DIY Flood & Drain Hydroponics

Written by stanley goff
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DIY Flood & Drain Hydroponics
Grown by hydroponics (three fresh hydroponics tomatos image by Flashon Studio from

Hydroponic gardening is a method for growing without soil, using nutrient-enriched, circulating water to nourish the plants. Various hydroponic methods include static solution, conditional flow, aeroponics, passive subirrigation, run-to-waste, deep water, bubbleponics and flood-and-drain. Flood-and-drain is also called ebb-and-flow hydroponics. Flood-and-drain hydroponics is seen as the easiest method, especially for beginner hydroponic gardeners. A simple flood-and-drain system is essentially a water reservoir, with a growing tray filled with pebbles or perlite, and a pump. The nutrients are mixed in the water, and the pump constantly irrigates the growing tray out of the reservoir.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Dark-coloured plastic storage tub
  • Wide, flat, plastic food container at least 4 inches deep
  • Aquarium water pump
  • Aquarium air pump
  • Plastic tubing
  • 2-inch drain fitting
  • 2-inch PVC pipe, 6 inches long
  • Plastic glue
  • Fine gravel
  • Clay pebbles
  • Electrical tape
  • Utility knife
  • Permanent marker

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  1. 1

    Cut a hole in the bottom of the food container large enough to install the drain fitting. Put in the drain fitting and screw it in to secure it. Insert the piece of PVC pipe into the drain fitting, ensuring a tight fit so the pipe sticks straight up. The pipe should extend between 2 ½ and 3 inches above the bottom of the food container, now renamed the "flood tray." There will also be a tail coming out the bottom.

  2. 2

    Position the flood tray atop the plastic tub -- lid on -- to see where the pipe will extend into the tub when the flood tray is on top. Mark the spot where the pipe will extend through with your marker. Drill out a hole for the pipe and trim it to size with the utility knife. Slide the pipe tail into the hole. Seal the bottom of the flood tray to the top of the tub with glue around the edges, and let it dry.

  3. 3

    Drill a hole in the bottom of the flood tray and through the lid of the tub below, now renamed the "tank." The hole should be the diameter of the rubber tubing that is compatible with the aquarium pump. Thread the tubing through the drill hole you just made.

  4. 4

    Lift the lid-and-flood-tray assembly off the tank. Place the aquarium pump in the tank, and attach the tubing to it. Place the air pump in the tank alongside the water pump. Fill the bottom of the tank with gravel, enough to stabilise the pumps and cover the bottom of the tank until no plastic is visible. Tape the power cords for both pumps together in the middle and drape them over the side of one end of the open tank. Mark the cords with the marker so you will know which one is water and which one is air.

  5. 5

    Replace the lid assembly. Mark where the cords extend out of the tank at one end. Cut a small notch to allow the cords to exit without interrupting the seal of the lid on the tank. Glue around the tube where you threaded it through the flood tray in step 3. Let the glue dry. Trim the tube that comes out the top to 1 inch with the utility knife.

  6. 6

    Fill the flood tray with clay pebbles to about 2 inches deep. Fill the tank halfway with nutrient-enriched water. Plug in the pumps, and the pumps will hum to life, and water will begin pumping out of the water tube into the flood tray. If you want to grow in several smaller containers, you can remove the clay pebbles and set open-bottomed plant containers in the flood tray with a perlite and gravel mix.

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