Building the better fishbowl: Aquaponics combines fish, greens to create cleaner food

The commercial for the AquaFarm, a three-gallon fish bowl topped with a lid for growing potted plants that its inventors call “a self-cleaning fish tank that grows food,” pretty much sums up the way aquaponics works—even if the pitch, at times, sounds like some green-techie hipster satire straight out of a “Portlandia” skit.

“The fish feeds the plants, and the plants clean the water,” exudes the product’s young co-inventor Nikhil Arora, who, with a bro-hug from fellow UC Berkeley grad Alejandro Velez, demonstrates the almost Apple-looking contraption on a stark white kitchen counter.

“The fish, they poo and they pee,” says Velez, over an animation of a purple fish dropping pellets in the tank that get drawn up through a tube at the center and absorbed by the floating roots of the plants potted in the lid.

“And all that waste, which normally just builds up in regular aquariums, actually gets pumped up to the grow bed and broken down by the plants into perfect organic fertilizer.”