fish vase
Originally uploaded by justmouse.

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.

Post Rating
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

Reader Interactions


  1. CL says:

    AZ, you could buy a 2.5 gallon aquarium at most major pet stores for only $10. You can make it work without the expensive accessories: change the water instead of buying filters, and keep the tank in a warm place (just monitor the temperature yourself with a thermometer.) A larger aquarium would be ideal, but for those of us on a tight budget, you can still upgrade to a bigger betta home without spending much. He will be happier than he would be in a 1/2 gallon vase.

  2. Christie says:

    Good point CL. I don’t know if you have ever tried this but I have heard that keeping your bettas on top of the refrigerator keeps the water nice and warm and most importantly stable. If people do want to try it I would recommend watching the temp closely for the first few days just to see how hot it gets. It does make efficient use of that expelled heat.

  3. insane veggies says:

    i keep my ne fishy in a vase simmeler to this, but without the flower, or watever that is, any tips on how to keep this clean and safe for my angel?

  4. Christie says:

    I was about to write you back when I realized I wasn’t sure if you meant “angel” as in an angelfish (as in the cichlid) or if “Angel” was an affectionate term for your betta. LOL. So, if you meant “your sweet little angelic Betta” I would say the above advice holds true. If you can keep the water clean, provide proper food and find a warm and stable location for the vase then you may be able to keep your betta healthy. It does, however, require more prudent water monitoring and very regular maintenance.
    On the other hand, if you were referring to your freshwater angelfish, then a vase set up would not be an acceptable home. The reason Bettas can survive (not necessarily thrive) in a vase when other fish cannot is because they have a supplemental breathing organ called a labyrinth organ or labyrinth lung. This allows them to remove oxygen directly from the atmosphere in a specific manor that other fish are unable to. This is a natural adaptation that enables them to survive in shallow, low-oxygenated environments. Angelfish are not equipped to handle such an environment. Other reasons Bettas can survive these smaller enclosures is because they don’t excrete a lot of waste for their size and thus won’t foul the water quite as quickly as many other fish. While most Betta keepers would agree that Bettas do spend a lot of time swimming and exploring, they are also capable of laying quite still for extended periods while angelfish require a considerable amount of swimming space comparatively.
    I don’t know exactly the type of angelfish you have but I would recommend your minimum aquarium set up to include a 29 gal [110 liters] tank, a good filtration system and an adequate aquarium heater to keep the water warm as angels are also tropical species.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am a new betta owner and have also put her in a vase. It is a large vase though, and the only plant in it is a small fake one at the bottom for her to hide in. I’m going to clean the water once a week, and I’m being very careful to not overfeed her. I’m also going to keep the vase on top of the counter where our dishwasher is because this is the warmest place in the house and pretty regular. Is she going to be happy there?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *