Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Systems

What is Deep Water Culture?

Deep Water Culture, or DWC, is a type of hydroponic system that can offer great results with minimal effort. In this system, the roots of the plants are suspended directly in a highly oxygenated nutrient solution. This technique is especially well-suited for newcomers to hydroponics, as it is easy to construct and operate. Plus, it has been proven to be highly effective.

Benefits of Deep Water Culture:
– Fast growth rate
– High yields
– Easy to set up and maintain
– Highly oxygenated nutrient solution
– Perfect for new hydroponic gardeners

DWC Hydroponic System Diagram
DWC Hydroponic System Diagram
Best Single Plat
Current Culture Under Current Solo 8 Gallon

Current Culture Under Current Solo 8 Gallon

Single Module Deep Water Culture (DWC) System
The SOLO Single Module Water Culture System is great for hydro beginners and mother plants. It’s available in both 8 and 13-gallon module sizes with interchangeable CCH2O Lid options. The UC Solo is easy to setup and maintain, start growing trees!

The Under Current® features the patented Sub-Current Culture® circulation method. This high-performance water culture system is unmatched in efficiency, layout versatility and ease of use. The Under Current® utilizes negative water pressure to recirculate oxygenated nutrient solution through the plant’s root zone ensuring pH and EC levels are uniform throughout the entire system.

Preferred Outdoor Hydro System
AutoPot XXL System with Water Tank and (9 or 13) Gallon Pots - Self-Watering, Gravity-Fed System for Grow Tents and Hydroponics (4Pot - 9 Gallon - with 12.4 Gallon Tank)

AutoPot XXL System with Water Tank and (9 or 13) Gallon Pots - Self-Watering, Gravity-Fed System for Grow Tents and Hydroponics (4Pot - 9 Gallon - with 12.4 Gallon Tank)

  • Self-Watering, Gravity-Fed System for Grow Tents and Hydroponics

As with all AutoPot Watering Systems, XXL operates power-free, without the need for running water, and without pumps or computers to maintain. Immense savings in time, money, and ecology are obvious merits. Such virtues are equaled only by the responsiveness with which plants are fed and watered. The AQUAvalve5s that regulate every module respond exactly to each individual plant’s needs, supplying water and nutrient solution only as and when required, without recirculation or a drop of waste.

Easy to use
Hydrofarm MGSYS Hydroponic Megagarden Ebb & Flow System in a 22

Hydrofarm MGSYS Hydroponic Megagarden Ebb & Flow System in a 22" x 22" x 10" size Container,Black

  • Get the convenience of an Ebb & Flow System in a 22" x 22" x10" size garden
  • Includes fired-clay and pebble grow media; 7-1/2-gallon reservoir, water level indicator
  • Includes fifteen 5-inch, plastic grow pots can be filled with soil, or included fired-clay pebble grow media
  • Submersible pump and timer for automatic flood and drain irrigation
  • Also features seed starter cubes, nutrients and a pH test kit

DWC Vs Bubbleponics Vs RDWC

Before we explain the system in more detail, including how to build your own DWC system, it is worth taking a look at some of the terminology that you will come across when researching DWC systems. There are several different types of DWC system and in some places the names have become interchangeable, which can sometimes be a little confusing.

Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Systems 7Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Systems 9

Deep Water Culture (DWC) is a hydroponic growing method that provides an easy and effective way to grow your favorite plants. This system uses a single bucket or container as the reservoir for your nutrient solution. The solution is then constantly aerated, allowing roots to access oxygen and the nutrients needed for healthy growth. The roots of the plant are suspended directly into the nutrient solution, making it one of the most efficient ways to grow plants. With DWC, you can expect faster growth and bigger yields compared to traditional soil-based gardening. Additionally, DWC allows you to easily monitor and adjust the nutrient concentration to ensure optimal growth.

Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Systems 11Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Systems 13

Recirculating Deep Water Culture (RDWC) works on the same principle as a basic deep water culture system but has a separate central reservoir which feeds several buckets while water is circulated through the system continuously, ideally providing increased oxygen an nutrient availability to the roots.

Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Systems 15Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Systems 17

Bubbleponics is a term that has been used to describe a type of Deep Water Culture (DWC) system which is fed from the top of the root system, as opposed to bubbling away below the roots. This method of hydroponic gardening allows for oxygenated nutrient solution to be pumped and fed directly to the plants, resulting in faster growth and healthier plants.

Bubbleponics vs DWC

How Does DWC Work?

One of the most attractive factors of a DWC system is its simplicity. The roots of marijuana plants just LOVE oxygen. The roots can’t get enough of it and increasing the oxygen available to them massively increases their uptake of nutrients, which of course means more growth. This is why, in soil systems, we add Perlite and Vermiculite to introduce air pockets to the medium. All hydroponics systems require a method of allowing the roots to come into contact with the air. Often, as in Ebb and Flow systems, this is achieved by having regular timed flows of nutrient solution interspersed by dry periods when the roots can breathe. With DWC the roots are permanently suspended in the nutrient solution and the oxygen that they require is also in the solution. Here’s how it works:

  • Plants are grown in net pots suspended in the lids of plastic buckets;
  • Plants are normally started out in Rockwool cubes which are then placed into the net pots which have been filled with an inert growing medium, normally Hydroton or similar expanded clay pellets;
  • The bucket is filled with the required nutrient solution;
  • An aquarium air stone is placed into the bucket and an air pump attached using air lines;
  • The roots of the plant grow downwards into the nutrient solution, becoming permanently suspended in the liquid where the extra oxygen allows them to assimilate the nutrients.

Buying a DWC System

There are a number of DWC systems available on the market and, if you are not very handy at DIY then this could be the answer for you. Remember that the value of this system is in its simplicity. There is no need to spend ridiculous amounts of money on this. Things that you should consider before purchasing are:

  • Air Pump Power – The air pump is the heart of your DWC set up. The air pump needs to be powerful enough to sufficiently oxygenate your nutrient solution. The more bubbles you have, the better this will work. Do not be tempted to skimp on the pump. A good rule of thumb here is around one Watt per gallon. That means a 20W pump should be enough for a 20 gallon reservoir;
  • Air Pump Noise – Stealth is a serious issue for lots of growers. It’s not just the neighbors either, nobody wants to be kept awake at night by the sound of a humming pump. Some of the cheaper imported air pumps can be noisy. All good air pumps will advertize their operating noise levels. Noise is measured in decibels. Use the image below to get an idea of how loud a given amount of decibels actually is;
  • Air Stone – DWC is all about the bubbles, make sure the system you buy comes with a decent air stone. At least 4” – 6” for a single bucket system;
  • Bucket Size – A 3 – 5 gallon bucket is the minimum size you would want for a single plant set up.

Construct Your Own DWC System

Building your own DWC hydroponics system is really easy. If you are good with your hands then you will be able to knock one up in no time. Even if you’re not so handy, the concept is very simple and by following these straight forward instructions you should have no problems constructing your own system. Use this DWC tutorial as a basis for your own system. Once you get the hang of the concept you can consider expanding and setting up multiple systems so that you can grow several plants at the same time. Like the satisfaction of growing your own vegetables, your weed will taste much nicer and feel more potent from a system that you have built yourself!

Tools and Materials You Will Need:

  • Drill with ¾” drill bit and either 3” or 4” hole saw attachment (if necessary, see lid below);
  • 5 gallon opaque bucket;
  • Specialist net pot lid to fit the bucket, available from your hydro store;
  • If you cannot get a net pot lid use a normal bucket lid and either a 3” or 4” net pot. This is where you will need the hole saw;
  • Aquarium air pump;
  • Approx 5’ of ¾” silicon or rubber tubing (not transparent);
  • Aquarium air stone;
  • Expanded clay pellet growing medium.


