The Mistreatment of Betta Fish

by | Aug 1, 2020

betta fish swimming

Betta fish are known as an easy to care for “starter” fish, needing nothing more than a bowl to swim around in and their own company. Unfortunately, there is a plethora of misconceptions surrounding them, and this is much to the detriment of these beautiful creatures. In reality, fish are sentient beings, and studies have shown them to have remarkable skills such as the ability to use tools and recognize human faces. However, bettas are forced to live in cramped, artificial conditions where they don’t thrive, and, sadly enough, the cruelty begins long before their final destination.

Betta fish suffer from the time they are born in the pet trade. Normally, they live in shallow, warm pools of water in Southeast Asia. On breeding farms, however, betta fish are kept in small bottles or bags with hardly enough water to cover their bodies. From there, the fish are shipped to their destinations around the world, often without food. Since this journey can take several days, it is common practice for tranquilizers to be added to their water so that they won’t eat their own tails. Given the brutal conditions on these trips, many of the bettas die in the process. The following video shows how betta fish make it to Petco:

Once the betta fish reach pet stores, they are put into tiny, individual cups and stocked on the store shelves. It is not uncommon to find these fish dead or injured on the shelves, having never received  veterinary care. This unnecessary suffering wouldn’t be permitted with other pets, so why do we allow it with fish?

Their lives do not usually tend to improve much once they have found homes, as pet store associates are taught that bettas must live in solitary confinement; in reality, only males fight with other males. Bettas require clean aquariums with gallons of well-heated water, a good filtration system, and enrichment such as caves and plants. Bettas kept as pets rarely get this kind of treatment. Some flower shops even sell bettas in a vase with a plant. These types of conditions aren’t conducive to allowing betta fish to live a happy, healthy life.

This August 1, on Respect for Fish Day, let’s vow to treat betta fish better. If you own or are thinking of buying a betta fish, do your research to give your fish the environment it needs to thrive. You can also educate your local pet store about the cruel betta fish pet trade and encourage the store to stop selling them. If you would like to join HAP’s Fish Feel campaign, please apply here. Together, we can make the world a kinder place for fish.


Guest Author

This week’s blog post is brought to us by Kayla Seifert, the Director of the Compassionate Living campaign for HAP, which seeks to improve the health and safety of animals and human alike by promoting plant-based events. Kayla is also working on the Fish Feel campaign, and since today is Respect for Fish Day, this post could not come at a better time!


Aimee Douglass is the Director of Compassionate Living. Aimee works in the healthcare industry and has a bachelors degree in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and a masters degree in Communications with a health care focus from Southern New Hampshire University.

Abhi Nadendla is a blogger at HAP and has been volunteering at the organization since late 2022. She is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and loves spending her free time helping out at animal shelters.

Hannah Lewis is a grant writer and blogger from Pittsburgh’s North Side who has been with HAP since 2020. In addition to writing and advocating for animals, she enjoys hiking, cooking plant-based meals, bouldering at her local climbing gym, and curling up with a good book and her long-haired cat, Freyja.

Kelly Frantz has recently joined the HAP family as a blog writer. She is passionate about animal protection and is excited to educate the community about animal welfare.