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.

fish tank
Photo: Jelene Morris | CC by 2.0 

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.

Photo: NMS | CC by 2.0 

clownfish tank
Photo: noricum | CC by 2.0 

clownfish tank
Photo: Callie Reed | CC BY 2.0 

goldfish in bags
Photo: Fabio Achilli | CC by 2.0 

goldfish tank
Photo: Katie Brady | CC by 2.0 

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

betta fish in pet store
Photo: Katie Brady | CC by 2.0 

betta fish tank
Photo: daryl_mitchell | CC by 2.0 

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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