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On Online Retailers, Local Fish Stores, Information and Conflict of Interest


  1. Blue green algae/source of aquarium goods
    by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/> (Wed, 1 Mar 2000)
  2. What Makes a Store Good/Bad?
    by Blues2380/ (Mon, 28 May 2001)

Blue green algae/source of aquarium goods

by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/>
Date: Wed, 1 Mar 2000

On Wed, 1 Mar 2000, Dwight wrote:

> Also, in a converstion I had w/ C.Gadd he suggested that Blue green algae
> was not consumed by our fav algae eaters b/c it is toxic.  I found
> documents on the net suggesting otherwise; but now I have my doubts about
> said documents b/c I have since been unable to record visual evidence that
> our fav algae eaters eating the stuff!

I've never seen anything eat the sorts of BGA we usually see in our
aquariums.  Some cyanophytes are toxic, but not all.  It may be more
likely that the BGA slime is just highly unpalatable.

> Under a microscope BGA is a massive ecosystem in its own right supporting a
> vast number of organisms.

As are most if not all clumps and films of algae.

> Finally, the recent objections of some list members to us "little-guy's"
> URLs as an unwanted commercial presence is wwaayyy misguided!  Our unique
> offerings would be rejected by LFS as too expensive (wholesale), market too
> small etc.  If we had to promote our stuff in the general internet din it
> would be too expensive and it would be tunned out.  It is WE who advance
> our hobby, NOT the major retailers, w/ our free advice, DIY projects and
> strange plants that cant be diplayed in your LFS.  How long do you think
> this source of info would last w/o $ to offset costs such as web-space?  Be
> realistic!

Excuse me, but I guess I don't see you in quite the same light that you
seem to see yourself.

Most of the plants I have and all of the equipment I buy for my tanks
(except replacement fluorescent tubes) comes from my favorite LFS.  None
was purchased online from a concern of any size, by mail order or even
from a major chain.  My LFS now provides almost everything a usual plant
keeper might need and they do it at a reasonable cost.  They offer
specialized substrate and substrate additives, ornamental stones and
driftwood, fertilizers and water treatments, a reasonable and constantly
changing selection of plants, a variety of algae eaters and a market for
rare and exceptional plants traded by local hobbyists.  Their prices on
fluorescent tubes are ridiculous and they don't stock CO2 systems or
lighting systems that are sufficient for planted tanks -- or reef tanks
for that matter -- but those things will come.

The hobby is advanced by hobbyists, by hobby organizations and by the
local shops where people (especially kids) go and become entranced by the
aquariums, their fish and plants.  Online commercial interests don't
promote the hobby; they only serve the needs of people who already have an
interest in the hobby.  To the extent that online commerce of any size
competes with the LFS the online retailers do the hobby great harm.

This hobby is in no way dependent on small-scale online retailers.  The
volume of information they provide is extremely minor compared to the
amount of information that is circulated in noncommercial channels (e.g.
the AGA and usenet, where most of what we know now was discussed years
ago).  In fact, information provided by retailers tends to be self-serving
at best and often quite inaccurate.  It's reasonably cautious to always
question the information provided by a vested interest.

Roger Miller

What Makes a Store Good/Bad?

by Blues2380/
Date: Mon, 28 May 2001
To: erik/

Dear Sir, 
I love your website, I've learned tons, but I did have a problem with your 
"What Makes a Store Good/Bad?" article.  Considering it was one large string 
of several emails, all about four years ago, I felt I should add to it, for 
the beginners sake.  I work at my local fish store in Northern Virginia, but 
I am also a consumer, and actually spend a good portion of my money on other 
fish stores (i.e. The Aquarium Center in Randallstown, MD, an excellent 
store) as well, so I understand both sides.  I would like to add a few 
comments about the statements made regarding what made the good or bad fish 

1. Dead fish- I admit, if I saw a dead fish in a tank, I probably wouldn't 
buy any of the fish (if they were expensive enough).  But I would keep in 
mind two factors:
a) Fish die everyday, diseased or not.  It's like people.  One dies every 12 
seconds in the world.  If aliens planned to bring some of us to their planet 
but saw a few of us dead, I'm sure if they were convinced they could acquire 
healthy humans, they would take them. That isn't a realistic analogy, but 
it's a logical explanation.  That doesn't mean go off and buy the one fish 
that survived the massacre, use common sense. 
b) Because fish die everyday, and because employees at the fish store realize 
that, most of them are constantly on the look out for goners.  They may have 
pulled a dead fish out of the tank just minutes before you're about to buy 
your fish.  Unless you spot  a disease, chances are you will never know.  
Think about it.  (This doesn't mean never to buy fish again.  If the store is 
not well kept, you will definately know when the fish aren't healthy and 
dying quickly, no amount of employees could keep up with it, what with so 
many other fish tanks to care for.  But one dead guppy out of 200 or so tanks 
or more does not mean the store is falling to shambles)

