Oh the loud noises you will hear from the betta community speaking up against people that keep their betta fish in vases and bowls! If you are currently housing your betta fish in a vase or a betta bowl, for the safety of your eardrums, don’t go proclaiming it to anyone! You may have even been keeping betta fish in jars, bowls or vases for years and tell yourself that you’ve never run into a problem. So what’s all the fuss about then directed at these “cute” bowls and fashionable vases?
Well, here we go then. Let me tell you all about it.
Warm Betta Water Bowls
because of the small tank size and low water volume, it is hard, if not impossible, to safely heat a fishbowl or vase.
Flipping a coin over where to start on why fish bowls and other small tanks are a problem, warmth of the aquarium is a big issue. Betta fish come from the tropical climate of Thailand and need their artificial environment that you provide them to be in the 78f-80f range. They need this warm water not simply to stay nice and cozy, but because warmer temperatures are vital to the health of the betta.
One of the biggest problems with a small sized fish bowl or vase is that, because of the small tank size and low water volume, it is hard, if not impossible, to safely heat a fishbowl or vase. You shouldn’t just fix the temperature problem in the fish tank by turning up your personal space heater either. Home heating systems are for keeping you warm. Not to mention the unnecessarily large heating bill you’ll rack up in the process of heating a gallon of water and the human house it’s in.
One of the most common questions regarding the health of bettas is along the lines of “why doesn’t my betta move around much?”. So very often the answer to that question involves turning the temperature up on a poorly heated aquarium. That question is also often asked by people that have their bettas housed in small fish bowls.
If you care for your betta and want him/her to enjoy a nice and long, happy life, that betta tank has to be heated! It really can’t be stress enough that bettas need heat, so I just said it again! Aquarium heaters are pretty inexpensive, and so is a simple 2.5 gallon fish tank. If you think purchasing these things for your betta is too much of an inconvenience, wait until you have a sick and dying betta fish that you are emotionally attached to. Twenty-five bucks and a trip to the store. Or have them shipped to you! Even easier.
Clean Betta Water Bowls
Ammonia is the number one silent and invisible killer of domestic betta fish.
Proper water condition and maintenance for betta fish can be a relatively complicated matter to discuss. There is quite a bit of knowledge that a betta enthusiast should know and understand if they want to keep their fish happy and health for years to come. Most of that complexity can and should be left out of this particular guide as it falls beyond the scope of the topic at hand. That being said, there are still points to address about small fish homes and the water that they contain.
Ammonia is the number one silent and invisible killer of domestic betta fish. Experienced betta fish keepers try their best to keep ammonia levels in the betta aquarium at zero percent. Ammonia in the aquarium at any level is harmful to the betta and is poisonous up to the point that can be downright deadly at high levels. The ironically troubling thing about ammonia is that bettas naturally create, or rather, excrete it.
Ammonia enters the betta fish tank naturally in three different ways. The first is that it is excreted from the betta gills as a natural part of fish respiration. The second way ammonia enters the fish tank is through the decomposing of fish food that has fallen to the bottom and let rot. The last way is through the bettas waste being broken down.
Betta fish suffering through high levels of ammonia in their fish tank may start showing some telltale symptoms. The betta may start going up for air more often and look like it’s gasping in the process. The betta gills will start turning red and/or light purple in color. The betta will start to lose interest in it’s food. Lethargy, general disinterest in it’s environment and clamped fins are also a symptoms of betta ammonia poisoning.
If the high levels of ammonia in the betta’s fish tank are not brought down, tissue damage to the body of the fish will be next. The betta will exhibit bloody patches and/or red streaks on it’s fins and body. After that, the ammonia poisoning spreads to the bettas internal organs, brain and nervous system. The betta will then experience internal and external hemorrhaging followed by death.
So now that you’ve read all of that gloom and doom, lets talk about some ammonia levels that you may find using a water test kit. A water test kit, by the way, is something every betta owner should have. There is a really great kit online that is more than worth the price for how many test strips are included. More than likely, you will only ever have to use a few of them anyway, once you get a better understanding of aquarium maintenance. Saying that to say that the kit will you a very long time.
All of the following reading are in PPM (parts per million) as described in your aquarium water test kit. Ammonia levels up to 0.02 may be considered safe. Levels reading 0.05 is cause for you to schedule a water change. If the ammonia levels reach 0.2 you need to get working on that water change as your betta is being harmed. When the ammonia levels hit 0.5 your betta is being poisoned and under duress. I’ll write that down here so it’s easier to read.
