do it yourself hyroponics
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Getting Started

There are various resources here that will help you in building your own ebb and flow hydroponics system. An excellent set of instructions is linked at the bottom of this article. Be sure to check out the related videos for more insights.

If you wish to save time you may choose to purchase a kit. There are many such kits available. Here are a few that you may want to check out:


Ebb and Flow Hydroponics

Ebb and flow hydroponics systems are very popular due to their simplicity. They are  also reliable and low in cost to build. In an ebb and flow hydroponics system, inert growing medium in pots or buckets is used to provide a solid anchoring for roots. Nutrient rich hydroponic solution floods the system and then is allowed to drain away in a continuous cycle. Hence the terminology “ebb and flow”.

ebb and flow hydroponicsContainers such as buckets, pots or tubs provide a growing bed. The bed is filled with a rooting medium such as coarse sand or gravel. The bed is then flooded with nutrient solution pumped from a holding tank. Beds are flooded in intervals of short duration. The flooding interval usually lasts five to ten minutes. The solution is then allowed to “ebb” or drain back to the tank by gravity.

In more complex hydroponic systems, aereated and fertilized water provide nutrition and oxygen to the roots of plants. The automated processes required are often difficult to set up and maintain for the average do it yourselfer. Nutrient solutions must be cooled to a temperature that will supress the growth of harmful pathogens. Aereation also produces an oxygen rich environment that encourages the growth of bacteria and mold.

Ebb and flow systems solve these problems for the hobbyist. Due to the fact that the nutrient solution does not remain in constant contact with the roots, the need for aereation and cooling is eliminated. Oxygenation is accomplished passively which in turn supresses the growth of harmful microbes.

 Advantages of Ebb and Flow Hydroponics

Simplicity: There is only one path for the nutrient solution. The ebb and flow process uses only a single tube. Nutrient Solution is pumped to the root bed until the water reaches a level that will submerge the roots. When the desired level is reached a switch, often a timer turns off the pump. Gravity then allows the solution to flow back into the holding tank. This single path reduces the sealed fittings required and greatly reduces the complexity of the system.

Low Cost: Water tight containers suitable for growing beds can be found anywhere in hardware and home improvement stores. You may even have some at home taking up space that can be re-purposed for your garden. Since the time required to flood the root beds is not a critical factor, pumps can be smaller reducing cost. No extra equipment is needed for drainage as gravity supplies the power.

Pathogen Suppression: Continuous ebb and flow displaces oxygen depleted air around the root structures replacing it with fresh air. The high oxygen content and increased surface area of water film left on the root structures during the “ebb” cycle suppress the growth of many harmful pathogens. In more complex systems these pathogens must be suppressed by cooling to prevent “root rot”. There is no need for additional oxygenation devices such as air pumps in the ebb and flow process. This further cuts down on cost and complexity.

Quiet with Lower Power Consumption: Smaller pumps and the lack of supplemental oxygenation equipment lead to quieter and lower power consuming systems. This a great benefit for a garden in a dorm room or small apartment.

Some Potential Weaknesses to Consider

Labor intensive: The proper maintenance of growing mediums can be time consuming. Remember that ebb and flow hydroponics systems are closed loop systems. Growing mediums must be washed and sterilized between uses. This is most often accomplished using hydrogen peroxide or chlorine solutions. Plant material must be removed from mediums by hand before reuse.

PH Fluctuation: Nutrient solution is recycled in a closed loop from the storage tank. Over time this can lead to ph fluctuations outside the healthy range for plants. This can lead to problems such as poor nutrient absorption and cannibalization. Ph must be monitored carefully and nutrient solutions replaced to maintain healthy growing.

Root Consolidation: Roots of plants grown in these systems often grow together forming one mass. This can present problems when attempting to remove damaged or harvested plants. This can also lead to difficulty in controlling disease.

Inadequate Drainage: Care must be taken to insure adequate drainage is maintained. Large root masses can trap stagnant water leading to root rot. Proper sizing of rooting mediums and containers for the plant varieties grown is critical to avoiding drainage issue from the start. Modifications may be needed as the plants mature to insure adequate drainage.

Don’t Forget the Lights!

No indoor hydroponic system is complete without lights. Though outside the scope of this article, a brief mention of lighting is warranted.

There are many options to choose from. It can be confusing for someone just getting started. From Flourescent and High intensity discharge to LEDs, careful research will save you time and disappointment. Not to worry, we have gathered together plenty of great videos on grow lights as well.

