'Never Listen to Pet Store Workers'

PlasticGalaxy

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Never listen to pet store workers. Doesn't matter if it's a specialised fish shop or a general pet shop or a guy selling you fish from the back of a van. Unless you personally know the person you're speaking to and are fully aware of the experience they have and you're willing to take the bet that they will give you the full truth when buying from them, do not "take their word for it". Whether you're buying fish, tanks, chemical treatments, or general equipment, always do your own research with whatever you're bagging.

At general pet stores like Pets at Home, Petco, Petsmart, e.t.c., the employees are trained in a vast spread of areas. From rodents to cats and dogs to fish to birds. Most will have one specific area of expertise, but you aren't always going to be so lucky as to be assisted by that one worker who excels in fishkeeping knowledge. As a result, the information you may be given could be subpar and ultimately prove useless in the long run. Of course, there's some merit to every piece of advice you receive - even if you have to dig for the meaning and pick apart the bad bits to flip on their head - and you shouldn't completely disregard everything they say, especially if you're just starting out.

Your local fish shop isn't always your best bet either. Employees at places like Maidenhead Aquatics (UK) are generally more informed than those working at basic pet shops, but this doesn't mean the advice is always sound. Like with any other big retail brand pushing sales, workers are made to tell borderline lies in order to promote a sale. It's nothing new, and it should come as no surprise that this happens in the fishkeeping industry too. Even if a worker knows better, there will typically be someone looming over their shoulder (literally or figuratively) to ensure that they just get as much money raked in as possible.

Independent shops do tend to have some more integrity to them than branches of big corporations, but be aware of sleazy sellers who only want your money. By all means, ask for advice at shops if you need it. In fact, you're far more likely to get a sound answer from independently owned businesses than at your average telescope-eye-selling Pets at Home chain. However, if you see or hear something fishy (insert drum sting here), make sure to do your own research and ask around.

The most important thing to do is conduct your own research. Not even just with fish: you should make sure the filter, air pump, heater, light, tank, substrate, and every other necessity for your project, suits your needs and won't fail on you when you need it.
In shops, your first priority should be reliability. Make sure you trust the people working there and their methods. Not only that, but ensure that their livestock is healthy, especially if you already have fish at home. The horror stories about unquarantined fish bringing in contagious diseases are true, and they can do an absolute number on your tank. If your circumstances allow you to, you can quarantine fish and clear them for disease before you put them in your main tank. Otherwise, try to sniff out anything that seems off about the fish when you're still in the shop. If you think something's out of place or not right, do not take the risk.

I feel as though I might be preaching to the choir when I initially post this, but I hope that at least one newcomer sees this and takes something away from it. :)
It's been said a hundred times over, but don't take the advice a shop worker gives you word for word. More often than not, it's passed on through a long game of Chinese whispers and might not even be that reliable in the long-run. Always seek out a second opinion when possible, and then a third and a fourth and a fifth. Try things out for yourself after you get an answer you're happy with, and add to the discussion: your experiences are just as valuable as any other person's.
 
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PlasticGalaxy

PlasticGalaxy

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Dream job didn’t work out iirc.
Yeah, I assumed at first that it wouldn't be the "ideal job" but I didn't really recognise how crummy it would be until I was waist deep in it lol. Again like, I know this happens in most retail industries but I'm glad I got in and out of it when I was young and didn't spend my life aspiring to work in that field, because it just sort of sucked, lol.
 
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Oblio

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I chat with he guys at my local LFS (chain), but only as they relate to the business - What coming in and when, sales, Supply Chain issues, how they deal with non-stock snails ( @Colin_T trained) etc. Nice folks, though I would definitely verify any fishkeeping advice they gave.
 

GaryE

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I'd argue there's no substitute for your own research, and that includes taking the opinions of people here. Go past page one of google, and there is often really good info out there.
Once you know a little, you can have great conversations with some of my local pet shop workers though. If you are willing to get into a give and go, real discussion. some stores do have great people in them.
One of our local chains has two stores within reasonable range of me. One is bad - new employees every time you go. They used to offer monthly fish tests to workers, and if they passed knowledge tests, they got raises. The breakroom was full of good fishbooks. But the books are gone, and so are the raises now. The second store in their chain still has people from that era, and has a stable workforce. Predictably, they also carry less common fish.
Our best store hires aquarium club members only. That's where they advertise when a job comes open, and it shows.
Then there are a lot of stores with varying degrees of honesty and diligence. I start by looking at the quality of the fish. If they are healthy, and there is occasional variety in the species offerings, then there are people who know their jobs there. I often disagree with what they say, but the other side of that is they disagree with me.
I wish I could introduce you to some of the aquarist fish sellers around here. Sure, there are bad ones, as in any line of work. And certainly, a chain that underpays and trains badly will not tolerate a knowledgeable skilled employee. But I have been in good stores in several Canadian, British, and American cities.
 
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PlasticGalaxy

PlasticGalaxy

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I'd argue there's no substitute for your own research, and that includes taking the opinions of people here. Go past page one of google, and there is often really good info out there.
Once you know a little, you can have great conversations with some of my local pet shop workers though. If you are willing to get into a give and go, real discussion. some stores do have great people in them.
I totally agree, both on the research part and having meaningful conversations. Once you get past the initial customer-worker interaction too, I find that you can get really "intimate" (for lack of better word, I know how bad that sounds!) with them. One person I'll never fault is my previous manager, he's been working with freshwater and marine for years and he's really given me some great advice concerning all my fish and the tanks I've got and all the equipment. Would not trade in his advice for the world in some situations. Great guy.
Our best store hires aquarium club members only. That's where they advertise when a job comes open, and it shows.
That would be great, the shop I worked at only seemed to employ people who had relatively notable backgrounds in fishkeeping, I suppose since there's so much material you need to know at a job like that, since they stocked marine, pond, tropical, subtropical, frogs, shrimp, snails... You name it, they probably had it.
I wish I could introduce you to some of the aquarist fish sellers around here. Sure, there are bad ones, as in any line of work. And certainly, a chain that underpays and trains badly will not tolerate a knowledgeable skilled employee. But I have been in good stores in several Canadian, British, and American cities.
I'm actually hoping to move to Canada at some point in the next few years, will be around Ontario when I move so wouldn't mind knowing a few names!
 

emeraldking

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Well, in the Netherlands it's the same way. Employees of "most" pet stores and fish stores have a lack of knowledge. They just work with the basics. But that doesn't only go for just fish. This happens also for other animal sections in such a store.

When I go to a specific store for the first time or I do see a new employee, I always start off as someone who's really a newbie within this field. And let the employees begin their sales pitch. Always fun to do so... When they're done, I'll jump in... It's a bit mean but at stores I do like to point out the incorrect information that they gave.
I'm just a mean little guy... 😁😄☺️
 

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