Meijer stores- please stop selling Betta!
Meijer stores- please stop selling Betta!
Betta or Japanese fighting fish have been a beloved fish for beginners to experts for well over a century. Pet stores and box stores alike are well known for their displays of beautiful bettas displayed in small plastic cups. The problem? Their beauty makes them very popular but misinformation, poor education and a lack of care has lead to a mindset that enables their suffering.
Because of the Betta's aggressive behavior towards other males they have been placed in cups so as not to harm each other. Though, there are different species they can share tanks with. The Betta is a tropical fish that needs a temperature of about 76 to 81 degrees. Shifts in temperature stress the fish leading to illness. Betta cups and bowls are not given access to heat like the community tanks are. Bettas, like all other fish, need proper airation and filtration. Unfortunately, most bettas at Meijer are forced to swim in small amounts of water that contains their own waste. The waste creates Ammonia. Ammonia is toxic to fish and its build up leads to ammonia poisoning and burns on fish. Betta also enjoy swimming and having live plants to rest on. In their cups they get little excersize and no stimulation.
For healthy fish, an aquarium must have undergone the nitrogen cycle. Cycling a tank takes about a month. Even products that one can add to tanks that say you can add a fish 24 hours later do not cycle the tank. It takes a month or more for a tank's filter to have enough beneficial bacteria to be able to turn the ammonia (toxic) produced by fish and their waste into nitrite (also toxic) which then must be transformed by different bacteria into nitrate ( not as toxic in small amounts).
What does a healthy Betta look like? When these fish first arrive at Meijer they will have strong vibrant colors and they will be able to keep their fins open allowing them to billow and fold in the water. They will be lively and swim around as much as they are able. After just a week of poor conditions many Betta fade in color. Their fins clamp closer to their bodies and the tips of the fins begin to curl. Their bodies bend or slump due to pain. Where once they were lively they now are lethargic and set near the bottom of the cup. All of these physiological signs signify stress and illness.
Many hobbiest would prefer not to buy fish from Meijer due to the conditions the fish live in and fear that introducing such a fish into an established tank would spread disease into their community of fish. However, over and over again, fish lovers buy from Meijer merely because they feel so bad for these fish and want to heal and save them. This, however, only leads Meijer to buy more fish to replace the ones sold...thereby insuring yet more Bettas slowly suffer until death.
No one should ever have to feel like they need to buy an animal simply out of pity. Meijer stores have failed consistently to provide proper care for a species that has very specific requirements for optimum health. The nature of a box store means high turn over rates in employees as well as employees from other departments being crossed trained. Meaning, someone from the shoe department could be given the responsibility of caring for and assisting customers with knowledge in how to care for this species. This is a completely unrealistic mindset. To expect every employee (with or without a background in aquarium keeping) to not only know about betta care specifically but also the Nitrogen cycle is not only fantasy but unfair to the employees. One would have to trust that all employees will care enough about daily maintenance as much as someone with experience and affection for all of the fish. The fact that there are still bettas languishing in their waste at Meijer is proof enough that this is not a realistic expectation! There are most certainly workers in Meijer's employ who understand aquatic care and can help fish flourish at their particular store but this does not negate the hundreds of other stores that do not provide such care.
Meijer is based in Michigan. Below is a website link to Michigan's current law outlining the conditions that constitute animal neglect as well as the penalties for failure to provide adequate care for a species in a person/business's care. (MCL 750.50- Duty to provide adequate care provision)
Meijer must stop selling Bettas. Bettas should only be sold by businesses/breeders that specify in and have more experience in caring for aquatic life. After being informed of the condition of animals in their care and the specific requirements that these animals need (that they can never fully provide) Meijer corporation must be compelled to stop ordering and selling them. By refusing to stop their sale Meijer is willfully participating in cruelty to living beings for profit.
Because of the Betta's aggressive behavior towards other males they have been placed in cups so as not to harm each other. Bettas ,however, are able to share larger tanks with different species that they will not harm and that will not harm them. Once Meijer stops selling Bettas they would still need improve conditions of the Bettas they still have in stock. With a little research Meijer employees could introduce their current male bettas ( only one per tank) into community tanks where they can take advantage of the tank's heater, filter, cycled water and plant life until they are sold off.