What is a Dutch Bucket

Also called a “Bato bucket”, the dutch bucket is one of the most popular containers for indoor cannabis grows—especially those using hydroponic systems. The reason dutch buckets are so popular is due to a simple design feature that allows multiple buckets to be easily connected with a single watering and drainage line, making it easy to scale a hydroponics or aquaponics system for large scale grows.

Dutch buckets can be assembled in a line on the ground, on a bench, or table with an irrigation line running above the buckets, and a drainage line connecting the buckets at their bottom edges, which are designed exactly for this purpose. This irrigation line is used to carry a nutrient solution (water combined with specific growing nutrients) from a reservoir pump into the dutch buckets. The water then flows  through the growing medium, then drains out the bottoms of the buckets and back into the water reservoir via the drainage line.

One of the advantages of dutch buckets is that it allows you to create a large scale growing system, while keeping each plant in its individual bucket. This acts as a line of defence against pests, which could take down an entire crop if all your plants are living in the same bed. With the dutch bucket, you can simply remove the single bucket that’s been compromised by pests to isolate and solve the problem.

What you need to make a dutch bucket system:

  • Buckets (one bucket for every plant you want to grow)
  • Drain fittings (one for each bucket you’re using)
  • Zip ties
  • A water reservoir (large bucket that can hold water, e.g. 15 gallons)
  • Water pump
  • 20 feet of 1/2-inch poly tubing
  • 7 feet of 1/4 inch poly tubing
  • 2 pipe clamps
  • 10 feet of 1.4-inch PVC pipe (or longer, depending on the length of your table)
  • 1/2-inch drain valve
  • 16 2-gPH drip emitters
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Where to buy the materials you need: 

Pro Cal HGPK5PHD Premium Nursery Pot 5 Gal (5/pk)

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$30.85 $33.82

Lifegard Aquatics 1-Inch Double Threaded Bulkhead

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Superior Pump 91250 Utility Pump, 1/4 HP, Black

13 used from $42.30
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$48.07

Kraft GG601 15 Gal Mixing Barrel with Lid

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$60.06 $78.00

TR Industrial Multi-Purpose UV Resistant Black Cable Ties, 8 inches, 100 Pack

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$7.47 $9.99

PVC Pipe Sch. 40 1 1/4 Inch (1.25) White/PVC / 1 FT

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Bessey BPC-H34 3/4-Inch H Style Pipe Clamp, red

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$13.97

Rain Bird T22-250S Drip Irrigation 1/4" Blank DistributionTubing,250'Roll,Black

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$26.30

Mister Landscaper 100-ft Roll 1/2-in Poly Tubing

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$27.00

Raindrip PC8050B 2 GPH Pressure Compensating Drippers, 50 Per Bag

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$16.48

Rain Bird BVAL50-1S Drip Irrigation 1/2" Barbed Valve, Male x Male

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How to make a dutch bucket system:

Step 1: Take a PVC pipe and cut it down to the length of your prospective growing system. If you’re growing on a table, this means cutting the pipe so that it’s slightly longer than the table, so that you have room to connect an end cap and elbow to the ends of your pipe.

Step 2: Evenly space out your dutch buckets. The exact spacing is up to you, and will likely depend on how many buckets you’re looking to attach. Placing the buckets each a foot apart is a good spacing, for example. Alternate the way your buckets are facing so that the back edges of the buckets lineup. Later, you’re going to run a tube across the tops of the buckets, attaching it to the buckets using clips. Using a sharpie, mark the PVC pipe at the spots where the Dutch buckets will sit beneath. This is so you can drill into the PVC pipe after, creating holes for water to flow out of and into your buckets to water your plants.

Step 3: Using your drill and a 1-inch hole saw, drill into the PVC pipe at the spots you’ve marked with your sharpie.

Step 4: Use your primer and PVC cement to secure your PVC end cap and elbow to the end of your pipe. Your elbow should be pointing down towards the ground, while the holes you just drilled are on the top of the pipe facing up towards the ceiling. 

Step 5: Fasten your PVC pipe to your table using zip ties. A good way to do this is to drill holes into your table on either side of where the PVC pipe will be laid. Then, run the zip tie over the PVC pipe and through the holes in the table, fastening it at the bottom, on the underside of the table. This PVC pipe will be your drainage line for water to flow out from the bottom of your buckets, into the pipe, then back into your water reservoir.

