Getting a hydroponic system that actually works requires a bit of study. But I know studying is painful, so I did it for you. When you do a simple search, you find several types of hydroponics systems. They all work but how do you get one that works for you. Here I have compiled a list of hydroponic grow systems to help you with your decision. And if you are in a hurry, after thorough research, I can say that AeroGarden Bounty is the best indoor hydroponic grow system. In case it is more expensive for you, the Emsco Group 2370 is a budget-friendly option.
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Best Indoor Hydroponic Grow System
1. AeroGarden Bounty – Smart Indoor Hydroponic Grow System
- Number of Pods: 9
- Plants: Herbs And Vegetables.
- Lights: 45 LED (Red, Blue And White)
- Adjustable Light Height: 24″
- Control panel: Wifi, LCD screen and Touchscreen
- Dimensions: 17.25″ W x 11.25″ D x 15-34″ H
- Warranty: 1 year
AeroGarden has made its name by combining technology and innovative hydroponic growing. The brand offers many variants but out of all AeroGarden Bounty is probably the biggest one. When I first began hydroponic gardening, my systems were mostly restricted to in grow tent or shade. But I was looking for a system that could fit in the kitchen. That’s when I was introduced to AeroGarden.
Since most of the things are automated with AeroGarden, the people who want to a hydroponic garden but does not have time will love to use AeroGarden Bounty. Using my AeroGarden Bounty unit I have successfully grown, herbs like coriander, mint, basil, and rosemary. I occasionally use it for vegetables. Mostly I grow cherry tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, and spinach. As it has nine pods, you can always mix herbs and vegetables.
If you are not about using tech for gardening, don’t worry. The AeroGarden Bounty’s control panel will guide you through 5 step process of growing your first crop. All you have to make sure about is that your phone must b connected to the AeroGarden via Wi-Fi. Once, you are connected just press on “Quick Plant” to begin the steps. Growing any plants is all about providing the plant right nutrients and light at the right time. The AeroGarden allows you to schedule everything and notifies you every time you need to add to water or nutrient.
There is one ingredient which is must for any plant, and that is light. It uses 45 W LED lights which provide a combination of red, blue and white light. The height of the LED light panel is adjustable so that you can adjust it according to the growth stage of the plant. In addition to height, you can adjust and schedule the intensity of light using the AeroGarden app on your phone.
- It grows almost anything with ease.
- It is very easy to set up.
- Automated water circulation
- Using the AeroGarden app, you can schedule nutrition, water, and light.
- Preparing the unit for the next crop is frustrating.
- Need to be sanitized with a bleach or vinegar before using.
AeroGarden is a combination of automation technology and indoor farming. Not everything is automated at least you can more efficiently schedule and track the progress of your plants.
2. Emsco Group 2370 Hydropickers Compact-Best Hydroponic Grow Box System
- Number of Pods: 5
- Plants: Herbs And Vegetables.
- Dimensions: 20″ x 24″ x 9.8″
- Four Casters For Mobility
- Coconut Coir Growth Medium
- pH Testing Kit
Setting up a hydroponic system even on a small scale is expensive. Not all beginners like to spend hundreds of dollars. Though most of the hydroponic systems on this list are for novice hydroponic farmers, some may be too expensive. So out of all the Emsco Group, 2370 is probably the most budget-friendly hydroponic system out of all.
When I understood the concept of hydroponic, I did hydroponic gardening with a few of the similar systems. These type of systems are very basic. They do not use any complicated system that requires electricity. Yes, since it is basic, you won’t have any option of automation as you get with AeroGarden. And you would have to take care of water, nutrients, and lights on your own. The design is basic for this system. It uses five pods with coconut coir growth medium. It can be used for outdoor gardening or indoor gardening. All depends on the type of crop and condition required for it to grow.
I like the casters at the bottom. This allows you to move the plant to different conditions with ease. And with this type of systems, I had more success growing one crop at a time. However, if the two types of crops require similar conditions, it won’t hurt growing both the crops together. But I prefer growing one crop with this system.
