Creating Your Own Eden: Guide to Setting Up a Beautiful and Productive Nano Aquaponics Fish Tank Using Back To The Roots Hydroponics Kit

What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a revolutionary method of growing plants and raising fish in a closed system. This innovative approach to agriculture combines traditional aquaculture, the cultivation of fish, with hydroponic, the cultivation of plants in water, to create a sustainable, symbiotic environment that benefits both fish and plants.

So, what makes aquaponics so special? Why does it work so well? 

Aquaponics takes advantage of the natural cycle of waste produced by fish to fertilize plants, and in turn, the plants purify the water for the fish. This closed-loop system conserves water, eliminates the need for harmful chemicals, and provides an ideal environment for both fish and plants to thrive.

What type of fish is best for nano fish tank?

When it comes to choosing fish for your nano aquaponics tank, it's important to choose species that are well-suited to the small, closed environment of the tank. Some of the best options for a nano tank include bettas, guppies, tetras, and other small, hardy fish that don't require a lot of room to swim.

How many fish in a fish tank?

As a general rule of thumb, it's recommended to keep no more than one inch of fish per gallon of water. This means Back to the Roots 3 gallon tank can have 3 inches of fish or 3 small fish.  

What plants are suitable for a nano aquaponics tank?

When choosing plants for your nano aquaponics tank, it's important to select species that are well-suited to the low-light, low-nutrient environment of the tank. Some of the best options for a nano aquaponics setup include lettuce, herbs, and other small, fast-growing plants that don't require a lot of light or space. 

Back to the Roots nano aquaponic aquarium

What's in the box: 

  • 3 gallon tank 
  • Media tray grow bed
  • 3 plant trays pods
  • Growstones® rock media
  • 2 packs of seeds (wheat grass and radish)
  • Dechlorinator
  • Nitrifying bacteria
  • Fish food

How I set up my aquarium

Instead of the using the white Growstones supplied by the kit, I used ceramic clay pebbles. It's a light ceramic media and is both porous and easy to clean. I also ditched the grow pod trays because I like the maximize the amount of grow media and space to grow my plants. It also makes cleanup easier because there is only one tray to clean. 

I also added a small heater as Betta fish thrive in warmer waters. My nano tank heater is arriving in a few days so I used my old Hydor 5 W heater for now.

Cycling New Fish Tank - The Nitrogen Cycle

The Nitrogen Cycle is a biological process that occurs in an aquarium, where harmful waste products produced by fish and other organisms are converted into less toxic compounds by beneficial bacteria. The main waste products in an aquarium are ammonia, which is produced by the breakdown of fish waste, uneaten food, and other organic matter, and nitrite, which is produced by bacteria that consume ammonia.

The nitrification cycle can be broken down into two stages:

1. Ammonia is converted into nitrite by Nitrosomonas bacteria.
2. Nitrite is then converted into nitrate by Nitrobacter bacteria. Nitrate is less toxic than ammonia and nitrite, but it can still build up to levels that are harmful to fish if not regularly removed through water changes.

Fastest Way to Cycle A New Tank 

  • Use porous media
  • Add the nitrifying bacteria that came with your kit
  • Use a pre-charged gravel like Activ Betta that already contains nitrifying bacteria.
  • Add a small amount of garden potting mix. 

Skepticism using potting soil 


Some of you will question my use of potting soil in a new tank. Let me allay your fears. I have successfully started a 45 gallon planted tank from scratch using potting soil covered in sand. Both plants and fished thrived. Ammonia levels were low in the first week and non existent by the end of the 2nd week.  

45  Gallon Planted tank with potting soil topped with sand

Using Potting Soil to Cycle a Fish Tank

Pour about 2 tablespoons of high quality peat moss based bagged soil in a fine mesh filter sock. I used Pro-Mix, purchased at my garden store. It's the best potting soil I have ever used. Potting soil has a huge amount of nitrifing bacteria. I do not recommend using soil from your garden or non-peat based bagged soil as they may contain organisms harmful to your fish 

I left the folder sock of dirt in the tank for 2 days, then I removed and did a 2/3 tank water change, vacuuming all the dirt that fell to the bottom of the tank.

After this first water change and vacuum, I covered the bottom of the tank with volcanic live gravel from CaribSea. I love black volcanic gravel as it highlights the glorious color of my betta fish. You can use any Betta-safe gravel, but I recommend a live, pre-charged gravel that already has nitrifying bacteria. Gently rinse gravel with dechlorinated water to get rid of dust.

I also recommend Seachem Safe water dechlorinator. It's both a dechlorinator and detoxifier. It removes both chlorine and chloramine and detoxifies the water of ammonia, nitrite, and heavy metals. New tanks will have ammonia spikes and Seachem safe can alleviate these spikes. You can also use it 5x dosage to bring down the ammonia quickly.

