Create Your Own Hydroponic Growing System

by Matt Kinsey


Matt in his firefighter gear.


Bonsai student, friend and firefighter, Matt Kinsey of Montana, has created his own hydroponic growing system from inexpensive readily available materials. Here is his story.

Making my own hydroponic growing system!

I grow many different types of plants that include pre-bonsai materials, vegetables and fruits. Most of these materials I started from cuttings and seeds.

Matt's "home-made" - with commercial shelving, holding plastic trays.


I constructed the hydroponic system by examining commercially available systems and wanting to create my own hydroponic growth setup to fit my home as well as to produce the setup as inexpensively as possible. The whole system was created for hundreds of dollars less than commercially available hydroponic systems. In total my expenditures were about 200 dollars.

The whole setup is situated on a rolling food service cart that I bought at Costco and put together in a few minutes. On the lowest shelf is a blue plastic 30 gallon tub and lid that holds the hydroponic solution, basically tap water and a proper dilution of fertilizer. Inside the tub is a submersible pump capable of pumping 640 gallons per hour to a height of 10 feet. This pump was purchased at a local pet store for $30.00.

The three upper shelves hold plastic trays. Each has two drain tubes inserted from its bottom. One is a ½” drain that controls the height of the water and a ¾” drain that keeps the tray from overflowing.  These fittings were purchased from a hydroponics dealer on the internet, The difficulty here was getting the fittings to seat correctly.  After many leaky attempts I decided to aquarium silicone them and voila, no leaks!

A simple timer actuates the pump which pumps fluid through 1/2 inch plastic tubing feeding into the top tray and continues pumping for 45 minutes. The timer goes on twice each day. This fluid fills the upper tray to the drain fitting and then gravity pulls the fluid down to the second tray. The second tray fills to its drain fitting and the solution then drains down to the third tray and from there the fluid drains down to the blue reservoir container.

Regular 4 foot fluorescent lights are kept close to plants .



Above each tray is a regular four foot fluorescent fixture with two normal daylight bulbs. These cycle off and on with a timer clock set for X hours per day. The lights are kept as close as possible to the plants to maximize the light that the plant's receive.


The whole hydroponic unit sits in my dining room and has normal home temperatures ranging from 60--90F. I make no attempt to keep the growing system at special temperatures.


The growing medium is of two types.  The rooting and seedling type is pea gravel and Perlite, both of which you can purchase at Lowes.  The second is for more mature plants and consist of straight pea gravel.  These mediums dry out enough between watering to allow the plants roots to breath.  Don’t use straight Perlite as it floats and will create a mess!


The growing system has normal home humidity. I do not control the humidity for the plants.

Ficus cutting showing fabulous vigor.



Cost Breakdown



Plastic trays (Walmart)



Plastic solution tub, 30 gallon, (Walmart)



Plastic tubing , 25ft Roll, 1⁄2”, (Ace Hardware)



Commercial Food Cart (Costco)



¾ Drain Fitting (



½ Drain Fitting (



Fluorescent lights fixtures (Walmart) 4ft, without bulbs



Fluorescent bulbs (Walmart)



Pump, 640GPH, (Local pet store)






As we can see from Matt's shots the growth of his plants is clearly phenomenal. The hydroponic system is easy and relatively inexpensive to build. Its something every plant lover can try.


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