- It is easy to use and maintain.
- The four casters help you move the system to the desired location.
- Inexpensive compared to most of the other hydroponic systems.
- Pods are big enough to support big vegetables.
- No automation.
- No water circulation system.
- Requires separate source of light.
My advice is if you are a beginner, use system like Emsco Group 2370. You might have some failed crops, but you will gain experience without spending too much money.
3. Hoctor Indoor Herb Garden with LED Grow Light- Best Hydroponic System For Flowers
- Number Of Pods: 4
- Plants: Flower And Herbs
- Full Spectrum LED Lights
- Add Water Indicator
- Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 7.5 x 17 inches
Hoctor indoor herb Garden is great alternative AeroGarden Bounty. Though yield capacity is low compared to the AeroGarden bounty, it is a good option for the amateur hydroponic farmers. Even the price is low compared to AeroGarden bounty. I haven’t used the unit but I went through several reviews of existing users, and they have very good things to say about it.
Most of the users have successfully used it for growing oregano no, cherry tomatoes, coriander and many other herbs. However, they also feel that the size of the unit is too small. Even though users have given good ratings to the unit but I feel that light strip included in the package won’t provide sufficient light. The plant will require some light. The LED light has one strip and provide full-spectrum light. There is not much customization if you want to schedule different lights.
Most of the things are automated. All you have to do is plants seed, fill it with water and place it in a location where it has little sunlight to go with LED light. The only thing you have to take care of is water. For your assistance, it does have the “add water” indicator. It can grow two plants at a time as it has two pods. Looking at the size, it suitable for herbs, a vegetable like wine tomatoes, and you even grow flowers.
- Automatic water circulation.
- Add water indicator.
- Full spectrum light
- It makes very little mess when changing crops.
- No Notification over the phone.
- LED panel provides insufficient light.
Looking at the size and capacity, it suitable for herbs and flowers. I won’t advise you Hoctor Indoor Herb Garden for vegetables. I things it could be a great system for flowers, and you can keep it in your bedroom or any other place as some type of decorative piece.
4. Bubbler Bucket Kit by PowerGrow ® Systems- Best Hydroponic System For Vegetables
- Number of pods: 4
- Type: Deep Water Culture
- Plant: Vegetables, Fruits, Flower and Herbs
- 5 Gallon Bucket With 10” Lids
- Dimensions: 30 x 12 x 12 inches
- FDA Approved
- 1 Year Warranty
PowerGrow offers one of the most popular deep water culture systems. There are two options. You can either go for the single bucket system or 4 bucket system. If you are planning to grow several plants, just get the ten bucket system. It would be a good one-time investment. The kit includes air pump, air lines, air stones and 5 gallons FDA approved bucket/buckets.
I like to grow my vegetables with this kind of system. The big reason is size. The system with such capacity can handle bigger plants or vines. I have used it for tomatoes, green beans, eggplants, zucchini etc. Depending on the season, I have successfully grown green leafy vegetables too. There are other good options of green leafy vegetables, but for other vegetables, I suggest get Bubbler Bucket Kit by PowerGrow ® Systems.
The capacity of the bucket is 5 gallon with 10” lid. It uses air stones as a growth medium. Air stones are the most popular medium used in hydroponic systems. They are available separately; if you want to change it after the harvest. Hence, changing the crop won’t be as messy as it happens with coconut coir medium.
The most important part of the Bubbler kit is the air pump. The air pump is really good and keeps the water aerated for the sturdier growth of the roots. There is a simple water level indicator to keep an eye on the water without having to lift the growth pod. And to drain the water, all you have to do is lift the growth pod that holds the plant and throw it.
- Air pump for aeration of the water.
- It can support large plants.
- You can use it for indoor as well as an outdoor garden.
- The system is easy to set up and maintain.
- FDA approved buckets with one year warranty.
- No LED lights included in the package.
- Air stones need to be changed for every new crop.
