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Related Articles: Hobbyist Drop-out: The Number One Problem Facing Your Business & Our Industry, Rate your tropical fish store; Use these 20 questions to find out if your local retailer is at top of the tank or the bottom of the filter! by Neale Monks  

FAQs on Customer Relations  


Downs in the hobby     12/22/12
Dear WWM,
Usually I only write you with concern regarding a pending catastrophe in my home tanks. However, today I was running low on iodine and decided to see what the PETCO had to offer. I walked in the doors, went to the fish section, and had to have audibly gasped. All the tanks were under 40 gallons, and weak T5 lighting is used for every tank. The largest of the tanks is probably 35 gallon long, inside was a wall of live rock and a neon Dottyback, Bicolor Angel, "Dogface Puffer," Sweetlips, two Sailfin Tangs, Hippo Tang (7inches), and Yellow tang (5 inches). They also had Button Polyps sharing water with Anemones, and the Button Polyps were being sold as Zoanthids. I began to ask the attendant questions about some of the mis-marked products, and was informed that everything was correct. They also then informed me that if I was going to make a purchase I could pick up a brochure on the general types of fish I was getting which could inform me of anything I needed. They also were out of these brochures. I was appalled to say the least and left abruptly, deciding to spend my money elsewhere. The reason I am emailing you is that I would like to know what steps could be taken to help inform the less fortunate of the dangers of shopping at a location that lacks educated staff, or is there any way that a letter to the company would be useful?
<I do actually know that such letters "to corporate" (in San Diego in this case) are helpful. All in merchandising are caused to review, sign off on... Also, I encourage you to talk w/ the local management folks at the store, perhaps the regional manager (ask the store staff for their contact info.) re your concerns. Above all, don't stay silent. Help them. Bob Fenner, who worked as the overall buyer and consultant for the new aquatics dept. (including the beginning of livestock) for Petco 91-94.>

PFK blog item: Where are aquatic retailers going wrong?     7/8/12
> Hello Bob,
> As they say at school, discuss!
> http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/content.php?sid=5140
> Cheers, Neale
Am surprised at this litany... bugbears... in the UK. B

