Hydroponic Dripper System Build An Easy DIY Drip System

I want to show you how to build a hydroponic dripper system. This will be a recirculating drip hydroponic system. It is an easy DIY build and fairly cheap to build.

Here is what my top feed recirculating hydroponic dripper system looks like
Hydroponic Dripper SystemI am running 2 totes on a single pump/
Build An Easy DIY Drip System

Hydroponic Dripper System Overview


Here is a video where I show you my hydroponic dripper system shortly after harvest. I will explain how to build this system and explain what you need. If you have been growing for a while you might be able to build this without hardly buying anything. If you are starting from scratch it might cost you about $100.

My top feed drip system has been growing fantastic crops for years but it is a bit different from how most people build their drip systems.

A lot of what you see online is not from people who grow cannabis. So my system is specialized for my crop. But this system will work equally well for tomatoes or peppers or pretty much any plant.

Because I am a closet grower my space is limited so my hydroponic dripper system is perfect for a closet or grow tent. Also although it is a top feed drip system I do not use drippers. I designed my system to be easy to build and very affordable too.

What Is A Top Feed Drip Irrigation System?

A top feed drip system feeds your plants from the top. There are several variations in building it but it is an automated irrigation system because watering occurs at intervals. I dont think anyone wants to stand around to manually turn the pump on and off.

For this guide we will be building a recirculating hydro system and not doing drain to waste. Hydroponics really works best when using an inert media like hydroton, buddy stone or rockwool. This allows you to recirculate or reuse your nutrients.

It is common to run drip coco drain to waste. If you are willing to monitor your reservoir closely and change out your reservoir weekly or at least every 2 weeks it can be done.

Before we get too far into this it is helpful to understand the advantages and disadvantages of a hydroponic dripper system. There is no perfect system and they all have their pros and cons.

Advantages of a Drip System Hydroponics

  • A hydroponic drip system is pretty simple to build.
  • It does not require a lot of expensive equipment to set up.
  • A hydroponics drip system is versatile. It can be adapted to inert media like hydroton, perlite, coco, Promix or even soil.
  • It is scalable for everything from large commercial operations to a few plants in a grow tent.
  • Highly customizable. You control the number of drippers and their location, nutrient strength and the watering schedule.
  • A hydroponics drip system saves water and nutrients compared to watering by hand.
  • It is automated.

Disadvantages of a Drip System Hydroponics

  • Dependent on electricity.
  • Dealing with pH and nutrient fluctuations in recirculating systems requires monitoring.
  • Drip system Hydroponic drip systems may require a short cycle timer.
  • Emitter clogging is the main disadvantage to drip system hydroponics.

The main downside to this system is clogging. That is why I use open ended tubing in my system instead of drippers. If you keep your reservoir clean you really should not have any problems with my top feed drip system.

I do check periodically to make sure it is working correctly but it really has been trouble free.

How Does A Drip System Work?

Drip systems are simple to build and to understand. It starts with a pump inside a reservoir that is hooked up to a timer. Water and nutrients are deliver to a manifold that distributes this to lines going to each pot.

From here there are 2 basic variations of a drip system. One is a recirculating system that returns the nutrient solution to the reservoir.

The other type of drip system is drain to waste where the nutrient solution is not recovered.

A recirculating hydroponic system requires more careful monitoring of your nutrients because plants dont use all nutrients in equal amounts. Over time your nutes can get out of balance and your pH might also change.

This problem is easily solved by checking them with a TDS and pH meter and changing out your reservoir every week or two.

A drain to waste hydroponic drip system is usually used when growing in coco and all you need to do is adjust your reservoir one time. I dont like this kind of system because it pollutes our water by constantly dumping nutrient solution.

Here is a current grow I am running using top feed drip

Here is good article about top feed drip irrigation systems for fertigating cannabis

Inside Your Hydroponic Reservoir

Your hydroponic reservoir is the heart of your system pumping nutrients to your plants. It is important to take care of it.

Taller reservoirs are a better choice and I would recommend one that is at least 20 gallons, The larger it is the less you will need to refill or top it up.

Your ideal temperature for your nutrient solution is 68 degrees. Try to keep it below 72 degrees.

Dont Use Air Stones

Air stones are not needed in your reservoir. My system provides a waterfall effect as the totes drain. The percolation through the grow media provides additional aeration.

