Wednesday, September 25, 2013

UPDATE: Blog Renovations

Renovations to this blog are going to begin in order to provide a higher quality reading experience. Over the next few months, there will be changes made to the articles and possibly the layout of the blog. Additionally, a new feature/extension of BFAD will be integrated into the blog and will be ready within the March-April 2015 time frame. Thank you for your patience!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why Pet Shop Advice is Less Reliable Than the Internet


The novice fish keeper often has no previous experience with caring for fish. A few facts may have been picked up over the years, hearsay that may or may not be true, but that is all the knowledge the novice may have upon walking into a pet store to begin the fish-keeping hobby for the first time. More often than not, the first choice of a fish is one that is easiest to care for and/or requires little expense in comparison to the rest. This typically narrows down the beginner hobbyist’s choice to one of two starting fish species: goldfish and Betta splendens.

Unfortunately, neither species is well represented for their true needs. Both are commonly misunderstood and have a variety of rumors surrounding their care that are endorse by popular culture, word-of-mouth, and inappropriate products pushed onto the consumer. There are many choices for the novice aquarist and when the choices become confusing or overwhelming, who is better to turn to than the friendly pet store employee?

The answer: the internet.

Photo from Flickr.com

It may seem surprising to some but a quick internet search with essential keywords is often more reliable than the knowledge passed along from a pet shop worker. This is because the average pet shop employee typically knows as much as the consumer does. Yes, the employee has gone through training and probably has read a care or two relating to the animals in his or her department. However, the information provided through training by pet shops such as Petco or PetSmart is often based on the incorrect myths of fish keeping in order to sell more products. Petco, for example, cites on its care guide that Betta splendens can thrive in 0.4 gallon (1.51 liters) tank. This is untrue for a variety of reasons. In short, Betta splendens require no less than 1 gallon (3.78 liters) with regular, twice-weekly, water changes.
 
Why would pet stores purposely provide in correct information to their employees and consumers? To sell more products. More often than not, the novice fish keeper is not willing to pay the true cost of owning a Betta fish. These fish are thought of as cheap, costing no more than $20 with supplies. Even then, many beginners are not willing to pay such an amount of money for what they see as no more than a colorful piece of interactive d├ęcor. And the employee, knowing this and having been trained to take advantage of this, will push the idea that these animals are cheap and do not require a lot of work or dedication. This results in an easier sale. There are more people willing to spend a few dollars on the aquarium hobby than there are people who are willing to spend a lot of money for it. Quick, cheap, sales end up as a larger profit than rare, expensive, sales.

It is not uncommon, as a result, to be told that Betta splendens are more likely to thrive in low water volumes, do not need heaters, and do not need to be fed that often. The beginner fish keeper may not even be told about the necessity of water conditioners or even what the differences between them are. The pet fish industry relies on the selling and reselling of fish species. It is a sad cycle of death and/or pain for the living creatures involved because business is telling consumers that these animals do not need what is required for their care and that they live shorter lives than their actual potentials.

Novice fish keepers would be better off finding reliable sources on the internet. Although correct information is hard to come by in a world full of fish myths, more often than not it is easier to find life-saving information through online communities, forums, and websites. Even better is when information from multiple, non-related, sites begins to match up and when trust worthy sources are cited in claims. Benefits of researching online are greater than the risk of following pet store advice blindly. While some websites are better than others for advice, there is a lot of correct information out there. Many of those websites or official sources are cited on this blog and its Facebook page.

True facts are out there. It may take some time, and some research, but all animals deserve to be cared for in a way that will allow them to thrive. Taking the time to fact-check pet store employees can vastly improve the quality of life for Betta splendens at the least and save their lives at best.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Community Tank Myth

A Betta splendens in a community tank with neon tetras. Photo by Tumblr

One of the most common myths plaguing Betta fish is that they are brutal killers that will tear apart any fish or other creature placed in its territory, making it impossible to establish a community tank with this solitary species. This myth is often perpetuated by pet stores and pet supply stores to sell low-volume, typically less than 1 gallon, overpriced Betta fish tanks.While it is true that two male Betta fish should never be placed in the same undivided tank, no matter how many gallons it contains, it is untrue that all fish species are incompatible with Betta splendens. It should also be noted that female Betta fish are able to be grouped together in what is called a sorority, so long as there are at least 5 to 7 females in the tank and that there are no overly-aggressive ones that will disturb the sorority balance.

