Deep Water Culture Hydroponics (DWC System)
Information and Guide

Deep Water Culture Hydroponic System

Overview

The deep water culture hydroponic system or dwc system for short is one of the six basic types of hydroponic systems. The following information will dive in-depth so you can understand how it works and the advantages and disadvantages. In general, there are a few main components:


Reservoir

All of the basic hydroponic systems need somewhere to put their nutrient solution. The deep water culture hydroponic system is no different. It is common to use a five-gallon bucket, old aquarium, or large container. The plants will need to sit on top of the container so make sure it is large enough for all of the plants you grow.


It is better if the container is dark so algae and microorganisms will not grow too fast and take over the reservoir.


You will need to take care of some basic maintenance: filling it up every so often as the plants absorb the solution and periodic cleaning to remove the toxins and bring in fresh nutrients.


Net Pot or Styrofoam


This is the piece that will sit (or float) on top of the reservoir and hold the plant. You want to make sure that it is sturdy enough to support the growing plant and is large enough for a mature plant. The roots of the plant will grow through this medium and dangle into the reservoir. Make sure there are enough holes to allow the entire root ball to submerge below the nutrient line.


Nutrient Solution


This is the solution where the roots of the plants will be submerged. It needs to have the correct type and amount of nutrients for the plants that you are going to grow so they can be successful. Mineral based nutrients are the best and you will need to look for well-established manufacturers who build the right concentration for your plant. Talk to an expert at your garden center or ready the product descriptions carefully before choosing one for your new garden.


Pump and/or Airstone


Since the reservoir is airtight it is important to supply external oxygen to the water so the root systems can stay oxygenated. This is typically done with either a pump that cycles the nutrient solution or an airstone which is a device that is used to gradually diffuse air into the nutrient solution. This ensures that enough oxygen reaches the plants and they stay healthy.


Advantages


The deep water culture hydroponic system is very simple to set up. There are only a few main pieces you will need to buy online or at your local garden center and you can be growing plants within the day.


It also it has very few moving pieces so it is very dependable. The only piece that can break is the pump and as long as you replace it promptly after a failure it won’t affect the success of your plants.


Disadvantages


Since all of the plant roots are submerged in the same nutrient solution, the chances for disease are increased. Make sure to keep an eye out for disease and quickly flush the solution and remove the plant before it spreads.


You will also need to continually replace the nutrient solution so it doesn't become toxic. The plants will only absorb the nutrients that they need and there may be leftovers in the solution that will never be absorbed. This can lead to a nutrient imbalance that can be harmful. Just ensure that you replace the solution every few weeks. Check the pH every so often and you will get a better idea of the needs.


While the system is mostly passive, it does have a motor. If you are going out of town for a long period of time you may come back to plants that have died due to a pump failure. While the chances are low, it is worth calling this out.


Common Questions


How much of the plant should be submerged in the nutrient solution?


Ensure that just the bare roots are below the nutrient level. If the stalk of the plant is submerged it may lead to disease or stunted growth. If you are using smaller plants, you may have to hand water for the initial growth before the bare roots grow long enough to reach the solution.


Is DWC better than using soil?


Research has shown that plants grown using the deep water culture method grow between 15% and 25% faster than the garden alternative.


What sort of plants can I grow in a DWC system?


Plants that don’t require a lot of nutrients are great candidates. Like the wick system, lettuce and herbs are great. However, with the right infrastructure, tomatoes, peppers, and other like-type plants can grow successfully using this method.


What is the difference between singular and modular systems?


As the name would suggest, the single systems are made for a single plant with a single reservoir. This is great starting point for DIY and especially great for kids who want to see how this gardening technique works.


Modular systems on the other hand can support a large number of plants and is great for a typical garden application. Usually, there will be pipes that connect independent net pots and a pump that cycles the nutrient solution between the pots.


Summary


Deep water culture hydroponics (or DWC) is usually the first thing people think of when they think about hydroponics. It is a very simple system with few pieces that is great for all age and experience levels.


If you have any more questions or comments please reach out to us and we will get back to them as soon as we can. Enjoy!

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