How to Build a NFT Hydroponic System?


How to Build a NFT Hydroponic System?

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in an aqueous solvent. One popular type of hydroponic system is the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) system. The NFT system involves a constant flow of nutrient solution over the roots of the plants, allowing them to absorb the necessary nutrients directly. Building your own NFT hydroponic system can be a rewarding and sustainable way to grow plants, whether for personal consumption or as a business venture. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to build your own NFT hydroponic system.

Materials Needed

PVC pipes or channels: These will serve as the channels where the nutrient solution flows and where the plants are placed.

Reservoir: A container to hold the nutrient solution. It can be a plastic tub or a large bucket.

Submersible pump: To circulate the nutrient solution from the reservoir to the channels.

Nutrient solution: A commercially available hydroponic nutrient solution or a homemade blend.

Net pots: Small pots that hold the plants and fit into the holes of the PVC pipes.

Growing medium: Rockwool, clay pellets, or another inert medium to support the plants in the net pots.

Tubing and fittings: To connect the pump to the channels and ensure a smooth flow of the nutrient solution.

Air pump and air stone: Optional, but can help oxygenate the nutrient solution.

Plants: Seedlings or young plants that are suitable for hydroponic growth.

pH meter and EC meter: To monitor the pH and electrical conductivity of the nutrient solution.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Design Your System

First, determine the size and layout of your NFT system. The size will depend on the space you have available and the number of plants you wish to grow. A common design involves placing the PVC pipes horizontally in parallel rows.

Build the Frame

Construct a frame to support the PVC pipes. The frame can be made from wood, metal, or plastic. Ensure the frame is sturdy and can hold the weight of the pipes, plants, and nutrient solution.

Prepare the PVC Pipes

Drill holes in the top of the PVC pipes at regular intervals, ensuring the holes are large enough to hold the net pots. The spacing between the holes will depend on the type of plants you are growing. For most leafy greens, 6 to 8 inches apart is ideal.

Assemble the System

Place the PVC pipes on the frame and connect them with tubing to form a continuous loop. Attach the tubing to the submersible pump in the reservoir. The nutrient solution will be pumped from the reservoir into the PVC pipes, flow over the roots of the plants, and return to the reservoir.

Install the Pump and Air Stone

Place the submersible pump in the reservoir and connect it to the tubing. If you are using an air pump and air stone, place the air stone in the reservoir and connect it to the air pump. This will help keep the nutrient solution oxygenated.

Add the Nutrient Solution

Fill the reservoir with water and add the hydroponic nutrient solution according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the pH meter to adjust the pH of the solution to the optimal range for your plants, usually between 5.5 and 6.5. Use the EC meter to ensure the nutrient concentration is within the recommended range.

Plant the Seedlings

Place the seedlings in the net pots, using the growing medium to support them. Insert the net pots into the holes in the PVC pipes.

Start the System

Turn on the submersible pump to start circulating the nutrient solution. The solution should flow continuously over the roots of the plants, providing them with the necessary nutrients.

Monitor and Maintain the System

Regularly check the pH and nutrient levels of the solution, and top up the reservoir as needed. Ensure the pump is functioning correctly and that the flow rate is sufficient to keep the roots moist but not waterlogged.

Check the plants for signs of disease or nutrient deficiency and address any issues promptly.

    Tips for Success

    Light: Ensure your plants receive adequate light. If growing indoors, consider using grow lights.

    Temperature: Maintain the nutrient solution and air temperature within the optimal range for your plants.

    Cleanliness: Keep the system clean to prevent the growth of algae and pathogens.

    Observation: Regularly observe your plants for growth and health. Adjust the nutrient solution and environmental conditions as needed.

    Building an NFT hydroponic system can be a fun and educational project that yields fresh, healthy produce.

    With careful planning and regular maintenance, you can enjoy the benefits of hydroponic gardening year-round.

    Troubleshooting Common Issues

    Even with careful planning and regular maintenance, you may encounter some challenges with your NFT hydroponic system. Here are a few common issues and how to address them:

    Root Rot

    Cause: Poor oxygenation of the nutrient solution or waterlogged roots.

    Solution: Ensure your air pump and air stone are working properly to oxygenate the solution. Check that the flow rate is sufficient and that the roots are not sitting in stagnant water.

    Nutrient Deficiencies

    Cause: Imbalanced or inadequate nutrient solution.

    Solution: Regularly check the pH and EC levels of your nutrient solution. Adjust the nutrient mix according to the needs of your plants, and ensure that the solution is well-balanced.

    Algae Growth

    Cause: Excess light exposure to the nutrient solution.

    Solution: Cover the reservoir and channels to block light from reaching the solution. This will help prevent algae growth, which can compete with plants for nutrients.

    Clogged Channels or Tubing

    Cause: Debris or root overgrowth blocking the flow of the nutrient solution.

    Solution: Regularly inspect and clean the channels and tubing. Trim any roots that are growing too large and potentially clogging the system.

    Pump Failure

    Cause: Mechanical failure or electrical issues.

    Solution: Have a backup pump available to quickly replace a failed pump. Regularly check and maintain your pump to prevent failures.

      Advanced Tips


      Consider automating parts of your NFT hydroponic system to make maintenance easier and more efficient.

      Automatic timers can control the pump and lights, and sensors can monitor pH, temperature, and nutrient levels, sending alerts or making adjustments as needed.


      If you find success with a small NFT system, consider expanding it. You can add more channels, increase the size of your reservoir, or even build multiple systems. Just ensure that each addition is carefully planned and maintained to avoid overloading your system.

      Integration with Smart Technology

      Utilize smart technology to monitor and control your hydroponic system remotely. Smart sensors, controllers, and apps can provide real-time data and alerts, allowing you to make adjustments from anywhere.

      Crop Rotation and Diversity

      Experiment with different types of plants and crop rotations to maximize your yield and prevent disease. Some plants may grow better together, providing mutual benefits in a hydroponic system.

      Building an NFT hydroponic system is a fantastic way to explore sustainable gardening, whether you’re growing herbs, vegetables, or flowers. This system offers efficient nutrient delivery and water usage, making it an environmentally friendly choice. With the right materials, planning, and maintenance, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of fresh, healthy plants year-round.

      Before you start your NFT hydroponic journey, ensure you have:

      Adequate space and lighting for your system
      Quality materials and tools
      A reliable source of nutrients and water
      Regular monitoring and maintenance schedule
      Backup plans for potential issues (e.g., extra pumps, cleaning supplies)
      By following these steps and tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful hydroponic gardener.

      Enjoy the process and the fresh produce you’ll be able to grow in your own home!