How to build Deep Water Culture (Bubbler)

Original article for Overgrow.com by @highgrade

DIY Bubbler

Hydroponics is the science of growing plants in a sterile medium.

For the roots to flourish in a hydro system, there must be adequate water, nutrients, and oxygen. One of the easiest ways to start with hydroponics is simply to submerge the roots in a light nutrient solution and provide air in the solution with a small motorized pump. When done correctly, this method also is one of the most productive, capable of turning your average pot plants into monster indoor trees!

Deep Water Culture: from start to finish

In this how-to article, I will give you the plans, a workable nute ratio, and a schedule to complete a grow with the bubbling buckets. This is what has worked for me as of late-- there will always be variables from one garden to another which will require minor adjustments.

These adjustments should be made gently! With DWC (deep water culture), the plants will react to any change much faster and the changes seem to affect the plants in a greater way. Your mileage will very depending on strain, lighting, nutes, etc. As for strain differences, it appears that no matter what the strain, there will be increased growth rates including the root mass! Therefore I would recommend that you maintain a sterile condition in both the buckets themselves as well as in the grow areas. Lack of diligence here will guarantee failure.

Selecting the bucket

This is a 3-gallon bucket that was found behind a hospital and previously contained fruit cocktail. Try to avoid any buckets which contained harmful chemicals, they may not come completely clean! Wash the bucket in a 10% bleach solution to ensure a sterile start. I also like to remove the handles. They’re still easily picked up without them and they did tend to get in the way when left on.

3-gallons should be considered the minimum for bringing a plant to harvest with 5-gallons or more being preferable. Larger plastic tubs like those from Rubbermaid can be used but special attention should be paid to reinforcing them-- they’re not meant to hold water. Double them up, one inside the other, or use a thicker container like a hydro reservoir.

Getting started with the lids

Cut the center of the lid out so a 6" net pot will drop in the opening. At the 3-o’clock position you will see a 1/4" hole towards the edge. That’s for the airline. The net pots are available at most hydro stores.

Buy the heaviest-duty ones you can find. The reason I suggest the 6" is for plant stability when larger. You will need it, trust me! If you do choose to use smaller net pots you must secure them to the bucket so the plant does not tip over.

Later you’ll see a bucket with three 3.5" net pots in the lid. This is great for starting seedlings or clones in! 1-gallon per plant vs 3-gallons so you’ll save on nutes and the number of buckets you have to change out.

Preventing unwanted growth

You have to block the light or the buckets will fill with algae, and fast! Algae will choke the roots of necessary oxygen-- growth will slow and the roots will turn brown. You must make it light tight!

I have used duct tape, but unless you used three wraps the light would still penetrate. I’ve since switched to using anti-corrosion pipe wrap tape purchased at a hardware store. The roll cost $8 and will cover four 3-gallon buckets and lids. It’s a vinyl tape that light can’t pentrate and sticks well.

“I prefer the dual-outlet pumps for two reasons”

First, you have the ability to run two buckets in the early stages. I’ve heard of people using gang valves and running four to six buckets off of one pump. This may or not work, I’m no expert on exactly how much O2 is required in the solution for a healthy root system and plant.

Second, I use a T so the dual outlet pump becomes a single outlet pump. I use one pump per bucket to insure plenty of O2 for the large root mass. At $30 it will last for many grows and pay for itself in time. What’s that equal to now, about 1 gr worth of product? Spend the money for a successful grow!

The airstone’s I prefer to use are the small ones . The reason being is the fine bubbles they produce. Fine bubbles supply the most O2 to the solution vs powerheads or surface disturbance methods. Buy a couple extra as this is probably the most vulnerable part in the system. I’ve tried one of the 6" Bubble Curtains and didn’t get as good of results. Also, there is a small lead fishing weight tied to the line at the stone to keep it on the bottom and in place. I’m sure I’ll catch hell for using lead!

Medium or mediumless clones? My preference is rockwool starter cubes and gro-rocks or geolite. You could experiment with aeroponic rooting and ignore the rockwool altogether.

Nutrients and General Hydro ratios

This section is where the most testing and variations will be done by others! I use the GH Flora Series 3-part nutes. I also use the Silica magic, silicon additve and epsom salt in the solution. I start with distilled water due to water quality from a well that might not even be good for human consumption. I have tried RO water with no bad experiences and do plan on installing a RO filtering system soon. Either way, the ppm of the starting water is near 0.

For seedlings and clones I use a 33% strength 1-1-1 solution. What I do is mix 1gal with 5ml Grow, 5ml Micro, and 5ml Bloom. Not in this order, as you have to add the micro first, but they list the solutions as G-M-B. I also add 5ml of Pro-Tekt and 1/4tsp of epsom salt. This goes into the bucket and an additional two gals of distilled are added.

10 drops of 70% Reagent Grade Nitric Acid bring the ph to 5.6 which is fine for me. I try and keep the ph in the 5.5-5.8 range and it will drift from the low 4s to the high 6s between changes depending on the plants useage of what nutes. For veg stage I use the same procedure for mixing to obtain the 33% solution strength. The difference being the ratio of the 3 parts. In veg stage I use the 3-2-1 mix which equals 15ml Grow, 10ml Micro and 5ml Bloom. The Pro-Tekt and epsom salt remain the same. Combine with 2 gals of distilled and adjust the ph to range.

