Aquaponics for Small Spaces

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

I’ve been fascinated with aquaponics for quite some time now and have been wanting to try it myself.  Now I finally have a small system set up.

What is aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a planting system wherein plants and fish are grown together in a way that they benefit each other:  the fish waste, consisting of ammonia and nitrates, fertilize the plants, the plants purify the water which is great for the fish.

I am trying this out with the Back to the Roots Water Garden.  When it first came out a couple of years ago, the pump was too loud for a small space, but they have since improved the pump.  I got the new pump from Back to the Roots and tried it out.

How I set mine up

Here are the contents of the original box:


It comes with everything you need to get set up, including organic seeds, along with a coupon for betta fish to purchase for $.99 from PetCo.

It does have aquarium rocks but I purchased my own rocks as well as three nerite snails.  Snails eat the algae and keeps the water from getting cloudy.


The instructions that came with the Water Garden are really easy to follow.  Set up was much easier than I thought:

  1.  I rinsed the tank in the sink, as well as the aquarium rocks.  My sink has a mesh drain which kept the rocks from falling down the drain.  Otherwise you have to use a mesh strainer.

Aquaponics32.  Per the instructions, I set up the pump, turned it to low setting and stuck it using the suction cups to the lower part of the back panel.  The electric plug must be kept dry at all times so if you try this, make sure you keep the plug out of the tank.

3.  I placed the tank in the living room within reach of an electrical outlet.  You have to place it before adding water because it gets much heavier if you fill it first.  Using a bucket, I added room temperature water plus half a capful of D-Klor (De-chlorinizing solution) which came with the box.  Before putting the fish into the water you have to get it used to the water temperature of the tank.  To do that, I floated the fish container in the tank for 15 minutes.


4.  After 15 minutes, I released the fish into the water.  I also pried the snails out of the bag they came in and set them on the bottom corners of the tank.  Now it was time to assemble the plants’ grow bed.

5.  As I did before, I rinsed the grow bed in the since.  I then took the pump cord along with the flexible tube where water flows from and threaded them through the openings according to the instructions.  The water will flow up from the tank into the grow bed.  The pumps power cord comes up and is set on a notch in the back of the tank.  I plugged it in.  It works and it is super quiet.

6.  I then set the grow lid into the grow bed.  This is where the plant pots will sit.

7.  I distributed the grow stones among the five plant pots and rinsed them all in the sink.


8.  I set the plant pots into the grow lid and poured the contents of the Zym Bac bottle evenly over the grow stones.  The Zym Back bottle contains beneficial bacteria for the plants.

9.  Instead of using seeds, I used starter mint plants:  peppermint and chocolate mint.  I removed them from the soil, separated them as best as I could, including the roots, and rinsed the dirt out of the roots.  I then set them into the grow pots, carefully threading the roots out of the holes so they are touching the water.  I covered the roots with the grow stones.

You can use the seeds that came with the Water Garden, or buy your own heirloom seeds.

That’s it!  My aquaponics water garden is set up.  I’ve had it up for a few days.

I feed the fish every morning.  It only gets 8-10 pellets a day per the directions.  I just drop the fish food through the hole in the grow bed.  The fish seems to be doing well, just swimming around the tank.  The snails surprisingly move across the tank fairly quickly – I thought snails just stay put like rocks but they actually move about.  One of the mint plants seemed droopy after a couple of days, but it perked up on the third day.  All the plants appear to be healthy.  The plastic of the grow bed seems to have slight warping and not as level as before, but it works well enough.  I had to add water with a few drops of D-Klor to keep the water level the same.

I like the easy set up of the Water Garden, and the pump is very quiet, I can’t hear anything out of it.  It looks great so far.  I’ll let you know what happens to the Water Garden experiment in a few weeks.


If you prefer not to use a premade system and prefer and larger setup, there are DIY instructions online to make your own aquaponics system.

© Apartment Prepper 2015

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  1. This is neat. What is there were no power and you couldn’t plug it in? Would it still be beneficial? Thanks!

    1. Hi Shawn, It does need electricity to run the pump that draws the water up to water the plants. Thanks for the comment!

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