Looking to get started with hydroponics? Great choice! This soilless method of growing produces impressive growth rates, cleaner quality, and heavier yields. And, let’s face it – there’s just a “cool” factor to growing in a hydroponic system!
However, there’s no denying the challenges that come with hydroponic growing – especially for beginners. The learning curve is steep, and the margin for error is low. As such, you need to set yourself up for success by investing in the best beginner hydroponic system.
We know what you’re wondering…are certain hydroponics kits better for beginners than others? The answer is a resounding yes. Just as certain types of nutrients, genetics, and other growing tactics are more advanced than others, so too are certain hydroponic systems. Fortunately, we’re here to clear the air and help you uncover the best hydroponic system for a beginner.
In this guide, we’ll not only unveil the best beginner hydroponic kit that will help you set off on the right foot. But, we’ll also detail what you need to know about growing in hydroponics systems as a first-timer – so you can minimize the likelihood of crop issues, or worse, crop failure altogether. We’ve got a lot to cover in this in-depth guide, so let’s start by explaining why you need the best hydroponics kits for beginners.
Why You Need the Best Hydroponics Kits for Beginners
As you can probably imagine, not all hydroponic kits are created equal. Some have far more moving parts – and this adds a layer of complexity to what is already a more advanced growing technique.
To really help you grasp the understanding of why you need to make things as easy on yourself as possible by getting the right system, let’s talk about some of the factors that make hydroponics – in general – a more difficult growing method than traditional pots and soil.
The two biggest issues new growers experience have to do with feeding: nutrition and pH. You probably already know that plants have a specific pH range in which they can uptake nutrients and thrive. If you feed them fertilizer without dialing in the pH level, certain vital nutrients will be locked out.
This contributes to nutrient deficiencies.
Another common issue with feeding is actually overfeeding – which leads to nutrient burn. When it comes to feeding your plants, more isn’t necessarily better. In fact, overfeeding can contribute to crop failure.
These two issues can occur in both soil and hydroponics setups. The kicker, though, is that hydroponically grown plants don’t have any soil to act as a buffer. By the time you notice nutrient issues in your hydroponic system, you’ll have less time to rectify the problem than if you were growing in soil.
We don’t say this to scare you away from hydroponics. By following the advice we provide later on, you can effortlessly bring your crop from seed to harvest.
However, it is important that you recognize how much higher the stakes are with hydroponics growing. As such, investing in a hydroponics kit made specifically for beginners will increase your chances of success. And because you’re here reading our guide to finding the best beginner hydroponic system, you’re already halfway there! In fact, we’re going to transition this discussion now to get into the factors you need to take into consideration when shopping for your hydroponic system.
What Makes the Best Hydroponic System for Beginners in Particular?
As with any sort of buying guide, it’s important that you have a good grasp on what makes the best hydroponic kit for beginners. Our recommendation for the best hydroponic system for beginners is very different from what we would recommend for a seasoned green thumb with countless grow cycles under their belt. If you’re looking for your very first hydroponic kit, here are a few things to keep in mind.
It’s important that you set your expectations realistically before shopping…quality hydroponic systems are expensive! This isn’t even factoring in everything else you need for successful hydroponics grow setup: fertilizer, lighting, ventilation, harvest supplies, and more. This is probably not news to you if you’ve already done a bit of research. To help you avoid overpaying for a system that underdelivers, we’ve compiled some of the most affordable hydroponic systems that still feature the quality and dependability you need.
Before discussing the next point in this section, we want to steer you away from going the “DIY” route. Sure – it can be tempting to save money and get your hands dirty building your own system. However, this just increases the likelihood of something going wrong mid-cycle. Is it really worth saving a few dollars if it means crop failure, wasted resources, and more importantly, wasted time? We think not.
Easy to Setup & Grow Plants With (Low Risk of Failure)
As a beginner hydroponics grower, you need a system that has few moving parts and low room for error. Think back to the first section we discussed – hydroponics is hard enough as it is! By investing in a system that’s easy to set up and grow plants with, you can make life a bit easier on yourself. But what makes a system “easy”?
Look for a system with just a few moving parts. This means there are fewer things that can go wrong and fewer components that you have to maintain.
Moreover, look for a system that has just a few growth modules – so you don’t get overwhelmed with too many plants. Look at your first crop as a “trial run”. Instead of trying to floor it and grow 10+ plants in your system, look for a 2-4 plant system and narrow your focus.
You can also look for systems that have a nice, big reservoir – as this will cut back on how often you need to top it off or completely change out the nutrient solution. Most importantly, the system should feature some degree of automation. The degree of automation will vary based on your specific system (DWC systems need far less automation than ebb and flow systems) – but the less physical work you have to do, the better.
The Different Hydroponics Kits for Beginners to Choose From
Now that we’ve talked about what makes the best hydroponics kits for beginners, what options do you have? We’re going to start with our personal recommendation when asked about hydroponic kits for beginners:
DWC (Deep Water Culture) Systems [Our Recommendation for Beginners]
Deep water culture hydroponics systems are the best hydroponic system for beginners to use. Here, plant roots are suspended directly in the nutrient reservoir and have constant access to all the nutrients they need.
We love this system for beginners because there is no need for hydroponic water pumps. The only “moving part” is the air pump, which is responsible for delivering oxygen to the nutrient solution. The air pump is the heart of this system. Without oxygenation, the roots would be unable to uptake nutrients. And eventually, the plants would drown. As such, it’s important that you constantly check the air pump to ensure it’s working as intended. Aside from this – and monitoring the reservoir/nutrient solution – the required maintenance is virtually none. We also love how efficient these systems are with nutrients and water (recirculating).
Ebb & Flow (or Flood & Drain) Systems
Also known as the flood and drain system, this style is a bit more complex. As such, we don’t typically recommend it to new growers.
This type of system involves a plant tray on a stand with a slightly angled setup. The angle is important for the “drain” aspect – more on that later.
A reservoir with water and nutrient solution sits underneath the tray. Similar to the DWC system, an air pump will typically be required to provide ample oxygenation to the solution. With the help of a water pump and a timer, nutrients are sent up into the grow tray to fully submerge the plant roots.
Then, after a short period, the timer shuts off – and the nutrient solution drains back into the reservoir. This process is repeated throughout the day.
Because your plants aren’t submerged in water 24/7, they have better nutrient uptake. And, these systems are very energy & resource efficient. However, the moving parts and schedule make this a tough system for beginners to get the hang of. Moreover, monitoring pH becomes more of a challenge than with DWC systems.
Hydroponic Drip Systems
These types of systems are geared more towards commercial cultivars – because to truly unlock the value they offer, they need to be run at scale.
They do bear some resemblance to the NFT system (which we’ll discuss next), but they’re perhaps the most efficient type of hydroponic system.
That’s because plants are fed via a tiny drip emitter throughout the day, keeping water use low. The main benefit of this system, though, is how you can dial in your fertilizer far more specifically – down to the very last drip.
However, they require just as many moving parts as the ebb and flow system – and the yields aren’t nearly as impressive. As we said – you need to have a large commercial facility filled with hydroponic drip systems to get the most out of this style.
NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) Systems
This is another great choice for beginners. NFT systems are low-waste recirculating systems that operate very similar to the ebb and flow system – with a key difference being how much nutrient solution is sent up to the plants. While flood and drain systems provide a huge volume of nutrients all at once (literally flooding your plants), NFT systems just provide a thin film of nutrients. This is where the name comes from.
Now – these types of systems are easier for beginners than ebb and flow systems. However, they’re still not quite as simple as the DWC system – and that’s still our recommendation for beginner hydroponic growers.
Do Aeroponics Systems Count as Hydroponics?
We recently wrote an article breaking down aeroponics vs hydroponics. While these two types of growing are very similar, they are not the same. Aeroponics mists the root zone with a nutrient solution – which is much different from the manner in which nutrients are administered in hydroponics systems. You can read our complete guide (linked above) if you’d like to learn more.
So – What is the Best Hydroponic System for Beginners?
Now that you have a better understanding of what to look for in the best hydroponic kit for beginners – and why we prefer DWC for beginner growers – it’s the moment you’ve been anxiously anticipating. We’re going to share some of our picks for the best hydroponic system for beginners.
These simple, affordable, and most importantly, dependable systems will help you get your first harvest under your belt and provide you with the confidence you need to keep striving for improvement. Let’s start with our personal favorite hydroponic kit for beginners.
Active Aqua Root Spa Single Bucket System
We suggest you start small with your hydroponics setup – and the Active Aqua Root Spa Single Bucket System forces you to do just that with a single growth module! However, you can grab a few of these as they’re only $50/each. Or, check out other configurations that feature 4-buckets or 8-buckets.
Active Aqua is a reputable brand in the hydroponics industry. They’re known for producing reliable, durable components that stand the test of time. And, this simple system is incredibly forgiving. It’s inevitable that you’ll make mistakes in your first stab at hydroponics. But, the consequences of those mistakes are minimized in the Root Spa system – which is why it’s our #1 recommendation for anyone seeking the best hydroponic kits for beginners.
For best results, pair this system with hydroponic clay pebbles and a quality hydroponics fertilizer.
