Cichlid Room Companion

Internet lectures

Fish shopping and store looking

By , 1995. printer

Classification: Captive maintenance.

" Fishroom talk taking place on 1995-Nov-08 "

Mattp says: Ok, well, let's get this started...

Mattp has turned the PA system ON.

Mattp grins.

Mattp says: Ok, I have a lot of opinions on how to decide where to purchase fish and where not to.. and that's what I'll be discussing..

Mattp says: Well, I guess the first place to start would be to take a look at the store in your area...

Mattp says: Well, there are a few things you should take into considerations....

Mattp says: First, I would not recommend going into a store for the first time and leaving with a new purchase in hand...

Mattp says: You should at least make a few trips to each store in your area and research them...

Mattp says: Well, this is in no particular order, but here are some things you should look into...

Mattp says: Staff

Mattp says: The people who are working and running the store will be of course the people who you will have to deal with, they should have some basic concepts...

Mattp says: I would not recommend shopping a store that employs a high school kid who knows little or nothing about what he is selling..

Rsf thinks he has gotten his best deals from kids who didn't know their stuff :-)

Mattp says: True, but there are other things that you should look for too..

Cburke thinks to himself that even when in high school he probably knew more than half the jerks working in stores near him

Mattp says: The staff of a store should have at least a basic grasp of things such as the scientific names of the fish they sell....

Dev wonders about stores who sort of take to new scientific names nonchalantly, particular because distributors don't use them

Noah says: I know what Dev means about made up names

Rsf says: quiet everyone, let matt talk shhhhhhh.

Mattp says: The staff of a store should also be willing to spend as much time with you as they need to..

Mattp grins.

Mattp says: I feel that if you walk into a store, and you have to wait around for half an hour to get some help, it may be because they are truly busy, but also, if it takes 15 minutes or 45 minutes to explain...they should be able to

Mattp says: The staff basically should have a decent knowledge of what they are talking about...

Mattp says: and they should be able to help you to whatever extent is necessary..

Mattp says: A store where the boss yells at his employees for taking too much time with you is actually a good place to go, as you know that you are getting that employees undivided attention :)=

Melissa grins.

Dev giggles.

Mattp says: Well, the next thing you should look into is the actual care of the fish...

Mattp says: An obvious thing to look for is dead fish in a dealers tanks..

Apistogramma says: I will repeat the question: Matt, have you ever worked in an aquarium store?

Mattp says: I didn't hear it before

Mattp says: Yes,

Apistogramma says: Full time?

Mattp says: Yes

Apistogramma says: For how long?

Mattp says: 3 years...

Dev says: uh oh, Matt's getting interviewed :)

Mattp grins.

Dev demands some ID..

Mattp laughs.

Apistogramma says: OK Just wondered where you were coming from with this.

Mattp mails Dev his Drivers License..

Rsf says: its interesting that you mentioned dumb fish store employees, some of the good fish people I've known from stores burnout from dealing with dumb customers "Can I keep that damsel with my oscar ?" :-)

Apistogramma says: DING DING DING DING DING

Roger wonders if he's the only one who lives in a small town with only ONE fish store

Mattp says: That's the fun part of working in a pet store Rsf..

Rsf says: you like my comment Ted :-)

Dev says: who won the round Ted? :)

Mattp says: The wackos that you send to the other stores..

Mattp says: <8-{)=

Dev laughs.

Apistogramma says: I was agreeing with Rsf's comment.

Rsf smiles.

Dev starts throwing buttered popcorn at the noisy people in the audience...

Melissa grins.

Apistogramma says: Matt, have you ever had a customer find a dead fish in one of your tanks before?

Mattp says: Ok, a good store should seldom have dead fish in their tanks..

Mattp says: The reason is that by Law, dead fish should be removed daily

Apistogramma says: what about the day or afternoon you get a new shipment of fish in the store?

Mattp nods his head in understanding.

Apistogramma says: They should be removed immediately.

Mattp says: Removal of dead fish is supposed to be done before the store opens..

Apistogramma says: But if a sick fish dies at noon........

Dev thinks Ted is beating a dead horse (err.. fish)

Mattp says: If you find a dead fish, a good thing to do is to point them out to an employee..

Rsf thinks Ted is an old hand who wants to mix it up with the young whippersnapper :-)

Johnnyboy grins.

