The wick hydroponic system is the simplest system out of everything. Traditionally, there’s no moving part in this so you don’t need pumps or electricity. However, some people do still use optional air pump for reservoir. Not needing electricity to work is also very useful because this system can be used in places where we can’t use electricity.
The wick system is an easy starting system to make when you first learn about the hydroponic system. This system is also commonly use by teachers in class experiments.
What you need:
- A container for plants
- A container for reservoir
- Good planting medium like coco coir, Vermiculite, or perlite
- Some fabric for the wick, for example felt or flannel
How the wick system works is just exactly how you would think it does, by basically using a wick to transport liquid nutrients from the reservoir to the plants using the capillary process. A good wick system usually has at least two or more wicks. The tray or container for plants is placed right over the bucket or container for reservoir.
Disadvantages of the Wick System
The biggest drawback from using wick hydroponic system is that they don’t really work for bigger plants that need a lot more water to grow. It’s more suitable for small plants like lettuces and herbs. If it’s a fruiting plant, it’ll need much more water for it to bear fruit and the wicks might not be enough to transport that.
Another drawback is that this wick system is not the most efficient when it comes to transporting nutrients so it’s not suitable for some plants that need a lot of nutrients in a short time. As mentioned, lettuces and herbs would be ideal for the wick system while plants like tomato, paprika, and other fruiting plants might not work.
The wick system also doesn’t distribute water and nutrients uniformly. Plants will take the water and nutrients they need and leave the rest in the planting medium which will cause piling of poison from mineral salt in the planting medium. You will need to rinse those extra nutrients from the planting medium regularly and frequently, once a week or even more frequent than that.
The wick is of course, the most important part of the wick system. You might need to test run some fabrics to use for wicks. You want to look for fabric that has good absorbing ability while still being able to fend off damage from being wet all the time. Make sure to wash your wick thoroughly first. Here are some fabrics and fibers people usually use as wicks: fibrous rope, propylene rope, tiki torch wick, coconut strands rope, braided polyurethane thread, thick wool, nylon rope, cotton rope, flannel, etc.
Make sure to use enough wicks for your system. This depends on how you make your system, what kind of plant you grow, and what kind of planting medium you use. You might need at least 2-4 wicks for a small wick hydroponic system. Remember, the shorter the wick, the faster water and nutrients get transported.
For the planting medium, you will need something that easily absorbs liquid and is able to keep that moisture locked in. Here are some planting mediums people use: coco coir, vermiculite, perlite, etc. In some cases, water absorbent polymer crystals are also used.
The reservoir in the wick hydroponic system can be big or small, just make sure that it’s never dry. You also need to keep the water level quite high so there wouldn’t be much travel needed for the liquid to go to the planting medium. Empty, clean, and refill your reservoir once in a while to avoid the uncontrollable growth of algae or other microorganisms in the water.
The wicks absorb water and nutrients uniformly while the plants do not, so there would be piling of excess nutrient salt in the planting medium from time to time. Rinse it off with clean water several times a week to avoid increasing toxicity in the planting medium.
Optional Air Pump
Using air pump to give wind in the water in the wick system is not necessary, but it could be beneficial. While the roots get oxygen from small air bubbles in the planting medium, they can also absorb dissolved oxygen from the water if you use air pump. Air pump can also be useful to keep the water moving and make sure the water and nutrients are mixed up well all the time.