2. Overcrowding- I have never been to a fish store that did not overcrowd at 
least a little bit.  It is literally unavoidable.  People mention how a poor 
fishstore has empty tanks.  So the store has two choices: buy a lot of fish 
(not in the extremes of course) to guarantee a large selection and keep the 
tanks full and the customers happy, or order fewer fish, watch them be sold 
within a couple days and go a couple days short, when you the customer are 
bound to come in looking for them. Consider also that in a fish store with a 
lot of business, few fish ever stay in a tank for more than two weeks, 
especially the real popular ones.  Most fish stores recieve up to 3 different 
fish shipments a week to keep up with the constant demand.

3. Poor State of Filters/Many Tanks Running Off One Filter- At the store I 
work, the filters are six humungous wet/drys for approx. 200 tanks, all in 
the back room of the store.  I doubt a customer has ever seen them.  If they 
wanted to, I'd be willing to show them, but I doubt they would see more than 
plastic boxes with bio balls and water running through them.  If they think 
it's not enough, they should know there are 8 people here for up to 20 hours 
a week each, changing water, siphoning gravel, and scooping those dead fish 
they so freely lambast.  But it is good to know so ASK.  Even if they know 
squat about fish, they will certainly know how much work they put into those 
tanks, and what they do to them.  If you're not satisfied, move on.

4. Algae problems- Unless you are the fish god, you have algae in your tanks 
(whether it's good or bad is up to you).  Fish stores will have algae in 
their tanks, but hopefully the employees are working to keep it at a minimum. 
 I myself hate that algae look in tanks that aren't planted tanks, so I work 
hard to scrub, do water changes and keep feeding at a minimum.  Most fish 
stores SHOULD at least care about the appearance of the tanks, and it will, 
on the most part, be taken care of.  If you don't agree, move on.

5. Healthy Fish (babies in species tanks)- The staple of all fish purchasing 
is having healthy fish, but asking for babies is way too much.  At my store, 
we have had babies and mating fish, (aside from livebearers, most 
specifically angels and parrots) but little came of it, as customers couldn't 
wait to buy the breeding pair. You may catch a glimpse of livebearer babies, 
but mostly I've noticed few fry ever escape the mouth of others, unless the 
tank is densely planted, which is not the case in many stores.  

6. Fish Only Stores-I'll only agree with this on certain conditions.  I feel 
that my own store succeeds because of it's fish only history, but I have seen 
two others that do extremely well with a variety of both.  The secret was 
clearly to keep the two sections seperate: they had "only fish section" 
employees and "only animal" employees, which helped considerably.  Now, in 
the case of Petco and Petsmart, where they do that, I have found (thanks to 
several friends who work there) that a certain type of people go to such 
stores, and when they are looking for something beyond the kissing gourami 
and livebearer, they come to the fish only/good mix of both stores.  I also 
notice that most who come over from "the dark side" dislike the many dead 
fish they see in the nationwide chains.

7. Good range of fish- This depends on the customer.  Tons of people come 
into my store and love the selection, but being the fish goddess that I am, I 
feel bored and more inclined to look for the bigger, the better, more, more, 
more.  So I drive two to three hours out of my way to Randallstown MD and 
Lancaster PA for the bigger, the better, more, more, more.  I'm usually 
pleased and always come home with something oh so cool.  If you want more, 
DEFINATELY don't feel a loyalty (even if you work there) because you will be 
so satisfied.

8. Helpful (good) staff- This is, again, where the customer comes into play. 
Now, if you came into my store, and asked me if you could put tetras with 
cory catfish, I could be nice as hell, give you tons of supplies, and answer 
all your questions, and still tell you that cories are aggressive, tetras 
need to be by themselves or in pairs, and that what your ten gallon really 
needs is an oscar.  This is where you need to do some basic research on your 
own.  First find out what your interested in.  Then ASK.  Ask the employees, 
double check in books, on the web (!), friends.  Chances are there 
may be differences in the answers, but generally you will find out that 
keeping an oscar in a ten gallon is pointless and such.  I've found it so 
much more helpful to research, because then I can tell who I should or 
shouldn't ask for help (i.e. at the incredible Aquarium Center, where the 
staff is VERY knowledgable, I still knew to stay away from the woman who told 
me my killifish would kill the small apistos I wanted to buy.  Maybe this was 
true, which I doubt, but killifish are very nonaggressive and mine have 
survived through several apistos already).  Hopefully your local aquarium 
store will know at least the basics regarding water quality, fish 
compatability, sizes, and food requirements. 

Alexandria, VA

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