Air stones use noisy pumps. They can alter your pH and bring dirty air into your reservoir that may contain yeast or mold spores. So save your ears the unending noise they make.

Add A Small Recirculation Pump Instead

You want to keep the nutrients recirculating inside your reservoir but air stones are not the best way to do this. Instead use a small pump. You can run it continuously. If it starts to raise the temperature above 72 degrees you can just run it when lights are on. You just let it run open ended and if you can point it towards the surface for additional airflow.

Nutrients For A Hydroponic Drip System

This is a recirculating hydroponic system so you want to use nutrients that were designed for a recirculating system. You dont want anything with organics in it, they are great in soil or coco but not for hydroponics.

I have used and recommend Canna Aqua Vega and Aqua FloresĀ  It is made for recirculating hydroponics and is very stable.

But my preference is for House And Garden Aqua Flakes. It is much easier to use because you use the same 2 bottles for both veg and bloom. Most brands use a total of 4 bottles.
The other reason is it makes mixing and topping up your reservoir much easier. 1 ml of both a+b is 100 ppm per gallon. This makes mixing nutes much easier.

Mixing Order For Your Nutrients

Dont just dump all your nutrients in your reservoir and add water. If you were to just throw everything in there is a good chance some things might precipitate out of solution or even become unavailable.

There is a proper order for adding nutrients and additives and things need to be mixed separately.

If you are using a silica supplement add it before anything else. Next add your cal mag if you are using any. If you are under LED lights you will need more than your base nutes will provide.

Then add your A and B base nutrients one at a time and then add any additives you might be using.

Check your pH after everything is well mixed. 5.5 – 6.2 is considered OK but 5.8 is the sweet spot. Let it drift within the range because some nutrients are more available at different pH levels.

I really recommend you take notes when you mix your reservoir. Write the date, what was added and how much. This can help you repeat a good mix and avoid repeating a bad one.

When To Change Your Reservoir And When To Top Up

When you have used up half the nutes in your reservoir it is time to replace them. Plants dont take up all nutrients at the same rate so they can become unbalanced. Every time your solution is passed through the media and the roots something is taken out.

You dont want to let your reservoir run dry. Check it at least every 2 days. Large plants in flower can really suck up the water. Top ups should not add up to more than half the volume of your reservoir either.

Testing Nutrient Levels In A Hydroponic Dripper System

You need to be able to test your nutrient levels. You may be tempted to use those cheap pH and TDS pens you see on Amazon but they are often inaccurate and pH pens in particular dont last very long.

I recommend spending the money upfront to buy a good meter. It will give accurate readings and the probe is replaceable. Here is the meter I use:

You should mark a full line the inside of your reservoir. I use a piece of pvc pipeĀ  marked in 5 gallon increments as a dip stick so I know how much solution my plants have drank.

If you measured the parts per million of your reservoir when it was full and then measure again after you bring the level up with plain water the difference will be how much your plants have eaten. Then decide if just adding water is enough or if you need more nutrients to bring things back to the original level.

Hydroponic Dripper System Material List

You are going to need a short length of 1/2 inch PVC pipe and 2 fittings. One is a 3/4 inch schedule 40 male adapter to 1/2 slip to screw into your flood and drain intake fitting. I could not find it on Amazon.

The other fitting is a 1/2 inch slip to male adapter to screw into your drip manifold. Honestly you can probably find these more easily at Lowes or Home Depot.

You will need a length of 1/2 inch tubing to connect your pump to the bottom of the 1/2 inch flood fitting. Make sure it is not clear.

Of course you will need at least 2 totes, One will hold your plants the other will be your nutrient reservoir and you should be able to keep it covered to keep light and dirt out. It should be easy to access so you can check your nutrient level and top up if needed.

Mr Fulvic is optional but it will help you grow better crops. It is an organic chelator among other things and can reduce the amount of nutrients you use.

Buddy Stone is identical to the original Grow Stones. It is not cheap but lasts forever. Much better than hydroton. You can use chunky perlite but it is one use only. It also can cause clogging as it breaks down.

These are the pots I use but you can use smaller pots. Just make sure they have good drainage.

Now Go Build Your Hydroponic Dripper System

So after reading all this you should know how to build a DIY top feed drip system. It will grow great plants for you and it really is affordable and easy to do. So now it is time to go forward and grow.

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