My Filter Story: Was Re: Sudden tank deaths, one possibly sick fish (plus - How do you say the word "Betta"?) 3/4/10
I was going to write this up later but saw a post that I'd like to comment on. If you think better for BB let me know.
I don't expect a play by play response by any means because a lot of this is editorial but there are a couple questions at the end I'd like opinions on.
FYI, when you (NEALE!) say :
<<It's "Betta", to rhyme with "better". It doesn't rhyme with "beater".>>
In the US (proper English) "Betta" is closer to beta and nowhere near "beater". I sat in with a class at Microsoft Reading (after I was stymied by the fact that the elevator had a "0" floor. I had no idea what button to press) and heard "rooter" for "router" for the first time. Where ours is more like "pouter" or "doubter". I think this is what was behind the war of 1812.
<Ah, this has nothing at all with the differences between British and American English. At this point, let me remind readers I'm not a Euro-snob.
I'm a snob in lots of other ways, but not this. I lived in the US for 3 years, and a good part of my family are Americans as well, even though I'm British. In fact my British friends and relatives sometimes comment on my occasional use of Americanisms and American pronunciations! Anyway, the better/beater pronunciation of Betta comes down to the fact this is neither an American English nor a British English word, but a Latin name based on a Thai (I think) word that is transliterated (i.e., spelled out phonetically) as "Bettah". This is one of the local names for the fish. When spoken in any sort of English, the correct pronunciation is "better" rather than "beater". By all means look this up in your dictionary, but here's one American English dictionary, Merriam Webster, that even has an audio file pronouncing the word as I've described:
So, the better/beater thing is simply about right versus wrong. It's nothing to do with local versions of the English language. A couple of analogies would be these: in England, it is quite common for people to pronounce Michigan as "Mitchigan" and Illinois as "Illinoiz". These aren't British English versions of the words, they're just plain wrong. I hope that clears this all up once and for all.>
I don't regret getting into the hobby though it is quite like a drug in the sense that the dealer gets you hooked on something cheap and you have to keep going back for more stuff.
<Yes, can be like a drug, in two ways. Firstly, there's the stage when people want to keep everything, without realising (or being told via books or retailers) that they can't. Secondly, there's the stage when expert fishkeepers try to keep difficult fish, and end up spending huge amounts of money providing the right conditions for that fish.>
No retailer here is going to recommend a fishless cycle and my tank was cleared by the big chain because it didn't have ammonia, nitrite or nitrate after four days.
<Indeed not. One might argue retailers have a vested interest in selling fish along with the tank, since any fatalities will involve additional purchases within a couple of weeks.>
Of course it didn't! It didn't have anything organic to get these processes going.
But even my big fancy LFS is cool with fish stocking as long as you don't more than double your stock every week or two. Hadn't heard that rule before.
<Nor had I.>
What I'm saying is there is frustration like the fact I have different species recommended by the LFS after the infamous tetra incident. They didn't make more money on me by selling me the fish they did.
<I think Bob and others here would agree with your observation. Retailers who provide bad advice ultimately lose more customers (and profits) than they create. Most every retailer in every hobby is against this problem, the one of short-term profits against long-term customers. People starting out in hobbies tend to be [a] cheap and [b] ignorant, so selling them less expensive gear and instant gratification often works well in the short term. But in every hobby you'll hear stories about people who started off in that hobby, hitting a couple of failures, and then giving up. I think this is one reason online retailers do well, because they don't care, as their catchment area is national. Brick and mortar retailers on the other hand really do need to cultivate their local catchment area of customers.
And this surely means a bit more "hand holding". Telling people to get the 15 or 20 gallon tank, not the 5 or 10 gallon tank. Telling people to come buy some fish in 3 weeks time, not today. Telling people what the local water chemistry is, and pointing them towards species that will do well in that. And so on.>
On the contrary, I was very impressed that they would give me recommendations by e-mail when I could have gone somewhere else with the info. I respected that and I still respect them but mostly on a relative scale since no one mentioned the importance of matching water hardness until everyone was home and comfy (comfy accept the Pearl). So I'm determined to make it work.
The tank came part of a kit for only $130 with heater, HOT filter, light hood and sample potions and food. Usually the rule is whatever comes as part of a package deal probably isn't the best around and I was not impressed with the turn the dial "set and forget" heater.
<Sometimes, these kits are pretty darn good. It really does depend.>
But here's the part that kills me. Or almost kills the fish. Or really doesn't but bear with me.
The filter that came with it was the Aqueon Aquarium Power Filters 55 which doesn't have a great review rating at the big sites (average probably about 3.5 stars). It is floss with carbon and a comb thingy that does some mechanical filtration and captures bacteria so you don't re-cycle when changing the filter cartridge. Cons with this are it has an electrical hum to it that almost sounds like you forgot to ground a turntable (whatever those are). The water fall is quite loud and I remembered after it was too late why I didn't like those water fountain decoration things. Frankly, they make me want to produce my own ammonia if you know what I mean.
<I hear you! As someone who's idea of a good night is a night where he only gets up once for a bathroom visit, I like aquaria to be silent. One reason I'm a big fan of canister filters rather than air-powered or hang-on-the-back filters.>
After I discovered this site I began reading the daily FW FAQ every day and occasionally general which I did today. That's when I saw the post about sudden tank deaths and it appears that the poster is probably using an Aqua Clear Power Filters by Hagen which unfortunately has the somewhat proprietary system that you advise against from a cost standpoint though it's still pretty cheap versus a fish and chip order (but not in front of the tank and what the heck putting fries on a pizza?).
<Yeah, I'm not wild about filters that force you to buy proprietary filter modules. It's sort of like razor blades: the thing's cheap initially, but in the long term, you're paying an awful lot for plastic fixtures and other mark-ups. There are some hang-on-the-back filters that, like canisters, simply accept whatever stuff you want to ram into them.>
After doing the requisite reading here (you really should have a counter that ranks newbies by how many articles they read) I decided since my tank was cycled (it wasn't) that I would switch from the Aqueon to Aqua Clear because I liked the idea of changing the media in stages, the ceramic thingies were geeky enough, AND most important no carbon in case of sickness.
<I tend not to use carbon in freshwater tanks, though it does have its uses.>
I would take the comb thingy from the Aqueon to seed the Aqua Clear since the tank was cycled (it wasn't).
Now, what I found out was that if not perfectly balanced the lid would vibrate insanely and priming this thing can be a real headache. It won't re-prime itself after a water change or a power outage and that concerns me. But things really went bad the other night after doing a 25% water change I was having trouble getting it primed and pushed down in the wrong place. The gunk that apparently could not be shifted into the sponge came rushing out the top in a lovely brown liquid with huge fish scales (Gourami?) and even a dead fly.
<The brown liquid is good, actually, and means the filter is doing its job.
That's basically fish faeces and other organic particles broken down into slurry. As for the dead fly... However, if this stuff gets spat into the aquarium, it generally means the mechanical filter media either isn't sufficient, or else needs to be rinsed more often. In itself the slurry isn't toxic, and to be honest, I end up with a bit in my aquaria after cleaning out the canisters because some collects inside the hoses and whatnot. But it's more unsightly than dangerous, and quickly gets cleared up by the canisters once they're running.>
The tank was awful. This was after waiting for the little floating stuff to get picked up by the filter which hadn't finished even after water changes after a week. Things weren't cloudy just not pristine. When the overflow happened it got cloudy and ironically it was the first time the water tested positive for nitrite which I had tested before the water change.
It's like all the bacteria got stuck underneath the fish scales and crud and couldn't make it out to the tank.
<I see.>
So after an emergency water change I decided to stick the "old" filter back in but in my panic I forgot to prime the carbon. I set the Aqua Clear on low and moved it to the other side of the tank. What amazed me was that within two hours the water was nearly crystal clear and the nitrites were gone. Though this was a sign of the cycle being broken it appears to be back tonight.
One of the things that I may not have taken into account was that the Aqueon is a model "55" for a 36 gallon which I think is the same size as the other poster. This model moves 325 GPH versus 200 for the Aqua Clear.
<Ah, yes, the importance of turnover. The recommended tank sizes on filters are more marketing than science, like miles/gallon on motor cars, or number of servings on cereal boxes. They bear little connection with reality.>
I wanted the Aqua Clear to work. It just made more sense. And I assume that the floss and water travel of the Aqueon is what is working better versus the carbon which both of them have when configured properly.
<Carbon only removes dissolved organic material, the stuff that tints water yellow. You can have water that is perfectly silt-free (i.e., clear) but tinted yellow, even brown. Filter floss traps silt, and you need enough of it, and enough turnover, to remove cloudiness.>
I plan on leaving the Aqua Clear in there through the cycle or at least for a bit because I think I should have a Gourami prison tank (I mean quarantine tank) considering the amount of bullying I've seen with two different species and the fact that there are four different kinds in there now with 17 fish total. It seems it's just a matter of time before needing one for sickness and I have many redundant parts now.
<Wise approach.>
My questions probably are best summed up with floss versus sponge and does what I describe above make sense or did I perhaps get a dud on the Aqua Clear?
<Floss tends to be better for trapping silt particles than sponges, but floss does need to be rinsed, perhaps replaced, much more often. That's logical: the more stuff it catches, the quickly the filter media needs replacing.>
I'm sorry this is so long but I wanted you to know there are some new hobbyists that are trying to follow your good advice but there is so much conflicting data and backfires out there. After all, we all seem to trust a company that sells great food or equipment or test kits but then also find out that the magic potions for speeding up cycles etc are just snake oil (eel oil?).
<Actually, there are some products that can help with water clarity.
They're called flocculants, and they really do work. But if you have a chronic problem rather than, say, silty water caused by adding new gravel, then it's best to find a filtration system that works for you.>
I'm sticking with it and no fish have died without my permission. Looks like the cycle is settling in finally and I'm sorry that 17 fish have to bear it.
If cars were like this I think they'd keep going when you hit the breaks.
-Frustrated yet grateful in Charlotte.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: My Filter Story (plus - How do you say the word "Betta"?) (RMF, re: retail in the US?) 3/4/10
Oh I think we now have three pronunciations of Betta. Your correction wasn't the version I was expecting.
<Oh! What's the 3rd pronunciation?>
Thanks for that. I don't think the big chains here make money on fish replacement or at least right away. The LFS actually makes you prove good water before giving you a free replacement but the chains don't care.
<The water testing restriction is a very good idea. Gets people to connect the water and the health of their livestock.>
If it dies in two weeks they replace it. So in that sense they are selling the fish cheaper and guarantee it will work. At least eventually.
<Bit harsh on the fish that died though!>
I will give them credit too that they do hand out some guides written by the chain on how to get started just not the best.
Honest, they have a couple full time fish people on staff tending the area all the time and there's no way their salary is being covered by the fish.
<Maybe the case. Often the animals are "loss leaders", and the profit comes from the other things people buy over the years.>
Well maybe higher end chain stores with salt water species where you can get a "Nemo".
<Perhaps. There are some good chain stores out there. In fact the one nearest me has some excellent staff, including one chap who breeds seahorses. One thing I know Bob does rile against is the opinion of some expert aquarists that retailers are basically nothing but trouble. I think Bob's right on this, and I know some very good shops and some very bad shops. The tricky part is explaining how to tell them apart. By the time you can do that, I suspect most folks will be expert enough to ignore bad advice.>
The water overflow into the tank was my fault. I just didn't understand what the reaction would be until it was too late. Still, it was almost embarrassing that after two weeks the Aqua Clear couldn't clear the tank as fast as the "inferior" Aqueon which did it in two hours.
<Proof is in the pudding, eh?>
I almost added "just tell me what to do Neale" at the end of the message but didn't want to sound bitter. I'm not. It just seems to do this right you need secret codes, passwords, handshakes, and friends in high places. The easiest way might just be to be ignorant and blame mother nature when killing your own fish with ammonia.
<Often you see people doing precisely this. The infamous "internal parasites" is my favourite rationalisation.>
Two more things about the retail stores. If you did come in with high ammonia or nitrites I am convinced they would tell you to do a water change. It's in the documents they hand out. That would give them the chance to sell what you need for the change and indeed they sold me that stuff upfront.
<Water changes *are* a good idea when you have non-zero ammonia and nitrite levels, but they fix the symptom, not the problem. So *as well as* changing the water, you want to think about why you have non-zero ammonia and nitrite, and make the required changes (e.g., feed the fish less).>
What I think they are up against more than profit motive is the adage that the customer is always right. Let's face it Neale, if you worked at Pet* here in the US and told people they were guilty of killing their fish like you do here, I don't think you'd sell that many fish.
<Likely so.>
It's easier and appears to be better customer service to apologize for defective fish that weren't defective, replace them and try to sell a water changer kit at the same time.
<Certainly true.>
Most people come in with pre-conceived notion of what they want and in retail if someone asks for a red sports car without the skills to drive one, you still sell them a red sports car.
And even if they were evil, which I don't think they are, they do introduce a lot of folks to the hobby that are coming by for cat food. I know this for a fact :') I would have adopted a kitten that night if it wasn't for the paperwork. Now me and the cat have our own chairs that we sit and watch the fish together. She's a teenager now and you know how hard it is to get quality family time and since the tank is widescreen maybe she thinks it's just HDTV with really good reception.
I hope someone benefits from this discussion about filters. My main point is the banging of the head on my desk with all these forks in the road.
I'll look into canister at some point. That's on my list but as a primary system it sure isn't cheap for the same GPH.
<This must be an American thing. Here in England something like an Eheim 2217 can be picked up for a street price of around £80, or $120. That's a 264 gallon/hour filter, which is enough for a 66 gallon tank at a turnover of 4 times per hour. Given how long an Eheim 2217 lasts -- at least 10 years -- and the ease with which spares for Eheim filters can be obtained, such filters are very good value. But for reasons I can't fathom, every time I visit a store in the US, Eheim filters seem to be selling for twice as much money as here in Europe. Makes a nice change for me: always seems us Europeans end up paying twice as much for everything compared to our American cousins!>
Besides I have 1000 articles to read here on the subject.
<Quite so.>
Thanks again. Heading to BB soon with irreverent fish observation stories!
<Have fun over there. Some nice folks. Cheers, Neale.>

