Water Garden New Frequently Asked Questions

WATER GARDEN FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

What is the Water Garden?

SETUP

Components - What comes in my Water Garden?
Tank Setup - How do I get my fish's home prepared?
Grow Bed Setup - Can you help me get my garden going?
Planting - How do I start my microgreens?

ONGOING CARE

Harvesting & Replanting - How do I collect my crop and plant the next one?
Fish Care - Can you help me keep my fish healthy?
Tank Maintenance - How do I provide the best home for my fish?

    TROUBLESHOOTING

    General Issues
    Cleaning and Water Clarity
    Re-ordering supplies

    GROW ONE, GIVE ONE

    Did you notice our Grow One, Give One campaign on your Water Garden? At Back to the Roots, we're a small, passionate team on a mission to reconnect families back to where food comes from. Submit a photo of your Water Garden and you'll be entered to win a Water Garden for the elementary school classroom of your choice! 1 classroom selected per month. Learn more and send us your photo at BacktotheRoots.com/GiveOne

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    INTRODUCTION

    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 and microgreens 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 your fish into nitrites and then nitrates. The plants then take up the nitrates as the nutrients they need to grow.

    What about the Aqua Farm?

    • The Aqua Farm was Back to the Root’s first aquaponics product and has been replaced by the new Water Garden 2.0! The major difference between the models is that the the Water Garden 2.0 has double the growing space! In addition, the design of the grow pods in the Water Garden 2.0 has been optimized for easier cleaning and to maximize plant growth. If you own an Aqua Farm and can't find the answer to your questions on this site, feel free to reach out to us via email (contact@backtotheroots.com) and we'll be glad to assist.

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    SETUP

    Product Components

    The Water Garden includes everything you need to get started right away! Just buy your fish, set up and decorate your tank, and watch your plants grow! The components that come with your tank are:

    Fish Tank

    • The Water Garden Tank is a 3-gallon acrylic fish tank made right here in California. Specially-designed and manufactured for Back to the Roots, there's no other fish tank like it! The top of the tank is artfully crafted to hold your garden, so you can grow fresh greens in your kitchen right from your fish's beautiful home.

    Water Pump, Pump Tube, and Tank Clip

    • These three components make up the pump assembly - an essential part in your aquaponics ecosystem! The pump circulates water (and the nutrients dissolved in it) up to your plant roots, feeding your greens as they grow. Give each of these components a rinse before setting up your tank, and again about every month afterward to prevent buildup that can reduce water flow. For more details, check out our detailed pump cleaning video.

    Grow Bed and Grow Pods

    • Your Grow Bed and Grow Pods serve as the frame from which your garden will grow. The bed is contoured to fit precisely inside of the top of your tank, and your three pods fit together inside of the bed and hold your grow medium. Your pump brings water up to the bed, where microgreen roots can soak up the water's nutrients before the water falls back down into your tank through the open slot in the bed. Note - make sure to align the round feeding holes in the grow pod and grow bed for easy fish feeding.

    Grow Medium

    • Your grow medium is made of small round pieces of puffed clay that serve as an excellent place for your microgreens to set roots! As the aquaponic industry standard grow medium, these clay pebbles help bring moisture and nutrients right to your plant roots for healthy growth!

    Water Sponge

    • Your water sponge fits in the grow bed's waterfall slot and helps prevent plant debris from falling into your fish tank. Check your sponge every month or so and clear it of any loose roots or seeds.

    Organic Radish Microgreen and Wheatgrass Seeds

    • We provide you with two packs of seeds - organic radish microgreens and organic wheatgrass. Fast-growing and quite nutritious, these greens are the perfect starter crop to get your aquaponics system up and running.

    Aqueon Fish Food And Betta Bowl Plus* Water Conditioner

    • Back to the Roots is proud to partner with Aqueon to provide each Water Garden owner with trial size fish food and water care products to get your tank started! When filling your tank with water, use the Betta Bowl Plus to eliminate chlorine and add vitamins and minerals to help your Betta fish settle in to his new home. Add 4-5 food pellets each day through the feeding hole, making sure your fish sees and eats each pellet. Avoid overfeeding, as excess pellets can make your water dirty.

    Is your fish coupon expired? Not to worry! Email us at contact@backtotheroots.com and we'll send you a new one.

    Tank Setup

    Where should I place my Water Garden in my home?

