Home Hydroponics

Course CodeAHT107
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Hydroponics can be used by gardeners to produce vegetables and herbs in small spaces such as balconies and apartments as well as in greenhouses for out-of-season production of certain crops.


Instead of soil, plants are grown in a sterile medium, such as rockwool, perlite or sand. The medium provides a means of support only and does not add to the plants’ nutrient requirements. All the nutrients taken up by the plants in this system are added artificially through a nutrient solution. Solutions vary according to the type of crop grown.


Hydroponic systems are readily available through specialist retailers and vary in their complexity and size.

Lesson Structure

There are 12 lessons in this course:

  1. Basic Plant Nutrition
    • Understanding the chemistry atoms and elements
    • Nutrient deficiency symptoms
  2. Nutrient Solutions
    • Calculating formulae
    • Hydroponic nutrition
    • Preparing nutrient solutions
  3. Types of Hydroponic Systems A
    • Classification of hydroponic systems
    • Ingredients of hydroponic systems
    • Rockwool.
  4. Types of Systems B
    • What makes up a system
    • 16 hydroponic ideas
    • NFT
    • Solution dispensation.
  5. Plant Problems in Hydroponics
    • Pests and diseases
    • Nutritional and environmental problems
    • Water and plant relationships
    • pH.
  6. How a Plant Grows
    • Growth
    • Nutrient solutions
    • Preparing a solution
    • Mechanisms of nutrient uptake
    • Photosynthesis.
  7. Plant Culture
    • Controlling environmental features
    • Post harvest storage.
  8. Hydroponic Vegetable Production
    • How to grow vegetables hydroponically.
    • Types of Vegetables to grow
  9. Hydroponic Cut Flower Production
    • Growing flowers in hydroponics
    • Carnations.
  10. Soil Media vs Nutrient Film
    • Berries
    • Indoor plants
    • Types of media
    • NFT.
  11. Greenhouse Operation & Management
    • Solar energy applications in horticulture
    • Greenhouse management.
  12. Special Assignment - a report on how to improve your present hydroponic venture, or a report on planning a new hydroponic venture

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Hydroponics is the process used to grow plants without soil and literally means ‘working water’. The grower is taking ‘control’ of the plant's root environment, and losing the benefit of ‘mother nature's’ finely-tuned mechanisms which normally control that part of the plant's environment. So therefore when you remove the soil from a plant and take control of its roots, it is essential that you have a good understanding of how it grows.



Hydroponics is not an easier way to grow plants! It is a more controlled way of growing plants! However it is not a magical way to grow plants either. Anybody can grow plants in soil with reasonable success, but to grow plants in hydroponics, you must understand how the plant grows, so that you can control the light and the temperature, water, oxygen and nutrients in the root zone. These elements are all vital elements in the health and growth of the plants growing in the system. 

You Can Even Grow Vegetables and Fish together in Hydroponics

Consider an aquaponics system at home. Although a relatively recent idea, home aquaponics is becoming an increasingly realistic proposition for the backyard.   

Aquaponics systems are usually made up of a grow beds (similar to a corrugated iron raised garden bed, a water pump, an air pump and a filtration system. You can now buy everything you need to get started; kits are readily available and these vary from very simple and inexpensive to quite complex and costly.  Before you jump in at the deep end and go for an expensive system it may be best to start small and then add on to the system as your experience and confidence increases. All types of aquaponics kits are now readily available online – try a quick google search!

What Grows Well in Aquaponics?

Plants such as leafy green vegetables, vine plants, fruit and fruit trees, flowers grasses and seaweed all grow well in aquaponics.  All sorts of freshwater fish from perch to goldfish, or even freshwater crayfish have been grown in aquaponics too.

Aquaponics is all about Balance

·         In an aquaponics system you must grow a combination of fish and plants in separate tanks/beds.

·         The ratio of fish and plants must be compatible to the size of the system if you have too many fish you will overload the plants with too many nutrients as this can trigger lush growth that is susceptible to disease. Excess nutrients may then cycle back to the fish tank, as this can promote disease in the fish.

·         However not enough fish means that your plants will starve and not do well and this makes them prone to insect attack.

Through careful monitoring though you can regulate and avoid nutrient over-load, or under-load; it is all a question of balance. Discussed in more detail later!


Aquaponic systems can vary greatly in size. They can be as small as an indoor fish tank or a large scale commercial aquaponics system. The type and size of aquaponics system you choose will affect the components and features that you will need to run it. which also sometimes referred to as flood and drain cycles. Water flows through the gravel beds at intermittent times (controlled by a timer) to provide a more aerobic environment for the plants (providing greater access to oxygen) and prevent the chance of root waterlogging and rot.

There are several types of systems that are used in commercial aquaponics but the most common system for a backyard is the Closed Reciprocating System


A typical Closed Reciprocating System has the following components:

  • Tank (ponds or tanks) for growing fish, crayfish or other species.
  • Hydroponic system for growing vegetables, fruits or other plants.
  • Collection tank or sump –lowest point in a system that collects runoff from the hydroponics before pumping back into the aquaculture growing tank or pond.
  • Filtration systems for removing unwanted components in water.

This may include various mechanisms such as:

    • a biofilter to remove things like dead animal tissues, uneaten fish food etc.
    • settling tank or compartment where solids can be extracted from the water.
    • biofilter to convert toxic ammonia in water to useable nitrates.
This course aims to develop a solid grounding in the principles of soilless cultivation of plants in a HOME hydroponics situation.

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