Before I knew better, I believed the 'retail hype' about bettas being indestrutable fish who could live practically in raw sewerage in a thimble-ful of water.
Once I had aquired a betta, however, I wanted it to live the best life possible. That's when I set out to learn as much as possible about them, and I learned the REAL (not retail) truth. I was on my way to becoming a good betta owner.
I am still learning about bettas, their weird little quirks and their stunning beauty. People collect them and breed them;
just like everything else in this world, some do it for love and some do it for money.
Bettas, I believe, are not decorations. Bettas are extremely intellegent, reactive beings. As far as I'm concerned, I wouldn't want them to have less than a heated, five gallon tank.They deserve to have a safe, interesting enviroment and a happy, long life. They are not going to have that in a tiny square of unheated water.
As far as breeding goes, I wouldn't risk damage to my female. She's not a show quality fish... so why submit her to that experiance? She doesn't need to be sacrificed in pain on the alter of my curiosity. If she was show quality, I still would consider the consquences very carefully. If I decided to go forward, I would get real expert advice on what to do.
Very, very few people who work in pet stores are even close to 'expert'. These stores pay their workers very little. No one's going to be 'expert' at $6.00 an hour (after taxes).
So EF, I wish you luck in turning your relatives around on Betta ownership. At least you are available to intercede on the fishes' behalf, if things go poorly... better still if you can educate them and they become good Betta owners too!