How to Buy Fish for Your Aquarium

Selecting and looking after your fish can be an immensely enjoyable part offish-keeping. Make sure you give your aquarium a good start: take the trouble to search out and obtain healthy fish, and establish a regular care routine from the outset; this helps you create a well-balanced habitat in which your fish should thrive.

You can buy fish from various sources, ranging from ordinary pet shops to specialist aquatic stores, or even via mail order. The choice partly depends on which types you want. Most pet stores stock a basic range of tropical fish, usually including a selection of livebearers such as guppies, maybe some barbs and similar species, tetras, plus a few of the smaller catfish. These are often quite suitable for a community aquarium, because if the shop only has a few tanks, it will tend to stock popular species that are easy to keep.

On the other hand, if you are seeking specific or more unusual species, you would do better to go to a specialist aquatic store. Check your local business directory for addresses of stores in your area, ask for a recommendation if you already know a fellow enthusiast, or look in the fish-keeping magazines.

Choosing a store

Once you have decided to set up an aquarium, it is tempting to rush out to buy the fish, but a hasty purchase may soon become a regretted one, so take your time. If you are doubtful about the way in which the fish are kept at one store, or their condition, then err on the side of caution and look elsewhere. The fish themselves are only a relatively small fraction of your investment, compared with the cost of the equipment, but if you don’t buy wisely, you could waste both time and money, and land yourself with a lot of frustration and additional problems right from the start.

Also bear in mind that if you add sick fish to the tank, you will endanger the health of their companions as well as any subsequent arrivals. Always aim to start out with the best stock you can find, and keep newcomers in a basic isolation tank at first for this reason, though even this will not guarantee their good health.

Buying locally

There are several advantages to obtaining fish locally where possible. In the first place, they are likely to be acclimatized to the local water conditions, at least to some extent, depending on how long they have been in stock. They will also have only a short journey to their new home, lessening the stress of the move. As a regular customer, you should find it easy to keep a check on any new fish that become available, and you are likely to get better service and a more helpful response in the event of any problems. With a new tank, using a local supplier also makes it more convenient if you want to stock it gradually over a few months.

Store checklist

As with any kind of store, some are better than others.

The following tips should help you check if the store is generally a good source for obtaining healthy fish.

  • Trade membership – Although it is no cast-iron guarantee, look for a store that displays membership of a trade organization. Such bodies run special staff training courses, so in these outlets the staff should be able to offer you sound, knowledgeable advice.
  • Sick fish – Avoid any store where you spot any dead or diseased fish, even if the species you want look healthy.
  • Tell-tale tanks – Display tanks often indicate the level of care: check that they are clean and not overcrowded.
  • Air supply – If the fish are congregating at the surface (not just surface-dwellers) and gasping, they may be suffering from a deficiency of oxygen.
  • Helpful labelling – Well-labelled aquaria, highlighting the compatibility of the fish and other details such as ease of keeping, as well as prices, usually indicate knowledgeable and responsible management.
  • Helpful staff – Watching the staff can give a useful insight, particularly their attitude to customers. Are they helpful or off-hand? If you or another customer want a particular pair of fish, but the staff seem unwilling to bother to catch them, trying to fob you off with others, then you may prefer to go elsewhere.

Ordering fish

If you cannot see the species you want, the store may order it specially, particularly if it is a specialist aquatic outlet. They may only do this for a firm order, however, which rather binds you to buying the fish before seeing them, which is not generally recommended. If the dealer seems knowledgeable and the premises well-run, it may be worth the risk. When seeking breeding stock, this may be more complicated, unless the sexes of the species concerned can be discerned very easily.

Mail order fish

Least satisfactory in general terms, although it works well in many cases, is to buy fish unseen, and have them sent by courier. Shipment is quite costly, so tends only to be used with more expensive fish, often breeding stock. In these circumstances, the breeder or supplier may be prepared to send you photos of the fish they have available before you make your order.

Check when the fish will be dispatched and their likely time of delivery so someone can be at home to receive them. Fish are shipped in insulated packs, so should not be subjected to great variations in water temperature, although shipping may be best delayed if conditions are very cold. Obviously, if there are unexpected delays in transit, this may harm the fish.

Filed Under: Pets & Animals


About the Author: Fred Goodson has a passion for pets and animals. He has 4 dogs and is planning to have another one. He is also a blogger who writes about pets and animals. Currently, he is living in New Jersey.

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