Either you have a fair amount of experience, or you are an amateur, the Hydroponic Bubbler Bucket Kit by PowerGrow ® Systems is very easy to use. However, you will require a few things like an LED light panel and maybe a grow tent to make it more effective while using it for an indoor garden.
5. SavvyGrow DWC Hydroponics Growing System- Best Hydroponic System For Beginners
- Number of Pods: 6
- Type: Deep Water Culture
- Plants: Herbs, green leafy vegetables, and other dwarf plants.
- Dimensions: 17.4 x 11.5 x 6.1 inches
- Package Includes: Airstones, Rockwool & Air Pump
The SavvyGrow system is another popular DWC system. And it is the perfect indoor hydroponic grow system because the overall size is compact and the size of the pods are also around 1.3” which good for growing herbs on the kitchen counter. It is not easy to bring the deep water cultures system in small places like the kitchen; the big reason being it requires many accessories to make an efficient system.
With SavvyGrow’s small pods, you won’t require an elaborate system of light and grow tents. Moreover, such small pods are suitable only for herbs and green leafy vegetables. And out of all the systems I have listed here, it has the most number of pods. In addition to pods, other things needed for the system is included in the package. But one thing many users didn’t like is that there was no manual or instruction booklet included in the package for setting up the unit.
I would suggest if possible getting a good quality air pump instead of using the one included in the package. The thing with the pump included in the package is it does not vary the amount of air even though the knob is there. And it is loud.
Other than the inefficient air pump, there are a few things to like about it. The manufacturer offers Rockwool in the package with an air stone. This helps the growth of the roots. And if you stick to growing herbs, you won’t need anything else than air stone and Rockwool. You won’t even miss the LED lights. Just keep the unit near the window, and it will work.
- It has a high number of pods.
- The compact size allows you to use it on the kitchen counter.
- It is very good for herbs.
- Most of the things needed for setup is included in the package.
- The air pump included in the package is inefficient and loud.
- The system is suitable for only herbs and some green vegetables.
Among all the indoor hydroponic growing systems, it is probably the best beginner hydroponic system. You can easily use on the kitchen counter near the window. However, I won’t advise you to buy the system if you are more concerned about growing vegetables.
6. DreamJoy Hydroponic NFT PVC Garden Grow Kit- Best Hydro System For Yield
- Number of Pods: More than 50
- Plants: herbs, and green leafy vegetables.
- Type: NFT
- Package Includes: PVC tubes, Air pump,
- Dimension: 32 x 11 x 9.5 inches
If you have more place at your home, you can install something like DreamJoy Hydroponic Grow Kit. It is based on the nutrient film technique. It uses a system of the pipe as the grow box. This type of system is popular among commercial hydroponic farms. The big reason being, it is easy to expand, and it supports the most type of plants.
DreamJoy Hydroponic Grow Kit is suitable for both indoors and outdoors. It is the ideal hydroponic system for growing lettuce. If you have money to invest, you can add LED lights, and better air pumps to make it more efficient grow system.
I personally no commercial hydroponic farmer who has been using a similar pipe based grow system. According to him, it is a space saver. You grow more with less space. Even if you consider the yield, is it much more compared to any other hydroponic growing system on this list. But he also confessed that it is only suitable for dwarf plants like spinach, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, strawberry, peppers etc.
Looking at the system, I feel it is not that easy to maintain. In my experience, if you use Rockwool, it may end up clogging the pipes. My advice goes for sponges or horticubes. Overall growing plants with are easy, but it is not as efficient as like AeroGarden were you have all the data to make changes. With this unit, you will have to experiment depending on the crop you are growing.
- It is an expandable system.
- You can grow more varieties with this unit.
- More yield with less space.
- Inexpensive compared to other hydroponic systems.
- The pump included in the package is not of good quality.
- Maintaining the pipes is not easy.
If your target is to grow more within less space, you can go for DreamJoy Hydroponic NFT PVC Garden Grow Kit. However, you must replace the air pump with a good quality air pump, and use sponges as a medium instead of Rockwool.
