How to Start a Hydroponic Garden


When you think of hydroponics, you may think of space aged, dome shaped greenhouses filled with plants grown by men in lab coats. But hydroponics is actually an approachable method of growing crops to produce a higher yield of fruits and vegetables as well as healthier, vigorous plants. You can easily set up a hydroponic garden in your own home using parts from an attic or garage sale.

Step 1

Measure the interior dimensions of the aquarium. On your flat Styrofoam board, use your marker to draw a box ½ inch smaller than the length and width of the aquarium. Cut this box out with the utility knife.

Step 2

Turn three plastic cups over facedown on the Styrofoam and trace around them with the marker. Turn the cups back over and place in the center of the circles you drew. Trace around the bottoms of the cups. Draw a third circle inside your first two concentric circles. Cut holes in the Styrofoam following this third line.

Step 3

Punch several 1/8-inch holes in the bottom of your plastic cups. Fill the cups with vermiculite and place inside the holes you made in the Styrofoam square.

Step 4

Attach the airstone to the pump and place the airstone in the bottom of the aquarium. Fill the aquarium with water. Mix in the appropriate amount of liquid nutrient solution according to directions on the nutrient solution package.

Step 5

Fill the pH test kit reservoir with nutrient solution to check pH levels. Add pH testing fluid, which will change the color of the nutrient solution. Check with the pH guide (usually a sticker on the side of the test kit) to determine pH.

Step 6

Lower the pH of the nutrient solution by adding phosphoric acid. Raise pH by adding potassium hydroxide.

Step 7

Place plants in the vermiculite-filled cups and put the Styrofoam board in the aquarium. The bottoms of the cups should be suspended in the nutrient solution. Cover the exterior of the aquarium with aluminum foil to keep the liquid chamber dark.

Step 8

Refill the tank with water when it drops to the halfway point. When the water drops halfway a second time, drain the tank and refill with a new nutrient solution.

Things You'll Need

  • Aquarium with airstone and pump
  • Aluminum foil
  • 2-inch-thick Styrofoam board
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
  • Marker
  • Plastic cups
  • Vermiculite
  • Water
  • Liquid hydroponic nutrients
  • Aquarium pH test kit
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Potassium hydroxide
  • Plants


  • University of Arizona Agricultural Department Website: Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes
  • University of Arizona Agricultural Department Website: Hydroponics
  • Simply Free Plans

Who Can Help

  • The Glass is Too Big Website: Setting up a Hydroponic Herb Garden
Keywords: hydroponic system, scientific gardening, nutrient solution

About this Author

After 10 years experience in writing, Tracy S. Morris has countless articles and two novels to her credit. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets" and "CatFancy," as well as the "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World," and several websites.