12-15-2008, 12:35 PM
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Big chain stores are hit or miss... sort of like a LFS. Sometimes you get someone who's dedicated and cares about the condition of the fish, other times you get poorly trained minimum wage fish netters. It really takes going to the store and paying attention, asking some questions. Personally I've got 3 Petsmarts (which I think owns Pets at Home) within 5 miles of my house. I've yet to see a really sick fish in any of the stores and the total number of dead fish I could count without taking off my shoes. When they've got over 50 tanks and probably about 1,000 fish a single floater isn't doing too bad. They're not where I usually go for my fish but if they were my only option I wouldn't be too upset. I've also got a Petco nearby that I wouldn't even take a gallon of water from, it's a little aquatic hell on earth. Same thing with some LFS, some are great, some will be a bigger benefit to the hobby when they go out of business.
Take your time, investigate, and if the place doesn't meet your expectations don't buy their fish. Big chains and LFS, neither is perfect, judge them on their merits store by store.