How to Make a Hydroponic Machine


Hydroponic gardens offer a way to have fresh herbs and vegetables year-round, regardless of the climate or weather. Commercial hydroponic machines are available for home gardeners, but they can be expensive. You can build a hydroponic machine in an afternoon, from materials available at any large garden center. Choose the location for your hydroponic garden carefully. The machine is designed to avoid overflows and leaks, but they can happen whenever you have circulating water.

Build the Hydroponic Machine

Step 1

Fit the drill with the 1/2-inch bit. Turn the 10-gallon bin upside down and drill a 1/2-inch hole near the center. Drill a 1/2-inch hole in the lid of the 20-gallon bin. Drill another 1/2-inch hole near the edge of the lid.

Step 2

Switch to the 3/4-inch bit. Drill a 3/4-inch hole near the 1/2-inch hole in the 10-gallon bin. Leave 3 to 4 inches of space between the two holes. Drill a 3/4-inch hole in the lid for the 20-gallon bin, also 3 to 4 inches away from the first hole.

Step 3

Follow the manufacture's instructions to install the drain fittings and riser extension in the holes you drilled in the 10-gallon bin.

Step 4

Place the submersible pump inside the 20-gallon bin. Thread the power cord through the 1/2-inch hole near the edge of the lid. If you do not have a power outlet nearby, run an extension cord.

Step 5

Connect the 1/2-inch tubing to the pump. Thread the tubing through the 1/2-inch hole in the lid. Fill the 20-gallon bin halfway with water. Put the lid on the 20-gallon bin.

Step 6

Connect the 1/2-inch tubing to the 1/2-inch drain fitting in the 10-gallon bin. Connect the 3/4-inch tubing to the 3/4-inch drain fitting and thread the other end through the 3/4-inch hole in the lid of the 20-gallon bin. If the tubing coils in the bottom of the 20-gallon bin, use the knife or scissors to trim it.

Step 7

Turn on the pump and verify that the water circulates through the system and drains back into the 20-gallon bin.

Add the Plants

Step 1

Fill the 10-gallon bin with HydroClay pebbles. Rinse with water, then drain the bin.

Step 2

Plant the seedlings in the HydroClay, just as you would in potting soil.

Step 3

Fill the 20-gallon bin with water, then add concentrated nutrient solution following the manufacturer's instructions.

Step 4

Set the 10-gallon bin on top of the 20-gallon bin. If the drain fittings are bent, use blocks of wood to raise the 10-gallon bin.

Step 5

Connect the timer to the pump. Set it to turn on for 15 minutes every hour. This will ensure that the plants get the nutrients they need without over-watering.

Tips and Warnings

  • Watch your hydroponic machine for leaks and blockages. If the drain fittings become clogged, clean them with a solution of water and 35 percent hydrogen peroxide.

Things You'll Need

  • 20-gallon plastic bin with lid
  • 10-gallon plastic bin
  • Power drill with 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch bits
  • 1/2-inch drain fitting with screen
  • 3/4-inch drain fitting with screen and riser extension
  • Submersible pond or aquarium pump
  • Extension cord (optional)
  • Hose and water source
  • 1/2-inch flexible tubing, 2 to 3 feet long
  • 3/4-inch flexible tubing, 2 to 3 feet long
  • Sharp knife or scissors
  • HydroClay
  • Seedlings
  • Concentrated nutrient solution
  • 4 blocks of wood
  • Pump timer


  • Oswego State University of New York: Types of Hydroponic Systems
  • Rutgers University: Horticultural Engineering

Who Can Help

  • Simply Hydroponics: Basic Hydroponic Systems and How They Work
Keywords: hydroponic machine, DIY hydroponics, ebb and flow hydroponics

About this Author

Tricia Ballad has written professionally since 2004. She has authored three books, as well as numerous articles on parenting and website content involving green living. Her work has appeared in Natural Family Online and Budget Artists. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a creative writing specialization from Bradley University.

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