Hydroponics: Cultivation and Hydroponic Systems

Introduction to hydroponics

Do you want to start your first hydroponic cultivation but don't know where to start? Are you looking for a new growing method that would give you more control over your plants? This page is designed to give you the basics of hydroponics and the techniques to use to grow your plants, vegetables and herbs

What is hydroponics?

To put it simply, hydroponics is defined as the cultivation of terrestrial plants using nutrients, without the support of a soil (different from aquaponics - off-ground production - which consists of raising aquatic species such as fish that will play the role of nutrients for the plants). In this case, it is preferable to use a neutral or inert substrate (without nutrient supply) in order to optimise the supply of water, nutrients and especially oxygen to your plants. In the eyes of most people, hydroponics sometimes gets a bad reputation, we often talk about artificial culture that produces tomatoes without taste or rose without fragrance. This bad reputation comes above all from the commercial use of this process, favouring the financial return at the expense of the quality of the product. But fortunately, hydroponics has much more to offer than it seems and offers many advantages. One could even go so far as to talk about a revolution in gardening! Indeed, hydroponics offers control over a capital element of the plant that is not accessible in soil cultivation: the root system. It then becomes very easy for a grower to significantly increase his production, without forgetting taste and flavour, or even to optimize it, as long as he knows all the subtleties of this indoor growing method.

What is an open or closed hydroponic system?

An open hydroponic system is the solution most used by commercial growers. The plants are grown on rockwool loaves and watered regularly with the nutrient solution (whose temperature must remain below 22°C) without being recovered. This technique has the advantage of being inexpensive to install but generates a lot of waste both in fertilizer and water. The alternative is the so-called closed hydroponic system, which consists of circulating the nutrient solution from the tank to the plant before returning to the tank. In this way, all the water is absorbed by the plant, which greatly reduces waste, not to mention the reduced ecological impact

What is the difference between active and passive hydroponics?

Passive hydroponics is characterized by the absence of a water or air pump. The plant is placed in an inert substrate above a reservoir of nutrient solution. The latter is brought to the plant by capillary action. This technique has the big disadvantage of letting the water stagnate in the tank, which leads to the development of micro-organisms that can be dangerous for your plants. This is why we recommend the use of an active hydroponic system, which consists of continuously circulating water between the plant and the tank using an air or water pump. The nutrient solution is then charged with oxygen, which promotes the assimilation of nutrients by the roots. This is the most efficient form of hydroponics.

However, be careful to ensure that your equipment is in good condition and to avoid power outages which can prove fatal to your inner culture.

How to choose your hydroponic system?

Now that you're up to speed on the different methods of hydroponics, all you have to do is get started! But not so fast, now you just have to choose the growing system that suits you best. There is something for every preference and every budget, but we will only focus on the so-called active system.

The tide table

It is the simplest, most popular and effective system. Irrigation is done by alternating filling and draining. The plants are placed in rockwool cubes, which in turn are placed on a growing tray containing 2 to 5cm of nutrient solution, which drains to the reservoir while a pump floods the tray. This is to create a draught in the rockwool cubes which brings oxygen to the roots, thus promoting the good development/growth of the plant. Among the representatives of this cultivation method, we recommend the Ebb & Flow from Platinium Hydroponics or the Ebb & Flood from Nutriculture.

>>> Discover the Ebb & Flow of Platinium Hydroponics

>>> Discover the Ebb & Flood of Nutriculture

NFT systems

Seedlings and cuttings are placed on an absorbent mat resting on the bottom of a covered tray. The nutrient solution flows along the tray, bathing the roots as it passes before draining into the reservoir. This brings a large amount of oxygen to the roots, which remain constantly irrigated. The multi-duct range of Nutriculture is a good representative of that. But you can also choose to create your own system thanks to the numerous tanks, recovery tables and NFT films available in our catalogue.

>>> Discover our growing system spare parts catalogue

Drip on clay beads

Perfect for hobby growers, this method is very easy to use. The plant grows in a pot filled with clay balls that is irrigated by drip irrigation. Once drained through the support, the solution falls back into the tank and so on. We offer you this kind of cultivation system for individual plants with the CIS Pousspouss Hydro or the Waterfarm from CIS GHEperfect for mother plants. But there are also systems that group several pots for the same reservoir, for example the Wilma de nutriculture or the range IWS

>>> Discover the Wilma de Nutriculture


Here there is no need for mineral substrate (such as coconut fibre or other), the roots are suspended and regularly sprayed by the nutrient solution. This is the method that offers maximum absorption for your plants and vegetation. However, be very careful to be very strict about the pH and EC of your nutrient as there will be no substrate to buffer in case of imbalance. Among the systems available, the Aerotop from Platinium Hydroponics or the Aeroflo from GHE will give you maximum return. The AeroGarden system will be a very good start in identifying the challenges of aeroponics.

For more information on aeroponics, visit the page "Aeroponics cultivation"

>>> Discover the Aeroflo from GHE

>>> Discover the Aerotop of Platinium Hydroponics

We also recommend the use of an osmosis unit such as those offered by the brand GrowMax Water.

>>> Discover the products of osmosis units and filters

Now that you have the basics, all you have to do is get started, get to work! For more information, we advise you the beginner's guide initiation to hydroponics or the very complete Hydroponics for all which will make you the master of hydroponics!