Best Hydroponic Drip System – Ultimate Guide {Updated 2020}

hydroponic drip irrigation system

Updated on – 03 Jan 2020

The working principles behind the hydroponic drip irrigation system are that they are relatively easy to setup hence their popularity. The drip system consists of a grow tray holding several grow cups and is separate from the solution reservoir.

A Submersible Water Pump pumps nutrient-rich solution from the reservoir through a drip irrigation network to the grow cups. Each drip line ends at the base of each plant thereby emitting the solution next to plant reducing moisture wastage.

The grow tray has a draining outlet allowing the system to recycle excess nutrient moisture. The excess nutrient solution drains back into the nutrient reservoir making the system for efficiency. Drip Hydroponic System requires regular inspection as concentrations of nutrients diminish over time as they are gradually absorbed by the crops.

The beauty of this hydroponic farming system is that you can control the amount and rate of delivery of the nutrient solution to different crops enabling you to grow different plants on the same grow tray.

Drip Hydroponic System Supplies or Starter Kits

1. Flood Tray

This is a large tray that holds the grow pots. The tray is used to collect excess nutrient solution and drains it back to the nutrient solution reservoir. The size of the flood tray depends on the number of plants you intend to plant.

Sale
Super Sprouter Quad Thick Propagation Tray - 10" x 20"
  • These Reusable Trays Are Built Tough For Long Lasting Durability! They Are Injection Molded, Where Most 10 X 20 Trays Are Vacuum Formed
  • They Are Four Times The Thickness Or Regular 10 X 20 Trays
  • No Need To Use Multiple Trays To Gain Strength When One Quad Thick Tray Will Do The Trick

2. Nutrient Solution Reservoir

This reservoir can be any non-transparent container big enough to hold the nutrient solution. If the container is transparent, paint it black leaving a clear vertical line for monitoring nutrient solution levels.

Botanicare 707155 resevoir, 40 Gallon
  • Designed For Excellent Performance And Easy Maintenance, Botanicare'S Premium Reservoirs Are True Capacity With Exceptional Durability
  • These Reservoirs Are A Reincarnation Of Botanicare'S Original Reservoir Offering With The Benefits Of Our Low Profile Reservoirs/Eazy...
  • They Include Front And Side Bulkhead Ports To Accommodate An Internal Pump And Allow Multiple Reservoirs To Be Joined In Line Or...

3. Submersible Water Pump

A submersible water pump is used to pump the nutrient solution to the manifold which in turn spreads it to the drip network. The power of the water pump depends on the size of the growing area. You should invest in a powerful pump if you are planning on expanding the capacity of the growing area in the future.

The pump should be fitted with a water filter to prevent debris from clogging the drip network and the pump itself.

Simple Deluxe 1056 GPH Submersible Pump with 15' Cord, Water Pump for Fish Tank, Hydroponics,...
  • #1 HAS PRE-FILTER INCLUDED - Pre-filter on the intake prevents debris from entering your pump and extend the life of your pump, Max...
  • DURABLE QUALITY - Our Polished Aluminum Oxide Ceramic Impeller Shaft insures long pump life because it is non-corrodible and more than...
  • SAFE & EASY - Safe for fish with no exposed copper. Easy to clean with no tools required to disassemble and clean filter/impeller. Our...

4. External Air Pump, Air Tube, and Air Stone

Although the nutrient solution is circulating, the use of an air pump ensures that the nutrient solution is well oxygenated. An air stone is used to diffuse air into the nutrient solution. The size and number of the air pumps and air stones depend on the amount of nutrient solution in the reservoir.

Uniclife Aquarium Air Pump 4 Watt 4-LPM 2 Outlets with Accessories, Adjustable Oxygen Pump for...
  • Uniclife Adjustable aquarium air pump is perfect for both Freshwater and Marine Aquariums.
  • 4Watt, 4-LPM, Pressure: 0.016Mpa.
  • Adjustable flow rate with 2 outlets, fit for fish tanks from 20-gallon to 100-gallon.

5. Drip Tubing and Manifold

These make the bulk of the hydroponic system, and they include delivery lines, drip lines, drain lines, and connector manifold. It’s recommended you use half-inch light-proof black vinyl tubing to prevent the growth of algae which could eventually clog the drip system. The polyvinyl pipe uses simple barbed manifold connectors that fit comfortably and tightly using PVC cement. The length of the tubing should be equal to the distance from the water pump to the plants and the size of the growing area.

HOMENOTE 1/4 inch Blank Distribution Tubing Drip Irrigation Hose, 42.6ft Drip Irrigation Line for...
  • 【Wide Application】: Use as the main line in a small Drip irrigation system or to branch off from larger 1/2" Drip tubing to...
  • 【Upgrade High Quality】: Sophisticated production,made with high quality UV treated flexible tubing, resistant to UV up to 3.5 or...
  • 【Easy to install】: Textured finish improves handling; making connections faster and easier.
Sale
Raindrip 13800UB Hydro-Port 8 Port Watering Manifold
  • Manifold
  • Converts traditional underground sprinkler system into a micro irrigation drip system
  • Waters up to 8 plants with one unit

6. Water emitters/drippers

The water drippers allow you to control the amount of nutrient solution delivered to each plant. In simple systems, one can forego the emitters by drilling small holes on the delivery tubing. But if you intend to grow different crops on your system, it’s recommended you use emitters to ensure optimal nutrient delivery according to the individual crop’s needs.

