Acquired: Fish / pet store
Posted Nov 25, 2015
Let's get this out of the way from the beginning: the noble betta fish is not the "simple starter fish" you've been told it is. Now, don't get me wrong--it's still a great starter fish, but ALL fish have a lot of health and environmental requirements, and betta are no different, no matter what the pet store employee tells you.
Betta fish cannot live in a bowl, or a half-gallon "cube" of water with no filtration. They should have an environment of no less than two gallons (preferably five), it must be filtered, and ideally they require a heater as well, as they are tropical fish. Already you're looking at a much bigger investment than a seven dollar fish and a decorative brandy snifter.
They can be picky eaters. Their large and beautiful fins make them vulnerable to fungal and bacterial fin infections as well as injuries. The usual method of storage (small plastic cups) can mean that your fish may be ill before you even bring it home, even if it is displaying no symptoms. Any pet store betta fish is a gamble; they can also be bought from reputable breeders, but these fish tend to have very specific appearances and be significantly more expensive.
With all this in mind, betta are still a lot of fun. They can be kept in relatively small environments with proper filtration, which means they're still excellent pets for a child's bedroom or a college dorm. They tend to engage with their owners, and are some of the most beautiful, colorful fish around--even pet stores are starting to sell more of the really striking colors and fin shapes.
If you want a betta fish--go for it! Just be warned that your initial investment might be closer to $50 than $10, and believe it or not, all living animals need care and attention. Betta are not effortless, but they are beautiful.
(Photo by Daniella Vereeken)