Hydroponics systems are a way to grow plants without using soil, substituting the elements of the soil with a nutrient solution that the roots absorb. Store-bought hydroponics systems can be very expensive, so make your own economical--and have fun doing it.
The cheapest way to make your own hydroponics system is to make a hand-watered system. Buy some grow bags from your local garden center. These are black bags that can be filled with soil or any growing medium for plants. They have small drain holes that release extra liquid as the growing medium is saturated.
Your soilless medium can be made of vermiculite, perlite and coconut coir in equal measures. Place your plants at the top of the growing medium, and water using a nutrient solution for hydroponics from your garden center. These usually come in separate bottles that you mix into water until the nutrient solution is at the right level.
This simple hydroponics system does not require that you hand-water. You will need a storage tote to place your plants in, and a fish tank to act as a reservoir for your nutrient solution. You will also need a pump system and hoses to draw nutrients from the reservoir to the tote holding your plants.
Place the tote holding the plants somewhere above the nutrient reservoir, with holes in the bottom of it, so that the nutrients that are not caught by the roots of the plant drain back into the reservoir.
This is a very simple system to maintain, because the nutrient solution needs to be changed only every five to 14 days, or when the plants enter a new growing stage.
Fish Tank Reservoir
The best way to make a nutrient reservoir is to modify an old, structurally sounds fish tank. Paint the outside of your fish tank black to protect your nutrient solution from light. Light will age your nutrients and promote the growth of algae. Add your solution and cover. If you are using the tank with a pump system, add a hose through the fish tank cover, and attach it to a pump on the outside of the tank. Buy a small pump at your local garden center.