7. Ideer Life Indoor Gardening Kit- Most Organic Indoor Hydroponic Growing Systems
- Number of Pods: 12
- Plants: Vegetables, Green leafy vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
- Eco-Friendly Hydroponic Systems
- 24- W LED light panel.
- Dimension: 15 x 15 x 17 inches
Most of the farmers incline towards hydroponic farming for its eco-friendly nature. Yes, you can use fertilizers and chemicals to make the plants grow faster and better. But if your approach is all about growing eco-friendly corps, you can use something like Ideer Life Indoor Gardening Kit. The kit includes seed pods made of Biochar mud. It is non-toxic and doesn’t add any contamination like other mediums.
With this unit, you can grow up to 12 plants. Since it includes a 24 W LED light, you can grow any plant year around. The package also includes A+B nutrient. These are the most organic nutrient. I have experience with the unit, and I use the same nutrients as they do not contain pesticide or herbicide. They are rich in iron, magnesium and calcium.
Considering the size of the pods, it can be used for growing herbs and green leafy vegetables. I have a fair amount of understanding growing strawberries and cherry tomatoes using this type of unit. The LED lights it uses, is much more effective. Compared to natural light, plants grow much faster and better with the LED lights. I was able to improve the size of the strawberries using the LED lights of this unit.
It does have smart capabilities. It reminds you when to add water or nutrient. And also it controls the lights automatically depending on the settings. Though there is not a lot of customisation, the few available settings are enough for growing plants indoors without worrying about the weather outside.
- The system is designed for eco-friendly farming.
- The system reminds you when to add water.
- Lights turn on and off automatically every 14 hours.
- Twelve pods allow you to grow enough for an average kitchen.
- Not suitable for some big sized plants.
- Cleaning might be a difficult task.
I have used this unit considerable for a long time. Mostly I used it for cherry tomatoes or strawberries because the natural weather at my place doesn’t support the efficient growth of these plants. I would advise you want to grow such kinds of plants indoors year around, just go for it.
I have spent thousands of dollars and several years of trying and testing to find the right hydroponic systems that work for my needs. I wish I had the proper knowledge when I was starting. The same thing doesn’t happen to you; I comply with factors. By learning about the factors, you will be able to find the most suited hydroponic system for your home or your commercial farm.
What Is a Hydroponic System?
If I had to explain hydroponics farming in simple words, then it is the farming without soil. People believe that in farming soil is the most important factor. But it is the water, nutrients and minerals in the soil that help the plant growth. Soil is just a medium for transferring these constituents to the plant.
In hydroponics systems, the roots are exposed to the solution that contains important nutrients and minerals. And also adding things like artificial lights and tents eliminate the dependency of the plant on the Sun and the weather. This is a big reason why the hydroponic system has gained popularity. Using the system, you can grow all the seasonal vegetables and fruits all year around. Compared to traditional farming with hydroponic systems, you have more grow cycles per year.
Types Of Hydroponic Systems
1. Deep Water Culture
It is the most basic form of hydroponic system. In this type of hydroponic system, you have a bucket to store water containing important nutrients, mesh with Rockwool or airstones for seed plantation and air pump for water air circulation. The best example of this system is Emsco Group 2370.
Advantage of having this system is that it is easy to set up and maintain. Especially when you are a beginner deep water culture systems should be your first choice. However, sometimes the growth of algae could be an issue if the solution is exposed to light and dirt.
2. Ebb and Flow System
It is almost similar to a deep water culture system, but instead of dipping the roots in the water, the roots are exposed to water for a brief period and then drained. The process followed at regular period depending on the crop. And the roots get oxygenated between these periods.
This system helps to get rid of the issue algae since the water is constantly moving. Just like DWC system, it is fairly easy to set up. But since there is the automation of water required, it is high maintenance. Also, the set up takes too much as a separate reservoir is needed to store water. This why it is not the best indoor hydroponic grows system. For the exterior garden, it might work.
