General Hydroponic WaterFarm Modification Tutorial - 2009/09/23

Discussion in 'Growing Marijuana Indoors' started by WhobeBoo, Sep 23, 2009.

  1. #1 WhobeBoo, Sep 23, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2009
    I have made some changes and updates to this tutorial and decided to repost it as a fresh thread and delete the old one.

    Thanks - Whobe

    General Hydroponics Waterfarm Modifications.

    The Waterfarm from General Hydroponics is a drip system that has been around for many years. A reservoir add-on is available along with a recirculating system. This tutorial will show you how to make good system into a great system.

    Here is a picture of a single waterfarm unit.


    Here is General Hydroponics description of the Waterfarm unit.

    “The complete WaterFarm is designed to be a stand alone system and includes all the items listed below. This system is sized 1’ x 1’
    This system includes
    • 4-gallon reservoir
    • 2-gallon growing chamber
    • Pumping column
    • Column support tube
    • Drip ring
    • 1/2" grommet
    • Drain level tube
    • Elite® 800 air pump”

    It consists of an upper chamber that hold the grow medium (usually hydroton or something similar), a lower chamber that hold the nutrient mixture, and a tube that show you the level of nutrient in the lower chamber. Internally, there is percolator tube (just like the old coffee makers) that uses an air pump to bring the nutrient from the lower chamber to the drip ring on top.

    Here is a picture of 8 waterfarm 8-pack system.


    Here is General Hydroponics description of the 8-pack system.

    “The WaterFarm 8-pack is eight WaterFarm module units connected to one General Hydroponics Controller: and integrated 13 gallon reservoir and an 8 gallon controller unit. The Controller will keep each unit topped off with the correct level of nutrient for low maintenance. The kit is powered by GH’s Dual Diaphragm Air Pump, and includes all the necessary hardware…”

    Here is a picture from the instructions file that gives you a better idea of how the system works.


    Now for the modifications

    Individual waterfarms.

    The first thing that you want to do is to drill out the holes in the upper chamber. They are too small and do not allow the roots to get into the lower chamber. I drill them out to be slightly smaller than the medium being used. This prevents the medium from falling into the lower chamber. This also allows the root system to get into the lower chamber.

    Now I add an airstone to each individual bucket and to the reservoir. By adding the air stones, they become a DWC system (bubble buckets) when the roots get into the lower chamber. This combination of a drip system and DWC system provide lots of oxygen and nutrient to our babies.

    8-pack system

    One inherent problem with the 8-pack system is keeping the nutrients in each individual unit to the correct PH and PPM. You would have to check each unit, the controller and the reservoir. General Hydroponics realized this and created a circulation system kit. This system circulates the nutrient through all of the individual units and back into the Controller reservoir. The kit costs about $30, but can be created by purchasing the individual parts for much cheaper. The system uses the same percolation tube to circulate the nutrient as the individual waterfarms use to pull the nutrients into the drip ring. You can purchase the additional grommets, tubing and a waterfarm modular kit (that has the percolation tube) and do it yourself.

    Here is a picture of the General Hydroponic installation instructions for the circulation kit.

    The link for this pdf is located at the end of this tutorial.

    As you can see, the circulation kit is pretty simple to replicate for the DIYer. If you don't want to DIY, you can purchase this upgrade from any Hydro store, they may have to order it in.

    Now you have a system that will circulate the nutrients between each unit and the Controller reservoir. I know of some growers that just use the Controller reservoir at this point. The Controller reservoir is the unit that I check the PH and PPM. If I need to change the PH, then I add the PH up/down to the Controller. I will also use the R.O. water to raise my PH if it only needs a little change (my R.O. water is at 7.0 PH). If the PPM is getting too high, then I will add R.O. water to the Controller to drop the PPM.

    I wanted to incorporate the Large reservoir into the system. I use the Lucas Formula (with some slight modifications - more on the modifications at the bottom of this tutorial) for my nutrient program. There are two ways to do Lucas. The first method is to top off your Controller reservoir with R.O. water only. When you have put in the same amount of R.O. water as the capacity of your reservoir and buckets, then you put in fresh nutrients. The second way is to top off your Controller reservoir with full strength nutrients. This is the method I use. I fill the Large reservoir with full strength nutrients, and that feeds the Controller reservoir. I only change my nutrients when I am moving from one strength to another (vegetation to transition, transition to flowering, flowering to ripen, or ripen to flush). I will occasionally change the nutrients if my PPM or PH gets way out of balance.

