Buying Fish - What Do You Look For?

Buying Fish - What Do You Look For?

  • Alertness

    Votes: 126 70.8%
  • No signs of disease

    Votes: 157 88.2%
  • Eating at store

    Votes: 23 12.9%
  • Showing colors that I want

    Votes: 94 52.8%
  • No dead tank mates

    Votes: 123 69.1%
  • Healthy fins

    Votes: 127 71.3%
  • Cleanliness of the tank they are kept in

    Votes: 115 64.6%
  • Other (please specify in comments)

    Votes: 12 6.7%

  • Total voters
    178
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Mike

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Buying fish at the local fish store...

Although it has been a minute since I've been able to purchase fish at the LFS and obviously assuming that you have the appropriate set up... what do you look for when purchasing new fish?

Does it have to be eating first in the store?

Do you look for specific colors, healthy fins, no signs of disease, alertness, no dead tank mates at the store, etc?

Is there something the fish must show before you buy? For me (saltwater fish), they definitely have to be eating and no signs of any disease. Fins can grow back given they aren't too damaged and given good water quality and diet.

You can select multiple options here. Just curious what everyone else looks for.
 

jkkgron2

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I also try to look for signs of parasites. Most fish at my LFS look visually healthy (they have a room downstairs where they treat sick fish) but sometimes it’s hard to notice the parasites when the fish first arrive.
 

MomOfLiveBearers

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I look for most of the above. As you mentioned fin damage isnt always a deal breaker, if I feel like the damage can be reversed with time and proper care. I also look to see how it interacts with its tanks mates. If it's aggressive in the tank at the store it's probably going to be aggressive at home.
I also look at gender when purchasing most fish to keep my ratios in good standing. I have adopted a fish that was extremely stressed because she looked otherwise healthy. I considered her a rescue, she was extremely pregnant and stressed and the store told me they didn't expect her to survive. She is doing great now.
 

MacZ

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Alertness, colours and fins are to me just part of looking for signs of disease. I also look for signs of general stress.
Eating I can't check, as the stores where I buy only feed after hours, and I haven't gotten anyone in any store to feed in my presence. So that is out. But I do look for signs of bad nutrition.

Otherwise I'm glad the stores I buy at do quarantine and have a policy of not selling from any tanksystem (9 tanks per system) in which they treat any diseases until the treatments are done.
 

erinw347

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Usually I just look for ick, or general lethargy. If there’s a dead tankmate I probably won’t buy it. What I actually look for though is the runts. Like others have said, fin damage usually isn’t a big issue. So I usually end up taking home the bullied fish, or the snail that’s not getting enough calcium ;).
This is Crooked, he was by himself at the store for a long time and when I saw him I just had to get him. There were no other tank mates in his tank at all, and he came up to the front of the tank when he saw me. He also had no ick or other signs of illness, just a funky dorsal. So I got him!
 

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MomOfLiveBearers

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erinw347 said:
Usually I just look for ick, or general lethargy. If there’s a dead tankmate I probably won’t buy it. What I actually look for though is the runts. Like others have said, fin damage usually isn’t a big issue. So I usually end up taking home the bullied fish, or the snail that’s not getting enough calcium ;).
This is Crooked, he was by himself at the store for a long time and when I saw him I just had to get him. There were no other tank mates in his tank at all, and he came up to the front of the tank when he saw me. He also had no ick or other signs of illness, just a funky dorsal. So I got him!
Yes! This is my Sun. She has some strange scarring on her head. But otherwise looked very healthy so we brought her home.
20200915_122525.jpg
 

Thaijade

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One of the choices was, "Showing colors that I want" I would like to add good coloring for the type or species. Not dull or sickly looking.
 

ElAvayarde80

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One thing i always try to look for is what tanks are connected filtration system wise.
I can be looking at the top shelf tank and they can be looking great and all but if i get to notice a tank that has dead fish in it or sick ones and is connected to the same system, i wont touch the fish.
 

fish 321

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I will only take the best looking ones and the most active, no ripped fins or deformities and of course I always look to see if I can see any diseases.
 

smee82

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I started buying from the wholesale market so its much cheaper but theyre already bagged and im buying in bulk so im only looking for signs of disease or dead fish.
 

GlennO

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  • Any signs of disease on the fish I’m interested in.
  • Body shape/form and any deformities/signs of inbreeding.
  • Alert & interacting with other fish normally.
  • Colour appropriate for type & age/size.
  • Any signs of disease on any other fish in the tank.
  • Any signs of disease on any other fish in other tanks in the store.
  • Setup & cleanliness of all tanks (algae is fine).
  • Whether fish in each tank are housed with suitable tankmates.
  • The experience & knowledge of the store owner (if not a chain store).
 

Sanderguy777

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I feel like a horrible fishkeeper now. I look for the colors, then, maybe, check to see if any of the tankmates are sick or dead. If the fish is lethargic, i might pass too.
The issue I run into is that many of the stores I go to only have systemwide filtration (all tanks or most, are on the same filter), and I cant be positive that the employee got the fish I picked out.
 

Hugooo

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I know this isn't the best thing in the world, but I usually don't care about dead tank mates, as long as there aren't too many. Most pet stores, especially chain stores, very rarely have no dead fish in any aquarium. Plus most of the tanks are connected to one main filter. And it probably takes a while until you actually find yourself at the pet store and there are no dead fish in any tank. So unless I was a serious buyer or I was buying expensive/hard to care for fish, I don't think I would be too concerned if there were a few dead fish in an aquarium or two. Just my .02, I realize this isn't the best thing, but hey, you have to make do with what life gives you.
 

Sanderguy777

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Hugooo said:
I know this isn't the best thing in the world, but I usually don't care about dead tank mates, as long as there aren't too many. Most pet stores, especially chain stores, very rarely have no dead fish in any aquarium. Plus most of the tanks are connected to one main filter. And it probably takes a while until you actually find yourself at the pet store and there are no dead fish in any tank. So unless I was a serious buyer or I was buying expensive/hard to care for fish, I don't think I would be too concerned if there were a few dead fish in an aquarium or two. Just my .02, I realize this isn't the best thing, but hey, you have to make do with what life gives you.
I mean, there is always online. Then you cant feel guilty about ignoring the red flags... lol

My lfss seem pretty good about taking dead fish out, but when I see them, I normally leave the fish and wait till the next week. That is unless I DON'T see any of the living fish nibbling on the dead one, the I feel like it might be a fresh casualty and the virus or whatever might not be spread around yet...
 

fishkeepinginaisa

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I always always have them feed the fish in the store. If the same something like "already fed them today" or if they refuse, I pass. This rule of thumb has yet to fail me.
 

MacZ

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Something general about feeding at the store:

It has downsides and actually doesn't show decent fishkeeping on the store's part if they feed fish on demand by customers. That can mean dozens of feedings a day at worst on rushy days (here saturdays). The water quality will go down, bacteria levels go up and certain popular species in a store (and everything in the tank with them) will be grossly overfed. It's bad enough if some customers ask for this. Now imagine everyone asks for it.

I rather take the chance on that one factor, than get a fish that might have been sitting in a "broth" of fishfood for days, depending on how many feedings they had since the last waterchange. Conditions in many stores are already less than optimal, requests like this make it even worse.

So I'm fine if a store doesn't feed during business hours and some even only once every three days or so. I don't feed my fish every day either.
 

fishkeepinginaisa

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MacZ said:
Something general about feeding at the store:

It has downsides and actually doesn't show decent fishkeeping on the store's part if they feed fish on demand by customers. That can mean dozens of feedings a day at worst on rushy days (here saturdays). The water quality will go down, bacteria levels go up and certain popular species in a store (and everything in the tank with them) will be grossly overfed. It's bad enough if some customers ask for this. Now imagine everyone asks for it.

I rather take the chance on that one factor, than get a fish that might have been sitting in a "broth" of fishfood for days, depending on how many feedings they had since the last waterchange. Conditions in many stores are already less than optimal, requests like this make it even worse.

So I'm fine if a store doesn't feed during business hours and some even only once every three days or so. I don't feed my fish every day either.
I suppose you have a good point there. However, I never request a full on feeding. I just wanna see it eat a flake or two. :p But I definitely see your point and will consider it before asking to see a fish fed.
 

MacZ

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fishkeepinginaisa said:
I suppose you have a good point there. However, I never request a full on feeding. I just wanna see it eat a flake or two. :p But I definitely see your point and will consider it before asking to see a fish fed.
Now imagine you want a slow feeder that takes a moment to notice there is food in the tank or a bottom feeder, together with... let's say danios. How much would the store clerk have to put in so you can see one of those feed?
In case of an expensive fish (peacock bass or arowana) I guess I'd be more inclined to ask, too. But for the usual variety of aquarium fish it's pretty useless.

Also as a tipp: Most fish come to the surface expecting food just when the lid is opened. Seeing that is often equally useful to seeing them actually feed. So just ask them to mock feed. That's more of a win-win.
 

