Having some extra water around for your hydroponic system makes your life even easier because you don’t always need to be watching and watering. 

It makes this whole process more hands-off than ever before! 

But when I looked at pre-made options out there, I was shocked at how expensive they were. 

In searching for some DIY options, I found a bunch of easy and cost-saving methods I wanted to share with you. 

Look ahead for those ideas (with pictures!), answers to common questions about making your own, and other watering methods to keep in mind with the hydroponics systems. 

diy hydroponic reservoir

What Is A Hydroponic Reservoir?

Hydroponics works by growing plants without soil by circulating high-nutrient water through the seed pods. 

If the plants are grown inside, you’ll also want to use a UV light or grow light to provide them with the right light to photosynthesize and grow. 

A hydroponic reservoir is essentially a water-tight container you keep your nutrient-rich water in until you use it to feed your plants. 

In some cases, this water simply sits until you’re ready to use it. 

In a more useful case, the water is connected to your plants via a pump and tubes, and the water cycles through the pods on a timer. 

Hydroponic farming is becoming more popular with many in-home small gardens and professional farmers. 

This watering is shown to encourage more and faster growth, though the start-up costs and work in setting it up are higher upfront. 

9 DIY Hydroponic Reservoir Ideas

Rather than give you a single idea, we wanted to share a bunch of our favorite ones we stumbled across. 

Click the images to visit the pages and get specific instructions. 

We’ll point out our favorite option and the one we use (it’s about halfway down the list). 

The Simple Bucket And Drain

Hydroponics seems complex, and in some ways, it is. 

Compared to normal farming and growing, where all you need to do is plant and wait, the setup is more complex. 

But once it’s done, the plants grow better and faster in many cases. 

This bucket system is first on our list because it’s easy, and you probably have some of the materials already on hand. 

Strawberry Tower With Reservoir

I love this idea, and it’s on our list to build next summer. 

This is a great option to use outside or store in the corner of your kitchen. 

It takes up more space, but it looks adorable and is quite the conversation starter if you follow this design. 

Towers like this are popular in the hydroponics field, and they work well for vine-type plants, such as the example of strawberries here. 

Our only fear with this one is that it seems to require a bit of know-how to build it, but we’re ready to try it now with our practice! 

Water Jug Stack

Not everything has to look great and cute all the time. 

I’m very much a function over fashion person (which is why my wife and I make such a great pair because she’s the opposite). 

This water jug stack doesn’t look like much, but it does the job well, and it’s pretty easy to set up as well. 

Just make sure you don’t use a milk jug or other container than water unless you clean it out. 

Tank Style

This method takes a bit more work, and it’s also a bit more expensive (although not as much as buying the whole thing already put together). 

For this, we use a tank of some kind along with higher quality pumps to circulate the water. 

Because a tank holds a lot more water and is more durable, this is a long-term method for growing more plants. 

This is for those who want to grow more vegetables, greens, and herbs.

PVC Pipe And Tub

PVC pipes are a big material used in a lot of DIY hydroponic projects. 

Looking at this one, even if you don’t copy it, will help you better understand how to use it and customize your option. 

For the actual reservoir itself, this idea uses a plastic tote. 

On the plus side, you probably already have one of these, and if you don’t, you’ll be able to pick one up cheap. 

On the downside, it doesn’t last as long as some other storage space, such as buckets or actual tanks. 

Either way, it’s a good way to get into making your hydroponic system.

DIY Tower Garden

Similar to the strawberry tower, here’s another option with towers in mind. These work great and save a lot of space by moving into the vertical space. 

One of the biggest draws for these soil-free plant-growing processes is how it takes up less space and has less mess. 

If you put in the work to make this one, you won’t regret how much space it will save you. 

Mason Jar Hydroponics

As promised, here, I’m pointing out our favorite one. 

The mason jar system is easy to set up as a DIY one, and the simple look matches a lot of the popular Farm-style as we have in our home. 

