Question Signs Of A Good Lfs?

Irv

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For all of you guys who have been in the hobby for a long time. How do you know if your LFS or big box store, is selling good stock and knows what they are doing ? What are some signs to look for that good or bad. Some questions to ask? I'm new and have only tried one place. Lost a lot of fish from there but the guys seems to know what he's talking about ? And the tanks don't look bad, like some I've seen at stores before? Also there's places like petco who can be good or bad depending on who is running that specific store. So confusing ! Thanks in advance for all the advice.
 

Feohw

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Usually I can tell just by looking at the state of the tanks and the quality of the fish. If there are many sick or dead fish I avoid it. Most shops I find here tend to be quite good. Though just from looking at different shops I can see which fish appear healthier. My lfs let's me into their quarantine room to have a look around so I can see first hand that they take it seriously. I tend to avoid standard pet shops and instead go for actual aquarium fish shops.

I also like to ask some of the employees questions that I know the answer to to see if they are knowledgeable or not. Are you sure the fish died because the shop might not be good?
 

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Clean natural looking tanks ..Not necessarily sterile but not having dead fish or debris .
Decent quality fish stocked in tanks accordingly ..If they know about fish they shouldn't stock their own tanks poorly as many do ?
And as mentioned above QUALIFY new stores and employees ..Ask questions you know the answers to..
 

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Hi, I try & visit a new store several times, different days & different time of day & just observe the fish to see if they look lively & healthy or are they lethargic & hovering around the heater or filter or surface & are the tanks generally clean.
I have no problem with an odd dead fish in a tank as losses do happen no matter how good the store is, I would be concerned though if there were several every time I went & they looked like they’d been dead a while, good Lfs have a routine of inspecting tanks throughout the day & removng any casualties.
Staff knowledge in a store can vary immensely, ime independents will often have more general knowledge than those in a chain but again even the best stores can’t be experts on every species so do a little research on the fish you're interested in before you go & resist the urge to impulse buy...we’ve all done it
 
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Irv

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Usually I can tell just by looking at the state of the tanks and the quality of the fish. If there are many sick or dead fish I avoid it. Most shops I find here tend to be quite good. Though just from looking at different shops I can see which fish appear healthier. My lfs let's me into their quarantine room to have a look around so I can see first hand that they take it seriously. I tend to avoid standard pet shops and instead go for actual aquarium fish shops.

I also like to ask some of the employees questions that I know the answer to to see if they are knowledgeable or not. Are you sure the fish died because the shop might not be good?
No I'm not definite that it was their fault. I actually like the look of the place and the tanks, especially compared to some places I've seen. I was just wondering if anyone had some trade secret signs to look for. Thanks for the input, definitely will be asking questions i know the answers too. That's a great strategy

Clean natural looking tanks ..Not necessarily sterile but not having dead fish or debris .
Decent quality fish stocked in tanks accordingly ..If they know about fish they shouldn't stock their own tanks poorly as many do ?
And as mentioned above QUALIFY new stores and employees ..Ask questions you know the answers to..
I'm always curious about the stocking of tanks in the stores. Because very often I'll see a whole bunch of fish packed together in a tank that would generally be too small or fish that according to the internet would not co habitate well but somehow they seem fine in the store. How do they do that? Is it just cause it's temporary ?
 

Minxxy

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I find out all I need to know talking to the people working and looking at the tanks. One of my local PetCos is always doing water changes in their betas and is very knowledgeable the otherocal one not so much. And Petsmart I just buy dry or froze Food from or the meds or chemicals
I am lucky to have found a semi local small fish store who is AMAZING so it makes it worth the drive
 
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Irv

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Hi, I try & visit a new store several times, different days & different time of day & just observe the fish to see if they look lively & healthy or are they lethargic & hovering around the heater or filter or surface & are the tanks generally clean.
I have no problem with an odd dead fish in a tank as losses do happen no matter how good the store is, I would be concerned though if there were several every time I went & they looked like they’d been dead a while, good Lfs have a routine of inspecting tanks throughout the day & removng any casualties.
Staff knowledge in a store can vary immensely, ime independents will often have more general knowledge than those in a chain but again even the best stores can’t be experts on every species so do a little research on the fish you're interested in before you go & resist the urge to impulse buy...we’ve all done it
Hmm that's a cool idea I always go at the same time, wouldn't have ever thought to check it out at different times. The impulse control is so hard ! Haha thanks for the input!

