Re: NANFA-- fish quality

D. Martin Moore (
Sun, 6 Jan 2002 00:40:55 -0600

----- Original Message -----
From: <>
Subject: NANFA-- fish quality

> I have noticed something disturbing in the past several years about
> freshwater fish in pet shops and I thought I'd see if it is just a local
> phenomenon or if it applies every where. What I have noticed is that fish
> quality and selection has dropped off to the point that the freshwater
> hobbyist has little or no choice in the fish they keep. This decline seems
> be connected with chain store petshops crowding out Mom and Pop type

Well, I have a few thoughts on this. Are the chain stores crowding out the
Mom and Pops? It depends on the market. In large cities there is plenty of
room for both, but customers understand that they will pay much more at the
independent shops. As a result, the independents tend to specialize. Many
have chosen saltwater as their specialty, which is very lucrative as they
can achieve a high turnover (many of their fishes are sold before they even
arrive!) and the big guys won't touch saltwater. This last raises a
question: If there is so much money to be made in it, why doesn't PetsMart
go after the saltwater hobby like gangbusters? There are two answers to
this, depending upon how jaded your viewpoint is. I once sat down with a
PetsMart district manager when he was in one of the Atlanta stores and had a
two hour conversation with him. I asked the saltwater question and his
answer was that the corporate leadership felt that putting such massive
pressure on what is still largely a wild-caught fishery would be totally
irresponsible. I tend to believe him, if only because I think he's right
that the reef hobby would collapse under the weight of the massive
collecting pressure PetsMart would create. The more cynical point of view
is that they know they can't keep the animals alive long enough to make any
money off of them. To this I have two answers. The small LFS's, as I have
mentioned, often sell to customers before the fish have even been unpacked.
I am not at all convinced that the little guys do a better job of keeping
their fishes than the big guys. The latter have very impressive
computer-controlled systems (somewhat reminiscent of some of the large
public aquaria) that factor out human incompetence. In fact, the fish in my
PetsMart look better than those in most of the LFS's I've seen, and they're
a helluva lot healthier than when I worked in a LFS in the 70's.

I've been surprised too at some of the fishes I see in Petsmart and yes,
even Wal-Mart! Stuff you would NEVER expect to see in the tanks of a mass
merchant. The advantage of the little guys, as I see it, is specialization
and the willingness to fulfill special requests. If they specialize in
freshwater, then odds are you can get almost any kind of Cichlid from them
(ho hum!). I remember a LFS in Tallahassee which almost always had three
or four different bichirs (they called 'em "bikers") - now there's a true
specialist's shop. They also had scats and archers. So yes, there is a
niche for the independents, but they also buy the "bread and butter" fishes
from the same farms as the big guys, so I wouldn't necessarily play the
"quality" card. I've seen LFS's which made me wonder how in the hell the
owners stayed in business.

Has fish quality gone down? I have been hearing this for decades, and to a
certain extent this again depends on your point of view. Many, MANY years
ago you could buy adult, LARGE specimens, particularly livebearers and
characins. Nowadays they are almost always very young and small. But that
also equates to a longer life in your tank, since they haven't already lived
most of it :-) And certain fishes are hard to get any more because of
various diseases which have permeated the industry. Anybody remember
Singapore disease, which virtually wiped out the wholesale angelfish


Jackson, MS
I think someone should have had the decency to tell me the luncheon was
To make someone run out with potato salad in his hand, pretending he's
throwing up, is not what I call hospitality.

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