Hydroponic Wick System Garden 101 [Guide & Tips]

If you have been planning to shift to a more sustainable form of growing plants, the hydroponic wick system undoubtedly stands out. 

It requires only 4 components and can easily be put together at home. You might need some time to figure out the right size and the number of wicks, but there’s no further difficulty once that’s determined. 

Now there are 6 methods of hydroponics, including the wick system, water culture, drip system, ebb and flow, NFT, and aeroponics. 

However, today, we decided to curate this guide for all the beginners who are enthusiastic about hydroponic wick system gardening. We have spoken about the process along with its pros and cons. There are also tips for you to remember while gardening. 

So, why wait! Read on to know more. 

How To Make A Wick System?

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The wick system is one of the most simple hydroponic methods and is perfect for first-timers. If you want to experiment with this system, then beginning with this is a good idea. It does not require any electricity or the use of a motor. 

You can use an air pump, but this is optional, and the mechanism can do without it. Now wicks are perfect for transferring nutrients to those plants, which require a low amount of nutrition and maintenance. It also works well for leafy vegetables and herbs. But it’s not suitable for growing larger plants. 

Materials Needed 

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You can make a wick system quickly with a few things that are already present in the house. If not, you will get the materials for very cheap outside. The essential items are:

  • Wick
  • Reservoir
  • Growth container
  • Air pump ( but this is optional ) 

You can use a number of growing media forms that include coco peat, perlite, and Vermiculite, to name a few. Choose the one that will work best for your plants. We will recommend doing some research before you begin the process to ensure that you do not go wrong while at it. 

In the next section, we will discuss each of the materials in detail. 

  1. Wick

An essential part of a hydroponic wick system is the wick, as it connects a water reservoir placed below to a grow tray on top. It works using a capillary action, and the nutrients in the water get transferred to your grow tray. 

Now, if you are wondering about the wick, let us tell you that it can be made with any kind of material. We would recommend using cotton as it soaks up nutrients the quickest. However, in the long run, there is a chance that cotton will form molds, and that can be harmful to the plants. 

In this case, the next best option is nylon. Nylon ropes do not mold easily; hence, they will last you a long time. 

Moving on, the next concern is how many ropes are needed for the process to happen. You can determine the count by taking into account the number of plants in your grow tray. Typically the count should be 1 wick per plant. 

Tie the wick near the roots of plants, ensuring that they touch. The other end has to be dipped in water. Just make sure that the gap between the top surface and reservoir is less. 

Once you have figured that out, you need to think about the thickness of the wick. The thickness will influence how much water is transferred. Remember, a very thick one will transfer more water than required. 

To regulate this, you can test with different sizes of wicks and measure the amount of water transferred. 

  1. Reservoir

The reservoir refers to the container that holds water, which has to be rich in nutrients and should cover more than half the reservoir. Ensure that you have a large container so that sufficient water can fit at one time.

Also, fill it up immediately when the water level goes down. It is important never to let the level go down as this nutrient-enriched water should not have to travel a lot before reaching the tray. This might lead to nutrient deficiency in plants. 

  1. Grow Tray

The grow tray is one that holds plants and their growing medium, and this is another important part of the setup. Now, you must already know those hydroponics are plants that do not grow in soil. You will need a different growing medium, such as perlite, coco coir, leca, and Vermiculite, to name a few. 

This also enables capillary action, and the wick should be able to transfer the nutrients and water to it. Remember that these are not suited to retain a lot of water, and hence, the thickness of the wick should be compatible with it. 

Also, the growing medium needs freshwater often to prevent any kind of salt buildup. This generally happens as salt is also absorbed and brought up from the reservoir. It might settle and make the medium toxic. The freshwater will prevent any buildup, while keeping the medium fresh. 

Moreover, the best part about this setup is that you will not need a separate net pot to keep the plants in. The plants can directly be placed in the grow tray with its required growing medium around it. 

