When buying our first betta, most of us ask our local fish store staff person for advice  before anyone else. We believe they are the experts and rarely question the soundness of their advice. After all, if they work in a fish store they must know all about fish, right?

Wrong. Sure there are amazing fish store staff out there, but they are a rare commodity. More often, the people helping you either know very little about aquaria in general or may not know the specifics about the species you are looking for. Want to know if you can trust your fish store’s knowledge about betta fish? Look for these five indicators:

How do they pronounce betta?

IF THEY SAY: Bet•ta – The correct pronunciation is with a soft ĕ. Like you are saying, “I placed a “bet” at the poker table.” If your fish store employee refers to these fish as “bet•tas” you can bet (pun intended) that they are pretty familiar with these fish. At the very least they have been hanging around other people who know what they are talking about when it comes to bettas.

IF THEY SAY: Bay•ta – If they pronounce it with a hard ā sound, like in the Greek letter “beta” then they may or may not be familiar with these fish. I won’t say they are clueless if they say “bay•ta” because lots of people say it that way. In fact, except for the most enthusiastic betta keepers and breeders, most people mispronounce betta as though it were beta fish.

What is the smallest tank size they recommend?

IF THEY SAY: Something along the lines of “larger tanks are better”… or “more stable,”   then they are offering trustworthy advice. Other good advice may include suggesting a filtered tank or a tank larger than 2.5 gallons. They may even ask you what your plans are for the fish, like if you’ll want to add more fish in the futre.

IF THEY SAY: Bettas can be kept in tiny bowls or cups or anything under one gallon, proceed with caution. If they tell you that bettas’ prefer small spaces, run away and never look back.

Ask them if they can be housed with other fish.

IF THEY SAY: “Yes, bettas can be kept with some peaceful community fish under the right conditions,” hooray for them! Other acceptable advice may include, “male bettas should not be housed together,” “males and females should not be housed together,” or “only females can be housed together under the right conditions.”

IF THEY SAY: “No, bettas should never be housed with other fish,” then they really aren’t hurting anyone, but they aren’t offering you all your options either. If they say, “sure, males can be housed together. It’s fun to watch them fight.” Then they’re crazy and should be fired.

Ask them what other equipment you need for your betta tank.

IF THEY SAY: A heater, filter, food, net, water test strips, a thermometer, substrate, a siphon, water conditioner, etc. then they are on the right track. If nothing else, they should at least recommend a thermometer and tank heater.

IF THEY SAY: You don’t need anything but a little water conditioner and food, they aren’t preparing you for what you really need and they may not understand the basics of betta fish care.

IF THEY SAY:  An air-stone, they may not fully understand the anatomy of a betta fish. Most fish store employees should know that bettas breathe air from the surface and don’t require additional oxygenation. However, there are times when an air-stone may be helpful.

Are they willing to say, “I don’t know.”

People often feel that they have to have an answer for everything and hesitate to say, “I don’t know.” Some would rather guess or offer the wrong information in place of, “I don’t know” for fear of sounding like they are inexperienced. When I hear, “I don’t know,” I say , “thank you,” because then I know where they stand and I can usually assume what they have told me beforehand was the best advice they could offer. The aquarium hobby is so extensive and complex that there isn’t a person in the world that knows everything there is to know about aquariums and the species available. “I don’t know,” is always an acceptable answer.

There is no way to ensure the advice you get from a fish store is accurate or reliable but to help improve your chances of meeting a knowledgeable staff member start by supporting small businesses. Small Mom & Pop operations usually hire the best staff available in their area. Also, remember that the owner and managers are making a career out of the aquarium industry where as the large box stores tend to hire less experienced people looking for a temporary job. Please understand that this is a general statement (before my friends at PetCo and PetSmart email me). Helpful staff people are out there, even at the big stores, you just have to know how to spot them.

Fish Store Betta Fish Cups | Photo by Whizchickenonabun

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Reader Interactions


  1. Lauren says:

    Great article! LUV your website!

  2. Dan says:

    Great article. Glad somebody else wrote about the obvious.

