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.

3 comments:

  1. My mom had purchased my betta and I'd had him for a couple of months before I sincerely looked into tamping decent care of him. My mother and I were amazed by what we learned about how intelligent bettas are and how misunderstood they've become. Since reading up on bettas I've used the money from a recent job to get him (I've named him Finnegan) a 5 gallon tank, live plants, a heater and non-harmful tank decorations that he can explore and hide in to his hearts content.

    Seeing him go from a sad, unmoving fish to a lively, vivid creature makes me smile every time he follows and watches me from his tank.

    Great article!

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