Growing hydroponic plants can be exciting for a beginner as you are growing plants without soil. When researching hydroponics, there are numerous ways to set up a hydroponic system that does not use soil to grow plants. At first, it can be overwhelming to look at the different hydroponic systems, equipment, and solutions. So do we need air pumps for hydroponic systems?
Air pumps are required for some hydroponic systems where most of the plant’s roots are submerged in water. However, hydroponic systems that expose more roots, such as the Kratky method or aeroponics, do not need an air pump to grow the plants.
We all know that oxygen is extremely important to plants. What you may not know is that oxygen is just as important to roots as it is to leaves. The roots of your plants will need to be exposed to oxygen regularly or they will drown. But not all hydroponic systems need an air pump – in fact, most don’t. The reason for air pumps in hydroponics is that plants need oxygen to survive and grow. The green parts of plants can extract oxygen from the air because the plant produces more oxygen through photosynthesis. However, the roots of the plant need oxygen through the soil or water. This is where air pumps can help supply the water with oxygen; otherwise, the plant will drown.
Let’s take a look at wick hydroponics systems and hydroponic systems that do not require air pumps, but rely on plant roots to absorb oxygen from the air and hydroponic systems that require an air pump to supply oxygen to the water.
Hydroponic systems that do not require an air pump
Most hydroponic systems use methods that allow oxygen to reach the plant’s root system without using an air pump.
Ebb and flow
Ebb and flow, also known as Flood and Drain, is where plants sit in a large container filled with growing medium. The tray is periodically flooded so that the plants can be watered and then the tray is emptied so that the plants can get the oxygen they need from the air.
This system requires a water pump to push the water from the water tank into the grow tray above. Usually, the water pump will flood the basin and the water will slowly flow into the water reservoir underneath. The time between floods is when the roots can take in oxygen.
Vertical hydroponic systems
In vertical hydroponic systems plants are suspended in the air, giving them all the oxygen they need. The nutrient solution is then dripped through the top of the rail or tube that falls on the roots of all the plants on the way down.
Aeroponic systems suspend the plants in the air and the nutrient solution is sprayed from below to the roots and then falls back into the reservoir.
Kratky hydroponic systems are passive systems in which the plant does all the work. A reservoir is filled with a nutrient solution with the roots of the plant-touching the top. As the plant absorbs the nutrient solution, the level in the reservoir drops, and the roots of the plant grow a little more. As this continues, the “air gap” grows, providing the roots of the plant with the necessary oxygen.
Nutrient film technique (also known as NFT)
Nutrient film technique (NFT) hydroponic systems are installed with plants in channels through which the nutrient solution passes. The nutrient solution does not fill the channel but flows to the bottom so that the nutrients flow to the bottom of the plant’s root system. The space between the top of the channel and the nutrient solution at the bottom provides the oxygen that plant roots need to breathe.
As with Aeroponics and Ebb and Flow, the water pump in NFT has to pump the water from the water reservoir to the different water channels.
Below are the other commonly used hydroponic systems for growing plants that do not require an air pump.
All of these methods depend on whether the roots are partially exposed to air or how often the roots are submerged in water.
Some hydroponic systems still need water pumps, some don’t. So we’ll divide the remaining hydroponic systems into those that need electricity or water pumps but not air pumps.
Keep in mind that if you are growing indoors you will likely need to grow lights so you will need electricity. However, if you grow your plants outdoors or on windowsills, you can avoid using electricity with some of the following hydroponic systems.
Hydroponic systems using water pumps but not air pumps
In aeroponics, the roots of the plant are suspended in the air, but there are misters or sprayers that spray the roots regularly to keep them moist. This method is often considered the most complex, as it is the method NASA uses to grow plants in space.
Water pumps are required to pump the water from the lower water reservoir through the tower to the nozzles. Aeroponics can also be more horizontal, but the concept is the same. Water pumps are supposed to pump water to nozzles so that the roots of the plant can be sprayed or watered for a while. The roots of the plant are generally sprayed every few minutes in an aeroponic system to keep the roots moist. Otherwise, if the roots dry out, these plants will be damaged or die.
Hydroponic systems that do not use electricity
The following hydroponic systems do not require a water or air pump. This means that these hydroponic systems do not require electricity unless your setup has a grow light.
These two systems are great for beginners as the cost is lower to start. Not to mention, these systems are relatively practical, meaning you just need to set them up correctly for your plants to thrive.
