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musho3210 03-27-2007 05:07 PM

Picking a LFS by Musho3210
Ok, i'll start this off with a story. I have always hated petsmart ever since i came to this forum since i learned everything differently here rather than at petsmart, and obviously here sounds more right. Well to me, i thought it was the only place i had and i bought fish there. Well after driving to my sisters school one day i saw a local pet store that had fish as well. Wow, if you ever want to see a nice planted tank, come visit there. It had some of the best plants for sale. I really liked this place since the fish seemed healthy as well. The main problem there was the price. Ghost shrimp that go for a dollar? Neon tetras for 2.99 each (they were neons, not cardinals), well it was expensive but better than petsmart, it also had very knowledgeable staff and a huge reptile section. Using a link that i found on this forum i found a fish store that specializes in only fish. My god if you like saltwater tank, you will like that place. Corals, dozens and dozens of corals, from anemones to softies, from hermit crabs to lobsters as big as your head, from feeder guppies to marble sharks. It is a monster store that had tanks that look better than home tanks. There were a total of 5 indoor ponds, a 1000 gallon pond with turtles, a 500 gallon reef pond with lots of corals and anemones, a 50 gallon feeder goldfish pond, a 100 gallon live rock pond, and the 2000 gallon shark pond. It is the greatest fish store i have ever seen. I was just disappointed that i didnt find it sooner.

Well enough about me, more about you now. Im sure many of you dont like those big name retailers like petsmart, petco, petland etc but just cant find a good lfs, well here are my tips on finding a good one.

First look on websites and write down the addresses of all the fish stores near you. Next plan a day or two where you will go to each one of these.

Second, make a list of the things you need to see there.
1. Using a midpoint fish store that you have now and place it on a -10 to 10 ratio. Place the store where you think it goes, my petsmart for example lies somewhere at -5, my petco lies at -9, petland -9.5, petco2 3, petsmart2 -5, wilmette pet 7, thee fish bowl 6, and my lfs Old Orchard Aquarium 9.5. You dont have to write it down as long as you have good memory. Each store you go to, start with 0 and add and subtract the following

2. Sick fish test
Check each and every tank and look out for diseases, each fish you see that has a disease, lower the lfs rating by .25, if a tank that says "sick fish not for sale" you dont need to do anything with points.
2.1 Dead fish test
Every dead fish you see lower 1 point, if you see a dead fish, tell the staff, if they go and take it away immediatly or when there finished with a customer, then give them back the point, if they say, ok just wait a moment, then keep the point lost.
2.2 Staff tests
Make up a few questions that you know the answer too, a simple question like can an oscar fit in a 20 gallon tank (no). If the lfs answers wrong then they lose a point, if they answer right, then give them a point.
2.3 Money Grabbers or Helpers
Here is another make-up test. Pretend your fish has ich, then take some salt off the shelf and go up to the staff. Ask them if salt helps cure ich, if they say no and try to sell you medication no questions asked, then take away a point, if they say it might work or ask questions about the tank, then give them a point. Make sure you keep up the lie and dont say, "This was a test," since that makes them angry.
2.4 Food glorious food
find a fish with a strict diet, an oto is a good choice, then ask them what do you feed them. If the food they give them is wrong then they lose a point, if the food they give is right then give a point. An oto for example eats algae, if they feed the oto algae wafers or vegetable, or even live algae, then that is good, but if they feed it flakes or something, then that is bad. Ive seen petsmart staff put a few fish flakes in an oto tank.
2.5 Filter
Ask what filter do they use, if they have a HOB on every tank then thats great, if they have 1 HOB to take care of all tanks that is no good. Most good lfs have wet-dry bio filters to help with the large bio-load they have.
2.6 On your own
Its not hard to make up your own test, if you think it is logical, then give it to them.
2.7 Final
Take a look at the whole store, what do you see, ugly tanks that has dying fish/plants/corals, or thriving fish. This determains the most points you give a store. Take the amount of points youve given and place it on your -10 to 10 scale. Keep this in mind

After you have rated every lfs, find the best one and voila, you have it :)

If a lfs is tied by points, do it by distance, the closer lfs to your home should be the main lfs. Compare the main lfs you've chosen to the one you have and then pick between the two.

