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Got an aquarium? Got an indoor garden? Why not put them together? Aquaponics doesn’t have to be a big endeavor. You can create even a very small scale aquaponics project, like this aquaponics setup in a mason jar. Of course, you want to dip your toes into the waters first, so to speak. Before you switch over your whole system to aquaponics, try this introduction to growing with betta fish.

Why add fish?

All creatures create waste, and betta fish are no exception. You probably also know that animal waste has long been used as a fertilizer for plants. That’s exactly what the benefit is of creating an aquaponics setup with betta fish. The bettas don’t require particularly large amounts of space, given their size. And they will provide a natural source of nitrogen that can be pumped directly from their water into your plants’ root systems. By keeping betta fish in your hydroponics setup, you can save money because you will need fewer packaged fertilizers. Your plants will additionally be exposed to beneficial bacteria and trace nutrients from the fish. Also, it just looks neat!

Setting up your own aquaponics experiment

Some fairly elaborate aquaponics systems are available. But while you are learning about how they work and what setup will be best for your own grow room, it’s best to start with a simple experimental setup. Once you get the basics down, you can plan a more detailed setup that includes more betta fish.

Ideally, you want your fish to be in containers larger than mason jars. They are living beings, after all, and they’ll thrive with more room to swim around. This is beneficial for your indoor garden too, because healthier fish will create a healthier environment for your plants. And a bigger aquarium means more of the fertilized water will reach your garden. A tank or jar that is at least 1 gallon in size should be enough room for a betta.

In addition to size, you should also check that your hydroponics growing medium or potted plant will fit in the opening of the fish tank. For the initial experiment, you will want to choose a small plant, like some herbs, if you are just using a large jar with one fish. If you would like to try it with a larger plant, like tomatoes or other flowering plants that produce yields, you will need to start with a larger tank and more than one fish (or a larger variety of fish). Again, it’s a good idea to test just one plant before jumping in.

Next, you will need to find a live plant to keep in the aquarium. Because of the aquaponics setup, the plant you are growing will provide very little in exchange for the nutrients the betta provides. A safe plant like java fern, anacharis, or anubias nana, will help keep the water clean and provide a hiding spot for your fish. This plant is not food for your betta. It will need fish food.

Another thing your betta will need is water oxygenation. You can keep the water in the aquarium oxygenated by changing out a large portion of the water, slightly less than half, each week. That water is valuable, though! Instead of dumping it, use it to water and fertilize plants that are not growing with a betta fish setup.

Note that you can use other aquatic animals besides betta fish for your first aquaponics experiment. Just suit the aquarium size to the animal or animals. For more in-depth instructions, talk to our team at Indoor Cultivator!