In 2022, we saw a movement happening in the US pet industry where major pet retailers Petco, PetSmart, Pet Supplies Plus, Pet Supermarket, and Chewy stated that they are not (or will stop) selling under one gallon aquariums.
The significance of this is huge because it means that these leaders are setting a higher standard for the welfare of pet fish. While all of these companies still promote betta tanks in the one gallon range (bettas need 5+ gal), this is a step in the right direction.
This indicates a change in consumer behavior and shows that our attitudes about fish are changing as well as our expectations for their treatment as pets.
Betta bowls will only look worse with time
A 2016 article from Pet Age Magazine, “Going Big With Bettas” gives us a sense of how consumer knowledge and behavior in the US has changed in the past years. The article mentions two 0.7 gallon aquariums released around 2016: "One of the big product lines this season is the Finding Dory Betta Aquarium Kits from Penn-Plax...", and "...from Aqueon is the Betta Falls aquarium."
These tanks might have been popular in 2016 -- but in 2022, no top US pet retailer wants to be associated with them. For example, Chewy removed the 0.7 gallon Aqueon Betta Falls Aquarium (and the remaining under one gallon tank) from its inventory in July 2022 in response to consumer pressure.
A huge reason for the decline in the demand and popularity of tiny aquariums is our growing awareness of proper betta care. These kits can only be profitable if the public is misinformed about betta fish.
Social media has allowed individuals and organizations to push back against misconceptions and advocate for bettas -- we can expect that this knowledge and enthusiasm will continue to spread.
Still a ways to go
Unfortunately, there are no legal protections for fish that would prevent brands from making and selling these tanks. This means that companies can (and will) choose to profit from them as long as they can get away with it.
While there is a still a long way to go, we can consider this significant progress and label it a US pet industry trend; this can influence smaller pet stores, non-pet retailers, and even stores in other countries that still sell them.
In fact, PetSmart Canada, Petco Mexico, and Petco Chile are still selling under one gallon tanks. Why do they have lower standards for pets in other countries?
Stores still offering under one gallon tanks can be regarded as having poor pet industry insight and leadership.
Karen M. Alley, “Going Big With Bettas,” Pet Age Magazine 2016 https://www.petage.com/going-big-with-bettas/