The Kratky method, also known as the set it and forget it method, is similar to the DWC, where the plant sits on top of a reservoir of water. Unlike the DWC, you cannot leave your plants in a Styrofoam raft using the Kratky method.
Instead, the plants should sit on a lid, such as the lid of a bucket, so that the roots are exposed to the air when the water level drops. This is how plants get their oxygen as they mature.
For example – the Kratky system in glass jars does not use electricity to grow leafy greens. In fact, plants can grow for harvest without any maintenance, as long as the water reservoir is large enough.
Hydroponic systems requiring air pumps
Any hydroponic system where the roots of the plant are completely submerged in water needs an air pump. Water needs oxygen so that the roots can absorb oxygen and not drown.
Deep water culture
Deep water c ulture is the most common hydroponic system that requires an air stone. The plants generally grow in a floating polystyrene raft or in a container where the water is filled up to the roots. In these systems, the roots will drown if the water is not oxygenated.
If there are other hydroponic systems where the roots are completely submerged in water, an air pump is required.
Aquaponics is a special form of hydroponics because you not only grow plants but also fish. You can imagine needing air pumps to help fish survive, and plants certainly don’t mind having hydrogen peroxide either. For example an air pump will help supplies oxygen to the water for the fish to survive. The water is then pumped into the nursery tray, where it overflows or waters the plants and returns to the water reservoir.
Aquaponic systems can be less complex when the plant breeding tank is built over an aquarium. This means that the roots of the plant will grow in the water where the fish are. In this example, the water is aerated by means of an air pump or by means of a waterfall so that the roots of the plant do not drown.
What is Wick System Hydroponics?
In thе world оf hydroponics, hydroponics wіth wісk ѕуѕtеmѕ іѕ definitely thе ѕіmрlеѕt аnd easiest іn bоth form аnd function. As you will see, these systems only require four components and you can easily build a system that works with everyday household items for those of you who are a fan of reuse and recycling. The hardest part is probably choosing what to wear for your wicks, and that’s only because there are so many materials to choose from.
Wick System Hydroponics
The wick hydroponic system is the simplest of the six types of hydroponic system designs. The name refers to the fact that these systems take advantage of the wick’s action to nourish the roots of the plants with a water-based nutrient solution.
Every hydroponic wick system consists of four basic components:
- Growing medium
- Culture glass (Containers)
- Tank or reservoir with nutrient solution
The grow tray is placed a short distance above the reservoir and wicks are placed to remove the nutrient solution from the reservoir and deliver it to the growing medium, which in turn absorbs it and makes it available to the roots of the plants.
How Wick System Hydroponics works
In a hydroponic storage system, the capillary action is what carries the nutrient solution to the root zone of the plants. Capillary action is the mechanism by which sponges and paper towels draw liquid from a surface. If you have ever gotten up from a park bench or patio chair and found your butt wet, well, you have fallen victim to capillary action in your garment work. It is also the way a candle attracts wax or the wick of an oil lamp attracts its fuel to where the flame is. That’s why we also use the term wicking to describe the same phenomenon.
Hydroponics of the wick system is a passive form of hydroponics, which means that the system works without the need for motors, pumps, or moving parts. However, this does not mean that you cannot use any type of machine. Rather, it only describes the basic operation of the system. In fact, these simpler hydroponic systems often include a pump to aerate the nutrient solution, but the system does not have to be running. Capillary action automatically transports the liquid to the roots.
Why choose a hydroponic wick system?
One of the main reasons for choosing the wick hydroponic system is because it is the most environmentally friendly hydroponic system. If you’re in a place where your plants get a lot of natural light, you don’t need electricity to grow plants. You can choose to use recycled and renewable materials for all components of your system. And hydroponic wick systems use less water and nutrients than others.
The other major reason people choose wick hydroponics is its elegant simplicity. It’s a great beginner project for anyone just getting started with hydroponics. You can design a configuration that is very rudimentary and the system relatively maintenance-free; all you need to do is fill the reservoir with the nutrient solution as needed and flush the system regularly.
With leaf hydroponics, you don’t need specialized equipment. For a super simple system, you can use a few buckets for your containers. Or there is a great way to turn a 2-liter plastic bottle into a small wicker pot. As for the wicks, any absorbent material will make a thread, twine, thread, or even strips cut from old clothing. Likewise, you don’t need very specialized knowledge to be successful with wick hydroponics, and what you do need to know you can learn here!
Which plants is hydroponics best suited for with the Wick system?
