Water Garden: Frequently Asked Questions
Top 3 Questions
- How many fish can I put inside of the tank?
We recommend 1 Betta fish, but if you prefer to have a few fish we suggest keeping 2-3 Zebra Danios or Male Fancy Guppies as an alternate pet choice. Many customers add snails, shrimp, crabs, and various aquaculture to their Water Gardens as well. The only limiting factors in choosing a fish for your Water Garden is that it's a 3 gallon tank and is covered (you can add an air stone for more oxygen). Based on the average 1" of fish per gallon rule, you'll want to put only small fish inside of the tank. Fish that grow larger (like Goldfish), should be transferred to a larger tank.
2. How often do I need to change the water?
3. When should I add more Zymbac and Dklor?
About the Water Garden
What is the Water Garden?
The Back To The Roots Water Garden condenses all of the amazing features of large-scale aquaponics into a 3-gallon tank for your kitchen or classroom! The fish fertilize the plants, and the plants filter the water for the fish. You can grow organic herbs like basil and wheatgrass with this closed-loop ecosystem in any kitchen or classroom!
What is aquaponics?
Aquaponics is an ancient, sustainable method of farming developed by the Aztecs. It uses 90% less water than traditional farming methods and combines aquaculture (fish cultivation) with hydroponics (plant cultivation without the use of soil) in a symbiotic environment. The water from the fish tank(s) is pumped to the plant grow bed, where beneficial nitrifying bacteria growing on and around the plant roots convert the ammonia-rich waste from the fish into nitrites and then nitrates. The plants then take up the nitrates as the nutrients they need to grow.
What's Included with the Water Garden?
The Water Garden includes everything you need to get started right away! Just buy your fish, decorate your tank, and watch your plants grow!
- Grow lid
- Grow tray
- Pump tubing
- Plant pots
- GrowstonesTM for the plant pots (lightweight and porous)
- Gravel for the bottom of the tank (multi-colored)
- Bag of fish food
- All-natural aquatic products provided by Kordon®
- Bottle of all-natural D-KlorTM
- Bottle of Zym BacTM Nitrifying Bacteria
- Pouch of Tidy TankTM
- Organic wheatgrass and radish sprout seeds from Handy Pantry®
- Betta fish coupon from Petco®
What seeds are included with the Water Garde?
The Water Garden comes with organic radish sprout and wheat grass seeds provided by Handy Pantry.
What other plants can I grow in my Water Garden?
Leafy greens and herbs grow best in the Water Garden, and we include organic wheatgrass and radish sprout seeds in each unit. Alfalfa, sprouts, parsley, cilantro, mint, arugula, mixed greens, and other varieties of basil also grow well.
Can I grow flowers in my Water Garden?
Flowers require higher quantities of nutrients than our one betta can provide. Leafy greens and herbs require lower nutrient levels and work great with the Water Garden. That said, feel free to experiment! We love to hear what plants are growing in customers’ AquaFarms and how they’re doing.
What are the ingredients in the fish food?
The fish food contains a combination of ingredients that provide the necessary proteins, vitamins, and dietary supplements for your fish. These include krill meal, kelp, herring meal, spirulina, biotin, and vitamin B12 supplement.
What is D-Klor?
D-Klor is a chemical free dechlorinator made from vitamin C and aloe vera. In addition to removing chlorine from the water, which is harmful to fish health, the D-Klor enhances the fish's natural protective slime coating.
What is Zym Bac?
Zym Bac contains beneficial bacteria that establish the biological filtration in your tank. They kickstart the cycling in the tank and help correct for ammonia and nitrite levels that might otherwise be harmful to your fish by converting them to nitrates - the nutrients the plants then take up to grow!
What is Tidy Tank?
Tidy Tank is a natural sludge eradicator that helps keep your tank and gravel clean. It contains beneficial bacteria that help break down the organic solids in your tank so that your plants can more easily absorb the nutrients.
Setting up the Water Garden
Where should I keep my Water Garden?
When growing basil or other light-loving plants, you'll want to put your Water Garden somewhere that receives a significant amount of direct sunlight - ideally by a south-facing window. If possible, try to orient the tank in a way that blocks sunlight from hitting the water in the tank, but allows light to reach the plants - this helps prevent algae from growing in the tank. If you don't have a spot like the one described above, we highly recommend you grow wheatgrass and other sprouts, as they grows fantastically in low light conditions.
How high should I fill the water in the tank?
The system works best when the water level is at the bottom of the textured line. Keeping the water at this level helps maintain good water flow and allows bettas room to breathe.
Betta fish have what’s called a labyrinth organ. A bit like a lung, it allows them to breathe oxygen from above the water’s surface. Wild bettas were often found in rice paddies, drainage ditches, and stagnant ponds throughout Southeast Asia. Through cycles of floods and droughts, they evolved to be able to live in very shallow puddles. Though they can also breathe from their gills, it’s important to always leave a space of air between the surface of the water and the bottom of the grow bed.
What temperature should my water be?
