In any do-it-yourself (DIY) hydroponics system, all of a plant's needs must be taken into consideration. Plants require water, light, which can be provided by the sun or by artificial lighting, and nutrients, which are delivered to the plants through the water. They also need air, a stable temperature, and something to grow in, even when they are being grown without the use of soil.
One of the most important things to do when creating a DIY hydroponics system is to decide whether the system will be placed indoors or outdoors. Indoor hydroponics gardens can be kept year-round, no matter what the weather conditions outside are, but they will require the addition of a light source, adding to the cost of the hydroponics system. Outdoor hydroponics will not require as much attention because the sun provides light and the climate is uncontrolled. Outdoor systems can, however, yield less predictable results because plants are subject to the same severe weather conditions to which traditional outdoor gardens are exposed.
Another thing to consider when building a DIY hydroponics system is how the plants will be held upright. Though plants do not need soil, if they are grown directly in water, they will need to be kept partially above it so that their stems and leaves do not become waterlogged and rotten. Plants can be floated on top of the water through the use of floating platforms or they can be grown in baskets that are filled with a non-soil substrate, such as lava rock. For beginner hydroponics gardeners, it is often easier to plant in a substrate such as stone, watering plants with nutrient-rich water as one would water a plant potted in soil. Floating platforms may offer the plants continuous access to water and nutrients, but they will require a specialized set-up in order to work.
Though it is possible to set up an intricate, expensive DIY hydroponics system, many people can get by with simple systems. In a simple hydroponics system, watering, feeding, lighting, and climate control are all handled by hand rather than by automated systems. For the most part, this means that plants are cared for once or twice a day. Timers can also be added to lights, watering and feeding systems, and environmental controls so that the plants can be cared for automatically. Setting up an automatic DIY hydroponics system, however, is considerably more complicated.