Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources (
-   Beginner Freshwater Aquarium (
-   -   Debate: Should the LFS accept returns? (

eug 08-26-2012 01:26 PM

Debate: Should the LFS accept returns?
I recently had a nightmarish episode after adding a dozen Serpae tetras to my tank. Despite taking care to obtain expert stocking advice here on the forums, they ended up being an absolute terror in my tank and several of my Cories ended up with torn fins.

Read about it here:

So on day 4, I decided that I had no alternative but to rehome them. Of course, since the purchase was so recent, the first place I called was the LFS where I made the purchase. The answer I got was "Serpae tetras are not aggressive. We keep them with Cories all the time without problems." Oh is that so. How interesting.

"We do not accept returns because the fish can be carrying diseases now and we can't take that risk."

If I had been prepared for this answer, I would have responded with something to the extent of "well, what do you do with your wholesale purchases? Those are surely highly stressed fish that can very often be ill. You surely have quarantine tanks for them, don't you?", but I was too stressed to really come up with that at the time.

I can understand on the other hand that people may abuse return policies for frivolous reasons, like "the wife didn't like its colour, it didn't match the curtains" or something to that extent. How can a fish store adequately determine whether a return is justified or not? In my case however, I think I made it clear that I had done my research, did everything I could to try to make it work, and I was out of options.

I think it's not hard to determine if the problems are due to errors made by the aquarist through just asking a few questions. If it's a case where a fish is dying, or is dead, the customer might be asked to present a water sample to prove that the tank conditions were sound, and that the shop may have sold a sick fish. Without a return policy of sorts, how can the customer be protected against evil LFS practices like knowingly selling sick fish?

This is turning into a rant of sorts, but I can basically understand both sides of the argument. In my case, I found that another LFS was willing to buy the fish off of me at about 60% of his retail price, so thankfully that sorted out the stocking problem in my tank. What if I wasn't so lucky though? I might still be posting classified ads right now in the hopes that somebody will take the fish off of me.

jaysee 08-26-2012 03:25 PM

Boy, never in a million years did I think that serpae tetras would have come up in your peaceful tetra thread. Mine were terrors - I kept them with tiger barbs before I gave them away to be someone else's problem.

Returns? Yes, I believe they should accept fish. What they do with them and what they may do for the customer should be up to them, but they should at least accept the fish as a donation.

sidluckman 08-26-2012 03:51 PM

Their statement that "the fish could be carrying disease now" is laughable. Of course they could. And they might have been carrying disease when the LFS sold them to you, which is why we quarantine fish.

If this LFS wants to be the first one to guarantee that their fish do not ever experience disease I want to start shopping there.

Also, as we know, fish behave differently in different sized tanks and with different tank-mates. There are no completely predictable fish.

They seem much more concerned with their finacial gain than with customer satisfaction or animal welfare; I am glad you found a new LFS, but any LFS should have accepted a return or exchange on these fish.

Olympia 08-26-2012 04:02 PM

I think everyone on here will agree that stores should take back fish, won't be much of a debate. :lol:

jaysee 08-26-2012 04:06 PM

Yes good point- fish do act differently in different situations. But some are pretty predictable.

sidluckman 08-26-2012 05:37 PM

Agreed. But the for the LFS to say "that can never happen with serpae tetras" as an agument to refuse to take the fish back is a bad argument. I have seen things I never would have expected when certain combinations are put together. I believe we should be more concerned with doing right by the fish than by trying to defend what we think we know about the behavior of a certain species.

Byron 08-26-2012 06:21 PM

I am glad some fish stores take back fish, but that doesn't mean it is a wise practice. You can have latent protozoan in your fish purchased from any other store, spreading to these newly-acquired fish. We tend to expect possible disease in fish from the store and quarantine accordingly, but the reverse is just as likely.

I have a friend who is a professional fish importer and breeder, and he once told me that if someone buys fish from him and then wants to return them, yes, he will take them back--and they are poured out of the bag into a corner of the back garden and buried without question.


sidluckman 08-26-2012 09:50 PM

Byron: your friend is not in the same position, however, as a LFS. He is in charge of a far larger number of fish. If certain viral or parasitic diseases were to go back to a breeding facility it could be disastrous for his entire operation. If they go forward, through a series of LFSs, they could spell doom for a relatively large batch or several batches of fish.

But given the multitude of sources and the virtual impossibility of any one fish store to know what fish had made contact with what other fish prior to their arrival at their store, I think it would be inhumane and foolish for them to behave that way. Either that, or they should be destroying weekly whatever remains of last week's livestock, tearing down their filtration, substrates and decor and sterilizing everything prior to receiving a new shipment to prevent the weekly potential of cross- contamination. Just because you have an empty tank, for example, doesn't mean the new fish you put in it won't become infested with camellanus or some such horror from the batch you sold last week. So killing some fish returned from a customer, in the context of an LFS seems rash and unnecessary if that shop isn't actively preventing potential contamination at each arrival of new fish.

