Best DWC Systems of 2020 | Deep Water Culture


Deep water culture, or DWC systems, is a simple and fascinating form of hydroponic gardening in which plant roots are submerged in a nutrient solution, instead of soil. Interesting, isn’t it?

DWC systems cannabis

Many horticulturists practice the advanced technique of DWC hydroponics for higher and healthier yields. Want a quicker growth and a higher yield at the same time? Opt for a DWC hydroponic system to get the most out of your plants without compromising on the growth.

We know there are too many DWC systems to confuse you out there. This article will make it easier for you to determine which DWC system is best suited for your crops. 

Do you want to know more about growing hydroponically? Read our complete guide on hydroponics or find out about the best hydroponic tower gardens. We also reviewed some of the best hydroponic systems.

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What is a DWC System?

Deep water culture is a technique of growing plants in a nutrient solution without any soil. There are several DWC systems to help you carry out the process. The concept of deep water culture might sound confusing at first but stick with us as we walk you through the whole method. It’s easier than regular soil gardening.

Deep Water Culture Definition

Let’s start by understanding what deep water culture really is. In DWC hydroponics, you submerge the roots of your plants into a solution of nutrients and oxygen. The water in the nutrient solution provides all the benefits of the soil to the plant. What does that mean? You guessed it. You don’t have to worry about watering your plants anymore.

How Do DWC Systems Work

Oxygen is essential for a plant to thrive. The plant roots need energy from different sources to carry out certain processes. The roots in the soil get this energy from oxygen pockets in the ground. However, an excess of water in these pockets will drown the plant roots, depriving them of any oxygen at all.

Similarly, in DWC, if the nutrient solution lacks a sufficient amount of dissolved oxygen, the plant roots will drown as they are directly submerged in the solution. Hence, a constant supply of oxygen is necessary for the water. An air pump and airstone are used to provide dissolved oxygen.

A constant circulation of water also prevents algae growth. Algae is not good for your plants as it uses oxygen in the water. The oxygen from the air feeds good bacteria, which prevents nitrogen and ammonia spikes that help algae to grow.

The good aerobic bacteria also break down certain chemicals and nutrients that the plant can easily consume. It prevents these chemicals from polluting the water.

Deep Water Culture – DWC Systems

A DWC system helps you automate the process of hydroponic growing and lets you control what reaches your plant and when. All the vital components that contribute to healthy plant growth can be controlled effectively through a deep water culture or DWC system.

There are so many varieties of DWC systems, they can bewilder you. However, it’s easy to sort out the good ones if you know something about them. Some of these systems won’t even last you a week.

Ideally, your hydroponics system should keep the water moving through the water columns so that the nutrients are evenly spread and beneficial bacteria can grow. 

The different DWC systems determine the periods for which the root mass of your plant will be submerged in the solution. Some systems submerge the roots for 24 hours, while others are Ebb and Flow systems. 

Ebb and Flow Systems 

The Ebb and Flow system is the most popular system in hydroponics. It makes use of flooding and draining to provide an ample supply of oxygen and nutrients to the plant roots.

In this method, the system fills the growing tray with nutrient solution. The time taken for the tray to fill is controlled by the rate of flow from the nutrient reservoir. After reaching a fixed level, or at a set interval, the solution drains out of the tray. Then, the process is repeated.

The DWC or Bubbler System

In this system, your plants are held by an inert medium that keeps them at the top of the growing site. The root zone is continuously submerged in the nutrient solution.

Having 24/7 access to nutrients and oxygenated water means that your plants will grow quick and healthy.

Recirculating Top Feed System

In a recirculating system, an inert medium holds the plants in a pot. The nutrient solution is pumped to the top of the growing medium. Then, it slowly drips down through pipes and reaches the roots of the plant.

The system is a little tricky and time-consuming to install. You will need to find the ideal balance between exposing the roots to air and water. Too much dripping can lead to a fungus in the plant roots, while less dripping results in slow growth.

Aeroponic Systems 

Aeroponic systems are the highest yielding systems, but they’re also the hardest and most expensive to maintain. In an aeroponic system, your plant roots are in closed dark pots, and nutrients are sprayed over them at regular intervals.

The Pros and Cons of DWC Hydroponics

Here is a quick list of some of the pros and cons of using hydroponics for cannabis.

The Benefits

DWC hydroponics is prominent among growers because it holds many advantages. Here’s a list of benefits they offer:

  • No soil is needed so you can grow crops in small places with limited land.
  • You have the freedom to grow indoors or outdoors. 
  • You have control over what nutrients your plants consume. There are no losses or drastic changes in their composition.
  • There are numerous simple DWC systems to choose from.
  • The systems are mostly low maintenance.
  • Saves time by automating the whole growing process.
  • You can control the factors affecting plant growth, like temperature, humidity, light, etc.
  • You will never have to water your plants, and the water loss is limited.
  • Optimal growth and no weeds as they are usually associated with the soil.
  • The plants don’t have to deal with any soil-borne diseases which limit the use of pesticides.
  • Hydroponics can become a hobby.