Here is a good video to get you started:

Ebb and Flow Hydroponics Links

Ebb and Flow hydroponics – Wikipedia

Simple Ebb and Flow Hydroponics System Plans – Instrucables


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19 Responses to “Ebb and Flow Hydroponics System – Build your own”

  1. normloman says:

    Awesome video. Very easy to understand, and nice music too. I’m in the
    process of building a system right now, and this gives me a lot of
    inspiration. I especially like the idea of using matching size storage
    containers so they fit inside eachother.

  2. ian holland says:

    exellent video …..easy system aswell thanks a lot really helped me out

  3. BroncoBill321 says:

    Thanx man

  4. FenderGibsonWashburn says:

    @s9srider Nope. The hydroponic solution is in the upper container for only
    15 minutes every 3 or 4 hours. The rest of the time it’s held in the
    reservoir till the next cycle.

  5. ian holland says:

    exellent video …..easy system aswell thanks a lot really helped me out

  6. FenderGibsonWashburn says:

    Personally I’ve used Hydroton, Pea Gravel, Volcanic Rock and STG. I
    prefer Hydroton. I’ve built systems using E&F, Top Drip, Sub-Aeration
    (Bubbleponic), The cool thing is they all work really well. No need to
    limit yourself to one type of system.

  7. FenderGibsonWashburn says:

    @evans27ful Look up other Ebb and Flow systems and you will see the plants
    have some material to grow in. A google search for “hydroponic grow
    medium”. This medium can be in grow pots or placed directly in the flood
    table. There is no one correct answer for run times. There are a lot of
    factors involved, size, age and number of the plants, temperature,
    humidity, type and intensity of lighting. Start with 15 minutes on every 4
    hours and adjust from there. Your welcome, have fun. 🙂

  8. nilknarf420 says:

    @KevinKaya No plants roots breath oxygen. The leaves breath Co2. Oxygen is
    very important in your nutrient solution in a hydroponics system.

  9. initialsareAK47 says:

    Very helpfull video, i have a question Do you keep the pump on the whole
    time? or do you want it only for a certain period of time. i will buy a
    timer but only if neccery. i do not want to manually turn off and onn the
    oump. thx

  10. jonathan arent says:

    how often does it flood and for how long??

  11. Kevin Kaya says:

    @FenderGibsonWashburn Roots need oxygen? I never knew that, you learn
    something new everyday 🙂 Although yeah “Air Enriched” should be the term
    used as air is the generic word used to describe the different gases around
    us such as N2, O2, Ar, CO2, NE, CH4 etc. .. right? 😛

  12. steveeb1269 says:

    i have been building flood and drain system for years, without fail. but i
    thought i just check out your channel. very good info, for anyone not
    familar with this method of hydroponics, peace and happiness.

  13. FenderGibsonWashburn says:

    @rastamanbobby Answer to #1. There are two ways I did it. 1. I bought a
    fluid hand pump. You can get them for around $10 in the automotive section
    in any Walmart type store. Put the suction side down the overflow tube and
    pump it out. 2. Later I added a fluid level/drain tube. I show installing
    one in this video /watch?v=105e3eALKPs Answer to #2. Change the nutes every
    two weeks at least. Only add half strength or plain water between changes.
    You add it into the flood table. 🙂

  14. Michael steffens says:

    No a Water pump stops organisms growing by the movement of the water- an
    Air pump Helps these organisms and fungi grow as they obtain more oxygen
    (needed by all things to grow) thats why you need a Water pump to help the
    water flow- to stop growth and increase the amount of air going to the root
    system and nutrient base and an oxygen pump in general is a great idea- The
    more oxygen your plants get the healthier they will be in a general.

  15. MrMastermike1 says:

    verry informative and simple thanks

  16. AJ Burnham says:

    Hello sir, Im curious what the nute change out process is like? Do you have
    to shopvac it dry every change? what do you do when the plants are large
    and have to move the table to extract the old nutes and add more.

  17. Kevin Kaya says:

    When you say Oxygen enriched, don’t you mean CO2 enriched? or? 😛

  18. carpetmandan1 says:

    nice simple video. really helped

  19. Greg Binkard says:

    Wow you did a fantastic job producing this video! It’s very easy to
    understand, well animated, well scripted, good ‘learning’ music, you even
    have a great radio voice! Keep it up. 

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