Why Betta Fish Bowls Are Cruel

Betta fish deserve a full-fledged fish tank as opposed to a plain old bowl filled with water.  Can you imagine spending the entirety of your life in a confined space such as a bowl on a table?  This is the life imposed on some betta fish and countless other fish across the world.  Betta fish should have ample space to swim and explore.  Otherwise, their quality of life will diminish with each passing day.  Keep in mind the motivation to own betta fish should be to provide these beautiful, delicate fish with a high quality of life.

Betta Fish in Bowls Aren’t the Way to Go

If you have one betta fish, be sure to buy a tank that is a minimum of five gallons.  Do not put several betta fish in the same tank as many are inclined to engage in battle.  They are fairly territorial fish.  However, some betta fish owners decide to take the plunge (pun intended) and use an especially large tank for multiple betta fish.  If you take this route, make sure to err on the side of excessive space so your fish have that much more room to swim through the water and enjoy their environment.

There is absolutely no excuse to use a bowl as a home for your betta fish.  Keep a clean tank with filtered water that stays in the range of 75 to 80 degrees.  The tank should be large enough to provide a hiding spot that gives the betta fish a feeling of security.  There should be enough space to provide a minor current that is comfortable yet does not send the fish around the tank.

Why Space is so Important for Betta Fish

Tropical fish need space to live a fulfilling life just like a human being, a dog, cat, or any other animal.  After all, cat owners do not keep their furry friends trapped in closets all day and night.  So why should a betta fish be confined to a small bowl?  Though it would certainly be possible to keep a cat in a closet, it would not be a rewarding experience for the cat.  The same is true of keeping a fish in a bowl as opposed to a spacious tank with fresh, clean filtered water and plenty of space to roam.  It can be said without question that keeping a cat in a closet is abusive, cruel, and unethical.  The same applies to those who confine betta fish to a bowl that is merely 5 times the size of the fish.  Fish need much more room than that to swim and obtain some satisfaction in their living space.

Anyone who questions whether a betta fish belongs in a tank as opposed to a bowl should observe this glorious tropical fish attempting to live in a bowl for an extended period of time.  The average fishbowl is so small that the fish does not have any room to turn around, explore his surroundings or do anything but stay still.  No animal regardless of how small it’s should be forced to remain in a tiny space for its entire life.

A Betta Fish in a bowl

Betta Fish Can Show You Their Space is too Small

If betta fish are unhappy with their environment, they will make it known by swimming along the sides of the tank.  Betta fish swim up and down along the tank side in what is referred to as glass surfing.  This is the fish’s way of communicating with the environment is unsatisfactory.  The fish is not trying to jump on out of the tank by moving along the glass in such a fashion.  Rather, the fish is attempting to swim elsewhere; to an area where the conditions might be better.  If your betta fish glass surfs in their bowl or small tank, it’s a sign they need a larger living space.  This behavior can also mean the tank or bowl’s water is dirty and should be cleaned and filtered as soon as possible.

Give your betta fish a large tank of at least 5 gallons in size so they don’t stress out (I’ve had success with a 3-gallon tank). Betta fish in a spacious tank rarely glass surf.  Furthermore, large tanks are surprisingly easy to clean and manage water quality.  Be reasonable when selecting a betta fish tank.  There is no reason to go overboard and purchase a 60-gallon tank for a single betta fish.  However, your fish deserves a comfortable place just like any other pet.

Some betta fish will appear comfortable in confined spaces for a couple of days or weeks.  As time progresses, these fish will begin to display signs of discomfort if limited to such small swimming spaces.  Oftentimes, fish owners will use a one-gallon tank or a large bowl with gravel and a fake plant or two and think it will suffice.  Though the early impressions might make it seems as though betta fish do not mind living in such a small space, it’s only a matter of time until problems occur.  Betta fish confined to such small spaces will glass surf.  Their faces might turn whiter in hue, their fins might deteriorate, and they will likely show odd behavior.  In the worst-case scenario, the tiny tank or bowl’s limited space causes the fish to die.

“Betta Fish Can Survive in Small Spaces”

There’s a difference between surviving and thriving. Like Angelfish, platies, etc., betta fish are of the tropical variety.  All tropical fish require nuanced living conditions for a decent quality of life.  Some betta fish owners are aware these unique fish have adaptions that empower them to live in environments that would kill other fish. Betta fish are anabantids, meaning they can pull oxygen from the area above the surface of the water and breath with their gills as do other “normal” fish.  In other words, Betta fish living in the wild have the ability to live during drought conditions as they remain confined to mud puddles.

