Indoor Aquaponics System 1

| August 14, 2020
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Our mountain town gets way too much snow and way too many cold hours to have an outdoor garden, so I decided to build and indoor aquaponic system, and bring the garden inside for year round growing. I also wanted to make the system as aesthetically pleasing as possible, whilst bringing an outdoor experience indoors in a tasteful way.

My indoor aquaponic design started off as a fairly simple design. As it came together, I made changes. Some of the changes simplified the system, whilst others were improvements that may have increased the complexity, aesthetics, or efficiency.

The initial setup uses two 4 foot by 15″ totes, with one elevated and offset above the other, with two additional 12 site grow boxes on the very top of it all.

I eventually simplified this, but pushed to quickly get plants ‘planted’ and the system cycling properly. If you are unfamiliar with a nitrogen cycle, its the most critical part to any aquarium, and definitely the most fundamental thing in aquaponics to understand. Click Here for a simplified explanation in a post from a few years ago.

Upper Boxes
The two upper grow boxes are Deep Water Culture systems that each hold about 2.5 gallons. and have 12 2″ net pot grow sites.

Upper Offset 4ft Box – AKA the Goldfish Pond
As the Name implies, this holds some floating plants and 8 goldfish. In this type of environment, the goldfish have grown very fast.

Lower 4ft box that acts as a Sump, and a Crawfish Tank
This Tank holds 6 virile crawfish, to help me gauge future aquaculture bioloads, stocking density and demand.

The first version of the system used a 410 GPH pump pulling water through a Bucket full of Filter Floss, before doing a DIY gravel filter. The sump/crawfish tank was given a an aquarium gravel substrate, and I added MarinePure bio filtration media which is amazing on its own.

The water is heated with a 150w aquarium heater, and lighting is a simple Lithonia 4ft 2 bulb hanging fixture, with two LED bulbs.

I designed the system to have a low overall electrical requirement, for how much veg it would be able to produce.

This is part one. I thought its was important to share the bare bones, even if the system has been well established by the time of writing this and has evolved into having fountains, more aesthetic clean lines, underwater LED lighting, different mechanical filtration, another tank, and the addition of some game fish.

The parts and costs of the above setup, is broken down below. (The Orbis containers are MUCH MUCH cheaper from a vendor like Zoro, than they are, if they are from Amazon.

Basic System Parts
Upper DWC Grow Boxes – Bought from Zoro… but later not used at all.
Upper Tank Goldfish Pond(Orbis Wall Container) - 32.76
Lower Tank Crawfish Tank/Sump(Orbis Wall Container) - 32.76
Hydor 150w Heater - 34.98
Hydrofarm Active Aqua 400 GPH Pump - 26.49
Tetra Whisper 60 Air Pump - 13.47
4 Foot Lighting Fixture
4ft LED Bulbs (grow light spectrum)

Miscellaneous but useful stuff… for cycling a tank properly.
1/2 inch bulkhead fittings - 3.79 each
Aquarium Gravel 20lbs –
MarinePure Bio Media Gems - 12.99 These are some of the best bio media balls you could ever add to a system… just read up on how much surface area they have! Its not BS. bacteria coolnizes in days and your water conditions improve just as fast. Of course they aren’t magic. You still need to know about the nitrogen cycle if you are going to have any success in aquaponics at all.
API Water Conditioner - 6.64 Removes Chlorine and Chloramines from your water.
Marineland Freshwater Bio Spira (Bacteria) - 6.49

Plant Growing Products
2 inch Net Pots - 12.99
Leica Clay - 13.95

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DIY Drone/Quad Part 2 – Transmitter

| January 26, 2018
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

In this part of the DIY drone/quad build, we are working on a transmitter. It would have been nice to have an R/C transmitter and receiver on hand, but I didn’t so I put one together from parts on the build sheet from Part 1 of these posts.

I mounted everything to a sheet of plexiglass, but you could use any easy to shape material. I plan to place all my components inside a 3d printed case, but that’s another post.