Mattp says: The employee should immediately remove the dead fish and even thank you for pointing it out...

Apistogramma says: My point is that stores have good days and bad days...and that if you walk into a store and do a 'tank lap', see two or three dead fish and decide to leave and pass judgment on that store you might be doing them a deservice.

Mattp says: That is a given..

Mattp says: No, honestly, 2 or three dead fish is not a cause for concern..

Mattp says: a typical loss daily is approx. 20-30 fish..

Dev says: wow

Melissa says: A few dead fish are to be expected. It is an overabundance of dead fish like 5 in almost every tank that should make you wary.

Mattp says: Honestly, I've been in sever at store, I speak from experience..

Mattp says: The point I'm trying to make is that the store should keep up it's efforts..

Mattp says: Another thing to look for are sick fish..

Mattp says: Ideally, a store should have a quarantine system..

Mattp says: Most don't

Mattp says: However, tanks with sick fish should be marked so..

Mattp says: And fish should not be sold from these tanks..

Mattp says: It is a good idea also to examine the system the store operates...

Mattp says: I tend to prefer stores which use central systems..

Mattp says: But most stores should have an overall decent setup..

Mattp says: if they run a central system there should definitely be a UV on it..

Roger says: UV?

Mattp says: Here are some of the most important things..

Mattp says: Yes, UV sterilizer..

Melissa says: Ultra violet

Mattp says: It will stop the spread of disease between tanks on a central system

Mattp says: The most import ant things to consider a re these..

Mattp says: First, the store you purchase fish from should have a decent selection..

Mattp says: Obviously, places like a Walmart or Petsmart are not good places to purchase fish..

Rsf says: Matt, but a really shitty place like petsmart might have a quality filtration set up, while a great store might operate only with corner filters, I think you might be talking about YOUR ideal fish store :-)

Apistogramma says: Fish shipments come in with a lot of stuff other than fish...and most of them are not good. Stores pack a lot more fish into a tank than we do at home, so a few losses are to be expected. the trick is to find the store that is honest about when fish are ready to go out and when they are not ready to go.

Mattp says: One of the nicest things I feel was what we did with our fish...

Mattp says: All the fish were dated.

Mattp says: You could look at the tag and tell how long the fish had been there..

Mattp says: I haven't seen that in many stores at all..

Jyching says: That's a good idea. I usually prefer to buy fish that have been there for a few days and have become stable...

Mattp says: Fish tags, specifically SW, were also marked with whether they were eating or not..

Rsf nods his head in agreement with mattp.

Mattp says: I feel that a store should not sell fresh fish..

Mattp says: fresh = newly imported...

Melissa says: Wouldn't that be difficult if you had multiple shipments of a kind of fish?

Mattp says: even if a store doesn't have a quarantine system..

Mattp says: Actually it isn't Mel, with saltwater..

Apistogramma says: How long a waiting period do you suggest?

Mattp says: For FW if we had 10 neons and got 40, they'd all be dated with the new 40..

Mattp says: Usually about a week.

Apistogramma says: You put fish in a tank and let them sit a week before selling them?

Rsf laughs.

Mattp says: A store should also be willing to hold the fish for you..

Dev says: how long is reasonable Matt

Mox says: The store I visit has a guarantee, so I'd buy a fish out of the box.

Mattp says: Not usually.. that's the problem..

Mattp says: Guarantees are also tricky things..

Apistogramma says: Are we talking cichlids here? I thought this was cichlid meeting?

Mattp says: Check out the guarantees stores have..

Mox says: Not where I go.

Dev says: how about a guarantee that specifically excludes cichlids

Rsf says: that's a whole different issue, trying to find a store that carries interesting cichlids

Mattp says: All fish should be guaranteed

Dev says: hm, my local excludes salt and cichlids

Mox says: But they cover neons right?

Dev says: I guess :)

Mattp says: There should at least be a basic guarantee..

Mattp says: There are only a few fish that shouldn't have a guarantee

Rsf says: here is one Ted is probably familiar with, customer loses a fish wants the guarantee, brings in a water sample, with the dead fish in it:-)

Mattp says: or rather that are acceptable to not be guarantee

Mattp says: Cardinal Tetras

Jyching says: I've had bad luck with new neons. The other day I took home 30 and only 18 are left 3 weeks later :(

Mattp says: The reason stores should have a guaranty is that the fish are guaranteed to them when they purchase from a good wholesaler..

