Petsmart Fish?

AquaticJ

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With experience working at a large chain store and also a private owned store, I’d recommend the private owned store every time. A good private owned store will not be ordering from the same places that chains order from. Their fish are cheap because they’re mass produced in unhealthy ways, that’s just the truth. That doesn’t mean all of their fish are going to die, but it does mean a weaker immune system and a more likely chance.
 

bitseriously

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It's simple. Buyer beware.
I'm still a relative newb in this hobby (just over a year), and I'm admittedly addicted. I've managed to control new purchases, but I'm in one fish store or another almost weekly. You get a sense for how the store cares for its fish by checking all the tanks, and looking for problems. A lot of it comes down to simple professionalism, by which I mean business ethic and customer service. If a store has tanks that are covered with algae, that might not be harmful to the fish per se, but it's a sign that they don't take the time to run a razor over the glass/scrape ornaments, and they don't make the connection that I'm judging their business by how the tanks look (among other things). And that ethic (or lack thereof) is all I need to know.
Also, yes do look for sick or dead fish. I was at one store a couple weeks ago, and in every bank of tanks, at least one tank had multiple casualties or flashing fish. One tank had so many bronze cories, the bottom of the tank was more cory than substrate. All were resting peacefully (that in itself could be taken a couple of different ways), except for 1 fish at the back that was flashing like crazy on the gravel, glass, other fish, etc. Best to assume that whatever it has, all the others are now exposed to. So you'd be almost guaranteed to be buying sick fish.
I've had good luck and bad luck with big stores, small stores, and private buys.
My best advice is always be prepared to either walk away empty handed, or accept the risk of buying sick fish if what you want (oh so badly) is not in perfect health.
 

Platylover

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I wouldn’t suggest purchasing from big box stores for various reasons. One reason is like others have said they have the tanks all connected to one system, one sick fish easily equals all fish sick. Sometimes the fish don’t show the signs of illness right away either until you get them home(why QT is an extremely good thing regardless of where you purchase).

Another is once again what others have brough up, the places they get them from. They aren’t bred for health, they’re bred for production. There’s going to be a significant amount of inbreeding (what has already caused quite a bit of common species to have become fragile) and likely they aren’t going to be kept that well. They just want as many as they can as quickly as they can, regardless of the impacts on the fish.

Thirdly, now this one is a little more personal and opinionated, but I hate to support petstores by purchasing live animals. Most of the chains you see are not taking care of one animal or another. At one of the chains near me there’s been times I’ve seen a literal tank full of minnows, the dead ones just getting pushed around by the constant swimming of the others. I hate seeing this kind of abuse in stores, not to mention the other live animals they have. Even if one petstores is great, the others in the chain likely aren’t. But by supporting that one you are also supporting the others in the way they treat animals. I know this is an opinionated reason, but it’s a major reason for me.

I’ve seen a lot of members suggesting to go to an LFS, but I’ll be honest, some LFS can be even worse than a chain store. For example, one of my LFS is a 50/50 on if their will be dead/sick animals or if they’ll have healthy stock. I only ever purchase when they are healthy. Now, to the point of an LFS stock quality being better than a chain store, I suppose that LFS is proof of it. Although they will have sick fish sometimes, when I’ve purchased the healthy ones from them I’ve never had any issues what so ever. Compare that to some of the chains I’ve bought from (prior to my decision to not purchase from then) and it’s not so much that way.

What I’m trying to say is to just make sure that LFS is a good one and if it is I definitely suggest purchasing from there over a chain.

Another thing I haven’t seen mentioned is online purchasing. There’s some amazing online stores that will send you great and healthy stock. I primarily order online now, and yes it can be a bit pricy, but IMO it’s better to save up and buy quality stock and support a good business than to buy stock thats likely to die and support a not-so-great business.

If you’d like any online store suggestions I have a few.
 

Galathiel

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We no longer have any LFSs. When the chains came to town, the others all closed. All the last fish I've ordered have been online - goldfish, dwarf guppies, shrimp. I have gotten fish from Petsmart/Petco in the past and haven't had many issues with die off.
 
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