Buying The Right Fish, Getting The Right Advice

A good aquatic shop is a joy to find. In my August editorial I talk a little about the changes we've noticed in our travels (by "our" I mean the editorial and advertising teams, not just me). The UK aquatic customer is enjoying a time when lots of high quality shops are either appearing or developing their businesses. Yes there may be fewer outlets than in previous years, but those that remain are better, better stocked and generally speaking, but not always, the quality of information is improving.

In Britain we now have two (oversubscribed) full time residential college courses in ornamental fishkeeping. Knowledgeable students from these courses are filtering through into the shops in good numbers.

British visitors to this website will know that the larger chains of aquatic shops, and (other) shops in garden centres have rapidly overhauled the high street aquatic specialist in some areas. That may or may not be a pity.

Some forlorn smaller aquatic dealers blame the advent of pet superstores for their troubles. But most informed sources in the UK trade are unconcerned by these stores with their oddly varying prices and widely differing levels of staff knowledge. British fishkeepers would rather talk to someone who has some specialist knowledge of the hobby, and pay a little more.

We are, after all, used to inflated prices in the UK. Just look to Europe and it becomes clear that we pay more for our beer and wine, for our cars and in some cases for aquatic equipment.

Smaller shopkeepers are mainly not to blame for higher prices, and even if they are, what's forgotten by a lot of people is that unlike most small shopkeepers (outside the food trade anyway) simply maintaining his stock in good condition(alive in fact) costs the shopkeeper a lot of money. Electricity and food are obvious costs that come to mind when you have a thousand tropical fish to look after.

Despite all this loyalty to local dealers, the British hobby has always featured shoptours - keen fishkeepers taking a day out to wander the lanes and roads of Britain in search of their dream fishkeeping shop - or to visit the truly specialist dealer - like Anton Cass tucked away almost secretly in the hills of Derbyshire. The largely summer occupation of shoptours was what prompted my comments this month.

But I'm aware that a great many American aquarists (and those in many other parts of the world) visit this site, and my objective this month is to create/receive a little feedback, particularly from the USA as they tend to lead British shopping practices, on the state of the trade in your own countries. I'm contactable by the usual links on this website, and I'll feature any interesting feedback here, and possibly in our trade pet title PPM.

© Steve Windsor. May not be reproduced in part, or whole, without permission.