Q: AZ wrote,
I know you don’t think Betta vases are a good idea but is there any way to make them work? I have one and I can’t afford to upgrade to an aquarium.
A: Betta vases aren’t all bad in their own right, but they come with inaccurate directions and most people who purchase these vases aren’t properly versed in betta fish care. If the buyer is able to meet the needs of the fish, then the vase could be suitable home. Problems tend to arise because the nature of the set-up makes it difficult to meet these needs. Here is a break down of basic requirements to keep your betta healthy. If you can accommodate these then you may be able to make your vase set-up work. If not, then I would consider a second hand aquarium from a garage sale, local aquarium club or online auction for your fish.
Surface Access: Betta need to surface for air. They have gills but will always rely, at least partially, on their labyrinth organ even in water that is oxygen rich. A betta that is refused access to the surface can actually drown. Make sure that your betta can freely access the atmosphere and that the surface isn’t being blocked by the plant.
Clean Water: One of the reasons these vases are frowned upon is because they contain such a small volume of water. Once the plant is added, even more water is displaced. Most of these containers hold less then half a gallon. Such a small container may need a full water change from one to several times per week depending on the varying circumstances. Keep an ammonia test kit handy and test the water every few days to make sure the fish is never being exposed to measurable amounts of ammonia. Remember, healthy plants may help to remove some toxins from the water but by no means will remove them all. An unhealthy plant may actually contribute to ammonia build up as the plant breaks down.
Feeding: Bettas are carnivores and require appropriate feedings of betta pellets or live or frozen carnivorous fish food. They should be fed daily with one day a week fasting, give or take. Bettas can not survive off the roots of the plant and unlike the directions often say, need daily feedings instead of the once or twice a week as the vase manufacturer’s direct. (**Some vases say the bettas don’t need to fed at all. This is dangerous and will lead to starvation.)
Heat: Bettas are fully tropical fish. They survive in water temperatures that naturally fall around 78F (25.5 C). When temperatures fall below 75F bettas can suffer the effects by becoming susceptible to disease. Since these vases don’t easily allow the addition of an aquarium heater, they will need to be stored some place where the temperature is warm AND stable. A sunny window is not acceptable because the water can quickly heat up to dangerous levels and may fluctuate greatly from day to night.
These are the basics of Betta fish care. It’s possible for a diligent and resourceful owner to make it work but it may require a bit more maintenance and monitoring then your standard aquarium. My personal advice is to try a more conventional aquarium if this is your first betta. I personally think more harm then good comes to fish that live in these set-ups and I would rather not support the manufacturers with my hard earned money until they learn to provide the proper directions with their Betta vases.