Aquaponics for All
Every now and then it’s nice to change things up. A few months ago, Peter recommended that I get a fish tank. He purchased one for his office and it was a big hit. The tank that he got for his office was from a company I hadn’t ever heard of called Back to the Roots. At first I was skeptical. I remember when I was a young child the ordeals of trying to take care of a betta fish. I thought it was inevitable that I would kill whatever it was that I put into the tank. Fish seemed like fragile creatures. But what Peter told me was that this company had taken care of all of the difficult parts of keeping a fish alive– the kit was fully stocked with food and even a coupon for a free fish. Additionally, the tank was set up as an aquaponics system with a grow bed at the top. The plants in the grow bed would extract the harmful nitrogen from the water and clean the tank. So, I figured I would give it a shot. How’d my tank turn out?
An Office Fish Tank
Taking a page out of Peter’s book, I decided to keep the tank at the office. A few reasons for this: 1) we have cats and last I remembered, cats and fish don’t mix; 2) I recently moved into a new office and having some greenery in the office would make the windowless space more inhabitable; 3) I found out recently that one of my colleagues was a fish aficionado (thanks Jessie!) and she’d be able to help me with any fish issues I came across.
Peter mailed the tank to my office. I was very excited to get started but I couldn’t find the tank! Then someone dropped it off at my desk and I started the setup process.
Setup was fairly easy. The company has a few youtube videos that serve as short tutorials. Beyond those videos, I didn’t need much help getting everything set. Things to watch out for: you should wash the stones that go into the grow bed and you should condition the water before the fish go in. The grow bed setup is not difficult either.
Once everything was set up, I let the tank sit there for a day. This allows the water temperature to settle.
Picking Your Fish
I took the included coupon to the local Petco and spent a few minutes looking at all the fish. I definitely wanted to get the healthiest looking one. Things to look for: no fin rot, active in the container, responsive to human movement. I chose this blue betta and took him home. The coupon worked without a hitch!
Introducing the Fish to the Tank
The fish spent the night in my apartment since the Petco was far from work. I brought the container to work, sat the container inside the tank for about 20 minutes to let the fish acclimate to the tank’s water temperature. I then gently coaxed the fish into the fish tank. He seemed really happy to have more space!
Decking out the tank and adding plants
We had a naming contest for the fish at work and his name became James Pond, PhD. Dr. Pond even got a new employee arrival announcement courtesy of our amazing group admin Steph. I got a small fish tank heater for Jimmy because bettas are technically tropical fish and enjoy the warmer water. I also got him a small fish tank cave and fake plant so he would have some places to hide and rest. I also got him a few betta leaves which are affixed to the side of the tank so that he can rest from a perch.
At first, I thought that the fish was sort of bored. So, of course, I decided to get him some friends. I started out with some ramshorn snails after reading about how easy it is to take care of them. But then I read that perhaps the ramshorn snails might overpopulate the tank, so I decided to get some assassin snails to balance the ramshorn snail population (cue Thanos music). Along with the snails, I also got some ghost shrimp shipped in from Louisiana. The shrimp and snails together would clean the bottom of the tank via scavenging.
Then I thought to myself, the tank needs more oxygen generation and nitrogen cycling capability. So I got these small and large moss balls for the tank. I also started the process of growing the wheat grass and radish seeds.
Adding Plant Life
I have to say, I was surprised at how quickly the wheat grass and radish grew. I also tried to grow evergreens like bamboo plants in one of the planters but the rocks they included didn’t really keep the bamboo upright. The pictures above were about a week or a week and a half into the growing cycle.
The wheat grass and radish kept the nitrogen levels in the water very low. I was able to check this with aquarium water testing strips.
Complaints, there are a few, but only a few
So far everything has gone fairly positively. It has been about 4 months with the tank and no major difficulties have been encountered. One nagging issue is that the grow beds need to be cleaned between plantings. This is a fairly tedious and annoying process which I think the company could remedy by providing disposable grow stones. This would make the period in between plantings (the plants wilt if they aren’t harvested) more pleasant. Overall, I highly recommend the kit to anyone looking for a science experiment or something to do with their class. It has been a huge hit at the office, so much so that I bought a second kit, now inhabited by Sir Anchovy Hopkins. The fish naming contest was one of the most popular things that happened at the office this year!
Do you have a Back to the Roots kit? Do you like it? Leave us a comment below! And thanks for reading!