MomeWrath

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- The general appearance of health of all of a type of fish. If I'm looking at three spot gouramis, I'm not going to buy a healthy looking one if there are three spinners in a group of 9.
- Check other tanks in a connected system for disease. UV or not, I'm not going to buy fish from tank 1 if tank 3 on the same system is full of ich.
- dead fish in the tank are not always a deal breaker. Only if it's obvious that they've been in there a while - fungus or being eaten. To me that speaks more to the care of the tank than whether the glass is clean.
 

jmaldo

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Interesting!
Just a relative sophomore "Wet Pet" keeper here. (3 years). As I have gained knowledge/experience, my buying habits have changed. Now I mostly purchase from online/local breeders, I trust. Even then there is no 100% "Guarantee".
But... So far so good.
:emoji_fingers_crossed:"Knock on Wood"
On to the Question.
Absolutely, "No" fish purchases from the big "P" stores. Since I noticed large gallon used containers of "Ick" treatment out in the open for all to see. Along with the bad advice I have heard many associates giving "Newbie" keepers.
Shame, Shame, Shame.
*** Before I get scolded "Yes", I understand your/some big "P" associates are very knowledgeable, but... I have only met one.***

Since I breed/sell fish I do need to visit the 3 privately owned LFSs near me and make purchases now and then.
(Only one I trust 99%)
Here is my process:
#1- "No" Impulse Buys, Research is key, even if a fish catches my eye. I pull out my phone and do a search. Recommended temp., compatibility, stocking level, etc...
#2- I watch the fish, "Activity" in the tank and for noticeable signs of disease.
(still learning but here is what I look for).
Sporadic swimming, laziness, gasping at the surface, flashing against rocks or different parts of the tank, or sulking in a corner. Clear signs for me to pass on the tank.
#3- If the tank passes #2 - I then continue observing the fish, looking for best color, with the understanding that the fish are stressed and their full color should
improve overtime. Interaction between the fish, looking for the largest/strongest of the bunch. Then try to sort out the gender, which I am struggling with but getting better.
Once decided, the next obstacle is to make sure I get the fish I want.
Watch them being netted. Then observe in the container. I tend to drive the associate "nuts" but I want the fish I choose, not their choice. Watch them being bagged and off to their "New" home.

Just my .02.
 

Frank the Fish guy

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My very good fish store will not sell fish that have just arrived. They always quarantine them and wait until they know they have not brought disease.

So at a random fish store, you should not buy fish that have recently arrived. You can ask them how long they have been there.

Some fish come from places where all the fish in the whole trough will be sick. The ilness will show up a few days after they arrive.
 

candiedragon

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Been a while since I've gone to a store thanks to the pandemic. I voted for alertness, look disease and parasite-free, healthy fins, and showing colors I want.

The first two, I'm usually just making sure the fish appear to be healthy. Dead fish in the tank kind of fall hand-in-hand with these. It means either it's a recent shipment and I should wait (shipping conditions are harsh especially importing into Hawaii), or if they've been there a while then it probably means they're not exhibiting the alertness and disease and parasite-free behavior and appearance. Even if it's a dead fish of another species and the species I'm interested in looks healthy and active, I would proceed with caution if I do decide to purchase them and I would definitely quarantine. You never know what kind of stressors the dead species could introduce to the other tankmates.

When I was looking at healthy fins, I was thinking of fin rot-free, no deformities, or repairable damage. A fin can heal as long as clean water is provided and that the damage does not reach the fleshy base of the fin. If it looks like permanent damage I would likely not purchase it and that's an aesthetic thing for me but it could become a problem for a novice hobbyist if an infection sets in. Deformities can also be a problem, it could limit how the fish swims and may not be able to compete well against tankmates, or on the topic of breeding you definitely do not want to be passing on any deformities in your line.

For colors I was thinking of something like fancy guppy strains when I selected that answer. It is a bit of an aesthetic preference, too, but if one is planning to breed a strain and keep it pure then colors matter (AFTER body conformation, of course). I have purple mosaics and some of the male fry ended up red instead so I won't be breeding them. Other than that, they have beautiful body conformation and colors, but it's not the correct color for the line lol. Unless you're buying matured fish, though, you're not likely going to see the proper colors in most fish at stores. The fish are either really young and/or not in a favorable environment (especially one where kids come slapping the glass all day everyday).
 

Betta'sAnonymous

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MomOfLiveBearers said:
I look for most of the above. As you mentioned fin damage isnt always a deal breaker, if I feel like the damage can be reversed with time and proper care. I also look to see how it interacts with its tanks mates. If it's aggressive in the tank at the store it's probably going to be aggressive at home.
I also look at gender when purchasing most fish to keep my ratios in good standing. I have adopted a fish that was extremely stressed because she looked otherwise healthy. I considered her a rescue, she was extremely pregnant and stressed and the store told me they didn't expect her to survive. She is doing great now.
This is why we usually end up with pregnant platies...sonetimes they are all darting around so much it is the only way i can properly ID gender!! My wife is much better at it than i am.. so i usually only get platies or any other live bearer when she is with me
 

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