I’m not great with gardening. I’m not a terribly consistent person, so I struggle with keeping plants alive. People and pets I’m great with! Plants… not my thing. So when I saw the Back to the Roots Water Garden I got really excited. I liked the idea of having an animal in the house, but it’s just not the right season for anything that requires more maintenance then dropping food in and occasionally cleaning out the tank, so we went with the Beta fish.
Setting up the Garden
I apologize for not having pictures of this, I was just too excited when we were setting up the system to stop and take pictures of the process, but it was very easy. I think it took maybe 15 minutes?
- Open up everything and unwrap it
- Add the aquarium stones to the bottom and add water with the additives that come with your kit
- Add the fish to the tank
- Put the baskets in place that hold the grow stones (the medium you put the seeds on, instead of growing them in soil)
- Add the seeds, following the instructions for sprouting them
How we use the aquaponics system
I like the idea of gardening, but I wan’t sure how much I liked the idea of sprouting seeds, but that was what came with the package so I gave it a try. I don’t really enjoy sprouts, so I had no idea what I was going to do with them once they grew. As it turns out, when you’re a smoothie addict like I am you can just add them to smoothies with strong flavors like PB2 (dehydrated peanut butter, I buy the bundle with one jar of regular and then one jar of the chocolate … to die for!!) and you don’t even notice them. Which is good, because sprouted greens just… yuck. I mean, if you like them then the garden will be perfect for your family because they’re ridiculously easy to grow and you don’t have to do the whole process of sprouting. That’s too much effort for me for greens.
Once I finished the sprouts, I decided to try some herbs. Right now we have spearmint, sage, cilantro, thyme and rosemary growing. They aren’t very big yet, but I’ll come back and let you know how well they do.
I have a spring cactus and aloe vera plant that live in my living room under my lamp that has a full spectrum light bulb in it. It’s as much for us as for the plants, it’s supposed to help with depression and we wanted to take every precaution to help prevent Logan from having severe jaundice like all the rest of the babies in our family (which we did!). So we put Hermione’s tank next to the lamp.
Yes, the beta is a male, but Autumn insists he is a she, which is why he is named Hermione. He’s pink…so in the three year old’s mind that means girl. It doesn’t matter how many times we explained it, so we’re just going with it and calling him a girl… Some battles just aren’t worth fighting. One day she can go on Oprah.
But anyway… Hermione seems very happy and has been very healthy since we brought him/her home. Of course, Autumn picked up the worst looking, battered, near death’s door looking fish in the store. Hermione looked so rough that the cashier reminded me twice that if it died within 24 hours of bringing it home, they would replace it for free, and to keep my receipt. Now his fans are much fuller and healthier looking and he’s much more active.
The only issue I have is with the Growstone/basket setup up top. When seeds inevitably fall, they can sprout in the water in the tank and then get caught in the filter. Later on when you have to clear out the roots are going to be a mess and it’s not an easy process. When I pulled out the Growstones to take care of the crazy tangled mess of roots, they had a pretty intense smell. That, on top of cleaning out the roots was very irritating. I feel like the basket could have been designed better to prevent that, but since I don’t have to do it very often (I’ve only done it once, when I was clearing out the batch of sprouted greens you see in the pictures) it’s not a huge deal.
We love the garden! It’s a fun way to grow herbs, plus it’s just soothing to have a fish hanging out swimming in the living room. It’s a nice pet to have that doesn’t require much, and the gardening aspect is just as easy. Plus, no weeding! My favorite kind of gardening right there. I have seriously considered getting another tank so we could get a small school of smaller fish instead of the one Betta, but we’ll see how well these full herb plants to before we do that. I would say overall the investment of around $50 was worth it. It’s meant I can keep plants alive and grow herbs and sprouts, plus the fish is cool. I highly recommend it!