August '03 - Humberto Hepp's 4 L Betta Bowl. (Brazil)
Ah, the fish bowl! Seeing a tank like this causes many aquarists to sigh and enter 'flashback' mode, you can almost hear the harp song as they begin remembering that little round tank with a Goldfish they had on some counter/shelf in their parent's home or some relative's, and the wonder they felt while spending hours looking at it. There's only one thing wrong with the pleasantry of this image: the poor fish! Unfortunately, that little Goldfish or Fantail or Black Moor (Carassius auratus) is a terrible choice for a fish bowl. Goldfish are large fish, they grow to 20 cm or more and live 10 - 20 years easily when properly cared for, in a tank that needs to be at least 80 liters. So the poor little Goldfish that has always been added to these little fish bowls are merely babies, which face a short and miserable life of only a few months without ever knowing adulthood. The only reason they've always been 'abused' this way is their hardiness...other species wouldn't last a week in a bowl, while Goldfish last a lot more. However, just 'lasting' is not enough...fish aren't soap bars or detergents or batteries, they're living beings which deserve to live a comforatble and complete life, being well cared for and dying of old age like any other pet!
But it's no longer necessary to subject the poor Goldfish to such torture! The Betta, or Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta splendens) has become very popular and the ideal choice for the little fish bowls which will always exist and are an important source of 'initiation' into fishkeeping for many people. The Betta is a small fish - unlike Goldfish they're generally sold in shops already at their adult size of 5 cm, they have an immense variety of beautiful solid colors, they're quite hardy, and can indeed live their entire lifespan of about 3-4 years alone in a fish bowl. For such to happen all you need to do is learn a little bit about some basic care requirements and tank maintenance (how much to feed, how to change water and prepare the new water for use, etc). The Betta is not very picky about the water it lives in (as long as there are no sudden changes in temperature, pH, etc) and, unlike Goldfish which need a lot of oxygen in the water to live well (therefore require tanks with good filtration and circulation), the Betta has an organ called 'labirynth' which allows it to absorb oxygen directly from the air, and thus live well in tanks with still water such as fish bowls.
In summary, if you're thinking about initiating in fishkeeping but aren't ready to invest much yet, or if you only have very limited space for a fish tank on your office desk etc, then do like Brazilian aquarist Humberto Hepp and set up a Beautiful Betta Bowl! Humberto went even further and added gravel and a bog plant, which helps the setup become even more balanced and attractive. Let's see what he has to say about his experience:
"A fish bowl with a Betta is a great option for limited space. A bowl with 4 liters of water or more can make a Betta much happier than those tiny Betta pots some people keep them in. The inhabitant of my bowl is a yellow-orange Betta. You can see him swim happily around, checking out his territory. The bowl sits amidst the mess on my study desk. I don't remember the name of my plant. I bought it in a flower shop as a bog plant so it's ideal for this setup. The substrate is common gravel mixed with some artificial yellow pebbles. Maybe laterite gravel would be even better for the plants which, in fact, get their nutrientes from who knows where to grow like they do! They use the CO2 exhaled by the Betta e he doesn't need an aerator, so I think there's a satisfactory amount of CO2 for the plants. I keep the pH between 6.6 and 7.0 always, never too alkaline (low CO2 content). Initially it had only 4 leaves and in 4-5 months I was already removing amounts larger than in these photos into my 160 L Amazon tank, they look great in large tanks too. Good plant for interiors, it has few requirements in terms of lighting and nutrients. The bowl gets only indirect sunlight from the window just behind it. As it tilts towards the window I rotate the bowl to maintain the 'erect' aspect of the plant. It reaches over half a meter high! In the bowl I use Alcon Anti-Algae and to stabilize pH I use Atlantys 7.0 buffer, and also Tetra Easy Balance. With these products I can get away with not cleaning the bowl for 3 months and only one water change in this period. During winter, a 2.5 Watt heater makes the Betta approach it on colder days. It's a setup of little trouble and the fish hasn't been sick in this habitat for about a year. I've kept a Betta for 4 years in a much smaller bowl, I hope this one will live even longer!" - Humberto.
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Photos taken by Humberto Hepp and displayed here with his permission.