The Hydroponics Drip System versus the Ebb and Flow

by Kevin

Do you really need to read an entire article to determine which of two very similar hydroponics systems are best for you? I think so, because each of them have some small particularities that can make a world of difference for you in the long run. Find out which one is better suited for you in this versus article between a hydroponics drip system and an ebb and flow.

Hydroponic Drip System vs the Ebb and Flow

Hydroponic Drip System vs the Ebb and Flow
Hydroponic Drip System vs the Ebb and Flow

The continuous hydroponics drip system and the ebb and flow are probably the most well known to the casual gardener, next to the water culture one.

Water culture has been done in and out by now and there’s little new information I could provide around it, so I thought of focusing on the two mentioned above, pointing out their flaws and strong points in a versus article.

What I’ll do is compare the hydroponics drip system to the ebb and flow and vice versa, through a number of parameters, such as building/installation difficulty, reliability, efficiency and power consumption. So let’s get to it then.

I recommend you buy your ebb and flow or drip hydroponic system from a hydroponics store that offers a large variety of hydroponic systems, cheap to expensive.

Building and Installation Difficulty

Both types of systems work on pretty much the same principles and are quite easy to set up if you’re buying a ready-made kit that you just need to install.

Although both systems are slightly harder to build from scratch in comparison to water culture, the ebb and flow has a slight edge, due to the fact that the drip component in the system bearing its name is harder to get working. If you want to take a stab at building your own ebb and flow hydroponics system, check out that link!

So ebb and flow hydroponics systems win a point at this category.

Reliability – Drip vs Ebb and Flow

When I say reliability, I’m thinking of how often a particular system breaks down and how much risks does it take.

Another aspect of reliability I will take into account is the damage these systems produce if they do indeed break down…because it’s not the same thing if your hydroponic system breaks and floods your entire greenhouse, or if it breaks and spills a few drips on the floor.

And I guess you already noticed where I’m going with this, namely that an ebb and flow system does a lot more damage if something breaks, thus it is less reliable than a hydroponics drip system.

However, there are certain ebb and flow products out there that come with an automatic water pump controller that spots when something goes wrong and cuts off the water pump so it doesn’t make mess.

And honestly, if you’re serious about gardening, you shouldn’t be caught without such a protection system. Still, for making us take this extra measure, the ebb and flow system loses one point to the continuous drip.


Efficiency refers to how well and how fast plants will grow in a specific system as well as how much of the supplies you will use will go to waste.

From the perspective of growing efficiency, both systems do fairly well, so none gets the extra edge (after all, they work on almost the same principles, so there shouldn’t be large variations in performance either). But when it comes to supplies efficiency…the ebb and flow hydroponics system will prove to be quite the waster.

Because it constantly floods the plant tray then pulls back the excess water/nutrients in the nutrient container, the pH levels in here will be on a constant fluctuation. This will force you to change the solution more often, since an unstable pH can have some nasty effects on your plants.

On the other hand, although a hydroponics drip system will still have this problem, it will have it at a much lower rate, which gives it the edge in efficiency over the ebb and flow. 2-1 for drip!

See how to build a drip hydroponics system here!

Power Consumption

The fact that the drip system uses a special pump header to control the flow of water doesn’t affect power consumption at all.

So the power these two systems eat up should be similar. But obviously, the main power hungry component is the lighting system, so whatever lighting system your hydroponics kit comes with will determine its power consumption ratio.

We also have a guide on the best ebb and flow kits to buy here.

Since the systems themselves are on equal terms in this category, neither one gets any points, leaving the final score 2-1 for the hydroponics drip system!

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