Both bubbleponics and aeroponics are worthwhile gardening systems to invest in, but which is better for you? This is the question I posed when looking for a gardening method that would work with my budget, space, and schedule. I’m glad I responded to this question because it led me to where I am now—a self-sufficient gardener.
In general, bubbleponics and aeroponics differ in terms of the position of roots, nutrient delivery, system components, space and water consumption, need for growing medium, environmental and plant compatibility, harvest quality and quantity, input and operating costs, and survival mechanism during a power outage.
I have summarized the various advantages and disadvantages of each system to assist you in deciding on the best gardening method for you! Let me give you the rundown!
The root position is the primary distinction between bubbleponics and aeroponics. A plant’s roots in bubbleponics are immersed in water, whereas in aeroponics they dangle.
(Do not worry—this will become clearer as we discuss the system components later!)
In contrast, aeroponic systems just let the plant roots hang. You might ask, “but how do they receive water and nutrients?”
In bubbleponics, nutrient water is delivered via hoses connected to a water pump and through direct root immersion in a bubbleponic reservoir. Aeroponics, in contrast, mists nutrients using a timed spray nozzle. Because of the controlled nutrient delivery and surplus of air space, nutrient absorption is more efficient in aeroponics.
The calculated amount of nutrients sprayed onto the plant roots in aeroponics improves nutrient absorption efficiency. This means that in aeroponics, nutrient resources are delivered and used wisely.
On the other hand, bubbleponics circulates the water using hoses that supply nutrient- and oxygen-rich water directly onto the plant roots.
Aside from this, the roots are also exposed to the nutrient solution in the reservoir. The nutrient resources then circulate within the system, so it can also be considered thrifty.
However, another area of concern is the amount of water. We’ll go over this further later.
A bubbleponic system is composed of a reservoir, air pump, air hoses, air stones, water pump, and net pots. By contrast, aeroponic systems consist of a perforated platform to house the plants, reservoir, water pump, spray nozzles, and grow lights.
Let me start by illustrating what happens in bubbleponics.
For you to have a clearer idea about bubbleponics, think of it as a hybrid of deep water culture and drip irrigation.
The plant roots are cultured in bubble-rich nutrient water, which serves as the primary medium for the growth and development of the plant.
But it doesn’t end there. A hose connected to a water pump is also used. This transports nutrient water to the individual net pots. Thus, in bubbleponics, the nutrient solution is delivered in two ways: through reservoir immersion and water tubing.
In comparison, a water pump, sprayer, and a nutrient reservoir are typical components of an aeroponic system.
In this system, the nutrient solution in the reservoir does not really come into close interaction with the root system. Rather, it is supplied via spray nozzles that mist the solution onto plants using a timed water pump.
Because they can be installed in a vertical position, an aeroponic system unit takes up less space than one unit of a bubbleponic system. In a home set-up, bubbleponics requires larger spaces such as table tops or a corner of a room, whereas one tower of aeroponics needs less than a square meter.
To help you visualize, here’s a comparison for lettuce.
Aeroponic systems, in general, allow you to grow 15 to 25 lettuce plants until maturity in a 1 by 1-meter space. If you use bubbleponics, you can only grow 6 to 12 lettuce heads in the same space.
Fantastic, right? That is having twice the harvest in aeroponics!
Aeroponic systems consume 98% less water than traditional gardening methods, while bubbleponics can help gardeners save about 70-90% in their water consumption.
A study on aeroponic potatoes, for example, determined a daily water requirement of 100 milliliters (mL) per plant. Potatoes grown in a system like bubbleponics, on the other hand, were found to have a 500-700 mL/plant daily water requirement.
Based on these findings, aeroponics can decrease water consumption of plants by up to 7 times! So if you want to use your water resources conservatively, then aeroponics is a better choice.
Bubbleponics involves the use of growing mediums such as clay pebbles and rockwool that help with the positioning of the hydroponic plants in the net pots. Aeroponics, in contrast, does not need growing mediums for plants to thrive.
Growing mediums generally facilitate plant anchorage. This is the reason why growing mediums are required in bubbleponics.
