In the cruel pet trade, betta fish (also called “fighting fish”) fight for their lives. Pet stores, discount hypermarkets, florists, and even websites sell bettas that are forced to live in tiny glasses, small bowls, and even vases. Many of the people who buy them on impulse do not know enough – if they know anything – about the proper care of these fish, which is more complex and expensive than they think. On this page, you will learn why you should never buy bettas (or any other animal) in a pet store. If you already have a company betta fish, we will show you how to give it the best life possible.
The name is not important
Although bettas are also called “fighting fish” or “labyrinth fish,” their scientific name is Betta splendens . Regardless of what they are called, fish are complex and sensitive individuals, who suffer greatly when exploited in the pet trade.
Betta fish facts
Betta fish are native to Asia, where they live in shallow water in swamps, ponds, or slow currents. Males are devoted parents who build nests for their babies with their mouths and fiercely protect them from predators. Like us, betta fish are diurnal, which means that they are active during the day and sleep at night, that is, they need darkness to have a good rest at night.
While some bettas are caught in the wild, most of those sold in the US come from breeding farms in Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia, where it is common practice to keep them in small bottles. When it is time to pack them for transport to the US, the fish are carelessly thrown into baskets covered with nets and placed in small plastic cups.
These sensitive fish suffer greatly in the pet trade, where they are subjected to inadequate care from their birth on breeding farms, to when they are transported to pet stores and then sold.
What do bettas eat?
Plant roots are not suitable for betta fish. Bettas are carnivorous animals that in nature eat mostly insects and insect larvae. They could live for a time on a diet of only plant roots, but since they don’t have the proper nutrients for this species, the fish eventually get sick and die.
Don’t feed them too much. Too much food debris and waste materials in aquarium tanks can saturate them, generating toxic levels of ammonia and nitrite. If you already have a betta or other companion fish, remember that you should only give them as much as they can eat in about three minutes.
Do betta fish feel lonely?
Betta fish can feel frustrated and depressed. While most of them can be happy in a fishbowl by themselves, they need an enriching environment like caves, plants, and space to explore. They also experience stress, especially when other unsupported fish are put in the same tank and nibbled on by their fins.
Can betta fish live with other fish?
Having ample space and places to hide, betta females can live in a peaceful group. Males will fight with other betta and gouramis males (a similar-looking species), but they can live individually in a “community” aquarium with some other docile species of fish such as catfish, pangio kuhlii, or guppy. They can also cohabit with other species such as snakes, ghost shrimp, and frogs.
If aggression creates a problem in any community tank, you should have a separate quarantine aquarium to place individuals to avoid conflicts with other fish.
Betta fish behavior
According to scientists, betta fish can recognize their human guardians. They usually swim excitedly to see their guardians approach. They are very curious and will inspect new items placed inside your fish tank, which can help them keep them mentally stimulated.
Fish get frustrated inside a fish tank?
Pet stores, discount hypermarkets, florists, and even online catalogs sell “decorative” bettas in small glasses or vases. Fish often live in a few ounces of water, which is barely enough to turn around or even speak to swim. Any habitat for captive bettas must have enrichment such as caves, rocks, and live plants.
How to prepare a betta fish tank
Preparing and maintaining an appropriate aquarium for any species of fish is much more complex, expensive, and takes much more time than people realize, which is why PETA suggests never buying fish as ‘pets’. If you already have bettas, you can make life easier for them by providing an environment that is as close as possible to their natural habitat. While fish in captivity can never enjoy a natural life, the following tips will help make them as happy as possible.
Generally, no fish should be in a tank of fewer than 10 gallons. However, a single betta can live in a 5-gallon tank, but something bigger is always better. Almost everywhere, tap water contains chlorine and chloramine, which will kill fish, so you should treat it properly with a water conditioner before placing it in the aquarium. Once the fish tank is ready with a properly functioning filter (bettas prefer low flow spaces), substrates, and decorations, the water should be recycled for several weeks before introducing the fish. Test kits can help determine when the tank no longer needs recycling. This will allow time for beneficial bacteria, essential to break down ammonia, to grow once the fish are added to the tank. These bacteria convert fish waste into nitrates, which can be removed only with regular water changes. About 10% of the water in a fish tank should be removed and replaced once a week, and a gravel vacuum should be used to remove waste material from the substrate. Soaps and harsh chemicals should never be used to clean a fish tank because these substances are deadly to fish.
The water temperature should be kept between 76 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, bettas should never be placed in a tank with goldfish, who need cooler water to be comfortable. The aquarium should be in a place where the temperature and light are constant and controllable. Keep in mind that live plants placed on top of small containers can restrict the access bettas need to get oxygen, as they take oxygen from the surface of the water.
This is just a very short list of general rules. Do your research well before making the decision to take responsibility for caring for any fish.
Betta fish price
Lastly, the price that most bettas pay in the pet trade is their very life. Living things with unique needs and wants should never be sold as goods. And remember: Buying a betta fish at a pet store or hatchery is not “rescuing” an animal, but rather financing the continued abuse and exploitation of that species. If you already have a well-maintained aquarium, ask your friends, neighbors, and even adoption organizations if they have a fish to adopt, but don’t support the fish trade by going to a merchant or pet store.
Take action for betta fish!
Petco continues to sell these animals in small, unsuitable containers. No fish should have to live and die in a tiny bowl.