Buying fish online is a relatively new concept, but it is a great alternative to getting fish from your local fish store. Local fish stores do not always have the species you want, especially rarer species like micro-rasboras or Asian stone catfish or even some rare species of Corydoras. Most fish stores will have some kind of bettas, but they may not be what you want. So how do you go about traversing the internet to find the perfect betta for you?
Buying fish online is not as much of a gamble as it may seem to be. While some fish do pass away in transit, most arrive perfectly safe and healthy. The internet is the best way to get the variety and selection of fish that you want. Once you find a good breeder, the rest is just a matter of waiting for the fish you want.
In this article, we will discuss betta species, wild-caught bettas, hybrids, high quality farmed fish, trans-shippers, domestic fish, how long fish can survive in transit, problems with farm-raised fish, problems with fish and color, buying breeders.
One of the best aspects of buying betta fish online is that you can choose from more than just the hybridized domestic betta. The domesticated betta that is commonly referred to as Splendens is actually a hybrid of Splendens, Imbellis, and Smaragdina.
By ordering bettas online, you can buy pure Splendens, Imbellis, and Smaragdina, as well as many other betta species. Some of the more prized wild types that are legal in most areas are Mahachaiensis, Macrostoma, Albimarginata, Coccina, Brownorum, and Coccina.
Most bettas, aside from Splendens, Imbellis, and Smaragdina, are much more difficult to care for than the average domesticated betta. Therefore, most pet stores are unwilling to sell them, as they have difficulty giving specialized care that will keep them alive.
Since you have access to many different betta species, you can research which one is your favorite and whether or not you will be able to care for it. Some are extremely sensitive and need a water pH of 3 or 4 as well as daily live food, which is not realistic for most betta keepers.
Another benefit of having multiple species available is the ability to keep bettas together. You heard me right, you can keep multiple males of the same species in one tank and not worry about fights breaking out, as long as you get the right species.
For example, you could keep five or seven bettas Imbellis in a 20 long or 29-gallon tank, if it is heavily decorated. The sex ratio doesn’t matter much, though it would be best to either keep all males or at least two females.
The main downside to these bettas is their cost, but when you compare them to high quality show bettas, they are less expensive.
Another issue with wild bettas is that most are wild caught. Most fish in the aquarium trade are from the wild as well, but the bettas have a particular issue with this. Most species are threatened, with some being endangered, and soon all will be on the verge of extinction in the wild.
Habitat destruction from expanding farms and businesses has moved most of them out of territory they are comfortable in. The main reason their population is in decline is due to habitat destruction, but catching for the aquarium trade has also taken a chunk out of wild populations.
Preserving wild populations is essential for the ecosystems they inhabit, as bettas are specialized predators. They are necessary for keeping prey animals in check and preventing them from starving.
If possible, buy domestically bred wild bettas. Not only will they be hardier, they will also accept live food. One of the most frustrating things about buying wild caught bettas is that they will only eat live food, and live food gets real expensive real fast.
Not to mention that you won’t be able to feed them while on vacation, so no vacations for you. In addition, the average person has no idea what daphnia, fairy shrimp, white worms, blackworms, seed shrimp, or grindal worms even are, let alone how to clean and feed them to the bettas.
Domestically bred wild betta species are
normally transitioned to powdered and pellet food after 7-9 weeks and will be
able to thrive on pellet food. They are much easier to care for, and you can
get yourself that well deserved vacation.
Hybrid bettas generally do not have a specific species name associated with them. They are a hybrid between two different betta species, normally Splendens and another, typically Imbellis, though it could be any two species, as long as both reproduce in the same manner.
For example, you cannot breed a mouthbrooding species with a bubble nester. The parental care and spawn sizes are too far apart between these two species to successfully get a spawn out of them.
The hybrid bettas typically display a “spotted” pattern on their dorsal fin and occasionally the tail fins. These spots are vertical rows that you can see between the rays and are associated with wild species of bettas.
Domesticated bettas lack these spots but breeding them back to a wild species makes them appear in the next generation. The hybrid generation also normally lacks long tail fins and tend to be P
In addition, they do not display as much color on the body as domesticated bettas have, but they can still display very impressive coloration on the fins. The hybrids and their appearance vary depending on the species involved, but most tend to be fairly expensive, from $20-70.
High Quality Farmed Fish
Most little bettas in your local fish store or local pet stores tend to be rejects from breeders. Occasionally, stores will get in some Butterfly or high-end Koi bettas, but you are normally limited to those.
While some of them can be quite impressive (and remember, they color up much more once you bring them home and get them out of the toxic cup!), most of them are sub-par when compared to the fish being produced in Thailand.
Thailand and the Philippines are huge centers for betta breeding. They are capable of producing extremely high-end fish at a very low cost to the breeders. The breeders do not have to pay for as much food as breeders here do, and they often don’t have to pay for heaters and other equipment.
Most of the fish live outside, in the elements, but they have fantastic growth rates due to the high temperatures and constant availability of insect larvae. It is easy for the breeders to go and harvest insect larvae, as the insects breed readily in the climate.
Since the fish are living in what is similar to their natural habitat in terms of climate and food, they have amazing form and coloration. The fish coming from these farms are normally very high quality and live much longer than bettas in pet stores.
Trans shippers are people who have paid for import permits to, well, just about everywhere. They take on the cost of all the permits and import transactions to deliver your fish to you. However, due to these costs, shipping can get expensive.