Though these fish are remarkably resistant, this is no excuse to put them in living situations that are egregiously uncomfortable.  When in doubt, try to put yourself in the position of the betta fish.  Would you enjoy living in a small fish tank less than five gallons in size, a bowl, cube, plant vase or other outrageously small space?  The answer is clearly “No!”

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Comfortable Living Space = Longer Lifespan

Every fish owner should be cognizant of the fact that owning a fish removes this animal from its natural habitat.  If you want your betta to live a long and fulfilling life, the most important thing you can do is give the fish a tank that is at least five gallons or larger.  Otherwise, there is a good chance your fish will live a painful and short life.  Your betta’s tank should be hospitable in that it’s spacious and full of filtered, warm water.  It’s more difficult to keep water clean, filtered and healthy in a small bowl or tank as opposed to a five-gallon tank or one of an even larger size.

If you opt for a small tank, it will likely be sold with an air pump that is supposed to suffice as a filter.  There will also be an under-gravel system.  Such a situation is not sufficient to maintain clean water, especially in a diminutive tank.  Though nano aquarium filters are available for some such tanks, there is minimal room in something like a single-gallon tank for such a filter.  Betta fish owners should understand these unique fish thrive with a low-flow filtration system.  An aftermarket filter that sends the flow around the fish is not optimal for their quality of life.  A fish that is pushed around a small space against its will is a fish that is over-stressed and unlikely to live very long.

If you can’t find a suitable filter or if the filter does not seem to fit appropriately with your unique tank, this is your opportunity to provide your betta fish with a lovely, spacious tank.  In the meantime, it will be necessary to perform 75% water changes to ensure the small tank has fresh water.  Furthermore, the tank will have to be cleaned on a weekly basis.  You can avoid such a demanding routine by spending for a tank that is five gallons or larger.  If you were to let your betta fish remain in a small tank or a bowl for an excessive period of time, microbe colonies will not have the opportunity to establish their presence.  Tanks with the best living environments have microbes that assist in the processing of waste in the tank.  Furthermore, these large tanks benefit from cleaner water that results from the presence of these umber-important microbes.

Betta Fish Require Warm Water

It’s easier to keep water at a specific temperature when there is a sizable tank with an aquarium heater.  It’s difficult to add such a heater to a plain old fishbowl.  Give your betta a nice home with a spacious tank and a heater that keeps the temperature between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  Those who opt for a small tank typically find it does not have a heater.  Such a tank would have to be warmed in the sun or through the home’s heating system.  Do not put your betta fish in such a situation.  If you reside anywhere where the temperature dips below 75 degrees and your betta fish is not provided with a spacious tank equipped with a heater to keep the water in the optimal temperature rangeOpens in a new tab., your fish will suffer.

Though a temperature dip down to 65 degrees or so might not seem like a big deal to you, it’s quite the problem for fish like betta that are used to living in warm water.  However, betta fish owners should be aware there are some nano heaters and diminutive heaters meant to be used with small tanks and bowls available for sale.  If you have a tank less than five gallons in size, you should know there is some risk to using such heaters, especially when betta fish are your pet.  There is a legitimate chance of the heater hiking the temperature of this small living space so much that it proves perilous for the betta fish.  It’s possible to warm water in a small tank or bowl to the point that it kills tropical fish like betta.  The moral of this story is it is easier to keep a large fish tank at the optimal temperature than it is to maintain the temperature of a comparably small space.  Provide your betta with the large tank they need and deserve, and it will ultimately prove mutually beneficial to them as well as you.

Betta Fish

Is a Betta Fish Right for You?

There are plenty of people who argue keeping a betta fish or another fish in a bowl or small tank is acceptable as it’s a superior living environment than the small cups or other tiny spaces these fish were kept in prior to being purchased.  Though there is a sliver of truth to this argument, it is important not to lose sight of the reason to own a betta fish or any other fish in the first place.  Those who argue keeping betta in a small space is acceptable do not understand that providing a better living space for the fish does not mean it’s the optimal living space.

It should not matter that betta fish are strong enough to live through challenging conditions.  The reason to own a betta or any other fish is to be a responsible steward for this living animal. The fish will improve your quality of life by providing eye candy and giving the little ones in your house a sense of responsibility as pet owners.  it’s up to betta fish caretakers to repay the favor by giving these precious creatures a comfortable, spacious, and clean tank of at least five gallons in size.

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Rick Kesler

I'm Rick and I've kept freshwater fish for over 5 years now. My main tank now is a 55-gallon tropical freshwater tank and my wife and I both just love watching all of our different fish while they swim around, some schooling and others not. I've also learned a lot about what to do and what not to do to keep our fish healthy and happy.

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