A question I get once in a while is how much water to put into the base of a hookah.  This is a hard question to answer without a specific hookah in mind but there are some general rules that will help you find the answer. Detailed below is the simple process I use to find the right water level for my pipes and hit it every time.


  1. Start by assembling your hookah dry and checking how low the down stem sits in the vase.
  2. Fill the base right to the bottom of the down stem and test the draw
  3. Slowly add water until you get to the perfect level
  4. Pour the water into a measuring cup and remember the volume. That’s now the perfect amount of water to add each time.

If the water is too low then the down stem won’t be submerged and the smoke won’t make contact with the water. This defeats the purpose of smoking from a hookah and may result in smoke that’s hot and unpleasant.

The opposite of this is when the water is too high. This poses a couple different problems. The draw will feel tight and restricted because you’re fighting against more water. This is really unpleasant for most people and is a hassle to fix after the coals are on the bowl. Secondly is the issue of the bubbling water getting into the hose. If you are using a traditional hose this will ruin it. Even if you are using a washable hose this means that you could end up tasting hookah water. Trust me, that is not a situation you want.


Another option for getting the water level perfect each time is to actually mark your vase with a paint marker or sharpie. A lot of us don’t like the idea of marking up our favorite rigs but even just a small dot will do to streamline future sessions. Some vases also have painted designs on the outside that can be used as a reference. In the picture you see below I’ve filled the vase to the proper volume and you can see that it matches up with one of the wavy lines on the vase. I fill it to that point each time and never question my water levels.


These steps work best with vases you can see through but what are you supposed to do if you have an opaque vase? In this case I usually start by adding water to the vase two cups at a time and checking the draw after each addition. Once the draw feels good I record the amount of water used and save it for later reference.

It’s a simple method but following it can save you a lot of hassle and frustration. You really only need to do this once for a new rig and the rest of your sessions should be smooth sailing.

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