How the Deep Water Culture Hydroponics System Works

How the Deep Water Culture Hydroponics System Works

If, by any means, you are interested in growing plants with a hydroponics system, do not miss the deep water culture or DWC technique. It is not only the easiest but also the most effective of all the hydroponics systems. Superficially, it may showcase similarities to another hydroponics system – Ebb and Flow. However, you will find that it is different.

In DWC, the plant roots are enclosed in a grow cup, or net pot suspended via a lid and hang freely in a nutrient solution. A significant part of the root mass is always immersed in water. The plant itself stays in deep water. These two features earn the technique its name – deep water culture.

With this hydroponics system, you can produce large amounts of plants at once, with many plants growing in a single container. It is beneficial for commercial growers who want to maximize their yields and have complete control over their growing environment. It’s also a good choice for those who live in areas where land and competition for sunlight are limited.

But how do the plants grow in this system? Before we divulge more into its working, let us take a look at its components.

deep water culture hydroponics

Deep Water Culture Hydroponics System Components

Building a deep water culture hydroponics system is as simple as making a pie. Only a few tools are required to set it up.

  • A container (or reservoir) to hold the nutrient solution.
  • Air pump
  • Hose or an air line
  • Air stones to create small bubbles
  • Pots, net cups, or baskets to keep the plants
  • Suitable growing media

How Does It Work?

Generally, the Deep Water Culture hydroponics system is of three types:

  • Recirculating deep water culture
  • Bubbleponics
  • Kratky method

The basic functioning in all these types remains the same. The roots are placed in net pots over a reservoir filled with nutrient solution. The roots absorb the essential nutrients and oxygen and grow to their full potential.

However, there are minor deviations in designs and functioning with respect to design and purpose in all three. The first set of differences is connected to the aeration method. Basically, there are three different methods of aerating plants in the DWC hydroponics system.

Air Bubbles

Air bubbles are the easiest mode of supplying oxygen in a DWC hydro farming technique. In this method, airstone or air pumps are used to produce air bubbles in the reservoir, and the air line connects the air pump to the air stone.

An airstone is often a rock-like substance with minor pores to create bubbles in the water. Sometimes a hose is used if smaller bubbles are to be produced. Remember that the size of the bubbles is directly related to the amount of aeration. Therefore, smaller bubbles are suggested for better aeration.

Falling Water Method

The falling water causes surface agitation, and this is another method of aeration in the hydroponics system. The more the volume of water falling, the more is the amount of downward force. And more downward force implies deeper agitation and more aeration.

The falling water aeration method is mostly used in commercial hydro farming with the deep culture method.

Hydroponics Plants

Deep Water Culture Hydroponics System Types

We will now discuss how the plants grow and thrive in different deep water culture techniques.

The Recirculating Deep Culture Method

Taking your budget into consideration when starting hydroponics is crucial because there are hidden costs when purchasing a hydroponics system. Therefore, the amount you pay for the system is not the only payment you will make.

After the purchase itself, some of the additional costs include the installation, planting, nutrients, and system maintenance.

For instance, energy is used when the system pumps water or oxygen into the system. Before purchasing, it is best to check how energy efficient your chosen system is.


Bubbleponics is a hybrid technique that uses both deep water culture and drips irrigation features to grow plants.

In the bubbleponics hydro farming technique, plant roots are submerged in a container (reservoir) filled with nutrient solutions. The container can be a custom-built bin or a 5-10 gallon bucket. The plant roots are held in net pots held in place by air stones such as expanded clay.

The air tubes linked to the net cups deliver the nutrient solution to the plant roots. These tubes are already connected to an air pump.

Kratky Method

The Kratky method is a passive technique implying there is no need for pumps or electricity. In this DWC type, the plants are nestled in net cups containing growth mediums such as coconut coir or rock wool. These plants are placed over a reservoir filled with nutrient solutions. Roots that touch the surface of the water level soak it, thus depleting it over time.

This creates moist air between the root mass and the remaining water surface, turning roots into oxygen roots with lateral branching. These lateral roots absorb oxygen and help the plant grow till it is ready to harvest. There is no need to add more nutrients or water as one initial application completes one growing cycle.

Tips to gain maximum yield with Deep Water Culture Technique:

  • Build a larger reservoir. The nutrient solution stays more stable, and there are fewer pH fluctuations.
  • The non-flowering plants work best for DWC. They grow fast.
  • Always have a backup for the power supply.

Wrapping Up

Whether you are a beginner or an amateur gardener, you should invest in deep water culture technique? Because the roots receive ample oxygen due to being suspended in the nutrient solution and are not restricted to a container filled with a limited supply of air. This allows for faster, healthier root development.

The plants also have unrestricted access to all the nutrients that are contained in the reservoir. Unlike some other hydroponics, plants can access nutrients through a thin film of nutrient flow or via leaves.

Constantly rooted in water gives them better nutrient absorption. It makes it easier for plant caretakers to monitor how needs change over time without worrying about roots suffocating or running out of energy. Further, paving the way for new ones to regenerate in the DWC hydroponics system.