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Monday January 3, 2022

By Paul Barach

someone putting weed into the bowl of a bong Education

Getting the perfect water level in your bong or your dab rig isn't considered as much of an art form as some other areas of the marijuana experience. We all have that friend that can roll a joint into such a perfect, smokeable, evenly-burning cone that you'd watch an entire Youtube channel just showing that.

Or maybe your friend is a blowtorch master that can always time hitting that dab nail as it's cooled to just the right temperature for a heady, smooth, flavorful low-temp dab rip.

Water Amounts for Bongs and Dab Rigs

Most cannabis consumers don't give setting the water level of their bong or rig much of a second thought in that regard. Unlike joint rolling or dabs, filling your piece with water doesn't take any special dexterity, skill, or know-how to accomplish. The instructions seem incredibly simple to the unassuming.

The water level of your bong or rig might seem completely unimportant and unworthy of your attention. However, the water level is one of those things that you're only notice if it's been done poorly. Usually this happens once you're midway through your pull.

Man hitting a bong with the proper water level
Setting the perfect water level for your bong or rig is important for a smooth hit. photo credit

If the water level is too high, you could end up with a swig of bong water in your mouth. Or, even worse, coughing bong water out of your lungs. This is especially bad if the bong hasn't been emptied for a couple of days. Set the water level too low you're pulling a big lungful of smoke or vapor that's coming in so fast and hot that it defeats the purpose of filtering it. Either way, it's a bad time for you or any friends just trying to enjoy a nice, deep, smooth rip. While it isn't an art form, there are ways to make sure your water level is just right for a nice smoking session.

Setting the Perfect Water Level

Before diving in, it's important to note that all bongs and rigs are different. Setting the right water level for a mini-dab rig is going to be different than pouring a jug of water into your gravity bong. It'll take some trial and error with your individual piece to get right, but there are a couple of best practices to base your measurements off of.

Different Water Pipe Types

  • Stemless Bongs: When using stemless water pipes, use your percolator as a guide for how much water to fill. A general rule of thumb is to pour just enough water to cover the holes and create aeration.
  • Water Pipes with Downstems: Pipes with traditional downstems should be filled to completely submerge the diffusion holes underwater. How much water you put in from there depends on the size of your piece and how much resistance you prefer in a draw.

Before you go about setting the perfect water level, it's important to use only fresh water in your bong or rig. Bong water can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria, molds, and other things you don't want inhaling directly into your lungs.

Issues with Underfilling

When you're pouring your water into your personal smoking apparatus, too little can be as bad as too much. Therefore, make sure that the water level is sitting above the downstem (if you have one.) This way, when you pull the smoke or vapor through, it passes through the cooling liquid on its way to your lungs. Similarly, if your bong or rig has a percolator, the water is doing no good sitting below it. This can get tricky, especially if your bong or dab rig has multiple percolators or chambers.

Each percolator should have water sitting at the bottom for the smoke to bubble through. A best practice for accomplishing this is to pour water through the mouthpiece so that it flows down to the percolators on the bottom

If the water's not quite reaching the lowest percolators, you can gently blow through the mouthpiece. This should push the water all the way down. If this doesn't work, another method is to tilt your bong sideways.

Issues with Overfilling

Filling your smoking apparatus' water level too high can cause problems as well. Beyond the splashing and difficulty drawing, which we will discuss in a moment, it can also soak your weed. Because of the weight and pressure of the water, the first thing you want to avoid is water travelling too far up your downstem. If it soaks your bud, you're out both your hard earned money and a good time. If you find the water dribbling out of your bong, you can probably guess something isn't right.

Person lighting a straight tube bong with a downstem.
Depending on what type of stem and percolator you use, your water level may vary. photo credit

However, splashback and drawing are the two biggest signs that you've filled your bong too high. When it comes to drawing, the water level should be low enough that pulling the smoke through the water doesn't feel like those lung strength tests they give to astronauts and athletes. The smoke or vapor should bubble easily through the water with just enough time for it to cool as it filters through. If the smoke or vapor is coming in too fast and hot, add some more water in.

How to Avoid Splashback

Avoiding splashback is your main concern when it comes to water level and the one thing everyone wants to avoid. No story begins or ends well with the sentence "and then I got bong water in my mouth." While it won't ruin anyone's day, it's still high up in the "avoid at most costs" list. The best way to avoid splashback in your bong is to look at where the downstem enters the water. Give or take, you want the last half to third of that downstem submerged in the water. When it comes to your dab rig, the water level should sit about halfway up the percolation chamber. If any water touches your lips while you're pulling, pour a little out and try again.

Example of correct water level for a dab rig.
Optimal water level should sit just above the percolator. photo credit

When it comes to setting the perfect water level of your bong or dab rig, there will always be some trial and error involved. That's why it's important to pay attention when you're filling it. When you find yourself pulling that perfect temperature and texture of smoke/vapor through your chosen water pipe apparatus, take note of where that water level is sitting. That's your guide for the next time. While setting the perfect water level isn't going to get you the same compliments from friends as a perfectly rolled joint or a well torched, low-temp dab, you'll take pride in knowing that you gave yourself and your friends the best smoking experience possible. That's what the art of marijuana smoking is really all about in the end anyway.

Before embarking on your next smoke sesh, try taking some time to clean your piece and setting the perfect water level. Follow the steps in this article and you'll be well prepared for a great experience!

Do you have tips or tricks for setting the perfect water level for your bong or dab rig? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Impact Photography (license)


Paul Barach Paul Barach

Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.

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