Returning to the earlier illustration, bubbleponics involves the use of a net pot. Plants cannot stand on their own in a net pot, so they require something to support them as they grow. Growing mediums fulfill this function.
Head to our article about choosing the best hydroponic growing medium to have deeper knowledge in this topic.
By contrast, aeroponic systems have built-in plant slots, often called a flexible collar, in their perforated platform that supports the growth of aeroponically-grown plants.
Both bubbleponics and aeroponics adhere to the principles of controlled environment agriculture. As a result, they can be located in any climate. However, when compared to bubbleponics, aeroponic plants are less susceptible to environmental stress.
To give you an idea of what controlled environment agriculture is, it is simply the practice of growing food in an environment that can be manipulated. You can do it in your room, your basement, or even your garage!
Golden Piece of Knowledge: Remember that plant growth is highly driven by the conditions around your garden.
Now, studies have shown that aeroponic gardens are not that vulnerable to adverse environmental factors, such as diseases, pests, and water quality. Therefore, it can be situated in any place, whatever the climate is.
Contrary to that, since bubbleponics uses deep water culture hydroponic principles as well, factors such as temperature, solution pH, root diseases, and nutrient availability must be monitored frequently.
Bubbleponics can grow more plants than aeroponics including leafy vegetables, fruiting vegetables, herbs, microgreens, vining plants, selected small trees, and bulbs. The aforementioned crops are also suited to aeroponics, except for microgreens.
Bubbleponics can support the growth of:
- Leafy vegetables: lettuce, bok choy, kale
- Fruiting vegetables: tomato, pepper, eggplant
- Herbs: spearmint, basil, thyme
- Vining plants: cucumbers
- Bulbs: garlic and onion
- Trees: bonsai papaya
Fun Fact: Hydroponics works well with bonsais. This system can supply the nutrients required by these small trees because they only grow short. Aqua bonsai was even a trend a few years ago!
Plants that grow in aeroponic systems include:
- Leafy vegetables
- Fruiting vegetables
- Vining plants
Aeroponics is better suited for transplants. Therefore, microgreens are not ideal for aeroponics since microgreens are harvested when they are young, about 2-6 inches in height. They also need nutrients from growing mediums, which are not present in an aeroponic system.
When compared to bubbleponics, aeroponics produces higher quality produce. This is because the aeroponics growing system is not highly vulnerable to adverse environmental conditions like pest and disease incidence.
I have mentioned in another section that bubbleponics is more prone to facing adverse effects of a change in temperature, pH, root rotting, and even nutrient buildup.
Golden Piece of Knowledge: In bubbleponics, the overall condition of your nutrient water is critical, because your roots are continuously immersed in it. So a change in a water’s pH, temperature, and nutrient concentration can trigger detrimental problems.
A change in these factors can result in the following:
- Yellowing of leaves
- Curling of leaves
- Drying of leaf edges
- Browning and wilting
Why is aeroponics not vulnerable to these problems?
In aeroponics, the roots are not submerged in water, so a change in the nutrient water conditions will not impose a direct effect on the hanging roots.
Due to aeroponic’s advantage of saving space, it produces two times more harvest compared to bubbleponics.
Given this, we can conclude that aeroponics is better suited for commercial production. If a gardener’s goal is to sell their produce, it will perform best as a system. Bubbleponics, on the other hand, is more appropriate for small gardening with the goal of self-sufficiency.
A gardener can build a bubbleponic system out of recycled materials like plastic containers and buckets, making it cheaper. Aeroponics, on the other hand, has a high initial investment cost.
According to some friends who built their own aeroponic system, the initial costs range between 200 and 1,000 bucks!
Take note, that only covers the cost of the system’s materials, which include, a water pump with a cycle timer, water tubes, spray nozzles, nutrient water reservoirs, nutrients, and grow lights with a timer.
A complete bubbleponic system, on the other hand, can be made mostly with recycled materials. You can get a bucket or a rectangular plastic box and only buy the electrical parts like the air and water pump and the air and water tubes.
