A new PETA video exposé based on visits to more than 100 Petco stores across the country has revealed widespread suffering and neglect of betta fish at the big box pet store. Dead and dying fish were found floating in tiny cups of contaminated water, and some were left to suffer from painful or debilitating health conditions, even though they were clearly in need of veterinary care. Eyewitnesses saw bettas floating on their side as they struggled to swim and a fish whose eyes severely protruded from their sockets. Petco apparently considers it acceptable for a certain number of betta fish to suffer and die—as long as it continues to profit from selling them.
“[A] lot of fish that come into a store don’t last through … a weekend,” said one Petco worker in Ohio. “[It’s] one of those ugly things a pet store might not tell you.”
Betta Fish Face a Harrowing Journey to PetcoPetco confines these vibrant, complex animals to tiny plastic cups containing just a few inches of water, but PETA’s investigations of the pet trade have uncovered appalling neglect that occurs even before they reach the sales floor. Betta fish are often starved for days during transport and confined individually to tiny bags stuffed into boxes. According to Petco employees, the transport process is so strenuous that many fish die after arriving at the store. “We get [betta fish] in sick a lot,” said an employee in Indiana, who added that they’re “stressed out” during shipment, which “induces a lot more illness.”
Bettas Neglected and Left to SufferEyewitnesses discovered that betta fish at Petco were visibly ailing and suffering from fin rot, swim bladder disorders, and other critical medical conditions. Yet instead of taking them to a veterinarian, employees simply guessed at diagnoses or left them to suffer. One Petco employee remarked that an ailing betta fish was likely forgotten about and was now “on his way to die,” even though the fish’s condition “could’ve been treated.” Another betta who had apparently arrived at a Chapel Hill, North Carolina, store floating on his side because of a swim bladder issue was left to languish that way for months. Petco’s “solution” was to sell the fish at a discount.
Many fish were also found dead, likely because of neglect.
“A fish [lying] on [one] side or swimming with difficulty can have a number of health issues, including tumors, bacterial, fungal, viral infections, parasites, or other diseases … the fish may get sicker while [the] primary problem is not addressed, and this delay in adequate treatment can lead to the fish not being able to survive the disease, even with appropriate treatment … a fish … not swimming normally in the store, is sick, and needs medical treatment.” –aquatic veterinarian Jena Questen
Petco Maintains Betta Fish in Inhumane Living ConditionsIn order to thrive, each captive betta requires a clean aquarium with gallons of temperature-regulated water, a good filtration system, and enrichment, such as caves and live plants.
But in order to maximize the number of betta fish who can be sold in stores, Petco keeps them in tiny individual cups that deprive them of adequate space, hiding places, mental stimulation, and a proper water temperature. A worker at a Kissimmee, Florida, store suggested that one betta was “frantic” from being confined to “such a small swimming space.” Another worker, at a Richmond, Virginia, store, described the half-gallon tanks that Petco sells for bettas as “completely inhumane” and also noted that the water in the cups that these tropical fish were kept in was only 74°F—lower than the minimum recommended.