Hydroponics – The First Build

Hydroponics RailsAfter doing some research I was eager to get started. So about 3 weeks ago I ran out and purchased a bunch of material and built my first system. This one is a hybrid aeroponics and shallow water culture I suppose. The bulk of it is sprayers built it doesn’t completely drain thus leaving about 1/2″ or less of nutrients in the rail during the off cycles. This actually can be a good thing in case something breaks it won’t dry out right away.

I’m going to take you through the process of building a rail here. My system I started with 3 rails but you can do as many as you wish. I also built a lean-to frame to go vertical but you can do what ever you wish, just be sure the bottom rail drain is a few inches higher than the top of your reservoir! I’ll go over reservoirs later. One last point is that unlike most I connect mine to the reservoir with rubber hose, makes it easier for maintenance and moving.

The Aeroponics Rails

The main rail is made from a 5″ square 8′ final fence post that you can find at Home Depot or Lowes. Now some may be thinking why not go with the 4″ ones, well two things with that. First the more room for the roots, and second the 5″ is actually cheaper than the 5″ (go figure).

You will also need end caps to keep the water in and not spilling all over your floor. Now most people glue the end caps on but I found a video that they had modified the ends so the caps can be removed for easy maintenance and cleaning. This was done by creating and installing a pvc tee with a bolt on the tip to tighten your endcaps with a wing nut. Another variation I made here is in the gaskets. The original used a flat rubber material (cheaper at Home Depot) cut to fit the inside of the cap. Mine still leaked no matter what I did so I got a roll of rubber stick on weather stripping and applied four strips to the inside edges of the cap. I was worried that the water would make the sticky stuff release but so far it’s holding and no leaks!

End Cap Brackets

End Cap Brackets and Sprayer Line

Next I would drill for your net pots. I do this before building the sprinklers so I know where to mark for the sprayer heads. I used 3.75 Net Pot (which actually used a 3-5/8″ hole saw) but you can use any size smaller if you wish. I also spaced them out one foot on center. I little trick when using a hole saw on vinyl. Go really slow with the pilot until the saw hits the vinyl (go to fast and be prepared for some pain). Then put the drill in reverse to cut the hole, trust me its a lot easier!

Now for the sprinkler line you will get your 1/2 PVC pipe. Put the end cap on one end and slide it into your supply side of your rail (have the other side capped). You want to cut the pipe an inch or two from the opening inside. Next make a little S with your elbows and a short piece of pipe. Here’s where you can vary your rail. The original I found he feed the pipe out the end cap keeping the system all rigid pipe. I chose to put a thread to slip fitting on the inside so I could thread a barb fitting from the outside and connect to my supply with a flexible hose. This made it easier for disconnection and movement. Oh yes you will have to drill a 3/4″ hole through the top corner of your end cap either way.

Net Pot Cutout and Supply LIne

Net Pot Cutout and Supply LIne

Once that is all done you can go in and mark the pipe for the center of each net pot. Pull out the pipe and drill each mark and then tap the holes for your sprayers. Screw in each sprayer carefully, making sure the are facing the correct direct when done. When I re installed the pipe I twisted it a bit so the sprayers were angled up a bit. If you use smaller net pots this will be a must. At this time if you wish you can silicone a couple 1/2″ caps to the bottom of the rail to keep the pipe against the side. I haven’t done this yet, it’s on my to do list.

Finally you need a drain. You can put the drain on either end, which ever is easier for how you are building your system. I choose to do it on the opposite end from the supply, made it easier when I had the system vertical. First take your male 3/4″ thread/slip fitting and drill 4 holes just above the threads. this will allow for maximum drain of the rails. If you want more nutrients in your rail you can slip in various lengths of 3/4″ PVC and turn it in to a deep water system. You’ll need to drill a one inch hole in the bottom of your rail then slip in the male adaptor with your holes from the inside. Put on the O-ring and the screw on your elbow hand tight. Screw in your barb fitting to the elbow and that’s it.

That’s one rail for up to 8-12 net pots ready to connect to your reservoir.

Tools to Build Your Hydroponic Rails

PVC pipe cutter
10-32 Tap
3/4″ hole saw *
1″ hole saw *
3-5/8″ hole saw

*A vari-bit works the best on pvc and vinyl

Materials for a Hydroponic Rail

(1) 5″ x 8′ vinyl fence post $26
(1) 1/2″ sch40 PVC $1.76
(1) 1/2″ cap $0.32
(2) 1/2″ 90 degree elbows $0.22
(1) 1/2″ slip to female thread adaptor $0.46
(1) 1/2″ MPT to 1/2″ hose barb
(1) 3/4″ slip to male thread adaptor (electrical version from Home Depot works best) $0.42
(1) 3/4″ elbow threaded $0.95
(1) 3/4″ MPT to 3/4″ hose barb
(1) 15/16″ O-ring (#18 from Home Depot, pack of 10) $2.27

Material for End Cap Modification

You may have enough 1/2 PVC left over from above but if not its only $1.76 for 10′ more
(2) 1/2″ cap $0.32ea
(2) 1/2″ tee $0.35ea
(4) 1/2″ slip to male thread adaptor $0.42ea
(4) 1/2″ slip to female thread adaptor $0.46ea
(4) 3/4″ O-rings (#15 from Home Depot, pack of 10) $2.27
(2) 1/4-20 2″ nylon bolts $0.56 (pack of 2)
(2) 1/4-20 nylon wing nuts $0.80 (pack of 2)
(2) 1/4-20 nylon nuts $0.56 (pack of 4)
(1) roll of foam rubber weather stripping

Total cost for one rail about $55 with some parts left over for the next one. Of course you need a reservoir and Ill go over that later in the week. Ill see about creating a PDF plan with drawings if there is interest.

So till next time eat your veggies!!



  1. This is a fantastic setup… Did you ever get a chance to do up a PDF plan?

  2. Thanks for the article, i am planning my own and i liked this setup.

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