So that’s it, you’re done. You’ve built (from scratch) a DWC container, fed it with a airstone, added pH corrected water and dialed in your nutrients. At this point you can either put it outside and let the sun do it’s thing, or you can keep it inside under some lights. If growing indoors with lights, I recommend a set of T5 horticulture lights with a reflective holder as it is only about $100 and is the exact size you need for this system. If growing indoors, keep the lights about 4-5 inches from the tops of the plants.
FINAL STEP: Paint Your Reservoir To Block Out Light
The last step is to now spray paint the translucent part at the bottom of the container. The choice of color doesn’t really matter, and many use black, but keep in mind that if you are doing this outdoors the black color will insulate heat and you want the temperature in your reservoir to be <80 degrees at all times. Temperatures over 80 degrees coupled with light coming in through the container will result in bacteria and other unwanted things growing in your reservoir, so make sure little to no light is getting through. If it does get hot and you are doing this outdoors, just take a few bottles of water and freeze them each night, and then when you leave for work the next morning be sure to drop them in the reservoir. They should do a decent job of keeping the water under 80 degrees.
You aren’t going to have to do much maintenance, but there are a few things to keep in mind. At first, your plants won’t have big long roots because they are still just babies. Because of this, for the first week or two you will want to hand water them from the top, using water you took from the reservoir, to make sure the hydroton and the rockwool cubes stay moist. Eventually, the roots will find their way down into the reservoir and once they have access to that 5 gallons of nutrient, oxygen rich water they will begin to explode with growth. The water level upon starting out should be right to where it is touching the bottom of the netcup, but not submerging it. As time goes on and your plants grow roots, the water level will lower and the roots will lower with it, until eventually they have crawled all the way down to the bottom and are just basking in the optimum mix of water, nutrients and oxygen. Once the roots get bigger, you would ideally want the top part of the root suspended in the air with no water on it (so it can breath), and the bottom of the the root system completely submerged in the water. By doing this, you’re roots get the optimum amount of oxygen and nutrient rich water.
You should check your pH levels daily, and make sure that it stays within the acceptable range (5.5-6.5). You MUST check it at least every few days. Use your pH up and pH down chemicals to keep it within the range, this is probably the most important part of the ongoing care. In a larger reservoir, you may only need to check the Ph one every 2 weeks, but in a reservoir this small, pH can change rapidly so you must be vigilant and check it frequently if you want your plants to thrive.
Another thing to keep in mind is that bacteria and disease will grow in your reservoir after a period of time, since it’s a nice easy place for them to get lots of free food, water, and humidity that they love so much. Because of this, it is advised that you dump out you reservoir every 2 weeks (some do it every week). This is mandatory and must be done, even if all is looking well. Just dump it out (preferably not down a drain), and refill it with pH corrected water and nutrients. Keep doing this every 2 weeks throughout the life cycle of the plants. If you notice anything growing in your reservoir, or a nasty bacterial sort of smell, you can treat it with a SMALL amount of hydrogen peroxide. Use the kind at the store used for mouthwash or an anti-septic and place a few tablespoons in there. Really you should not do this unless absolutely necessary, as you will inevitably see evolution in action and notice that only the peroxide resistant bacteria survive, so use it sparingly. For the record, I have never had to do this in any of my systems, so you should not either unless things get really bad.
So there you have it, you’ve built your own 8 site DWC bucket and are ready to produce delicious food year around.
For a move detailed, step-by-step version of this tutorial, check out my video: The Beginners Guide To Making Your Own 8 Site DWC, as seen below.
Update: Day 2
It’s only been 2 days and already the roots have grown down into the reservoir, and we are beginning to see the leaves grow at an accelerated pace. Keep in mind, I have not painted my system ONLY because I want to show you pictures of what is going on under the hood. Your system should be blacked out so no light gets in.
Again we see a near doubling of the root size in only 1 day since our last pics: