We’ll get into the details of which types of hydroponic systems need certain equipment in a moment. For now though, we’ll take a look at other equipment that varies depending on your system.
Growing medium serves a few purposes. First, it helps keep your plants stable while they grow. Growing medium provides extra support to the roots so that the roots can hold up the rest of the plant. It also helps soak up moisture to deliver to the plants, holds onto oxygen the roots need, and can keep roots from drying out. Growing medium is made of a variety of materials, including perlite, coco fiber and chips, vermiculite, foam, rockwool, bark or shavings, rice hulls, and clay aggregate.
A timer controls when a pump is set to turn on, and you’ll need a timer if you plan to have a system where nutrient solution periodically goes through the system. Timers are available in analog and digital options, so it’s really a matter of preference which you use. You’ll set your timer to turn on and off in specific intervals, which ensures your plants get nutrients at the right time.
Netted cups, or grow cups, aren’t for every system, but they’re great for keeping plants in place when roots need to be submerged. You’ll fill these with growing medium and place your plants inside the cup, with the roots in the growing medium, and the rest of the plant above it. Netted cups are widely available at gardening and home improvement stores, and they’re very inexpensive for a pack of them.
If you plant on having a recirculating system, a drain line is important. You’ll make a hole in the bottom of your grow or flood tray, and fit the drain line snugly into the hole. Then, excess nutrient solution will flow through the drain pipe and back into the reservoir.
An airstone is usually optional for hydroponic systems. Of course, it’s always a good idea to get extra aeration in nutrient solution, but it isn’t always a must-do. That said, there are some hydroponic systems that really do need an airstone or bubbler. In particular, DWC systems need extra aeration to keep plant roots healthy. Airstones are easy to set up; just connect the air line to your air pump, and set the airstone in the bottom of your reservoir. Airstones do need to be replaced on occasion, but they’re cheap and easy to find in any pet store.