"Hi! My stepson just got a Betta from a local pet store for his 10th birthday. We have done some reading about Bettas on the net, but we still have some questions, hopefully you can help us. We want to treat our Betta fairly, and keep him happy. We were unaware that the popular Betta in a vase with plants at the mall is actually a cruel thing to do. We have our Betta in a clear, glass vase, but we do not have plants in there. It has a very wide, open top. He seems to be happy swimming around in all the extra space and increased water surface area.
Someone at the pet store told us to get plants to put in there, although they did not know what kind. Until I saw your website, I was planning on finding out what plants to put in there. What would you suggest is the best environment for our Betta in our home? Can he stay in the vase without plants, or should we have him in a different container? We have different colored, glass marbles at the bottom of the vase. Is that okay? Also, should we have a lamp shining down on him to raise water temp?"
The best environment for any fish is one that closely matches its natural home. Unfortunately it is rather challenging to provide that kind of environment in a vase. However its not impossible make the vase a reasonable home for your Betta if you are willing to make the effort. You haven't mentioned what part of the country you live in. In climates that are warm year round a Betta can do pretty well in a vase; provided the owner changes the water regularly, keeps the vase clean, and provides the proper diet.
Warm Water Needed
If you live in a northern climate, wintertime can present obstacles. Cold temperatures won't necessarily kill the fish outright. However, being subjected to long periods of cooler than optimal water temperature will stress the fish, rendering it far more susceptible to disease. Placing the vase in a warmer location in the house will help, but the best option for those living in cold climates is to keep the fish in a heated aquarium.
Another option is to put a mini-heater in your vase. Keep in mind that bowls are challenging when it comes to maintaining the proper temperature. It is easy to over heat, underheat, or have wide variances in temperatures. Frequent large temperature swings can be as stressful as constantly low temperatures. If you choose to keep your Betta in a small vase and heat it with a mini-heater, make sure you monitor the temperature closely.
As for a plant, don't add a large plant to the vase. Although some report that Bettas will nibble on a plant for food, that is not entirely true. Bettas require meaty foods and are not plant eaters in nature. Yes, if they have no other food available, they will nibble on the plants. However, plant matter is not the ideal food for them.
Furthermore, it will be much easier to care for your Betta if don't have a large plant in the way. If the vase is large enough, a small artificial plant can be used, but make sure the plant doesn't block out the entire surface of the water. Bettas need to reach the surface regularly. Do not use live plants in a vase that has only marbles for the substrate, as there will not be enough nutrients to support healthy live plant growth. A small artificial plant
The glass marbles on the bottom of the vase are okay, and are easy to remove for cleaning. Keep in mind that food can and does fall under them, so be sure to clean them whenever you perform your regular water change.
Key Habitat Factors
The key factors for keeping your Betta happy and healthy are; keep the water and vase clean, feed your Betta a varied diet, and avoid letting the water remain cool (below 75) for long periods of time. Your Bettas appearance and behavior is a good yardstick to measure how he is feeling. A healthy Betta will be colorful, have a healthy appetite, and is active and interested in what is going on around him. A listless, inactive Betta that has a poor appetite and/or frayed fins is a red flag that something is wrong in the environment.