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For the best indoor grow system, refer to our dwc hydroponics guide for growers of all skill levels. Deep water culture (DWC) systems are popular types of hydroponic systems that use only water, nutrients, and a growing medium to produce stronger roots and better buds.

Hydroponics, and DWC in particular, is a super effective way to grow weed, but there are many pitfalls. Learn to avoid them all with our DWC hydroponics cannabis grow guide.

What Is Deep Water Culture?

In a DWC system, the cannabis plant’s roots are submerged in a hydroponic nutrient solution/water. The plant's root system is kept in place in a mesh bucket/net pot with hydroton pellets. The plants are usually housed in a self-contained and opaque container such as a bucket (at least 5-gallon).

A major benefit of hydroponic growing is that the plant is being continually watered. However, it's up to you to add the missing macro and micronutrients to give your plants a fighting chance. In addition, you must regulate the pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature of your solution  throughout the plant's life cycle.

What Are Hydroton Clay Pebbles?

Hydroton clay pebbles are derived from an orange-red clay and look like brown balls with black spots. They are pH neutral (inert) and come in a variety of sizes to fit your specific needs. They are also pretty cheap and can be washed, dried, and reused for your next crop.

Hydroton clay pebbles are a good choice due to the clay’s water retention characteristics. Hydroton is capable of absorbing moisture to prevent the roots from drying out, especially in the case of a pump breaking.

In addition, the space between the pellets provides optimal airflow to prevent root rot when there's not enough oxygen. Finally, hydroton exchanges cations (positive ions)  with plants to improve nutrient uptake and pH regulation.

DWC hydroponics. Roots from a deep water culture grow of cannabis

Easy DWC Hydroponics Grow Start to Finish Set Up

If you're new to growing cannabis and don't want to build your own system, there are plenty of DWC ready-made systems kits online with everything you need. If you want to go build your own, a DWC system has the following components:

  1. A light-sealed reservoir to hold the nutrient solution. Usually, a 5-gallon bucket will do,  preferably opaque to prevent algae growth. Any cooler or large storage tub can become a reservoir with holes cut out for the baskets and pellets.
  2. An air pump pushes air volume into the nutrient solution. About one watt per gallon is all you need. Consider hanging the air pump to reduce noise vibrations when placed on a surface.
  3. An air manifold allows you to attach several diffusers to an air line.
  4. An air stone (about 4”-6”) pumps air bubbles into the solution and provides enough oxygen to the roots.
  5. An airline transports the air from the pumps to the air stone. Choose one that is bendable and opaque to prevent algae growth.
  6. Grow media such as net pots or baskets filled with hydroton clay pellets are excellent for supporting the roots. The net pot will rest on the rim of the bucket, towards the top.
  7. A water chiller regulates water temperature and keeps temperatures below the level where algae and bacteria can grow.
  8. A water transfer pump can quickly drain reservoir water.
  9. Cannabis plants

Cannabis DWC systems range in size. Some growers may place multiple plants in a single reservoir, while others may pump nutrients and oxygen into several small DWC reservoirs that hold one plant each.

To set up your system, fill your reservoir with the properly mixed nutrient solution. In the beginning, when the plants are young, the nutrient solution will reach the bottom of the media.

As the plant grows, the solution level will go down. It's important to check every day to ensure that your plants have the right amount of nutrient solution. Leaving them without any nutrients can quickly damage your roots and plants.

Water/Nutrient Solution For DWC Hydroponics

In the beginning, you won't need to replace the nutrient solution as frequently compared to when the plant has matured. How often you replace the nutrient solution depends. It could be every one to two weeks or longer.

When the plants are young, their roots won't be long enough to reach the bottom of your reservoir. During this initial period of growth, it's important to water your plants from the top. 

Advanced top-feeding/dripping systems continuously trickle water over the young plant’s roots. After the plants’ roots have grown enough, some growers switch back to the original DWC set-up.