The Disadvantages

It’s no surprise that DWC hydroponics has some downfalls too. However, you can overcome most of them with some experience and planning. Here are some major issues you might encounter:

  • The method requires time and commitment.
  • You need some prior experience for using a DWC system.
  • Hydroponics might not be organic.
  • In small-scale systems, some factors can fluctuate.
  • A power failure will result in a system failure, and the plant roots will drown.
  • It’s hard to maintain the perfect water temperature.
  • Using water and electricity together can be risky.
  • Installation and equipment costs.
  • In joint growing sites, any disease can spread quickly.

Important Factors When Growing with DWC Systems

When growing with a DWC system, there are a few important factors you need to control for the system to work. These factors include the pH levels, nutrients, oxygen, and temperature of your nutrient solution.

PH Level

PH level refers to the acidity and alkalinity of a solution. A pH scale ranges from 1-14, where lower values denote more acidity. 

For a DWC system to work, the pH level of the water should be around 5.5 to 6. It will improve the plant’s potential to take nutrients and help the good bacteria grow while discouraging pathogenic attacks.

DWC Systems  pH level

In good DWC systems, the nutrient supply can be controlled. The pH and nutrients are balanced to get the most out of the nutrient reservoir.


The growth of your plants has a lot to do with the way you nourish them. The nutrients determine your plant’s growth and quality. You can use organic forms of nutrients in DWC systems. However, we recommend you to begin with using nutrients that are specifically made for hydroponics. 

DWC systems - nutrients

It is recommended to change the water in your nutrient reservoir every once or twice a week. In some cases, you need to change the water more frequently.


Although water contains oxygen, the plants can’t use it up due to the bonding of the O2 atoms with the hydrogen atoms. Hence, you need to supply dissolved oxygen, which is the free oxygen gas.


In hydroponic systems, you have to use air pumps to help the oxygen in the air to dissolve into the reservoir. The process is also known as aeration. The water flow moves dissolved oxygen throughout the DWC system, ensuring consistent crop growth.

Water movement ensures as even mixing of nutrients and eliminates the chances of gas pockets that would encourage the growth of anaerobic bacteria. Some DWC systems allow oxygen supply to the main reservoir as well as the separate plant bodies.


It is absolutely essential to keep the temperature of the nutrient reservoir in control. The temperature affects the pH level of the water and the plant’s uptake of nutrients and oxygen from the solution.


If the temperature of your nutrient solution is high, the quantity of dissolved oxygen is reduced. If the temperature is low, the plant growth will be sluggish. 

Since the water provides a habitat for beneficial organisms, the water temperature should support their growth. If the water temperature is high, and the dissolved oxygen reduces, anaerobic bacteria will start to form that would eventually kill your plants.

Hence, keeping the water temperature at an optimal range of 64° to 73° Fahrenheit will help the plant to utilize all the nutrients and oxygen from the nutrient reservoir.


The duration and intensity of the light to which your plant will be exposed will decide the speed of nutrient takeup by the plant. Too long exposure to light can cause algae formation in the water columns. 


Furthermore, intense lighting can damage the leaves of your plants. Direct sunlight can cause fluctuation in the temperature of water in the nutrient reservoir. A high temperature could reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen in the reservoir.

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#8 Best DWC Hydroponic Systems | Reviews

Now that you know why you need a DWC system and what effects it has on the growth of your plants, let’s check out the top 8 hydroponic systems of 2020. Hopefully, this review will help you choose the best DWC system for you.

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HTG Supply Bubble Brothers 6-Site DWC Hydroponic System

HTG Supply Bubble Brothers 6-Site DWC Hydroponic System
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HTG Supply Hydroponic System consists of six growing sites, a commercial air pump with divider, air stones, and air tubing.

Each site is a 3.5-gallon bucket with net pot lids. These buckets provide growing space for six medium-sized plants in a clay-pebble growing medium.

The DWC system comes with a single commercial pump, which makes it economical. The instruction manual included assembly instructions and useful tips, which makes the system easy to use.


  • Economic due to single pump
  • Essential accessories included
  • Black colored buckets prevent algae in water columns
  • Manual makes it easy to use


  • Small water columns
  • The growing medium might not suitable for every plant
  • Maintenance of individual growing sites

Viagrow VDIY Deep Water Hydroponic 4 Plant System

Viagrow VDIY Deep Water Hydroponic 4 Plant System
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Viagrow DWC Hydroponic Plant System has four sites for growing. Each bucket is 5 gallons with a net pot lid.

The system comes with a preinstalled airline tubing, grow rocks, and an air pump with air stones.

The buckets have a water level indicator tube to flood and drain the roots. The system also includes a pH kit comprising a pH indicator and a color chart.

It can be disassembled easily for storage.