Ammonia Level Reading
It should also be noted that you cannot smell or see ammonia even at the toxic 0.5ppm level. That’s why it’s called a silent killer.
Now that you have a better understanding of safe and dangerous ammonia levels in aquariums, lets go into how fast ammonia levels can rise in fish tanks of different capacities. This is really the meat of explaining why fish bowls, vases and other small, yet quite popular tanks are so dangerous to your betta.
Lets say that we have a 2.5 gallon aquarium and a 5.5 gallon aquarium filled with water and both have an equal 0.25ppm ammonia reading. We are using these aquarium sizes for simplicity’s sake. The 2.5 gallon tank is a generally accepted “fine” size tank for a betta. Anyway, it will take the 5.5 (bigger) aquarium about 24 hours to have it’s ammonia reading reach toxic 0.5ppm levels. The smaller 2.5 gallon tank needs only 12 hours (half the time) to reach the same 0.5 toxic ammonia level.
The smaller the container, the faster the ammonia levels will rise.
So you see now that ammonia levels take longer rise in aquariums that are larger in size as compared to smaller aquariums. The smaller the container, the faster the ammonia levels will rise. Using that experiment above, you can use your head and figure out pretty easily that housing your betta in a trendy fish bowl or vase is a really dangerous thing to do. Most common fish bowls are about a single gallon, and that’s really calling it on the large side.
To combat ammonia levels in a betta’s aquarium, betta keepers change out the water at regularly scheduled intervals. These water changes and their frequency vary between fish tank size and the accessories they contain. We aren’t going to go into the details of proper water changes in this article. We will say that to compare the proper frequency of water changes in larger fishtanks to small fish bowls, you would have to change out 100% of the water in the fish bowl every 12 hours out of a 24 hour day. And that’s just to keep the ammonia levels down to safe levels for a few hours! Fish bowls are such a bad idea.
The problem involved with trying to change out the small fish bowl’s water every 12 hours isn’t actually how much of a burden it places on you. The stress that these incredibly frequent water changes will put on your betta can honestly be deadly. Betta fish do not do well with stress, and one of the surest ways to put stress on a betta is by moving it around constantly. Even if you were to meticulously acclimate the betta to it’s fresh new water every 12 hours, it would never really have any time to adjust and de-stress.
So here you have a situation where a betta is living in a small fish bowl or vase, the fish bowls has consistently toxic levels of ammonia that harm the betta, and you can’t move the betta because the frequency of the changes can kill it. Buy a bigger aquarium!
Betta Vase Space
The rice paddies and swamps betta fish call home are complete ecological systems. You are not going to find those qualities in a small fish bowl.
While it is true that a betta’s natural habitat is in the shallow rice paddies and swamps of Thailand, what may people fail to consider is that these paddies and swamps are long and flowing. Wild betta fish generally stake claim on several cubic feet of rice paddy and swamp water each. They have the room to do so. In the wild, betta fish also have plenty of areas to remain stimulated, explore and find places to hide.
The rice paddies and swamps betta fish call home are complete ecological systems. The gently flowing water in these systems control toxin levels naturally. Scavenger animals and bacteria present in these natural betta homes help break down and render harmless the wastes that betta fish produce.
You are not going to find those qualities in a small fish bowl. Betta fish like having space to stretch their fins. Having an aquarium large enough to provide hiding spots and live or silk plants helps keep your betta healthy. As an owner of an exotic pet, you need to try and match the conditions that pet would find in nature to the best of your ability.
Believe it or not, oxygen is limited in water. It’s true that betta fish can breath oxygen directly from the surface air, but they primarily breath oxygen from the water. They are fish. Fish do that. The more surface area of the water in the aquarium is exposed to air, the more oxygen is available in the water itself. If you look at a typical fish bowl, there is only a small opening on the top that lets the water touch the air.
Peanut M&M’s Are Betta in Bowls
After reading through the entire article, you must now have the understanding that the concern in keeping a betta fish in a sub 2.5 gallon aquarium has to do with betta health and safety, rather than silly “blissful wishes” from betta fish enthusiasts. In a blissfully wished upon world, fish bowls would only ever be used for keeping peanut m&m’s in. Preferably at my house.
The one thing “betta fish” related that you will not find on this website is a recommended aquarium that is smaller than 2.5 gallons. A 2.5 gallon tank per betta fish is the minimum size you need to provide to your betta in order to promote health in a betta fish. If you want to take a look, we have a slowly growing list of aquariums that are bettafishy.com reviewed and recommended for bettas looking for a nice place to live.