There has been a misconception that is going around lately about the Kratky method and DWC hydroponic systems, people tend to think that they are the same thing because of how similar they are.
So, what is the difference between a Kratky and a DWC hydroponic system? What differentiates the Kratky method from a DWC system is that the Kratky systems don’t use air pumps or any type of aeration. While on the other hand, a DWC system would require a constant oxygen supply through air pumps for the plant to survive.
The misconceptions come from the fact that they literally look the same from the outside. There is no way you can identify a Kratky system without removing the lid and looking inside the bucket. You can identify a Kratky method when there is no air pump or air stones to be found in the nutrient solution.
So, we need to know now, why does a Kratky method doesn’t require any type of aeration. In order to answer this question, we must first know why does the plant’s root system need oxygen?
Why Do Hydroponic Plants Need Oxygen
So, why is oxygen considered a critical aspect of every plant’s root system? In order for a root system to function and absorb nutrients from the nutrient solution, the root cells require oxygen. This oxygen is then used to produce the energy needed for the nutrients uptake.
A root system that its cells lack oxygen will produce little to no energy; this will result in the uptake of a much slower nutrient. It will eventually lead to the very famous hydroponic plant disease, root rot, which will kill your plant gradually.
How The Kratky Method Works?
The Kratky method has been one of the most unique systems in hydroponics; this happens because of how passive Kratky systems can be. You can literally leave your hydroponic plant in its Kratky bucket to grow passively without electricity or any human involvement and return back when it’s ready for harvest.
You simply transplant the seedling into the Kratky container that you are planning to grow the plant in. The seedling roots should be suspended in the nutrient solution. As the plant grows, its root system continues to develop.
Moreover, the nutrient solution level starts to decrease gradually as the plant is using it for growth. When the nutrient solution level decrease, it creates an air gap between the net pot and the surface of the water.
The roots present in this air gap develop into what are called air roots. Air roots are the main game-changer here. They allow the roots to absorb the oxygen present in the air gap. That’s why the plants grown using the Kratky method don’t need any type of aeration. It has its own aeration system which is called the Air Roots.
How The DWC System Works?
Although the Kratky and the DWC system looks the same, they work in entirely two different ways. A plant grown in a DWC system will require a constant supply of oxygen for its roots.
When a seedling is transplanted to a DWC system, its roots will be suspended in the nutrient solution. The only difference here is that there will be constant air bubbles coming out of the air stones to provide the roots with the required amount of oxygen.
The plant will use the nutrient solution to grow steadily, and when the nutrient solution level decreases, you will have to top it up again.
So, the main difference here is that the DWC system is not a passive way to grow plants like the Kratky method. A DWC will require electricity, and steady monitoring every day to ensure that the plant roots are getting a sufficient amount of oxygen, water, and nutrients.
Root rot can happen to plants in a DWC system. Whenever the roots are completely submerged in water, or not getting a sufficient amount of oxygen, root rot will occur. Check this post where I wrote about how to set up your nutrient solution level in a DWC system.
The Pros And Cons Of The Kratky Method
The Kratky method is a great way to grow plants, especially when you are a beginner in using hydroponics. However, there are still some aspects that you will have to consider when choosing to go to Kratky.
1- Cost Saving
There is no need to purchase an air pump in order to start a Kratky system. Moreover, the monthly electricity costs of running an air pump 24 hours 7 days a week will be eliminated.
So, if you decided to grow Kratky lettuce for example, and placed the bucket beside a window where it can get sunlight, you can leave it for 45 days without monitoring, and return back to get a mature lettuce head ready to be eaten.
2- Less Effort
Growing a Kratky plant will require much less effort when compared to a DWC system. The headache of constantly checking out the nutrient solution level and topping it up can consume a lot of time. Moreover, you will no longer have to flush the entire system every once in a while.
1- Not Every Plant Can Be Grown Using The Kratky Method
The Kratky method cannot be used to grow every plant. It works best with crops that have short growing periods like leafy greens. An average lettuce head can take 45 days to grow, which is ideal for any Kratky method.
There are other plants that cannot be grown using the Kratky method. Trees for example cannot be grown in a hydroponic Kratky system. An average tree can take years to reach the harvest stage. A plant with this growing period cannot grow in a Kratky system.
The Pros And Cons Of The DWC System
The DWC system is considered one of the most popular systems out there. It competes for head to head with the NFT system which is the most used hydroponic system worldwide.
1- Can Be Used To Grow A Large Variety Of Plants
Whether you are trying to grow leafy greens, trees, or other different crops, the DWC system can be used to grow them all. I have written before about apple trees, orange trees, and even bonsai trees. All of them can grow and thrive in a hydroponic system like this.
Furthermore, there are crops that are less popular to be grown using hydroponics, like rice and cotton, and have shown great success in thriving in a DWC system.
2- So Much Information Available On DWC Systems
As I have mentioned before, hydroponic DWC systems are one of the most popular systems among hydroponic enthusiasts. This has resulted in the presence of so much information online.
You can literally find anything that you want to know on DWC systems available on the internet. Moreover, if there are some issues or problems happening for your DWC system, you can easily google it and find the solution right away.
1- Requiring Electricity And Care
Like I have said before, unlike the Kratky method, DWC systems require electricity and daily care. Don’t get me wrong, a Kratky system will need to be taken care of as well, but in a DWC system, you will need to constantly monitor the nutrient solution level.
Any decrease in the solution level must be compensated with a constant topping up. Moreover, you will have to dedicate time to flush the DWC bucket whenever the ppm reaches a certain level.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you grow with the Kratky method? Usually, the plants that have short growing periods like leafy greens are the most suitable for a hydroponic Kratky system. On the other hand, plants with long growing periods like trees will not thrive in a Kratky system.
Is aeroponics better than hydroponics? Both aeroponics and hydroponics are fantastic methods to grow plants. However, choosing a system depends on what crops are you planning to grow. Some crops do well in aeroponics while others thrive more in a hydroponic system.