    • Your tank is designed to be an aesthetically pleasing addition to your home - and as a result you can really place it anywhere you'd like! Here a couple of tips, however - just to help you make your decision:
    • Upon setup, make sure to fill your Water Garden at the spot you want it to take up, as moving the tank after filling can be cumbersome and get messy.
    • The wheatgrass and radish seeds that come with your Water Garden can thrive in low light conditions, so it isn’t necessary to place the tank adjacent to a window. If you decide to grow sun-loving herbs once your Garden is up and running, definitely find a sunny spot for your tank or use a grow light.
    • If the only available space for your Water Garden is adjacent to a window, we suggest you cover or block the side of the tank that is next to the light source to help reduce algal growth.

    Do I really need to wash everything?

    • Yes! It is absolutely essential to wash each component of your Water Garden. Washing will make sure that any residue, dust, or debris is removed from your system and doesn't adversely affect your fish or your plants. Note: Do not use soap when washing, as it can be toxic to fish. Hot water alone will do the trick!
    • If you need to sanitize your tank for any reason, we recommend using a solution of pure white vinegar and warm water. Alternatively, you can check your local pet store for other non-toxic tank cleaning solutions.

    How do I set up my pump?

    • Your pump is an essential part of the Water Garden ecosystem. If you're having trouble assembling your pump, follow these simple steps:
    1. Rinse the pump body, tube, and clip with tap water. The pump cord is water proof and fully submersible, but avoid getting the electrical plug wet while washing and assembling. Do not plug your pump in until your tank is fully set up and the electrical plug is 100% dry!
    2. Attach the pump and clip to either end of the black tube. Align the components so that the pump body's suction cups face the opposite direction of the clip's spout. The clip will be a bit more difficult to secure to the tube, but this is necessary to create a tight seal.
    3. Place the clip in the cutout on the tank lip and suction cup the pump to inside tank wall. Don't plug the pump in until you've filled your tank with water.

    How much water do I need to add to my tank?

    • The Water Garden tank is 3 gallons in volume, but we follow a general rule of thumb for keeping the right amount of water in your tank: The water in your tank should be kept around 1" from the bottom of your grow bed when it's sitting inside your tank.

    What kind of water should I use?

    • Filtered water is best to use when setting up and maintaining your Water Garden. Tap water is generally okay, but because heavy metal levels and pH vary across the country we err on the side of caution and recommend filtering.
    • When adding tap water to your tank, use a dechlorinating water conditioner such as Betta Bowl Plus* to eliminate harmful chlorine and add beneficial vitamins and minerals to help your fish.

    What else can I put in my fish's new home?

    • We highly recommend you decorate your fish's new home so they have a few things to swim around! Check out your local pet store or search online for the decorations you prefer - we recommend aquarium gravel, silk plants or coral ornaments to start!
    • In addition to decorations, a small tank heater can be a great add. Tropical fish are happiest in warmer water (75-82 °F, 24-28 °C), so if you live in a cooler climate please consider it!

    How do I add my fish to my tank once it is set up?

    • Your fish will need time to adapt from its temporary container to the temperature of your new tank water. We recommend placing your fish and its separate container into your filled tank so that it is floating on the surface and leaving it there while you set up your grow bed (about 15-20 minutes). By placing the whole container into the tank, you're letting the fish's current environment gradually change to match the environment of its new home.

    Grow Bed Setup

    What's the best way to wash my Grow Medium?

    • Your Grow Pods are not only a great environment for plants to grow, but they also double as excellent colanders to wash your grow medium! Simply divide up the pebbles evenly amongst your 3 pods and rinse them under warm water for 15 seconds each.

    Have I waited long enough to release my fish into the tank?

    • There are a couple things to check here. First, has my fish had ~20 minutes to adapt to the tank's water temperature? Second, have you added Betta Bowl Plus or another dechlorinator to your tank water? Third, are all of your tank decorations in place? If you can say yes to all three of these, you're ready to introduce your fish to its new home!

    Planting

    Do I need to soak my seeds before planting them in my Water Garden?

    • Soaking seeds for 6-12 hours before planting is a neat trick to help speed up seed sprouting, but isn't necessary for your garden to yield plenty of greens to eat. If you plant your seeds without soaking, they might take 1-2 days longer to sprout than if you soaked them.

    Don't my seeds need to be covered by soil or something?

    • They don't! Your aquaponics system doesn't need any soil at all - your seeds will take root in your grow medium and feed on nutrients directly from your tank water.