The parts we’ll use are (1)Arduino Nano, (1)nrf24 module, (1)Battery Holder Or Battery Pack, (2)joysticks, (1)3.3v regulator, and a handful of jumper wires, or you can solder everything together. I also held some things in place with zip ties while prototyping. Adding a switch is optional if you use jumper wires. My prototype on/off switch was a matter of plugging in the power wire to the Arduino VIN pin.

Here is the wiring diagram for the transmitter. We’ll upload and test code via the Arduino IDE later.

What are we doing?

  • We are simply using an Arduino to interpret x and y axis inputs from each joystick. These will be our Throttle, Yaw, Pitch, and Roll.
  • We are sending that signal via the nrf24 radio.
  • The 3.3v regulator is required to supply steady 3.3 volts, and steady amps to the radio, which the Arduino 3v out pin cannot do on its own.
  • A switch is used for on and off power.
  • You might also notice I am adding a power wire to the pin D4. This is optional, I used it as a hardwired way to ensure the Auxiliary 1 channel signal was always set to high. This can have a switch, and probably should have a resistor added, or could be done arbitrarily in the code later. What it does in the end is turn on the stability, AKA ‘angle mode’ on the drone, making it much more flyable off the bat.

Need to step forward or backwards? Use the links for the build series below:

  • Program the transmitter, receiver, and flight controller with an Arduino IDE <- Software Using code called Multiwiiv – Part 6
  • Calibrate the Motors with Multiwii code – Part 7
  • Adjust settings and calibrate our gyro via Multiwii GUI AKA a graphical interface/software for your computer – Part 7
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DIY Drone/Quad Part 1 Intro

| January 10, 2018
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

In this short series of posts, I will show you how to build your own drone, with a transmitter, complete with joysticks, a receiver to receive your instructions, and a flight controller to control the stability and flying characteristics of your quad/drone. The complete build is under 200 bucks, plus or minus a few miscellaneous items.

I also want to make clear, that to use this build guide, a basic knowledge of soldering, electronics, fabrication, and programming, will be necessary. This is not for everyone, but its not beyond learning how to do these things either. While I don’t want to make the build sound complicated, I don’t want to over simplify it either. Expect and or be willing to learn, test, experiment, and be patient; and the experience should be rewarding.

I needed a platform for doing aerial surveys of large agricultural properties for a work contract. Since I have a programming background, experience working with micro-controllers, IOT applications, fabricating, and a history of working with radio control vehicles, it made sense to build a drone from opensource hardware. Building your own drone is actually quite affordable compared to some of the commercial options. With patience, and some tweaking its possible to build a reliable drone.

The drone is a quad copter design that uses arduino microcontrollers for the receiver, the transmitter, and flight controller, an mpu6050 sensor for stabilization, nrf24l transceivers for communication, (4)30amp escs, (4)2212/13 1000kv motors, (4) 10×4 props, (2) 3000mah 30C li-po batteries, and a large frame built from whatever you have on hand. Or you can build it from cheap wood materials.

The cost when finished and flying is less than 200 dollars. Compare that to a much more expensive drone, that you’d never really want ‘modify’ or make your own because of the risk you might damage it. Of course, a more expensive version from more expensive parts can be made. But it hurts a tad less when you crash less expensive materials.

The programming that controls the quad is open source code, uploaded via the Arduino IDE, and configured via Multiwii Software(software that helps you visualize and set settings on the quad/drone). Its based primarily on the hard work and public contributions of many generous programmers, and developers.

To Summarize, We will:

  • Program the transmitter, receiver, and flight controller with an Arduino IDE <- Software Using code called Multiwiiv – Part 6
  • Calibrate the Motors with Multiwii code – Part 7
  • Adjust settings and calibrate our gyro via Multiwii GUI AKA a graphical interface/software for your computer – Part 7
  • Go Fly

In the interest of full disclosure, I make an affiliate commission if you use the links below. So if you find this build log helpful, and want to support more quality posts, then use the comprehensive list of Amazon links below, Thanks.