What to do about pet store (turtle) neglect? -- 02/22/10
Hi Darrel,
I'm sending this via crew mail so that other people will see this and be aware of it/sensitive to it the next time they go into a pet store. I'd like to get your advice on what I should do about a pet store that I feel is severely neglecting their Red Eared Sliders turtles for sale.
I was in a local {National Pet Store Chain} several days ago and went over to talk to a sales associate. I happened to notice a large aquarium behind her. I went over to see what was in it and was surprised (disheartened the better word) to see 10 medium to large size Slider turtles crowded together in what at the very least was a 'less than an ideal' environment; squalor would be a more accurate description. Food and turtle excrement literally covered the
bottom of the tank as well as floating around in the water to the point that it was cloudy. Whatever filter they are using is clearly doing nothing.
The turtles had almost no room to free swim and were literally banging into each other to get around. All of them seemed very lethargic; the smallest of them (about 5" carapace length) was lying on the bottom of the tank barely moving. In fact, for the 1st 10 minutes I stood there watching him he didn't even move at all even though the other turtles were knocking into him. Just as I was about to report him dead, I finally saw him move his arms a little but hardly at all. The eyes on about half of them were closed. Though there was a large stone for basking; none of them were on it. There was only a small heat bulb lit above the stone; I did see a fluorescent tube light in the fixture but it was either off or burned out.
<Yeah - seems like they have a problem>
I decided to wait a few days and went back to the store yesterday to see if anything had changed. Unfortunately, the situation was still the same as above.
<Unfortunately, all too common a situation>
Additionally, the turtle aquarium is stuck off to the side in a back corner; hardly visible to customers (I'd been in there several times before and never noticed it!) So it's likely these turtles will not even be seen, let alone sold, anytime soon. It's hard enough to understand poor care when it's an individual who's ignorant, but to me inexcusable when it's a pet store that's licensed to sell them and should obviously know better.
<we all agree on that>
I feel like I should do something; but not sure what. Should I give it a few more days, go back again a 3rd time to see if anything is changed and if not, maybe ask the manager some probing questions? Or do I contact the health department, an animal welfare group, the state agency who licenses them to sell turtles?? All of the above? If I contact any of the latter and they take the turtles, do you know what might likely happen to them, i.e. would they euthanize them? What would you do in this situation
(please don't say adopt them, because I can't!)?
Thanks D-
<I'd make a phone call to the store and ask the name of the manager. I always make sure to ask for the Store's General Manager as opposed to the manager "on duty." Once I have that person's name I ask for them by name
and leave the simple message that I was upset to see the conditions and tell them that I'm aware they're below minimum standards. In any national chain like that, the GM knows very well that customer complaints not
addressed lead to calls and letters to District Offices which cause bad things to happen at the local level. It's only rarely that it doesn't do the trick.>
<If you visit in 3 more days and the conditions haven't improved, then I'd call the health department -- but more importantly I'd investigate their Corporate Offices and call their consumer affairs department.>
<Now, as far as the turtles themselves go, it's unlikely they'd euthanize them. More likely the Pet Store will make arrangements to return them to the distributor. In any case, the bigger picture is to see that no MORE turtles are brought in and kept in that manner.>
<<RMF would like to add a suggestion to contact/call the corporate office. I worked for PetCo as a consultant and buyer for three years (91-94) and will assure you that at least at this time ALL such calls were acted on immediately through operations management AND the livestock buyer/s in Merchandising. Bob Fenner>>

