Bubble Buckets – What Are They And How Do They Work?

If you’re interested in getting started with hydroponics, you’ve probably already heard the term “bubble bucket” a few times.

Compared to other methods, bubble buckets are a great way to break through into the world of hydroponic growing with minimal efforts or investment.

What is a bubble bucket?

A bubble bucket is a form of DWC hydroponics that consists of a bucket, net pot lid, air pump, air stone, liquid nutrients, and optionally, a growing medium. Plants are anchored into the net pot, with or without a growing medium, with roots dangling down to absorb water, oxygen, and nutrients.

Read on below to learn more about bubble buckets, exactly how they work, and which models are our favorites.

How Does a Bubble Bucket Work?

Bubble buckets, also known as deep water culture buckets, or DWC buckets, are a relatively easy-to-use type of hydroponic growing system. As the name suggests the systems are fashioned out of buckets, typically 5-gallon buckets, and rely on an air pump and air stone to aerate the water.

Plants sit on top of the bucket, with their roots hanging down inside of the bucket. Air from bubbles, as well as nutrients mixed in with water in the bucket, feed the roots everything they need to grow and flourish.

Bubble bucket growing systems work outside under the sun, or inside with the aid of artificial growing lights. Either way, they are easier to operate than most hydroponic systems and take very little electricity, cleaning, or maintenance.

Bubble Bucket Diagram

Is a Bubble Bucket the Same as DWC?

Bubble buckets are indeed the same as DWC. They are in actuality one of the most basic forms of DWC hydroponic grow systems. 

Larger DWC systems often consist of multiple grow sites per reservoir, usually rectangular in shape. Bubble buckets are normally round in shape and consist of a single grow site.

The next level of DWC is RDWC (recirculating deep water culture) where multiple DWC grow sites are connected to the main reservoir that pumps oxygenated nutrient water through the entire system.

What Grows Best in a Bubble Bucket?

The best plants to grow in a bubble bucket include tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, and eggplants. That said, an advantage of bubble buckets in comparison to other DWC systems is that they are well suited for larger crops and vining plants.

In fact, if you are of a mind to grow dwarf trees, berry bushes, or shrubs, they are also growable in these nifty grow systems.

The 3 Best Bubble Bucket Kits

Top-Rated: Hydrofarm RS5GALSYS Root Spa Deep Water Culture Bucket

This Hydrofarm bucket kit is perfect for hydroponic gardeners of any skill level. It includes all the equipment for growing hydroponic plants and is available in a single bucket version, as well as a four-bucker or eight-bucket version.

The kit is produced by a well-known hydroponics manufacturer and is both easy to operate and long-lasting. Further, the basket lid is eight inches wide, making it ideal for everything from leafy greens and root vegetables to tomatoes, strawberries, and even dwarf fruit trees. 

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Pros

  • Large basket lid works well with most plants
  • Comes with a no-leak guarantee on its seals
  • Versatile multi-purpose air hose
  • Powerful air pump encourages superior root development
  • Includes everything except a growing medium

Cons

  • Basket may be bigger than necessary for your ideal crops

Now that we’ve discussed exactly what bubble buckets are, how they work, and what grows best in them, let’s have a look at a handful of the best bubble bucket kits currently available:

MAOPINER Deep Water Culture Hydroponic Bucket Kit

This high-quality bubble bucket kit comes with everything needed for setting up a multi-bucket DWC hydroponic growing system. The kit is super quick and easy to assemble and takes no previous DIY experience to put together or operate.

The bubble bucket kit is ideal for growing just about anything that is growable indoors under grow lights. This package includes four bubble buckets and a fifth bucket that works as a controller unit (pumping air and nutrients to each bucket in the system).

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Pros

  • Suitable for gardeners of all skill levels
  • Promotes faster growth than traditional gardening
  • Quick and simple installation
  • Comes with 4 bubble buckets and a reservoir
  • Includes everything for a fully functioning hydroponic setup

Cons

  • Includes four bubble buckets rather than a single unit

BLUMAT 5-Gallon Reservoir Bucket Kit

The BLUTMAT 5-Gallon Bubble Bucket Kit is a great unit to start with. It comes with the basic components to get a DWC bucket system up and running with zero hassle, except for the air pump and air stone. 

Note that the product is technically designed for quickly connecting to your already existing drip or bulmat watering systems. But, it also works as a bubble bucket if you simply add an air pump and air stone.

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Pros

  • Comes ready to run tubing to drip or bulmat systems
  • Consists of high-end components
  • Bucket design discourages algae
  • No tools are needed for installation
  • Bulkheads pre-installed

Cons

  • Designed for water systems, or growing a single plant

Common Questions About Bubble Buckets

How do you lightproof bubble buckets?

The best way to protect the water, nutrients, and roots inside your bubble buckets from excessive light is to use a lid that fits properly. Additional methods include inserting mylar inside of the bucket with adhesive and wrapping the outside in a solar blanket.

Why are bubble buckets so thick?

Bubble buckets tend to consist of thicker materials than other buckets in order to help regulate water temperatures inside. When water temperatures rise inside, algae and other harmful bacteria may begin growing and preventing your plants from absorbing enough water, air, and nutrients.

Does the color of a bubble bucket matter?

The color of bubble buckets is chosen with great care. Typically, black buckets are used indoors as the color helps keep the interior cool. Outside, buckets tend to be white for the same reason, as the color more easily reflects sunlight rather than absorbing it.

A Final Word About Bubble Buckets

Bubble buckets are one of the quickest and most efficient ways to get involved with hydroponics. They are affordable, easy to set up and operate, and further, they take very little effort or maintenance.

Even more, bubble buckets are great for learning about hydroponics or teaching others. If you’re looking for the surest way to ensure a successful hydroponic experience, you can’t go wrong with a bubble bucket system.