Electronics Parts List:

  • (4) 2212/13 1000kv motor + 30 amp ESC –
  • (3) Arduino Nanos (receiver board, flight controller, transmitter board-
  • NRF24L 2.4g transceiver set (will actually transmit and receive signals) –
  • mpu6050 (gyro accellerometer to keep us stable) –
  • (2) 3000mah 30c Lipo Battery –
  • 10×4 props w/aluminum hubs (included in motor esc kit
  • (2) 3.3v voltage regulators (provide the right voltage and stable current to the transmitter and receiver) –
  • Power distribution board with Deans Type Plugs –
  • Joysticks (this is a 10 pack for the price of 2, you only need 2 –
  • 120 piece Jumper wire set –
  • 6AA Battery Box to power the transmitter. However the ideal power source would be a 7 to 12v MAX battery for the Arduino to provide stable power
  • A mix pack of zip ties ranging from 4 inches up to around 10 – Wally World has some fun colors.

Frame Parts List:

These are parts for a wood framed version, its easy to make, and parts can be acquired at a Homedepot, Lowe’s, and any craft store that sells 3mm birch. I went to Michael’s.

  • (2) 36″ 1/2″ square hardwood dowels
  • (2) 200mm x 100mm x 3mm birch plywood
  • (8) 4cm x 6cm x 3mm birch plywood pieces
  • A large variety of 4-40 or m3 screws and nuts
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DIY Skull Mounting Bracket

| April 26, 2016
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

I finally got around to making a skull mounting bracket ad putting the antelope on the wall. Last year I cleaned and ‘bleached’ an antelope skull to make a nice euro mount. I may eventually put a post up about cleaning and preparing a skull in the euro mount style, since everybody asks how I did it.
Euro  Mount Bracket
Anyway, I needed to make a mounting bracket for the antelope skull, So during a recent internet outage, I took a short break from work and finally made a bracket. I took a 3/4 inch wide scrap piece of steel, trimmed it to about 10 inches, and made a 20 degree bend near the middle. I ground the surface. to rough up the texture of the bracket, and painted matte black for a simulated wrought iron look.

I drilled two holes for matching black screws, and voila! An easy and professional looking, nearly free skull mounting bracket. It cost about 50 cents, and took less than 30 minutes to make.
DIY  Euro Mount  Bracket

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Coturnix Quail Hutch

| July 18, 2015
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Quail_Hutch_Coturnix_BlueUnfinished Cotunrix Quail HutchCoturnix Quail Hutch Unfinished BackCoturnix Quail Hutch Inside

I had been planning on keeping quail for a while. After some consideration of breeds, I finally decided on Coturnix quail, and stuck a few eggs in the incubator. The count down had begun. I had between 14 and 26 days at the earliest and latest extremes to build a quail hutch. Like all the wood working I do, I try to take pride in my work. I wanted to build something that was attractive, and highly functional.

I decided two build a two compartment coffee table and quail hutch combo, appropriate for breeding quail, and keeping males separated.

The hutch includes the following features:

  • Vintage, antiqued two compartment coffee table design.
  • A sturdy and durable design. Yes you can sit on it, have coffee on it, etc.
  • A foot print of 4′ x 2′, with a separator for each half.
  • Hideaway bench seat style doors on top, taking up half the length of each of the two compartments.
  • 2 front doors, screened in with 1/2″ hardware cloth.
  • Secure latches all around.
  • 1/2″ hardware cloth floor, with a sliding poop tray.
  • Wiring with 2 ceramic bulb sockets. Allows for brooding, as well as heating in cold winters.

So far, the few quail we hatched love their home, and so do I. Its dual purpose, meets our needs, and functions as quality outdoor furniture. Its the kind of thing that the significant other doesn’t mind looking at everyday. I hope this helps you with your own quail Hutch build. If anyone is interested in owning one, I would consider drafting plans. I’d really like to do what I can to help out fellow friends, preppers, homesteaders, and backyard poultry keepers.

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DIY Hydroponic System with Lighting $30

| November 13, 2013
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.
A friend living in a small town in Wyoming presented a challenge to me. Build a garden, indoors, in a very limited space, with no natural light, that is low cost, and low maintenance.

In case you are wondering why it is worth the effort to build such a small garden system, then consider the break-even point. Gardenisto is Southern California based, and our primary contributors don’t really experience this sort of problem, but depending on where you live in the country, some food items are ridiculously expensive, if you can find them at all.