    With an air stone in each individual unit, I have created a drip/DWC system with a large reservoir capacity that circulates the nutrients through all components of the system.

    A couple of things to remember:

    Use dark tubing to prevent light from getting into your system. Light = algae.

    Keep the temperature of your nutrients below 70 degrees. If your nutrients get too warm, then you can have algea problems.

    I originally used hydroton as the hydroponic medium (it came with the 8-pack). During the first month, I had a teribble time keeping the PH down. I was adding PH Down on a daily basis. After doing more research, I determined that I had not soaked and rinsed the hydroton enough to prevent this problem. Since then, I soak the hydroton in 4.5 PH water for at least 72 hours. This seems to have solved the PH problem. Now I am now using a mixture of hydroton (25%) and higromite ( 75% Here is a link to their site) . Higromite is high in silica (which our plants love) and doesn't have the PH issues.

    :) Happy Growing! :)

    Here are some links to General Hydroponic pdf instruction files.

    General Hydroponics: GENERAL HYDROPONICS

    Waterfarm Individual Instructions:

    Waterfarm 8-pack Instructions:

    Circulation Upgrade Kit Instructions:


    For those of you who want to make your own General Hydroponics WaterFarms, add more Waterfarms to your existing setup, or want to add the controller unit, I found a company that makes the exact same sized buckets that are used on the WaterFarms. The only difference is these buckets are white and will need to be painted or taped to prevent light from getting into the reservoirs (4-gallon, 8-gallon, & 13-gallon).

    The company is called Container and Packaging Supply and there are located at

    The top 2 gallon growing chamber is part # P102P ($4.19).
    The bottom 4 gallon chamber is part # P104P ($5.88).
    The 8 gallon controller is part # P108 ($13.29).
    The 13 gallon reservoir is part # P113 ($17.01).
    The lids for the 8 & 13 gallon buckets is part # PL6138 ($4.39).

    These price are for singles, you get a discount for higher quantites.

    The best price I have found on the WaterFarm modules (drip ring, pumping column, grommet and connectors) is $10.21 at Green Tree Hydroponics -

    Modified Lucas Formula

    I have had lots of success with the Lucas Formula, but I felt that I was missing out on all of the plant enhancers (as GH calls them). I know that one of the ideas of the Lucas Formula was to keep it simple, but I just wasn't happy with simple :rolleyes:. What I am currently doing (and modifing as I go) is this. I run the Lucas ratios (8/16) at a slightly lower amount (.875) and I have added the other General Hydroponics additives at .33 of the GH Expert Recirculating program. This way I include GH Floraliscous Plus, Flora Nectar, Flora Blend, Kool Bloom, and Diamon Nectar along with the Flora Micro and Flora Bloom. By running the lower ratios, I keep the PPM in the range recommended by Lucas (1330 ppm) and still have all of the suppliments.

    If you would like me to send you a spreadsheet of my current formula, send me a message and I would be happy to.

    If anybody has any recommendation, additions, or deletions, please send them to me. This tutorial is a ‘work in progress’ and I’m always trying to improve it.
  2. thank you for this!

    i just got the waterfarm 8 pack and upgrade and i have a couple questions if thats ok.

    i am having a hard time getting the water to circulate (pump out of the control res) using the pumping column. is the white shaft that would normally go to the drip ring necessary here? it sticks up above the control res and actually prevents water from entering the blue tubing (not to mention that it gets in the way of the lid). without it, there is some water flow, but there is also a lot of gurgling from water and air being pushed through the blue tubing. if i lay the 90 degree elbow that is connected to the blue tubing and airline/y-adapter down on its side instead of pointing straight up, the water seems to flow a little more. this seemed to let the air bubbles out better...

    i guess i'm mostly asking if this is normal. i assumed that there wouldn't be a ton of water flow with using an air pump instead of a water pump to circulate, but is this gurgling sufficient?
  3. Hi...