  • Accessories included
  • pH kit makes it easy to adjust the pH levels
  • Drain system makes water changes easy
  • Easy to carry due to handles
  • Lightweight 
  • Option to uphold or drain water


  • Only four buckets limit its use to small-scale growing
  • Separate containers take up more space
  • The growing medium might not be suitable for every plant

Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Bubbler Bucket Kit

Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Bubbler Bucket Kit
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PowerGrow Hydroponics System consists of four growing sites. Each bucket is five gallons. The system comes with an air pump, airstones, airline tubing, and basket lids.

The PowerGrow is an ebb and flow system. The buckets are FDA approved and contain a water level indicator too. 


  • Drain system so water changes are easy
  • Separate buckets help with saving other buckets if one unit gets contaminated
  • Accessories included
  • Black colored buckets prevent algae in water columns
  • FDA approved buckets 
  • Flood and drain system


  • Less growing sites
  • Air pump less powerful 
  • No pressure adjusters

The Atwater HydroPod

The Atwater HydroPod
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Atwater Hydropod is a complete growing system for the plants. It is a recirculating top feed system with an air pump to aerate the reservoir. The bucket is five gallons and black in color.

The Atwater Hydropod comes with all the essential accessories, including an air pump, water level indicator, drip ring, airline connectors, nutrients, pH balancer, starter cubes, and reusable growing medium.


  • All necessary components included
  • No water wastage
  • Reusable grow stones
  • Black colored bucket prevents algae in the water column
  • Recirculating top feed system and DWC root growth 


  • Single growing container
  • Only holds five gallons of solution
  • Time-consuming setup
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H2OtoGrow Hydroponic Recirculating Deep Water Culture System

H2OtoGrow Hydroponic Recirculating Deep Water Culture System
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H2OtoGro Hydroponics System recirculates the solution and utilizes the existing water pump to flush the reservoir through the included garden hose fitting.

The system consists of 4, five-gallon buckets and one controlling unit. The system comes with an air pump and airstones, airline tubing, water pump, nutrient kit, and growing medium. The recirculation top feed system ensures optimum levels of nutrients through the system.


  • Recirculating system 
  • Separate controlling unit 
  • Easy nutrient dosing due to a single reservoir
  • Easy water top-up
  • Accessories included


  • Less growing sites
  • No individual adjusters on the air pump
  • Water pump not very powerful

Hydro West AquaBuckets 5 Gallon 6 Site

Hydro West AquaBuckets 5 Gallon 6 Site
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Hydro West AquaBuckets DWC System is a recirculating system with six growing sites. Each bucket is five gallons. The tubing in the system is black, discouraging unwanted algae growth.

The system also has a mesh filter and all the necessary parts to get started, like an air pump, airstones, and mesh filter for better results. The system comes with an instruction manual making it easier to use.


  • Black colored tubing and system prevents algae growth
  • Powerful air pump
  • Accessories included
  • Recirculating system 


  • Airstones are smaller than other systems
  • The water pump is not very powerful
  • No growing medium included

INTBUYING 36 Holes Hydroponic Site Grow Kit

INTBUYING 36 Holes Hydroponic Site Grow Kit
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INTBUYING Hydroponic Site Grow Kit can serve as an Ebb and Flow system when used with a time controller, or a recirculating DWC system without a time controller. The ‘S’ style system contains 36 growing holes, holder with pipes, deep well pump, planting sponge, and a hose.

It is easy to assemble and can be used both indoors and outdoors. You will need to get a 15 to 20 liter nutrient reservoir, and power strip along with this kit.


  • Can be used as a recirculating DWC system out of the box, while if used with a time controller it can become an Ebb and Flow system 
  • Easy to dose nutrients in the system
  • Easy water top-up
  • Can be used both indoors and outdoors


  • No water reservoir included
  • Not suitable for every plant due to smaller openings
  • Deep well pump not very powerful
  • Air pockets can form inside the tubing, causing problems in water quality

Viagrow Black Bucket

Viagrow Black Bucket
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Viagrow Black Bucket Hydroponic System has an approximately five gallons bucket. It comes with everything you will need to get started with hydroponic growing.

The system comes with a drain and water level indicator tube, air pump, airstone, airline tubing, grow rocks, pH testing kit, and check valve.


  • Necessary components included
  • Black colored bucket to prevent algae growth
  • Included check valve to prevent back siphon


  • Less growing space
  • Not ideal for commercial use
  • The growing medium is not suitable for every plant
  • Small airstone

Conclusion & Recommendations

The best DWC system for you depends on your growing scale, and the time you can spare for its maintenance.

If you are a beginner who’s trying to grow a plant through hydroponics for the first time, you want to start with easier and compact systems that include necessary accessories, for instance, Viagrow Black Bucket Hydroponic System and Atwater Hydropod. 

You can slowly upgrade your growing scale and use systems that include a water reservoir to make the maintenance easy. A good option for advanced hydroponic growing can be H2OtoGro Hydroponics System, which includes four growing sites with large openings, and a nutrient reservoir. It also comes with big air stones for better aeration.

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