In the location we are building this system, a small bruised or frost damaged, bunch of ‘fresh’ Basil can run just under 4 dollars. So the goal is to build a garden, capable of yielding enough Basil, Mint, Pak Choy, or other micro greens, to break even. The target system cost is 30 dollars, or 7.5 small bunches of Basil.

The Garden System Options
Container or pots and containers with soil for hand watering
Drip System with soil
Drip System with soil alternative, like perlite, Hydroton, or Rockwool
Deep Water Culture
Flood Drain or Ebb Flow
Wick System
Nutrient Film System or Technique(NFS a.k.a NFT)

The Choice and Reasoning Why
The idea is to create a small garden system with artificial light, capable of growing at minimum of two bunches of Basil, two bunches of mint, and two bunches of pak choy.

Soil is a gateway to unwanted pathogens, insects like fungus gnats, contamination and weeds. Without active care this can destroy plants. Soil systems also need active monitoring and watering either by hand or timers and sensors. This defeats the idea of low or zero maintenance.

Drip systems, ebb flow or flood drain, and nutrient film technique(NFT) solutions require an aerated reservoir, the added complication of a water pumps, and a timers to run the systems. Working out volume and frequency of watering also isn’t for the novice. Should any of the Drip, Flood Drain, or NFT systems fail or need re-calibration, a novice hydroponic gardener will not easily be able to fix it.

NFTs also generally require a larger foot print, and some sort of elevated or tower construction to hold various sizes of plumbing.

In a deep water culture system, an air pump, which is on all the time, is the only expense and technical component, besides lighting. DWCs are easy to maintain, require little to no equipment or technical knowledge, and can be very compact.

So the build will be a DWC, for 6 small plants, that fits within a foot print of 18” by 18”, with an artificial light source.

We are away from home on this one, so we are limited in terms of tools available.
Scissor, Exacto Knife, Pocket Knife with some survival accessories

Possible Equipment List Ideas, and Actual Purchases
– HDX 150-Watt Incandescent Clamp Light @ Home Depot $8.97
– Brooder style Lamp with Clamp – @ Walmart $6.79 (Actual)

– Feit Electric 13W Daylight (5000K) CFL Light Bulb – $6.22 @ Walmart
– GE® Spiral Daylight CFL Bulb – $6.99 @ Ace Hardware
– 23w FEIT Daylight Bulb – 6.00 @ Safeway $3.99(Actual)

Fish Tank Air Pump – $6.00 @ Ace Hardware $5.99(Actual)
Anti-Siphon Valve – $2.00 @ Ace Hardware $2.29(Actual)
6x 2” net pots – $2.40 @ Ebay $2.40(Actual)
Bucket 5gal – @ Home Depot $2.78(Actual)
Bucket Lid – @ Home Depot $1.98(Actual)
Air Stone @ Ace Hardware $.99(Actual)

Growing Medium – Free @ Trash Cans Everywhere
– Wine corks
– Cork board
– Plastic Cups and Bottles (PU Chips)
– Coco Peat Starter Plugs @ Ace Hardware $3.99(Actual)

Total: 31.38 (6.97+3.99+5.99+2.29+2.40+2.78+1.98+.99+3.99)

Setup Instructions
Setting up a 5 Gallon bucket DWC is quite simple. Preferably, we’d have a 2″ hole saw, but we didn’t. So we marked holes for our net pots and very carefully and painstakingly, cut out and trimmed up holes for our net pots with an xacto blade. We also made a hole for our air line to run into the bucket. The rest of these instruction are a bit abbreviated, so for more complete instructions on a DWC setup see our post on just that: Deep Water Culture Basic Setup










After cutting net pot holes and an airline hole in our bucket lid, we ran airline through the hole, and attached an airstone on the underside of the lid. On the outside of the bucket we attached the air pump. We then cut the airline about 18 inches away from the pump, but before the bucket lid, and inserted a one way check valve. The one way check valve is to prevent back siphoning.