When importing a fish from halfway across the world, you will first have to contact your nearest trans shipper. The cost of a fish leaving Thailand is normally $5-10 per fish, but they must first go to the trans shipper, then to you. You will have to pay at least two different shipping costs and paying three is not abnormal.
In addition, the fish will be in transit for quite a long period of time, normally over a week for the whole transaction. The fish will get a rest at the trans shipper, and the trans shipper will ensure that they are healthy enough to continue to the last leg of their journey.
When buying fish domestically, you only have to pay one domestic shipping fee, which ranges from $10-60 on average in the United States. If you are getting an expensive fish, pick overnight or next day shipping, as you don’t want to lose that fish in transit.
Also, be aware that breeders and shippers are not able to refund you your shipping cost. Each breeder has a different policy, but they are not willing to refund a cost that they had to pay. Most of the time they will refund the cost of the fish, or at least a portion.
However, if you fail to get your package upon delivery or don’t take it inside within an hour during bad weather, this breaks most D.O.A. deals (Dead on Arrival). In addition, you normally have to provide either photographic or video evidence of the dead animal, just so the breeder can avoid any potential scams.
How Long Can Fish Survive in Transit?
Most people don’t know that fish can be shipped through the regular mail, let alone that they can survive that way for several days. One of the unfortunate aspects of shipping fish is that packages are lost and delayed on a daily basis, and if that happens, there is nothing that you can do.
There are two main ways to ship fish, one is very safe, and one has a little more risk, and bettas must unfortunately be shipped in the riskier way. If the package is not delayed, the second way is not riskier and shares the same risk with the first, but if it is delayed, you may start to worry a bit.
The first way to ship fish is using breather bags. These bags allow a constant flow of air in and out of a water tight bag, and the bag is full of water. The second method is to use poly bags, which are filled ⅓ with water and ⅔ with air, often just whatever air is in the room.
Breather bags do not function with air inside of them, but bettas need to access air to use their labyrinth organ. If the package is delayed, the poly bag may run out of air, but the breather bag will not.
That being said, bettas are hardy fish and can survive 5-7 days in the mail. Live fish packages should arrive in 1-3 days, but prepare yourself for delays, especially if you use USPS. Out of the mail carriers in the US, USPS has the worst statistics for getting packages to arrive on the day that they claim they will. That being said, they are by far the cheapest for 2-3-day shipping.
Problems with Farm Raised Fish
Farm raised fish often arrive very healthy, though a bit hungry and faded. They will recover in just a few days with your care. That being said, their main issue is that they arrive very healthy.
The high temperatures on the farms prevent the growth of many common aquarium bacterial infections and parasites, so these fish often have not been sick. If they have never had to fight off an infection, their immune system will be worse, not better.
They cannot be put with other fish immediately, as most fish carry pathogens that are common to the local waters. Local fish have immunity to these pathogens and will not get sick from them, but if they are transmitted to fish that have never seen pathogens, the new fish will get sick.
Quarantine them for at least a month before introducing them to other fish. This should give them enough time to adapt to the pathogens in the tap water, which are at lower levels than they are in aquariums.
Problems with Buying Expensive Fish Based on Color
So, you’re cruising through the internet, looking at all the wonderful bettas available, when one in particular catches your eye. A beautiful solid orange betta, labeled as a koi, but only has its one solid color. The price tag seems extreme, $100, but shipping is free, so you go ahead and buy him.
A week or so later, you open up the box and see your gorgeous new betta, even more beautiful than the pictures, despite his long trip. Over the next several days, he colors up and looks better than you ever imagine.
Fast forward a few weeks to a few months. Your gorgeous guy is starting to get a spot of white, or blue, a minor blemish. Is he sick? He isn’t acting sick and your parameters are perfect, no ammonia or nitrite, and nitrates less than 10ppm, so you decide to leave him alone.
Another week goes by, and he’s got more spots. Some are different colors. What’s going on here?
Fast forward two months. Your betta no longer has a speck of orange on him. He is entirely a mottled blue and white. While you still love the little fellow, he just doesn’t seem like he’s worth $100 anymore. You want another show quality betta, but you are afraid that the same thing will happen again.
The marble gene causes minor or extreme color changes throughout a betta’s life. This gene was developed over 50 years ago and has made its way into many different betta lines. It is very prevalent in the Koi Betta line, which is how they get all those wonderful colors.
It is entirely fine to buy an expensive fish, but don’t do it only for the color, as there is a good chance that the color will change.
If you’re in the market for getting a pair of breeders to start your own line, you’ll have tons of options to choose from! Many breeders sell “pair” bettas, which are always one male and one female. They are normally siblings, so always ask which generation they are before purchasing them to make sure their genetics are still strong.
You can also ask the breeder for their genetic background, for example, to see if they have the marble gene. This is not possible for a pet store betta. Which is one of the great benefits to buying from a breeder; you know what you’ll get! Of course, some people love the surprise patterns and colors from betta babies, and for those people, pet store bettas are fine to choose from.
Make sure the bettas you are getting are at least 5 or 6 months old. You should also make sure that the male is less than 14 months old, as they aren’t as good at breeding after that age. The females still are, but the spawns may be lessened by an older male.
In conclusion, buying fish online opens up a whole new market. Suddenly, you can buy all different species of bettas and you can pick and choose between show bettas. If you are importing bettas, you will have to use a trans shipper, but the breeders give you the contact information for them. All in all, the two main differences between buying fish in stores and buying fish online are the wait time and the shipping cost.