Seachem Safe Dechlorinator


Troubleshooting A New Fish Tank 


Cloudy water 


The Back to the roots comes with a very rough sponge that prevents media falling into the tank. To "polish" your water so that it is crystal clear and free of debris, use aquarium filter polishing pads instead of the supplied sponge.

Cloudy water is also an indication of high organic levels in your tank and it may be time to do a water change.


Changing water in a nano tank 


Easiest to change water in nano fish tank is to use an aquarium gravel vacuum and a bucket.

Pour in the appropriate amount of dechlorinator for your tank size directly into the tank, then fill tank with same temperature water. If the change is very small, say 4 cups, you can use straight tap water. If you are doing a 50% change, use aged water that has been sitting overnight in a clean bucket or pot. Aging water allow the CO2 to gas off overnight to avoid stressing fish. Straight tap water is like breathing fizzy pop to a fish.

I use a combination of warm tap water and reverse osmosis water for my fish tank.


How often are aquarium water changes? 


New tanks 


Check ammonia levels every day. If the ammonia spikes, perform a 1/3 tank water change. I use a API ammonia test kit. If your ammonia levels are at dangerous levels even after a water change, dose with the Seachem Safe water dechlorinator at 5x dosage. Then perform another 1/3 tank water change 8 hours later. 

ammonia test kit for aquariums
API Ammonia Test Kit

Established tanks 

Every week do a 1/4 change. Every month do a gravel clean or when it's looking dirty.

Growing plants using the Back to the Roots aquarium
with a betta fish

I sprinkle a 1/4 of the seed packet into the grow tray. Using a spray bottle filled with dechlorinated water, I spray the seeds lightly with water. The wheat grass and radish seeds sprout in 2 or 3 days and grow vigorously. In the past, I have tried growing cilantro, but the growth was weak and "leggy". Even with the addition of a grow lamp, the cilantro grew weakly and eventually died. 

Back to the Roots website suggest that only microgreens be grown using the kit: sunflower, pea shoot, radish and wheatgrass.

Growing plants using the Back to the Roots aquarium without fish and using hydroponic fertilizers

The Back to the Roots with hydroponic fertilizers and a grow light was very successful growing basil. I used only Reverse Osmosis water with fertilizer designed for small hydroponic systems. I also used an older style 90W LED grow light puck that provided red and blue only. Growth was moderate compared to basil grown in soil and in the sunshine. My guess is if I change out the light source to a newer technology broad spectrum grow light, I will achieve better results.

AeroGarden Liquid Plant Food for Hydroponic Gardens

Plant Maintenance

Once they have sprouted and grown the desired length, trim the plants to the roots using a sharp scissor. I used radish greens in salads, and the wheat grass in smoothies. Now the garden must be cleaned out and restarted. 

Turn off the tank, take plant tray to the sink area. Use a clean plastic tote and dump the plants and media. Pull out the plant material and throw away. Wipe down tray with a damp cloth. Then using a bucket of dechlorinated water, rinse clean media, then scoop back into plant tray. Return the grow tray to the top of the fish tank. It's now ready to reseed.

Final Thoughts

The Back to the Roots nano aquarium is an easy to use aquaponic and hydroponic gardening system. It's an excellent fish aquarium for beginners and a versatile hydroponic garden system for a more adventurous gardener. 


1. Easy to set up and use straight out of the box
2. Seeds supplied by the kit grow well
3. Aquarium footprint is very small
4. The pump is very quiet
5. The water sounds are pleasant


1. An aquarium heater is not included. Most fish, including bettas, prefer warmer water. 
2. The Growstones® grow media suppled with the Back to the Roots aquarium are difficult to clean  compared to the clay pebble media. In fact, their website suggest the easiest way to grow restart your garden is throw out your media and replace with a new batch. 

Watch my aquarium setup on Youtube 

Please Support ❤️

This page may contain affiliate links to products I use and/or recommend. If you purchase something through a link from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation at no extra cost to you.

Aquarium Supplies 🐠🐟🐡

Back to the Roots Aquarium:

I recommend:
Aquaclear 50 filter: 

Live gravel:
Ceramic grow media:

Water Quality:
Water polishing filter: 
Fine weave aquarium filter sock:
API water test kit: 
Seachem Safe water conditioner:
Almond leaves: 
Aquarium gravel vacuum and water changer:

What I feed my betta:
Hikari baby pellets:
Frozen mysis shrimp

Back to the Roots Nano Aquaponics Aquarium

Aquasprouts Aquaponic Garden

Fluval Bio-Stratum Gravel Substrate

API Aquarium Water Test Kit

Solid Steel Frame Aquarium Stand Cabinet

Aquarium Reverse Osmosis System
Fits Faucet Spigot

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