Re: What to do about pet store (turtle) neglect? -- 2/23/10
Thanks for your input also Bob! I will definitely be following up on this.
I've always had a special love for turtles and was upset and frustrated to see them in this condition and not to be able to do anything directly to help them. I wish I could just adopt them; but even that wouldn't solve the underlying problem as the store would likely just replace them with more.
<Sue, do also fill out a "Customer Comment Card"... ALL buyers had to read EVERY one of these, as well as the head of merchandising/distribution...
Even the Pres./CEO did so... VERY influential... and definitely trickled down, was converted to action through the line of operations mgmt. BobF>
Re: What to do about pet store (turtle) neglect?
Thank you, Bob! I will do that, too. Whatever will help!! And by the way, I really do want to compliment you on how diligent you are keeping up this site and helping people out. Thanks so much. Sue
<Welcome Sue! BobF>

LFS Review (Big Al's Canada), & SW op. f'  2/27/09 Hey there, <Hello Eric> Once again, I have to compliment you guys on a great service. My tank is finally looking up (besides a nuisance Gelidium algae outbreak... more on that in a bit), and it is solely due to advice I have gotten from you personally, and other FAQ's. I currently have a quaint little 29 Gal reef, softies and a couple LPS, but I hope in a couple years to upgrade to a 175 bowfront... slowly planning that out/buying bits and pieces over the next few years.... (insert maniacal laughter here). My faince <fiancé> is probably rolling her eyes somewhere.... I am lucky to be blessed with someone so tolerant of my progressively obsessive and all absorbing hobby. I'm not writing with a question so much this time, just some experience I've had that I'd like to share and hopefully others can benefit from (not having to make all of the MANY mistakes I've made over the last little while). When I first started this hobby I began with a 4 Gal Betta tank, which went very poorly. Determined to do it right the second time, I went for a bigger tank, and decided on saltwater. I lived in the Seychelles, and am from Newfoundland, I love the ocean, and like living with a piece of it. All of my initial purchases for the first few months/half year of reefkeeping were at Big Al's, in Edmonton. This is the main reason I am writing, after nearly a year of experience with this tank, and LOTS of reading, I realized that almost all of the advice I have been given at Big Al's was not only unhelpful, but detrimental to my tank. I realize now that the onus is on us as hobbyists to learn this stuff for ourselves, but walking wide eyed into a fish store, a lot of people assume the employees would know things about starting a tank. The advice and mistakes are as follows.... I'm not shy about admitting these, some of them are pretty big mistakes, but they are correctable. Recommended a small (Nano tank) as a good beginner tank... it is not, a lot more temperamental, and dangerous changes can happen FAST in a small system like mine. <Oh yes.> Recommended 3 clownfish in a 29 gal - two of them became a pair and starting beating up the third one, he needed to be removed. Recommended a Coral Beauty Angel - way too big for the system I have, I will be removing him soon. He nips at everything. <Yes, not enough room for this fish.> Recommended a Scooter Blenny - not enough food for him to eat, he consequently died. Saw nothing wrong with an anemone in a 29 gal tank - this system is way too small for this. The anemone ate my shrimp, and then started to affect other corals etc, very aggressive. Had to be removed. <Anemones and corals do not mix too well, especially in smaller systems.> Recommended a Prizm pro skimmer - awful as a skimmer, very finicky and produces a lot of noise and very little skimmate. <Is a decent skimmer for a tank your size...my opinion, and a bit noisy.> Will be upgrading to AquaC Remora. <Much better.> I had to insist I wanted a skimmer, they strongly recommended not having one in a tank my size. <What was their reasoning for this?> Recommended a Goniopora as a good starter coral. It got irritated because they are really sensitive and consequently killed every other coral in my tank. It had to be removed and also died. <Definitely not a beginner's coral.> They will basically sell you any coral you ask for regardless of tank size, or experience. I heard one conversation.. 'so what is this coral?' the salesman answered 'oh that's an Acropora, would you like one?" No suggestion of how iffy these are to keep alive, just if you want it, we'll sell it. <They are not alone in this practice. Buyer be aware/knowledgeable.> Suggested dumping a bunch of macro-algae into my display tank. This failed horribly. It all died and polluted my tank. Downplay chemical allelopathy... 'Nah, it'll be fine as long as they don't touch!" <In some cases.> Now, I'm not going to suggest that they are evil or something, but they really aren't giving very helpful advice. I personally would recommend not shopping with them, just from my experience. On the flip side, they do have an incredible selection of hardware etc, so if they are the only store in your area, do shop with them, just do the research first!!! I've made a lot of mistakes along the way, more than listed above, but I'm finally starting to pull it all together. I found another store, that does custom made tanks, propagates a lot of their own corals, and quarantines all arrivals for 3 weeks to ensure health and safety before selling. And they won't sell anything to you without making sure you know why you need it, or if you need it. I kind of love them, haha. Anyhoo, just some things I wanted to share, hopefully other people won't make the same mistakes! Regards, <Thank you for sharing. James (Salty Dog)> Eric M

LFS article, cons. stores, eval.   6/24/08 Hi, Bob! <Laurie> Would there be any issues with writing an article about things to look for/be aware of as a conscientious buyer at a local or online fish store? <No... tis an excellent idea, topic> Some of the points would be the following things I tend to look for: *No dead or dying fish or corals left in the tanks with healthy corals *No opportunistic algae on coral frags being sold to hobbyists- i.e. Valonia, Bryopsis, Cyano, etc *Performs water changes and tests own water regularly *Separate sump systems for at least a hospital tank from the reef tanks *Inappropriate fish or corals not taken care of properly- i.e., mandarins in small tanks with out LR, or sun corals starving from not being target fed/ left in unshaded light and not enough flow... Especially in multiples at the same time... *Openmindedness with reefing styles (For every successful DSB reefer, there is also a beautiful BB tank or SSB) <Great!> *Able to learn from reefers who patronize as well as teach new hobbyists with patience *Respectful of others and courteous/polite *Clean store *Is upfront about coral sources when asked (Aquacultured versus wild caught, and if wild caught were chemicals used to catch the fish?) *Do they charge every reefer the same price for a coral? *Supports local reefing clubs *Will not sell out of a hospital tank *Will not pass off dying or dyed fish to consumers *Corals for sale that will hurt each other are not placed next to each other in a tank- such as a soft coral fallen over on an SPS, or another coral within sweeper distance of another coral *Guarantees their live stock with a tank water sample from the hobbyist's tank *Will let you test, or will let you see them test their store tank water *Does not cherry pick the best corals into a display tank that is not for sale. (This is my pet peeve- why should I buy all the stuff you didn't think was good enough for your display tank??? I'd rather just buy rare corals online at that point imo) Laurie <Good points... I would expand/explain each, give examples... and very importantly, try to take pix of what you are trying to show... I will gladly help you sell this piece into the pulp, and then the electronic pet-fish magazines. Bob Fenner> LFS article, Sara's input  06/23/08 Hi, Bob! <Hi, I'm Sara, not Bob. If you'll excuse me, I just wanted to comment a bit here too...> Would there be any issues with writing an article about things to look for/be aware of as a conscientious buyer at a local or online fish store? Some of the points would be the following things I tend to look for:*No dead or dying fish or corals left in the tanks with healthy corals*No opportunistic algae on coral frags being sold to hobbyists- i.e. Valonia, Bryopsis, Cyano, etc*Performs water changes and tests own water regularly*Separate sump systems for at least a hospital tank from the reef tanks*Inappropriate fish or corals not taken care of properly- i.e., mandarins in small tanks with out LR, or sun corals starving from not being target fed/ left in unshaded light and not enough flow... Especially in multiples at the same time...*Openmindedness with reefing styles (For every successful DSB reefer, there is also a beautiful BB tank or SSB)*Able to learn from reefers who patronize as well as teach new hobbyists with patience*Respectful of others and courteous/polite*Clean store*Is upfront about coral sources when asked (Aquacultured versus wild caught, and if wild caught were chemicals used to catch the fish?)*Do they charge every reefer the same price for a coral?*Supports local reefing clubs*Will not sell out of a hospital tank*Will not pass off dying or dyed fish to consumers*Corals for sale that will hurt each other are not placed next to each other in a tank- such as a soft coral fallen over on an SPS, or another coral within sweeper distance of another coral*Guarantees their live stock with a tank water sample from the hobbyist's tank*Will let you test, or will let you see them test their store tank water*Does not cherry pick the best corals into a display tank that is not for sale. (This is my pet peeve- why should I buy all the stuff you didn't think was good enough for your display tank??? I'd rather just buy rare corals online at that point imo) Laurie <Interesting... it would be nice if stores achieved more of these goals/points (and I imagine they often do try to, actually). But currently, have you ever found a store which consistently satisfies all these points? I never have. Even my favorite stores will still sell carnation corals (and other animals inappropriate for aquariums), or occasionally get algae problems, or give regular customers a price break on a coral or fish from time to time. Ordering livestock from the internet is not much of a solution (imo). For one thing, if you think the walk-in stores look bad, how do you envision a facility that doesn't have to present itself to the public? How do you know they aren't even worse? I think the way to help your LFSs (just my opinion here) is 1) spend money at them, 2)be encouraging, point out the good things, but 3) also politely, diplomatically, sympathetically, but consistently, offer constructive criticism about things they could do to improve the store/care of the animals and customers, etc. If you're patronizing their store and flattering them, they'll tolerate some nagging (but constructive) criticism... and sometimes actually try to change (more likely especially if you focus on one or two points and explain to them why it will help business). At least, this has been my experience... as a customer and as someone who's worked at one of these places. Working at a LFS is just not as easy as you might think. It's physically and emotionally exhausting. Best, Sara M.>

