Hydroponics has become so popular over the past few years that probably everyone will soon forget about the soil. There are a number of different hydroponic systems available and sometimes it can be difficult to determine which is the best to choose. Today we will compare the two most popular types of hydroponics.
The main difference between the Kratky method and the NFT is that Kratky is simpler and cheaper. This applies to both the initial cost and the cost of cultivation.
There are a few other differences which I will discuss in detail in this article. I hope it will help you make the right choice.
NFT has a more complex design
NFT (Nutrient film technique) is a rather complicated hydroponic system. It requires a square PVC pipe through which the solution will flow. The pipes must be attached to the frame at a slight angle to allow the water to move from one end to the other.
Next, each section of the pipe should be connected to a tank of sufficient size. The tank should contain a pump and air stones. The solution from the tank should be pumped back to the upper end of each section of the pipe.
The Kratky method is much simpler. It requires neither a water pump nor an air pump. The Kratky method is simply a bucket with a lid. The lid has a hole in which a net pot is inserted.
The bucket must be filled with a nutrient solution so that the bottom of the pot is submerged in the solution by half an inch. That is it. This method is designed to be as simple and low-maintenance as possible.
The advantage of Kratky is that it is DIY-friendly. All you need is a bucket with a lid. So if you are a beginner it is best to start with this type of hydroponics.
NFT requires much more effort. It just takes a lot more work to put together a ready-made system. To build NFT yourself you have to work hard and you might not succeed the first time.
If you choose NFT, take enough time to learn it and be prepared to make several attempts before you succeed.
Read also: How do I choose a hydroponic system?
Kratky method needs no electricity
The second difference between the systems is the need for electricity. The Kratky method is completely independent of electricity because the plants grow on their own without water movement or aeration. But this is only if we are talking about the classic Kratky method.
Now there are modifications of this system with an air pump and air stones. However, this is not the Kratky of its early days, but rather a hybrid system.
The NFT is very much dependent on electricity. The roots of the plants are washed with a nutrient solution that is supplied by the pump. No electricity, no nutrition, and no plant growth.
Moreover, if the electricity is lost for a few hours, the plants can be damaged. Without a water supply, the plant roots can dry out quite quickly and at least the leaves will wither. In the worst scenario, you can lose the whole crop.
In Kratky, nothing like this happens. The plants develop a root system down the bucket and consume the solution. As long as the solution is there, the plants are safe, even if there is no electricity.
NFT is more expensive than Kratky in every way. First of all, it needs a good water pump. Even though the water is not under pressure there, the pump must be powerful enough to push the water upwards.
The second thing you need is an air pump. Although there are NFT versions without an air pump, this option is more than desirable. If the system has an air pump with air stones, yields, and plant health will improve.
The next costly items are the square pipe and tank. If you build the system yourself it can cost a considerable amount of money.
Kratky is a very cheap solution. You can buy the cheapest plastic bucket and make a lid out of something. And that’s it, the system for one or two plants is ready.
Another advantage of Kratky is that it doesn’t require any maintenance costs. You just pour the solution and the plants grow on their own.
If you choose NFT, you have to pay for electricity which is consumed by the water and air pump. Modern pumps do not use too much electricity, but still.
The next thing to talk about here is the health of the root system. If we talk about Kratky’s method, it was originally designed so that it does not involve water changes or filtration. Also, this system does not use water aeration. All this is intended to minimize maintenance and costs.
However, this has a negative side. Over time, the water in the bucket will fill with bacteria and the roots can begin to rot. This usually results in stunted growth or loss of the plant.
NFT is better in this respect. The movement of water that this system has is a beneficial factor in itself. In addition, water pumps are usually equipped with a filter.
The air pump saturates the water with oxygen which greatly reduces the number of bacteria. The NFT also needs to be cleaned regularly and the water changed every 2 weeks. All this ensures the best health of the roots and the whole plant.
Let’s talk about the best plants to grow in one system or the other. A Kratky is usually a bucket with a pot of plants in it. Here you can grow one plant at a time. And since the bucket can hold a lot of nutrient solution, you can grow large plants like tomatoes or cucumbers here.
The NFT, on the other hand, is a square tube that is usually 4 to 8 inches across. This means that small plants, such as lettuce, are best grown here. But at the same time, the number of plants in the system can be large.
As far as yields are concerned, the NFT is a bit more productive than the Kratky. This is due to the fact that the NFT water is better oxygenated. In addition, NFT implies the regular renewal of the nutrient solution, which also has a positive effect on the yield.
And the last notable difference is the clogging of the roots. This is really a problem for the NFT because there is not much room for roots in this system. Over time, the plant grows larger and the roots can clog the channels through which the water flows.
This leads to poor plant growth and an increased risk of root disease. To avoid this you will have to trim the roots regularly. Although this is not true for all plants.
With Kratky, there is no such problem at all. Even if the roots fill up the solution container, nothing bad will happen. The plants will still get the right amount of water and nutrients.