Deep water culture (DWC) hydroponics is the most simple hydroponic system for new and experienced indoor growers alike.
How do DWC hydroponics systems work?
In a recirculating DWC system, plant roots are suspended directly in a hydroponic nutrient solution. This solution is housed by a hydroponic reservoir, and since the roots stay in this reservoir throughout their life, there is no need for a water pump. An air pump and air stone provide continuous oxygen to the root zone, preventing plants from drowning.
DWC hydroponics is great for new growers because there are only a few components. Unlike hydroponic drip systems or aeroponic systems, there are no nozzles that can get clogged. This drastically cuts down on required maintenance for your DWC system. Once you get your system set up, it's smooth sailing! But, hydroponics, in general, is not necessarily a cakewalk.
Advantages of DWC hydroponic systems
- Low maintenance
- Fast growing time
- Minimal moving parts
Disadvantages of DWC hydroponic systems
- pH and water level can fluctuate
- Easy to overfeed or underfeed
- Difficult to maintain consistent temperature in reservoir
The hardest parts of growing with DWC hydro systems
Most of the problems with recirculating DWC systems come down to human error. This is why we encourage beginner growers to start with soil. However, if you use a thermometer/hygrometer and a pH pen, it is easy to prevent many of the issues that arise with this style of growing!
Dosing nutrients correctly is also very important as there is no buffer (like with soil), and thus mistakes made with feeding are magnified. For large commercial DWC systems, it usually makes more sense to just use a nutrient and pH dosers. These help maintain optimal conditions in your water culture system and prevent human error. On that note, let's quickly discuss hydro nutrients.
Feeding nutrients in a DWC hydroponics system
You can't feed the same nutrients you feed to your soil plants when using a DWC system. In general, hydroponic systems require specific hydroponic nutrients. This will prevent any clogs in your system, and keep everything running smoothly. We'll discuss it more in-depth below, but you'll need to change the nutrient solution every so often. Your nutrient schedule will likely tell you the specifications for this.
Choosing the right DWC hydroponic system
Determining which DWC system is best for you will depend on your budget, your growing space, and how many plants you want to grow. A simple 5 gallon growth module is great for hobby growers looking to get started with DWC hydroponics. If you want to grow huge, high yielding plants, however, larger growth modules like the 35 gallon growth module will allow for bigger plants.
Single vs Modular DWC systems
DWC systems can be broken down into two categories - single and modular. A single system is exactly what it sounds like - just one growth module that houses one plant. These are great for hobby growers, because you can just focus your efforts on one plant.
There are also modular systems, which are several growth modules connected to a central reservoir. These are considered "active" systems, because the water/nutrient solution is transported from the central reservoir to the individual growth modules.
Also consider how many plants you want to grow. If you are planning on growing in a small grow tent or spare bedroom indoors, 1-10 plants is probably plenty. If you are outfitting a commercial greenhouse or warehouse, larger systems that can house 30-40 plants will be a more efficient use of space.
Hobby growers with a smaller budget can see huge yields with just a simple 5-gallon bucket system, like one of these ones from Active Aqua. You can get an incredible DWC hydroponic system for 8 plants for under $200!
What is the best DWC system?
We recently put together a guide on the best hydroponic systems of this year. Without a doubt, the Current Culture Under Current systems are the best DWC systems money can buy. These systems have long been the gold standard when it comes to deep water culture, and they really do offer a system for every grower, including:
- Solo Systems
- Standard Systems
- Evolution Systems
- Double Barrel Systems
- Pro Systems
- Boneless Systems
At the end of the day, all of the DWC systems we carry here at Hydrobuiler are awesome, and will help you get huge yields whether you're new or experienced. But if you are a serious grower looking for the best of the best, stick with Current Culture Under Current systems.
Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponics Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some of the most common questions we get regarding deep water culture hydroponics. If you still have questions after reading all this, give us a call or send us an email and we'll get back to you asap!
How often should I change water in a DWC system?
Depending on the nutrient solution you are using, it is recommended to change the water in your system at least once every other week (14 days) during veg. This prevents any contaminants from taking over the system.
During flowering, you will want to change the water every week (7 days). During this stage, your plants have increased nutritional needs, so to push out as much bud development as possible, stay on top of this.
Plus, if you do not change the water in the reservoir regularly, your plants will show signs of stress.
What should water temperature be for DWC hydroponics?
The temperature of your reservoir water is very important in deep water culture hydroponics. Too low, and the plant will think its time to go to sleep and will stop growing. Too high, and the dissolved oxygen levels will drop, preventing the plant from absorbing nutrients.
To keep your plants healthy, maintain a water temp between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a climate where temperatures can reach extreme highs or lows, hydroponic water chillers and heaters will help keep your system in the optimal temperature range.
How much of the plant should be submerged in the DWC system?
The only part of your plant that should be exposed to the nutrient solution is the root zone itself. You don't want to be soaking the main stem or any leaves in this, as it can burn them or lead to issues with mold or fungus.
If you are using a grow media that wicks, such as rockwool, it's a good idea to keep these at least an inch above the water line in your growth module, so it doesn't drown your actual plant. This may mean you need to hand feed for a few days until your roots grow deeper into the module.
If you want to learn more about hydro, visit our learning center! Our Hydroponics 101 guide will help you understand this style of growing better, and show you what other types of hydroponics systems! We also have an article discussing the differences between areoponics and hydroponics, because these do vary slightly.
As always, our experienced growers are waiting to help you! Give us a call at 888-815-9763!