Why Are Betta Fish Kept In Cups?


Betta fish, or the Siamese Fighting Fish, is considered a good starter pet due to its resilience. Known for its bright colors and morphs, the Betta fish is very interactive and easy to take care of. Besides, these colorful fish are among the most beautiful and popular fish all around the world. Betta fish are native to Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. So why are they being kept in shallow water and small cups or bowls at the stores? Let’s learn more about Betta fish and why they are stored in small cups.

Betta fish is a species that can thrive in shallow water. It can get the oxygen it needs from the air on the surface. Due to its aggressive nature, male Betta fish are kept on separate cups or bowls. This is a method that pet stores use to save space, but only ideal for only a few days.

When it comes to fish, the goldfish can be the standard first pet for a budding aquarist. However, pet takers who want to show their individuality might want something that can represent themselves. Goldfish have similar appearances and might not appeal to some people. With its bright and different colors, the Betta fish is a perfect alternative.

How Come Pet Stores Keep Betta Fish In Small Cups?

One of the reasons Betta fish can survive in a smaller container is its ability to get oxygen from the air. It can survive even in shallow water because its oxygen supply is not limited to the water surrounding it. However, they need to stay moist and avoid being dried up when catching oxygen from the air.

Known as a territorial fish breed, male Betta fish are aggressive when other male Bettas are around. When put in the same container, males would try to fight each other until only one remains. Hence, pet stores keep male Bettas in separate cups to avoid fighting. Female Bettas are friendlier to each other, but a decent-sized swimming space is still a good idea.

And since male Betta fish need separate containers, it wouldn’t be economical or practical for stores to keep them in different tanks. This method makes it hard to maintain individual tanks. Using separate containers would also use more space and will cost more money to operate.

Another reason pet stores use small cups for Betta fish is to separate the ones with different colors. Each Betta fish sports different fins and color. And most customers will get a pet according to their preferences. The store staff will not need to scoop the fish out and transfer it to another container. Customers would also have a better look at the pet in case they want a specific color.

How Long Do Pet Stores Keep Bettas In Those Cups?

Unfortunately, there is no specific time frame or period that can answer this question.

In most cases, Betta fish are kept in their cups for as long as possible, until they either die or get purchased.

Responsible stores would keep the water level adequate, with regular replacements to keep the container clean. However, some stores don’t do this kind of maintenance. These stores are where you would often found Betta fish sickly or dead in their cups.

Betta Fish Kept In Cups
Why Are Betta Fish Kept In Cups?

Animal rights advocates like PETA advised not to buy Betta fish (or any other fish species) as pets. PETA’s reasoning is that many new owners don’t have the knowledge in how to really take care of pet fish.

Other people favor buying Betta fish so they can be transferred into a better container. In addition, responsible stores try different strategies to ensure that Bettas in cups would be sold as soon as possible. This discussion is still open for debate.

Whether Betta fish should be boycotted or not, the important thing, in this case, is to spread awareness on how to take care of these fish. It is important to make a Betta fish owner aware that his or her pet needs proper containers. While the fish can stay alive inside a small cup, it still needs a proper fish container. Do not keep your new Betta fish in the cup. These cups are for transportation purposes only. 

Betta fish need to be placed in at least 2.5 gallons tank, but more is always better. Make sure that this water should be warm enough for the Betta fish to live comfortably. The optimal temperature is 75 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not put two male Bettas together in a single tank. If you’re going to use a community tank, only put them on tanks with fish that are compatible with them.

How Long Can A Betta Fish Live In A Cup?

There are situations where a pet Betta fish needs a temporary container. It might be because the tank broke or it needs a proper cleaning after one fish from a community tank has died.

Betta cup
Betta in a cup

If you want to keep your Betta fish in a cup temporarily, the best it can take is a couple of days.

Although these fish can grab the oxygen they need from the air, they still need a proper air filter system. A proper heating system is also a good idea since Bettas are tropical fish. Keeping them in a cup for longer than 48 hours can be harmful since they can get sick from poor water conditions, low temperatures, and stress.

Betta Fish Acclimation

Acclimation is an often overlooked concept in handling new fish pets. New pet owners would often dump their fish in the tank from their cups or plastic bags. Betta fish (or any kind of fish) are invertebrates, which means that they are more sensitive to the water changes.

Drastic changes in temperature, pH level, and salinity of the water in a small period of time might cause harm to your Betta fish. To ensure the successful relocation of your Betta fish, here are the tips how you should acclimate your pet to its new home.

Getting A Betta Fish From Store To Your Home

Since most stores sell Betta fish using either a plastic bag or cup, getting them acclimated as soon as possible should be a priority. The travel from the store to your home itself is an important factor. Warm up your car in winter when transfer your Betta from the shop, if you live in cold place like I do.

Since Betta cups only have a small amount of water, it’s relatively easy for the temperature to change. To avoid this from happening, always ask for a cardboard pet carrier. If this isn’t available, a simple box with rags or an old t-shirt should do the trick.

Acclimation Prep: Community Tank

Male Betta fish are not recommended for community tanks. However, female Bettas are not known for being aggressive, and therefore, can be placed on a tank with a couple of neighbors. Before putting your new pet in the water, don’t forget to quarantine it for 2-4 weeks. This step is done in order to prevent sickness and other things which can infect other fish.

Acclimation Prep: New Water Tank

Before filling up a new water tank with water, do a thorough cleaning first. And do this step one day before making your trip to the pet store. Use lukewarm water and rinse the decorations, filters, thermometers and heaters, and other components. Fill the tank with fresh tap water and add Betta dichlorination drops (follow the instruction from the drops packaging.) Add the rinsed decorations and install the other components to complete this step.

Steps In Acclimating A New Betta Fish

1. Get The Information From The Fish’ Current Container

With the test kits that you purchased earlier, measure both the pH and the water temperature from the transport container. This container can either be a plastic bag, a plastic cup, or even a quarantine tank.

2. Check If The Water In The Aquarium Has The Same Properties

Do the same thing with the water inside the aquarium or tank where you plan to put your Betta fish. Compare this data to the ones in the container.

If the cups and aquarium readings are the same, you can put your Betta fish in the tank without further adjustments. However, this scenario is quite impossible to happen.

3. Adjust The Aquarium Water Temperature To Necessary Level

The best way to do this is to submerge the cup or the bag (with the Betta fish inside) into the aquarium tank. Leave it there for 15 to 20 minutes or more (if the reading difference is too big).

Betta
Betta fish

4. Slowly Add A Little Bit Of Tank Water To The Betta Container

To adjust the pH level, you need to introduce tank water to your Betta fish gradually. By using a small cup, add a small amount of tank water inside the transport container. Keep the cup or plastic bag floating in the water. Wait for 5 minutes before doing it again until the right amount of water acidity is achieved.

5. Let Your Betta Slowly Swim To Its New Home

And lastly, let your Betta fish swim into its new aquarium. You can let a little bit of water spill from your cup or plastic bag to the tank. It helps in pushing your fish on the right way to the aquarium. Don’t pour a lot of container water into the tank. It can change the temperature and acidity which is already adjusted earlier.

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