These systems are best suited for growing smaller, fruitless plants such as herbs and lettuce. They are also excellent for sowing seeds and cuttings. The reason is that wick is a relatively slow way to move small volume liquids, and these types of plants don’t require much compared to other types.
Hydroponic wick systems are often used in addition to other growing systems that can support larger plant growth. They are popular as garden lettuce and winter herb. And they can be used year-round to grow plants elsewhere.
How do I build a hydroponic wick system?
To build a hydroponic storage system, you only need the four components listed above. In this section, we will discuss each of these fundamental components.
1. Choosing a grow tray or container for hydroponics with the Wick system
This can be anything from a regular bucket or plastic container to a custom grow tray. It contains the plants and the growing medium, which can all stand together in the propagator or separately in separate containers. You will need to cut small slots or holes in the bottom of your container for the fuses to pass.
When designing this part of your system, keep in mind that you will need to rinse the growing medium regularly, so make sure you have your grow box setup so you can do this easily.
2. Tank with nutrient solution
In order to discourage algae and other microbes, your reservoir should be a light-blocking container, although you don’t need a lid as the wicks suspended from the grow tray. The reservoir should be placed as close to the culture container as possible so that the wicks can deliver the solution to the growing medium in the most efficient way. You will need to refill the solution regularly and thoroughly clean it occasionally, so it is best to position the tank so that it is not difficult to access.
You can install an aquarium pump or air stone to aerate the nutrient solution and ensure that the plant’s roots are fully oxygenated, although this is not necessary. The extra oxygen in the liquid stimulates the roots to absorb more nutrients and makes the plants grow faster.
3. The growing medium
For wick hydroponics, it is essential to use a growing medium that absorbs and retains moisture well, because this is where the plants get all their water and nutrients. The most popular growing media for wick systems are coco coir chips, perlite, and vermiculite, as their lightweight structure absorbs water well and keeps the root zone moist while providing the roots with sufficient oxygen. Growing stones is another great option as they have excellent absorbency. As with any hydroponic system, you want the plants to have adequate humidity, but you also need to make sure that they are getting a good supply of oxygen.
4. The Wicks
The wicks can be in the form of a rope, thread, twine, or strips of fabric. The material can be anything from cotton, wool, and felt to nylon, polyurethane, and other synthetic fabrics. Popular items used for wicks include tiki torch wicks, microfiber cloths, terry towels, and felt strips. You may want to experiment with different options to determine which one works best with the growing medium you are using before you start growing your plants. Also, the material can be washed well before use to improve absorbency.
While you can use just about any absorbent material, it is best to use something that is durable and rot-resistant if you plan on using your system for a long time. One of the best things to use is a fiberglass wick that comes in rolls or coils and is designed for oil lamps and candles, although garden centers sometimes have them.
The number of wicks you use will depend on the design of your system, the growing medium you are using, the number of plants you are growing, and what kind of plants they are. As a general rule of thumb, unless your plant is small, plan to use at least two wicks per plant.
What Are The Hydroponics Benefits Of The Wick System?
The main benefits of wick hydroponics are that it is easy to build and maintain. Whether you keep it small or expand it, you can do this by up-cycling or recycling common household items and materials. And once you get it up and running, you can enjoy low-maintenance gardening all year round.
Another big advantage is that it does not require electricity. This allows a hydroponic wick system to be installed where electricity is not available, and also makes it even more sustainable by not using electricity for artificial lighting.
Speaking of sustainability, wick hydroponics is very efficient at using water. The system is self-regulating because the supply of the water-based solution depends on the consumption of the solution by the plants themselves.
Hydroponic wick systems also use less water and nutrients than other grow systems, due to the type of plants they support.
What are the disadvantages of hydroponics in the stocking system?
There is a major drawback to system hydroponics – you are quite limited in the plants you can grow, due to the slow rate at which the nutrient solution is released. Plants that are larger and bear fruit are thirstier for water and nutrients to support their growth and are therefore not suitable for these growing systems.
Another drawback to wick hydroponics is that the growing medium is prone to the accumulation of toxic nutrients over time. However, rinsing it with fresh water for a week or two can easily prevent this problem.
We all know oxygen is very important, especially in hydroponics, before determining if your hydroponic system needs an air pump, it is important to know that it is never a bad idea to supply oxygen to your nutrient solution. Air pumps not only add oxygen to the water but also keep it moving, preventing it from stagnating. If you are a beginner this is almost always the recommended system for your first growing experience. Besides the Kratky method, wick systems are the simplest form of hydroponics and also the least expensive. It also works well with less demanding plants such as herbs or lettuce.