  1. Air Pump

Now the air pump is not an essential part of the setup, and you can choose not to have it. This basically ensures that there is no algae formation in the reservoir by preventing the water from remaining stagnant. It will also keep the nutrients dissolved in water and make it easier for them to be transferred upwards. 

The oxygen level of the water is always high, thanks to this. However, the setup will easily work without this addition, and it is completely your choice to have it or not. 

How To Make A Hydroponic Wick System At Home?

Hydroponic system with a “stagnant” water reservoir in the bottom of a plastic container (e. G. “rubbermaid”) that is wicked up to the roots of plants that are wedged into the lid of said container. (photo courtesy of david wees)

This system can be made at home itself with materials that can be found around the house. You will need a 2-liter bottle first. It can be replaced by 2 containers also, and you can use old cold drinks or water bottles for this purpose. 

Next, you will require another container that will have the plants in it. This needs to be smaller so that it can fit on top of the other container. Fill this one with plants and the planting medium. Then make a small hole below it through which the wick will go. 

On the other hand, take the larger container and fill it with water. Leave a 1-inch gap from the top where the smaller one will be kept. 

Carefully place this plant container on top and let the other end of your wick drop into the water. The roots of your plants should be such that it is near the wick and almost touching it. The wick should not be too long and should touch the water easily. Leave an inch between the 2 containers, and it should fit perfectly. 


Here we will list all the points to remember if you are planning to shift to the hydroponic wick system. Make a note of these, and you should not face any future problems. 

  1. Maintaining Water Level

This is a very important requirement, and you should always try and make sure that there is enough water in the reservoir. Now the amount of water consumed will vary with its wick’s size and the number of plants. We will suggest that you check every morning to see how much water is used. Then make a timetable depending on it, and you should be set. 

  1. Number Of Wicks

Now while every plant generally requires just one wick, there are some plants that need more water. Assess the water requirement and attach wicks accordingly. You can attach 2 of them near the roots for more water transfer. 

But if you still see that there is nutrient deficiency or the plants are not getting enough water, you can try shifting to a more absorbent material. The material that you were using might have some issues, and you can shift to cotton in this case. 

It might also depend on the surrounding temperature and not the wicks. We will recommend that you adjust its environmental conditions in a way to keep the humidity level higher while the temperature stays lower. 

  1. Washing Regularly 

This is a very important step as if you do not wash your growing medium regularly; the plant can die. It is because there is constant salt buildup happening over time. And, this can be very detrimental for the plants and can destroy them. 

Take the medium out and wash it with fresh water before putting it back. If you do this once a week, you will see how healthy the plant babies become.

  1. Cleaning The Reservoir

Microorganisms and algae are the 2 major enemies of still water, and your reservoir is exposed to it. It will not take time for algae to grow in your reservoir, especially if you are not using an air pump. The air pump would have kept the water moving, and that would prevent algae growth in other cases. 

Now, we will recommend that to maintain a clean and sterile environment; you should wash the reservoir often. Throw all the water away and replace it with fresh water every 2 -3 weeks. And whenever you are doing this, remember to scrub and clean the reservoir well. Ensure that there is no dirt or scum on the walls before filling it with fresh water. 

You can use a water and bleach solution for this purpose, and it will ensure that the insides are perfectly clean. 

  1. Using Air Stones

Air stones are generally used with pumps, and it helps in increasing the oxygen level of the water. So, these are porous stones that can be placed inside the reservoir of water. These will create bubbles that provide more oxygen and prevent the water from becoming stagnant. If you feel that the plants need it, add air stones to the reservoir, and you will see a visible difference. 

  1. Choosing The Right Reservoir

While choosing the reservoir, ensure that the material is opaque. In case you are using old water or drink bottles, we will recommend that you paint it from the outside to make the surface opaque. This is important so as to prevent sunlight from entering the water inside. 

