Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bettas Deserve Better

AT FIRST FIN it would seem a Betta is an easy pet to care for. Although definitely less demanding than pets living outside a fish bowl there are challenges that should not be overlooked.

I remember hearing about one Betta owner’s shock when her much-loved fish slipped through her fingers while transferring it for a regular cleaning of its bowl. Imagine her horror when the Betta swirled down the unplugged drain to its one-way final destination.

There was also the frantic hunt for antibiotics for another Betta that eventually died from a mysterious illness. And there was the guilt of ownership of a lonely male Betta when it stopped making bubbles it had happily been working on for weeks ... as if it realized a female would never arrive to leave eggs in the nest it was constructing.

Whether its loneliness was perceived wrongly or not there is much to learn about Bettas. When provided with a suitable environment they do make wonderful first pets for kids and for people unable to care for four-legged animals.

Bettas not only add warmth to a home they show their distinct personalities and quirks over time and are a colourful living creature to come home to.

Interestingly, the search for Bettas also reveals something about the stores that sell them. Often, the bigger the pet store chain the worst the care of Bettas. In some stores, Bettas (also known as fighting fish) are housed in tiny plastic cups containing less than 8 ounces of water for several weeks until they are either sold or die. The awful sight of these solitary fish trying to survive in tiny cups with little water can be disturbing, particularly to kids.

Hopefully, people will speak out when they see such cruel treatment and not accept the rationale that Bettas don’t suffer in cramped quarters because their natural habitat is low-lying rice fields and swamps. The truth is stores keep them in these tiny cups as a cost-cutting measure. Also, the water is likely kept low to prevent the fish from jumping out of their prisons.

The challenge is that Bettas are fresh water fish that do not live peacefully with each other. Therefore, the more responsible and intelligently run pet stores keep them in tanks with other species of compatible fish or in separate vases and bowls they can’t jump out of but that still contain ample water and the reachable surface air they need to survive.

There are many important details to explore before plunging into a Betta purchase. Searching for information about this interesting species and discovering suitable containers for Bettas can be a creative venture for both young and old. An educated start to pet ownership will help you and your Betta get along swimmingly well.

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Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms


  1. This is an excellent post. I'm not usually vindictive, but when it comes to the suffering of a living being, I would have been happy to see the name of that pet store in your photo.

  2. Thank you so much for your interest.

    I first noticed this situation well over two years ago at a Petsmart store. I not only spoke to the floor manager, I also wrote their corporate office and spoke on the phone with their public relations rep. I asked that they at least use plastic cups larger than the 8 ounce cups I had seen and to monitor the situation in all their stores. I recall they were amiable and said they would rectify the situation. When I went back several weeks later, I saw they were using similar but slightly larger plastic cups. The incident turned me off the store and I haven’t been back since.

    I recently followed up on the phone and was told they now use plastic containers that are more rounded and roomy. I plan to visit the store to see for myself. Even if conditions improve at some stores, I suspect they have not improved everywhere. The intention of my article is to raise awareness and inspire folks who see a similar situation to speak up on behalf of Bettas.

  3. Good for you! I so appreciate people like you! I've gone the route of never shopping at pet stores that keep animals/birds/fish of any kind. In the case of dogs and cats, I think reputable breeders (after a good deal of research) can be found instead. I'm not sure how that works for birds and fish.

    And.. I left an update about the Canada Goose in comments on my blog. Mainly, that I didn't find it, but hope it has either recovered or perhaps even been rescued.

  4. My follow up visit to the store revealed they did, indeed, replace the plastic cups with clear plastic containers resembling small-sized tubs of margarine, complete with lid on top. Unfortunately for the Betta, the lids were punctured with tiny and clearly inadequate air holes. The containers were lined on a shelf in columns and rows so that the fish at the back could not see the light of day.

    Many of the fish were discolored and lethargic and looked incredibly awful. I spoke with the managers who said they would enlarge the size of the air holes and review Betta placement and surroundings. While not all stores in this chain are failing Betta, some need a nudge from the public to provide proper care.


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