    What do I do when I've run out of seeds?

    • Congratulations on several successful harvests! We offer a few different options to replenish your Water Garden seeds - check them out here.

    What if I want to plant something other than radish microgreens or wheatgrass?

    • We highly encourage Water Garden owners to experiment with different varieties of plants! In general, most varieties of microgreens will grow quickly and produce bountiful harvests within a couple of weeks of planting. If you are interested in growing herbs, houseplants, or other types of plants different than microgreens, we recommend transplanting, rather than growing from seed.
    • Check out or transplanting guide here! In addition, these plants may require more sunlight to grow (6-8 hours per day) than your microgreens.

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    ONGOING CARE

    Harvesting & Replanting

    How long will it take for my microgreens to grow? How should I harvest them?

    • Your microgreens should be fully grown and ready for harvest in 7-14 days. Harvest microgreens by using scissors to cut stems just above the grow medium. Remember to wash before eating!


    WG Harvesting

    Use scissors to harvest your microgreens

    What kind of meals can I create with these greens?

    • Radish microgreens are an excellent addition to any fresh salad, and wheatgrass will give your berry smoothie a healthy boost! Check out all of our recipes at backtotheroots.com/recipes

    Do I need to clean out my Grow Medium and Grow Pods before replanting?

    • Yes, we highly recommend discarding your grow medium and rinsing your grow pods clean before replanting new seeds for your next crop.
    • If desired, your grow medium can be reused, but it must be rinsed thoroughly and cleaned of all plant matter before replanting. This is to avoid any old plant matter from decaying while new greens are growing.

    • IMPORTANT! Do not rinse more than 1 Grow Pod in a single day! Your grow medium is home to beneficial nitrifying bacteria that help clean your tank and feed your microgreens. Spacing out cleanings will allow the bacteria time to repopulate and do their job.

    Fish Care

    What temperature is best for my fish?

    • Native to Southeast Asia, bettas are tropical fish and are happiest in water between 75-82 °F (24-28 °C), so just a little warmer than room temperature. Feel free to add a heater to your Water Garden to keep your betta healthy and lively!

    What pH 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. If your water’s pH is extremely high or low, use filtered water in your tank to start with. Avoid using solubles to adjust the pH.

    What type of fish should I get for my Water Garden?

    • Your Water Garden is a mighty ecosystem, but because it is uses only a 3 gallon tank there are just a few select fish that we recommend for this rather compact environment. Betta fish are far and away your best option! As a beautiful and resilient fish, your Betta will thrive in the Water Garden.
    • If you decide you'd like a different type of fish, please follow the general guideline 1 inch of fish (length) per gallon of tank water. Fish in this category include Zebra Danios and Male Fancy Guppies - they're small enough you will be able to fit 2-3 in your tank!

    Can I get two bettas for my tank?

    • Bettas are known as territorial fighting fish, so please do not place two in your Water Garden together - they prefer to live alone!

    How often should I feed my fish?

    • We recommend feeding your Betta Fish 4-5 pellets of food per day. If you'll be away from your tank for a few days - say, over a weekend - simply feed your fish slightly more (6-7 pellets per day) for the 5 days leading up to your time away. This expanded diet will help your fish fast safely while you are away.

    Tank Maintenance

    What are the essential things I need to do to maintain my tank?

    • There are a few maintenance items that you'll need to perform to keep your Water Garden up and running as a safe home for your fish:
    • Each Day: Feed your fish 4-5 pellets of food through the feeding hole.
    • Each Week: Your plants soak up some of your tank water (and some evaporates too!), so add water to your tank to keep the level within ~1" of the bottom of the grow bed. Always add Betta Bowl Plus or another dechlorinator to that water before pouring it into the tank.
    • Each Month: Your pump can get clogged with excess nutrients and plant residue, so unplug and rinse your pump body, tube, and clip under water to clean buildup and maintain water flow.

    Along with these routine maintenance items, you may encounter other tank cleanliness issues during the life of your Water Garden. Please check out our Cleaning and Water Clarity section below for detailed troubleshooting guides.

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    Troubleshooting

    General Troubleshooting

    How do I sanitize my tank?

    • If you need to sanitize your tank for any reason, we recommend using a mixture of pure white vinegar and warm water. You can also check your local pet store for other non-toxic solutions. Note - do not use soap on any tank components or accessories, as soap residue can be extremely harmful to your fish!