The remaining steps are quite easy. Fill Bucket with water. Attach Lid. Insert net pots and starter plugs with whatever herb seeds will be grown. Screw the light bulb into the lamp. Notice we used a 6500k Daylight Bulb, this provides the necessary color spectrum for healthy plants. Clamp the lamp above the bucket lid at an appropriate height, around 4 to 8 inches. Make sure everything is dry, and no wiring is in any sort of contact with water.

Finally, plug and play! Now we have a compact hydroponic herb garden, with enough lighting to grow bunches of basil, micro greens, other herbs, or compact leafy greens. Please leave us your questions or comments if you have any.

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Extreme Pot Drainage

| February 9, 2013
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Hydroponic Drip Pot DrainageProper drainage is critical to plant health. Different plant types require different levels of moisture retention, aeration and drainage in their respective growing medium, but container gardening adds another challenge.

Many gardeners struggle with plants in containers because of inadequate drainage. Plants cycle from being neglected and needing water, to being drowned by over watering. Besides suffocating a plant, over watering often leads to disease, unrecoverable wilt, leaf loss, and the eventual death of a plant.

Hydroponic Drip Pot Drainage 2So when we decided to grow drought tolerant plants, in a hydroponic drip system, we needed to change the drainage properties of the containers we had.

Our basic low water usage growing medium is a 92% perlite, 8% coco fiber mix. To keep the mix from washing out of the containers, we used food grade silicon to secure a nylon mesh over larger drainage holes.

We then used a Dremel with a drill bit attachment, and systematically perforated 1/8 inch holes evenly around the pot. We drilled additional holes evenly spaced between existing holes, adding more toward the bottom than the top.

Hydroponic Drip Pot Drainage 3We want extreme drainage, but we still want the water to run down past the root system and saturate the coco fiber near the root mass, so we avoided adding too many holes near the top that would allow water to run outwards instead of downwards. We also drilled supplemental drainage holes on the bottom side of the pot.

There are a lot of pots out there. Some of them probably do what our DIY extreme drainage pot does, but this works perfectly for us. With improved drainage, proper nutrition, and an adjusted watering cycle, a plant best suited for a chaparral or desert can be grown in a container or hydroponically.

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Grow Light Basics

| December 23, 2012
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

indoor shop grow lightThere are a couple common misconceptions about growing plants indoors with artificial lighting, but growing plants under lights indoors doesn’t have to be a technical or expensive endeavor. Cover/Feature photo: Pink Lemonade Blueberries Under Indoor Grow Lights, Gardenisto © 2012; Photo Left: Golden Currants under T8 Lights © 2012; Bottom Left:Pink Lemonade Blueberries under T8s © 2012.

The first common misconception is that special and expensive light bulbs are required for growing indoors. The truth is you do not need special or expensive lighting. A common 4 foot T8 shop light fixture can be purchased from your local hardware or home improvement shop for about $20, and will be suitable for growing small plants. The bulb also does not have to be special. However, it does need to be selected carefully from all the options you will have at the hardware shop.

pink lemonade blueberriesMany fluorescent T8 light bulbs won’t do much for your plants. Plants use blue wavelengths of light for green growth and red wavelengths for flowering. Without getting too technical, red is at the bottom of the light spectrum, and blue is at the top end.

Light bulbs have a light/color spectrum rated in Kelvin. Most light bulbs in the hardware shop will have a ‘cool white’ output in the middle of the spectrum at 3500k to 4100k, but what you need for healthy plants is at the higher and lower ends of the spectrum.

Look at the bulb packages and find a 6500K bulb. This will provide the full light spectrum, including blue light that plants need. Common T8 Light fixtures hold 2 to 4 bulbs, so if you are interested in getting your plants to flower you can use a bulb with a K rating of 3000 or less, in conjunction with a 6500k bulb.

This brings us to the final misconception on costs. A two bulb T8 shop light fixture costs 20 dollars, and a two pack of T8 fluorescent light bulbs costs less than 8 dollars. The total equipment cost for a small growing space is about 28 dollars. Get fancy and add a mechanical timer for 4 bucks, and you have yourself an automated system.

