon Bucket
Air Pump
Air Stone
Airline Tubing
Net Pots
Grow Media
Hydroponic Nutrients
pH Control Kit
PPM Meter

Once you’ve assembled all the parts then here are your next steps:

  • Connect the pump to the tubing
  • Connect the tubing to the air stone
  • Place air stone in the bottom of the bucket
  • Fill up the bucket with water
  • Add nutrients to the water
  • Cut a net pot shaped hole in the lid and slot the pots in so it sits just above flush with the lid
  • Add your grow media to the pots and start your seeds

Once your plants begin to germinate, the roots will grow down towards the nutrient solution. When this happens, you’ll soon see rapid growth of your plants (it’s pretty impressive).

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