My most successful homemade hydroponic system is the result of many years of trial and error. The system design eliminates most of the problems I have had with different homemade systems over the years. It is also affordable to build, easy to maintain, and it produces excellent results. The basic plans are for a 4′ x 8′ system, but the design is very flexible and can be customized to make larger or smaller systems.
The heart of this hydroponic system is made up of four 8 foot long pieces of 4″ PVC pipe. These sections are placed side by side. Each pipe is connected dab rigs under to the one next to it as closely as possible using two 4″ PVC elbows. The first two pipes are connected together on the right side, the second and third pipes are connected together on the left side, and the third and fourth pipes are connected together on the right side. The whole system should be put together on a level surface, and extra care should be taken to make sure each piece of the system stays level with this surface. It is also important to thoroughly clean and glue each piece, to prevent any leaks in the system. The result is a homemade hydroponic system that snakes back and forth like a giant “S”.
Holes need to be manufactured in the system for the plants. Each pipe can hold 9 plants when the holes are spaced 8″ apart. Carefully mark out the plant holes on the top of each pipe, then drill them out using a 2 3/4″ hole saw. After drilling the holes, it is important to clean all of the little PVC shavings from the hydroponic system. This debris tends to clog the water pump and burn it out if it is not cleaned out well.
There are still two open ends in the system. On the first pipe, an elbow pointing down can be placed (but not glued). On the fourth pipe, an elbow pointing straight up can be glued. This will be where the nutrient solution enters the homemade hydroponic system, and the other elbow will be where it returns to the nutrient reservoir. For the nutrient reservoir, you can use a 32 liter plastic storage tote or similar container.
Netted pots can be purchased, or can be manufactured out of cheap (disposable) 16 ounce plastic “party” cups by carefully burning many small holes in the bottom and sides of each cup. The holes only need to come about half way up each cup. If you decide to manufacture your own netted pots, be sure to do this in a well ventilated area. Place one netted pot into each plant hole.
A 4″ half circle piece of plastic, cut from a milk jug or similar material, is wedged in the PVC pipe just before the point where the nutrient solution returns to the reservoir. This little piece of plastic is responsible for maintaining the nutrient solution levels inside the PVC pipes of the homemade hydroponic system….which should be as high as you can keep it without causing any leaks.
The whole system is placed on two sawhorses for operation. A fish aquarium water pump rated from 200-400 GPH is used to pump nutrient solution into one end of the system, and the nutrient solution is allowed to flow back into the nutrient reservoir (which should be placed beneath the end of the hydroponic system). One or two fish aquarium air bubblers should be placed in the reservoir to keep the nutrient solution oxygenated, and expanded clay pellets are used in each netted pot to hold clones/seedlings in place. Simply add a fan, a grow light, plug in your plants, and enjoy your new homemade hydroponic system!