3. Nutrient Film Technique
Also known as the NFT system, it most widely used the system for commercial farms. This system offers more yield at low cost and maintenance. It makes use of a system of pipes. The way this system works is it uses a thin film of the porous mat at the bottom of the channel where most of the root tips are found. And the rest of the root system is exposed to the continuous flow of water. However, this system has its limitation. It cannot support bigger plants.
4. Drip Grow System
As the name suggests, the water flows through a dripping system. Tubes are organized over the growth medium. As it uses a pump to spray or drip the water, you can automate the supply of the nutrients. Using such grow systems plants can grow much faster.
And using this system as a farmer, you can save money on nutrients because the system ensures that the plant doesn’t get nutrients more than they need. However, the system is not easy to maintain. If there is some dirt or particles in the solution, the holes through which the solution drops can be easily clogged.
It is probably the most sophisticated forms of hydroponic grow system among all the hydroponic grow systems. If you don’t have proper knowledge, you might ruin the crops. However, the sophistication is required to make the system efficient. It is much like a drop system where the roots are sprayed with a solution. But here the atomized nutrient solution is used.
And the plant is enclosed in a dark chamber like pots. The enclosure allows you to achieve high humidity and oxygen level. This may improve the yield, but it is too risky if done wrong. If the humidity, light and oxygen are not changed or maintained during different phases of growth, it will harm the crop.
6. Wick System
When you compare all the hydroponic systems, it is the simplest one. It is also the most popular DIY hydroponic systems because it requires no fancy parts. For this system, you require a wick to draw the nutrient solution from the reservoir to the growth medium.
However, it does require airstone like any other hydroponic system to provide oxygen to the solution. The Wick system has a limitation on what size of plants you grow. Mostly it supports small plants.
Important Factors To Consider
In addition to knowing the type of system, there are some factors that you must understand before you get one hydroponics system for yourself.
When buying indoor hydroponic systems, space is the biggest factor. If you look at my list of best indoor hydroponic grow systems, you will find I have selected only those system that can be installed inside the house. None of the systems requires expensive tents, big LED light panels and fancy equipment.
For an average home, you want a system that can be placed over a kitchen counter. The Aerogarden Bounty and Hoctor Indoor garden is the top indoor hydroponic grow system for kitchen. Other systems don’t require large space but it depends on the crops the support you might not be able to place them over a kitchen counter.
My advice is simple. First, look at the space that you can dedicate for your hydroponic system and then choose the one that can fit in that area.
Automation may not be a big concern for beginner hydroponic farmers but when you have expanded and growing several crops, you will require an automation system to make things easier. The automation system includes auto watering, changing lights automatically, and scheduling nutrients addition.
Most of the system I have listed have only water system and lights automated. Rest of it needs to be done by you. The system just reminds you about it. In case you want an automatic indoor hydroponic grow system go for AeroGarden Bounty. It has most of the things automated and with the help of AeroGarden, you will be able to plan how you take care of the crop.
3. Setup and Maintenance
Every time you harvest you a crop you will have to dismantle and assemble it again for the new crop. You don’t want a system that is like pieces of a puzzle. It should be easy to dismantle and clean. One thing you have to remember about the hydroponic system is more basic the system, more easy to set up.
If you are an amateur farmer or do not have enough time, make sure you buy the system that is not hard to set up. DWC systems like Bubbler Bucket Kit by PowerGrow ® Systems are easy to set up as they have very few moving parts.
As you gain, you would want to experiment with a lot of other crops. But you may not want to buy a new best indoor hydroponic grow system every time you need to grow new crops. Some systems are expandable. You will have to get few parts like a new bucket and new pods to the existing systems. The best example of the expandable hydroponic system is Bubbler Bucket Kit by PowerGrow ® Systems and DreamJoy Hydroponic NFT PVC Garden Grow Kit.
I personally love AeroGarden Bounty for my kitchen for herbs and green leafy vegetables. But if you have more place inside your home like a huge balcony you can go for Bubbler Bucket Kit by PowerGrow ® Systems as it allows you to grow larger plants. However, all depends on your budget and the space you have. Choose any one of the systems from the above list as for me all are the best indoor hydroponic grow system.