Problems with buying Local Stock 6/9/08 Dear WWMCrew, How is everyone? <Hello, doing well in my neck of the woods.> First of all, Thank you for all your help previously, your site has been a great resource that I've recommended to many others. <Great! Thank you.> This is just a short email asking your opinion on a problem I have. Recently I have moved to a new town and I am living in a small apartment. I've been very busy as of late but I miss having my saltwater aquariums, so I wanted to invest in a small self-contained saltwater aquarium, such as a BioCube or NanoCube. Of course I've always preferred stocking my aquariums rather low, and since I didn't think I've have a lot of time to maintain delicate fish (I'd still have time for proper feeding and maintenance) I wanted to get a 24 gallon aquarium and place maybe a pair of false Perculas (Nothing else fish wise). <Sounds good.> Anyway, I can order everything online but the fish really. The problem is I don't usually get home during the week until 7pm, and my door is facing west, so the afternoon sun really heats it up. I guess what I'm trying to say if I wasn't there to receive online ordered fish, I am quite certain they would boil. I once had a package of textbooks sit there less than an hour and the box burned my hand to the touch. <If you do order online you can specify the package be held at the carrier hub in your area for pickup or sometimes delivered to your apartment's office (if they will allow this).> So, I visited the only LFS, and unfortunately I wasn't very impressed. Most of his live rock was covered in Aiptasia, and had very little present coralline (I mean less than 10%). All of his saltwater fish stock was given inadequate holding positions as well, I'd say less than 1 gallon of water for single fish and a couple of 20 gallon setups holding say Lions mixed with Triggers and other very aggressive species. The selection wasn't very good and many of the fish were very juvenile (Damsels under an inch exc...). Not only that, he informed me that all the water in the system was kept with a constant level of Cupramine, which alarmed me because the system included juvenile angels and tangs. Not to mention keeping CBS's with Peppermints and...just a lot of incompatible things together overall. <All of the above is unfortunately a common story.> My first instinct was not to purchase fish from this location. But now I'm thinking, what other option do I have? <Mail order as you mentioned, although an expensive proposition with shipping for two clowns.> Is my level of caution unwarranted? <No.> Please tell me if you think it would be safe to buy stock from this location, because I can get live rock and aquarium supplies over the internet with no trouble. Thank you yet again. CD <It is a call you will have to make based on individual fish. A great store can have unhealthy individuals while a not so great store may have some fish in great shape. The thing going for you is the fish you are after, the False Perculas are some of the toughest, resilient fish out there! Some observations of the actual fish you wish to purchase and some guidelines on selection here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnfishart2.htm Welcome, Scott V.>