Step 6: Attach your half-inch tube across the tops of the buckets, fastening it to each bucket’s rim with your clips. Make sure that you have a few feet of extra tube on each end of the table so you can feed it into your water reservoir.

Step 7: Drill holes into the tube, on each side of the clips you’ve used to attach the tube to your buckets. Do this using your 1/8-inch drill bit. Attach drip emitters to each hole in the half-inch tube.

Step 8: Cut the end of your tube, and attach the release valve using a pipe clamp. This will later be used to drain your reservoir.

Step 9: Cut your 1/4-inch tube into 16 five-inch pieces. Then, fasten these five-inch tube pieces to the rip emitters on your 1/2 inch irrigation tube.  These five-inch tube pieces should hang into your buckets.

Step 10: Fasten the end of your tube to your water pump with a pipe clamp. Then, put the pump inside your water reservoir.

Step 11: Before adding any medium to your buckets, do a test run of your irrigation system. Run the water pump, and watch to see that the water flows through the half-inch irrigation tube, and through each drip emitter into the buckets. The water should then flow out the hole in the bottom of the buckets, into your PVC pipe, and back into your water reservoir.

Step 12: Add your grow medium to each bucket (a mix of Coco Coir and Perlite is recommended), and plant your cannabis. Your Dutch bucket system is now ready for use!

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Why use a dutch bucket system:

  • Dutch bucket systems are great for tall and/or bushy plants, like cannabis.
  • Dutch bucket systems allow you to maximize your space by growing your crops upwards, and in a neat line.
  • You can create a Dutch bucket system as large or small as you want. You can also easily add and take away plants as you please.
  • Having your plants in separate buckets is optimal for pest control, as it allows you to isolate and remove an infested plant.
  • You can easily remove a cannabis plant from your system if it turns out to be a male.
  • Your system recycles water and nutrients solutions, making it a water-efficient system.
  • Creating this system is easy for beginners, and an effective way to grow.
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Why not use a dutch bucket system:

  • You will need to periodically check up on your system to make sure that it is operating correctly at all times.
  • You will need to completely switch out the water and nutrients solution in your reservoir so that you’re using the correct nutrients on your plants at the correct stages of their growing cycle.
  • Since every plant in your system relies on the same water reservoir, if anything bad happens to the water—such as the formation of a disease or waterborne pests—all of your plants will be affected.
  • You will need to be fairly well adept at feeding your plant nutrients with this type of system. Overfeeding nutrients to your plants will result in nutrient burn, and potentially the death of your plants.
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What is a flow-to-waste irrigation system:

A flow-to-waste irrigation system means that water starts in a reservoir, then moves through the irrigation line and into your buckets to water your plants, then drains out the bottom of the buckets and into another line, where the water is carried away and discarded, usually down a drain if you’re indoors.

This system makes it easier for you to feed nutrients to your plants. This is because your plant requires different nutrients ratios at different stages of its life. So, if you’re using a recirculating irrigation system, you will have to empty the entire reservoir and water system and re-fill it every time you want to change your nutrients ratios or even quantities.

However, flow-to-waste irrigation systems are extremely wasteful and heavy on water use. This can be expensive, and bad for the environment.

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What is a recirculating irrigation system:

A recirculating irrigation system means that you’re using a single reservoir of water that you’re constantly circulating through the system and recycling. The water begins in the reservoir, goes through the irrigation line and into the buckets, then drains out the bottom of the buckets and into the PVC pipe where it’s carried right back into the reservoir.

This recycling of water keeps costs down, and is significantly less wasteful, which is better for the environment. However, this also makes it more difficult to change the nutrients solutions you’re feeding your plant at each stage of its life. You will need to empty out your reservoir completely and re-fill it every time you need to change your plant’s nutrients solutions to accommodate the different ratios of nutrients it requires at different stages of its growth.

Want to watch an easy video tutorial for how to build a dutch bucket/beto bucket? Check out this great instructional video by YouTuber Bright Agrotech!

Looking for tips on the best grow medium to cultivate your plants with? Read our comprehensive guide to the best grow medium!

Featured Image Credit: “Hydroponic Vegetable” by Aqua Mechanical  is licensed under
CC BY 2.0

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