The hydroponics system is an efficient and sustainable way to grow plants. Compared to a traditional soil garden of the same size, a hydroponics system can grow a larger number of crops. In addition, hydroponics also utilizes a considerably lower amount of water.
The oldest and most common hydroponics method is the DWC (Deep Water Culture System), which has been around for more than 60 years. This system has been extremely successful at growing fruits and vegetables on large scales.
A crucial element of the dwc system is the bucket and its size. While determining the hydroponics bucket size, it is essential to consider the number and types of plants that will be grown inside it, as well as the width and height requirements for these plants.
What are the Best Hydroponics Bucket Sizes?
Commonly, hydroponics systems use 10-gallon or 5-gallon buckets. This might seem like too much space, but there are ways in which you can optimize your hydroponics bucket use, regardless of the size.
The types and numbers of plants that your hydroponics system can support will depend on the size of the bucket. Melons, tomatoes, and cucumbers are large plants that need a lot of room to grow well.
Does Bucket Size Matter in Hydroponics
Yes, the size of the bucket is very important in hydroponics and is generally determined by the types of plants that you want to grow and in what quantities.
If you want to grow smaller plants like strawberries or lettuce, you can use a smaller hydroponics bucket. This is because these plants do not require a lot of room to develop their roots. Lettuce, in particular, has quite shallow roots, which is why a small container containing a handful of air stones at the base, is sufficient to support the plant.
You can also use a smaller container for strawberries since the plant will develop runners that extend downwards to the root zones. These runners can be aerated through air stones placed at the bottom of the hydroponics bucket.
How Do You Make a Hydroponic 5-Gallon Bucket?
The first step is the air system assembly. Take the air hose and cut off around two to three inches, and connect this cut-off piece to the air pump. Towards the opposite end of the air hose, you will need to connect your check valve. This connection needs to be made in a certain way to make sure that the air passes through this valve. Generally, an air valve will have arrows pointing you towards the airflow direction.
Use the remaining part of the air hose and cut a portion that is long enough to pass through the check valve and reach the base of your 5-gallon hydroponics bucket. Naturally, this length will depend upon the amount of distance that you want to maintain between the pump and the hydroponics bucket. Just remember that the longer the air hose is, the poorer the performance of the pump is likely to be.
At this point, you are ready to set up the net pot lid for your hydroponics bucket. One thing to consider before time is that if you decide to put the air stones into the bucket and place the pot at the top, your lid will have to be placed on the hose. Initially, this will work fine. However, once your plants become bigger and heavier, the extra weight might pinch your hose and lower the airflow. To remedy this, you can do one of the below two things:
- Create a tiny hose in your bucket lid – the hose should just be large enough for the air hose to fit from the top.
- Create a notch towards the top of your hydroponic bucket.
Once you have executed one of the above options, you need to connect your air stones with the air hose.
Once you have prepared your air system, the final step is to start adding the growing medium into your net pot. Once the plant is ready, you can go ahead with this step. At this point, the only thing remaining is to add the water and mix the nutrient solution.
How Much Space is Required for a DWC Hydroponics Bucket System?
For roots suspended in the air, the ideal height for a hydroponic bucket system is approximately 18 inches. However, there are a number of factors that determine the exact size:
- Water temperature: The right temperature is crucial for the health of your plants.
- Plant quantity: The number of plants that you are growing in your hydroponics system.
- Size: Will you be using larger buckets or smaller ones?
Pot Sizes for the Most Common Hydroponics Plants:
Peppers come in two types. Bell peppers can grow quite larger and will need a great deal of space for their roots to freely spread out. If you plan to grow bell peppers, you will need 30-gallon buckets for your system. The other type of peppers, called chilli or hot peppers, do not turn as large as their bell counterparts, but will still need approximately 15- to 25-gallon buckets.
Tomatoes, in most cases, are determinate – meaning that they stop growing after reaching a certain height. Besides, all tomato plants produce the fruits at approximately the same time and, therefore, need not be grown beyond, say, 16-18 inches tall.
In addition to that, the roots of a tomato plant do not spread out far. Generally, a 20-gallon bucket is often good enough for hydroponics farmers wanting to grow tomatoes.
Potatoes are root vegetables and require a lot of space for the roots. This makes potatoes one of the hardest vegetables to grow through hydroponics farming. Sometimes, you just might be able to manage with a 25-gallon hydroponics bucket. An important thing to consider is the reservoir size and stability – the larger and more stable the reservoir is, the less likely it is to fall over as a result of water spills or the weight of the plant.
As we mentioned earlier, lettuce and strawberries (which we will be discussing next) are two of the easiest plants to grow hydroponically. Lettuce is often the go-to option for newbie hydroponics farmers. This is because the plant does not have high nutritional demands, and will generally not need more than 20 gallons of water. Another advantage of lettuce is that the growing period is fairly small, and they are ready for harvest quite quickly.
Strawberries are best suited for an ebb and flow hydroponics system, but even then, it will not need copious amounts of space. A 12- to 15-gallon hydroponics bucket should do just fine for this crop.
Cucumbers are another crop that thrives in an ebb and flow system and needs around 20 gallons of water. So, if you plan to use a dwc system, it is best to ignore cucumbers (and maybe even strawberries).
How Big Should a Hydroponics Reservoir Be?
It is hard to give a precise answer to this question since the ideal hydroponics reservoir size depends upon the hydroponics system it will be used for.
Other than that, different kinds of plants need different quantities of water. This means that a reservoir size that works well with certain types of plants might not be suitable for other types.
Once you know the method and system that you are going to employ, it becomes considerably easier to determine the right hydroponics reservoir size.
Net Pots v/s Buckets:
Net pots are used for hydroponic plants when the plant roots are directly immersed in the water. This method is also called the ‘flood and drain’ or ‘ebb and flow method, meaning that nutrient-rich water floods down towards the net pots before being drained to make space for additional nutrients.
Buckets, meanwhile, are used in the Deep Water Culture (DWC) hydroponics system. In this system, the plant roots are not submerged in the water but are instead surrounded by air rich in oxygen.
The buckets also serve as reservoirs, holding the nutritious solution that is pumped upwards before being trickled down over the entire root zone for aeration.
As far as hydroponics buckets go, there is no perfect size; the right size will depend upon the particular hydroponics system that you plan to use.
The bucket dimensions will only be considered once the system has been planned, which means that you do not need to worry about it until the following things have been sorted out:
- The system you will use (depending upon the system, you might need a bucket or a net pot)
- The amount of space required for your chosen system
- The number and types of plants that you will grow
- The environment (outdoors or indoors; the kind of environment that you opt for will determine the oxygen and temperature levels)