Most helpful positive review
337 of 355 people found the following review helpful
Four tanks and counting...*latest update 11/06/13 -added a fourth star.
on July 12, 2013
This seems to be becoming a love it or hate it item, though I'm not sure why. Yes, it has/had some flaws, but it's still a unique and worthwhile item. I've posted a few pictures of my tanks.
Update 11/06/13- As others have observed, the tray on my oldest AquaFarm finally began to show some warping. I contacted BackToTheRoots and in a short time received three new frames and trays and a light weight growing media. While I am overall supportive of the AquaFarm, I have also not hesitated to be critical of it's flaws as I see them- but their customer service deserves 5 stars.
The company has made changes to the product. They have moved the pump out of the plant tray- a major improvement. I believe they have also upgraded the included air pump, and are adding something to prevent fish from entering the lift tube. More than enough for me to amend my 3 star review to 4.
As for reviews claiming the AquaFarm doesn't "work", of course it works. Aquaponics works. The devil, as they say, is in the details.
I've had 3 of these set up for a while now. Judging from other reviews, it seems the tank isn't meeting expectations as a herb garden. I can't say. I bought them as Betta tanks. With the modifications I described previously they are proving to be exceptionally nice little tanks. Because it lacks a conventional aquarium filter it is sometimes being deemed inferior- it definitely isn't.
Mechanical filtration and chemical filtration is not normally needed. The proliferation of filters requiring floss-carbon cartridges isn't because they are needed, it's because selling replacement cartridges is very profitable.
The truth is, everytime you replace a dirty cartridge with a nice clean one you have just thrown away a major portion of the bio-filter, which is the real and most important filter.
A good bio-filter needs exactly what this provides- a low to moderate flow of well oxygenated water and something for the bacteria to attach to. The more surface area the better. The stones at the bottom of the net pots provide a great deal, along with all the interior surfaces and the net pots. Lay some filter sponge in the tray and you have probably at least doubled the surface area.
Regular "3 stage" small filters usually come with a little rectangle of sponge or plastic seated in front of the expensive throw away cartridge and that is the "bio" part.
I keep all 15 pots growing wheatgrass for nitrate reduction. I don't cut it, I take it out roots and all and re-seed. Algae can't grow without nutrients and evidently wheatgrass doesn't leave many. I have zero algae growth. I haven't had to do more than small water changes. The water is clear and the fish are healthy. A 10 watt heater keeps them a good temperature.
As a display tank, it falls short. It's not really a pretty tank or easily decorated if that is important to you. As a small Betta environment however, it excels.
PLEASE BE AWARE: My tanks are cycled. The tank must fully cycle. You must not overfeed or expose the tank portion to bright or extended periods of light. Most issues involving algae or dirty water are due to one or more of those three things- overfeeding, too much light, or an uncycled tank. The first two are completely preventable. The third requires patience and possibly a little research if you are unfamiliar with the nitrogen cycle.
Previous review and updates are below.
UPDATE: Another reviewer has discovered a discrepancy between the included instructions and the manufacturer's directions regarding the use of the included D-Klor product. The instructions direct you to add a "capful" to the newly filled tank- the manufacturer's directions calculate to 1 1/2 mL for 3 gallons (a capful is 4mL). I don't know if the dose is toxic/harmful, but changing the manufacturers directions without notice or explanation is unacceptable. Whether this was simply an oversight, an attempt to keep things simple and/or make certain enough is added, or a way of increasing sales of the declorinator by almost 3X the necessary amount I don't know. I'll give the benefit of doubt and assume it was the second reason.
*I believe this issue has now been corrected by the manufacturer.
Everyone seems to hate the air pump, and with good reason. Fact is it's the exact same pump included in every small aquarium kit I've ever purchased and I've never once actually used one for anything important because it's a weak little pump that can't even handle a check valve. It should not have been designed to be seated in the plant tray even if operating the pump on it's side wasn't a no no. Maybe fish "get used" to the constant vibration, maybe not. How do we know, so why subject them to it? That is really my bigger criticism, I can forgive going with the cheap air pump to keep the price down, and probably would have substituted one of my choosing anyway.
*Company has since changed to an improved air pump and designed it to be placed outside and away from the tank- a significant improvement.
There is an issue with the plant frame/tray. It doesn't fit perfectly into the tank, and others seem to have a problem with it warping further. Mine seem pretty much the same as when new, but I don't take them on and off a lot.
*Top and tray are now manufactured to remain more rigid, and a lighter weight growing media is used.
Originally I questioned the practice of cycling the tank with the live fish, and I still feel that isn't properly addressed or explained. The overly simplistic and rather childish directions are very inadequate if you are unfamiliar with fish keeping and the nitrogen cycle and just plain irritating if you are old enough to read them.
There have been complaints on it's ability to grow some plants. I'm not certain how much you can expect out of five tiny little pots fed by one tiny little fish. I haven't been disappointed, but I had no expectation of making salads from it either.
I'm happy it doesn't include a light. I don't want to pay for what I don't need or want. I'd rather choose and supply my own depending on the plants I want to grow, and the fish tank doesn't need a light. Lights can be very expensive, very cheap, very simple, very elaborate, and everything in between.
This unique little tank does have a lot going for it though. ONCE CYCLED it is very low maintenance, very stable, and perfectly suitable for a single male Betta. It can be easily modified and improved with:
-The addition of a stronger air pump situated away from the tank.
-Aquarium filter sponge added both to the plant tray and a cube place over the bottom of the lift tube to increase/improve the bio-filter, provide some mechanical filtration, and protect against the fish being drawn into the lift tube.
-A single layer of larger, round, smooth, rock type substrate in the tank rather than the shale to minimize any build up of organic matter in the gravel bed. (Or no substrate at all if you really want zero build up and don't mind the look of a bare bottom tank.)
-Appropriate heater and thermometer since a single Betta is really the only good choice for this size tank.
I now have three, all fully cycled with media from established aquariums. They are less work than a regular 3 gallon tank, not zero work but not very much either. The plants do reduce nitrates, so water changes are not as frequent or large, and I don't overfeed so build up is minimal and easily siphoned out. I like them a lot.
Got this today so these are first impressions..
The tank is nice, a substantial feeling acrylic. The upper part of the clear wall of the tank has a frosted 1/2 inch wide area across it, the bottom I assume is meant as a fill line. It leaves about a 1/2 inch of airspace between the water surface and the bottom of the plant tray, which is important. If the tank was filled completely to the bottom of the plant tray a Betta would be unable to take needed gulps of atmospheric air and possibly drown.
The plant/water tray fit into it well enough and fortunately putting it together was self explanatory since there were no directions. (There is an overly precious how-it-works story printed on the cardboard packing that wouldn't have been much help.) I assume the Betta coupon went missing along with the instructions, but since my cup runneth over in the Betta department I didn't need that either.
The shale rocks are smooth so flowing fins are safe. They took a bit of rinsing, and after filling the tank I drained and refilled again due to more clouding from the stones.
I didn't use any of the additives, I have no need for a declorinator (and not certain I'd use the included Vitamin C because of the unnecessary added Aloe if I did).
I wasn't subjecting a Betta to an uncycled tank, so I put some mature media (sponge from an established aquarium) in the plant tray, making the bottled bacteria redundant.
I was simply transferring a resident Betta, and it was just say no to the fish tranquilizer/debugger bath. I see no reason for the inclusion of clove oil. In a high enough dose it anesthetizes fish, whether a lower dose "calms" them in any beneficial way I don't know but I have my doubts. I'm not sure the other stated ingredients, citrus oil, eucalyptus oil, and aloe vera have any proven benefits for fish either- IMO it would be best to skip the "bath" and just do a single drip acclimating to the tank water itself.
After trying the included pump I decided to use a different one for more water exchange.
I didn't like the pump placement. It is nice to have it hidden away in the top- unless you happen live underneath. Fish are pretty sensitive to vibration. By running a longer piece of airline tubing out the notch meant for the pumps electrical cord I positioned the pump away from the tank.
I added a thermometer and small heater. I had to drop it in through the feeding door since there are no other openings to run the cord out of. Bettas need a heated tank. Just because they don't instantly drop dead at room temperature doesn't mean they like it. At 78° they're just getting comfortable, around 82° and up into the low 90°s, it's party time in Bettaville.
#Another reviewer has since enlightened me to the fact that a heater cord can be run out the side where there is a small gap like "handle" - works perfect and looks much better.
Without any instructions, the seeds, rocks, and water better know what they're doing, because I don't. I put a layer of stones just a bit over the water level in each basket and sprinkled the wheat grass seeds on top. They seemed the most idiot proof of the three types.
As you can probably tell, I'm more interested in the aqua-part than the farm-part. Since it's too small for much else, as a dedicated Betta tank it should have included a heater and thermometer and the pump shouldn't be housed touching the tank. Otherwise it is a decent little tank, seemingly made with a good quality acrylic. Some may wish the tank was lighted, or at least clear on all four sides rather than only two, but Bettas prefer shady/low light conditions, so I have no complaints there. The actual fish feeding plants, plants cleaning water, lazy person eating plants all day and never cleaning tank circle of life remains to be seen.......
One day later:
The wheat grass seeds have already sprouted. I'm not certain what one does with wheat grass, but it looks like I may need to find out. Chances are my cat will be delighted by indoor grazing with a built in entertainment center underneath.
The 6 month old twintail Betta looks pretty content in his new digs, though he's a bit perplexed by the feeding chute. Normally food appears in relation to wherever he sees me, I'm still in front but his food keeps sneaking up behind him.
UPDATE: Ten days set up; the wheat grass is about six inches above the rim of the baskets- for semi-instant gratification it's a winner. The cat nibbles happily at it. The Betta is healthy and adjusting to looking under the chute at feeding time.
Because I created an instant cycle with established media, water tests predictably show zero ammonia or nitrites and only a bare trace of nitrate. The fish food included seems good quality and the tiny size (1/2 mm) pellet makes overfeeding less likely. None of my Bettas seemed to have trouble seeing it even though most Betta pellets are closer to 1mm. I only feed pellets occasionally however, most of the time I use live or frozen which generally have less impact on water quality.
Overall my initial impressions/criticisms still hold- I would have liked to see more consideration for care of the fish in that a *heater/thermometer should have been included and the air pump definitely shouldn't have been seated in the top.
Update *Having given it some thought, I've decided perhaps the inclusion of a heater would have been a mistake. For one thing, it would raise the price quite a bit and some people will already have one. Those in warm climates may not need one, and the exact heater needed or preferred will not be the same for everyone.
An inexpensive aquarium thermometer would have been a nice touch however. *
Otherwise, it's a clever little tank/herb garden based on sound principles, and definitely probably the best small Betta specific aquarium yet.