So what about the electrical bill? Your electrical bill is not going to sky rocket. A rough estimate of the operational cost of a two bulb T8 light fixture, running 16 hours a day, is between 4 and 8 dollars a month. Annually that’s a cost of no less than 48 dollars, and no more than 96 dollars per year. Your actual cost will be based on your kilowatt/hr rate, which you can find in your electrical bill.

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Grow Garlic from Bulbils (seed)

| November 27, 2012
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Garlic Bulbils (seeds)Most people grow garlic from cloves. The bulbs are broken apart, and individual cloves pulled off. Cloves exhibit obvious signs that they are ready to plant. Roots grow from the bottom basal plate, and the tops turn greenish.

If garlic is allowed to grow out, it will produce a long central stalk with a flower and bulb. The bulb will contain tiny bulbils that are suitable for planting.

Unlike the cloves pulled from a mature bulb of garlic, bulbils will take more than one season to grow. Some varieties will take longer than others.

The benefit however, is that 10 garlic bulbs might produce 5 to 10 cloves, whereas the same plant can produce as many as 100 bulbils or more. The amount of bulbils will depend on the variety.

At the end of last season we collected 15 bulbs and collected nearly 300 bulbils. In fall, we replanted two cloves, and about 100 bulbils, about three bulbils per ½” deep hole.

In retrospect, we should have planted more garlic cloves to have more for immediate consumption in spring, but we ate them instead! This planting will yield two bulbs, with around 10 to 30 cloves, and a little over 30 smaller garlic plants. In warmer climates, garlic is ready to be harvested as early as spring.

If you live in a cooler climate and are uncertain of when to harvest, wait until half the garlic plant is dead. Remove the bulbs from the ground, and clean them off with a rinse of cool water.

A lot of people say not to wash after harvest, but we do it to remove extra dirt. Just be careful not to bruise your garlic. To prevent excess moisture, gently pat them dry with a towel. Let the garlic dry in a cool dry place out of the sunlight.

Depending on the temperatures and size of the bulbs, the skin on the bulbs will turn paper like and the cloves will be ready for consumption in as little as a few days or as long as a couple weeks.

UPDATE 6-18-2014
Made garlic bread, and processed some garlic for Kimchi. Guess where the garlic came from! Its beautiful too.
gyo heirloom garlic

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Deep Water Culture

| April 25, 2012
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

How To: Setup a Deep Water Culture system. This basic hydroponic setup is easy, effective, and very affordable. A very simple setup can be put together for under $20. In this setup, a minimum amount of supplies are used *and I won’t show you $100 dollars of materials and say it can be done cheaper.. All, or most, of the supplies are available at home improvement stores, pet stores, or in some cases re-purposed materials from around the house. Alternatively, materials can be sourced from Ebay. For our most basic setup, you will want the following materials.

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A sharp blade is the only require tool, but having a Drill, Dremel, 2″ hole saw, or Sharp Xacto knife, Scissors, Sharpie, and a ruler are all great.

Materials Required I always shop around for the best price, which is what I’ve listed. I’ve also included links to products on Amazon if you just want to purchase items quickly and aren’t being as cost sensitive.
5 Gallon Bucket ($2.50)
5 Gallon Bucket lid ($1.50)
6ft 5/16 Air Tubing ($2.00) – Buy on Amazon
10-20 Gallon(per bucket) Aquarium Air Pump ($5.00 to $16.00) – Buy on Amazon
*look at Walmart Aqua Culture: 5-15 Gallon, Single Outlet Aquarium Air Pump, 1 Ct for $6.97, or Ace Hardware Pet Supplies has a generic brand for just under $6
Air Stone/Diffuser ($1.29) – Buy on Amazon
Rock Wool ($4.95) – Buy on Amazon
4 3″ Net Pots or 6 2″ Net Pots($.30 to $.60 each) – Buy on Amazon

These Items Will Help You Increase Productivity
PH Test Kit and Conditioners – Buy on Amazon
Hydroton Grow Rocks ($6.95) – Buy on Amazon
Aquarium Check Valve ($2.00) – Buy on Amazon
Hydroponic Fertilizer ($15.00) – Buy on Amazon
Aquarium Thermometer (starting at $2.50) – Buy on Amazon

Step 1.
Measure and mark the holes in the bucket lid, where you will place your net pots. Net pots typically have a lip that is a greater diameter than their indicated size. This will hold the net pot in the holes you are about to make in the lid. Always double check the diameter required, or your net pots will not sit the way you anticipate. Don’t try to over crowd your pots. Four 4″ Net pots is probably going to be fine for a while, but as seedlings grow they will compete for space!

