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Do a Google image search for “space buckets,” and the first thing you’ll be greeted with is hydroponic bucket systems sold by upstanding retailers like Home Depot, pictured growing all manner of nutritious veggies and sprouts.

That isn’t how they got started, or what most people are using them for.

The original space bucket concept was created by a Redditor who goes by the name “Ekrof.” Wanting to grow cannabis in his small apartment, Ekrof came up with an ingenious design in 2011, which he first posted to Reddit in 2012.

Bucket-based hydroponics predate this idea, of course. Ekrof’s genius was in incorporating various small, inexpensive and commonly available parts to replicate larger cannabis grow operations within the space of a common plastic bucket: namely CFL and LED lights, along with a computer fan for ventilation.

How Space Buckets Are Made

Ekrof hosts basic space bucket design instructions on his website. The core model requires little in the way of tools and no special knowledge. The most expensive tools required are a power drill and a Dremel. Otherwise, you just need several common cutting tools (like scissors and wire snips), and much of it is held together by electrical tape.

The estimated total cost for one bucket, including CFL lights, is roughly $100 to purchase everything at Home Depot. One can substitute the CFL lights for an LED system for an added $50 or more. Electricity costs vary from place to place, but in the United States, a safe estimate is about $10-15 added to your monthly bill per space bucket.

The SpaceBuckets subreddit has been active for years now, and has shared many more advanced and creative bucket designs. Some of the highlights include tote and trash can enclosures to make the grow less conspicuous, setups with digital control panels for the LEDS and even Star Wars-inspired aesthetic designs.

How A Space Bucket Grow Works

The space bucket is basically just a scaled-down replication of the usual indoor grow. You generally focus on one plant per bucket, as the space limitations and soil requirements will be prohibitive of adding any more. A pot containing the plant is usually placed inside the bucket, but it is possible to simply grow out of soil dumped into the bucket if desired.

To control the smell, one can employ a fan with an inline carbon filter, and also use an Ona Pro Block next to the bucket for powerful odor absorption.

Limitations of Space Buckets

Aside from the physical space issue that limits you to one plant per bucket, you’ll have to avoid strains that tend to grow too tall for its confines. Indica-dominant strains tend to grow shorter than sativas, but there are some compact sativa-dominant strains that are still doable in a space bucket (such as Durban Poison and Grapefruit).

Also, if you’re considering a space bucket grow, it’s safe to assume that stealth is a factor. Selecting strains known to not produce much of a smell will help there. Some of the least stinky of the commonly available strains include Northern Lights, White Rhino and Bubbleicious.

To Space And Beyond

Space buckets aren’t economical for any kind of commercial production, but they’re fantastic for those looking to grow for personal use or to simply learn and experiment.