We've all seen this; fish in little cups, shelved like any other merchandise. For those with a heart, it's a sad image, but Walmart among many pet stores continue this practice of selling aquatic animals for a low price while keeping them in minimum living conditions. By this I mean they do just enough to keep the fish alive (at least for a while). This would be allowing them to breath water and to eat.
Because male bettas have to be separated from each other, they are often denied a proper home. They are kept in Tupperware with an inch of water because giving each betta a 2 gallon home would take up too much room and require more care and expenses than they are individually worth. Of course you could say that about any fish. Anyone ever bought a $5 fish and placed it in a $40 tank with $50 worth of accessories?
I understand that it's a business, but they have no business dealing with animals if that's how they are going to treat them. Walmart isn't the only one who does this to bettas, but I have never seen a fish section so barren. Fish need to feel secure. People do this by adding plants, caves and other décor; leaving them out in the open is cruel. It causes stress and results in an unhealthy fish that dies early; that is why you'll see dead fish in these aquariums. I think their logic is "we don't want our products hiding from the customers" but come on; we'll still be able to see them. Or maybe they just don't want to waste any dollars by adding their own products into the tank. If anything, rocks, plants, and caves would draw me to the tanks, curious to see what is living in them. At Walmart, you just have to glance and you've seen everything, and that everything includes pale scales, torn fins, and small fish.
Depressed yet? I always am when I walk by this area of Walmart. If I could afford it, I'd never buy anything from there again. This is true for many people.
So what can we do about this? The following are what people have done to combat Walmart's abuse.
You can go to Walmart's site and email them your complaint. Scroll down to the bottom of Walmart's home page and under Help click "Feedback." There you can write a complaint and submit it, then in a day or so someone will write back, telling you how sorry they are about your experience and blah blah blah.
You can also select "Contact Us" and give feedback that way as well. I recommend doing it just to feel good about yourself, but will it help the fish? Most likely it will not, but if most people complained rather than think "that's a shame," I'm sure that would make a difference to Walmart.
It is way more effective to talk to the manager face-to-face, showing him what you are referring to; he can't very well argue with you when you both can see the dirty cups and the half-dead fish.
I know change.org always has petitions about stopping Walmart from selling animals. I would definitely sign up. And if there isn't a current one, you can create a petition to stop this practice. Again though, this will probably not make a difference to Walmart and it will allow you to voice out your opinion.
Spend Less (or Nothing) at their Pet Section
I have heard people say to others to never buy Walmart fish because then you are supporting the practice. It makes sense on the surface, but I disagree. I think there is a way to still buy the fish (out of pity I'm sure) while not supporting Walmart.
They keep their fish (and crabs) in such poor conditions that they die all the time. They don't even care if a handful die every week. All my life I have yet to see anyone in the checkout lanes with a fish in a bag. I see people looking at them, but never buying one; I know it must happen, but I'm saying it must happen rarely if I've never seen them bought before (where I live). And these animals, as everything in Walmart, are very cheap.
How is Walmart making money off these little guys? Are they getting them for 5 cents each? Maybe, but they're losing potential money when their fish die, so it's never made sense to me. There's also the expense of the tanks, filters, lights, and food. Wouldn't they want them to live as long as possible?
My theory is that they are not making much money off the animals, but they use them as an attraction to get people into that section of the store. Think about it. Children are always pulling their parents over there to see the fish. Even adults get curious. It is bright, eye-grabbing, and there are at least 8 tanks, 8 different species to observe.
Once you're over there, you see all their fake plants, logs, fish food, and fish medicine. Seeing the poor animals is such boring atmospheres might make you think of your aquarium at home. Maybe you could buy an extra plant or two. Your fish might like that log. And if you don't have a fish, maybe you should buy a fish, along with an aquarium, gravel, décor, a filter...
This is the real money of the pet store, the accessories rather than the animals. I'm certain the pet section of Walmart makes 99% of their sales on accessories and 1% on the animals. People might even look at the fish and then walk by the cat shelf and see something their kitty might want. It's all about luring people to an area. Even if they don't spend a few dollars on a new pet, people might buy a $20 item for one they already have.
This is just my theory and I could be wrong, but it makes sense to me. I wouldn't put Walmart above this sort of thing either. So I recommend people to go to Petsmart (I think they treat their pets better than Petco from what I've seen) to buy products for their animals. Even grocery stores often sell pet food and cat litter.
Maybe if most people did this in addition to petitions and constant complaints, then Walmart would finally listen and either drop the animals or take better care of them.
I cannot fault someone for buying an animal to spare it from Walmart. I think it's an admirable thing to do if you can. Just don't buy anything else from that pet section and Walmart will lose money. I know their stuff is cheaper, but I refuse to buy from their pet section unless it is an emergency and I need fish medicine in the middle of the night.