Bubbleponics and aeroponics have considerably high operating costs. However, bubbleponics may consume more electrical operation costs since it requires a water pump, air pump, and grow lights.
Bubbleponics may incur higher overall costs because the best way to culture plants under this system is to provide them with a continuous supply of oxygen. This process requires a 24/7 operation of the air pump and water pump, making its operating costs more expensive.
In contrast, aeroponics only requires a water pump and grow lights, which is one electrical equipment less than bubbleponics.
Power outages have a significant impact on both aeroponics and bubbleponics. The distinction is in the survival mechanism. In bubbleponics, one can take preliminary steps to ensure the survival of the plants. Meanwhile, the best solution in aeroponics is to have a generator in case of blackouts.
At this point, we will go back to the very first difference between bubbleponics and aeroponics—the position of the roots.
Review: The roots of the plants grown in bubbleponics are immersed in water, while they dangle in aeroponically-grown plants.
The difference between these two situations is the constant presence of water. It is also important to take note that water transports oxygen and nutrients toward the plant system. Hence, water itself in a bubbleponic system is key to the survival of the plants.
During a power outage, one of the very first things you could do in bubbleponics is to lessen the water level in the reservoir. By doing this, you are providing the roots and air space to breathe and continue its normal biological processes.
Learn more about this in our article on how to keep plants well during a power outage.
This is not ideal for aeroponics because the flexible collar in the perforated platform where the plants are housed cannot be removed, unlike the net pots in bubbleponics. Furthermore, it would be time-consuming! So the best solution for a power outage in aeroponics is to invest in a gas generator.
When all factors are considered, aeroponics is better suited for commercial gardening, while bubbleponics is best for household garden beginners. Deciding which system to use, however, must still be based on one’s circumstances, needs, and objectives.
Here is a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of both bubbleponics and aeroponics:
|Bubbleponics||Can be made from recycled materials|
Relatively cheaper in terms of input costs
More plants are compatible in this system
Not highly affected by power outages
Fitter for household gardening
|Needs more space|
Requires more water
Highly affected by environmental conditions
Resources (nutrients and water) may not be used efficiently
More electrical components
Higher operating costs
|Aeroponics||Produces more harvests|
Requires less water
Does not use growing medium
Absorbs nutrients more efficiently
Less affected by environmental conditions
Higher harvest quality
|Highly affected by power outages|
Have lesser plants compatibility
High initial costs
High operation costs
Needs high technical knowledge & expertise
When is aeroponics better than bubbleponics?
Aeroponics is better suited for gardeners interested in marketing crop yields. People who want to get into aeroponics must have technical knowledge that will help them set up and maintain the system. Aeroponics is a huge investment with a potentially large long-term rate of return.
When is bubbleponics better than aeroponics?
Bubbleponics is a wise choice for people who are just starting to like gardening. It is a small system that can produce vegetables and herbs to feed a family. Thus, it is a good system to start with. Learn more about how to create a deep water culture system in our article on do-it-yourself DWC.
Bubbleponics and aeroponics are different in terms of the position of roots, nutrient delivery, system components, space and water consumption, need for growing medium, environmental and plant compatibility, harvest quality and quantity, input and operating costs, and survival mechanism during a power outage.
All things considered, bubbleponics is ideal for beginners because it is a low-cost system that is compatible with more plant types. Conversely, aeroponics is better suited for entrepreneurs and market enthusiasts who want a space-saving system that can produce a higher quality and quantity of harvest than any other system.
- “Aeroponic Growing” by Calori, A. in ResearchGate
- “Design of an Aeroponic System for Burkina Faso” by Sharkey, E. & Ernst, E. in Department of Engineering Messiah College
- “Integral Management of Irrigation Water in Intensive Horticultural Systems of Almería” by Lao, M.T. in ResearchGate.
- “Method of pump, pipe, and tank selection for aeroponic nutrient management systems based on crop requirements” by Chowdhury, M. et al. in Journal of Agricultural Engineering
- “Plant Factory Basics, Applications and Advances” by Niu, G. and Masabni, J. in ScienceDirect
- “Progressive Plant Growing is a Blooming Business” by Boen, B. in National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)