Bettas in Vases!

You’ve probably heard of the Peace Lily in a Betta Vase. Also known as Siamese Fighting Fish and Peace Lily living in harmony with each other, or Peace Lily in a Betta Bowl; Betta in a Flower/Plant Vase/Bowl.

The basic idea is the same, the betta is put in a small amount of water (often a half gallon or less), with a peace lily or similar plant stuck in the top of the vase/bowl. Supposedly the Fish eats the plant roots, and the plant eats the fish poop. A perfect Eco system. No water changes, no feeding, the perfect gift! There is also a few more versions that say only do a couple of water changes a year, feeding once a week. Now here’s the real story..


Info on Bettas in a Lily Vase

Dispelling the myths of the Betta in a Lily Vase setup
Co-written by Rae Buckner and Emily Hall

The lily vase setup was originally the idea of a man (not an aquarist, by the way) who first envisioned it as a goldfish affair. Goldfish, unlike bettas, do eat plants and so would be able to survive on the roots of the plant (although it is questionable whether or not a goldfish could survive just on roots) and keep it in check. Unfortunately, when the design was first implemented, it was found that the goldfish could not survive in the water because they have a lower tolerance than bettas for water quality, and they could only live for a few days. A quick switch was made to the design making the male betta the fish of choice-and the idea hit the market. Unfortunately, the instructions were not updated to reflect the needs of the betta and the result is arguably nothing short of mass-produced, aesthetically pleasing animal cruelty. Although the marketing of this design varies from place to place, most of the instructions claim that the fish will eat the roots of the plant and needs no other food, and that the water in the vase only needs to be changed once a month. Both of these claims are completely incorrect, and, to add insult to injury, the plant will eventually kill the betta.

1) You have to feed your fish. Bettas are carnivores and they must eat meat. They cannot survive on roots, and likely wouldn’t eat them at all. You need to buy some specially formulated betta foods. Betta Bites from HBH, or Hikari Betta Bio-Gold are good choices. You can also buy freeze-dried foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, an daphnia. Just remember to moisten freeze dried foods before feeding them, feed only small portions twice a day, Frozen foods are good as well but remember to thaw them first. You may also use some flakes with your betta but remember to moisten them first as well, only feeding a small portion at a time {keep in mind some bettas do not like flake foods and/or other brands of foods they can be picky eaters}. Bettas enjoy a variety of foods though, and nutritionally it is wise to feed a small variety. Feed your betta twice a day, {if your using pellet foods then only feed 2-4 pellets at a time, depending on the size of the betta and the size of the pellets}, remember to only feed small portions for a bettas stomach is small. If your betta doesn’t eat all the food you put in then remove it after a few minutes, or the food will quickly foul the water and remember to feed less the next time. Sadly, when not fed, bettas can sometimes live for weeks, even a few months before completely starving to death.

2) You need to change the water in a vase frequently, especially if it is a small vase, because the water will get dirty quickly and easily, I highly recommend not keeping bettas in anything smaller then 2 gallon tanks. A reasonable size tank is 2-3 gals, or 5-10 are even better size homes. I do suggest 25% daily water changes (or 100% 2-3 times a week see the betta care guide for more info) on all unfiltered betta homes. I highly recommend if the tank is at least 2 gallons of water to buy a 25 watt aquarium heater (no larger then 25 watts for that small of a tank) to keep a steady temperature of 82ºF {84º at the most} for a heated tank. Also if the tank is 2 gals or larger a light may come with it. Bettas enjoy the night and day contrast {but be careful of temperature flucuations caused from the heat of a light bulb} If you have a larger home for your betta, filtering/cycling your tank will reduce the stress of both you and your fish, air powered sponge filters are excellent choices {just remember to get a gang valve to slow down the current, too swift a current can be stressful}. If you are very consistent and do daily water changes you could keep a betta in a small tank, but why risk it? A betta is more likely to get sick in a smaller body of water, seeing as it takes less time to become toxic from wastes, and temperature fluctuations are more common in small bodies of water. Your betta will love you for a larger more stable home.

3) The water you use for your Bettas should generally be your tap water. Despite what you may think ordinary tap water is in nearly always better then bottled waters (which are heavily filtered, sometimes removing all minerals even). If you have City water then you will likely have Chlorine in your water, a simple dechlorinating product will safely remove the chlorine (one that does not contain a lot of conditioners is best). Also on City water you might have Chloramines as well in this case you need a product like Amquel which removes both Chlorine and Chloramines safely. Just follow the package directions as to how much to add. If you simply have Well water that is clean, and has not been bleached recently then there is no need to add a dechlorinater or chloramine remover, no conditioners are needed.

4) The Plant in the vase is dangerous. Every time a leaf dies on top its root dies below, and when a root dies it rots and fouls the water. The rotting root will dirty the water and make your fish stressed leading to sickness. Sometimes the fish will pollute the water itself from its own waste, and kill the plant. But often it is the other way around. The best thing to do is to remove the Plant from the vase completely, so that it will not make your fish sick. But if you insist on having the plant in with the fish, then you will need to clean the roots of the plant often and trim back the roots and remove any dead ones. You are putting your fish in danger by keeping the plant in there. The plant can harbor deadly bacteria in its roots that you will never be able to clean out of it.

5) Also you need to know that Bettas are a Labyrinth fish. That means they breathe through a special organ similar to a lung. Bettas gulp air from the surface of the water. And if they are in a Lily Vase setup they may be unable to get to the surface and die from a lack of air. So please either remove the plant or, cut some holes in the cup that holds it, some people cut a small hole an put a piece of air line tubing in the hole. At the very least leave some air space (at least a half-inch of space) above the water.