    The pumping column is used to pump into the controller, not out of. The water comes out of the last bucket, into the controller (at the bottom), across the bottom of the controller to the other side and then attaches to the white tube (the one that has the air connector at the bottom). I trimmed my white tube down and put a 90 at the top to direct the water into the controller. There is lots of gurgling and spitting into the controller. And the volumn if not great at all.

    The whole thing works because you are lowering the level in bucket 8, which then draws from bucket 7, which then draws from bucket 6, .... to where bucket 1 draws from the controller.

    I'm not at home now, but I can put a picture of my controller when I get home, if you think that would help.
  4. thanks that makes much more sense. its pulling water not pushing it.

    i won't be setting the system up with plants for another week or two, but i'll be around either here or IC (oops). the room i just made is similar size to yours, if i remember correctly, at like 3.5'x8'x8' with two 400 watt lamps, air cooled. i might even be able to get the res/control outside the room...not sure yet.

    one more question if you don't mind. ever had any algae/root rot problems? the buckets look like they let a little light through. i have a high output air pump (for DWC/bubbler) in addition to the GH pump for the drip so i'm not that worried about it, but i got this thing hoping i wouldn't have to tape a bunch of buckets up.
  5. Hi..

    If you have the kits from GH, then there shouldn't be any light problems. The only buckets I had to paint were the ones that I got from the other source mentioned in my tutorial. Since I kept the controller and reservoir outside the room, the temps rarely got above 70 - closer to 60 most of the time. This also keeps the algae problem down. As far as roots go, never had a root rot problem and the root balls were huge when I cut down a plant.

    Let me know if you have any other ??'s
  6. #6 TheFallenLion, Oct 20, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2009
    Excellent thread, I was considering dropping at least 350 on the complete system with 8 units, but having seen they merely used generic plastic, that is readily available. It seems to me that my faith in GH was unwarranted.

    You see I could simply take some 5 gallon buckets and build my own RDWC, but where I'm growing I want to minimize all chances of flooding, so I was leaning towards dropping the money on the Waterfarm, I have a RainForest 66 and it's a very nice piece of plastic, very sturdy, doesn't wrap even when full to the brim with water, so I was excepting that kind of worksmanship from the Waterfarms.

    My other main reasons for eyeing the Waterfarms was I liked the drip rings, they really do support early stages of life excellently, splash issues aside.

    Then there was the DWC aspects of it, as well as I loved the idea of it being recirculated by oxygen alone.... no fast pumping, water pumps to worry about while you sleep.

    I was also leaning towards the Waterfarms because with their squarish shape, I was imagining they wouldn't have nearly the amount of problems with leak issues as one would with a concave shape like a 5 gallon bucket.
    I don't mean to insult anyone that spent good money on the system, I'm just failing to see the value now.

    If you have any advice for me please do, I'm bewildered right now, and a little put off.

    I also found those buckets at US Plastics. But alas no black versions.

    This is a great find, but also a disheartening find. I think it's time for rest, this constant battle in my mind of 5 gal vs Waterfarm is getting me no where fast.
  7. Hi..

    I guess that I am confused on why you have lost faith in GH? There is still lots of labor needed to bring plain plastic buckets into a WaterFarm configuration. If ones doesn't have the time or basic skills to create these systems, then they are certainly a great value.

    I haven't seen ANY hydroponic system that couldn't be created much cheaper by a DIY person. Some people like creating things, others do better with purchasing something.

    If you have specific questions, then I would be more than happy to respond to them.
  8. Actually I didn't mean lose faith in them so much as the retailers online, 95% of them are overcharging on MSRP some by a hefty margin.

    On your second point you're very right about that, if someone builds it, it can be reverse engineered.

    I did the math and at roughly 25 a DIY module, and 40 for the controller, plus the air pumps, drill bit, grommets, tubing, float vavle, etc, it pretty much works out that you don't save that much at all doing DIY.

    You can get modules for around 30 online, and the controller for around 65.

    So my apologies, I think with all the effort and hassle involved it wouldn't be that advisable.

