Indoor Gardening: DIY Hydroponics Water Culture System

In my previous article on indoor gardening, I covered all the steps necessary for every gardener to have the perfect indoor garden. With an indoor garden, you have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs all year-round! Sounds great doesn’t it?

Now, let’s talk about another form of indoor gardening — hydroponics. Some of you may be wondering what exactly hydroponics is. The true definition of hydroponics is the process of growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid, with added nutrients but without soil.

There are different hydroponic systems that produce different results. Let’s start with the least difficult system: the water culture system.

A hydroponics water culture system is a low cost, easy-to-build option. It results in your plants being suspended in water by a Styrofoam platform. The water will be filled with a nutrient solution. You can grow 5-6 plants per 5 gallon (18.9 L) water culture system.

In my research to bring the best, most detailed information, I found a great DIY project to build your very own hydroponics water culture system. I will take you step by step for this awesome family project!

The 8 steps we’ll cover for this DIY project are:

  1. Finding a container to use as a reservoir such as a fish tank or a bin/bucket
  2. Using the fish tank or similar container as your reservoir
  3. Using a tape measurer to get the length and width of your reservoir
  4. Cutting the holes for the net pots
  5. How many plants you’ll be able to grow
  6. Choosing a pump
  7. Connecting the air line to the pump and attaching the air stone to the free end
  8. Setting up the hydroponics system

Now, let’s begin!

Find a container to use as a reservoir such as a fish tank or a plastic bin/bucket.

Gray plastic Tupperware bin to use for a hydroponics garden system

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A light-proof container like the one above works great. If it’s not light-proof, paint the reservoir black or cover it with a black trash bag. Light entering the reservoir will promote the growth of algae, stealing oxygen and nutrients from your other plants.

It’s best to use a reservoir that is the same dimensions from top to bottom (for example, the top and bottom of the container are both 36″ x 20″.)

Figure out the dimensions of your reservoir.

Measuring plastic bin with a tape measure

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Using a tape measure, measure the inside of the reservoir from one end to the other.

Once you have your dimensions and you’re sure they’re correct, cut your Styrofoam 1/4″ smaller than the size of the reservoir. (For example, if your reservoir is 36″ x 20″, the Styrofoam should be 35 3/4″ x 19 3/4″.) If the reservoir tapers off at the bottom, the Styrofoam should be 2″-4″ smaller than the reservoir.

If you cut it to the correct size, the Styrofoam should fit nicely with just enough room to adjust to changes in water level.

Cut the holes for your net pots.


Before you place your Styrofoam in the reservoir, you need to cut the holes for your net pots.

Put the net pots in the Styrofoam where you want to place each plant. Then, use a pen or pencil to trace around the bottom of the net pots.

Use a sharp tool (like a knife or box cutter) to follow the lines you traced and cut holes for your pots.

Then, on one end of the Styrofoam, cut a small hole for the air line.

Decide how many plants to grow.


The number of plants you will grow will depend on:

  • The size of your garden
  • The types of plants you want to grow

Do your research on how much room your chosen plants need to grow. Space your plants so they have plenty of room and receive ample light.

Choose a pump.

Hydroponics water system pump

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A pump for your hydroponics garden can be purchased online or at a garden supply store.

Make sure the pump you choose is strong enough to provide enough oxygen to sustain your plants. If needed, ask for advice at your local garden or hydroponics supply store. Tell them the size of your reservoir in gallons. They should be able to recommend a pump to fit your needs.

Connect the air line to the pump and attach the air stone to the free end.


The air line should be long enough to travel from your pump to the bottom of your reservoir, or at least float in the middle so the oxygen bubbles can reach the roots of your plants.

Most pumps will come with their own air line; if not, make sure the one you purchase is the right size.

Set up the hydroponics system.

Now that you’ve got all your supplies, it’s time to set up your system. Here’s how:

  • Fill reservoir with nutrient solution.
  • Place the Styrofoam in tank.
  • Run the air line through the designated hole/notch.
  • Fill the net pots with growing medium and place one plant in each pot.
  • Put the net pots into the designated holes in Styrofoam.
  • Turn on/plug-in pump and start growing with your homemade hydroponics system.

Hat tip to WikiHow.

If you have had great success with building your own hydroponics system, we would love to hear from you! Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.

Check out these related articles:

Intro to Aquaponics

Indoor Gardening: Making Year-Round Gardening Possible

Make Your Own (Nearly) Self-Sufficient Indoor Garden with Aquaponics

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