Ebb & Flow System (Flood & Drain)

This system uses two 5 gallon buckets or equivalent. One is filled with growing medium and the other holds the nutrient solution.

The plants are watered by lifting the bucket containing the nutrient solution. This allows the solution to flow into the bucket containing the growing medium and Plant(s). To drain, simply lower the nutrient bucket and gravity drains the solution back into the reservoir (see drawing on left).



2 – 5 GALLON BUCKETS (or equivalent water tight plastic container). Make sure that the buckets don’t have any leaks.

GROWING MEDIUM – The Professor favors straight Perlite or a Perlite / Vermiculite mix for this system, however there is a vast variety of growing mediums that will work well. For more information about growing medium CLICK HERE.

FLEXIBLE VINYL TUBING – You need a length of ½” flexible tubing long enough for the buckets to be moved as in the drawing above (4’-5’ is usually enough). You will also need about the same length of ¼” flexible tubing to attach your air stone to your air pump.

FIBERGLASS WINDOW SCREEN – You will need a small amount of fiberglass window screen (12″ x 12″).

AIR PUMP AND AIR STONE – You need to use an air pump and air stone to oxygenate the nutrient solution. A regular air pump designed for an aquarium is all that is required.



HYDROTON/GROW ROCKS – You will need enough gravel to cover the bottom of your growing container approximately 2”-3”. Use fairly coarse gravel (¾” to 1” diameter). NOTE: A 5 gallon bucket needs about a gallon of hydroton/grow rocks to reach this level.

HYDROPONIC FERTILIZER * – A good quality hydroponic fertilizer is required. Fertilizers made for soil do not contain essential micro-nutrients. For more information about the differences in hydroponic and soil fertilizers CLICK HERE.

pH TEST KIT *- You will need to check and adjust the pH of your nutrient solution.

NOTE: Simply Hydroponics and Organics has an inexpensive “Starter kit” that consists of quality hydroponic fertilizer, a liquid pH test kit (good for hundreds of tests) two bottles of liquid pH adjuster (1 pint pH up, 1 pint pH down) and Instructions. CLICK HERE for additional information.


  1. Drill holes in the side of the CLEAN plastic buckets, approximately 1/2″ above the bottom and insert grommets.
  2. Insert the ½” straight barbed connectors into the grommets and attach the 2 ends of your ½” tubing to the connectors.
  3. Place the gravel into the bottom of one of the buckets. This will be the planter and the other bucket will be the reservoir.
  4. Place the window screen over the top of the gravel. Fold the excess over or you can trim the screen with a pair of scissors. The screen acts as a filter to keep the growing medium in place so try to fit the screen as close to the sides of the bucket as possible. You don’t have to have a perfect fit, but the better the screen fits the less growing medium will get washed into the reservoir when you drain the system during the Ebb cycle. If too much growing medium gets through the screen it can clog the fill/drain tube.
  5. Add the growing medium to the bucket. You will need to wash and/or pre-soak the growing medium before adding to the system, depending on the type of growing medium that you are using. For more information about Growing Mediums CLICK HERE.
  6. Plant your seedling, rooted cutting or seed in the growing medium. NOTE: The Professor recommends starting your seeds separately and then adding the seedling(s) to the system.


  1. Put the planter on a raised platform and leave the reservoir in the lowered position. If you don’t already have something to use as a platform there is an easy way to make one. Stand two standard masonry blocks on end and place a board big enough to hold both buckets on top.
  2. Fill your reservoir with water and mix the nutrient solution as per the instructions on the fertilizer package. Check the pH of the nutrient solution and adjust accordingly. The required pH value will vary depending on the requirements of the plant and the kind of growing medium. For more information on pH, CLICK HERE. Cover the reservoir with a loose fitting lid to keep out debris. It is necessary to aerate the nutrient solution with an air pump and air stone to keep it from stagnating.
  3. To feed and water your plant(s), simply lift the reservoir bucket and set it on the platform next to the planter bucket. Wait a few minutes and then lower the reservoir back down. CAUTION: A full 5 gallon bucket weighs about 40 pounds. If you can’t lift that much, make smaller amounts of nutrient solution.
  4. Repeat step #3 periodically. How often you need to do a watering cycle depends on several variables; size and type of plants, type of growing medium, weather conditions, etc… It can be a bit of a guessing game until you get it dialed in but with this type of system it is hard to over water so when in doubt…DO IT.
  5. Check the pH of the nutrient solution every couple of days and adjust if needed.
  6. When the plants have used up about half of the nutrient solution you can add WATER ONLY to bring the level back up. Do not add fertilizer or you could cause a nutrient build up that could harm the plants. Recheck the pH and adjust if necessary.
  7. When the plants have used half of the nutrient solution for the second time you need to change out the solution by draining the reservoir and then mix a fresh batch. Use the old nutrient solution on house plants or other vegetation.