DIY How to Build: UNDERCURRENT Hydroponics System

Step by step building instructions to make an undercurrent hydroponics system that works great for growing cannabis plants.

Preface

When I did my first grow with DWC I soon realized there were some things I wanted to change on the next go around. I wanted to Scrog and I didn’t want to have to move the plants to change water or check PH and PPM. Also they got root rot last time, Hydroguard and changing the water once a week kept it in check, but I wanted to not have to change the water weekly either.

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I started investigating different methods and the Undercurrent method really caught my eye. I liked DWC already and Undercurrent resolved my issues for the most part. By having the control bucket be where all the water changes and adjustments were done I was able to Scrog, and by keeping the water moving constantly I could extend the time between full water changes.

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How it works:

An Undercurrent hydro system consists of bucket or totes, connected near the bottoms by PVC and then a pump is tied in to the PVC and back to a control bucket, so it constantly keeps the water flowing. The plants are in their own totes/buckets and the control bucket is to work out of.

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Check out the author’s grow- @quantumhydro333 on IG and QuantumHydro on reddit.

Materials Checklist

Here are the materials you will need, this is for a 4-site setup. So that’s 4 plant sites and 1 control bucket.

5 buckets or totes
10 Uniseals or bulkheads (extras are good just in case)
1 10’ PVC pipe 1 ½” (You can use smaller PVC or tubing but run the risk of the roots clogging them)
Air pump and air stones. I have 2 per plant site, but 1 per will do fine.
Water pump
Hoses, hose clamps and fittings to attach to PVC.
Drill bit
PVC glue
Net pots (I used 6”)
Hydroton or grow stones
Uniseals vs. Bulkheads
You have 2 choices for seals, Uniseals or Bulkheads. Bulkheads are more expensive and more permanent. The reason I went with Uniseals is once everything is installed with Bulkheads you have to cut the pipe and put it a whole new pipe and bulkhead to expand. For Uniseals you just pull the pipe out and adjust, then you can use the same Uniseals and pipe again.

DIY How to Build

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1) The totes I used were rectangular in shape so I offset the holes on the tote so it would circulate the water in each tote. I had the hole on the right side on the front and the left side on the back of one, and the one it connects to was opposite formation, hole on the left in the front and right on the back.  (See Diagram). The holes are 2.5” wide to use for Uniseals for a 1.5” PVC. The bottom of the hole for the PVC is 1.25” off the ground. After drilling out the holes with a hole saw (run it backwards and it won’t tear the plastic) then go over it with some sandpaper just to get the roughness off and make for a clean seal.

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2) Time to prep the PVC. Cut the PVC to size and glue together the pieces that need to be glued together. After gluing I had a U-shaped piece for the end, 2 L shaped pieces for connecting to the Control Bucket and 2 straight pieces where the totes connected in the middle. You need to drill a hole in the middle of the U-shaped piece for a plastic adaptor to be epoxied in so a hose can connect this point to the pump. After getting the PVC prepped, it’s a good idea to rinse it thoroughly to not get PVC debris in the system when you fill it with water. You will want to round off the ends of the PVC for easier insertion in the Uniseals. Spread some dish soap/liquid soap on the PVC ends and insert into Uniseal. It takes some muscle to get in so don’t feel bad if it’s hard to do.

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3) Once you have the PVC installed it’s time to connect the pumps. I’m using a 550gph water pump to circulate my water, it connects to the adaptor we installed earlier to the pump, then from the pump into the control bucket. I also have a 1300 gph air pump connected to 2 air stones per plant tote for a total of 8 air stones. The hoses for the air stones are run through holes near the top of the tote.

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4) Now for the lids, I used a 6” hole saw (run in reverse again) to make the holes. They fit the net pots perfectly.  Once you have those made its time to check for leaks.

 

5) Fill the water up to an inch below the net pots and plug in the water and air pump. Let it run and watch for leaks. I let mine run for an hour but feel free to test until you feel comfortable. I saw a drop or 2 here and there during testing but just left them and they stopped after a bit. Pretty sure some of the Uniseal just needed time to seat fully.

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6) Once the system is together and you’re satisfied there are not leaks then it’s ready for production, I used Hydroton to surround my Rockwool cubes and support them in the net pots. You will need to rinse the Hydroton thoroughly, it gets quite dusty in the bag. I put the Hydroton in the net pots and ran water through until it ran clear, but if you’re going to use the whole bag, just open the top and poke holes in the bottom and run water through the whole thing until clear. I let the Hydroton dry then added my seedlings to the system the next day. I soaked the clean Hydroton in PH’d water first then if there were long roots I fed them through the bottom of the net pot and added Hydroton, about an inch or two on the bottom of the pot and set the rockwool on it and gently added more Hydroton. You want the rockwool or whatever media your using to be a couple inches below the top of the pot so you can cover it with Hydroton as well.

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7) That’s it, once you are this far it’s time to let the system do its work. The first time I had the water all nuted and PH’d before adding plants, but after that I just drained the water with a pump that goes on an electric drill. Then, refilled with water and nuted and PH’d with the plants in place. It doesn’t take long for the system to mix everything together.

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Parts on Amazon

 

Air Pump

 

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EcoPlus 1300 GPH

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Water Pump

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Uniclife 80-550GPH

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Uniseals

 

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Hydro Flow Uniseal

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Hydroton

 

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Hydroton Clay Pebbles

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Air Stones

 

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VIVOSUN Air Stones

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6” Net Pots

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Milliard 6in. Net Pots

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Ventilation

 

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iPower ventilation combo

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Drill Pump for water changes

 

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Milescraft Inc. 1314 Drill Pump

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Nutes, etc

 

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General Hydroponics Nutrient Set

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General Hydroponics Liquid KoolBloom

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Botanicare Hydroguard

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Disclaimer: We do not promote or undertake in illegal activities.

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4 Comments


  1. // Reply

    The pump does not have to be submerged?


    1. // Reply

      The water pump can either be submerged or it has the adaptor to be able to connect an intake hose and output hose instead. I have mine set up this way, I didn’t what the the submerged pump heating my reservoir at all.


  2. // Reply

    How many gallons of water did you use? Asking because amount of ph and nutes and nutes ml per gallon mix


    1. // Reply

      In the beginning it was 25 gallons, now during full water changes it comes out around 20 gallons.

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