  3. ella says:

    Hi Christie, i found your beautiful blog when i was looking for info on bettas, i recently purchesed one and he so funny & clever!

  4. Lindsey says:

    Wow! Thanks for the great info! I’m glad you cleared up the whole “pronunciation issue” for me. I was saying “bay-ta” this whole time! I’ve never been around betta breeders or knowledgeable betta owners but I’ve done a lot of research. I actually used to say “bet-ta” until I heard the lady at the pet store say “bay-ta” so I thought that was the proper way. It’s funny how that works. LOL

  5. Heather says:

    Well sadly my local pet store failed most of these questions, he even went as far as saying in the wild some Betta fish come out of their “puddles” and flop on dry land to the next one. I’m Not sure if that’s true in nature, but it sounds far fetched to me.
    Although the Betta he keeps are in excellent condition! Each individual Betta he sells lives in a 2 to 5 gallon heated tank, and are feed live or frozen food. All are very active and playful!
    When I can make room for one, I’ll still buy one from that store due to their great care.
    Guess I should direct the guy to this blog 😉 !

  6. Mandy says:

    I’m soooo glad I found this site! My boyfriend just got me a betta for Valentine’s day. I always thought they could live in small bowls, I’m so glad I read this before I accidentally killed GUS! Thank you so much!

  7. Tiffany says:

    Hello! I’m happy to find such advice on how to care for these wonderful fish! You see, I used to keep my little guys in small tanks, and I felt horrid for making such a silly mistake as that. Now they live in five gallons of happy! I dislike it when people tell someone that it’s okay for them to stay in small tanks. Someone like me, who’s only 14, wish to get a job at a pet store and possibly be able to inform people about the proper care for bettas.

  8. Hi I love your website, and have been using it ever since getting my most recent betta about 6 months ago. He is somehow losing scales on his head. I have been looking online, trying to see if this is a symtom of something. All i got was that it was from stress…? Please, please help this guy I’d be devastated if anything happens to him. Thank you so much!
    -Pedro Napoleon Dynamite (my bettas name haha)

  9. Bella says:

    Thank you so much info I never knew before about Betta fish

  10. betta luv says:

    thanks for this blog its AWSOME !!!!!!! and today i went to a pet store and of corse i went to see the bettas and they were in great condition no fin rot the water was super clear and some had bubble nests it made me soooooooooo happy to see them in geat contition

  11. Scott says:

    There’s a Pets at Home near me and the fish guy there was quite willing to sell me two silver sharks for a 24cm long aquarium (although I didn’t buy them of course). A couple of years later when I purchased 9 baby piranhas from a different pet shop, the fish guy there didn’t even ask about the size of my aquarium, water pH etc. He just happily scooped the 9 piranhas into a bag and wrote up the small slip of paper. I was quite surprised to say the least!

  12. Bhavani Vedula says:

    I Love to have betta fish as pets. I do have 6 Betta Fish, ofcourse, all in different 4-5 gallons tanks with their own water heaters, filters decorations. I thank God for giving me the chance and choice to be able to have many pets, provide time to take care of them and to be able to afford all this. Thank you God for this wonderful beautiful nature.

  13. Stella says:

    Hi, I recently bought a Betta Fish in Meijer- when I saw him I fell in love, so I bought him 🙂
    When I first bought him, he loved to swim around and ‘communicate’ with me. But, now he just sleeps around and whenever he’s sleeping, his rump floats upwards. He also has stopped eating- I feed him three times a day, 2 times with one pellet and 1 time with a blood worm. He also has been getting mystery holes and rips in his fins, but other times he just flat out refuses to swim with his tail. He only wakes when I play music for him, but when I do that he swims around like he’s having a slight seizure or just a random outburst of need for swimming.

  14. Stella says:

    Is he becoming depressed because no one is communicating with him as much? (I have tennis 4 times a week, and work for the weekend. But, other than that, he’s home alone.) If so, what should I do? School is going to start again in a month, and I don’t want him to die of depression!
    …I should mention that I bought him when he was sick, but I got him better..

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