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What is a DWC (Deep Water Culture) system?

'Hydroponics' in Greek can literally be broken down into the words 'water' and 'labor', so it makes sense that there are some purely aquatic hydroponic systems out there. These systems are called DWC (Deep Water Culture) and have for a long time been a successful method for beginners and experienced growers alike.

A DWC eliminates the need for most of grow media and soil used in most other forms of hydroponics, as the roots are directly submerged into water and will stay submerged in water for the duration of its life.

DWC systems are pretty simple, as technically you only need a few things to get started - a container to hold the water, a net pot to hold your plant (some are designed as bucket lids), a pump to oxygenate the water (you may need to buy the air tubes separately) and a lid to cover the nutrient solution.

Of course, your DWC system will be use in conjunction with your grow lights. If you want a full breakdown of DWC systems check here.

How does a DWC Work?

A DWC system can be stand alone or modular.Stand alone systems means every plant has their own individual water source. A modular system connects all the plants to a central reservoir which means all the water is distributed to all of the plants in your grow from one water source. Here's a really simple diagram of how exactly you should set up a stand alone system.

As you can see, the oxygen flow is controlled by the air pump, which carries the oxygen to the air stone. Instead of placing the air tube directly into the water, it is recommended that you attach the air tube onto an air stone. An air stone takes the oxygen and creates thousands of aerated bubbles, which are then dispersed and travel through the water until they reach the roots.

Roots are known to thrive in heavily oxygenated environments, so having an implement like an air stone that allows the oxygen to be spread more rapidly is definitely an advantage.

It's also important to note that ONLY the roots should be submerged in the water at any time. You're not going to get good results if your stems are submerged, they will more than likely rot. As a rough guide, try to keep the space between the stem and water around 1".  All or most of the net pot should not be in contact with the water.

Usual pH levels should be maintained in the water, so make sure your water is pH 5.5 - 6.5.


So, you don't need grow media in a DWC?

Yes and no. To start out, most plants are rooted in a rockwool grow block or a soiless media. Plants typically use their roots for support, and grow media is the easiest way to support the plant's roots.  It is possible to grow without any media, but it's so much easier with something like Hydroton! 

Some people like to use rockwool for the duration, but it can easily get waterlogged in a deep water culture system. You can switch substrates when it reaches time.

If you would prefer to switch, all you need to do is fill your netted pot with a good hydroponics substrate such as this Growstone Hydrostones or Hydroton clay pebbles.

What Nutrients Are Best In A DWC system?

To accelerate growth, you can still use nutrients. Just make sure they are mineral based, which most nutrient lines already are. Most of the lines we stock here in PCHydro are compatible with DWC systems.

You can check out our full range of nutrients here.

Pros and Cons

Like with everything, there are pros and cons to having a DWC system. As a major pro (if done correctly) a DWC system can product amazingly heathly plants with impressive yeilds.

Also, if you are just starting out and want to keep costs down on creating a grow, making a DWC system is an easy DIY.

Downfalls to using a DWC system would include - water contamination, if you are using a modular system. As there is only one water source, if one plant gets sick more than likely the disease will spread through the water to the others. As you can imagine, using a purely aquatic system may cause issues with damp.



DWC has been proven to be a really successful method of growing. There are plenty of success stories of growers using these systems which is why they have withstood the test of time. 

If creating a DWC system sounds like something that you may be interested in doing and you need a few pointers, don't hesitate to come in and see us here at your local hydroponics store  in Los Angeles. We are always happy to spread the knowledge and point you in the right direction. In the meantime,  for all of your supplies, check out what we have to offer in our hydroponic store.