    I stand thoroughly corrected, and any thoughts on the above are much appreciated.
  9. Well, I ended up ordering one, it should be here, in the next week. I'm very keen on modifying it asap.

    I have to admit I don't quite get the diagram that GH included in the PDF. I believe.. the force of gravity from the reservoir is pushing the water through the system, where in the last bucket it then feeds into the pumping column in the controller unit, where it drips back down into the controller adding depleted oxygen to the mixture (though this is not vital with the air pumps). Is this correct?

    I'm trying to brainstorm a simpler method for looping, as I find GH's method overcomplicated though easy to do..

    Does the reservoir feed into the controller or does it feed into the modules?

    If it feeds into the buckets, then wouldn't you just have to put a hole on the other side of each module, put them in a big series looped back to the controller, at which point you'd buy one of those 10$ repair kits you mentioned, use it as directed in the PDF and accomplish the same thing, without all the unneeded loops?

    What do you think?
  10. I have to admit I don't quite get the diagram that GH included in the PDF. I believe.. the force of gravity from the reservoir is pushing the water through the system, where in the last bucket it then feeds into the pumping column in the controller unit, where it drips back down into the controller adding depleted oxygen to the mixture (though this is not vital with the air pumps). Is this correct?
    The reservoir doesn't feed the buckets - see third comment. The pumping column (in the controller) lowers the level in the last bucket (#8) by constantly drawing the nutrient out of it. #7 then flows into 8 to bring the level back up (fluid will always seek it's own level), then #6 flows into #7.. until the controller flows into #1 to bring its level back up. The pumping action is not strong or powerful, it just provides enough flow through the buckets to keep everything circulated.

    I'm trying to brainstorm a simpler method for looping, as I find GH's method overcomplicated though easy to do..
    Over complicated through easy to do? - How do you mean?

    Does the reservoir feed into the controller or does it feed into the modules?
    Reservoir feeds into the controller (via gravity and the float valve) - controller feeds the waterfarms. The level in the buckets is maintained by the controller. The depth of nutrient in the controller is the depth of nutrient in the buckets - that is why it is a controller.

    If it feeds into the buckets, then wouldn't you just have to put a hole on the other side of each module, put them in a big series looped back to the controller, at which point you'd buy one of those 10$ repair kits you mentioned, use it as directed in the PDF and accomplish the same thing, without all the unneeded loops?
    Unecessary since the reservoir doesn't fill the buckets

    Does this make sense?
  11. Ok, well then, you kind of over explained, I know what a controller unit is, I was just confused as to the flow pathways.

    Thank you for the info, by easy to implement but overcomplicated I'm talking about how GH arranged the units off L's and T's in two rows.

    If you look at the GH recirc kit diagram, the only real difference is the loop at the end of the two lines, and the additional one from the last bucket in the loop to the controller.

    I'm thinking of modifying it more to be a sub current system. So since you explained their configurations flow path I was thinking like before, why not just put a hole on the other side, daisy chain it all the way through.... Wait that would give you sub current but then you couldn't move units individually... But it would circulate it more actively.

    Let me get this straight though, so if the air is somehow siphoning the water without flooding the air pump... which is the problem I have mentally with this... unless it has check valves... I digress, ok so if this is the case why can't you simply just use a stronger air pump to increase the rate of flow?

    Initially I was attracted because this was a gravity fed system, those has far fewer problems than flood and drain, I've read too many nightmare scenarios, where the metallic nutrients collect on mag drive pumps, causing clogs that overflow them... this is the main reason I avoided DIY flood and drain bucket style.

    Thanks for all the help, I don't mean to seem adversarial
  12. Thank you and never-mind I re-read the PDF, it's daisy chained, and now I get it... the pumping column must be able to insert the air without introducing water backflow through the air pump.

    Ok so my question then is like I asked before... wouldn't you just need a more powerful air pump to circulate the water in the entire system at a faster?

    I don't want it to circulate so fast that clogs would cause floods instantly, but a healthy amount, even though this system seems to have tons of DO, can always use more.
  13. Still waiting for your reply, I do hope I didn't somehow annoy you with my rather naive in retrospect, questions.

    So, I found a place where I could acquire it for approx $360, and I am happy to say it arrived today.

