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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After seeing the Back to the Roots Garden product and reading reviews, it seems like many peoples' Bettas die or get sick in this setup if they listen to the manufacturers and don't clean the tank. People who have added aquatic plants to the tank have also had more success.

I started to wonder why the Bettas got sick/died, even though the idea behind the product makes sense (or would seemingly make sense to people who don't know about the chemistry involved).

Obviously there is ammonia and/or bacteria buildup in the water which harms the fish, and I have a specific theory on why this happens which may help an inexperienced fish owner considering buying one of these and wondering why they still have to clean the tank. However, I am not in any way a scientist or familiar with very detailed plant biology and I was hoping someone could verify if my theories have any merit.

Theory:
So, as we know, fish and fish waste make ammonia, bacteria turns ammonia into nitrites, and then bacteria turns nitrites into nitrates. If there is too mute ammonia, fish can get ammonia poisoning. But also if there is too much ammonia, the bacteria flourish and then there is too much bacteria and then the fish gets infections.

Now, from my understanding, the plants one would grow from these gardens do not intake ammonia directly. They absorb nitrates, convert to nitrites, convert nitrites to ammonia, then use that ammonia for food. The ammonia has to be converted into nitrites and then nitrates, and this is not an immediate process as anyone knows from tank cycling. And the plant uptake of the nitrates is not an immediate process either.The reason this is problematic is that while the plants are absorbing nitrates, there are still ammonia and nitrites in the water which will cause bacteria/harm the fish.

Additionally, since bacteria mostly grows on surfaces in the tank (and obviously the plants are not absorbing the bacteria from these surfaces) if you don't clean the tank, you are just leaving these bacteria to grow inside the tank. And since you have ammonia and nitrite buildup in the water, you're going to end up with too much harmful bacteria, and get infections, blah blah.

Lastly, I don't think the conditioner which comes with these gardens detoxifies ammonia. Some tap water has ammonia already in it, and if the person buying the garden doesn't know that this is a possibility, they're not going to know that a different conditioner is needed. This means that in some cases ammonia is being introduced directly to the tank, worsening the conditions even further for the fish.

Tl;dr if you're going to buy a Back to the Roots Garden, make sure you still clean just as you would a regular tank, and still educate yourself on how to properly care for a Betta.
 

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Confession Time

I have one! I researched them and figured out the mechanics of how it worked and so far so good. I have noticed that the pump picks up a lot of waste that builds up in the tray for the roots. So far everything is going well, but I watch this tank like a hawk. Neptune lives in this tank.

I do 50% water change twice a week. I added more gravel than it came with, as well as added in some bio media in the root tray to culture my little bacteria friends.

My water tests after 2 months are reading:
Ammonia: 0ppm
Nitrite: 0ppm
Nitrate: 20ppm
pH: 7.2

I also planted my own assortment of plants on top. I planted Oregano, Tyme, Rosemary, Cilantro and Parsley. Everything is growing nicely except the Cilantro and Rosemary which haven't even sprouted. (thinking they can't handle the moisture)
I also added a 50W grow light, in addition to it being next to a morning sun window. Flourish Excel takes care of algae (but is not shrimp safe, be warned.)

The tank is also heated 78F, unsure of how my plants will feel about the warm water to be honest lol.
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Freshwater aquarium Fish Fish Aquarium Tail
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That's my point though, they work great if you clean the tank and do everything else you would normally do with a Betta. The plants just don't clean the tank "for you" as the product advertises.
 

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As a beginner who started with this tank, I can agree that they are NOT self cleaning. I left it the first 3 weeks without changing water at all. When I finally started researching why my fish was looking gray, I did a 100% water change and washed everything. The gravel, the tubing, and the tray were full of brown stuff (poop? Brown algae?) I never tested the water then, but I'm doing it regularly now, and they tell me it's fine.

I also stuff moss in the out filter holes because the current was too strong and plant matter from the seedlings kept getting in the tank.

Now that I'm more informed my main complaint is that it's a hassle to open the tank. It's the cord! If I want to take the top off completely, I have to thread the cord back through the top and hope the end doesn't fall in the tank. Has anyone thought of cutting out the compartment?




