Hydroponics vs. Aeroponics – How They Compare

If you’re even a little familiar with what hydroponics systems are, you know that they are a fascinatingly innovative approach to gardening. No-soil gardening methods such as hydroponics and aeroponics have been growing in popularity in the last few decades and for a lot of good reasons. With every new scientific and engineering advancement, these systems become even more effective and efficient than standard soil gardening. 

However, if you’re interested in trying no-soil gardening, how do you choose which method to go with? What are the main differences between hydroponics and aeroponics? Let’s go over both methods and the practical differences between them.

What is hydroponics?

Hydroponics systems are any no-soil gardening system that delivers water, minerals, and nutrients to the plants’ roots directly. This is usually done by replacing the soil with another, more effective and efficient “nutrient medium”. This can be perlite, rock wool pebbles, gravel, coconut husks, and others. Alternatively, it can be just water mixed with a nutrient-rich solution.

There are many different types of hydroponics systems depending on what nutrient mediums they use and how they deliver the water and nutrients to the plants. We’ve covered the basic types of hydroponics systems here. In general, though, all hydroponics systems have their pros and cons, are suitable for different plants, and include different types of air fans and water pumps.

What all hydroponics have in common, however, is that:

  • By not using soil they improve the growth rate of your plants.
  • They give you greater freedom for managing the conditions inside your indoor garden.

The main drawbacks of hydroponics systems are that:

  • They require a sizable initial investment compared to simple pots and soil.
  • They also need adequate maintenance as even a simple water pump or fan malfunction can be devastating to your entire crop.

What is aeroponics?

Aeroponic systems pros and cons

From the name, it seems like aeroponics is something even much more different than hydroponics. In reality, however, the two no-soil gardening methods are very similar. So much so that aeroponics is normally considered a type of hydroponics.

What differentiates aeroponics from other hydroponics systems is that the “nutrients medium” in this case is just air. Instead of being placed in coconut husks or perlite, or just dipped in water, the roots of plants in aeroponics systems are just suspended above a water tank. There, carefully adjusted misters, foggers, spray jets, or other misting tools are programmed to mist the roots of your plants with water and nutrients.

A simple pumping system will pump the water and nutrients through the foggers or misters onto the roots at preprogrammed rates, giving your plants everything they need.

As you can see, aeroponic can justifiably be viewed as just another type of hydroponics. They also don’t use any soil and they too expose your plants’ roots directly to the water and nutrients they require. While minimal, however, the differences are still noteworthy. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of aeroponics systems compared to other hydroponics methods.

Benefits of aeroponics:

  • By misting the roots of your plants you eliminate the need of using and managing another growing medium.
  • By giving each plant its nutrients directly you eliminate any competition between the plants for their nutrients. This is common not only for soil gardening but for a lot of other hydroponics methods too.
  • By controlling the water pump and the misters/foggers you have complete control over when and how intensively you’re “feeding” your plants with nutrients, minerals, and water. This control is one of the cornerstones of the superior effectiveness of all hydroponics systems over soil gardening but it’s even greater in aeroponics.
  • By suspending the root systems of your plants mid-air you’re giving them greater “aeration”. This extra supply of oxygen improves their growth.
  • In addition to the extra oxygen, your plants will also have more CO2 around them. This is great for their photosynthesis and also improves their growth.
  • Aeroponics is also great for preventing harmful pathogens from forming on your plants. High-pressure aeroponics systems, in particular, are extra effective at “washing away” pathogens from your plants.

Cons of aeroponics:

  • Compared to other hydroponics systems, aeroponics can seem more complex. All hydroponics involves intricate systems of water pumps and air fans but other hydroponics systems are inarguably a step “closer” to traditional gardening.
  • Aeroponics systems usually require a greater initial investment, especially when talking about the more effective high-pressure aeroponics systems out there.

Hydroponics or Aeroponics – Which to Choose?

Aeroponics systems are one of the most modern, innovative, and effective types of hydroponics. They’re not the be-all and end-all of no-soil gardening, however, or at least not yet. If you’re interested in getting a single hydroponics system for just herbs or for fun, you don’t necessarily need to go all out for an aeroponics system.

Even if you want a larger supply of veggies and fruits for your whole family, a bigger hydroponics system can still easily supply that. Aeroponics do offer superior control and pathogen prevention, however, so they are definitely worth considering if you’re ready for a more substantial investment. 

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