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Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Better Water Bottle? Lixit Glass Bottle Recycle Kit

Water bottles tend to be the bane of a rat owner's existence. I have repeatedly said that there is no perfect water bottle. But could it be that this answer may be about to change? The product that is winning me over: The Lixit Glass Bottle Recycle Kit.

First, some background on water bottles.

Most water bottles for small animals are made of plastic. Plastic can harbor bacteria and is hard to disinfect. This is especially bad for a water bottle, where water sits all day, just inviting a bacterial problem, which can be made worse if the water isn't changed often. Plastics can also contain harmful chemicals that may leach into the water and they are at risk of being chewed by bored small animals looking for a little fun.

The few glass water bottles that are available are often problem ridden. I have always used the Super Pet glass water bottles (I believe they are also marketed as Kaytee glass water bottles). They are reasonably priced, but are prone to leak. I have had bottles that have leaked straight out of the box. Others worked for a while and then leaked. They all will leak if you don't get them to seal properly when you fill them and turn them upside down. Messing with them a bit will usually fix that particular problem, but what happens if I have a pet sitter and they don't know the ins and outs of working with these bottles? Leaking problems are exacerbated by the fragile nature of the rubber gasket in the cap, which can become dried out, damaged, or cracked over time, or may simply get lost when unscrewing the cap to change bottles or clean the parts.

In addition to leaking, these bottles can also jam without warning. I have had this problem more often on the smaller sized bottle (6 oz), which has a smaller tube. I know to check the bottles periodically and to watch when the rats drink to make sure I see air bubbles going up the bottle. If I am diligent, this won't be a problem, but what if the water bottles jam when I am on vacation and have someone else watching the rats?

There are a few other glass water bottle options, but reviews are often very similar to the Super Pet bottles, and none have looked promising enough to make me want to switch.

The exception seems to be the Lixit Bird Water Bottles - the ones that are made to be indestructible to larger parrots. They come with a stoppered tube rather than a screw-on tube, and thus there is no need for a fragile rubber gasket to seal the bottle. They also come with an indestructible mount that will hold up to the strongest of parrots.

Unfortunately, those bottles are quite pricey. The 16 oz bottle with 5/16" tube is currently about $35 on Amazon plus about $10 shipping (only available from marketplace sellers and not Prime eligible). Replacement bottles run about $10-$15. You pay for the durability, which is unnecessary for most small animals. Because they are targeting the larger parrots, most have a tube size that is too large for rats and that won't even fit between the bars of many rat cages. They do sell them with smaller tubes (5/16" is the size the reviewers recommend for rats), but it is harder to find the smaller ones - some pet retailers like Drs Foster and Smith don't sell the small tube size at all - and some online listings focus on the bottle size and do not even list the tube size (in which, I have to assume the tube is wider).

Recently, I decided I would look back into the Lixit Bird Water Bottles with the rubbered stopper tube. I need to replace some of mine (gaskets are broken or missing) and I really want a better alternative to the Super Pet bottle. I was thinking of trying one of the Lixit Bird Water Bottles, despite the high cost. If I have at least one to buy me peace of mind when I am away from home, it might be worth it. I decided to see if I could find a better price at some of the bird supply stores I have frequented in the past, since I would be paying shipping even through Amazon.

During my search, I happened across a Lixit option I had never seen before. The Lixit Glass Bottle Recycle Kit (also called the Lixit Snapple Bottle Kit in some places). It is geared toward smaller birds (finches, parakeets, and the smaller parrots) - birds that do not need the indestructible design of their more expensive product.  However, it is also marketed toward "Rats, Guinea Pigs, Chinchillas, and other small animals." It uses the same stoppered tube design as the better quality bird bottles. The kit comes with no glass bottle included. Instead, you supply your own recycled Snapple bottle (other 16-oz glass beverage bottles will work as well, reportedly), which also means that you have a plentiful supply of extra glass bottles for little extra cost (none if you drink these beverages anyway). It is very reasonably priced - in the same rough ball park as the cheaper bottles - and as such, is a much more economical alternative to the Lixit Bird Water Bottles.

But, would they work just as well? Or would it be just a gimmick? This kit is frequently not offered by vendors and even when it is, it often does not come up in my searches for water bottles. If it is so economical and if it works so well, why isn't it pushed by vendors?