The cost of this one is a little lower than some of the other options, though you will only get as many plants as you have mason jars you’re willing to sacrifice to the growing cause. 

All in all, it’s a cute and easy way to produce some fresh greens. 

Pumping Totes

If you have many totes left and not a lot of time to mess around with setting up the pumps and more, I suggest you check out this option for your DIY hydroponic system. 

The totes are cheap, and this one is pretty simple to get started. 

Versatile Float Valve

For an even more hands-off approach, you should check out how to make this float valve. 

While this isn’t just a hydroponic reservoir, the homemade float valve here will work with almost any of the other options on this list. 

A float valve makes it easy for you to circulate water without worrying about when you’ll run out. It’s similar in function to the toilet you probably have on your own. 

It stops the water from flowing when enough has filled up the plant area. 

It’s fairly easy to make too! The directions in this example are extremely clear. 

Buying Vs. DIY Hydroponic Reservoirs / Nutrient Tanks

It’s an area for debate on whether it’s better to buy one or make your own. 

Do what’s comfortable for you, though it’s worthwhile to add this to your growth plans. 

Whether you farm outdoors or indoors, a hydroponic system is a cool and useful method to make a part of your repertoire. 

If you decide to buy, you may want to check out our picks for the best AeroGarden for lettuce. 

DIY Hydroponic Nutrient TankSave some money on materialsRequires some craftiness and building experience
Gives a better understanding of how hydroponics works If you mess it up, no one will fix it for you
Customize the size and look to your preferencesIt takes work and an eye for appearance to get it looking nice
Pre-made Hydroponic Nutrient TankGet help and have official directionsMuch higher cost
Easier to set upLess control over the setup of the system
If something breaks, you can return itIf something breaks, you have to send it back in to get fixed
Often look better

Questions About Making Your Own Hydroponic Reservoir

For those who do want their homemade hydroponic reservoir, you’ll for sure want to check out the options we linked to above. 

But if you’re looking to be more creative in making your own (or you want some clarification), here are some commonly asked questions around this topic. 

How Big Should My Hydroponic Reservoir Be?

One of the common mistakes people make when getting their systems is to make the reservoir too small. 

Remember, your nutrient-rich water is how the plants are growing. You need to get this exactly right. 

There are a few rules for the bare minimum size requirements for certain plants: 

  • Large plants need at least 2.5 gallons
  • Medium plants need at least 1.5 gallons
  • Small plants need at least 0.5 gallons

Small plants are things like flowers, herbs, and succulents. Medium plants are vegetables, small bushes, and shrubs. 

Large plants include melons, squash, and all vining plants. 

Count up what plants you have for each system to get the basic requirements. 

Here are some common combinations, so you don’t have to do the math. 

Plant Number And SizeRequire Minimum Size Of Reservoir
2 Small1 Gallon
3 Small1.5 Gallons
5 Small2.5 Gallons
2 Medium3 Gallons
3 Medium4.5 Gallons
1 Medium 1 Small2 Gallons
1 Medium 2 Small2.5 Gallons
2 Medium 3 Small4.5 Gallons
2 Large5 Gallons
3 Large7.5 Gallons

What Temperature Should The Reservoir Be?

Temperature isn’t something a lot of new people consider for hydroponic tanks. 

I know I didn’t. I thought room temperature was just fine. 

And it is, in most cases. 

Water transfers oxygen the best to plants when cool, though. So if you want maximum effectiveness, aim for a cooler temperature. 

65-68° degrees Fahrenheit (18-20° C) is the water temperature to aim for. 

Depending on the plants you grow, some may do better in a little warmer water, but all plants will do well in the above range. 

Like those on farms, large-scale hydroponics will often have chillers in their reservoirs to keep it at the ideal temperature. 

You probably won’t need this if all you’re doing is growing a small garden in your home. The room temperature is pretty close most of the time. 

If you keep a greenhouse in cold weather, make sure you use a heater or keep the water insulated up to at least 60° degrees Fahrenheit (16° C). 

