Why Life Is Hell for 'Pet' Fish

Profile photo of Whitney-C

Posted November 15, 2013 by Whitney Calk

Before I knew any better, I used to beg my parents to buy me “pet” fish from pet stores. We’d bring them home and dump them into a probably-not-big-enough tank—and for some reason, we found joy in watching them swim in pitiful, endless circles.

Back then, it didn’t occur to me that there was anything wrong with condemning a tropical animal, who would swim freely in nature with no boundaries, to life in a 10-gallon glass prison. As it turns out, there is SO much wrong with it.

Now, we know that puppies, kittens, birds, and other animals sold in pet stores come from “puppy mills” and other mass breeding facilities. But where do fish in pet stores come from?

Saltwater Fish

Ninety-five percent of saltwater fish sold in stores are captured from the wild.

Fishers douse the coral reefs with cyanide, which is ingested by the fish who live there, and as reported in Scientific American, “[t]he resulting asphyxiation stuns some fish and sends others into spasms, making them easy to grab by hand or net.”

Half the affected fish die on the reef, and 40 percent of those who survive the initial poisoning die before they reach an aquarium.

Freshwater Fish

Approximately 90 percent of freshwater fish are raised on farms. Goldfish, for instance, are usually bred in giant tubs in facilities that produce as many as 250 million fish per year.

These animals are sold to pet stores and other shops, and many are doomed to live in plastic bags or bowls, neither of which provides them with the space or oxygen that they need.


Pet stores like to promote betta fish as easy “starter pets” who are able to survive and thrive in extremely tiny containers with only a few inches of water to swim around in.


Betta fish are native to Asia, where they live in the shallow water of rice paddies, ponds, or slow-moving streams. Since the water is shallow, it is also warm, which is why betta fish in captivity require a minimum of 10 gallons of water in an aquarium that can be kept heated to at least 75 degrees.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how they get to pet stores, here’s your answer:

bettas pet store

Bottom line: Buying any animals, including fish, from pet stores supports industries that treat animals as nothing more than merchandise and sends a message that animals’ lives are only worth what we’re willing to pay for them.

Please don’t buy fish or support pet stores that sell them.

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  • Profile photo of aadella

    501 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    I’m speechless – I’ve had so many over the years and I never knew

  • Profile photo of yfgc

    608 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Makes me sick.

  • Profile photo of TogetherWeCanSaveThemAll

    716 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    They are so beautiful. It’s truly depressing to see them being treated so poorly.

  • Profile photo of Doingit4Dash

    722 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    :( </3

  • Profile photo of alexblue

    729 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    so not cool…it’s like making a person live in a very tiny car in a giant parking lot with the windows sealed shut during a long hot summer. It’s surprising any of these innocent little fishes survive to make it to these shops of horror.

  • Profile photo of rayvenchaney

    731 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    -..Walmart does this to their fishes.. I wish I could do something about it, but I don’t know what I’d do..It’s really sad because they’re in dirty containers as well..

  • Profile photo of LadyStar10

    734 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    I have a friend who owns a pet store, and we didn’t know this is cruel to them until now, so we plan to get a bigger tank or even a big fountain to put them in.

  • 735 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Thank you for expressing about Pet Fish Hell….I know and feel fishes have senses and do remeber who you are. After spending time diving I am absoulutly sure they feel whats going on. Not to many do even think about this……..thank you so much

  • Profile photo of TogetherWeCanSaveThemAll

    735 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    This is just sick. I have seen some of those tiny jars and they are nowhere to keep a beautiful creature like a fish.

  • Profile photo of Bonnie234

    735 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    oh wow i really never knew this

  • Profile photo of samantha86

    740 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    I’ve been in PetSmart as they were ‘unboxing’ their fish shipment. It’s very sad and downright diplorable conditions those poor fish are kept in :(

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