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This past year our children have become obsessed with the idea of "pets".  My son is 4 and my daughter is an animal loving 2 year old.  A dog or cat is not in our future anytime soon, so when my son requested a fish for Christmas earlier last year, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and began pondering how we could achieve a fun surprise while also keeping this parental responsibility as low maintenance as possible.

After a lot of research, I ended up buying this Back to the Roots Aquaponics Fish Tank.  We have really been enjoying our little Betta fish, so I figured I'd share my experience with this product, from the perspective of a parent!

Let me start by saying that any aquarium with fish is going to require regular maintenance and cleaning.  If you are not willing to clean a tank or to let new water sit out for a while while being treated, it might be best to find a different pet that works for your household.  That being said, my goal was to find a kid friendly tank that was as low commitment as possible.  Avoiding cleaning all together is impossible, but trying to find a system that keeps it minimal is not.

When looking for a setup that worked for us, I assumed that a small tank would be easiest, and we were open to whatever breed of fish that could survive in a small setup.  I had a roommate in college that kept a relatively happy looking Betta fish in a small round bowl, so I knew that a Betta fish might be a good option.  However, I don't like to jump into things without doing my own research first, so I made sure to do my due diligence prior to making any decisions.

I was glad I did, because I learned a lot.

The general consensus online is that while yes, a Betta fish can survive in remarkably scant amounts of water, unfortunately most Betta fish are living in subpar conditions at best.  A 5 gallon tank or larger is really preferred to keep a Betta fish thriving, however a 3 gallon tank could be acceptable. Nothing should really be living in a small 1 gallon bowl tank. 

A single male Betta fish is a solid choice for a small tank.  There was a short list of fish and crustaceans that would work, but most of the other species were social breeds that required at least 2-3 fish.  Betta fish also come in a variety of very pretty colors and styles.  We ended up settling for the standard blue Betta, but it is possible that once this one runs it course, it could be nice to pick out a more colorful or interesting looking one. 

When it came to the tank, I assumed that smaller was better.  However, I quickly realized that small tanks come with their own set of challenges.  Smaller tanks are more susceptible to sudden changes in temperature and chemical levels, which if not careful can shock your fish or make them unhealthy.  Smaller tanks also require more frequent cleaning than larger tanks.  A small 5 or even 10 gallon tank should really be cleaned at least once a week, whereas larger tanks might only need to be cleaned every few weeks. 

A smaller tank definitely does not guarantee it low maintenance.


As most parents can relate, I neither wanted a large tank nor to clean a small tank weekly, so I was on the hunt for a good middle option.  It was here that I stumbled upon the Back to the Roots Aquaponics Fish Tank

This system is a 3 gallon acrylic tank with a special lid that allows the pump water to collect in a reservoir before dripping back down into the fish tank.  On top of this reservoir is a special lid that holds rocks and grows microgreens seeds.  As these plants grow, the roots dip into the reservoir, supplying them water from the fish tank.  These roots absorb nutrients that would otherwise build up in the tank, keeping the fish water cleaner for longer. This is essentially aquaponics in a nutshell, which is a term that describes the harmony that can be achieved between plants and aquatic life.

The best part?  It is advertised as only needing to be cleaned once a month. 

My husband and I are both engineers, so we get a kick out of any opportunities to teach our kids about how the world works. We were already sold at this point knowing that cleaning is not required very frequently and its generally a cool product.  However, we were extra committed when we learned that the tank comes with "everything you need" to get started.  As parents trying to have a surprise for Christmas morning, it was really nice not needing to research and buy all the other extras, at least at the time of setup. 

This product comes with the tank, pump, grow bed lid with water sponge and grow medium for the microgreens, generous amounts of organic seeds, a one-time-use packet of water conditioner, several types of Betta fish food, and even multiple coupons!  We found the vacation-feeder tablets particularly useful, because we spent a week away travelling between Christmas and New Years.


The only thing the tank did not provide was a heater.  Betta fish are tropical and need warm water, 70 degrees or so.  Our house is often cooler than this, especially when traveling in the winter.  So, we did need to buy an additional small tank heater. 

It should also be noted that Betta fish like to have a full environment.  The fish tank did not come with any decorations or rocks for the interior of the tank. Ideally, I would have liked to buy real underwater plants to further help the fish water stay clean and healthy.  However, the pet store available to us on Christmas Eve didn't have any real plants, so artificial will do for now.

As far as setup goes, the instructions were clear and easy to follow.  The packaging states that it only takes about 20 minutes to get setup.  It took us a little longer than that, but overall very doable and simple enough for a Christmas Eve night.

It's been about one month now, and our fish is as happy as can be!

We have only just cleaned the tank for the first time, so the one month estimate is about right.  To be honest, we could have waited longer.  The two main reasons we wanted to clean it was because the water was getting low and we used a feeding tablet, which left a bunch of residue where is was placed.  It should be noted that you do need to replenish the tank with new water once a week because the microgreens are watering themselves with the tank water and therefore is consumed faster than usual.  This involves adding a few drops of water conditioner to a bowl of tap water and letting it get to room temperature prior to adding.


Overall, we love our little fish friend!

The advertising has held up in creating an easy, kid-friendly aquaponics system.  All of the parts work as expected and are well-made.  The seeds grow beautifully, even sitting on our kitchen counter, in the middle of winter, with no direct light. The tank itself is simple and not an eyesore - it actually makes a great decoration piece!  And the best part, maintenance is minimal.

As an added bonus, I love the idea of having more houseplants but I can never keep up with watering them.  This is an awesome self-watering solution that can add a little life into any room. 

Like all fish tanks, it will produce a little bit of white noise from the pump's running water, which is about the only downside I have been able to discern.  I tend to prefer total silence, but many people actually really enjoy white noise and would find this as a desirable trait.


If you have a child that wants a fish, I think this Back to the Roots Aquaponics Fish Tank is a great way to dip your toes into the world of aquarium ownership without needing to do a ton of research.  There is no need to go out and buy many different parts, and generally feels non-committal for one-off fish endeavors.  I can see us storing this tank easily in our basement when the enthusiasm has run its course, and pulling it out again in a few years when kids are older to actually learn about aquaponics - or even just to learn about growing seeds!

If anything changes about our opinion of this product in the future, I'll be sure to append this article in the future!