Tubing, Water Pumps, And Air Pumps For Hydroponic Reservoirs

In almost all cases, you’ll need some tubing and two pumps for your hydroponic systems. 

They don’t need to be fancy, but they do need to work. 

A tubing rated for water is a must; you don’t want one that can’t handle water pressure. 

This hydroflow vinyl tubing is the one we use, and it comes in a 100’ ft size giving us plenty of leftovers for another project. 

You’ll need an air pump or aeration system of some kind. Plants draw oxygen out of the water, lowering its value to the plants. 

An air pump adds bubble back into the water, increasing its oxygen and keeping it fresh and packed with what the plants need. 

Any simple air pump will do, like those in fish tanks. 

For serious amounts of air, we like the Vivohome air pump. It’s easy to set up and runs for a long time. 

A water pump is also a must, though it’s possible to get away with other gravity solutions. 

You have to get the water solution to your plants somehow, and most water pumps are easy to set up and quiet these days. 

Our favorite is the Hydrofarm option here. 

How Do You Keep The Hydroponic Reservoir Clean?

Water is always clean, right? Do plants need a clean nutrient solution?

You need to keep your hydroponic reservoir clean at all times. 

The high nutrients in the water make it a breeding ground for bacteria and other germs. 

This can pass into your plants and cause them to have stunted growth or even root rot, which will kill them AND the plants near them. 

The easiest way to keep your nutrient tank clean is to keep the water moving. A good air pump will help with this too. 

Stagnant or non-moving water is the worst for algae, mold, and mildew. 

Adding a portion of freshwater is also a good idea. A general rule of thumb is to remove (or add if there’s been some evaporation) 20% of the total water every week. 

This means in 5-6 weeks, you replace the water completely. 

Even then, after 6 weeks, you’ll probably want to dump out the water, sterilize the container with an algicide (or at least a solution of vinegar and water), and replace the water completely. 

Serious gardeners will want to check the pH levels and the electrical conductivity (EC). 

These will let you know how and when to change the solution. 

Ways Of Making Your Own Hydroponic Systems

There are a few specific ways to get your water out of the nutrient tank to the plants. 

Here are some of the most common. 

Some of these require a water pump, and others may require something different.  

Hand Watering 

With this method, you let the plants soak in a little of the nutrient solution as you water it. 

The secret with this method is to make your pot or container leak a little bit of water out at a time. 

This gives the roots a chance to absorb the nutrients without letting the water get too stagnant. 

This is the easiest to set up, but it means you have to check and water them yourself regularly. 

Deep Water Culture

This is technically what most hydroponic reservoirs are. 

In a deep tub or container, you develop your solution (or culture), and then you pump it out into the plants. 

This is combinable with any of the other methods. You could keep the water cultured and ready and then hand water if you wanted. 

Flood And Drain

This method, also called the ebb and flow, works with two large containers: one for the plants and one for the nutrient water. 

Water is pumped from the reservoir and floods all the containers of plants through the roots. Then it’s slowly drained back into the reservoir. 

This is done on a timer allowing the roots to soak, absorb, and aerate on repeat. 

Nutrient Film Technique

This method requires a similar setup to most hydroponic reservoirs. 

You need a container to keep the water and solution, a water pump, an air pump, and tubes to send water to the plants. 

In a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), you send the water through “gutters” where plants are kept. 

Capillary mats are in these to pass the water to the plants through the roots. 

The water constantly circulates through the mats. 

This is a common greenhouse method as you can combine a massive container for your nutrient solution and long rows of gutters for many plants in rows. 

Wicks System

A wick system is creative, but it also requires a medium to draw moisture through a wick or nylon rope. Often, vermiculite or perlite is used. 

In this system, you keep a hydroponic reservoir below a plant container. At the bottom of the plant container, the nylon rope is dangled into the water solution. 

Vermiculite or another type of soil is in the bottom of the plant container. 

So, in reality, this method is more like a hybrid of the hydroponic system and normal growing. 

The nutrients still come from the water, but you need some soil to help the water transfer through the rope.