How to Make Your Own Cheap Hydroponic Set-ups

Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Not all gardens require large outdoor plots. Hydroponic gardens allow you to grow small crops of vegetables and herbs inside your home. Purchasing a hydroponic kit can be rather expensive, especially if you just want to grow a few plants as a fun hobby. Putting together your own hydroponic set-up can save you some money, especially if you recycle a used aquarium.

Fill your aquarium with water to check for leaks. Patch any leaks with a waterproof plumber’s caulk. Let the caulking dry for the recommended amount of time. Rinse the surfaces of your aquarium to remove any soil or debris.

Measure the opening in the top of your aquarium. Transfer these measurements to a piece of 2-inch thick-Styrofoam sheeting, tracing the shape of the opening. Cut out the Styrofoam sheeting with a serrated knife, making your cuts slightly inside the lines, so your piece of Styrofoam is a little smaller than the opening of your aquarium.

Place your plastic pots upside-down on the top of your cut piece of Styrofoam. Spread the pots out to leave about 3 inches between each one. Trace the outline of the pots on your Styrofoam. Remove the pots and cut out your shapes with your serrated knife, again cutting just inside your lines.

Press the bottoms of the pots into your piece of Styrofoam until the rims are almost even with the upper surface of the Styrofoam sheeting. Fill your pots with perlite. Set a small piece of clean paper toweling over the perlite in each pot. This biodegradable surface helps to hold your small seeds in place while they germinate and form roots. Lay four or five seeds on top of the paper towels. Cover your seeds with a fine layer of sphagnum moss to provide the necessary darkness for sprouting.

Set your aquarium in its permanent location, placing it under a grow light. Place the airstone in the center of your aquarium.

Mix your hydroponic solution according to the package instructions. Fill your aquarium with your solution. Plug in your airstone and adjust the setting to provide a thin trickle of gentle bubbles. Place your Styrofoam sheeting and pots over the surface of the liquid solution, submersing the suspended pots into the hydroponic liquid.


Choose small plants to grow in your indoor hydroponic garden, such as compact bush beans, strawberries, radishes, lettuce and broccoli. Avoid sprawling plants that require lots of sunlight, such as squash and large tomato plants.

Keep your tank fresh and nutritious by siphoning out about one-half of your solution every two weeks, replacing it with an equal amount of new solution.


About the Author

Laura Wallace Henderson, a professional freelance writer, began writing in 1989. Her articles appear online at Biz Mojo, Walden University and various other websites. She has served as the co-editor for "Kansas Women: Focus on Health." She continues to empower and encourage women everywhere by promoting health, career growth and business management skills.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images