Problem with LFS... obvious bad PR  3/9/08 Good afternoon (or morning or evening where ever you good folks are). <Hello John.> I had an incident with my LFS today and I'm baffled at their response to me. It all started last Monday (3/3/08) when I went in there to see their new livestock and picked out a fire shrimp and a Royal Gramma. After getting home I realized there was an extra livestock bag in the shopping bag that contained a juvenile skunk cleaner shrimp. <Ooops.> I called the LFS to tell them they made a mistake and gave me an extra shrimp (that I didn't pay for). After explaining to them that I am not the person they owed a shrimp to they asked me if I could bring it back. I said yes, but I could but not that day, I had a fish and a fire shrimp to acclimate( and now a cleaner shrimp), as well as an 8 month old to feed and change. <We cannot turn our lives upside down over a shrimp!> Fast forward to yesterday (3/7/08), thinking about already having a large skunk shrimp that is very aggressive to my dancing shrimp (I know, a lot of shrimp, almost enough for a cocktail) and has eaten every last copepod and Stomatella snail in the tank I called them yesterday and after explaining the mistake again asked if I could give them the large shrimp instead and they said that would be fine. OK great. <Sounds good.> After spending an hour chasing either of the skunk shrimp around the live rock I gave up and decided it would just be easier to keep the shrimp. I didn't want to have to completely disrupt the tank (75g, 120# of rock, corals, fish, etc.) for their mistake. <Agreed.> So I go back to the store to see if we could work out an amicable solution i.e., give me a good discount on a shrimp I really didn't want in the first place. When I got there they asked if I brought the shrimp back and I told them of the hassle of retrieving it they said I owed them $23.00 (full price). After telling them this is their mistake and being an honest person and doing the right thing they told me I shouldn't have called them in the first place, (I know I'm a real jerk). <You sure are, the type I like to hire.> They called the boss and told him the situation he offered to knock a lousy $4.00 off the price. Some discount!!! That doesn't even cover the gas for the multiple trips back and forth. I told them $10 to $12 was fair I thought. <A fair compromise at this point.> They said that I was trying to get rid of another shrimp and when it didn't work out for me I want them to take a loss on their mistake. <Would they refund on a dead invert?> Like I'm trying to pull a fast one on them. What do I do? Do I rip apart my tank and bring back their shrimp? <Not unless you don't want it.> Do I tell them to go screw themselves ? <If you like, but it will accomplish nothing. It sounds like you have tried to rectify the problem, maybe it is just time for you to shop elsewhere and leave it be.> The $4 gesture kind of insulted me, the insinuation that I'm pulling a fast one really insulted me. <I would feel the same.> I was the honest one in the first place. Maybe I'm just venting but after being told I should not have told them of their mistake in the first place, but now I'm a jerk for trying to work it out. This just sucks because their prices on most things are very reasonable but I suppose it wouldn't be the end of the world if I never went back there. What do I do? Sorry this sounds like an Ann Landers question but I really perturbed about this. thanks for letting me vent, any advice? Thanks a lot, John P <Hey, no problem, we all have those moments that make us pull out our hair! What I can tell you as a business owner is that when I make a mistake, it is at my expense. Whether it be shorting the customer or, as in your case, giving them extra, I always make sure the customer comes out ahead and happy. It sounds like you have done what you see as fair. If you can't live with keeping the shrimp then by all means return it. Otherwise know that you did the right thing, most people would have never even told them. The fact of the matter is they could have came and picked it up the first day you called them if it was that important to them (it would have been for, say, a $1200 eel!). Happy reefing, Scott V.>

DSB in Nano 01/10/2008 Hello Crew, <<Hello, Andrew here>> I've been in the marine hobby for about 4 years now and still hooked <<Aren't we all>>. I have a question and a comment. Right now I have a 2.5 gallon tank on my desk which has been running for about a month with just live rock. I am upgrading to an 8 gallon bio cube with the intent of putting a single mushroom polyp and 2 or 3 Zoanthid polyp and watching them grow<<Sounds great>>. To most people that might seem like a waste of space and a tank but I've always been fascinated with watching things grow and multiply. I test twice a week keeping a record of all my result and I do a weekly 10% water change, with several micro water changes during the week to keep the salinity stable. The same will apply to the 8 gallon once its up and running. My question is this, I would like to know if I should go with a bare bottom tank or have a deep sand bed (3" +). I know that having a bare bottom will make cleaning very easy, but I have never set up a tank with a DBS and I would like to try it so that I may further my knowledge and experience with the hobby. If I do opt for a DBS, what are the long term effects in a Nano tank? <<You could do a DSB of 3 inches, yes, however, I feel in a small aquarium as this, a lot of space will be wasted. Benefits of a DSB is that you will have an anaerobic area for denitrifying bacteria and provide nitrate removal. More info can be found here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm >> And now for my comment. I work at a local fish shop and I do my best to get people started on the right foot by telling them before buying anything research it. I usually hand a business card with your website written on the back of it. I am still surprised and a little frustrated with the attitude towards aquariums. It seems like people insist on stocking the tank as fast as they can. Too many times I've seen customers walk in with tanks stocked past the limit within the first 6 months of the set up. Then they come back after a year and complain they have terrible algae problems or that all their fish are getting sick. I can't stress enough the benefits of being patient. One more thing, I'm really sick of people treating the fish as if it were an ornament to put in a glass box. These are living creature with (to some extent) feelings and personality. I don't understand why people insist on give the fish less than adequate conditions. My biggest pet peeve is tangs in anything smaller than 100 gallons. All those poor hippo tangs that have died because of an ignorant hobbyist putting it in a tank that is way too small. I hate that excuse "but its small and I will switch it to another tank when it gets bigger" statement. That fish will probably develop growth problems before you decide to invest in a bigger tank. Would you keep your child in a 3'x3'x3' room, over feed it and clean it once a month? will it be healthy? Think about it people!!! treat it as if it was your own child and it will reward you. I promise. <<I understand your concern, the vast majority feel the same. Let us hope this type of fish keep always stays, at most, in the minority of the hobby>> Thank you for your time. Pat <<Thank you for the questions and comments, A Nixon>>

