How To Build Your Own Deep Water Culture

Building your own deep water culture (DWC) setup is super easy.

For less than twenty bucks you can be on your way to explosive growth and heavy yields, indoors or outdoors.  So what are you waiting for?

Basic Materials:

  • A bucket with a lid- You can remove the handle if you want to. Be green and recycle those kitty litter pails!
  • Small aquarium pump – Look around. You might already have one from that old fish tank you gave up on!
  • An airline to go with that pump – Its length will depend on how far away from your pump will be and how powerful it is.
  • An air stone – The cheap ones are fine.
  • Small planting container – Here’s the variation. You can get as creative as you want by modifying a plastic cup, an old planter, or a commercially available net pot from a hydroponics retailer.  We’ll show you some examples later in this article.
  • A support medium – preferably expanded clay pellets aka hydroton, or some other neutral mediums to weigh down the planter and provide initial stem support.
  • Light inhibitor for the container e.g. foil, spray paint, etc.
  • Basic tools e.g. razor knife, marking pen, etc.
  • Nutrients for vegetative and/or bloom growth


Make sure the bucket you choose has a snug-fitting lid and is cleaned well.  As a general rule, avoid using containers that once held anything you wouldn’t want to handle with your bare hands e.g. chemicals, etc.  Probably common sense, but you never know.  Many plants are sensitive to residual chemicals including those you may use to clean the container (bleaches etc.)  For this container that previously contained cat litter, we simply washed it well with hot soapy water and rinsed it thoroughly.


You will need to modify the lid of the container to support the planter you have chosen.  In this case, we are using a small net pot.  Trace out a circle smaller than the flange of your planter so it will hang level in the container.  Our container of choice has a thin wall top, so we carefully score the mark with the razor knife and remove the unwanted portions by making “pie” slices all the way through then snapping them off.

This way the material won’t tear.  Check the fit of your planter and trim the top as necessary.


Drill bore or melt a hole to allow the airline to enter the top lip of the container or the lid itself.  The location really depends on how you will handle your plant in the event you need to change solutions/containers etc.  It’s really about personal preference.  In this case, we chose the top lip of the container.


This is probably one of the most critical steps.  You will need to light-proof your container for a couple of reasons.  First, roots don’t like a light.  In fact, it can kill them or stop their growth.  Second, if you allow light to enter your container full of the nutrient-rich solution you risk the growth of algae and other undesirables that can coat roots and prevent them from receiving the necessary oxygen.

An easy way to light-proof the container is to simply wrap it in foil a couple of times or paint the container black.  If you choose the latter option and you are growing outdoors or under high wattage HID lighting indoors, you will want to either repaint again with white or wrap in foil anyway to minimize the warming of your solution.  For more on nutrient solutions and temperatures click here.


Insert your airline and apply your air stone.

It is imperative that your solution stays as oxygenated as possible to ensure proper root health and development.  The other end will be attached to your pump.


Prepare your solution and add it to the container and fire up your pump.  Prepare your chosen plant species and get ready to add it to your planter after which you will add in the medium.

That’s it for a basic set up!  How easy is that?

Pictured here with an installed ball valve for easy solution changes.

The light-proofing method is up to you.  If you choose to paint, use spray paint for plastic and start with a coat or two of black with a white topcoat to help reflect light and keep the solution cool.

More Advanced Options:

  • Add a drain ball valve
  • Add a solution level sight glass
  • Link it up! (See Recirculating DWC setups)

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