I have written this article with the hope of discouraging Betta owners from engaging in potentially hurtful practices when it comes to their fish. Bettas are treated quite casually and often abused. I believe they are much smarter than generally known (see article entitled The Underrated Betta Fish) and deserve better treatment.
The most important abuse that takes place is this: they are made to fight with each other in many countries, their owners knowing full well that they fight to the death. In the US and the more “civilized” countries, this practice is not as wide-spread, though what we have here is not a whole lot better. Here we sell Betta aquariums with clear dividers that are meant to house two or more Bettas in clear view of each other. This is supposed to enhance their appearance, because the poor things puff up their fins, thinking their territory is threatened. What few people realize is that this practice is very stressful for the Bettas. Although the fish are not damaged externally, and what I mean by this is that they don’t tear each other up, internally they experience the same stress. We all know what stress does to our bodies. Well, it has the same effect on Bettas. How would you like to live every moment of the day continually angry? That is what happens to them when they are placed in those sorts of aquariums. They feel continually threatened, and live in constant stress. Overtime, they get sick and die, whereas they would have had much longer and better lives if they were left to lead a peaceful existence.
Bettas are bred and transported in tiny little jars, and most of them never see a bigger aquarium, since they are also kept in small jars by their owners. This is an error, and it can be attributed to those people who say that Bettas are not pretentious, and that they’ve even heard of them living in the puddles left by horses’ hoofs somewhere in Southeast Asia. Just because Bettas can live in that sort of an environment doesn’t mean they like it. Fish love to live in large spreads of water, no matter what species they are.
Another issue is the cleanliness of the Betta aquariums. Just because Bettas can live in murky water doesn’t mean the average Betta owner can let the tank water get ridiculously dirty before they change it. What’s worse, some people actually believe that they can buy these sorts of Betta jars, where the poor thing is sandwiched in between the bottom of the tank and some silly plant growing above. I’m not sure who spread that silly rumor, but apparently they’ve said the Bettas need no food or fresh water when they’re placed in that sort of jar — and the rumor has spread! Apparently, the jar can be a fully self-contained, perpetual eco-system! What kind of a cockamamie story is that? I’d like to know what these people were on when they came up with this crud. Would you like to live in a tiny jar, surrounded by your own pee and doo-doo, and be forced to nibble on bitter plant roots when you’re naturally carnivorous? If you do, there’s something wrong with you. Bettas enjoy a nicely sized aquarium as much as the next fish. Don’t forget that while their origin is indeed from Southeast Asia, and they are commonly found in flooded rice paddies, their”aquariums” over there are quite large. They encompass entire fields! Yes, the water may be murky at times, and when the sun dries up the fields, they may shrink in size to little puddles, but that doesn’t mean the Bettas like to live that way all the time.
A mistake that people make is not spending enough time with their Bettas. Most of the time, they are thought of as ornaments to the room. That’s not how a smart fish can be treated. If they are continually ignored by their owners, the Bettas will withdraw into themselves, and will become loners. They will shy away from the owner when they are fed. The owner’s face next to the bowl will cause the fish to be frightened instead of happy.
Another problem I’ve found — and although it may seem minor, it does matter — is the size of the Betta Bits, the round pellets one finds in the pet stores. I’d like to know if the people who make those things have ever tried to feed them to the fish? They are much too big for their small mouths. My poor Bettas struggled to swallow them until I discovered that if I split them in half, it would make the job much easier for them. Why aren’t these things sized right? Bettas are not goldfish. They don’t have huge mouths. They are not the pigs of the aquarium; they are delicate little creatures, and their food ought to be tailor-made for them.
Do you know of other ways in which Bettas are shortchanged or worse, abused? Write about it in the comments.