Buying NFT channels for compact home setup - hardware store vs hydroponics specific ones?


In Kyle’s original guide, he uses 2 x 3 inch vinyl cutter downspouts from a hardware store (link - I got that link from Kyle’s guide, I think HomeDepot blocks the link from outside the US…)

In Australia, we have similar 100 x 50mm downspouts (link)

However, I saw that a lot of hydroponics stores also sell purpose-built NFT channels, that come with a removable lid which I assume makes for much easier cleaning. (e.g. 3m NFT channel length). They also sell joiners, and end caps that have holes for spouts already, and sealed endcaps.

(They say there’s two versions, one for PVC hose and one for Poly hose - not sure what the difference is).

What do people think of those, versus the sealed downpipes? Is it worth the money for the lid, and also having the inbuilt holes for hoses?

I do have an issue with compatibility - if I buy the 100mm x 50mm NFT channels from the hydroponics store, I assume I’ll need to get the end caps/joiners/spouts from the same manufacturer from them - otherwise it may not all fit together.

Alternatively, that same supplier also sells a basic 3-layer NFT kit which seems pretty good:

Although the height might be a little too high for indoor use in a small apartment. And there’s no place to hang grow lights over it.

And in the US, there’s a really cute compact Cropking Desktop NFT system:

Cropking also sell NFT channels as well, which even have pre-drilled holes for 1" rockwool seedling cubes. (

I’m based in Australia - so I suspect shipping the Cropking NFT stuff here will be ridiculously expensive and not worth it.

Anyway - what do people think about these hydroponics specific NFT channels, versus normal gutter pipes?


Don’t use an NFT system.
You need to understand that Kyle’s video was a demonstration of what is possible with home automation, the video by no means is the end-all-be-all of how you should design and build a system.
NFT systems that use the “rain gutter” type channels are usually only found in very large industrial greenhouses… they work great for large scale cultivation of short crops like lettuce and herbs, but they really are a poor choice for small scale home hydroponics systems, and they are not good for taller crops like tomatoes or peppers or cannabis because they have no support for the plant’s root system, so unless you build some kind of trellis over each channel, your plants will fall over and fall out of the trough. Trough-type NFT systems are usually more complicated than you want for a small home system, and they are hard to clean. You will need to take apart your system on a regular basis to clean out algae and bio-films that grow on all of the wet surfaces, and an NFT system has a LOT of wet surfaces. Also, since the plants in an nft system have no pots, it is very difficult to remove the plants from the system for regular cleanings. Anywhere you have light hitting water or a wet surface, you will always end up with algae and bio-films. Algae and bio-films remove O2 from the water, and can suffocate a plant’s roots if not kept in check. This really makes a small-scale NFT system impractical… especially if you use hardware-store rain gutters or PVC pipe instead of professional hydroponcs NFT troughs with lids that are removable to make cleaning easier.
If you are only growing short crops like lettuce or herbs, look into building a DWC or raft type system, it is much simpler, cheaper, and easier to build, clean, and maintain. If you are growing taller crops like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, or cannabis… look into building a flood tray or Dutch bucket type system. These systems use pots filled with an inert grow medium like Hydroton (leca) or coco-coir and perlite. This gives the roots something to hold onto so that larger plants are sufficiently supported. Growing in a medium also provides a buffer of water retention so that if the pump stops working, your plants won’t all die in a matter of hours from lack of water. In an NFT system, the pump needs to run 24/7 which can be noisy and annoying, in a flood tray or Dutch bucket type system, the watering pump only needs to run for a few minutes once every couple of hours. Because of all the plumbing in an NFT system, they are also prone to leaks which can spell disaster if they are installed in your house.
Also, don’t use rockwool… use peat-moss plugs for seedlings. Rockwool is made the exact same way fiberglass is made… do you really want fiberglass in your food? Rockwool also sheds fibers into the system which could eventually clog the drains or pump. Those fibers are also cause skin irritation and they are dangerous if they get in your eyes… they are basically glass after all.

They’re fairly easy to clean, whether they have a removable lid or not. I’ve used both, and just spraying water through the channel with a hose removes roots and debris well. Being rigid is more important than accessibility to the interior, since you may be moving them around with heavy plants in them.

I’d suggest cutting/drilling your own holes. You can then be assured it’s a perfect fit.

Those are purpose-build materials. So, if you want a perfect fit, will likely need to buy them both at the same time from the same vendor.

Pre-made channels are usually for those buying in bulk for large hydroponic systems. If you’re building a micro hydroponic system to experiment, I dont think there’s a need for expensive products, especially if you’re only buying a few channels and the shipping will be comprable to the cost of the matrials. I’d suggest using locally-available materials.