Introduction: Hydroponic Bubbler Rooter

About: I like fishing, boating, and gardening as well as learning interesting ways to do things. This site is perfect for me because I like to "fiddle".

If you are like me, you probably have most of the materials laying around to make this. Unfortunately, if you are like me, all of those supplies are probably already tied up in other projects. So, you can buy everything you see here for about $50-$60, maybe cheaper if you are thrifty and catch stuff on sale (unlike me).
You will need:

  • 41qt Sterlite container (Walmart, $10 with lid), dimensions are roughly 36" x 16" x 6"
  • Aquarium bubbler (Amazon)
  • Bubble stones - (Amazon)
  • Air tubing ( Amazon)
  • Cheap sponges ($1 for 2 car sponges at Dollar Tree which makes about 24 holders - you will need 2-3 packs ($2-$3))

Tools you will need:

  • Drill and 5/8 or 3/4 bit. I used wood bit but I imagine you could get away with anything since it is plastic
  • Scissors (to cut sponge as these cheap sponges tend to tear with razors)
  • Pruning sheers (for getting cuttings)

Why this works
In most cases, you root plants by using a rooting solution and placing into moist soil or potting/rooting mix. By using a hydroponic bubbler, you can create healthy roots, many times in as little as half the time. This works because there is constant aeration. You can even turn this into a permanent medium for many plants simply by adding fertilizer to the tub (but that is out of the scope of this).

Step 1: Making Holes for the Plants

Believe it or not, this is the most lengthy of the process. You can approach this one of two ways.
1. You carefully measure each position and line up your holes perfectly
2. (my approach) You find the center, measure a 3 inch on center pattern which equals out to 5 wide and 11 long, drill those, and then just fill in the rest by sight (which may be a little out of perfection so not recommended if you are OCD.

As stated above in 2, I simply found the center of the lid and decided I wanted to be about 3" apart so I measured across and down and drilled my holes. Then I just eyeballed the rest. I was able to get 55 holes by going 3" on center. I could have gotten more if I reduced the distance but it was more important to me to be able to work around them if I needed to remove and replace (some plants will die when rooting and you will have to be able to access them).

I found it easiest to drill the holes while lid is attached to base. If you can't control your drill and think you will go through the lid and into the base, use something else to balance your lid on.

When you are finished drilling plants holes for plants, you can use one of the holes to run your air tub through or you can drill 2 ¼" holes for the tubing if you want to maximize your plant space and losing one plant hole is unacceptable :)

Step 2: Make Your Plant Holders and Finish Up

  1. Take your sponges and cut them into (roughly) 1"-1½" squares.
  2. Afterwards, cut a small slit that goes halfway through the sponge (so the sponge parts kind of like a taco shell and will hold the cutting in place)
  3. Fill your base up to the line in the container (you will see the line I am talking about, roughly 1½" below the lid)
  4. Insert cutting into sponge crevice and fit into hole (this is designed to be a snug fit) with the base of the cutting roughly ¼"-½" into the water.

Assuming you have not already attached your air tubing to your air stones and bubbler, do it now and turn it on.

Good job!

If you have questions about hydroponics, aquaponics, or home projects relating to them, check out Coast Hydro on Facebook. We are a nonprofit that helps educate others in this field.

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