Dev says: I think a store that goes so far as to exclude their expensive fish from guarantees sort of protects themselves against newbies buying expensive fish and killing them, then demanding a refund

Mattp nods his head in agreement.

Mattp says: Usually, expensive fish are not guaranteed, but they are also not marked up as much either...

Mattp says: You have to remember that part of what you pay for is the guarantee.

Dev says: maybe I'm way off, but this may be a sign of a very professional attitude or at least an established store that is willing to accommodate newbies with non-cichlid fw fish but not discus or saltwater.

Dev says: the store that doesn't guarantee expensive fish is in essence (perhaps in a snooty way) protecting the newbies from blowing money on fish they shouldn't be keeping, by deterring them from the purchase.

Jyching says: The local store here has a 5 day guarantee on all fish, except only for 1/2 the cost.

Mattp says: It is a reasonable guarantee..

Jyching nods his head in understanding.

Mattp says: I'm saying that a store should at least have a guarantee on most if not all their fish..

Mattp nods his head in understanding.

Mattp says: A very good point..

Apistogramma has left via a broken connection.

Apistogramma says: Guarantee can hurt or most cases they help. We usually replace any fish that dies within 24 hours if the customer was completely honest with us on how they set it up and what it went in with...even if it was the customer's fault. The loss is not that great and the customer keeps coming back.

Mattp says: Yes, it is important that you research all the things I have discussed and find out what they are before you purchase fish..

Dev says: also a store that is willing to give discounts for groups of 6 or more, particularly on more expensive fish, is a very good sign (or at least a good relationship)

Mattp says: Honesty is a big part of where you should buy your fish..

Mattp nods his head in agreement.

Apistogramma says: Maybe you could, Matt, just list a brief description of the major points to ponder when looking at a store.

Mattp nods his head in understanding.

Mattp says: Ok, I will try again to sum up what I've said...and what I forgot to say..

Mattp says: 1. Stay away from stores which do not have at least a decent selection of fish, by this I mean that they carry at least some of the oddballs and more expensive fish...rather than just the "bread & butter"...

Mattp says: this generally is an indication that the person who purchases fish has some idea of what is around..

Mattp says: 2. Knowledgeable and Honest Employees

Mattp says: the hints to look for are things like employees who know what a Pomacanthus imperator or a Julidochromis regani are...

Mattp says: 3. A store in which you are given the attention of the employees..

Dev says: I think stores that know diff. morphs of, say, brichardi are way ahead already

Mattp nods his head in agreement.

Mattp says: The important part also covers some basic stuff..

Roger says: personally, I'm to the point of being impressed with a store that sells African cichlids in any tank not labeled "Mixed African Cichlids"

Dev grins.

Mox says: I was just thinking the same thing!

Mattp says: I would not recommend buy information from store where the employees tell you that you can mix tropicals with goldfish for example..

Susie says: my store sells them but doesn't know what they are

Mattp says: That is a true point indeed Roger..

Mattp says: That is selection..

Roger says: no offense Matt, but I think that the stores that you describe as "bad" are orders of magnitude better than the best options available to many of us who live in small towns

Melissa says: Or a store that tells you goldfish do not require filtration.

Mox says: Or how about the ones that sell you a heater with your goldfish?

Mattp says: Yes, Roger, good store are hard to find in small areas..

Rsf maintains that it is often good when they don't know names, its when they know what they have that they start charging exorbitant. tanks, I love those that has "mixed appistos $2.99

Dev says: you can't forget that there are many employees in a store- my fav store has kids working there that couldn't understand what an otto was while the two managers know Tropheus morphs by heart...

Mattp grins.

Dev thinks Bob takes full advantage of bad stores....

Rsf grins.

Melissa says: And who doesn't Dev

Mattp says: True, every store has some weak points.. what you should try to do is seek out the ones which meet as many of the criteria as possible..

Dev giggles.

Roger says: have I told you about my Panaques from Wal- mart?

Mattp grins.

Roger grins.

Roger says: sorry

Dev says: oh, and go shopping during the week- then you'll see the true store complement- not the high school kids that help fill in on busy weekends

Stevenp says: we have one shop which has been selling cichlids for 3 years and the owner still can't tell the difference between a firemouth and a "pearl face".