SuperCloner SuperPonics Grow System
Another great option – particularly for growers looking to get started in hydroponics cloning – is the SuperCloset SuperPonics Grow System. There are 14 growth modules – which are far smaller than the 5-gallon bucket system we just discussed. While this definitely means smaller plants, it also means more plants.
We love this system because it’s fully automated. In fact, the folks at SuperCloset claim it can help you grow plants up to five times easier than other traditional systems.
Why? It’s only possible through the unique design of this system. While it’s a DWC system at heart, it also features a top feed drip system – so your plants’ roots get the vital nutrients they need from all angles.
This contributes to supercharged growth rates – and an impressive harvest at the end of the road. More importantly for beginners, though, this allows for peace of mind. Should anything go wrong with one of these two feeding methods, the other will still be there keeping your plants happy and healthy.
Oh – and another reason we deem this system to be among the best hydroponic systems for beginners? It comes fully assembled in the box. Just add water, nutrients, and your plants. Then, plug it in! How simple is that?
Grow1 Deep Water Culture Hydroponic System
Last but not least, we have the Grow1 Deep Water Culture Hydroponic System. This 5-bucket system is very similar to the Active Aqua Root Spa.
However, this particular configuration is one of the most affordable, value-packed systems we’ve come across. For just over $200 you get a complete system that requires minimal effort to get set up and grow with. Just add the other necessary components (we recommend coco coir for this hydroponic setup) and grab your plants.
While the nutrient reservoir is a separate bucket, there is no water pump necessary – the system relies on gravity to feed from the epicenter to the individual growth modules.
When optimized with the right lighting, nutrients, ventilation, and plant training techniques, the results you can achieve through this simple system are astounding.
With that said, let’s talk more about optimizing your hydroponics system and increasing your chances of success.
Tips for New Soilless Growers: Getting the Most Out of Hydroponics Kits for Beginners
Before wrapping up our guide on the best beginner hydroponic system, we want to leave you with a few tips. Getting your first soilless grow started can be daunting – even with the right hydroponic kit for beginners. However, by sticking with our recommendations above – and following our advice below – you’ll be well on your way to a heavy, potent harvest with no prior experience!
Take the Time to Learn the Basics Before Diving in
Before getting your system set up and your seeds/clones ready, we encourage you to take the time to fully immerse yourself in this cultivation method. The learning curve for hydroponics is steep. It’s true that the best way to learn is by doing it yourself. However, if you want to save yourself some time, money, and frustration, you can greatly benefit from diving into forums, watching YouTube videos, and perhaps even investing in paid courses. All of this will pay for itself in the long run.
Start Small With Fewer Growth Modules
It can be tempting to go with a 6-12 bucket system at first. This is especially true if you’re a soil grower used to growing many plants at once. But don’t underestimate how much extra time and care these hydroponic plants need. Start with fewer growth modules – and add more with each sequential growth cycle. Remember – hydroponics plants grow faster and bigger, so while you’re cultivating fewer plants you may still get similar (or heavier) yields!
Track Progress in a Journal & With Photos
Keeping a week-by-week grow journal is perhaps the best advice we can offer. Not only is it a ton of fun to look back after harvest and see how far your baby plants came – but, it will also help you in the future when you encounter problems. You can look back at your journal and see where you went wrong – or use past findings to come up with a solution to current problems.
Invest in Quality Hydroponics Nutrients (and other Growing Essentials)
Even with the best hydroponics system for beginners, your yields and quality will be dismal if you skimp on nutrients, lighting, and other growing essentials. For hydroponics, in particular, the fertilizer you feed makes all the difference. Read our article on the best hydroponic fertilizer to learn more. In terms of lighting, bite the bullet and invest in LEDs – you’ll save more in the long run on your energy bill/maintenance. And, these lights contribute to heavier yields and better quality.
Don’t forget your ventilation system, either. The last thing you want is to let heat/humidity get out of control in your grow room or grow tent. Speaking of which, you may need to invest in a quality hydroponics water chiller to keep your reservoir temperature dialed in. If your nutrient solution is too warm, plants won’t be able to uptake nutrients effectively. Worse, this can contribute to root rot.
Other ways you can optimize your grow include supplementing with CO2, implementing advanced plant training techniques (like topping or LST), and of course, investing in quality genetics from the start.
Closing Thoughts on the Best Hydroponic System for Beginners
There you have it – everything you need to know about getting started with hydroponics. Whether you’re hoping to grow hydroponic tomatoes, hydroponic strawberries, or hydroponic cannabis – we hope this guide provided you with clarity on what you need to look for in the best beginner hydroponic system.
At this point, it’s time to run with these insights and take action. While the thought of trying something entirely new can be scary, you should now feel confident in your next steps. Happy growing!