Sunlight, along with nutrient water, could lead to the quick growth of algae. Hence you will have to ensure that a suitable environment is not provided for it to grow. 

Also, make sure that there are no leaks in the bottle. Leaks could lead to the water level going down, and that could, in turn, lead to nutrition deficiency in plants. 

Drawbacks Of The System

The water in the reservoir contains a lot of nutrients. Now the plant might not need so much, and the excess nutrients gather in its growing medium. It can lead to a buildup of toxic elements, which have to be washed off regularly. For this, you will have to spray the medium with fresh water, which will wash away any buildup. This can be slightly time-consuming. 

Secondly, you will have to keep a close watch on the system in the beginning, and it takes time to develop a pattern. In the initial weeks, your setup needs regular checking to see when the water level decreases. You also have to keep a watch on any mold or algae growth on the wick and the water. Also, you will have to check if the wick is absorbing water properly. 

But other than these points, the system works really well. 

  • Inexpensive method
  • Very easy to set up
  • Maintenance costs very less
  • Requires less space
  • Perfect for window and balcony plants
  • Salt buildup can increase toxicity
  • Needs to be washed regularly

Which Plants Work Well With The Hydroponic System?

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Since this is a small setup, it will not be able to support large plants. The perfect ones which work well are herbs and smaller plants like lettuce or non-fruiting ones. These are lighter and will not need too many nutrients. 

You can also use it for starting seeds and cuttings. This will help you in observing the initial growth. Also, seeds require fewer nutrients in low volume, which the wicks will easily provide. 

Just remember to check the kind of potting medium required. While this supports a number of mediums, you will have to find the best one for the kind of plant that you plan to grow. Once this is done, there should not be any further problems.

Benefits Of Using The Wick System

The wick system has a number of benefits, and we are going to discuss them in this section. It is indeed the most commonly chosen method when it comes to hydroponic systems. 

  1. No Electricity Required

When energy consumption is a major concern today, this method of constant nutrient supply without using any electricity is a boon. Yes, you can use air pumps, but the process does not necessarily require it. 

And it allows one to leave the plants unattended for a few days at a stretch. If you are leaving on a short trip, the plants will get hydrated, and you will not have to keep any electrical gadgets on. 

  1. Minimum Materials Needed

This process requires very few materials, and you will not have to spend a lot of money on it. In fact, you can get everything that is needed in your house or garage itself. This is a great process of recycling old bottles and wicks to create something new and beneficial. And if you are a creative person, consider painting old bottles to create something beautiful. 

  1. Space Utilization

This system uses very little space and can be kept anywhere in the house. It can also be hung from windows and balconies, taking up less space than pots. We found it to be perfect for dorm rooms or studio apartments where you have extremely limited space. 

  1. Environment-Friendly 

The wick system is well suited for those who want to recycle old products. It uses renewable materials or you can make use of old plastic bottles. And it is a great alternative than throwing away bottles and adding to the waste. 

Even the wick can be taken from old clothes or can be cut off from a rope that was previously used for hanging clothes. 

  1. Less Consumption

This process consumes the least amount of water and nutrients. It works well in preventing any kind of wastage. When you are pouring or spraying water on plants, you end up wasting a lot as it falls on the ground and never reaches the plants. But in this case, a very minimal amount of nutrient-enriched water is consumed, making it very sustainable. 

Final Words

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Every day we are slowly progressing towards a less green life. Vegetation is being cut down to create concrete jungles, and there is also a shortage of soil. 

Hence, many people have an opinion that hydroponic systems are paving the way to the future form of plantation in general. This is cheaper and involves a very simple mechanism. 

It also has the capacity to contribute to the environment and ensure ample greenery. Moreover, keeping this in your balcony or garden will add to the décor. The system will keep plants hydrated even on days you do not stay at home. 

You can easily go on weekend trips and still provide your plants with enough nutrition. Having said that, we will take your leave.

Let us know if you have any further queries in the comment section below. Until next time, take care!

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