I understand the logic and "strategy" behind what your friend is doing at his place in the tropical fish distribution flow chart, but ultimately we, as end users of live fish, are the only ones who can protect our collections through proper screening and quarantining. I can complain and scream all I want to a LFS if I receive unhealthy fish, and they ought to replace them, to the best of their ability with healthy ones, but if I allow my own collection to be infected by new fish, that's on me.

eug 08-27-2012 12:44 AM

I'm in Germany where it's not as commonplace to see returns accepted by the shop, and so I posted on a German forum the same question, interested to see the responses.

Eventually there was a response "Ugh, this sort of attitude disgusts me. At the point of purchase YOU take responsibility for your fish. These are living things! You can't just 'try them out' and return them if they don't work out for you! They're not just decorations!"

Then I was lectured how I should have tried this or that, move all my tank decorations around, change the direction/strength of the filter outlet, see if they behave any differently a couple degrees cooler, etc etc etc... basically they told me I was too rushed in deciding to give up on the Serpaes.

My tone in that German forum thread I have to admit spiralled out of control - and basically one thing did dawn on me, I was taking out the rage on poor strangers on the internet because deep down inside, I *knew* there was some serious risk involved in my purchase, and yet I went through with it anyway. The fact that I didn't stop myself in the end means the guilt lies with me.

One possible argument against livestock retrns: if you as an LFS make it policy to take back fish, does that also risk that the aquarist will essentially hand off his own responsibility to the LFS? It would then open doors to people to "try out" all sorts of experiments, knowing that if the experiment fails there will always be the goold old LFS who will have to take the blame for it and replace the fish. There will of course be grey areas - my Pleco got too big, and the LFS didn't warn me about it. Should the LFS have warned him, or should the aquarist already have known ahead of time?

sidluckman 08-27-2012 01:19 AM

I think we all develop our own ethical system in this regard, and I believe there definitely should be a wider discussion of this issue among hobbyists. Actually, I think this forum should have a division that discusses all kinds of issues surrounding the ethics of acquiring fish, attempting certain species, breeding, cross breeding, euthanizing, re-homing, ethical issues within the hobby whether as home aquarists, as breeders and importers, as LFSs or as big box pet stores. I see genetically altered fish, deliberately deformed fish, injection-dyed fish, tatooed fish and fish that belong in lakes and rivers, not in tanks. I see raft-loads of bettas arriving weekly at pet stores, I see them sitting each in 8 ounces of water and excretia, and I see them heading out the front door, outfitted with the 21st century equivalent of a goldfish bowl, or out the back door, as part of the weekly "dumpage." We ought to be discussing this stuff.

For me, taking on a potentially huge fish and then parting with it halfway down the path of its life out of nothing more than boredom is a pattern I especially despise. Many of my local fish stores are positively littered with Oscars, Red Devils, Green Terrors, "Gibbiceps Plecos" Iridescent Sharks, Redtail Sharks, Osphenemus Goramis, Flowerhorns (whatever they are, wherever they came from). And I think foisting a large two or three year old tank-buster back onto a shop that likely will not be able to re-home it is lazy at best. And I think LFSs are hesitant to refuse for fear of how much undeserved damage can be done to them via internet ratings and such.

But in your case, as a fairly new hobbyist, wouldn't it be potentially damaging to your enthusiasm for the hobby if you were simply forced to keep the "hellion serpaes" and watch them dismantle your cory cats fin by fin? The fish were in your keep for a couple days, at best, and arguably are no less healthy than when they left the store. Indeed, some of them are now fortified on the flesh of cories! These can be re-sold without a problem and they will not hang around at the store taking up valuable tank space from the merchant. I see this as a practical solution which was well addressed sooner than later.

I personally take on fish with much forethought and consideration. I nearly made an expensive and large error a couple weeks ago, tempted by some great looking loaches with which I was not wholly or suitably familiar. I broke off the sale, saying I needed to do some reading, and was relieved that I had not purchased six fish that would have required all kinds of equipment and conditions I could not have provided in the foreseeable future. Not the least of which was a 125 gallon tank. With my marine fish, knowing they are nearly all wild caught, I am given pause to consider whether i can truly keep them suitably. My avatar is a fish I dreamed about keeping for decades, literally. It just took me a while to be able to afford the tank he is swimming in now.

Seriously, I think you did the best you could under the circumstances, you did not buy impulsively, you asked a lot of questions and you got a lot of agreement from people who gave it their best.

But you bought those cherry barbs awful fast!!


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 06:48 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome