Deep Water Culture Hydroponics is a hydroponic method that yields prolific plant growth. It keeps the roots submerged in oxygenated water, allowing for greater nutrient uptake and higher yields. The water can be aerated through water bubbles or falling water.

What Is Deep Water Culture – DWC?

Let’s look at deep water culture from a zoomed-out perspective before digging deeper. A hydroponic deep water culture is when your plants’ roots are suspended in a water/hydroponic nutrient solution that’s highly oxygenated. This allows for optimal plant growth.

There are three main parts of the oxygenated solution:

Oxygen. Since the roots are in water rather than soil- which has pockets of air in it- the water must be well oxygenated to prevent the plants from drowning. Air pumps and air stones aid this process.

Water. Water is the lifeblood of deep water culture hydroponics. It’s what your plants are suspended in and is continuously being recycled throughout the system.

Nutrients. Good soils have all the macro and micro nutrients that plants need. Since deep water culture, hydroponic systems don’t have soil, the water needs to be supplemented with nutrients.


One advantage to DWC is that plants have optimal growth- they grow much faster thanks to increased nutrient uptake and oxygen. Root aeration improves water absorption too, which increases cell growth. You also don’t need too much fertilizer since your plants are suspended in the DWC nutrients.

The systems are also designed very simply and don’t require almost any maintenance. There aren’t any water pumps, feeder lines, or nozzles that would clog.


Deep water culture hydroponics have huge yields. This is because the plants have better access to oxygen and nutrients so they don’t spend as much energy growing roots and looking for nutrients.

Accelerated Growth

Farmer harvests Hydroponics plants

Plants grown using deep water culture hydroponic systems grow noticeably faster. Some plants can grow as much as 10cm in one day!


Simplicity is one of the most appealing traits of DWC hydroponics. They have very few moving parts, which means less things can go wrong.

Water conservation

All hydroponic systems use less water because the water is recycled and soil isn’t sucking up all the water you’re using. Hydroponic systems can use as much as 10 times less water when compared to a traditional method of growing.


But deep water culture hydroponics isn’t without its downsides. There are some problems with this kind of system that you may run into. However, these are mainly avoidable if you’re taking good care of your garden.

For example, in small systems, the nutrient concentration, water level, and pH can fluctuate greatly. Likewise, when you try to calibrate them to correct them, it’s easy to under or over-calibrate. 

In the case of a power outage or pump failure, your roots can drown.

Water temperature can be hard to maintain in deep water culture hydroponic systems.

But the benefits greatly outweigh the negatives when it comes to DWC. Every garden requires some care and DWC is no different!

Aeration Methods in DWC

There are two main methods to aerate and dissolve oxygen into the hydroponic nutrient solution.

Air bubbles

When it comes to hydroponic systems, including water culture systems, air pumps and air stones are utilized to create air bubbles in the nutrient solution.

The air pump is connected to the air stone using an airline and provides the air volume. Air stones are made out of material similar to rocks. They have small pores that create small bubbles. These bubbles rise to the top of the water. 

Soaker hoses can also be used. They make smaller bubbles than air stones do.

The smaller the bubbles are, the better the aeration. This is because there is a greater surface area to contact the water. The contact between the water and the air bubbles replaces the dissolved oxygen that the plants roots absorb.

Falling water

Falling water isn’t the most popular method at home for water culture systems. The falling water method is when falling water splashes on the system and aerates it through the splashing.

The more water that falls, the more force it creates when it hits the water. The stronger the downward force is, the more dissolved oxygen will be in the water because the agitation is deeper.

Falling water is more popular in commercial deep water culture hydroponic systems because they have more water at their disposal than the typical home grower does.

What types of the DWC should I start first?

You should start with a modular, traditional DWC.

Building a Deep Water Culture System

Your best bet is to grow a traditional deep water culture system because they’re the easiest to build. All you need is:

1. Air pump

2. Air stone

3. Airline tubing

4. Bucket

5. Growing media

6. Net pots

7. Nutrients

8. PPM meter

9. pH control kit

Connect your pump to your tubing and then your tubing to the air stone. Now put the air stone in your bucket. 