Always Refund Dead Fish If You Can
And of course, no matter how little you paid for the fish, always return it if it dies on you within a few days of purchase. That is truly paying walmart to kill their fish when they die and you can get your money back, but don't. And when you return fish, always bring up the conditions of their tanks to customer service. Showing proof of their conditions makes for a stronger complaint.
The Old Switcheroo
I have heard of people purchasing fish and getting their money back by returning a dead fish of the same species, but in fact it isn't the same fish, rescuing it while not paying Walmart. But I discourage this because it is considered stealing.
Changing the Water Yourself
I have also heard some people just take matters into their own hands. If they see piles of dead fish in the tanks, they'll take a net and scoop them out, dumping them in the sink. Some people will take betta water off the shelf and partially change out the water of bettas (but never the whole thing!) if the water is dirty. The thinking is: if Walmart employees don't care enough to properly care for the fish, they won't care if you do it for them. There's always a risk of getting in trouble, I suppose, but I've yet to hear a story online where there was a bad outcome of this.
But it shouldn't be our responsibility, it should be Walmart's. Once I complained to a manager about my dead fish, and she admitted they never change out the water in their tanks or their betta fish cups. She said they didn't have enough time and staff to do that, but she promised me she would talk to the vendor about it. Why would it be the vendor's responsibility? Here's an example where a store either needs to hire staff, even just one person, and make time to care for the animals, or they just need to stop selling them.
Finally, if you are unsatisfied with your talk with the manager, you could send a letter to corporate. http://www.corporateofficeheadquarters.com/2011/01/walmart-corporate-office.html#.Uy9OC4UbFB4
Call, email, fax: make sure your voice is heard about this problem.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Lizz on September 10, 2017:
I know it's wrong, but sometimes I'll steal the fish from Walmart.. You just have to scoop them up in an empty coffee cup, the employees never notice and it saves the animal. Walmart gains nothing,
GalaxyRat on April 27, 2017:
I got my goldfish, Wishy the Fishy (she's a year old, but when several injuries from getting under the filter! She's still alive, thank goodness...) at PetSmart. I see dead fish in WalMart all the time, and I feel so sorry for them!
mariekbloch (author) on August 15, 2015:
Be sure to point out its condition to the manager. Always complain!
Nate on August 14, 2015:
I don't think it'll let me post pictures but I was just in my local Walmart looking for test strips, and couldn't help but to take a brief look at the betta fish. One in particular stood out to me and I took a picture of it with my iPhone. The poor thing was swimming in about an inch of water, barely enough to cover its fins. The thought of it was just sickening. Does anyone have any common sense there? If it's not bad enough they keep them in a tiny container, now they're getting stingy with the water too? I'll be going back there tomorrow to buy it and hopefully get it back to good health and in a good environment.
Iris on July 06, 2015:
I was at a store near me, and I went over to see the Bettas. Not only the BETTAS, but all of the TANKS were horribly filthy as well!!!! I bought up Miracle, my Betta, and he looks MUCH better. :) I think it is SO UNBELIEVABLY WRONG TO MISTREAT INNOCENT LIFES!!!!!!!!!
BT on December 17, 2014:
Yes, the fish might not always be in the healthiest of shape, but wouldn't you want to try to save them BEFORE they die-while they're still alive? If stores buy 2nd or 3rd class stock, they're STILL buying those LIVE animals, that may possibly have been disposed of before dying, w/other 1st class suppliers. I prefer to buy the pets, while at the same time, contacting customer service or the 'uppers' in each store, telling them to stop selling live. Luckily, LOTS of larger, animal-friendly pet places are really popping up a lot now...lets hope they stay that way.
mariekbloch (author) on June 18, 2014:
Allison on June 18, 2014:
I love your posts they are so inspiring
Guppy-Guide on August 06, 2013:
Instead of blaming Walmart for not providing these fish with proper care, maybe we should think about the person that's breeding these fish and ultimately providing Walmart with them. If you raised/bred fish, and know that Walmart fish conditions are terrible do you care about the fish you're breeding, or do you know you'll make money off the fish they kill by providing them with more later on?
Melissa A Smith from New York on December 17, 2012:
Theophanes Avery from New England on December 16, 2012:
Some of my first fish were from Wal-Mart, when I was still a wee one. They make their money on their fish, I'll tell you that much! Not for the reason you might suspect... no... their fish are of such poor quality that just to keep them alive you will need to buy every one of those medicines they sell and then don't be surprised if you end up with babies born with horrible mutations because of all the chemicals you've dumped in their water. It's really rather repulsive. I have talked to pet store owners before who say that they get the largest chunk of their profit from live fish and everything they need. The fish at Wal-Mart are almost always those insanely easy to breed live bearing fish which can be farmed in vast numbers somewhere. So yes, I am sure they do get them for very very cheap. Would you, as a store, put any effort into keeping something alive and healthy that you spent 5 cents on? It's a broken system from every angle. I was happy when our Wal-Mart took down their fish tanks. They don't even sell Bettas anymore.