When considering the establishment of a community tank with a Betta fish, it is important to take tank volume into account. While many pet stores still advertise the old rule of one inch of fish per gallon, this is a misleading way to figure out how large of a tank is needed to build a community. If this rule was taken literally, it would mean that in order to have 10 one-inch fish in a single tank then a 100 gallon fish tank would be needed. However, this is not the case since there are many deciding factors that determine the minimum volume needed for various communities. Such factors include filtration, bioload, and the presence of live plants.

Because of these varying factors, there is no minimum for community tanks. Since a community tank can technically include merely having a single Betta fish and a single snail, it is also a loose term. Generally, though, most community tanks that will contain more than one fish living together will need at least 10 gallons. A small sorority of female Betta splendens, for example, cannot live in less than a cycled 10 gallon fish tank.

Depending on the desired tank mates, the required care for each species, and other wants for a community tank, a different minimum volume is needed. Because of this, it is important to do research behind each species that will be considered and added into a community tank. Schooling species are often popular with Betta splendens but those usually require around groups of 5 to 6 at the minimum each and different species produce different bioloads. Keeping this in mind is just as important as considering compatibility with Betta fish in order to run a healthy, happy, community fish tank.

Considering Stock for Your Community Tank

Because, like people, all fish have different personalities, they may not always get along with each other even if they are compatible tank mates. This is especially true when it comes to Betta fish, with individual Betta fish possibly being more territorial than other Betta fish of the same species and thus they may attempt to kill any addition to its territory while others may have the opposite reaction. This should be kept in mind when attempting to stock a functioning community. A school of tetras, for example, may be purchased and incompatible due to personality reasons and what to do with the incompatible fish needs to be taken into consideration.

The following are generally accepted tank mates for Betta splendens:

Barbs: Schooling fish

Cherry barb

A cherry barb. Photo by Aqua-fish.net

Corydorus Catfish: Schooling fish

Albino cory
Habrosus cory
Habastatus cory
Julii cory
Leopard cory
Panda cory
Pygmy cory


Corydoras julii, a sociable catifsh. Photo by Acuariosleuka.com

Guppies: Schooling fish

"Feeder" guppy
Non-colorful female guppy
*fancy guppies should be avoided because their colorful tails can cause Betta fish to aggresively attack them

A non-fancy female guppy. Photo by Petco.com

Loaches: Schooling fish

Khuli loach
Yoyo loach

A yoyo loach. Photo by Aquariumfish.net


Platies: Schooling Fish

Non-colorful platies

A non-colorful platy. Photo by Tumblr


Plecos: One-per-tank

Bristlenose pleco
Bushynose pleco

A bristlenose pleco. Photo by Plecoplanet.com


Rasboras: Schooling Fish

Galaxy rasbora
Harelquin rasbora
Rasbora brigittae
Scissor-tail rasbora

A pair of galaxy rasbora. Photo by Teowayyong.net


Shrimp: Non-Schooling

Amano shrimp
Cherry shrimp
Ghost shrimp

A ghost shrimp. Photo by Aquariumdomain.com


Snails: Non-schooling

Apple snail (also called mystery snail)
Malaysian snai
Nerite snail
Pond snail

An apple snail, which is often mislabeled as a "mystery" snail in stores. Photo by Applesnail.net


Tetras: Schooling fish

Black neon tetra
Black phantom tetra
Bloodfin tetra
Cardinal tetra
Ember tetra
GloFish
Glowlight tetra
Head and tail light tetra
Neon tetra
Pristilla tetra
Rummy nose tetra
Von-rio tetra
X-ray tetra

A school of Glofish, which are genetically modified zebra fish. Photo by Tumblr

Please note that some of the schooling fish can be placed by themselves but prefer to be in a school, while others must remain in a school. Various cory catfish can school together.

Before stocking, all species must have research done on them in order to determine what good mixes are. Finding out their bioloads (high or low), water conditions, live plant needs, and other details that may pertain to the type of tank being considered is a requirement for a successful community. Betta fish should be added after establishing a community inside the tank because otherwise the Betta may become territorial and not welcome any newcomers. Be sure to watch the other fish too--tetras have been known for picking on Betta fish by biting their tails. This can sometimes lead to death or infection.

Before adding fish to a community, it is also necessary to quarantine the species in order to ensure a healthy addition. Diseases can easily be spread in a tank through careless adding of new tank mates and can potentially wipe out an entire community.



References

F., Christine. "Neon Tetras & Bettas." Nippyfish. N.p., 2 Mar. 2011. Web. 08 Jan. 2013.