I hope this helps you :D

Falina 03-27-2007 06:14 PM

very extensive but youre right.

lfs's are almost always the way to go however there are a few awful fish stores out there too. i live in scotland and we dont have most of the chain pet stores that you have but the majority of them that we do have are terrible. there is one pet store near me (acorn pets) that is really good though. i havent done your test with it but their fish are all healthy with live plants and good filters (i should add as well that depending on the fish the filters are set different. the gourami tank has a very still flow compared to others for example), they have a quarantine tank and althoguh the staff do not know all the answers, i overheard one woman asking about cichlids agression and the woman serving her was quite comfortable saying "i dont know" which is rare, rather than looking for a sale. she then went over to the books section and looked it up for her.

i think its important that you have raised this issue - chain pet stores tend not to be very good but like you said lfs's arent always available and there are always exceptions to the rules. doing your own research is the most important thing.

Kathryn 03-28-2007 10:13 AM

A very helpful aticle in my opinion. :D
good job.

leifthebunny 03-28-2007 10:33 AM

Re: Picking a LFS by Musho3210
Overall a pretty good article. Just curious what your criteria for "just wait a moment" would continue to lose a point from:


Originally Posted by musho3210
2.1 Dead fish test
Every dead fish you see lower 1 point, if you see a dead fish, tell the staff, if they go and take it away immediatly or when there finished with a customer, then give them back the point, if they say, ok just wait a moment, then keep the point lost.

My LFS didn't immediately remove the fish when I pointed it out, but they were busy with getting the food distributed and getting the tanks ready for closing, but I know that the fish was removed. Also, my LFS scored major points for refusing to sell a fish to someone when they knew it was going into a bad environment for the fish (different customer).

musho3210 03-28-2007 03:30 PM

what i meant was just wait a moment, and they go on minding there own business or do something that doesn't immediately have to be done. If they are with a customer or doing something that needed immediate attention, then that is good. Sorry i wasnt clearer

fish_4_all 03-29-2007 02:41 PM

I think there is other things that make for a good LFS and I don't agree with all that was said.

My LFS has fish as a side effect, they have had them for years. While not all their fish are the healthiest, that con not be blamed all on the LFS. The suppliers often send them diseased, unhealthy and stressed fish. These fish make it look bad on the LFS and it isn't their fault.

As for dead fish, my LFS has one person who works the fish, works the floor and does the heavy loading which is often the first thing they do in the morning and do not have a chance to "inspect" the tanks right off the bat. If I show them a dead fish it is never there the next day and if I show them a tank with a disease or parasite they will not sell out of and will quarantine the tank when they have a chance. The only thing they have time for sometimes is to remove the prices on the tank until they can start treatment.

As for money grubbing, I would rather a LFS tries to get all the information they can before selling me anything. If I went to my LFS and they told me to use sea salt to treat Ich before finding out if I had plant I would be irate to say the least after my plants were burnt off and killed by the salt treatment. I would also be irate if they sold me Coppersafe and didn't ask me if I had any snails that might be affected. If they got to the bottom of what I truly needed and it cost me an extra $20 to protect all of my tanks inhabitants then so be it.

For me the best LFS is the one who cares more about the end health of the fish once they leave the store than making a sale. Any LFS that will be honest about a baby Oscar not staying in a 30 gallon tank long but will allow a member to buy a 30 gallon and a small Oscar is OK with me. They gave the customer the advice needed and the customer is prepared. What the customer does after that is not the LFS fault.

As for Petco, Petsmart or any other major chain, remember that yes there are those that don't care about the fish but there are also those that don't "appear" to care about the fish because their business for the last 6 weeks has been dogs, cats and birds day in and day out without much chance to address fish except the basic care.

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