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Aquarium Shops – UK

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A short rant about some recent blunders of chain aquarium shops

What’s going wrong in pet shops?

Not long ago I came across a post online that was to be honest, no surprise, but it still caused me some level of irritation.  The post regarded a conversation with a certain well known chain pet store here in the UK.  Now, in all honesty I cannot confirm how genuine this conversation was as I did not see it first hand, just a copy and paste of their email reply, but based on my own experiences with this place, I believe it.


A little bit irritating

The conversation started as a complaint from a customer who had been sold an aquarium that was around 17 litres in volume.  The customer had purchased this tank after being informed by the staff in store that they could keep various species of fish in it happily, but later a small amount of research at home told them that this was not the case at all.  This part of the story is certainly no surprise for me as it seems extremely common that store staff of the bigger chain stores are clueless about the fish that they sell.  However, it was the stores reply that caused my irritation.

The reply contained various incorrect information but I’m just going to mention the biggest blunders here.  The first thing that really caught my attention was that they claimed the minimum aquarium size recommended for a standard Goldfish was 25 litres, plus 10 litres for each additional fish.  To me, this is why fish keeping so often goes wrong for beginners.  Anyone who took this advice would likely very soon end up with a tank full of dead Goldfish, which is probably why many new aquarists end up in this situation.  I honestly can’t see a good reason for this advice to be given as a quick google search will tell you that the info is way off, so you would think that a big brand company would have the resources to find the correct information, Right?  The only reason I can see for this is that, if they were to tell customers the correct size aquarium for a Goldfish, they would sell a lot less Goldfish.  I believe the most commonly recommended aquarium size for one Goldfish is around 90 – 100 litres, in my opinion this is still a little small for a fish that could reach 2 feet long, but its still a lot more than 25 litres.

Whilst the rubbish about the Goldfish irritated me, the next part was far worse.  They went on to state that they always recommend ‘Fish in’ cycling.  Their reasoning for this was that using bottled ammonia does not contain the same compounds as actual fish waste and therefore doesn’t prepare your filter to deal with fish waste.  They also stated that the aquarium should be set up and seeded with their quick start filter gel for only 24 hours before adding fish.  This is something that I have never heard before, from any fish store, ever! But there it was in an email from this companies offices.  As far as I know, ammonia is ammonia. Whether it comes in a bottle or out of your fish makes no difference and it is ammonia that you need for your filtration to break down.  Their next claim was that most aquarists favour ‘Fish in’ cycling over Fishless, again, news to me.  I’m not sure if there is anything else I can say on this as to me it is just ridiculous, however, if anyone knows if there is any truth to this at all then please feel free to educate me in the comments.


The solution

I can only apologise if this has come across as a rant, although I guess it is a little.  The lesson I think that is worth taking away from this is that not everyone who sells fish is educated on them.  So always do a little research yourself.  I would hope that at least some employees of these stores are a little more in the know about the fish that they sell, but personally I avoid these places for anything fish related.  You will get off to a much better start (in my opinion) by finding one of those small, independent aquarium shops that are usually tucked in the back of a garden centre.  These places have much better stock, are passionate about what they do, and staff tend to be knowledgeable.

Good luck with any upcoming fish shopping, but remember, give it a google if you’re not 100% on the information you’ve been given.

About the author

James @Seriously Fishy

I am a fish keeping enthusiast with over 20 years experience. I currently keep American Cichlids (CA) which are my favourite fish to keep so far. I started Seriously Fishy as I noticed a large volume of people on various web pages looking for help with Aquarium basics. I created the first Seriously Fishy book to solve the issue in 28 pages, that led to the Seriously Fishy UK fish forum and blog.

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