With spring just around the corner, June brides everywhere are finalizing the details of their weddings from flowers to cakes, music, vows and centerpieces. The trend to use live fish, Bettas in particular, became popular more than a decade ago. With newly engaged brides popping up every day, this is a trend, I’m sorry to say, that hasn’t died yet. Just yesterday I ran into a woman who was eager to learn the best way to pull off betta fish centerpieces.

Please let me be very clear here… Live animals do not make good centerpieces. I’m not saying this because I stand on some Animal Rights soapbox (though there is a valid argument there too). There are very practical reasons for skipping the fishy-furnishings.

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

This is a big day for you… the bride (I presume). Of course, every detail should be in order… but what will happen to your betta fish after the music has stopped. Literally, from that minute on, what are you going to do? You may have assumed your guests wanted those cute little fish they earned playing the dollar game but in reality they are sneaking out the back door hoping you won’t see them run to their cars without the new responsibility. Your guests do not want these fish. They cost time and money and require a lot of work.

I guarantee you 80% of the guests you thought would want that fish will be coming up with a whole host of excuses why they just can’t take it home with them. It’ll be midnight and you’ll have 12+ bettas, in water, with no way home. Half will be stressed half to death due to the temperatures swings, pounding music, and cocktail mixture your little cousin thought would be funny to add to the betta bowl. You’ll spend your goodbyes pleading with people to take fish home and the rest will become the burden of your family for the night. The next day they’ll be back in your care and instead of spending your first day of marital bliss snuggling with your hubby, you’ll be agonizing over the best antibiotic to buy for the 9 sick bettas you have at home.

One Day We’ll Have a Family

For a little fish, bettas have a substantial life span. These fish live on average 3 – 5 years. Where are you going to be in 3 – 5 years? Better give it some thought, since you’ll have a dozen betta fish there with you that might still be alive when your first child enters kindergarten.

Invest in Your Future

Despite popular myth, betta fish actually do have requirements beyond being plopped into a fish bowl. Fish (yes, even bettas) are very sensitive to their environments. They need clean, preferably filtered water, heated to a comfortable 78 F. (25.5 C.) They should have light, a varied diet, and an aquarium large enough to explore. They will require at least weekly water changes and regular water testing with an aquarium water test kit. They need daily monitoring and treatment when they are sick. One male betta typically requires a 2.5 – 5 gallon, filtered aquarium. The investment in time and money isn’t outrageous, but you should understand that it will be necessary to humanely care for the fish. If you are expecting your guests to take these fish home, you are asking them to take on this responsibility.

I assume the brides who want bettas as centerpieces do so because they are animal lovers and enjoy fish already. I believe their intent is good. The problem is not giving the decision the thought it deserves. A lot of issues arise when selecting fish as centerpieces. Chances are, one or more of these fish will not survive your wedding. It is extremely stressful for them and accidents happen, even among the most subdued crowds. Please think it through before you select betta fish as centerpieces.

Betta Centerpiece, originally uploaded by Arwyn J.M..

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Reader Interactions


  1. Catherine says:

    My daughter n law used goldfish in her centerpieces. I played no part in organizing any of the wedding. I don’t believe one goldfish ever survived. Some were even eaten as jokes during the reception by drunken men … not children. My daughter n law is not even an animal lover let alone a fish lover. She could care less. What fish actually went home with my grandchildren lived short lives for no one told them they couldn’t put them in their toy trucks and play with them. I could go on but I don’t think anyone wants to hear the gory details. No, I agree having any type of fish in a wedding arrangement is a bad idea.

    • Christie F. says:

      Oh Catherine, my heart hurts to read your comment. I’m really glad you shared though. Thank you.

