One of the best ways to start out as a beginning hobbyist is to develop a good relationship with a local tropical fish dealer.
A quality vendor can help you make informed decisions on the type of aquarium best suited for you, the proper equipment for your new tank, and the best aquatic species
for your system. A good vendor can also locate hard-to-find products and can help you with water testing on a regular basis.
- Finding a reputable merchant
- Understanding what makes a dealer good or not so good
- Choosing healthy, appropriate fish
Choosing a Quality Dealer
The aquarium hobby is generally a lifelong addiction.
It is really difficult to lay this fascinating hobby aside once you take the plunge. In the years to come, you will need to purchase fish, replace worn equipment, and keep stocked up on chemicals and proper food.
You also need expert advice on fishkeeping skills once in a while, and someone to keep you informed on the newest trends in equipment and other aquarium-related paraphernalia. No matter what your skill level in fishkeeping, there is always something new to learn.
This is why you need to find a good retailer who specializes in the aquarium aspect of the pet industry.
The search for a fish store
When you want to buy a house, you don’t just purchase the first one you see, do you? No, you look around a bit first. The same principal applies to your aquarium hobby.
Look for the best and don’t settle for less. There’s nothing wrong with checking the gossip in your neighborhood to determine whether the local dealers have a good reputation among other businesses and their customers. Friends, aquarium clubs, and family members are a great place to start asking questions.
In today’s consumer-conscious environment, you cannot afford to end up with mediocre service because you were afraid to investigate the references or character of a particular dealer. You can obtain valuable information through this age-old method.
The best strategy is to visit as many local dealers and aquarium shops as your time and budget allow.
These fun little investigative trips provide you with a solid foundation on which you can compare dealers’ overall quality of service, livestock selection and condition, friendliness, willingness to help, and prices on fish and equipment.
The importance of great service store
When deciding on the two best local dealers, see whether the employees are friendly and offer good advice. Do the clerks make every attempt to help you out when you come in, or do they just stand around shooting the breeze?
Do the shop’s workers take a personal interest in your aquarium? Are they willing to go out of their way to make sure that you find exactly what you need? Are there adequate personnel to provide good service to you even during the peak hours of the day? If you have to blitz and tackle a clerk to make him talk, then you need to find another place to shop.
A reputable and caring owner who takes pride in her business and in providing customer satisfaction makes sure that her shop is well staffed with knowledgeable and caring employees.
The store’s appearance
When you go to an aquarium shop (even if you’re checking out a new one that just opened up in the neighborhood), carefully inspect all the display tanks for obvious signs of dealer dedication or apathy.
If the place looks like the owner couldn’t care less about how the tanks look, he probably cares just as little about the rest of his business, including the fish. A visual inspection can tell you quite a bit about a shop’s habits. As you look around the shop, check for clues that distinguish a good dealer from an uncaring one.
Dealer Practices: the Good and the Bad
We classify dealers into good dealers (Do Bees), bad dealers (Don’t Bees), and ugly dealers (Wanna Bees). We have seen all types during our years in the aquarium hobby.
All we can do is give you a little personal advice as to what to look for when you are trying to determine who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. We cannot stress this enough, because if you do not have a good place to purchase fish and aquarium equipment, you may become frustrated with fighting a continual uphill battle to maintain successful aquariums.
A Good dealer helps you find success. Some of the signs of a good retailer are:
Friendly, helpful, knowledgeable staff members who answer your questions willingly, go out of their way to help, and who are familiar with aquarium equipment, the different types of aquarium systems, and individual species of fish.
A large selection of aquarium equipment, food, medication, and fish on hand — they carry more than one or two brands.
Free services, such as water testing.
A willingness to tell you where you can get a certain species or piece of equipment if they cannot get it themselves. This includes offering competitors’ phone numbers.
Autopsies of dead fish to help determine the cause of the disease (if the dealer has qualified staff) and medication advice to help prevent the need for an autopsy.
A genuine interest in you and your aquariums.
Clean tanks and shops.
Bad dealers own aquarium shops you want to avoid. They are really quite easy to spot when you recognize the symptoms of their “I have no business being in the tropical fish trade because I don’t really care about my job, or I am just in it for the money” disease.
You can recognize Bad dealers by the following characteristics:
- They’re willing to tell you to take a hike if you question the quality of their service or livestock.
- They let you stand around without offering to help you find what you are looking for.
- They spend a lot of time answering phone calls and leave you waiting for service until they finish yacking.
- They try to sell you a bunch of junk you don’t need because they believe that you don’t know any better.
- They sell fish they know are diseased just to get rid of them.
- They have dirty aquariums and a filthy shop.
- They refuse to go out of their way to order any special equipment or fish for you.
Developing a Good Relationship with Your Fish Dealer
After you make your final decision and pledge your loyalty to a couple of dealers, try to become acquainted with as many of the employees in the shop as possible. Go out of your way to meet the owner or store manager, who can likely help you with any serious problems you may have.
