NFT or NFS Hydroponic systems. What are they and what do they grow best

duckygrows, Hydroponic, hydroponic method, indoor garden, Kratky, Lettuce, NFS, NFT, urban farming, Urban garden -

NFT or NFS Hydroponic systems. What are they and what do they grow best

The Nutrient film technique or Nutrient film system is the most widely used systems.  These systems are perfect for growing all greens, herbs and smaller vegetables and fruits like peppers and strawberries 

Commercial farms are have been using NFT systems to produce an ever increasing percentage of the world’s food needs. More and more indoor farms have been opening across the country

NFT systems are also widely used in home gardens both by do it yourself and systems available thru retail

so what is NFT Hydroponics?

In all versions of this technology the plant is grown in net cups which are placed in a tube or gutter above a steam of water nutrient solution.  The water nutrient solution is pumped from a reservoir into the gutter.  As it passes under the plants the roots will absorb what then need with the remaining water solution flowing back into the reservoir.

Going back to the basic plant needs: water, nutrients, air and light.  These systems work beautifully to give a continuous flow of fresh water and nutrients.  Since the net cups are suspended above the water flow not completely submerged, this allows for plenty of warm moist air at the roots


The Pros of NFT hydroponic growing include:

easy access and control of water, nutrient solution since the solution is in a central reservoir 

greens and herbs do very well

Smaller fruits and vegetables do well ( see Cons to help you decide which)

multi varies of plants can be grown on the same system

plants can be harvested and replaced at different rates without  effecting the system as a whole

NFT systems make great use of space

the water nutrient reservoir can be anything including a fish tank making into an Aquaponic system without the central hardware changing

 Aquaponic Table with plant feed from a home aquarium 


The Cons

can be expensive to set up  The system will need a series of gutters and a structure to hold them,  a water pump, a tub of some kind for a reservoir and a timer.  

the systems need power.  So not suitable for most off grid situations.  If there is an extended power outage your plant may not survive 

there is a good deal of maintenance involved.  The water nutrient solution needs to be checked often to ensure proper mixture and temperature.  The systems can leak. And the roots can grow too large and clog the system

the root size can be an issue   The system can deliver enough of a plants needs to grow truly anything  The problem is that large plants have large root systems  you have to find the right balance between the size of your gutters and the potential size of the roots.  If the gutter is too big the roots can’t reach the water easily which will cause health issues fir your plants  If the gutter is too small it will get clogged and the system will not function 


Some thought for my experience 

There good reason why this is the most widely used kind of Hydroponic system.  NFT is very flexible with size, spacing, design, variety of plants and can be used with a fish tank or pond

To give you an general guideline that has work for me when sizing the water ways.  

2” PVC is suitable for greens and most herbs,  3” and 4” PVC both work for cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries and peppers.  But Give Them Space!

when you grow anything more than greens make sure you put at Least 18” between plants.   Don’t forget that you also need to leave at least 18” between the last plant and the outlet/ drain end.   You can go 12” plant to plant if you use 4” PVC

The worst thing is to come home to dead plants and a flooded area because the outlet was clogged with roots

Make sure that the roots are long enough to just touch the water before you put seedlings into any system.  The root does not need to be submerged... it will grow quickly.  It just needs to touch

A finally thought from my experience.  If you design or purchase a system that the water outlet is a bit off the bottom which will allow for a shallow amount of water to remain in the gutter then you only have to run the pump a few minutes every hour or so rather than continually.   Much better and cheaper in my opinion 

I hope you found this information helpful.  Please leave comments, ask questions and visit


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