Native to Southeast Asia, bettas are tropical fish and are happiest in water between 76º-82º F, so just a little warmer than room temperature.
I poured too much D-Klor into the water! Should I start over?
Not to worry! Our D-Klor is made of an all-natural blend of vitamin C and aloe vera and poses little danger to your fish - even if added at larger quantities than necessary.
How long after adding the D-Klor can I add my fish to the tank?
The D-Klor is effective immediately, so go ahead and add your fish right after you've added the D-Klor.
Should I use soap when washing the rocks?
Do not use soap when washing the gravel or Growstones. Soap can be very toxic to fish; hot water alone will do the trick.
Can I use my own rocks in the plant pots or for gravel?
We highly recommend using the provided Growstones in the plant pots as their lightweight and porous nature help facilitate the nitrification process and plant growth.
Feel free to decorate the inside of your tank with the provided gravel and/or your own rocks and decorations though! Make it a fun home for your new pet fish!
How many seeds do I pour in each plant pot?
Your Water Garden is just like any other garden. Each plant is different, so it's best to follow the recommended planting instructions on the back of your seed packets. To avoid overcrowding, we recommend you seed each net pot with 4-5 basil seeds. Once these have sprouted, choose your favorite 1-2 sprouts to leave in each net pot and pull out the rest.
Wheatgrass and sprouts are not sensitive to overcrowding, so feel free to use as many seeds as you like in each plant pot.
Can I grow different types of plants at the same time?
Yes, you can plant different seeds at the same time, though we recommend you plant them in different plant pots.
Can I put a live plant in the tank? Can I add decorations?
Yes! Live plants inside of the tank add oxygen to the water and help regulate the ecosystem.
We definitely recommend adding other decorations as bettas enjoy places to hide and swim around. For smaller species of fish, we recommend incorporating decorations to help break up the current. Water flow is crucial to keep the Water Garden clean and healthy, but decorations will help create more peaceful waters for your fish.
Is the Water Garden recyclable?
The clear tank is made from BPA/phthalate-free recyclable (#7) acrylic and the grow bed and lid are made from BPA/phthalate-free recyclable (#5) polypropylene. Please check with your curbside or local recycling programs about whether they take #7 plastics, as those can be more difficult to recycle.
Does the Water Garden come with a fish?
Your Water Garden comes with a coupon for a male betta fish from your local Petco store! Bettas are known to fight one another when placed in the same tank and prefer to live alone, so please remember to only keep one betta per AquaFarm.
How many fish can I keep in my AquaFarm?
We recommend keeping one large male betta fish in your AquaFarm. If you’d like to keep more than one fish in your AquaFarm, we recommend following the 1-inch of fish per gallon rule of thumb. 2-3 fancy guppies or zebra danios are other recommendations of ours. Please consult your local pet shop about stocking a 3 gallon tank.
Can I keep two bettas together in my AquaFarm?
Unfortunately, no. It is believed that betta fish got their name from an ancient clan of warriors called the “Bettah.” As their name suggests, betta fish will fight with each other if placed in the same tank. While it’s true that female bettas are less aggressive than the males, our 3-gallon AquaFarm is too small for 2 female bettas to be housed together.
What types of fish can I keep in my AquaFarm?
We recommend keeping one male betta fish in the AquaFarm. They’re particularly hardy fish that fit well with a naturally regulated system like the AquaFarm. They also have a labyrinth organ that allows them to breath in additional oxygen from above the water’s surface.
If you’d like to use your AquaFarm as a home for fish other than bettas, we recommend fancy guppies or zebra danios. Both are tropical species of fish and thrive in temperatures between 72° and 82°F.
Some fish are schooling, while others prefer to be solitary. Certain species also prefer to have decorations and places to hide in their tanks. Please consult your local pet store on the preferences of your fish to make sure their home is a happy one!
How much should I feed my fish?
Feeding will very from fish to fish. Start with 6-10 pellets a day and keep a close eye on how your fish responds to this amount. You can increase or decrease based on your fish’s health.
Remember Bettas are notorious for having big appetites, but their stomachs are only roughly the size of one of their eyes. Overfeeding can cause swim bladder issues for your fish, and uneaten food that accumulates at the bottom of the tank can pollute your betta’s water, promoting algae and bacteria (not the beneficial kind) to grow.
If you’d like to give your betta a chance to clear its digestive tract, you can skip feeding one day a week. Bettas can go about a week without food, but if you’re away for longer than that, we recommend investing in an automatic feeder.
Can I keep a goldfish in the AquaFarm?
Though they may look small in stores, fantail goldfish can grow to be 8” in length, and we do not recommend them as permanent residents of the AquaFarm. While the AquaFarm may make a good beginner home for a goldfish, please have a larger tank ready to transfer it to as it matures, so you’re not stunting its growth.
I just set up my AquaFarm. Why is the water cloudy?
It will clear up! It's perfectly normal for the water to get cloudy for 3-4 days after setting up the AquaFarm. If the water is still cloudy for more than 1 week, please contact our Community Happyness Team with photos at email@example.com.