A great majority of dealers are very enthusiastic when given the opportunity to work with regular customers. After the initial conversation, your aquarium, ideas, or wishes may become as familiar to them as their own personal tanks.
Many merchants beam proudly at a customer’s first successful aquarium setup (after all, the merchant helped create it).
A caring vendor also mourns with you at the loss of your favorite fish. A vendor who can’t remember your name after you have been buying from their shop for months probably should be avoided.
Selecting Healthy Fish
Now, whether you find a good dealer or not, you still need to take responsibility for choosing the healthiest fish possible. Starting off with diseased fish is the quickest way we know to lose interest in the hobby.
You always take a risk when you purchase a live animal because unseen problems may manifest later on, but you can improve the odds of success by starting off with the healthiest fish possible.
Don’t buy the first fish you see
Avoid buying any new arrivals your dealer recently received. If the fish are still in a packing crate, that should give you a clue. You should see a large number of bags containing fish floating in the aquariums on the days the store receives new shipments.
Most dealers receive new fish on one or two specific days each week. Ask your dealer which days these are. A good dealer doesn’t allow customers to purchase fish until she’s had sufficient time to quarantine them. This quarantine period reduces the fish’s stress from shipping and allows the shop’s personnel to treat any disease that shows up in the first few days after arrival.
If you happen to see some fish that really catch your eye while they are still in the bags, ask the dealer to hold them for you until a reasonable quarantine period has expired. Most dealers willingly agree to do that.
Helpful merchants who take the time to grant such simple requests to provide customer satisfaction are definitely worth patronizing in the future.
Stop for a moment and ask yourself one simple question: If I owned this fish shop, would I do this for my customer? If the answer is yes, then you should expect your dealer to do the same thing.
If you are new to the hobby, never buy hard-to-maintain and feed species of fish such as piranhas, pacus, or oscars.. Fish that have special dietary requirements may be too much to handle in the beginning when you are still trying to get the hang of how your equipment works.
Wait until you are completely familiar with your system before trying your luck with the harder-tomaintain species of tropical fish.
Go with what you know
Do not buy fish that are completely unfamiliar. Just because you are browsing the store and happen to a see a cool-looking fish doesn’t mean you should take it home. Some species can be very difficult to feed and require strict water conditions to survive.
Leave them in the hands of the pros to avoid heartache. Fish marked as “hardy” (guppies, platys, and swordfish, for example) are easier to keep for beginners.
If you do want to try a more difficult to keep species, make sure you do your research (via Internet sites dedicated to particular species and talking to experienced hobbyists and pet store personnel who keep that type of fish) before buying so that you know exactly what that fish will require to flourish.
Look for signs of good health
You can look at several physical characteristics to determine whether your fish are in good health. There is never a guarantee of complete success, but if you follow these rules, you increase your chances of getting a healthy specimen.
Look for the following:
- Body color is rich, not faded or dull. The color should be complete and not missing in any areas (unless it is typical for the species).
- There are no open sores, visible ulcers, boils, or obvious skin problems, such as peeling scales or blemishes.
- Fins are long and flowing, or short and erect. The fish should not have any ragged, torn, or missing fins.
- Scales are flat and smooth, not protruding away from the body.
- The stomach is well rounded, not sunken or concave.
- Girth of the entire body is of normal size, not bloated or emaciated.
- Eyes are clear, not cloudy or popping out of the sockets.
- No visible parasites, such as ich or velvet.
Know your fish’s behavior
A few behavioral characteristics (how the fish acts) are worth taking a look at. Healthy fish should
- Swim in a horizontal motion, not with its head up or down.
- Swim with complete ease, not continually fight to stay afloat.
- Swim throughout the aquarium, not lurk in the corners or hiding behind
- Breathe normally, not gulp for air or hang around the top of the tank with its mouth gasping the top of the water.
Getting the Right Fish
To be a successful hobbyist, you need to understand your purchases. What we mean by that is that you need to know which fish are best for you. By now, you know how to spot a healthy fish, but there’s more to it than that.
You also need to pick fish that are compatible and won’t tear each other to bits and turn your aquarium into a war zone. Making a shopping list and understanding a fish’s ultimate size are two ways that you can avoid disaster.
When you go to purchase your fish, take paper and pen with you and write down the names of all the fish that appeal to you. By writing down the names of the fish, you don’t have to remember names (scientific names and even common names can be a little confusing at times) and can go back and find certain tanks quite easily.
This can be a real advantage if the shop has several hundred display tanks. When you finish your list, locate your dealer and check to see whether all the species you chose are compatible with each other, don’t have unique dietary needs, and don’t have special aquarium requirements.
Keep an eye out for other compatibility issues. For example, if you buy a convict cichlid and a guppy, you will probably find the convict alone and well fed in the morning.