Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Deep Water Culture Hydroponics Build Parts List


Parts List for Kenny's Portable Deep Water Hydroponics System


The following parts are needed to build the system:
(These are links)

Required and optional tools


  • A friend suggested this hole saw kit with a 3.5-in hole saw. It's $13.50 on Amazon.
  • A Dremel is very useful for cutting the holes in the plastic lid, but you could also use tin snips (after drilling a start hole) or an razor knife, if you’re very careful. The holes do not need to be perfectly round. You just need the holes to hold the net pots from falling into the bin.

  • An electric drill

  • ¼-in drill bit
  • 1-in hole-cutting bit (optional). You could use a razor knife.
  • A saw to cut the 2 x 4
  • Measuring tape
  • Razor knife


About this system


This is one of the simplest hydroponic systems to build and is very easy to maintain.
One design goal with this system is that I want it to be portable. I want it to be fully contained in one unit so that I can pick it up and easily move it to a new location.

So, for example, if I want to move it outside when the weather warms to take advantage of free light, I can do so. Or, if there’s a power outage, and I want to move this to the living room temporarily to sit it in front of the bay windows, I can do that very easily.

For this design, I want all of the external air tubes and air pump inside the unit, so it can be picked up without worrying about managing what’s attached to the box. I also don’t want to have to worry about a single unit being attached to another box, requiring disassemble before moving it. In addition, the growing area will be neater and more organized.

Admittedly, The disadvantage to this configuration is slightly higher cost. I plan on building three of these (or more), and I could buy a single air pump that has three air ports and share the air pump between the three units. However, air pumps are relatively inexpensive.

The air pump I’m using cost $13 each. To me, the utility of portability and neatness is worth the additional cost. So, keep this in mind if you want to reduce the cost of this unit. In addition, you could further reduce its cost by using a single tote instead of two, and keep the air pump outside the tote.

Changing these two design features would cut the cost nearly in half. Currently, each unit will cost approximately $41 each to build.

The deep-water culture hydroponic system has net pots that hold the plant root system. The oxygen and nutrients wick up from the water that touches the bottom of the net pots.

I'll transfer lettuce and spinach plants I'm germinating into these net pots. I’ll add some expanded clay pebbles to hold the root system upright, and eventually, the plant’s roots will dangle into a bath of oxygen and nutrient-rich water that’s at the exact ph level my plants love.

Each of these units have a dual-port air pump in the lower tote and it connects to an air stone inside this upper tote by tubing that runs from the lower tote to the upper tote.


Assembly Instructions

Note: This is basically the script for the video I made. For more clarity, watch the video.
  1. Draw a 3.5-in circle in each corner of the lid and two circles between the side holes. Make sure the holes are fairly evenly spaced.
    The 3.75-in net pots require 3.5-in holes
    Do not place the circles too close to the edge, as the side of the lid will help support the plant.
  2. Cut out all of the circles.
  3. Clean the edges of the cut area, and completely remove plastic debris.
    It’s important to remove all of the plastic shreds, as this debris will fall into your water.
  4. Empty the cutting debris from the plastic tote and vacuum out any pieces that cling to the sides.
  5. Measure the width of the bottom of inside of your tote. My 12-gallow tote was 13-inches wide at the bottom.
  6. Cut two sections of 2 x 4 to match the width of the bottom of your tote.
  7. Measure the plug width that is attached to the air pump. Most will be 1-in wide.
  8. Cut a hole in corner of the lower tote large enough to pass the air pump’s power cord.
  9. Using ¼-in bit, drill an exit hole for the air tube in the lower tote.
    Note that when the upper tote is filled with water, it will compress a portion of the lower totes side walls. When you chose an exit hole, make sure that the tubing will not be compressed by the upper tote’s side walls.

    If you tote has indented hand-grip areas, these may work well for an exit hole. Otherwise, create the hole low enough that the air tube will not contact the side walls.

    In my tote, I found that I could drill a hole into the hand-grip to route my air tube in a way that created less exposed tubing.
  10. If your air pump has dual output ports, cut two 5-in sections of ¼-in tubing to join the ports at a t-fitting.
  11. Connect the tubing sections to each of the air pump ports, making sure the tubes push all the way onto the port barbs.
  12. Connect the two sections of tubing to each side of a ¼-in T-fitting.
  13. If your air pump is adjustable, turn the air pump to its highest setting. Mine goes to eleven.
  14. Wash the plastic totes and lids with hot water and soap.
  15. Dry the plastic totes and lids.
  16. Place the air pump in the lower tote, and thread the power cord out of the tote.
  17. Determine how much tubing you need to connect from the air pump to the air stone.

    To determine the tubing length, consider how the tube will be routed. I suggest that the air tube be secured to the sides of the tote walls in both totes. Use a tape measure to determine the length of tube needed by following the anticipated route path for the tube. For my 12-gallon totes, I needed 40-inches.

    Also, it is easier to separate the upper and lower tote if you leave a little slack in the tubing in the lower tote.
  18. Cut the tube to the proper length.
  19. Connect the tube to the T-fitting at the air pump.
  20. Insert the two sections of 2 x 4’s that will support the upper tote and keep the air pump from be compressed by the upper tote.
  21. Route the air tube around the wooden support using adhesive cable tie tabs.
  22. Route the air tube out of the lower tote.
  23. Using a ¼-in drill bit, drill a hole as high as possible on the upper tote in an area that is directly above the air tube’s exit hole from the lower tote.
  24. Insert the air tube into the new hole in the upper tote, leaving a short loop of tubing on the outside of the totes.
  25. Cut the air tube at the loop to allow the installation of the check valve.

    The check valve will keep water from flowing back to the air pump. Water backflow will occur if you lose power to the air pump. If water backflows to the pump, it will destroy the pump.
  26. Place the air stone in the center of the bottom of the tote.
  27. Make sure the air tube can reach the air stone.
    If the tube is too short, cut a new tube.
  28. Install the check valve between the cut tubes, making sure that the check valve is oriented so that the air flow can pass from the air pump into the upper tote.
    The check valve should be marked with the word OUT, showing the direction that the air flows out. However, if in doubt, blow into the check valve to determine the direction of air flow.
  29. Use silicon to secure a tie wrap tab 1-in in front of the air stone’s barb.
  30. Glue a second tie wrap tab on the side wall to route the air tube toward the air stone.
    The tie wraps will keep the air stone from floating into your plant’s root system or moving from its optimal placement location in the bottom of the tote.
    Note that the silicone is not toxic to your plants. Once dry, it will not deteriorate. This glue is commonly used in aquariums because it is not harmful to fish.
  31. Insert tie wraps through the tie wrap tabs.
  32. Allow the tie wrap tabs to dry over night.
  33. When the silicone is dry, attach the air tube to the air stone barb.
  34. Secure the air tube to the tie wraps in the upper tote.
  35. Fill your tote with water up the bottoms of the net pots.
  36. Plug in your air pump to test the air stone.

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