Garden Lifestyle

Grow Herbs with a Miniature Aquaponics System

What do you get when you combine hydroponics with aquaculture? A self-cleaning fish tank that grows real food, without the need for any soil or fertilizer.

Gardeners will appreciate the simple principle behind the Water Garden: fish feed the plants and the plants clean the water.
Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

I had the chance to see a large-scale Aquaponics food system in action a few years ago that included a big tilapia fish tank, a large blood-orange tree and vast rows of lettuce. I appreciated that a system like this could be a sustainable and intensive food-producing system where conventional agriculture can be almost impossible.

But who knew this soil-less growing system could be miniaturized? 

The Water Garden (formerly known as the Aqua Farm) is small-scale aquaponics at its best. Aquaponics is way to manage a complete closed-loop ecosystem of three living organisms: bacteria, fish and plants.

The symbiotic relationship between fish and plants helps grow perfect products like basil, wheatgrass and sprouts. Instead of having to change dirty water in the tank, the fish waste is pumped into a tray where the plants are growing. The plants use the nutrients they need and then return clean water to the fish.

With a system like this, gardeners can grow fresh greens indoors without any soil or fertilizer. The fish do all the work.

The Water Garden is a three-gallon, self-cleaning fish tank with trays for planting organic seeds. The fish in the tank feed the plants and the plants clean the water.

Inside each kit there’s a tank, water pump, gravel, organic seeds for fresh herbs and lettuces, a source of bacteria to naturally treat the water and a coupon for fish. The kit retails for around $60.

The Water Garden is produced by a California company called Back to the Roots. Its founders, Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, are the same guys who made it possible to grow mushrooms in boxes with their Organic Mushroom Farms.

The two award-winning entrepreneurs want everyone to take time to think about where our food comes from. “Our mission is to make food personal again through the passionate development of tools that educate and inspire, one family at a time.” 

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