Step 2.
Cut the holes in the lid of your bucket. The easiest way is to use a drill with a hole saw, that matches your required hole size. *Always use caution when using power tools, blades, or saws.

Step 3.
Drill a hole, the same size as the outer diameter of your air tubing, in the bucket lid. Place the hole near an edge, so it will be out of the way of plant life.

Step 4.
Clean, or sterilize, your bucket. Rinse thoroughly, then fill bucket to about 2.5 inches below the rim. Its easiest to fill a bucket in its final destination, but also not impossible to move if this isn’t an option. Tap water is rarely going to have a PH perfect for your plants. Testing your water, and adjusting it to a PH range of 5.5 to 6.5 may be beneficial for whatever it is you will grow. The final water level height should end up just below, or barely touching, the bottom of your net pots. After some root growth, the water level should be dropped, to provide better aeration to roots, and encourage growth. Evaporation may do this for you.

Step 5.
Insert a 3 to 4 foot length of air tubing through the small hole in the bucket lid. A length of the tubing that just reaches the bottom of the bucket should stick out the bottom of the lid. The rest of the line will run to the air pump. Attach the air stone to the length of tubing sticking out of the bottom end of the lid.

Step 6.
Firmly attach the lid to the bucket. Attach the loose end of the airline to the air pump. *Edited 5/11 – Place the air pump above the water line of your buckets to protect siphoning in the event of power failure. A one way check valve is also great protection for your air pump.

Step 7.
Be sure the environment, pump and components are dry before plugging in and/or turning the pump on. Let the air pump run overnight without plants, the bubbling will aid in the removal of chlorine.

Step 8.
Prepare net pots, with rock wool, hydroton, or other growing medium of choice, and your seeds, or seedlings to be ‘planted’. Some growing mediums, like rock wool recommend an initial soaking in PH adjusted water. The rock wool used to start our plants is the same growing medium we use through our entire grow. Unused Rockwool from germinating seeds was used to shim and fill empty net pot space. This keeps cost on an additional growing medium down. Plant roots will eventually fill the net pots anyway.

Step 9.
Add any hydropnic fertilizers that you might choose to use to feed your plants. Double check that the PH is in the range of 5.5 to 6.5 if you can, as fertilizers can change the PH level. Insert net pots with plants. Alternative fertilizer options that are “free-ish” like, leaching old coffee grinds, dissolving eggshells with lime juice, or dissolving multivitamins and other supplements from a pantry can be used instead of commercial fertilizers, but growing results will be less predictable.

Step 10.
Enjoy your new Deep Water Culture System. Although starting from seed is ideal, transplanting with donor plants, or test dummies, is an okay approach to learning how to feed, and maintain your plants. Once you feel like you have a stable operation, flush the system and start anew, or setup another bucket with the seeds or seedlings you intend to grow to life expectancy. For more information on transplanting to deep water cultures, see our instructional post: Soil to Hydroponic Transplants.

Updates! Algae
If you are growing on a warm patio, algae, or other disease could effect your plants. Two reasonable methods of control are to use diluted food grade Hydrogen Peroxide, or a drop of Chlorine per gallon of water. Cooling the water temperatures, or rinsing roots and replacing water also helps.

Updates! Deep Water Culture Now an Aquaponic System!
Growth has been phenomenal, but hot weather does encourage algae growth in buckets exposed to sunlight. Fortunately, the warm conditions are also perfect for, algae eating fish. I’ve added a school of 5 chinese algae eating fish, and they are doing an exceptional job cleaning. They are also doing well in a system that has no mechanical filtration. The natural plant root filtration and heavy aeration is enough too keep a small school of them healthy thus far. Rising air bubbles actually circulate any algae debris through the root system, and mechanically filters the water.

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