Rsf says: Matt my girlfriend and I make it a hobby to visit all the stores regularly, remember variety is the spice of life

Mattp says: Definitely a good point.. very true Dev..

Apistogramma says: Can I address the issue of speaking to customers in Latin and Greek?

Mattp says: I am a firm believer that a store should get most or all of your business...

Dev giggles.

Dev says: how about loyalty to one store?

Mattp says: Find the one that treats you the best too, because the chances are that if you see something in another local store, it is available to all the stores in the area...

Rsf says: I believe it is important to support local shops, but I think you miss a lot by not visiting a variety

Roger is going to shop at the store(s) who best meet his current needs (including variety and price)

Stevenp says: I buy most of my stuff from one place but go around all the others about twice a month or so.

Mattp says: Well, other than that.. the tank husbandry is a good thing to look into..

Rsf nods his head in agreement with steve.

Apistogramma says: I will say it....Mattp.

Mattp says: And I cannot stress enough that you need to be provided with information like the date of the arrival of the fish, whether they are eating..

Rsf says: Matt I think you bring up a lot of good pts

Mattp says: And a store should be willing to hold a fish for you

Roger says: I usually try to go on afternoons after they get their shipments in, so even if the husbandry is poor, I buy them before they've been there long

Mattp says: That is a very important point

Mattp says: Some may require a deposit..

Mattp says: But any good store should do that.

Mattp says: I do believe that buying freshly shipped in fish is an acceptable method, before they are even introduced into the stores system

Mattp says: You do cut out some stress

Rsf says: I really think the majority of the stores here do a reasonable jobs with their setups (knowledge of what they have maybe not)

Stevenp says: you bet. Also if you buy from the same store you get all kinds of little perks, like a discount coffee while you look through books or just stand around talking. Stuff like that

Mattp says: But the majority of the fish in the store should be covered by some form of guarantee

Rsf says: the factor you cant account for is where they get their fish

Mattp says: True..

Dev says: the store here installed benches between rows of tanks- how convenient for those extended store trips :)

Mattp says: The better stores in metropolitan areas will hand pick their fish too,,

Melissa says: What a neat idea Dev, benches.

Mattp says: That is, the fish are not ordered over the phone and delivered to the store..

Johnnyboy says: Where do stores typically get their fish?

Rsf says: I think that is difficult some wholesalers have hand pick days, but it isn't practical for most

Mattp says: Employees literally go to a wholesaler and pick the best possible specimens of each fish..

Mattp says: Ok, I got a few ?'s hold on...

Mattp says: about 1/2 to all of the fish in a store come from a local supplier John..

Stevenp says: we have one petshop who has a small darkened room totally separate from the rest of the store which has some seats in it. They even play classical music.

Mattp says: Rsf, all wholesalers I know of allow stores to come in and handpick their fish...

Mattp says: It means that the wholesaler doesn't have to hire as many "pickers"..

Rsf says: the best wholesaler here has one day of drop ins, but for most stores that isn't a economical way to do business

Johnnyboy says: So we're talking mostly local wholesalers

Mattp says: Usually in return, the store gets the fish at a slightly discounted price, and you get the nicest fish out of the lot..

Mattp says: It really helps if you're placing special orders,, Mattp grins.

Rsf says: Matt I dont know of one store here who does that regularly and we have an excellent wholesaler "Puget Sound Fisheries"

Mattp says: Well, I guess I kinda lost where I was going with all this...

Mattp says: I'm actually very surprised to here that Rsf

Mox says: The pet store I go to orders most of their stuff.

Mattp says: All I can say is that I feel the best ones put their time into handpicking the fish...

Rsf smiles.

Rsf says: Mattp I think you should go into wholesaling I really believe it is the most important link

Mattp says: Yes, but wholesaling takes connections that even the good petstore owners just don't have..

Mattp says: That is for SW wholesalers..

Mattp says: Besides, when you are a wholesaler you are much more in a hard place to sell fish quickly..

Dev grins.

Mattp says: Well, I'm done spouting...

Mattp grins.

Melissa says: Good talk Matt.


Pedersen, Matt. (May 27, 1996). "Fish shopping and store looking". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on April 01, 2020, from: