Hydroponic Farming: An Overview of the 6 Main Systems

Hydroponic Farming: An Overview of the 6 Main Systems

Hydroponic Farming: An Overview of the 6 Main Systems

Growing plants via hydroponic systems in Singapore is increasingly becoming a popular method of agriculture that uses a water-based, nutrient-rich solution instead of the traditional soil medium. Moreover, this system has the roots of the plants supported by substances like Rockwool, clay pellets, peat moss, and more as the growing medium. When creating a hydroponic garden, one must first consider which of the six main types of hydroponic systems is best for their needs.

Each type works differently, so evaluating their distinct pros and cons is necessary. Farmers must fully understand how each system works to get the most out of their investment. To that end, below is a brief overview of the six types of hydroponic systems and how they work.

1. Ebb and Flow

Also known as the flood and drain system, the ebb and flow hydroponic system is among the popular implementations used by home gardeners. In this system, plants are placed in spacious grow beds filled with a growing medium like perlite or Rockwool. Once planted, the grow beds are immersed in a water-based nutrient-rich solution just below the top layer of the growing medium to avoid overflow.

The water pump supplying the nutrient solution has a timer that shuts it down after a certain period, draining the solution from the grow beds and returning them to the pump once activated. This system effectively cultivates virtually all kinds of plants, including certain root vegetables like radishes and carrots. The main issue with the ebb and flow system is the risk of pump controller malfunction, which can halt operations until it is fixed or replaced.

2. Wick System

The wick system is the simplest out of all hydroponic system types. Virtually anyone can use it since it does not use any machinery like pumps, aerators, or electricity, making it the only non-electric hydroponic system. Most wick systems have the plants placed directly onto an absorbent substance like vermiculite and perlite with nylon wicks positioned around them before being sent down to the nutrient solution.

The biggest drawback of the wick system’s simplistic nature is that the plants cannot get a significant amount of nutrients. Therefore, its use is limited to small gardens with plants that do not require substantial water to grow well. Another shortcoming is that plants do not evenly absorb water and nutrients, which could result in the toxic buildup of mineral salts.

3. Drip System

A drip system is easy-to-use and can be swiftly changed for various kinds of plants, making it ideal for farmers that plan to regularly change their produce. The nutrient-rich solution in this system is pumped into pipes that send it directly to the plant base. A drip emitter is placed at the end of each tube to control and adjust the amount of solution per each plant’s needs.

This system can be as large or small as needed and have a circulating or non-circulating operation. Circulating systems drip continuously, with the extra nutrients returning to the holding tank for reuse. Thanks to its scalability and versatility in flow rate, drip systems can grow practically all kinds of plants. The biggest drawback to be aware of is the system’s need for consistent maintenance of the fluctuating pH and nutrient levels for circulating systems.

4. Water Culture

A water culture system is another simplistic system wherein plants’ roots are directly placed into the nutrient solution, unlike the wick system that puts a growing medium between the plants and the water. A diffuser or air stone supplies oxygen into the water solution necessary for the plants’ growth.

The direct contact between the plant roots and the nutrient solution is the best aspect of the water culture system as it allows for easy absorption of a significant amount of nutrients. Thanks to this direct access, plants in the water culture system grow rapidly. Moreover, the system is easy to make and can accommodate all kinds of plants, even large ones with sizable foot systems. The only shortcoming with the water culture system is the potential for developing root diseases caused by dirty growing conditions.

5. Nutrient Film Technology (NFT)

Despite its simple design, the N.F.T. system sees wide usage due to its scalability for various applications. This system has the nutrient-rich solution stored in a large reservoir from which it is sent down into sloped channels and over the roots of the plants while excess nutrients return to the reservoir.

It is generally recommended to pair net pots with NFT systems as they do not use a growing medium in most cases. Moreover, growing plants with smaller roots are best, as the channels used in NFT systems are generally small. Despite not being ideal for larger plants, the system can scale extremely well and allows for changes that can support many plants at once. Because of this, NFT hydroponic systems are commonly adopted by commercial farmers and home growers alike.

6. Aeroponic

An aeroponic system is one of that easy-to-understand yet difficult-to-implement concepts. In this system, the plants are suspended in the air with mist nozzles positioned right below them, spraying the nutrient solution onto the roots. A water pump connects to these nozzles that output the solution once pressure increases inside it, with any excess falling back down into the reservoir below.

This system can grow any type of plant, large or small, as long as the reservoir used has the right dimensions and is sufficiently deep lest the spray fails to reach the roots. The two best aspects of this system are that the plants get all the oxygen they need due to being suspended in the air, and it uses much less water than other hydroponic systems. The downside is its high setup cost and regular nozzle cleaning to prevent clogging.


Hydroponic farming has many different systems to accommodate various types of plants, use cases, and garden sizes. To determine which is right for you, it is vital to learn more about how it works and how they fit your needs.

If you need help building your hydroponic system, Vicplas is here to help! As the leading manufacturer of hydro-agriculture solutions in Singapore, you can rely on our VPONIC™ fittings, plumbing, and hydroponic plastic components to deliver exceptional performance for any hydroponic system. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to find out more about our high-calibre solutions, wide selection of pipes, and eco-friendly uPVC products like our SS141 uPVC pipes!