OK, no pre-amble on this post: some ‘containers’ are simply too damn small for a betta fish.
Here’s a nice clear example to get started with (this was posted on reddit a few days ago by an outraged betta fan, u/totalhhrbadass):
To be perfectly clear: you cannot keep a betta in a container like this long term. Even a few days is pushing it.
Trying to keep a betta in a container like this on a permanent basis constitutes animal cruelty.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people that are aware of this and simply don’t care – they manufacture, advertise and sell products like the one shown above regardless of their unsuitability for bettas.
To make matters worse, there are many people that are unaware of the issue and therefore end up keeping bettas in awful conditions when keeping a betta for the first time.
This is a post we’ve been wanting to write for a while, and the Reddit post really spurred us on to get it done. We’ve seen the issue crop up online a lot recently, and we want to shine as much light on it as possible. Fortunately for bettas, they have some good people on their side – people that are infuriated by this (us included) and want to spread the word about how bad it is.
Sometimes bettas will be housed in a small container on a temporary basis for isolation or transportation purposes, so in a way there is some logic to offering these small containers for sale (although there are plenty of household items that would also suffice on a temporary basis).
But the container shown in the photo above is not being presented in this light. It states on the box ‘the perfect intro to betta keeping’ and ‘ideal for home and office’, which it certainly isn’t.
If you’re going to manufacture a product for betta fish, you should have done enough research to know that this will mislead people and ultimately end up causing harm to a fish.
Presenting a product like this for sale in a fashion that doesn’t make it clear that it’s not suitable betta housing is irresponsible.
The redditor that originally posted the photo states that it was taken at Petco. Really it’s irresponsible for Petco to stock these without a warning that they are not long term betta housing. They don’t manufacture it themselves, but it’s clear what will happen.
A store such as Petco is seen as an authority figure by customers. People have a responsibility to do their own research before buying a product, but by offering such products for sale the store appears as if it is endorsing them. People will see the product and believe it’s suitable.
There’s only so much employees can do
In the Reddit thread a Petco employee contribues and says how he/she tries to dissuade people from buying these containers as much as possible (good work u/KingGojira), but without breaking workplace rules.
This is commendable but realistically there is only so much employees can do to put people off buying without risking their own job. For anyone that understands the appropriate conditions to keep a betta in, it is frustrating to know that someone is buying equipment that is vastly inappropriate.
A good local fishkeeping store (LFS) would also make it clear to potential customers that such a small container isn’t suitable betta housing – some would even refuse to sell the fish if they’re not convinced the customer has an appropriate setup.
But unfortunately, there are plenty of stores that don’t do enough – both chain stores and local fish keeping stores. We understand that there are pressures for any business and they need to sell goods to turn a profit, but letting people keep pets inhumanely is irresponsible and unfair on the animal.
Really we would like to see chains such as Petco doing more to protect the fish they sell, and educate customers about the appropriate conditions.
What size container is OK for a betta?
We’ll soon be posting a new article that looks in detail at the debate on betta tank size. It’s a big discussion among betta keepers and there isn’t a simple answer.
For the sake of making a comparison to the size of the container shown in the above photo: our current recommendation is that a betta aquarium should be 5 US Gallons / 4 Imperial Gallons / 19 Litres.
We will save a more detailed explanation and discussion for the debate article (sign up here to our newsletter to find out when it’s live, we’d love to hear your opinion on it.)
But the point of this article wasn’t to discuss the best tank size, it was to help raise awareness of tanks that are clearly too small. To put it into perspective, the container in the photo is a quarter of a US gallon. Our recommendation is 5 US Gallons. That makes it 1 / 20 of our recommended size. Even if you were to half our recommendation, the pictured container would be 1 / 10 of the size.
This graphic is drawn to scale and shows the Petco container size compared to our recommended size:
To compare to the recommendations of other sites:
– The RSPCA recommends 15L (4 US Gallons) as a minimum, or 20L as optimal.
What you can do to help
We know that we’ll mostly be preaching to the choir with this post – many people that read it will already be aware that such small containers are inappropriate for bettas.
But want we want to do is at least start making some noise about it publically. The more we can all spread the word, the better.
In the future, we can only hope for tougher legislation on shops that condone this kind of thing.
For now, we’ve also created a page that explains that someone’s betta tank may be too small.
If you’re worried that someone is keeping a betta in an extremely small container, you could send them the page. You could even send it anonymously if you don’t want to tell them directly.
We’ve seen people saying online that they know that a friend or colleague is keeping a betta in too small a tank, but don’t know how to break the news to them, so we thought a page like this could be useful.
We’d like to know if you think this is a good idea. Is this a good way to break the news to people? If you’ve got any other ideas, as always we would love to have your feedback in the comments, or email us if you prefer.
Thanks to those of you that continually try to ensure that bettas are kept in the best conditions possible. We know a lot of pet store employees do this, and there are plenty of people both online and offline that advise and educate others about the best conditions for bettas.
If we all keep doing all we can to raise awareness, the less bettas will be kept in unsuitable housing.
Special thanks to u/totalhhrbadass for allowing us to use the photo at the top of this post, and to u/KingGojira for allowing us to reference his/her comments from the thread.