For the flowering stage it’s the same routine and 33% solution strength. The ratio of the 3 parts are 5ml Grow, 10ml Micro and 15ml Bloom. The Pro-Tekt and epsom salt remain constant. Add two gals of distilled and adjust for ph range.

Keeping the water level

In my experience, the number one cause of failure was due to the nutrient levels maintained too high, at a level that allowed the rockwool cubes to contact the solution. What has worked well is to maintain the level about 1" above the bottom of the pot when using 6" net pots. In the triple 3.5" net pot buckets the level was about 1/2" above the bottom of the pot. There’s no reason for concern when the levels drop below this point. I’ve had the level drop to a point that it took 2gals to bring it up to par. The air roots most likely thrive when the level drops in the bucket.

For topping off the buckets I use the same solution as in the bucket at the same 33% solution strength. In the transition period from veg to flower I used a mix of 2-2-2 and in latter flower stages I have tried an aggressive formula of 0-2-4, both again at 33%.

This is the area that will see the most changes by others. Everyone has their opinion on which nutes are the best and others will consider organics only. The most problems in the future will be with organics… These will take considerable monitoring and pre-bubbling to break down the organic nutes.

Hope this has clarified the bubbling bucket for you. Get cracking and have fun!

Original article for Overgrow.com by @highgrade Published in 2000.

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Great article that virtually got me into hydroponics!

I’m attaching pic that @highgrade generously provided for my article back in 2001.

Shiskeberry 50 days of flower in bubbler - Photo by highgrade

Thanks again and welcome to OG, highgrade!

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After a few hits of Shiskeberry you could blindfold me with Dental Floss.:grin:

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I like the way of the old days, when it was common practice to diy for buckets and stuff for cheap, better that today’s spoiled growers with all the plug n’play gadgets and stuff that is not necessary or does not work

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Great article! I have had the best luck with DWC and I particularly like to go medium-less Deep Water culture adapted from an instructional I found on the old OG …Through trial and error I found that a 40 quart ice chest with a hole drilled in the lid the diameter of a slice of a pool noodle and the sprout or clone stuck through the center at first over a nice bubble spray feeding the roots really encouraged full and rapid root formation and eventually a truly massive root mass and so an equally massive canopy to be SCROG or to my preference a extensively LST managed canopy field… The ice chest allows for light proofing and temperature regulation and the spigot allows easy drainage for nute changes or if it must be changed out for whatever reason like contamination phase change or at purge time… A simple hole plugged with a rubber cork or a water jug top that can be removed to add liquid or check chemistry,ph or whatever … if you want to get fancy a hole can be drilled in the lower part of the side plugged with a grommet and a piece of clear tubing is an easy way to check the water level. I like to use a bubble curtain with a fine vigorous mist and this same planting can go from being a bubble cloner all the way through harvest time with minimal stress to my girls well maintained temperature and about as set it and forget it as desired by the grower. So much cleaner and far greater yields than things like Hydroton balls or any restrictive medium that can also really complicate the removal of the plant if that becomes necessary for whatever reason…
Peace

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I like the old days too. Everything was so mysterious…all the hardware I know only from Dutch Sensi expositions…and those color printed catalogues of seeds, it was the rarity. I we ordered together it was kind of a ritual :sunglasses: And then we started first indoors with the aluminium foil glued to the walls and the timer was a big inovation :relieved: No growshops, we must be smarter and prepared to improvize. One friend work in the metal factory so he was commissioned to produce a lampshades according our proposal. Except it was more D.I.Y. it works nice and although we use only home made soil and N.P.K. or manure, soon we produced nice fat buds.

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HIGH All, yup that’s what got me into BBs…was doing Hydro before and seen his thread and was like oh ya…never grew any other way since…nice keepsake…Thanks for sharing!!!

Edit: Welcome to OG HIGHgrade

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Yes!! This was it!! The grow i wanted to do so badly because of this guide back in the day!! Memories…

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Wow! Thought that article was lost with the servers back in the day. Thanks for digging that up LJ!

unoit, thanks for the welcome my friend!

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After 10 years I’m just coming back to growing, I started looking around to see if there was some forum and suddenly OG is back, and I’m reading highgrade article on dwc… 15 years just went in the trashcan… :slight_smile:
love to be back…
DS

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I have done hydro for a few years now and it is what I recommend for the bulk of indoor growing. Keep some mothers in soil. Mothers in hydro go ape shit and its hard to use them up.

I started with the grey 3 gallon tubs and lids at walmart and cheap pumps,air hose and air stones. just had to cut a hole for a net pot and fill with expanded clay balls. Less then $10-12 per stand alone units and are cheaper with big pumps. I had 36 of those going for a while.
Now I run a 12 site Flo and Grow, 2,000 watts covers it great.

I use earth juice nutrients just the sugar peek series veg, the bloom and then big blooming guano and cal-mag. I never had to do much to PH,toss in a cap of citric acid once in a great while.

The closet grower with 4-6 tubs and a 600 should be able to pull some good weight for a fat personal stash with not a lot of effort or expense. Short veg is a must as they will grow super fast.
80-90 days you can be stinking up the whole house no sweat.

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