Wick System

This article is all about the wick system.

A wick system refers to a hydroponic growing set-up that makes the use of a soft fabric string referred to as a wick.

In a wick system, a cotton or nylon wick helps in absorbing water and nutrients from a solution and then supplies it to plants that are present in containers or trays. One of the ends of the wick is usually inserted at the bottom of the tray or the container into the grow medium, and the remaining end hangs into a reservoir or container that surrounds the nutrient solution. Liquid will flow up to the wick until the medium encompassing the roots is damp. As the medium dries out, the wick will again begin to soak up liquid.

Basically, the wick system works on the same principle as an oil lamp. Besides, unlike other hydroponic systems, a wick system is generally passive, which means that there are no moving parts. It is not only affordable to set up, but also simple to maintain, and is very less prone to breakdowns and problems.

Wick System

Wick Systems are generally passive, since they do not possess any moving parts. This has helped to make them easier and cheaper to maintain than those of the active systems like Ebb and Flow, but they also possess some drawbacks such as being less efficient and not well equipped for high-maintenance of plants, or mainly large plants that consume a lot of water. The best plants that can be used in this type of system are mainly fast growing lettuces or herbs. Herbs like those of rosemary which do not require a lot of water are best suited, whereas thirsty plants like the tomatoes will  not work well. Mainly there are four major components in a Wick System—the grow tray, reservoir, wick, and aeration system let us discuss each component in detail.

The Grow Tray

The grow tray in a Wick System usually differs from other hydro setups in the sense that it does not use net pots to withhold the growing medium. The growing medium generally fills up the entire tray, with the seedlings that are transplanted directly into it. The main type of growing medium that is to be used in this system is the one that will not drain too fast and will completely utilize the capillary action of the wick most effectively. Vermiculite, perlite, and soilless mixes are some of the good growing mediums that can be used too, as they have good wicking abilities but they will not turn soggy like traditional soil.

The Reservoir

The reservoir is usually the same as in any other system. It is a large sized container having fertilized water that settles below the grow tray and helps in supplying water and nutrients to the plants. The water contained in the reservoir should be refreshed every week or so as the strength of the nutrients diminishes when the plants absorb them.

The Aeration System

The very common aeration system is mainly an air stone and pump. The air stone is very similar to those that are found in home aquariums and is placed inside the water and connected to an air pump outside the reservoir. The pump functions to push the air through the stone, which blows out tiny bubbles in order to distribute oxygen through the water.

It is important from the point of view of the health of the plants since their roots are oxygenated. In early gardening and active hydro systems, this was accomplished partially by letting the roots to dry out in between watering. Active systems also makes the use of air stones to oxygenate the water, but in case of  a Wick set-up, the aeration system is very important as the roots never had a chance to dry out completely.

The Wicks

The reservoir is connected to the grow tray via two or more wicks. The wicks help to utilize capillary action for the transport of nutrient solution into the growing medium and also to the roots of the plants. The most suitable wick to use is mainly a cotton rope, but after a certain period of time, it might become susceptible to mold or rot. If it is planned to use the system for prolonged periods of time, then it must be necessary to check the rope periodically. Nylon rope can also be used alternatively as it is very effective and does not mold or rot.

The wicks are generally inserted into the grow tray by making small holes. Rubber connector can also be used to make sure that the holes are slightly smaller than the wicks to prevent any further growing media from leaking through the holes.

The number of wicks used is completely based on a number of factors such as the total system size, plants used, growing medium, and wick material all of these will have an effect. For this one wick per plant can be used this makes sure that the tip of the wicks is placed near the roots. For water-hungry plants and large systems, two wicks per plant must be used.

Advantages of a Wick System

  • The ease with which a wick system can be built and maintained is a considerable benefit. It is suitable for beginners.

  • Whether you want to keep your wick system small or expand it, you may do so by recycling or upcycling common household goods and materials.

  • You can enjoy low-maintenance gardening all year long after your wick system is up and going.

  • Another key benefit is that a wick system does not require electricity, allowing it to be put up in areas where electricity is scarce and resulting in energy savings.

  • Because the water-based solution distribution is dependent on the plants’ consumption, the Wick system is also incredibly water efficient.

  • Because of the types of plants supported, wick systems utilise less nutrients and water than conventional growing systems.

Limitations of a Wick System

  • Because of the slow rate at which the system supplies the nutrient solution, one of the key disadvantages of the wick system is that you are rather limited in the varieties of plants you can produce.

  • Larger plants and those that yield fruits are not well suited to the wick system since they require more water and nutrients to thrive.

  • Another drawback of the wick system is that the growing medium is prone to hazardous nutrient buildup over time. However, you may avoid this problem by cleaning it with new water every week or two.


A wick system serves a very crucial purpose in the world of hydroponics. It is the best system for beginners in this complex field. But very soon, we will have to outgrown this system and have to move on to bigger and more powerful systems. This system can be considered as the training wheels on a bike. But besides its limitations, the system is highly effective. Even though you have been upgraded to any other sophisticated systems, you can still use a wicking setup for some fresh herbs.


Frequently asked questions

Get answers to the most common queries related to the NEET UG Examination Preparation.

What is a wick system?

Ans: Wick system hydroponics is the simplest of the six types of hydroponics s...Read full

How to make a Wick System?

Ans: The wick system is one of the most simple hydroponic methods and is perfe...Read full

What materials are needed to set-up a wick system?

Ans: You can make a wick system quickly with a few things that are already pre...Read full

What are the drawbacks of wick system?

Ans: The water in the reservoir contains a lot of nutrients. Now the plant mig...Read full

Which type of plants are best suited for Wick System Hydroponics?

Ans: These systems are best suited for cultivating smaller, non-fruiting plants, such as herbs and lettuce. They’r...Read full