Where should I purchase my first Betta? As much as I would love to be picky and get a gorgeous purple betta from aqua bid, I'm on a very minimal budget and need to get my betta for under five dollars. Any suggestions? I see all these things about rescuing them from Walmart or pet stores, but I feel like that would be encouraging the stores to continue to treat the fish poorly and buy more. Craigslist, where people are giving older, unhealthy fish because they were uneducated owners? Here, where there may not be a guarantee of my fish arriving alive? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
If you're up to the task of caring for a sick betta, the big chain pet stores have policies where they can't sell sick animals so you might be able to persuade them to let you adopt, which means the store gets no profit and you get a fish. (This is what I think of when I hear of 'rescuing' from stores- otherwise yes, you're just perpetuating the system) However, sick bettas can be pretty expensive (and delicate!) depending on what is wrong with them so if you're on such a strict budget, that's probably not a good idea.
If you only have five dollars to spend, and you absolutely don't want to contribute to mill breeding, I would suggest waiting & saving until you have enough to either buy medicines so you can rescue, or pay for a fish online. I know there are several breeders on this site, perhaps one would be willing to let go of a pet quality fish for the price of shipping if you asked very nicely. A fish from AB has the same chance of arriving DOA as one from here, maybe even more so since they're often flown overseas not just across state lines. Craigslist removes the shipping factor, but in my opinion is a bigger gamble since you have no real idea how healthy the fish is, it's age, etc.
If you're absolutely desperate to get a cheap fish immediately, your only real option is to buy from a store. I don't know anyone who hasn't at one time or another (myself included!), and one fish sale isn't going to change a store's decision to sell live animals.
Do you have all the rest of the supplies you need? Tank, heater, filter, conditioner, etc?
I have a ten gallon tank, a heater, silk plants and ornaments, gravel siphon, water conditioner, all that (no filter, can't afford to replace the cartridges :-/) but this is my first betta and I don't know if I am up to taking care of a sick Betta, as much as I would like to rescue one. I could spend the money from the medicines needed to treat him on a healthy fish, as awful as that sounds...
If you're looking for purple on a budget I would check out a few surrounding Petcos. It seems they received a shipment of purple bettas. I have seen a lot of people with fish that could pass as Gus' silbling (in avatar) and we all got them from Petco.
You wouldn't need to replace the filter cartridges until they start falling apart, despite what the directions tell you. Just a rinse in old tank water and they look pretty much brand new, plus they've still got the beneficial bacteria that keep the tank cycled. But it's okay to not have a filter, and with a 10g you wouldn't have to do a million water changes a week to keep the water safe.
Sick bettas are indeed a huge commitment, but I wanted to make sure you knew the option was there. In my opinion, your best bet is to just buy the healthiest betta that catches your eye from a pet store. There's no shame in it; it just isn't realist for most people to buy ethically without spending huge amounts. Fish are pretty niche market pets, unlike dogs and cats which you can find in pretty much every shelter. :3