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I actually wanted this tank for a moment there. Not because it's self-cleaning (what BS) but I just like how it looks. I have two questions though:

1) how do you feed the fish? Just remove the top compartment each time?
2) am I just not looking hard enough or is it sixty bucks?

I also wondered about where to put the heater since the plant compartment doesn't seem to have a hole for the cord to go through, but it looks like people have managed to MacGyver their way through already x)

Edit: another question about another much-hated tank: the Betta Falls. Why do we hate it again? Not saying it's a great idea but - well, why do we hate it again?
 

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This is NOTHING like betta falls. I hate that thing. This is a 2.5 gallon. It has a little latch where the "6th plant" would be for feeding. I also use that hole to run my syphon down and clean the gravel. But the hole isn't big enough to get my pump vacc in, so I use my mouth to start the syphon with just the tubing from the gravel vacc.

It is slightly inconvenient, when you add water back, you need to take the plants off the top. The plants/cups are on a separate tray than the one that catches debris for them to use. Be careful also not to shuffle the debris and flush them into your tank. I just put the plants/pots on a towel and pour the water carefully into the hole where the pump line comes up. After some adjustments, I got the cords to all fit through the little notch it came with for them. I put the heater easily down the side right next to the pump, the cord gave me no troubles.

You have to be very careful not to disturb your seeds until they root. Some of my seeds were like grains of sand. If they don't root and you pour water, they will wash away..

So is it "easy"? NO.
But, as a scientist at heart, I love it. It is an interesting "project", but I wouldn't recommend it to a beginner keeper, or someone who wants low maintenance. I personally don't mine the maintenance, I feel home grown herbs are worth it.

We hate betta falls because the compartments for each male are only slightly bigger than the cups we sell them in. Over time, the space between each "tank" gets moldy from the moisture. Also, the flow is too strong, and to top it off, whoever lives in the farthest cup from the filter gets all the poops and uneaten foods washed into his tank. I didn't buy this one, but one of my friends/co-workers gave it a shot. She let it run for 2 months before kicking it to the curb and getting Aqueon Mini Bow 2.5s

EDIT: Amazon is the cheapest place to get it. If you add it to your wishlist, it will often go on sale for you. I had it on the list FOREVER, at one point they offered it to me for $30. http://www.amazon.com/Back-Roots-31000-Water-Garden/dp/B00CN52TRM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454348781&sr=8-1&keywords=back+to+roots
 

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Here are some pics of the mechanics in works.
Food Cuisine Nut Dish Ingredient

Food Dish Cuisine Comfort food Ingredient


Electronics


It's hard to see, but I ran the cord for the heater right up against the outer tank, outside of the grow tray. The grow tray bows (as negatively reviewed on amazon); but hey, make the best of it. It gives spave for the heater cord xD
 

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Now, from my understanding, the plants one would grow from these gardens do not intake ammonia directly.
The plant roots do absorb ammonia. Whether or not it's quickly enough is another matter. I can't find a list of the seeds they have but from images online it looks like a total of basil, parsley, some form of lettuce and wheat grass (??? It looks too skinny to be lemongrass). First of all, if you plant basil it's not going to grow quickly enough to uptake ammonia from the water at a sufficient enough rate. I used to have a proper hydroponics system and it was one of the slower growers and slower to germinate too. Not ideal. Never had parsley in a hydroponics setup but it is in general quick to grow and I know wheatgrass (if it's that) and lettuce grows very quickly in hydroponics. The person buying has to take this into account. Slower growers and those that need less nutrients are not going to sufficiently uptake enough ions by themselves increasing the need for water changes.

@torileeann11 I've never grown cilantro before (I only just realized this too whoah) but rosemary requires a drier soil. I usually plant in a mixture of soil and sand for better growth, it definitely needs the drainage. The oregano might need to be removed after germinating since they prefer a drier environment to constant water. I've grown them in hydroponics before and they take well but their roots were never fully submerged 24/7 so you may need to check the bottom of its pots once it starts growing roots through the pot for rotting.
 
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