Many Betta fish owners would be disappointed to learn that their beloved Betta is merely surviving -- and sometimes suffering -- in its living conditions. There is a robust market of too-tiny aquariums advertised specifically for Bettas, and they are popular in even the most loving pet households.
It is common to hear, "Betta fish enjoy small tanks because they live in tiny puddles in the wild."
This is a distortion of some basic survival facts about Betta fish, and reinforcing this misconception allows commercial interests to continue profiting at the expense of Bettas' wellbeing.
We all understand -- Bettas are fierce, fighting fish! The pet industry has exploited their capacity to survive and withstand harsh conditions in the wild in order to promote cheap "starter tanks" that meet only the bare minimum of keeping a Betta alive.
The ancestors of domestic Bettas are found in the shallow marshes, rice paddies, and streams of Southeast Asia. A male Betta's territory can be around three square feet. During the dry season, conditions can be unpredictable and a Betta might get trapped in a small puddle or ditch when water levels dry up. They might survive stranded in the puddle, or they may take the opportunity to jump to greater water levels. Importantly -- this is an uncomfortable but short-term situation.
Aquariums are artificial environments, not natural ecosystems. A Betta will not be happy spending its entire life in such cramped conditions, just as it would not enjoy getting trapped in a puddle.
The pet industry has a responsibility to guide consumers on appropriate and quality care. The future of fishkeeping and aquarium manufacturing should move away from tanks that are less than one gallon.
In the comfort of our homes, Bettas should not just be surviving!