Aquafarm Review: Is It Worth The Money?

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We’ve got an Aquafarm to take a look at today on the blog.  It’s a pretty cool countertop aquaponics system that was first brought to life via Kickstarter by the same guys who do the Mushroom Kit that I’ve also reviewed here on the blog.

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  • Great gift: This kit has been ranked among top holiday...
  • Everything included: just pick out your new finned friend...
  • Made in the USA & 100% Guaranteed to grow: all Back to the...
  • Experience the magic of aquaponics: what began as...

​The Aquafarm is designed to be a mini-aquaponics system, an introduction to the growing method for the total novice.  That’s a hard task to undertake, because aquaponics is arguably the most complex form of soil-less cultivation that’s out there right now.  You’re dealing with plants, fish, and the nutrient cycling between them, which is a lot more complex than simply feeding plants in soil or hydroponics.

There’s been a lot of skepticism about how well this product will work in aquaponics circles, and I don’t disagree that if you’re REALLY into aquaponics, this probably isn’t the system for you.

But it was never intended to be.

What The AquaFarm Comes With

When I opened up the box, I was surprised about all of the stuff that came inside.  It looks like Back to the Roots has partnered with a lot of different companies to get all of the materials for the kit.

They use a company called Home Grown Ponics for all of the dechlorinating, fish prep, beneficial bacteria, and tank cleaner.  For the seeds, they partnered with Seeds of Change, an amazing and upstanding seed company that I fully support.

​For The System

  • 3 Gallon Tank
  • Grow Bed
  • Submersible Water Pump
  • Bag of Gravel

For The Plants

  • 5 Plant Pots
  • Bag of Growstones
  • Organic Seed Packs (Wheatgrass, Basil)

For The Water

  • Bottle of D-Klor
  • Bottle of Zym Bac
  • Pouch of Tidy Tank

For The Fish​

  • Pouch of Fish Prep
  • Betta Fish Coupon
  • Bag of Fish Food

How Well Does It Work?

I didn’t expect it to be a high yield, extremely efficient system, so it went just about as well as I expected. I went with wheatgrass and lettuce and they grew like weeds.  Wheatgrass in particular requires little nutrition to thrive, so this system is perfectly suited to grow it.

The lettuce took a bit longer. If I was growing this in one of my hydroponic systems, I could get it to harvest in about a month from seedling stage. With the AquaFarm, it’s looking like that might be around 2 months or so – similar to soil. But remember, it’s not a perfectly optimized system. We’re relying on fish for nutrition and not perfectly balanced organic nutrients like in hydroponics.​

Here’s what it looked like after 2 weeks:

Aquafarm lettuce.jpg

As you can see, there aren’t any obvious nutrient deficiencies going on. It looks like it just needs a little bit more time and potentially more light as the seedlings look like they’re stretching a bit.

I could have supplemented with some lighting, but decided not to just to see how this would work in a ‘normal’ situation.​

I ended up not planting the basil that came with this system because it tends to germinate extremely slow and grow slow as well.  I wanted to plant something that was a bit easier and quicker to grow in this experiment.

Now, let’s take a look under the hood at the roots:

aquafarm roots.jpg

Nothing too surprising here. These aren’t perfect roots, but they’re healthy. There’s definitely a little bit of algae buildup on some of these that could be avoided with a less translucent cover and cooler water temperatures.

Cleaning & Maintenance

One of the issues I suspected I would run into with the AquaFarm would be keeping it clean. I’m used to hydroponic systems where the nutrient reservoir is covered and protected from light, which is the exact opposite of how the AquaFarm works. After all, you want to be able to look at your fish, right?

The issue with nutrient-rich water being exposed to light is that it’s a breeding ground for algae.  You can’t treat the water with anything that would harm a fish, so you’ll run into algae more often than you’d like.

What I ended up doing was adding sea snails into the mix. They ended up converting the algae into more waste, meaning I got a cleaner tank and more nutrients for my plants above.

Here’s a look at the snails in action:

aquafarm snails.jpg

They can’t get into the water pump and air hose though, and those two parts of the system get dirty pretty quickly. I’m not sure how to clean this without manually doing it every week, but it also doesn’t seem like it will be a huge deal.

Update: The v2 of the AquaFarm has improved this – it’s no longer a clear tube, it’s a black tube that prevents algae from growing on the inside of the tube.​

aquafarm beta fish.jpg

Final Thoughts

The Aquafarm costs about $60, depending on what promotions they have running at the time.  For that price, I think it’s a definite buy if you have any interest in gardening or aquaponics.  It’s also a great gift for a garden lover.

No, you’re not going to be growing your daily supply of greens and herbs off of this thing, but you will definitely have enough produce to use from time to time, and a nice conversation starter that’s attractive to look at.

You don’t need to do any pH balancing or nutrient adjusting like you would in a normal hydroponics system – just feed the fish, make sure the water level is topped off, and monitor the plants…that’s it.

It looks like one little betta fish is enough to support five plants, even if it’s not 100% optimized nutrition for those plants.

Sale
Water Garden, Self-Cleaning Fish Tank That Grows Food, Mini Aquaponic Ecosystem (Great Gardening...
  • Mini home ecosystem: the water garden is a self-cleaning...
  • Great gift: This kit has been ranked among top holiday...
  • Everything included: just pick out your new finned friend...
  • Made in the USA & 100% Guaranteed to grow: all Back to the...
  • Experience the magic of aquaponics: what began as...

I filmed a bunch of updates as I progressed with the system on my YouTube channel (which you should subscribe to).  They chronicle the journey of growing with the system if you want to see a more in-depth review than the photos and overview above.

Grow Along Videos

Part 1 – Overview

Part 2 – Fish In, Wheatgrass Planted


The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:

Kevin Espiritu
Founder

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9 thoughts on “Aquafarm Review: Is It Worth The Money?”

  1. The plants grew brilliantly at first but then I trimmed them all (we wanted to eat them) and they all died. One of the kids tipped too much of the d-Chlor in too. So am going to pop the fish in a bowl, clean out and start again. Can I grow my kitchen herbs here or am I really better off with lucky bamboo? Any particular snails recommended? Really want to get it right this time!

  2. This was such a helpful post! About the lettuce seeds—which ones did you use and how did you plant them (did you soak them first, etc?). My kit only came with wheatgrass and radish sprouts but I was looking at buying hydroponic lettuce seeds online.

  3. I’ve got one in my kitchen.

    I find growing cat grass (wheat grass) is great. The cat loves it, and it looks very pretty. I’m going to try some creeping thyme as well. Not much else will grow in a southern facing window that doesn’t get direct sunlight that you’d want to eat unless you use a grow light. Direct sunlight will explode algae problems however. Snails definitely help with algae.

    I have found that a teeny bit of organic fertilizer tremendously helps the plants. One Beta fish can’t do much to fertilize six plants (a goldfish might though), yet a beta fish could care less about water with high fertilizer content- those fish were bred to live in active rice paddies.

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