In this article we’re hoping to provide some useful information for anyone that’s researching a Blue Tang alternative, probably after watching Finding Dory.
The article has become a bit longer than expected, so to give a quick summary upfront, there are a few things we’ll cover:
- Blue Tangs are a hard beginner fish to keep
- There are also negative environmental considerations to keeping them
- A betta is a great alternative to a Blue Tang, and a good ‘beginner fish’
- Petco even ranges a ‘Paradise Betta’ that is blue and yellow like a Blue Tang / Dory
- But Petco also sells inappropriate ‘Betta Kits’ alongside these bettas
- We’ll also have a look at betta keeping beginner mistakes & misconceptions
Why no Blue Tang?
It’s already been covered fairly extensively by other media outlets that the way Blue Tangs and other wild fish are caught has negative environmental consequences. A rise in demand for Blue Tangs as a result of the new Finding Dory movie would make matters worse.
Furthermore, Blue Tangs are not a good choice for the novice fish keeper. They’re not an easy fish for the beginner aquarist because:
- They’re exepensive to keep
- They get sick easily
- They grow to a large size (and therefore need a large tank)
A Betta Alternative
If you’re researching Blue Tangs after watching Finding Dory, we’d therefore like to suggest an alternative: the betta fish.
Amongst other reasons (which we’ll talk about in more detail below) betta fish are:
- Easier to keep than a Blue Tang
- Just as colourful
- They’re friendly
- They’re not as expensive
BUT while bettas are easier to get started with, naturally there are still considerations to be made. We’ve therefore put together this article to explain not only why bettas are a good alternative, but also some of the misconceptions / mistakes made by novice betta keepers.
So, why choose a betta over a Blue Tang?
It’s much less hassle and it’s a lot cheaper…
Bettas are freshwater fish, meaning they live in inland bodies of water – in particular, the shallow rice paddies, ponds and streams of Southeast Asia. Blue Tangs, as you may already know, are saltwater fish. This means they live in the sea, the ocean.
Generally speaking, freshwater fish are easier to keep than saltwater fish. Keeping saltwater fish often takes more precision, patience, time and money. There are exceptions, but certainly in this case the betta is an easy freshwater fish to keep, whereas the Blue Tang is considered intermediate difficultly even by experienced marine fish keepers.
Blue Tangs are a particularly expensive fish to keep as they grow to about a foot long, meaning they’ll need a large aquarium.
Blue Tangs grow large – bettas do not
At a minimum, a Blue Tang needs to be kept in a 4 foot long (around 250 litres) aquarium. A betta fish however, kept on its own, will live happily in an aquarium of a minimum size of 5 US gallons.
Here’s an image we’ve created roughly comparing the size of a betta and a Blue Tang:
Bettas are a lot easier to look after long term
Bettas are often the go-to-fish recommended to novices when they begin fishkeeping, whereas Blue Tangs are recommended to experienced marine aquarium fish keepers.
Blue Tangs have fussy habits and are susceptible to things like a slight change in water conditions and waterborne diseases. Blue Tangs are reasonably fragile fish. Generally speaking with keeping marine fish compared to freshwater fish, there is less margin for error.
Furthermore, if your betta gets sick, it’s easier to quarantine it in a hospital aquarium should you need to. The hospital tank for a betta would be much smaller than one for a Blue Tang, and it would be easier to set up.
Betta fish are just as colourful as Blue Tangs and can even have the same colours!
You may or may not have noticed that betta fish can come in many shapes and colours!
As we talk about in more detail below, Petco is selling Paradise Bettas that have a blue body and a yellow tail like Dory – as shown in the picture below.
As much as they aren’t a similar shape and do not have similar patterns, we think they are just as vibrant and impressive as a Blue Tang!
And it’s not just Petco’s Paradise Betta that is blue and yellow, there are plenty of other blue and yellow bettas. Here’s one called Rhaegal that was submitted to our site:
Bettas have more personality, making them especially good for kids
It’s not often thought that fish can have a personality, but bettas are very intelligent. They’ll often swim up the front of the aquarium when you’re near, sit and observe you. The same things can’t be said for Blue Tangs, though. Most of the time they’re so busy patrolling an aquarium they don’t even notice you; they do indeed ‘just keep swimming’. They do stop to feed and may occasionally take note of your presence, but as far as this aspect of fishkeeping goes, bettas are one of the best fish when it comes to interaction. This makes them especially good fish for children to keep.
We would like to put a caveat in here, though. While bettas are good for kids in the sense that they’re friendly and a good beginner fish, naturally kids will need a parent to be involved with both set up and maintenance in order to ensure a happy and healthy betta.
Petco’s ‘Paradise Betta’ is OK, but the Penn Plax Betta Kit they sell alongside it isn’t
In the US, Petco has cleverly anticipated the potential rise in demand for Blue Tangs and is selling a ‘Paradise Betta’, which has a similar blue and yellow colouration to a Blue Tang.
Really Petco hasn’t done anything particularly special with the betta itself, they’re simply imorting (from China – thanks to u/EnvyTheirGreed for pointing this out to us) and promoting a betta that has similar colours to Dory. Some people have pointed out that the Paradise Betta is actually what is known as a ‘Mustard Gas’ betta that has been relabelled. But nonetheless, it’s still a great-looking fish, so let’s have a look at some photos.
And /u/ErrantWhimsy took inspiration from her Paradise Betta, Sinatra, to change her own colouration!
For the most part Petco’s Paradise Betta are a good thing. If Petco can steer people from Blue Tang’s to bettas, and make a commission in the process, there’s no harm done.
But our gripe, and that of other betta enthusiasts, is that Petco is also selling a ‘Penn Plax 0.5 US Gallons Disney’s Finding Dory Betta Kit’ alongside these bettas that, at 0.5 US Gallons, is far too small for a betta.