  2. fighter fish says:

    “Some were even eaten as jokes during the reception by drunken men … not children.” Very disturbing to know this. It is very unbelievable but sadly it happened.
    However, I never knew fishes were used as wedding centerpieces. As Christie explained, it is not a wise thing to use betta fish centerpieces in any ceremonies. Thank you Christie for the vital information

  3. Alyssa says:

    This is a disturbing trend, one which makes my heart ache to read about. People just don’t understand; these creatures live, they breathe, their hearts pound and their bellies grumble, and yet so many think they can live out their days in such sad settings just because they’re fish…
    I’m truly sad to see how this trend is picking up, and, even though I know so many will be left ill and mistreated, I can only hope there are at least a few out there who are willing to take them and try to love them as best they can.

  4. Amber says:

    I’ve looked into betta fish centerpieces for my wedding exactly because I am a betta lover. Out of consideration for the fish and the guests, I’m thinking of just incorporating one or two betta centerpieces at the brides’ (plural ^^) table, and bringing them home myself afterwards as I would not trust any one else to take care of them properly, and I have the adequate supplies here to give them a happy life.
    My wedding would hardly turn out to be a raucous party, we’re a small, quiet, and intellectual bunch and would be unlikely to stress the bettas much. The stories posted here horrify me, how could anyone be so cruel to such a beautiful animal? It’s their beauty and my appreciation for them that would be the exact reason for incorporating them in my wedding. I think there are some very beautiful and artistic betta centerpiece displays, and I would just like to say that there are some brides with not only good intent, but responsibility and consideration to the fish.

  5. Nina says:

    I can’t believe people behave the way they do sometimes where there are fish centerpieces. Taking them out of the water and throwing them at each other? Eating them on a drunken dare? I’m sorry, but I don’t have friends or family who behave like this and if I did they would not be my friend much longer.
    Now I am planning on using betta centerpieces. I own a pet betta and take good care of the little guy, he is quite happy. The vases we are using are large and our fish will have plenty of room to move around during the evening. I love animals, but I don’t believe it is morally wrong to use them as decoration as long as they are cared for properly. Fish tanks in restaurants or doctor’s offices anyone?
    That being said, they will spend only one evening in this environment before they are given good homes. Yes, we have a plan for those who don’t want them, although with the feedback I’ve gotten only a few are not already spoken for. These are responsible and decent people I would trust to watch my own child, I know I can trust them with a new pet. We are preparing care packages for each of the guests who would like to take one home consisting of a care guide, food, and water conditioner. This is more care than the average pet store ensures the animal gets before leaving with their new owner! I’ve actually enlisted a few guests on “fish patrol” to ensure that nobody mistreats the fish during the reception by tapping on the glass, etc. And if ANYONE tries any of the antics I’ve read from other posters they will be escorted out by security, no exceptions.
    My point is that these centerpieces are not for people who aren’t invested in caring for the fish during and after the event. That doesn’t mean it can’t be successfully and.humanely executed.

  6. Sarah says:

    I tend to agree with Nina about the fish. Why not try a centerpiece like this instead? http://www.eventswholesale.com/Peacock-Feather-Centerpieces.htm

  7. Jess says:

    Yes they are living breathing creatures but I’m going to guess your dinner was as well.

  8. Shaina Carey says:

    I am using a few as my wedding centerpieces. I will be taking them home myself

  9. Syzygy says:

    This is pretty much how I acquired my betta. I am a member of a volunteer organization, and we had our Christmas party last week. Our Fearless Leader thought it would be a swell idea to use bettas in quart Mason jars as table decor, so everybody could take a fish home at the end of the night. This stunt was not received with great enthusiasm, and quite a few fish were handed off to nearby drunken bar patrons who expressed interest in them. I don’t like to think about it.
    These are not party decorations to be discarded when the party’s over. They are living, sentient creatures, and they need to be cared for properly. If I’d known ahead of time what Fearless Leader had planned, I’d have done my best to talk her out of it.
    I brought my fish home and started reading up on bettas. I quickly grew attached to the little guy and am determined to do right by him, and it’s interesting and fun to be learning something new. I’m glad I found this website, as it looks like it’s going to be a great resource. Right now Prairie is in a 1-gallon glass bowl until I get a 5-gallon tank properly set up and cycled. Wish us luck!

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