  • Drill a ¾” hole in the side of your 5 gallon bucket, around an inch down from the top. This is for the airline to enter the bucket so it is important that the hole is above where the top of your nutrient solution will be, but does not interfere with the lid;
  • Make sure your airline fits through the hole snugly;
  • Thread the airline through the hole and attach it to the air stone. Place the air stone inside the bottom of the bucket. If the air stone has suction pad attachments, attach them to the bottom of the bucket. If not, make sure that the stone is somehow attached firmly to the base of the bucket;
  • Attach the other end of the airline to the air pump. It is important that, when the system is operating, you position the air pump higher than the bucket. This means that, should the air pump fail, the water will not run back through the airline and flood the pump;
  • At this stage it is worth putting some water in the bucket and turning the pump on to check that you are getting plenty of bubbles. Are you? Great!
  • Now, if you haven’t bought a specially made net cup lid for your bucket you will need to drill an appropriately sized hole in the lid of your bucket. Net cups come with a small lip for attaching, so you just need to drill a 3” hole for a 3” net cup or a 4” hole for a 4” net cup;
  • Use some silicon (or other appropriate waterproof adhesive) to attach your net cup to the lid;
  • That’s it! It really is as easy as that. A small hole for the airline, a larger hole for the net cup (if required), join the airline to the pump and air stone, and you are ready to grow some serious weed!

Variations you may wish to consider include:

  • Multiple net pots for multiple plants in a bigger bucket or other container;
  • More than one air stone for more bubbles, use a T-Bar to join them;
  • A powerful, multiple outlet air pump feeding multiple buckets.

Operating a DWC System

Once you have either bought or constructed your Deep Water Culture hydroponics system, you will be keen to get started with the growing. You can either germinate seeds or start with a clone. You can read more about that in the appropriate sections of the website.
For the purposes of these instructions we will assume that you have a rooted clone or seedling in a Rockwool cube.

rooted marijuana clone in rockwool
  • Fill your bucket with your nutrient solution. Make sure that the top level of the solution comes to around the bottom of the net cup. It is important that, at this stage, the growing medium is not submerged in the solution. The idea is that the roots grow down into the solution. There will be enough humidity from bubbles breaking the surface to keep the young roots moist and happy;
  • Fill your net cup almost to the top with your growing medium of choice. We recommend expanded clay pellets;
  • Place your rooted plant, in its rockwool cube, into the growing medium so that the top of the cube is just covered by the top of the medium;
  • Turn the pump on;
  • You are now growing hydroponic marijuana;
  • There is some debate going on about whether to have the air pump for a DWC set up on 24/7, or whether to use a timer. Some folk use a timer set for a few minutes on then a few minutes off. It is our experience that most growers go for 24/7 and that is our recommendation;
  • Be sure to regularly monitor the pH and concentration (EC or PPM) of your nutrient solution. This is important. Keep pH between 5.6 and 6.2 and carefully follow the feeding program that comes with your chosen nutes;
  • Change your nutrient solution and clean the inside of the bucket around once per week;
  • Before long your plant will develop a massive root system. Seeing this explosive root growth every time you change the solution is one of the most exciting bits about DWC hydroponic cultivation:
  • Once your plant is well established and you commence flowering, you can lower the level of the nutrient solution by a few inches so that most of the roots are submerged but the very top section is open to the air.

Deep Water Culture is an excellent hydroponics system that should be of interest to both novices and experienced hydroponic growers.

DWC hydroponic system - root mass

Deep Water Culture System FAQs


Meet Redd, with over 14 years of experience in growing cannabis, Redd isn't just a knowledgeable expert in cannabis cultivation; he also have a humanistic touch that makes them relatable and trustworthy. Redd understands that growing cannabis is more than just a business; it's a lifestyle and a community. In his free time, Redd enjoys hiking, disc golf, playing with their dogs and cats, and trying out new strains of cannabis.