F., Christine. "Quarantine New Fish." Nippyfish. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2013.

Soup, Angela. "Betta Fish Compatibility." Betta Info. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2013. <http://www.bettainfo.com/betta-fish-compatibility>.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Recommended Water Changes for Betta Splendens

The following information is taken from a much larger article on this blog and separated like this for ease of finding it. The full article and sources, which cover water quality and the Nitrogen cycle, can be found here.


Water Change Schedules for Best Tank Health

A clean source of water is an assurance of better betta health. However, water changes are dependant on tank size. This next section is a basic guide to the most popular tank sizes used for betta fish. Bigger is always better and means less changes, especially if cycled.

1 gallon: Do a 100% water change every other day. This sized tank cannot establish a water cycle as it is too small.

2 gallons: 50% water changes 2-3 times a week and one 100% water change weekly. Another tank size too small for easy cycling, it is important to maintain regular water changes. Gravel vacuums will make cleaning easier and help maintain better water.

5 gallons: This is the first tank size that can be cycled by beginners and thus is has two different water change schedules. For cycled tanks, perform 50% water changes weekly. For non-cycled tanks perform 50% water changes twice a week and one 100% water change weekly. Non-cycled tanks are much harder to clean and it is recommended that a cycle is established for the this purpose.

10 gallons: For cycled tanks, perform 50% water changes weekly if there is only one betta inhabiting it. If it is a community tank, add another 50% water change to its schedule. For non-cycled tanks 50% water chanes should be performed twice a week and a 100% water change bi-weekly.

20 gallons: Tanks this size should only be cycled. 50% water changed should occur each week.

There are many other tank sizes but these are some of the most common. For in-between sizes, adjust the schedule to your best judgement. Although these are not absolute, strict, must-have schedules, they are recommended for the best health of betta fish.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Misleading Label Scam

Betta fish are marketing gold mine. The care myths surrounding this popular pet species have lead to poorly designed and sometimes outright dangerous products that companies claim are specifically created for their well-being. Betta fish are misunderstood. Because they are misunderstood, product companies and product distributors take advantage of that fact and slap the ever-so misleading “for betta fish” label on everything—regardless of whether or not the product is safe or delivers what it promises.

The easiest place to spot these fraudulent products is in big-name pet chains, such as Petco, PetSmart, Petland, PetSupplies Plus, or Pets at Home. Outside of pet stores there are product carriers such as Walmart, K-mart, and even grocery stores carrying these dangerous or useless products. These products will range from too-small fish tanks to specialized water. The species-specific care myths are not researched beforehand by consumers and this make the sales of these “betta products” easier to push onto the buyer.

To put it bluntly: the majority of products that are specifically labeled as for betta fish are almost always scams.

The Fish Tank Scam


The majority of fish tanks specifically marked for betta fish are extremely overpriced and even deadly to fish. The myth that perpetuates sales of these tanks is the myth that betta fish naturally live puddles in the wild, thus they do not need much room to thrive. This is false. As explained in depth in the fish tank debate article on this blog, low-volume fish tanks are not suitable homes for betta fish because they do not cover the basic needs of the animal let alone provide an environment in which it can thrive. Nonetheless, pet stores and pet product distributors are fans of so-called betta tanks.

Petco is largely guilty of this fish tank myth continuing to circulate. Not only does the retailer provide outright false information on their care sheets, such as their claim that betta fish only need0.4 gallons to live in, but their specifically betta labeled products endorse their false claims. Some of their products even directly contradict what they claim on their betta care sheet, such as their own “Petco Dual Betta Bowl” that holds 0.3 gallons and comes with a divider to hold two male betta fish.

The Petco Dual Betta Bowl, a dangerous product. Photo by Petco.com


This tank is a company-created deadly product that is overpriced, regularly going for $8.99, and is purchased simply because it has the betta fish label. This fish tank, by Petco’s own claims in addition to what the fish actually needs to live, is hazardous for one fish let alone two. Aside from unsupported features this tank boasts on the website, the description of this tank urges consumers to purchase other betta-specifically-labeled products from the Petco brand.

Petco not only creates and sells their own brand of deadly products they claim are tailored to betta fish care but they also sell other companies’ products that are just as dangerous for fish health. The “Marina Betta Kit,” for example, is a product that is sold in Petco and other major chain retailers. It is 0.5 gallons, half of what the minimum is required for a betta fish, and comes with conditioner, food, and a plastic plant. The food, also labeled as for betta fish specifically, and the conditioner, which has the same label pattern, are inferior products that do not fully benefit the betta fish species. Additionally, plastic plants, which often come with these betta kits, are notorious for shredding the delicate fins of long-finned males. But the product grips consumer attention with opinionated claims such as “a dramatic aquatic display” and “a maximum view design that lets you enjoy your betta fish from every angle.” All this means is that the tank is clear, which is nothing spectacular since fish tanks are almost always clear.

The Marina 0.5 gallon betta kit. Photo by Petco.com

Such empty pretend benefits listed as a feature of the betta specific tank are common. When a product cannot boast of anything substantial, companies use filler phrases to make it seems more worth the consumer’s money. The particular danger of the Marina kit and others like it, is that they claim to be complete kits for betta fish care while neglecting to include or even mention necessities such as a heater. These tanks trick potential buyers with the betta fish label and ultimately mislead about betta fish care and/or requirements, harming this welfare of this species.

Another dangerous tank sold in pet stores, the Lee's Round Betta Keeper. Photo by Petco.com

Walmart is another major contributor toward harmful and deadly betta fish labeled tanks. In order to compete with major pet retailors, the company has created its own brand called Aqua Culture. This brand is cheaply produced with poor quality products and is often the majority of Walmart betta fish product stock. Aqua Culture tanks are often too low in volume for betta fish to survive in yet are specifically advertised as betta fish products. Their “Betta Cube with LED Light” tank is at a mere 0.3 gallons without a lid or necessary space to fit a heater. This product lists on its features a “unique design,” that it is “perfect for desktop,” and how it “compliments any room.” Once again, consumers are faced with opinions rather than facts about the product.

In addition to empty claims, the tank is on sale for $14.97 online. A non-betta-specifically-labeled 2.5 gallon fish tank costs a little less than that in PetSmart and around that price online. The higher price is simply because it has the betta label on it. Yet it does nothing to benefit the fish and certainly does not help the consumer’s wallet. Many of the betta-specific fish products are like this in Walmart and similar retailers, often dangerous and expensive.


The General Product Scam


In addition to deadly tanks and misleading or completely false information, general products with the betta fish label are also not necessarily good for this fish species. Petco and other pet stores have begun selling betta-specific water. The fact that there are not other bottles for other specific fish species should strike the consumer odd at the very least. The store claims the water is a “one step water change,” has no “chemical additives” or “chlorine or chloramine,” and is “super oxygenated.”

Betta water is the ultimate product scam. These bottles are often sold in volumes no larger than 1 liter, going for between $4 to $8 dollars each depending on the retailer. The bare minimum amount of water needed for a betta fish is 1 gallon or 3.78 liters. A 1-gallon tank needs a 50% water change and a 100% water change each week. That means a consumer would have to spend around $16 to $20 a week on this betta water. But is it worth it?

The claims on the bottle are true. It does not have chemical additives, chlorine, or chloramine that are found in tap water, making the water safe for human consumption. However, what the label does not tell the consumer is that this can also be accomplished by buying a small bottle of water conditioner, such as the highly rated Seachem Prime or API Stresscoat, for around the same price of a single bottle of this betta water. Water conditioner removes harmful ailments from tap water and only needs a few drops per gallon to work. A small bottle of water conditioner can easily last over a year or more depending on tank size and water change schedules.

As for the claim of being “super oxygenated,” that means nothing. An air pump or live plant can help add extra oxygen to the water, if needed. Once this bottle water is opened, any extra oxygen it may or may not contain will be exposed to the air and dwindled anyway.

The Petco brand betta water, which is nothing more than pre-conditioned water. Photo by Petco.com

While not all products with a betta label—such as food, floating logs, and so forth—may be scams, it is important to carefully think about what the product is claiming and to check if it is actually beneficial to the animal. More often than not, companies will sell any product that will make them money. The betta fish label makes it easier for them to do so. It is not the first time or the last that a product producer will manipulate or take advantage of the public in order to make an extra dollar.



References
Petco. "Lee's Round Betta Keeper." Petco. Petco, n.d. Web. 4 Jan. 2013.

Petco. "Petco Betta Water." Petco. Petco, n.d. Web. 4 Jan. 2013.

Petco. "Marina Betta Kit in Burgundy." Petco. Petco, n.d. Web. 4 Jan. 2013

Petco. "Petco Dual Betta Bowl." Petco. Petco. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Jan. 2013.

Walmart. "Aqua Culture Betta Cube with LED Light." Walmart. Walmart, n.d. Web. 4 Jan. 2013.