I find out all I need to know talking to the people working and looking at the tanks. One of my local PetCos is always doing water changes in their betas and is very knowledgeable the otherocal one not so much. And Petsmart I just buy dry or froze Food from or the meds or chemicals
I am lucky to have found a semi local small fish store who is AMAZING so it makes it worth the drive
Yeah so far I have just the one store that I've found nearby. I haven't branched out over 30 minutes out though. My petco does have one seemingly knowledgeable worker in the fish section and the tanks look great. So idk. Tough decision. Their bettas are still sad likely everyone elses though
 

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It's like any business. You can tell how well run they are by paying attention to little details. Is the parking lot clean? Is the property kept up? Is the store neat and organized? Are the tanks clean? Does it look like the tanks have been paid attention to? Dead or sick fish obvious.

Stores will often have high stocking levels which is perfectly OK as long as they consistently perform the necessary maintenance on the tanks, such as aggressive water changes. Don't apply what the internet says about stocking levels to what works at a fish store. If the tanks are that overstocked without the appropriate maintenance you'll see sick and dead fish.
 

Sky12223

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Definitely make sure the tanks look clean, but not too clean, since there wouldn’t be good bacteria. Make sure any fish you get from any store look healthy and doesn’t have any conditions you can see like being lethargic or having fin rot. Asking questions you already know the answer to or even that you have a general idea of the answer is a good idea. If they know what they’re talking about and seem knowledgeable it may be a good place. Sometimes you lose fish anyway even if the place is a good place.
 

Brenden

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Frequent visits will tell you if you just came on a bad day, or if the store is actually a bad store.

Ask the employee what day their shipment day is. A lot of time, you may see a dead fish or two on shipment days, especially at big chain stores that get fish in bulk. 1 or 2 are bound to not survive the trip sadly

For me, I typically eye a fish or two I want, but I don't buy it the day I notice it. I come back 2-3 more days, look around, buy supplies, and check the fish to make sure it's still alright. Then if all is good after a few days, I take it home.

For me, I usually give fish the 3 day test. If no diseases have emerged in 3 days in the store, and 3 days in my tank, the fish is likely going to do fine. That rule isn't tested, it's just my personal rule on whether to buy a fish or not buy a fish. I have noticed that signs of infections, disease, or injury are usually noticed within 3 days of purchase.
 
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Irv

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It's like any business. You can tell how well run they are by paying attention to little details. Is the parking lot clean? Is the property kept up? Is the store neat and organized? Are the tanks clean? Does it look like the tanks have been paid attention to? Dead or sick fish obvious.

Stores will often have high stocking levels which is perfectly OK as long as they consistently perform the necessary maintenance on the tanks, such as aggressive water changes. Don't apply what the internet says about stocking levels to what works at a fish store. If the tanks are that overstocked without the appropriate maintenance you'll see sick and dead fish.
Thanks for the input !

Definitely make sure the tanks look clean, but not too clean, since there wouldn’t be good bacteria. Make sure any fish you get from any store look healthy and doesn’t have any conditions you can see like being lethargic or having fin rot. Asking questions you already know the answer to or even that you have a general idea of the answer is a good idea. If they know what they’re talking about and seem knowledgeable it may be a good place. Sometimes you lose fish anyway even if the place is a good place.
Thanks for the advice!

Frequent visits will tell you if you just came on a bad day, or if the store is actually a bad store.

