Bubbler Bucket

Deep water culture system

A deep water culture system suspends roots in a bucket of nutrient solution. An air pump continuously bubbles oxygen into the solution. You can use old sturdy 5-gallon size buckets.

Shopping list

  • A 5-gallon size container with lid (make sure no pesticides or hazardous materials have been stored in it)
  • 6” round net pot with a rim.
  • Air stone that fits in the bottom of the bucket
  • 1/4” tubing
  • Hydroton (expanded clay pellets).
  • Air pump
  • Utility knife (or hack saw)
  • Drill with 1/4” drill bit
  • pH and EC meters
Bubbler Bucket 1
  1. Assemble all your materials. Make sure the bucket is clean, especially if you are recycling an old bucket (such as this sturdy cat litter container).
Bubbler Bucket 2
  1. Drill a 1/4” hole at one end of the lid. Cut a piece of the 1/4” tubing (however long you need to go from your pump to the bottom of the bucket). Make sure the tube fits through the hole snugly, but not so tight that the air flow is constricted.
Bubbler Bucket 3
  1. Attach one end of the tube to the air pump and the other end to the air stone.
Bubbler Bucket 4
  1. Fill the bucket with clean water. Run the air pump to make sure the water is bubbling well. Then turn off the air pump.
Bubbler Bucket 5
  1. Draw a circle on the lid that is slightly smaller than the rim of your net pot. Cut out the circle.
Bubbler Bucket 6
  1. Insert the net pot to make sure it fits well. It should not fall through the hole even with a slight pressure applied on it.
Bubbler Bucket 7
  1. Pour the correct amount of plant food into the water (follow label on whichever hydroponic plant food that you use).
Bubbler Bucket 8
  1. Checking pH is important. Always adjust pH so that it is around 6.0 for most plants. A squeeze of lemon helps bring pH down a point in a gallon of water. EC is also good to measure so you know the concentration of food your plant is getting. At transplant, an EC of 1.5-2.0 is plenty for most plants.
Bubbler Bucket 9
  1. Put some Hydroton at the bottom of your net pot. Insert your plant growing in a Grodan Gro-Block™ into the net pot. (3-4” size Gro-Blocks™ fit well into 6” net pots) Lay some more Hydroton on top. Make sure you grow good transplants by starting good seedlings and cuttings and transplants.
Bubbler Bucket 10
  1. Close the lid and turn on the pump. Place outside or under a grow light indoors. How much light and how long depends again on what you are growing.

Maintenance

Change the reservoir with fresh solution at least once a week if at all possible. Just recycle the old solution by dumping on some plants outside. Drain the solution carefully so you don’t damage your plant growing in the bucket (you may want to consider adding a spigot or drainage hole to the bottom of the bucket for ease).

Bubbler Bucket
Roots of a cucumber plant just 20 days after transplanting.

If you maintain your system in a very sterile and controlled environment, you may be able to just add plant food and water as it gets depleted in the bucket, without ever changing the reservoir. But always maintain a pH around 6.0 and adjust your EC depending on the maturity of the plant. If you are growing a flowering plant, you will need to switch to a Bloom plant food at flowering. (since it contains more phosphorous and less nitrogen)

Overall keep an eye on your plant for insects and diseases. Always remove dying leaves and discard. With these type of passive systems it is VERY important to keep the growing area clean and disease free. With a little work, you will soon have beautiful plants growing in your home-made bubbler system!