I have a lot of bird friends with parrots. Many of them are show breeders / exhibitors with a lot of bird cages that need drinkers. Surely they weren't paying the high prices of the Lixit Bird Water Bottles in that kind of volume and surely they weren't wasting money on products that don't work well. If anyone would know about these, they would. So I asked around. Sure enough, some of them are using them and all who use them said they love them. I was sold. Maybe this was the real deal. If it was not, it was affordable enough that I could take that risk.
Once I knew what to look for, I was able to find it on Amazon from marketplace sellers for about $14, including shipping. (The retailer I purchased from was GlobalPets [about $7 plus about $7 shipping), and if I ordered multiple quantities, each subsequent bottle only added on $2-3 more dollars in shipping. They are currently down to only 1 in stock, probably because I ordered 4). Yesterday, I received them in the mail and I have to say that my initial impression is very very good!

UPDATE: Here is a link to the 7/16" (medium) kit from Amazon.

Lixit Glass Bottle Recycle Kit installed on a DCN.
Of course, I can't speak to durability yet, but based on the positive feedback that I got on these kits and the reviews of the lixit bird bottles, I have high expectations. I will post again after some time has passed to let you know if I have any leaking or jamming or other unanticipated problems, but I am very optimistic. I will say that the stopper fits on Snapple bottles very snugly and that I had no problem installing the kit. When you turn the water bottle over, you tap on the ball in the tube a few times to help seal the vacuum lock. The water seems to flow out easily and the bottles I installed did not leak upon my first attempt to mount them to the cage. The bottle is better secured with the mounting hardware than the Super Pet bottles were, although probably not as secure as the full-featured Lixit Bird Water Bottles would have been. Super Pet bottles have a tendency to lean, and while these can lean somewhat, they are less prone to lean or slide around. They survived the night without leaking and I have seen the rats drink from them.
The tube on the small size kit (5/16") is a little more narrow than the Super Pet 12oz bottle tubes (closer in size to the 6 oz bottle tubes). However, I have found the Super Pet 6-oz bottles to be very stingy at releasing the water, whereas the water seems to flow freely from these tubes when triggered. The rat-owning reviewers of the Lixit bird bottles all agree that this is the proper size for rats. The water seems to come freely out of the bottle, so I don't think they will have any problem with the tube size. Apparently, there also is a medium-sized kit with a 7/16" tube, but I suspect that the wider tube might be too wide, as that is larger than the 12 oz Super Pet bottle. Someday, I might buy one to try it, but I think for the most part, I will be happy with the 5/16" tube.

UPDATE: I have noticed that it takes a long time for the rats to drink and Jo sometimes gets frustrated and bites the nozzle. I see air bubbles go up the bottle, so water is coming out, but I don't think it is coming out as fast as they would like it. I have ordered some stoppers with the medium tube size (7/16") to see if these fit their needs better. I will post again when I get them and have tried them out.

UPDATE 2/27/14: I definitely recommend going with the medium kit (7/16" tubes). The water flows much quicker through these tubes and my rats had no trouble operating them. They are very close in size to the Super Pet 12 oz bottles (a tad bigger, but you can barely tell). If you already have the small kit, you can order replacement stopper tubes in the larger size and use the same mounting hardware to hold the bottle, saving money.
Installation was fairly easy. For anyone who is interested in seeing how they are installed, I will add a second blog post with the installation instructions. You won't need my instructions to figure it out yourself - the instructions that came with the kit are pretty clear. But it is nice to see how something works before buying, to see if it will work for your setup.

Cleaning should be straightforward as well. The wide mouth opening of the Snapple bottles should make them easier to clean than Super Pet bottles and the instructions claim that all parts of the kit can be sterilized and cleaned in the dishwasher.

NOTE: When searching for this item, make sure not to confuse it with the Lixit kit that comes with a blue 28-mm threaded cap tube that screws onto shampoo and soda bottles. That kit is more of the standard water bottle cap that screws on, with a gasket to seal the bottle. It is not designed for use with glass bottles.

Related Posts:
Installation Instructions for the Lixit Glass Bottle Recycle Kit
Lixit Glass Bottle Recycle Kit - 7/16" Tube Size (Medium)
A DIY Mount for the Lixit Recycled Water Bottle Kit


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