DIY General Hydroponics Drip System
Author: Jared Bouck
Est Construction Time: 1 Hr
Required Skill Level: Basic hand tool Skills
One thing that kind of pissed me off in my hydroponic research early on was the number of people that are taking advantage of unaware growers and people just starting into the hydroponic world. go to bay or amazon.com and you will be amazed at the number of people selling a bucket and a cheap aquarium pump for crazy prices. this being said I took matters into my own hands and created this how to article demonstrating how to use high quality general hydroponics equipment to create a quality high performance low maintained drip style hydroponic system for the home experimenter and enthusiast
For this project we need to have a fluid reservoir to hold our nutrients. We picked these 5 gallon buckets up at our local home improvement store for about 3.00 each. One thing to really be aware of is the color of the bucket you chose. white or transparent buckets that allow for light to penetrate will cause problems for the roots. and ultimately sad roots make a sad plant. Look for a bucket that is dark and doesn’t let any light in. Make sure that you get a lid for it.
A Lid for the Bucket
For this project we will need a lid on our bucket. Pictured here is our bucket with a hole cut in it. it is important that the lid is sturdy and not to flexible. as the surface heats up we don’t want it to warp with the weight of the plant in it. Remember as with the bucket we don’t want light to penetrate and cause problems for the roots. Look for a lid that is dark and doesn’t let any light in.
Here we have a 6″ net pot. We picked these up on eBay for about 1.00 each. You can always go larger with your net pots, but remember it will need more resources to fill it up. Also look for a net pot with a large lip on the top. Pots with a minimal lip can fall in if your lid deforms because you didn’t read the description of the part above this one and just grabbed some crap off the shelf thinking it would be good enough.
The Pump Kit
Here we have the general hydroponics drip system kit. These are usually intended to be sold to refurbish older equipment. But the kit is so nice and complete we would be a bit foolish not to use their product research and development teams dollars to make our project more reliable. These are available on their site, eBay and Amazon for about 12.00
I just wanted to include a better picture here about what is included in the drip system kit. Up top we have our feeder hose connected into a T fitting and some hose. Below that we have our pump chamber. The pump works by bubbling air up the tube and pushing water along with it to exit out our drip holes. Below this we have our drain/water level gauge. and our fill / air tube to insure no stagnate air is chilling in the tank pissing off our roots. Oh, and some other fittings.
Step one is to cut the hole in the lid if you haven’t done so already. Seat the net pot in the hole. it should be snug and not move or jiggle around. If you can push a bit on it and have it not pop through your likely in good shape. If it does pop through then you’re an idiot and need to get another lid and try again.
Next up we will install our fill tube. Using a sharpie mark the hole you will make in the lid on the outer edge of the bucket.
With the hole cut make sure that it has a snug fit and install it in the tank.
Next using a razor, cut the drip tube to the desired length so it fits in the net pot. One tip is that I used a 6″ pot. Use a 8″ pot and it makes this part a bit easier.
To make way for the pumping column we need to slightly modify the net pot bottom. I just snipped a couple of the bottom supports to make a hole for the tube.
Next install the tube into the pot. Note the outer edge. Don’t be a dummy and install it in the center.
The final modification we need to make is to the bottom of the bucket. Yep we need to drill a hole in the bottom of the bucket. When you do this make sure you take your time and think it through. a loose fitting here will result in leaks, mess and problems with your nutrient. Once you have your hole, install the grommet into it.
Here we can see the barbed fitting on the drain / level tube. It’s a tight fit!
Finally the tube is seated all the way in and fully installed.
With the drain / level tube installed we now install the retainer clip in the top of the bucket. my bucket has a second lip around it that I was able to drill into to insert the clip without creating a hole in the inside of the bucket. this is important in case you decide to do a DWC setup with this level tube.
Finally all the parts are coming together. Note we have not added our hydroton yet.
Test one. I added about 3 inches of water to the bottom of the system. As it turned out while it worked it underwhelmed to say the least.
Test 2. With 6 inches of water it exceeded my expectations. So the level of water determines the amount of force it tries to refill the pump pipe with. 6″ seemed ideal. Now with 100% more hydroton.
With the system running we now add our little seedling in the Rockwool cube we have nursed along to this point. We also have taken the time to add our nutrients and balance our PH in our system to 6.3 for our tomatoes to utilize our nutrients to its maximum potential. You can find more information on feeding schedules and amounts here.
Here we have our tomatoes in our grow room. We can see our grow light providing its loving lux to our little plant. oh and is that the company we purchased the bucket from there to… tisk tisk on the photographer.
I will be watching this setup closely over the next few weeks and making regular postings in our blog on our progress.
So now we are showing off. Some up close pics of our general hydroponics DIY drip bucket system. We hope you try this yourself. It is a cheap and fun experiment and a good project for the science fair kiddies.