Invest in a pH meter to regularly check the pH level of your DWC system. Ideally, keep this level between 5.5 to 6.5. If your pH goes beyond this level, consider adjusting the pH using pH kits found online.


We recommend using organic nutrients for the best results. If you're a beginner, consider investing in complete grow systems that include solutions for every stage of growth. Some of the most popular ready-made nutrient options include General Hydroponics’ Flora Grow Series or FoxFarm’s Trio formula.

What Is Recirculating Deep Water Culture?

Recirculating deep water culture is an advanced form of the DWC system. Everything is pretty much the same except for a central main reservoir that connects to multiple bucket distribution lines and the air volume pump that recirculates and aerates the nutrient solution.

This method is particularly effective due to the constant pumping of fresh nutrient solution. In addition, the lateral flow of this system can increase your roots’ health, growth rate, and yield.

DWC Hydroponics Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal pH level for DWC cannabis?

Between 5.5 and 6.5 is the best pH range for cannabis grown in DWC setups. Keeping the pH in this range makes sure that plants can easily take in all the nutrients they need.

Can you use tap water for DWC?

For DWC, you can use tap water, but you need to let it sit out for at least 24 hours so the chlorine can leave. Before you add nutrients and plants, you also need to check and change the pH level of the tap water.

What are common problems with DWC hydroponics?

1. Root rot is caused by not enough oxygen or dirty surroundings.
2. Nutrient lockout or toxicity can happen when the pH or amounts of nutrients are not right.
3. Nutrient solutions that are left out in the open can cause algae to grow, which fights with plants for oxygen and nutrients.

How often should you change the water in a DWC system?

Every one to two weeks, the nutrient solution in a DWC system should be fully changed to keep the right balance of nutrients and pH and to keep the nutrients from building up. For the best plant health, the pH and EC/TDS values of the nutrient solution must also be checked and changed on a regular basis.

What are the best nutrients for DWC cannabis?

For DWC weed, the best nutrients are those that are made to work with hydroponic systems. These nutrients mix well with water and are easy for the roots to take in. It is important to use nutrients that give the plant all the macro and vitamins it needs for its growth stage (flowering or vegetative).

How do you set up a DWC system for cannabis?

These steps are usually needed to set up a DWC system:

-A container that can hold the nutrient mix.
-Plants can be held above the tank on a platform or in net pots, which lets the roots hang straight into the solution.
-An air pump and an air stone to add oxygen to the mix of nutrients.
-Fertilizers for hydroponic systems that are made to help weed grow and flower.
-To keep an eye on and change the nutrient solution, pH and EC/TDS meters are used.

Why use DWC for growing cannabis?

Cannabis plants do better in DWC than in soil because it lets them take in nutrients more effectively. This means plants grow faster and could produce more. A steady flow of air to the roots also helps them grow in a healthy way. DWC systems may also be easy to keep up because they don't need to deal with soil or pests.

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What is DWC hydroponics?

DWC hydroponics is a type of hydroponic system where plants are grown with their roots in fresh water that is full of nutrients. Soil, coco coir, or clay pellets are not used in this method because they are solid. Roots get air, water, and nutrients all the time, right to the root zone. This helps the plant grow quickly.

Become a Cannabis Grow Expert

If you want to learn about more ways to grow in soil and soilless systems, enroll in Cannabis Training University. CTU offers jam-packed programs on cannabis cultivation, cannabis law, cannabis medicine, cannabis extraction, cannabis cooking, and so much more.

CTU gives you plenty of access time to the course material throughout the growing season and beyond. Become a cannabis growing expert today!

Luis Cordova
Luis Cordova

Luis Cordova is a distinguished author, and renowned expert in cannabis cultivation, who possesses a Master's degree in Plant Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Science. As a valued contributor to highly esteemed publications such as Cannabis Training University and Maximum Yield Magazine, Luis has emerged as a trusted source of guidance and knowledge in the cannabis industry. Having written thousands of informative articles, Luis is widely recognized for his comprehensive expertise on cultivating cannabis, both indoors and outdoors.

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