Ask the employee what day their shipment day is. A lot of time, you may see a dead fish or two on shipment days, especially at big chain stores that get fish in bulk. 1 or 2 are bound to not survive the trip sadly

For me, I typically eye a fish or two I want, but I don't buy it the day I notice it. I come back 2-3 more days, look around, buy supplies, and check the fish to make sure it's still alright. Then if all is good after a few days, I take it home.

For me, I usually give fish the 3 day test. If no diseases have emerged in 3 days in the store, and 3 days in my tank, the fish is likely going to do fine. That rule isn't tested, it's just my personal rule on whether to buy a fish or not buy a fish. I have noticed that signs of infections, disease, or injury are usually noticed within 3 days of purchase.
That's an interesting technique. Will definitely try it. Thanks !
 

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Again on the topic of asking questions you already know the answers to, you could go the route of the nitrogen cycle... if they can't answer anything like what is the acceptable levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate... if they look at you dumb founded you've stumped them... also, see what they use to test their water, if it's strips then that's another sign of unknowledgeable staff... hope this is useful
 
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Irv

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Again on the topic of asking questions you already know the answers to, you could go the route of the nitrogen cycle... if they can't answer anything like what is the acceptable levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate... if they look at you dumb founded you've stumped them... also, see what they use to test their water, if it's strips then that's another sign of unknowledgeable staff... hope this is useful
To that point, I have an interesting question. I brought my water into the store I buy fish the other day and had them test my water before I bought. They tested it for ammonia with a tube, and everything else with a strip. Not a great sign ?
 

McGoo

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To that point, I have an interesting question. I brought my water into the store I buy fish the other day and had them test my water before I bought. They tested it for ammonia with a tube, and everything else with a strip. Not a great sign ?
In my opinion and most of us on the forum can agree the strips are next to useless, as they don't give an accurate reading of anything... most use the master test kit from api, which will give you a test for everything.... testing the ammonia is good but there's more to it.... when the ammonia gets high and the bacteria work on it, it turns it to nitrite, and later to nitrate... the most important thing when it comes to testing, is that your ammonia doesn't read any higher then .25ppm, nitrite should be 0, and nitrate 5ppm and up... nitrate is the least toxic in the nitrogen cycle, if you're getting readings of nitrite, then the tank isn't fully cycled and can be toxic, killing new fish entering the tank. I don't know why they would test ammonia with the drops, and the rest with strips... doesn't make any sense to me...
 

PascalKrypt

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What @McGoo said, I tend to ask if they can give me a general sense of their water parameters. The best stores I've visited actually whip out a test kit and demonstrate it to you on the spot, or know the exact numbers by heart. It's not terrible if they don't know (e.g. another employee is in charge of that, or give a general indicator) but it is if they give you a nonsensical story or tell you that information is irrelevant for you or your purchase of fish. Especially if they sell species notoriously picky about parameters.
Likewise I tend to ask some advice on the fish I'm interested in, then look up that info online later (never buy a new fish you're unfamiliar with on first visit, always check up on it online to see if it is suitable for your tanks or if you can provide it what it needs in case it isn't) and see if that corresponds to what they tell you. Rather than asking questions you already know the answer to which may be hard as a beginner, this works just as well as a test of knowledge.

As has been pointed out in another post above, though looking in the tank to see how fish are doing is a good indicator, be careful with judging from a single visit especially if it happens to be the day when new shipments come in. Even good shops have had occasional mishaps like when fish that were just delivered hours earlier were stressed out during transport and started dying by droves in their tank. I do find it a bad indicator if you find dead fish in multiple tanks, especially if some of those look like they have been in there a while. And spotting symptoms of an illness like velvet or ich is a massive red flag. Most shops have poor protocols to prevent cross-contamination, whether via tools or sumps or employee hands, so assume that if one fish has it, every fish in the shop has been potentially exposed.
 
