Each type of hydroponic systems have their own unique characteristics and thus are optimal for different types of crops. Here is a table listing the pros and cons of each of the major types of hydroponic systems. There are also hybrid systems that attempt to take the positive characteristics of systems types while avoiding the downsides.

System TypeDistinguishing CharacteristicsProsConsTolerance to Pump Failure/Electricity OutageBest for GrowingNot Ideal for Growing
PassiveNo power is required to run the system.
Most passive systems use a wick and capillary action to deliver the nutrient solution to the roots.
Does not require electricity
Inexpensive to construct
No moving parts
Does not scale well
Requires grow medium
Lower yields than other systems
HighestBest used for educational growing projects, typically not used commercially or for production.  Theoretically it can be used to grow any crop provided the system is scaled for size appropriateness.Mass production crops, crops that need a lot of air in the root zone, crops with large root zones.
Flood and Drain
(Ebb and Flow)
Nutrient solution delivered by pump into a tray then drained away in determined cyclesEnergy efficient
Scales well
High rate of production, allows for many kinds of grow media
High rate of germination
Reservoir capacities need to be higher
Uses electricity
MediumSeed starting. Crops that need well drained soil. Tomatoes, peppers.Crops that need constant moisture. Salad greens, herbs, brassica family plants.
DripNutrient solution delivered by pump to base of plant just above root zone
Water pumps run continuously or on cycles depending on the water retention characteristics of the growing medium
High yields
Low water usage
Scales well
Excellent for plants that like drainage
Requires electricity
Drip lines are easily clogged
LowCrops with large root zones, crops that require drainage, fruiting and flowering plants, crops that have a long growing cycle.  Great for everythingLeast practical for salad greens or crops harvested as a head.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)Nutrient solution delivered to root zone via a thin film of liquid in a channel
Water pumps run continuously
High yields
Little to no medium required
Easy to maintain
Scales well
Not suitable for plants with large taproot systemsLowestLeafy greens, crops with shorter life cycles.  Crops with smaller root zones.  Lettuce, dandelion, chicory, herbs, basil, sage, brassica family plants used as salad greens.Fruiting and flowering plants. Plants with larger root zones.
Deep WaterRoots are constantly submerged in a nutrient solutionGreat for water loving crops
Scales well
Reservoir capacities need to be higher
Less useful for crops that need drainage
HighWater loving crops.  Lettuce, chicory, dandelion, basil, cilantro, arugula, bok choy.Crops that require heavy drainage. Large plants.  Watercress (ironically).
Aero­ponicsNutrient solution delivered to root zone via a spray, mist or fog
Water pumps run continuously
Roots dangle in air
High yields
Excellent for specialized tasks such as vegetative propagation or seed germination
Does not scale well
Spray jets/misters/foggers clog easily
LowestRooting cuttings, seed starting, seedlings, plants that like moderate drainage.Large plants, plants with long life cycles.

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