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Where Do Fish in Pet Stores Come From?

Imagine being stuck inside a small glass room. You see giants walking around outside, and every once in a while, one bends down to tap on the walls and say something in a language you can’t understand. You’re scared, and you wish you could get out of the glass jail you’re trapped in—but you can’t. That’s what life is like for fish who are kept in tanks or bowls. ?

Being stuck inside a bowl or a tank is no fun for fish, and neither is the trip to the pet stores where they’re sold. Many fish are put in tiny containers and left there for days. Animals often arrive at pet stores dying of starvation, sick, pregnant, or injured.

Keep reading to find out what happens to some fish before they end up on store shelves.

Saltwater Fish

Almost all saltwater fish sold in stores are captured from their homes in the wild.


Fish collectors spray the coral reefs with a poison called cyanide, and the fish end up stunned, which makes them easy to catch. The poison suffocates the fish, which makes them easy to catch. Half of the fish who are poisoned die on the reef, and many others die before they reach an aquarium. The coral reef can die, too.

Freshwater Fish

Most freshwater fish are raised on crowded fish farms. For example, goldfish are usually bred in giant tubs that produce as many as 250 million fish per year.


After spending the beginning of their lives in cramped tubs, fish are sold to zoos, pet stores, and bait shops. Many will be forced to spend the rest of their lives in tiny bags or bowls, which don’t give them the space or oxygen they need to be healthy.



Pet stores sell betta fish to people who don’t know how to take care of them and don’t realize how much they’ve suffered before being put on display. Before arriving at a pet store, bettas are put into little plastic bags and stuffed into cardboard boxes. Many die before even reaching the store.

Betta Fish Transported in Box

The Bottom Line

If you buy fish (or any animals!) from pet stores, you’re supporting a heartless business that treats animals like toys. If you already have one or more fish, ask an expert what you can do to make sure they are as happy as possible.


Fish kept in captivity need aquariums that have filtered water that’s just the right temperature, are clean, and have things to play with and explore, like driftwood, rocks, and caves to hide in.

Be a hero for fish by letting them stay in their natural homes, and don’t support pet stores that sell them!

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