Not many years ago, when I returned to fish keeping, I wandered into one of my local pet stores to talk to the staff and see what was available – things had moved on and apparently the under gravel filter was no longer the height of technology. We got chatting about their stock and the lady showed me some great beginners fish – some black ones with white spots that looked like dominoes and some black and white striped ones like humbugs and some remarkable electric blue fellows… and ‘yes’ they were all ‘captive bred’ she told me, and were ‘perfect fish for a beginner’. I promised I’d be back with my cash when I’d set my tank up.
As you can imagine, several weeks later there was war in my Juwel 180, as three of the most pugnacious fish in the hobby ripped each other’s fins apart. It didn’t take me long to realise that this store should be avoided at all costs and I believe they no longer sell marine fish or inverts – did I mention they were happy to sell Manjano and Aiptasia infested Live Rock? It grinds my gears that countless hobbyists were misled through their ignorance and hundreds of fish and inverts must have perished needlessly.
I’m pleased to say I now visit a much better LFS, who in my opinion will give the best advice I’ve ever heard – they will encourage you NOT to buy a fish! I’ve heard the guys there gently quiz shoppers about their tanks and their existing stock and suggest that ‘ you shouldn’t get another Tang’, or ‘Its small now, but may well grow very large’, for example.
A store that will delay making a profit from immediate sales and will rather develop a long-term relationship with you as your success as an aquarist develops is a wonderful thing to find, so if an LFS says ‘no’ don’t take it personally.
The image I’ve used to head this blog, is a great example of a fish, just about no one really wants yet continues to turn up in dealer’s tanks. The Clown Coris (C. aygula) is of course drop-dead gorgeous and quite an amenable resident, but what a bad store won’t tell you (or perhaps they don’t even know) is that this polka dot beauty is a juvenile, which will eat and eat and eat and has the potential to become a real bruiser – in the wild it can reach a metre in length, and ends up looking like a different species!
In captivity of course, many species don’t reach the size they would in the wild, but when you see Batfish or Sweetlips looking cute in a dealer’s tanks, a little research might help you to decide to leave them in the ocean and, this is just my opinion, but perhaps a good fish store shouldn’t sell them in the first place?