It’s really easy to get sucked into a pitiful fish leering at you from the top shelf. You may pass by some floaters, one growing fungus and another incessantly working away at a bubble nest – the retail betta industry literally sucks the life out of a lot of good fish. But, that doesn’t mean they’re all bad. Not every pet store betta should be passed up, and we have put together a little guide of some tips and tricks on picking the best pet store betta. Here are a few things you should ask yourself before you pick up that cup!
- Was the fish laying or floating on it’s side before it noticed you?
Yeah, it could be a lazy or dramatic fish… but chances are (considering it is sitting in days old filth in a freezing cup) that isn’t the case. Risk for disease could be high, and unless you’re equipped to quarantine and treat this fish with meds, this may be one to pass by or bring to the attention of a store employee.
- Do it’s eyes protrude from it’s head?
A beta’s eyes should not appear bulbous or swollen. Their eyes should be free of cloudiness and move easily when they’re looking around. Otherwise, you may be looking at a case of popeye (or very rare fish TB), which can easily be avoided (and treated) with clean water and regulated temperatures. Another one to pass if you aren’t prepared. Alert an employee.
- Shine a light on it. Does it have a metallic or golden “dusting”?
Velvet can be tricky to identify if you don’t know what to look for. You need a flashlight (your cell phone may have one) to simply light up the fish with. If you see a metallic gold looking “dust” on top of it’s scales, you may want to put that cup down. Yet another illness requiring treatment.
- Is there a “buildup” of air bubbles on the surface of the water?
Bettas build bubble nests! This is not a good indicator of gender, because females can blow bubbles as well. It also does not hold as a sign that this fish is happy or content – it’s just instinct. But, they usually don’t make bubble nests often when ill, so it may be a fish to consider.
- Did you spot some clear poo?
While some fish pass food more quickly than others – such as goldfish – bettas do not usually pass clear poo unless there is an underlying reason. Illness and parasites, just to name a few, are the top reasons for betas to have bathroom issues.
- Is one gill plate stuck open?
You could be looking at a birth defect, result of poor breeding, lack of grooming or something more serious such as gill flukes. Stressful conditions, such as shipping across the ocean and suffering in a cup, and poor health, like lack of water changes or aeration, lead to parasites and illness.
All is not lost! If you spot a betta with one or more of the previously mentioned characteristics, the best bet is to find an employee to notify and be on your way. If you’re up to the challenge, a quick Google search or knowledgable staff member may be able to direct you to the proper medications.
Plan for quarantine. Always quarantine new fish – especially pet store fish (this can not be stressed enough). It can take a month for issues to crop up, especially if they’re carrying a disease or parasite, and the signs may not be apparent up front. You’ll have to consider buying quarantine-only hoses, jugs, etc., to care for your new friend.
And, if you have noticed an issue beforehand, but purchased it anyway, know that death may be a possibility. As hard as it may be to consider, remember to always hang on to that receipt! If the fish dies of a preexisting condition, many stores have a decent return policy (but require water testing, too). Even when we do the most possible for an ailing fish, many can’t pull through.
But for the sake of any fish you purchase, please ensure your tank size is appropriate, filtration is adequate (if not more so) and that your (preferably adjustable) heater meets the demands of the tank size and fish. It is worth it in the long run to invest a little more into your equipment up front, to avoid costly replacements down the line ore even worse, devastating malfunctions.