Betta splendens, also known as Siamese Fighting Fish, are a species of fish as popular as they are misunderstood. Many myths and misconceptions that harm betta fish contribute to their often unintentional abuse and neglect. The most common myth that is perpetuated by pet stores, such as PetSmart Inc., is through the sales of dangerous products, such as fish tanks that hold less than 1 gallon of water.
Fish tanks that hold less than 1 gallon of water are harmful to all fish species, especially the betta fish that they are often marketed toward. Both the United Kingdom's and Australia's Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) condemn the sale of these small tanks. The United States of America, however, does not enforce its animal cruelty laws for fish to the extent that these countries do, which allows for the sale of these deadly fish tanks. In addition, the myth that betta fish live in puddles naturally in the wild also contributes to the idea that it is acceptable to sell these tanks. There is even a myth that betta fish will die if placed in a larger tank because they will panic from not being able to defend such a large territory. Neither of these myths are true. RSPCA Australia notes that "while it is possible for Siamese fighting fish to survive a short while in a small tank, this is not an appropriate environment for permanent housing."
PetSmart Inc. not only sells these tanks but puts them next to the betta fish and even sets them up as demonstrations. Some of these tanks are even divided in half in order to house two betta fish. Often they are labelled as "ideal" homes for betta fish and are purposely advertised to new betta fish owners either through PetSmart Inc.'s website or in stores.
These tanks are harmful because "overcrowding fish in a small volume of water will lead to high levels of harmful chemicals such as ammonia and nitrite, which can poison the fish and cause disease or even death" (RSPCA United Kingdom). In addition to concentrating high levels of toxic chemicals, these tanks cannot be adequately heated or maintain a constant temperature between 72 to 85 degrees that betta fish, which are tropical, need to survive. Cold water leads to lethargic behavior, illness, and stress. No amount of water changes or perfect water conditions would make these tanks appropriate as a result.
By removing fish tanks that are less than 1 gallon from the store for pet keeping purposes, betta fish owners will not have the opportunity to place their pet in a toxic and deadly environment. In addition, the removal of these tanks will help take a step toward ending the myths about betta fish care and will provide a healthy, suitable, environment that betta fish are often denied. Like all animals, fish deserve proper care and should not be disregarded simply because they are small. Harmful and deadly products should not be made available for purchase for any animal, fish included.
It is time that PetSmart Inc. stops selling fish tanks that promote harm to the living creatures they sell.
RSPCA Australia. "RSPCA Australia Knowledgebase." What Sort of Environment Should Siamese Fighting Fish Be Kept In? -. Web. 02 May 2012. .
RSPCA UK. "Decorative Fish Tanks Are Inadequate for Fish." RSPCA United Kingdom. RSPCA United Kingdom. Web. 02 May 2012. .