    Thoughts, I definitely see what you mean about the shoddy work on the inner pots holes.... they do look like they were punched with a screwdriver, not professional in that regard at all.

    I wonder why this is like it's... shouldn't they be using CNC tools for this?

    I'll definitely double the size of the holes at minimum, rather than add more, to the swiss cheese of it all, would you recommend larger?

    I am happy to say though, this unit must have been new stock, as the recirculation came standard on the model I received, so no headaches drilling those holes this time.

    Just have to go to a home improvement store acquire shut off valves, hose clamps, and thankfully I believe 1/2 black vinyl tubing is available at the HD locally. Still have to source black airline, as I don't have enough I don't think, but that shouldn't take more than a trip to the local Hydro store.

    All in all I'm very satisfied, I need to acquire some hydrogen peroxide and or iso alcohol, to run through the system to make sure it's sterile before introducing plants.

    Thank you guys for your experiences, and I will definitely update my experiences with the recirculating of the system.
  14. Well I guess I'll just double the holes... the silence is deafening, good luck in the future Whobe, Peace.
  15. How many Waterfarms would you use in in a 4' x 4' room? Thanks.
  16. Sorry Cloner... I got unsubscribed from this thread and didn't know there was a question.

    I currently have 8 buckets in a 4.5 X 5 room. While I could pack more buckets in there, the plants themselves get big and bushy, especially since I do a SCROG. You also have to have room for all of the tubing that runs between everything. And I like to have room to get around the buckets.

    Hope this helps!
  17. Hi all, i found a company called V-Drip. They make a system very close to the GH WaterFarm for a much cheaper cost. I have ordered 1 of there systems already and plan on placing an order for a 2nd. Also for any DIY-ers our very own very own Rumpleforeskin has a great Tut on DWC buckets and can be found HERE

    for any one reading this thread and thinking of a Drip/DWC give these guys a look. They are also on Ebay as well. CLICK HERE

  18. Hi, I've been breaking in my Waterfarm 8 system and I wanted to come back and give some thoughts and suggestions.

    First off, the time it takes for the nutrient solution to flow through the system is agonizing, I plan in the future to use a spade bit at at least 3/4", order bulk heads, and replace all the interconnecting tubing, this should increase the flow rate.

    I'm also considering after, upping the flow rate, adding a water pump to the last bucket into the 13 gallon reservoir, causing a Waterfall effect, this would eliminate the need for air stones in the system, and an additional air pump. It would also cause the solution to reach equilibrium at an increased rate so pH chores can be made simple, fast and effective.

    Another tip I can give is that you're going to want to get some light proof material, that is flexible and can be slitted in the middle to go around your plants base, this is to get rid of the salt build ups, as well as droplets splattering unto young clones, or seedlings.

    After having played with this system, I have to agree with Lucas of the Lucas formula, Ebb and Flow hydroponics do seem simpler out of the gate, Flood + Drain Tables, or Ebb and Grow Flood and Drain with buckets, like in the CAP Ebb Gro, or Everest Multiflow, or even that new Subcurrent system all look like appealing though more expensive alternatives to this, as they incorporate or eliminate issues of flow, as well as issues of convenience and simplicity.
  19. Just wanted to update and say I'm definitely not having fun with this system.

    Four days in a row adding 1 Teaspoon pH - then waiting two hours for it to stabilize. This is agonizing.

    I added 16 gallons of water... Hopefully today I can get it stabilized at the right point. I'm highly considering giving up on this system.

    I bought this to simplify my hydro experience, not to complicate it.
  20. Well, I'm having the exact same trouble as you. I just re-filled my system lastnite and the buckets were crazy 1, 5.1, then 6.9, then 4.8 and so on. I ph'ed the water in a 5gal bucket at 5.8 prior to filling even:eek:

    This would lead me to believe that a film of something was in the buckets and thus causing the PH to move outta range. but I rinsed every bucket before I set the system up. I'm not gonna give up yet but if I gotta check every bucket independent then I might as well go back to BB's.

    Another note, the seller I posted about above has done some crap that I really don't like. EXp, took him 2 weeks to ship my system and really slow to respond to emails. My advise, if you want a system build your own.

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