    I planted something other than microgreens or wheatgrass in my tank, and nothing's growing...

    • The Water Garden includes easy-to-grow microgreens because they grow quickly and require minimal light, making them ideal for kickstarting the natural cycling of your tank.
    • Most other plants and herbs, however, will take much longer to grow than microgreens. This is why we recommend transplanting starter plants into the Water Garden if you are keen on growing something other than microgreens. Check out our guide here!
    • Also, most herbs are full-sun and will require a sunny, south-facing window to thrive. If you have a plant that is struggling due to lack of sunshine, you'll experience significantly better growth by investing in a small grow light (sold on backtotheroots.com)

    I am missing one of the components that was supposed to come with my Water Garden...

    • We're sorry that something may be missing! Please reach out to us at contact@backtotheroots.com and we'll send the missing component to you as quickly as possible.

    Cleaning and Water Clarity

    How often do I need to clean my tank?

    • Unlike typical fish tanks that need weekly water changes, the Water Garden has its own biological self-cleaning cycle so it only needs to be cleaned once every 6 to 8 weeks! Traditional fish tanks need weekly water changes because nitrates build up and become toxic to your fish. In this aquaponics system however, your plants growing on top use the nitrates as nutrients — filtering harmful toxins out of the water so you'll just need to spruce up your tank every now and then. Check out the video below for a step-by-step guide to cleaning!

    • For more information on the biological process that helps your Water Garden clean itself, email us at backtotheroots.com.

    Why is my water cloudy?

    • Your Water Garden can become cloudy for up to 2 weeks after initial setup or after cleaning. This is simply the beneficial bacteria blooming rapidly & keeping your Betta safe. Once your tank cycles, your plants will begin to absorb the nutrients created by the bacteria and your tank will clear up. The roots of your plants need to be developed/long enough to filter the water in the grow bed. Herbs and greens will take much longer to begin cycling the tank than microgreens, which is why we recommend keeping 1-2 pods of microgreens growing at all times.
    • If your plants are growing and your tank is cycled, then you'll want to take other measures to clear up the water:
    • You water is most likely cloudy due to something called bacteria bloom. This can occur in a tank with too much waste, typically from overfeeding.
    • To help alleviate bacteria bloom, you'll need to clean your tank. Perform a 1/2 water change and use a strainer to rinse any aquarium gravel or tank additions under warm water. If you need assistance with any of this, we're here for you! Email us at contact@backtotheroots.com and we'll guide you through.

    I am seeing a lot of green algae in my tank - how do I get rid of it?

    • If your tank is murky with a green tint you've got an algae bloom. Algae is a natural occurrence in all fish tanks and is the result of: (a) too much carbon dioxide, (b) too much light, and/or (c) excess waste.
    • A: Carbon dioxide needs to be balanced out with additional oxygen. We highly recommend adding an air stone in your tank to create more bubbles. The additional oxygen will help keep your tank cleaner and be beneficial to your plants. Alternatively, you can add live water plants inside of your tank to reduce the carbon dioxide and increase the oxygen. Both an air stone and water plants can be found at your local pet store in the aquarium section.
    • B: If your tank is receiving too much light- maybe it's in a windowsill - we recommend adding an aquatic backing. You can purchase a backing from your pet store or make one yourself! You simply want to reduce the amount of light hitting the tank's water and turning nutrients into algae.
    • C: If your tank builds up excess waste easily, it's most likely a result of overfeed your fish. A Betta's stomach is small (the size of its eye!) so it needs very little food. Because bettas have a tendency to overeat, we recommend feeding your Betta just 4-5 pellets daily.

    What are some tips to prevent bacteria and algae blooms?

    1. Avoid overfeeding! It will lead to excess waste and solid food in the tank, which will eventually build-up and make your tank murky.
    2. Adding 1-2 nerite snails to the Water Garden will help keep the "windows" clean and reduce additional buildup in the tank.
    3. Live water plants are a great way to balance your ecosystem. The plants will use up nutrients that algae would otherwise feed off as well as help add a bit of oxygen to the water.
    4. Maintain your plant growth. Microgreens have a short life cycle and need to be replanted every couple of weeks. If you've switched to growing herbs, light is key! During the darker fall and winter months you'll boost plant growth by having a grow bulb.

    Re-ordering Supplies

    We sell all the replacement supplies you might need right here on our website! Still can't find something you need? Reach out to our customer service team (contact@backtotheroots.com) and we'll be happy to help!

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