In fact, Petco even has a care guide on its blog stating that ‘Bettas ideally need a 5 gallon or larger tank’, which makes it even worse that they sell a 0.5 gallon ‘betta kit’.
Admittedly it’s not Petco that manufactures the kit, it’s Penn Plax (who also know better), but still, Petco sells it alongside a betta, thus endorsing it.
The advert below, for example, shows a betta within the starter kit.
Now, the photo in this advert is Photoshopped – the betta isn’t actually in that tiny tank – but it still gives a beginner the wrong impression, especially when bettas already have a reputation as ‘hardy fish that can survive in small aquariums’ (more on this below).
Petco doesn’t directly state that it’s suitable long term betta housing or anything like that, but it’s still irresponsible to advertise it in a way that could give people that impression.
We have actually written about this issue – Petco selling less than adequate containers that are misleading to beginners – on our blog a couple months ago as well.
The Petco employee that we quoted in that article, Reddit user r/KingGojira, has actually said that he warns customers when they are buying bettas about such containers being too small . It was also r/KingGojira that posted to Reddit about Petco’s ‘Paradise Bettas’ a couple months ago (thanks again for your work, r/KingGojira!).
So while we take our hats off to Petco for acknowledging that a betta fish is a good alternative to a Blue Tang, and for steering potential Blue Tang purchasers to something more suitable (a ‘Paradise Betta’), the ‘Betta Kits’ that they are promoting alongside the Paradise bettas are misleading and inappropriate, and you shouldn’t buy one.
To reiterate: At 0.5 US Gallons, the water volume is far too small. On its blog Petco recommends 5 Gallons – that’s 10x larger! The kit doesn’t come with a heater, nor a filter. This is also the case with other betta aquariums, but at 0.5 Gallons, it’s too small for a heater and filter to be added, and these are needed for proper betta care.
For more information on betta care, please see our ‘Learn’ section and our betta keeping requirements article.
Beginner Misconceptions & Mistakes
At this stage you may have already decided that a betta, or perhaps another fish, is a better choice than a Blue Tang.
If you are considering a betta and if it’s your first time keeping one, there are a few common misconceptions you should know about, as they can lead to mistakes that are cruel to bettas.
The main misconception is that bettas are hardy fish that can live in a small container.
Yes, they are hardy fish. Yes they can survive in small containers for short periods, but they cannot thrive in them. A small container (like the Penn Plaxx one above) is OK for temporary housing, but not long term. It will do for a matter of hours or days, not weeks or months.
Given this, hopefully you can see the frustration that is caused by Petco selling products like the Penn Plax ‘Betta Kit’. Both companies, as fish experts, must be aware that it is inappropriate, and that is adds fuel to the fire of betta fish misconceptions. Yet they continue to sell it, at the expense of the fishes health, and at the expense of the consumer, who will either end up with a dead fish much sooner than anticipated, or will have to spend more money when they realise it is no good.
On this page you can see some great example aquariums that people have submitted to the site. Sometimes they state they started off in a small container, but later upgraded to something much bigger.
Following on from the last point, another misconception is that bettas are ‘low maintenance’ fish.
Yes, relatively speaking – compared to a Blue Tang – they are low maintenance. But they are not low maintenance to the extent that you can buy them alongside a basic ‘starter kit’, put them in the container, and have a happy, healthy fish ready to go. There are other basics that they need, which include:
- A heater for the aquarium (in most cases). The aquarium needs to be kept at a consistent temperature between 78 ℉ to 82 ℉. Betta fish originate from Southeast Asia, they are a tropical fish and in most countries (including the US) need a heated aquarium.
- The aquarium should also have a filter. A filter is essential for cycling the aquarium and creating the suitable water conditions for a betta. These Penn Plax ‘kit’ above does not come with a filter, and does not have room for a proper one to be added.
Even this is oversimplifying betta care, but for the sake of brevity, we have only included these two points as they are the main ones that illustrate the shortcomings of the ‘betta kit’ above. For more information on betta keeping requirements, please see this article.
There are many more things we would love for you to know about keeping betta fish. As much as they’re considerably easier fish to care for than Blue Tangs, keeping any animal is a commitment and takes time and patience. You don’t want your betta, nor any other fish, to have to survive the conditions it’s kept in, you want it to thrive and enjoy life. In the ‘Betta Kit’ we’ve written about above, it would be surviving, not thriving.
Bettas are an absolute joy to keep when happy and thriving, they don’t ask for much. If you’re buying a betta and have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment on the site or send us an email. After all we want you to get the most out of your betta fish, they look amazing and can have a great personality – it would be a shame to miss out on that!
As a final reminder:
- Don’t buy a Blue Tang / Dory unless you’re really committed
- Consider a betta instead, maybe a ‘Paradise Betta’ from Petco
- But don’t buy the ‘Penn Plax .5 Gal Disney’s Finding Dory Betta KitBetta Kit’ sold next to it
- And please do some basic research before and after buying a betta
Some other relevant articles that you may find useful:
From other sites:
- National Geographic – The Horrific Way Fish Are Caught for Your Aquarium—With Cyanide (this applies to Blue Tangs and other wild fish, not bettas)
- Variety – ‘Finding Dory’ Could Lead to Dangerous Demand for Blue Tangs as Pets
- Quartz – Finding Dory will make the Blue Tang fish popular and that’s not a good thing – this article has a good video explaining the problem of keeping Blue Tangs
A few of our own:
A few of our own articles that are related to the betta care issues we’ve talked about in this post. To see more of our betta care articles, go the the ‘Learn’ dropdown in the navigation menu. Also feel free to message us with any questions you have.