Fill your bucket up with water and dial in the pH and nutrients. Now you’re able to start your seeds! It’s that easy.

Vegetable grown in a hydroponic system


Here are some commonly asked questions and answers!

Which Plants to grow in DWC

The best plants to grow in DWC are plants that don’t flower, such as lettuce or herbs. These plants grow quickly in deep water culture systems when compared to lettuce in soil, and even compared to other hydroponic systems.

You can also grow things like squash, peppers, or tomatoes- although they require some extra effort.

What are the best DWC Nutrients?

Every plant needs phosphorous, calcium, nitrogen, and more. However, the ratios that each plant needs varies a lot.

The best DWC nutrients are nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. These make up the NPK ratio, which represents the percentage of each nutrient in the hydroponic fertilizer solution. 

To illustrate, an NPK ratio of 5-4-3 would be 5% nitrogen, 4% phosphorous, and 3% potassium.

Meso-nutrients: calcium and sulfur

Micronutrients: zinc, manganese, copper, chlorine, boron, iron

How deep should the roots be in the DWC water?

The water in your DWC setup should be at least 10 inches deep. Meanwhile, the roots should be about two inches deep.

Should I Use A Singular Or Modular System?

The difference between singular and modular systems is that a modular system uses multiple containers all connected to one central reservoir.

This lets the nutrient-rich water cycle to all the plants from the reservoir, and then back.

If you’re a beginner, singular systems are best. They’re cheaper, more user-friendly, and less prone to error.

But if you’re looking to scale your DWC, you may consider moving up to a modular system. 

What Should The Temperature Of My DWC Reservoir Be?

Your DWC reservoir should be 68 degrees F or lower. Meanwhile, the air temperature can range from 75 to 80 degrees F. 

Are There Any Common Issues That A DWC System Encounters?

The common issues that DWC systems encounter are very similar to the disadvantages previously discussed.

If the airpump gets broken, it needs to quickly be replaced or else your plants will pay the price.

It can be hard to maintain your water temperature if your DWC system is non-recirculating. The water can get too hot from the pump constantly running.

It’s hard to keep a consistent nutrient concentration, water level, and pH in small systems. Likewise, it’s easy to over- and under-adjust.

Lastly, your plants can drown or get nasty root diseases if the power goes out or if your pump fails.

Can DWC Hydroponics Increase Your Yield?

DWC hydroponics increases your yield significantly because the plants don’t have to work so hard to uptake water and deep water culture nutrients.

What is the difference between hydroponics and DWC?

The main hydroponic system to compare DWC to is the ebb and flow system.

With an ebb and flow system, the growing tray is above the water and nutrient reservoir. Solution is pumped into the tray when it’s time to flood your plants.

Then the nutrient solution fills the growing tray until the overflow regulator sends a signal to stop the pumping.

Once the grow medium absorbs the right amount of solution, the water drains out through the overflow regulator and enters the reservoir again. This lets the roots aerate and dry out.  

Meanwhile, deep water culture hydroponic systems work a little differently. First, the air pump adds oxygen into the nutrient solution, where your plants’ roots are fully submerged.

The plants are suspended over the solution through a raft system.

Your bucket is filled with a growing medium and the plant roots stay submerged the whole time instead of only temporarily being flooded.

Instead of being aerated from the water draining out, the plants get their oxygen levels through air pumps. This allows for superior uptake of nutrients.

How often do you change the water in DWC?

You should change the water in DWC at least once every two weeks when your plants are in their vegetative stage, and at least once per week in their flowering stage. 

What does DWC mean in hydroponics?

DWC stands for Deep Water Culture.


If you’re looking for an explosion of growth, DWC systems are the way to go! Their special method of oxygenating the water provides a superior uptake of nutrients and will make your plants thrive.