As always, the short answer is “it depends”. We will try to orient you in this first decision. It depends mainly on the climate, culture, substratum and the grower.

In warm and dry climates we should choose big containers and a substrate which retains lots of water (rock wool or coconut fiber) They are also more forgiving if you do not automatize irrigation and then forget to water the plants, so they are well suited for beginners.

The simplest hydroponic system, floating rafts is also the easiest to maintain as it already has all the water available. Blackouts does not affect them. The cons are that it needs more space and many plants doesn’t like having their roots permanently into the water.

In very humid climates or with species that do not support ponding like asparagus, cannabis, onions or peppers; we should use well aerated substrates (sand, perlita, arlita,…) Allow them to dry off a bit between an irrigation cycle and the next one.

When we don’t have lots of space the NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) is very efficient because it allows vertical arrangements. DIY people like them because building them is easy and cheap. They do not need strong supporting structures because you don’t have to hold the weight of a soaked substrate. They are perfect to unleash your imagination.


A really nice, sculpture-like NFT installaction. Credit: epic gardening

If you like gadgets and novelty, aeroponic systems are a really cool thing. The roots are not immersed in water. Instead, a mist of a nutrient-rich water solution is sprayed or atomized to keep them fed. There is always lots of oxygen available for the roots, and the plants appreciate that. The nozzles are a risky component because they are prone to deteriorating over time though.

Lastly, aquaponics is a for the more audacious or business oriented. It is a system where plants and fish are grown together. The waste from the fish is used to feed the plants forming a wonderfully productive ecosystem. It is a garden and an aquarium in one! Not all plants are well suited to this environment, as there is always a trade-off between the plants and the fish needs.


Leafy greens in aquaponics

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