Hydroponic Wick Systems for Beginners


A beginner hydroponic gardening likely feels overwhelmed by the number of soilless gardening methods, including aquaponics and aeroponics. Additionally there are different systems for hydroponic growing as well, including nutrient film technique, deep water culture, drip irrigation, ebb and flow, and wick system.

Here we’re going to cover the basics of wick systems which are designed for simple hydroponic growing. A hydroponic wick system is ideal for growing herbs and lettuces which are often wonderful plants for beginners. Herbs and lettuces can be used as daily ingredients and can be grown any time of year.

How the Wick System Works

The hydroponic wick system for soilless growing is referred to as a passive system. This means that it doesn’t require any pumps or moving and mechanical parts. Instead, the nutrients move up the wick or string from a solution reservoir and into the plant’s root systems through capillary movement.

In the wick system, the plant sits very near to the reservoir to minimize the travel distance of the nutrients up the wick. Because the wick doesn’t deliver a strong stream of nutrient solution, this makes the wick system better for plants that are both smaller and require less watering. This is why herbs and lettuce are a good choice of plant for this hydroponic gardening method. These types of plants also require lighter amounts of nutrients and so the hydroponic wick system’s lower capacity is fine for these plants.


Diagram of a wick system which includes the option of an air pump. Image via Christie D’Anna.

How to Build a Hydroponic Wick System

In a hydroponic wick system you will need:

  • A container or support system to hold the plant in place
  • A reservoir container to house the nutrient solution
  • A grow medium that’s conducive to “wicking” such as coco coir or perlite
  • A wick material like a rope, string or strip of felt

Tips for Maintaining Hydroponic Wick Systems

Because hydroponic wick systems are very basic in their design and function, it’s important to maintain them manually. Here are some tips to follow to reduce the chance of damaging plant growth:

  • Set up multiple wicks to provide plants with a greater amount of water and nutrients
  • Keep the water level high in the reservoir so it doesn’t need to travel as far
  • Rinse your growing media regularly to avoid nutrient build up which can be toxic to plants
  • If needed, try adding an air stone to aerate water to provide more oxygen to your plants

Feature Image: DIY individual wick systems made from recycled plastic bottles.

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