- Determine if a pet shop mistreats its bettas. Small cups may seem cruel, but bettas usually stay in a pet store for a few weeks, and are adapted to living in somewhat similar conditions for months in the wild. Because male bettas can't live together, it is difficult for stores to house them ideally, though conditions must be livable. Possible signs of betta mistreatment include:
- Consistently dirty water going unchanged.
- Containers that are never opened (implying no water changes).
- Dead and diseased bettas displayed, or moved to the back and not dealt with.
- The same bettas remain in the store for several months (store conditions are rarely acceptable long-term; this usually indicates they order too many fish).
- Containers smaller than 3" in diameter.
- Containers with no surface air (bettas are labyrinth fish requiring surface air to breathe).
- Check back at the store every few days for a month or so to see if the situation is consistent. Go as a window-shopper, and shop there if possible to establish yourself as a customer to lend more weight to your concerns. While evaluating the situation, don't confront anyone just yet.
- Offer reasonable suggestions to improve conditions:
- Suggest better locations to sell bettas so they might find real homes quicker.
- Bettas can often reside with small schooling fish like Corydoras or Otocinclus catfish, so ask if they can place bettas into real tanks. (Not with any fish the same size or larger, or with flowing fins, as they will attack these perceived "enemy fish".)
- Ask to bring in a professional, like an aquarium expert, to explain proper betta care and work towards improvements.
- See if a store will implement a 2-week health guarantee on all fish where customers can return sick or dead fish, to encourage appropriate animal treatment.
- Work with staff to come up with solutions satisfying everyone, and offer to help implement changes.
- Obtain evidence of mistreatment. If the store insists that all is fine and declines your suggestions, gather evidence of your suspicions. Note the conditions, ask to take photographs, and accurately document your conversations with the manager.
- Write a letter. If the store is a chain-store, write the main office, detailing your observations in a concerned, compassionate manner. Include photos, if any, and a summary of your conversations with the manager. Discuss your concerns and suggestions, without being aggressive or threatening to win sympathy for the animals, not make enemies. Encourage others to do likewise.
- Inform your community. If the store's mistreatment extends to other animals, contact your local news media. A letter to the editor is a good start, and if the story is compelling, a news station may be willing to report it. Send copies of media reports to the company, letting them know the public is concerned.
Add New Question
- How can I stop people from selling fancy bowls and tanks that aren't good for the fish they are made for?
You can try to start a boycott of that organization, but this typically doesn't cause much damage. If you can prove that the bowl is unsafe for the fish, you can approach a health inspector or the store manager, or contact the manufacturer to see if modifications can be made to make the bowl a better option for the fish.
Ask a Question
If this question (or a similar one) is answered twice in this section, please click here to let us know.
- Research local laws regarding protesting before attempting demonstrations. Know when free speech crosses the line to become harassment/slander.
- Stores mistreating one animal may mistreat others. Try to help change such stores' profit-only motivated attitude. After all, healthy animals sell better than sick ones.
- Pet shop owners and managers run a business, and are usually not bad people. Discuss their policies from their perspective and suggest reasonable improvements: this may work better than accusing them of mistreatment and threatening to monitor or report them. Try to persuade them that proper care is good business, as dead/returned fish mean lost profits.
- These actions are but a few ways to help bettas, or any animal. Get creative: join online or community movements; volunteer for shelters, rescues, or cruelty investigators.
- Avoid buying mistreated bettas. If unfed, their stomachs can shrink to the point of no return, and living in urine can burn skin, increasing infection risks. Purchasing such animals only raises sales, encouraging the store's behavior.
- Stores can interpret these actions as antagonistic, and you may receive nasty responses or be barred from returning.
- Picketing, writing angry letters or repeated visits to complain can be considered trespassing/harassment/slander, as well as free speech. Knowing local laws will help you obey them, and may protect you from lawsuits. Obtain required permits before such actions, as police may arrive. Respect businesses as private property, and you must leave if asked.