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Irv

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In my opinion and most of us on the forum can agree the strips are next to useless, as they don't give an accurate reading of anything... most use the master test kit from api, which will give you a test for everything.... testing the ammonia is good but there's more to it.... when the ammonia gets high and the bacteria work on it, it turns it to nitrite, and later to nitrate... the most important thing when it comes to testing, is that your ammonia doesn't read any higher then .25ppm, nitrite should be 0, and nitrate 5ppm and up... nitrate is the least toxic in the nitrogen cycle, if you're getting readings of nitrite, then the tank isn't fully cycled and can be toxic, killing new fish entering the tank. I don't know why they would test ammonia with the drops, and the rest with strips... doesn't make any sense to me...
Yeah I thought that was pretty strange of them too. And yeah I've gotten that from being on here a couple of months now, no one ever recommends the test strip haha. Now I wish I had asked him why they tested it that way. Maybe next time I'm there I will.

What @McGoo said, I tend to ask if they can give me a general sense of their water parameters. The best stores I've visited actually whip out a test kit and demonstrate it to you on the spot, or know the exact numbers by heart. It's not terrible if they don't know (e.g. another employee is in charge of that, or give a general indicator) but it is if they give you a nonsensical story or tell you that information is irrelevant for you or your purchase of fish. Especially if they sell species notoriously picky about parameters.
Likewise I tend to ask some advice on the fish I'm interested in, then look up that info online later (never buy a new fish you're unfamiliar with on first visit, always check up on it online to see if it is suitable for your tanks or if you can provide it what it needs in case it isn't) and see if that corresponds to what they tell you. Rather than asking questions you already know the answer to which may be hard as a beginner, this works just as well as a test of knowledge.

As has been pointed out in another post above, though looking in the tank to see how fish are doing is a good indicator, be careful with judging from a single visit especially if it happens to be the day when new shipments come in. Even good shops have had occasional mishaps like when fish that were just delivered hours earlier were stressed out during transport and started dying by droves in their tank. I do find it a bad indicator if you find dead fish in multiple tanks, especially if some of those look like they have been in there a while. And spotting symptoms of an illness like velvet or ich is a massive red flag. Most shops have poor protocols to prevent cross-contamination, whether via tools or sumps or employee hands, so assume that if one fish has it, every fish in the shop has been potentially exposed.
I will definitely start asking about store water parameters, when I go browsing. I've been careful not to make any impulse buys so far, only fish I've looked into deeply, but I'm new to the hobby and have already started getting wide eyed at all the possibilities. Must.keep.self.control. and yeah I definitely walk away when I see a bunch of dead fish. Super sad to see that at some large pet stores how do so many dead fish in one tank go unnoticed ?
 

Annie59

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I just look at the fish I'm interested in and if the tank is clean and no signs of illness then I buy. I don't bother asking a sales person because I already know about the fish I'm planning on buying.
I don't worry to much if the person knows much about fish. Just do your research before hand
Learn about fish illnesses, and learn to recognise it and you will be good in most cases.
 

david1978

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I used to have a real lfs that sadly has gone out of business. He worked a job to try to make it but in the end petco won. He was there nights and weekends and knew just about everything. Awesome stock and everything. Anyway even with hos standards you had the acasinal dead fish. Thankfully our petco is pretty good. After 3-4 trips looking at the fish it really isn't hard to pick out if they take care of their fish or not.
 

Mollieworld

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If you check out Cory from Aquarioum co op he has a video out there that shows how well tetra test strips are compared to API master kit. I believe it's the API strips that are bad. Anyway his video is very informative!
 
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Irv

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I used to have a real lfs that sadly has gone out of business. He worked a job to try to make it but in the end petco won. He was there nights and weekends and knew just about everything. Awesome stock and everything. Anyway even with hos standards you had the acasinal dead fish. Thankfully our petco is pretty good. After 3-4 trips looking at the fish it really isn't hard to pick out if they take care of their fish or not.
Kinda sad how difficult it is for small businesses to keep up these days.
 
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