Rain Bird SW20-30PS Drip Irrigation Spot Watering Dripper/Emitter, 2 Gallon Per Hour, 30-Pack
  • 2.0 gallon per hour pressure-compensating emitter delivers same uniform flow rate from beginning to end of tubing runs
  • Slow watering rate allows soil to absorb water more completely in the root zones of plants
  • Self-piercing design; use with 1/4" Drip tubing or insert into 1/2" or larger Drip tubing

7. Growing medium

Some suitable growing media for hydroponic drip systems include rock wool, coco coir, perlite-vermiculite mix or hydroton rocks. These hold and support the plant’s roots.

The choice of growing medium determines the drip irrigation cycle. For example, rock wool needs irrigation once every 3-5 hours while hydroton rocks are suitable for continuous dripping.

1.5" Rockwool Starter Plugs, 2 Sheets of 49 Plugs (98 Plugs Total) + Twin Canaries Chart
  • Made from molten rock spun into cotton candy-like fibers and then compressed into cubes, blocks, or slabs
  • Has a tremendous capacity for absorbing nutrient solution while retaining plenty of oxygen for rapid plant growth
  • Seedlings or cuttings started in the Grodan cubes can also be transplanted into more traditional planters and growing mediums

8. Drip System Controllers

These include pressure regulators, flow valves, and timers. It’s possible to get by without these in a simple beginner system, but they are critical in larger, more complicated setups.

Timers regulate drip irrigation. It helps in automatically turning the pump on and off at regular time intervals.

The flow valves and pressure regulators let you monitor and control the flow rate of the nutrient solution throughout the system.

Sale
Rain Bird 1ZEHTMR Professional Grade Electronic Digital Hose End Timer/Controller, One Zone/Station,...
  • Professional grade easy-to-use 7-day digital hose end timer with advanced scheduling features for use with hose-end sprinklers, Drip...
  • Convenient extra-large dial and readout screen for easy set-up and review of watering schedules
  • Instant override buttons for "Cancel Watering" (also acts as up to a 96-hour rain delay) and "Water Now" (manual watering)

9. Hydroponic Nutrients

These can be either premixed or homemade organic essential water-soluble nutrients needed by the crops. There are many different options available for nutrient solutions, I’ve put together an article to help you decide which is best for your plants and setup

Read more about the Best Hydroponic Nutrients to learn which will be the right one for you.

10. Temperature and pH test kit

The thermometer and pH test kit are used in monitoring the temperature and pH of the nutrient solution. This ensures the solution is in a conducive state for optimal absorption by the roots. PH adjusters are used to adjusting the pH of the solution either up or down as needed.

Sale
VIVOSUN pH and TDS Meter Combo, 0.05ph High Accuracy Pen Type pH Meter +/- 2% Readout Accuracy...
  • Great for all home and laboratory TDS & pH testing applications including aquariums, swimming pools
  • pH meter: Full measurement range of pH 0 - 14, reliable and quick readings
  • 3-in-1 TDS meter: Measurement Range 0-9990ppm, 0-9990µs/cm; Accuracy ± 2%, 0.1- 80.0°C, 32.0-176.0°F. Note: This meter can't test...

Other tools needed in setting up the drip system include a drill, cutters, filter material, shovels, tape measures, and PVC glue.

How to assemble a simple hydroponic drip system

  • Using a drill, drill a hole on one end of the bottom of the flood/grow tray. This hole connects the drain line from the grow tray to a hole in the lid of the solution reservoir. Cover the hole with filter cloth to prevent grow medium from falling through to the reservoir.
  • Fill the grow tray with well-draining media such as rock pebbles. The grow tray is placed in an elevated area to allow draining by gravity.
  • Fill the grow pots with more water-holding media such as rock wool or perlite-vermiculite mix. Place a single plant in each of the grow pots and place them in the flood tray. Remember to use the recommended spacing guidelines.
  • If the solution chamber is transparent, paint it black to make it light-proof. Remember to scratch off a vertical line that will serve as the level meter.
  • Drill a 1″ hole on each end of the lid of the reservoir. One hole is for the airline from the air pump to the air stone and electric cord to the submersible water pump. The other hole is for the tubing delivering the nutrient solution from the pump to the manifold.
  • Cut out another hole on the lid of the drain line from the grow tray. The drain line holes can be as many as the drain pipes.
  • Connect the line from the water pump to the manifold.
  • Connect each drip line from the manifold to the respective grow pots in the grow tray. The drip lines should already be fitted with drip emitters.
  • Fill up the reservoir with nutrient solution and then test and adjust the pH accordingly.
  • Place the submersible water pump and air stone in the reservoir and connect the lines accordingly.
  • Connect the water pump to the timer’s power outlet to start your drip hydroponic system.

Drip System Hydroponics Irrigation Maintenance Tips

  • The most common problem with the system is clogging. Clogging is caused by debris in the drip system. This is solved by cleaning and flushing your water filters and drip lines. The water filters should be replaced regularly to ensure optimal functioning.
  • Since the system relies so much on external power, prolonged power outages can starve the crops to death. This small beginner system can be protected with a small UPS (uninterrupted power supply), but large commercial systems require an automatic alternative power source such as a generator.
  • Monitor the nutrient solution regularly. Check the temperature and pH and adjust accordingly. Refill the reservoir as frequently as needed and flush the system occasionally.