How Wick Systems Work

How wick systems work

Wick systems are a very popular form of hydroponic grow setup. These babies are primarily popular because they are super low maintenance. For newer growers or for those who don’t have buckets of cash lying around, they are perfect. When it comes to DIY systems these are definitely the most versatile. Basically, we can use almost anything to make a wick system container, so we don’t need to shell out on a bunch of equipment. Wick systems ensure the plants remain well-fed, but they will still need a decent amount of light, warmth, ventilation etc. The containers for this system can basically be any size, so no matter what kind of crop we are growing we will be able to fit it perfectly. Just like every setup wick systems have their positive aspects and their negative ones.

Why Use the Wick System

Wick systems are very easy to understand and set up. A lot of other hydroponic systems can be tricky, confusing, mathematically taxing and expensive. Once this system is set up it will basically take care of itself. With other systems, we need to keep a constant eye out for blockages or issues with the machinery. They need barely any setup space so they suit a wider range of growers. They are also probably the least expensive setup.

Possible Downsides

Most hydroponic systems use nutrient solution, giving the plants a growth advantage. Wick systems use water only to supply nutrients to the plants. This can mean that the plants are a bit more average overall. Though they are low maintenance systems they aren’t no maintenance. We need to keep on top of changing the water in the system so that it doesn’t get stagnant and lose nutrients. We also need to make sure we keep the system clean so that mould doesn’t start to grow.


Wick systems just need a few basic items to get going, perfect for tighter budgets. To start a beginners wick system we will need:

  • A growing medium such as coir, clay pellets, vermiculite etc.
  • Net pots to put the medium and the plants in, ensure the roots will be able to breathe.
  • A grow tray to set the pots in.
  • Something to act as the reservoir for the nutrient solution. We can use pretty much anything for this, depending on how many plants we are growing. Whatever it is the reservoir cannot let light in as this will negatively affect the nutrient solution.
  • Something to create the wick, for this we can use anything absorbent such as mop strands, bandages, strips of cotton, anything the water will be able to travel up.
  • Nutrients for the nutrient solution, this list includes but is not limited to potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus. A lot of places sell premade nutrient solutions specifically designed for different parts of the growing process.

How To Set Up a Wick System

First, we need to get the outline of the system ready, which means getting the wicks attached. The net pots are great for this because we just need to attach the wick to the bottom. Thread it through so that a section of the wick sticks up into the pot.

Then we fill the net pot with our chosen medium, enveloping the wick so that it can deliver the nutrient solution. We then need to position the pot above the reservoir to allow the nutrient liquid to travel up the wick. The wick needs to be decently submerged into the nutrient solution so that it doesn’t have to try too hard to absorb the liquid.

Once everything is lined up make a hole in the tray that is going to go above the reservoir. Large enough for the wick to go through but small enough that the pot can sit comfortably on top. If we are just growing one plant in a small reservoir we won’t need a tray. In that case, the bucked can just be sat atop the reservoir.

Once everything is set up we can pop our little plant baby into the growing medium. The baby will need to be in contact with the wick so that at the start it can be getting nutrient solution straight from the source. The seed touching the wick should open and start to grow through the medium.

As it is easy to see this system is significantly more simple to set up than a lot of other hydroponic systems. It involves hardly any maths, minimal equipment, few stages and is quite difficult to mess up. If we want to really spoil our plants we can put an airstone in the reservoir as we would with a number of other setups. This just provides the plants with a little extra oxygen through the nutrient solution.

Once everything is set up we just need to make sure the system has access to light and is in a warm space. For this, we may want to bring in grow lights, a timer and a heater depending on the environment. Of course, we can also bring in hygrometers and thermometers to make sure the humidity and temperature in the space are just right. We also need to make sure we check for mould, lack of nutrients and any other issues. Keep an eye on the plant, if the leaves go a bit yellow or curly she likely isn’t getting the nutrients she needs.

Basically wick systems are great for a low cost and low maintenance growing system. This does also mean that it likely won’t yield quite the impressive results that some of the more complex setups will. However, the results will still be great, especially if we use seeds that enjoy hydro setups. For any growers who simply don’t need professional-grade stuff, the wick system is by far the most versatile, the most affordable, and the most user friendly around. Don’t forget to be good to the plants and make sure they stay happy and healthy.

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