Simple T5 Fluorescent Deep Water Culture Starter System

When you first learn about hydroponics, it's easy to get excited and want to get your hydroponic system up and running. But it's hard to know where to start:

  • Which type of system should you use?
  • Should you go DIY or buy a commercial system?
  • How much should you spend on your system?

This article is one of my "System Shopping List" articles, designed to show you an example system that will meet your specific needs as an indoor gardener.

To kick things off, in this article we look at a simple deep water culture system designed for indoor growers who want to grow with T5 grow lights. It's a great beginner system that isn't too expensive, coming in under $500.

Before you read on, see if this system fits your specific needs.

This System is For You If...

  • You want to grow 1-2 plants indoors
  • You want an easy system w/o moving parts
  • You don't want to invest a lot of money

This System is Not For You If...

  • You want to grow more than 2 plants
  • You want to achieve maximum yields
  • You want top of the line gear and results

System Shopping List

All of these parts can be found locally at hardware, aquarium, and hydroponics stores. I have also listed links to purchase these parts online as well, which is what I do to save time.

I have split the shopping list into three parts:

  • Growing Environment​
  • Lighting
  • Nutrients and pH

All of these parts are available on Amazon, though the prices can fluctuate from time to time. To see what this entire system would cost if you bought from Amazon, click the link below:

Growing Environment

If the Gorilla Grow Tent is too expensive for your tastes, you can swap it out with something like the Quictent 2' x 2' x 4' tent. It's cheaper, but it won't last as long as a Gorilla tent, which in my opinion are the top grow tents on the market.

You can get the 5 gallon bucket, air pump, air stone, and airline tubing from a hardware store and an aquarium store, respectively. You'll save a bit of money compared to ordering on Amazon, but you'll have to go out and get it yourself.​ You also don't NEED the oscillating wall fan, but I personally like to use fans to strengthen the stems of my plants while they grow.

Part List



Grow Tent

Gorilla Grow Tent, 2' x 2.5' x 5'7"

5 Gallon Bucket

Used as nutrient reservoir

3" Net Pots

To hold plant and growing media

3" Hole Saw Bit

To drill hole for net pot

Growing Media

Use Hydroton or choose from list

Airline Tubing

Black to avoid algae growth

Air Pump

1 outlet is all you need

Air Stone

4" circular air stone w/ suction cups

Oscillating Fan

16" wall-mounted fan


You have the option of not using a T5 fluorescent light fixture and instead rigging up your own system with CFLs. The time and effort it takes to build a rig like this isn't worth the minimal cost savings though, in my opinion.​

Parts List




T5 Fluorescent Fixture

2' fixture w/ 4 T5 bulbs, Agrobrite

2700K T5 Bulbs

Necessary for flowering phase

Digital Timer

To automate light schedule

Nutrients & pH

This section is the only one that you'll need to purchase more than once over the life of your hydroponic system. Even so, you won't need to purchase nutrients and another pH control kit until you've completed a few grows, so it's not a huge ongoing expense.​

Parts List





General Hydroponics Flora


Essential micronutrients

pH Control Kit

To measure and control pH

PPM Meter

To track nutrient concentration

All of these parts are available on Amazon, though the prices can fluctuate from time to time. To see what this entire system would cost if you bought from Amazon, click the link below:

Total Costs

Setup Cost: $380 - $445

Electricity Cost: $15* per month 

*18 hours/day x 31 days x 216 watts x $0.12/kWhr = $15

Total Costs for a 4 Month Growing Cycle: $465 - $​505

With this build, you've spent just under $500 on a complete deep water culture system that will have you growing 1-2 plants and spending a minimal amount of money every month on electricity.

With proper care, this system can last you for a very long time.​

Click here to download this shopping list as a .PDF

In this simple DWC system build you'll get a <$500 system that can grow 2-4 plants without any problem at all.
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