My AquaFarm has algae, what's wrong?
Algae growth is a common issue in aquariums and develops as a result of the combination of sunlight, nutrients, and water. While algae is perfectly safe for your fish, preventing it will help you keep a clean and clear tank.
You can help prevent rapid algae growth by blocking the back side of your AquaFarm and minimizing sun exposure to the tank. One or two algae-eating snails or an Otocinclus catfish may also be great additions to your AquaFarm, as they will eat the algae and eat additional food and solid waste in your tank. They'll happily clean your tank for you!
Finally, if your tank only receives a small amount of light, a live plant inside of the water will help keep the water crystal clear.
My AquaFarm isn’t self cleaning. What’s wrong?
If you’ve recently set up your AquaFarm and it’s looking cloudy, do not fret! It should clear up within a week. If the cloudiness persists, please contact our Back to the Roots with photos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The water should be clear if the plants are growing. Often plants that we eat have a short life cycle. If it's time to re-plant your wheatgrass, simply pull out as much of the dead plants as possible. Afterwards, plant new seeds on top of the grow stones. Please check the back of your seed packet for additional instructions (ie soaking your seeds over night or rinsing clean). Wheatgrass and other sprouts will grow quickly and begin filtering the water almost immediately. Consider keeping one plant pot of wheatgrass consistently growing.
If your plants are growing then you may have a bit of algae build up. Algae builds from excessive nutrients, light and heat. However, it's very easy to manage. In most cases I highly recommend keeping a live water plant for your tank. The plant will use up many of the nutrients that algae feeds on, helping to keep your tank clean and clear and your eco system balanced. Adding an algae eating snail to the AquaFarm will also help keep the "windows" clean and eat any additional solid buildup in the tank.
If you’re noticing old food accumulating at the bottom of the tank, you’re likely overfeeding your fish. You can vacuum this old food up with a siphon and lessen the amount you feed your fish, monitoring your fish closely as you change its diet.
The water isn't circulating, what do I do?
Check your pump! After a while, the pump can get clogged and needs to be rinsed out. Please see the manufacturer's instructions on how to clean the pump.
My plants are not growing.
First, make sure your AquaFarm is setup correctly and that your pump is functioning. Plants need water to grow so make sure that water is being pumped up the grow tray and cycled back down into the tank through one of the drain holes.
Next, plants need light. Your AquaFarm is just like any other garden so different plants will require different amounts of light. If you are growing basil or other herbs that like full sun, check out some synthetic light options. If you’re AquaFarm is housed in a low light area consider growing wheat grass or other low light plants like salad sprouts.
Finally, often plants that we eat have a short life cycle. If it's time to replant, simply pull out as much of the dead plants as possible. No need to thoroughly clean the rocks. Afterwards, plant new seeds on top of the grow stones. Please check the back of your seed packet for additional instructions (ie soaking your seeds over night or rinsing clean).
The Science of Aquaponics:
What is aquaponics and how does it work?
Aquaponics is an agricultural system that combines aquaculture (fish cultivation) with hydroponics (plant cultivation without the use of soil) in a symbiotic environment. The water from the aquaculture portion is pumped up to the plant portion, where beneficial nitrifying bacteria convert the ammonia-rich waste from the fish into nitrites and then nitrates. The plants then take up the nitrates as nutrients they need to grow.
At certain concentrations, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates can be toxic to fish. Because the nitrifying bacteria is ridding the water of ammonia and nitrites by converting them to nitrates, and the plants are taking up the nitrates, the system has a built-in filtration system. Through the recirculation of the water, the toxins are removed and the plants are provided with the necessary nutrients to grow.
What are the types of “beneficial” bacteria?
There are two main types of beneficial nitrifying bacteria. Nitrosomonas bacteria convert ammonia into nitrites, and Nitrobacter bacteria convert nitrites into nitrates. Both are chemoautotrophic bacteria and serve as the crucial connectors between the fish and the plants in any aquaponic system.
What pH range should my water be at?
The ideal pH range for an aquaponics system is 6.0-7.0. Fish prefer a slightly alkaline environment above 6.0, and plants grow best in slightly acidic environments of 5.5-6.5.
How much water does aquaponics use?
Water is constantly being reused and recirculated in aquaponics, and water only needs to be added to a system to replace that which has been lost due to evaporation, absorption and transpiration by the plants, and any spillage or overflow. As a result, aquaponics uses a dramatically smaller amount of water per unit of plant growth than conventional agricultural techniques. Depending on the particular aquaponics system and conventional agricultural system being compared, aquaponics can use anywhere between 90% and 98% less water!
Is aquaponics organic?
Aquaponics is organic by nature, as you’re not having to supplement your crops with fertilizers or detoxify your water with chemicals. Aquaponic farms still must go through the process of getting organically certified if they’d like to sell their crops as formally organic, but the system is meant to mimic how ecosystems work in nature.