Rate your LFS -11/14/07 Hi Crew, I love your site and have learned a lot. Have you guys ever considered having the crew and/or your students/users rate their LFS so we all know where to shop and more importantly where not to shop. Thanks, David <Hi David. We do actually have a bit of fun along these lines with the article "Rate your tropical fish store" ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/hobratestrs.htm ). The problems with putting personal opinions online are multiple. For a start, fish stores can have bad days or management can change. So if I find one store disappointing, and that review stays online for a year or two, is it still fair on that store if it has changed for the better. Or vice versa of course; good stores can turn bad! Different people look for different things as well. I might find a store that specialises in marine fishkeeping disappointing because its selection of freshwater fish is limited. But Michelle or Chuck might find the sorts of stores with catfish and cichlids I enjoy so well a bit tedious when he's looking out for nice corals and healthy damselfish. Beginners appreciates stores that sell the basic kit and standard community fish at good prices, while experienced fishkeepers might be looking for stores with a wide variety of livestock and don't really care about the hardware side of things because they have all the kit they need already. So it's horses for courses. I think better for people to have some clues of things to look for (clean tanks, no dead fish, quarantining, strong lights for plants and corals, and so on). Then they can appraise their local stores and decide which ones to patronise. All this said, you are absolutely right that a lot of stores need to "buck their ideas up". Do look at some of the Related Articles linked from the article mentioned above. Bob Fenner, who runs this site, may have different reasons for or against your idea, so for now, let me just say that these are my thoughts. Cheers, Neale.><<Mmm, no more ideas really. I do agree, as usual, with Neale's statements. RMF>>

A Great LFS in Virginia Beach -- 11/13/07 Hello Crew. I am writing you folks because I want people in Virginia Beach to know there is actually a great LFS in the area. I went there today. The name of the store is Reef Chief. I usually don't endorse a LFS, but this is a great place. This store is actually dedicated to reef aquarium hobbyists. I met the owner as well, Jeff. A nice guy, who was very knowledgeable in reef aquariums. It is very difficult to find a LFS that sells good quality SPS corals. Most of the corals are aquacultured. The ones that are wild captured, he frags them. Very responsible, which is sometimes hard to find in the salt water trade sometimes. I have the website for people who may be interested in the Hampton Roads area (_http://www.reefchief.us/_ (http://www.reefchief.us/) ). I don't know if you will publish this on your website, but I think it is important enough to at least let you know so others can see for themselves what a great LFS it is. The owner asked me all kinds of questions about my aquarium in order to get me the right type of SPS for my aquarium. I think a lot of new salt water hobbyists in my are may want to go to Reef Chief. Thanks for your time. R/ Jeff <Thank you for this input. BobF>

Re this website. Franchisee's valuable input  10/5/06 Dear Bob: I am the owner of a Global Pet Foods franchise (10yrs) < http://www.franchisegator.com/cgi-bin/profile.php?key=1210> and we expanded into tropical fish approx 5 yrs ago. <Congrats> We now have 28 aquariums in the store and a great reputation for "good" fish - we have a Wal-Mart in our area which helps!!!   <Mmm, am hoping you're not be facetious here... That this mass-merchandiser does have good staff, yields good service... Bad competitors are the trades worse enemies, stagnators of growth> We have also developed a reputation for "oddballs" and this is where I find your site very helpful. <Heeee heeeee! Have been called much worse!>   I have learned a great deal about Bichirs and rope fish etc (fascinating creatures) and currently have 4 large p. senegalus in my show tanks.  I was also reading about the person who bought a rope fish from a "crappy pet store".  My advice to anyone purchasing fish - or any other pet for that matter - is to "quiz" the store staff extensively and, if the answers are not satisfactory,  SHOP ELSEWHERE. <Good advice> Do not promote stores such as these which, frankly, should not be in business!  Before we bring in any kind of animal/fish/reptile etc. we research on the net and with customers to make sure we can keep it properly.  We enjoy this business very much and our success (with fish) is largely due to sites like yours! Please keep up the good work and let people know not all pet stores are bad, some of us really enjoy what we do and are not in it just for profit.  One last word, I agree with another lady who wrote in - it really is nice to see a site that does not have a zillion grammatical errors!  Thanks.  Marion. <Hallelujah! Thank you for writing, sharing. Bob Fenner> Retail Store Question   9/16/06 Hi Crew, <Michael> I have been keeping salt and fresh water tanks for about 13 years now pretty much beyond a hobby and more as a way of life. I have just taken the next step most of us dream of and have purchased a 28 year old local fish store that's just over 22,000 sq ft. <A very large place> I close on it at the end of this month and have been going in and assisting the staff with customers <A very good practice> and sales and here is where my dilemma lies. How does one deal with a customer who simply does not care about the life of (just a) fish? <A hard question... unto yourself be true... but always remember you are you, others are themselves... one can only "be like the sun" and have/allow their goodness to shine on others... but never assume/become them> I had a man come in who simply threw away his gold fish because they didn't interest him any more and another who insisted in buying 3 small Oscars and 2 angels with a green terror after he did not clean the filter and tank for 6 months and everything died! I politely gave my advise and opinion on the neglect and disregard he is giving to life but he purchased them anyway. <Such can be the ignorance of humans... look at the invasion of sovereign nations...> How does one handle this situation?  My background is in sales and marketing and I am stumped.  If not allowing them to purchase them is the only option, have you heard of any laws against refusal of sale? <No sense> I understand this is more of an issue of ethics and morals but I know many of you at the WWM have owned LFS. <I have been involved in several> Any advice on this topic would be much appreciated. Thank you in advance! Michael J. Bukosky <Good that you are "finding out about this" now... but such will be the continuous trials of being in retail... what will you choose? Which can you choose but to be yourself? BobF>

Re: Retail Store Question   9/16/06 Thank you for the words of wisdom Bob. You have helped me out in the past and for what it is worth, you and the crew have passed on much respect and knowledge for this hobby and in return I will do the same for my customers. Thank you again... and again.. and again......! <Welcome Michael... Retail is definitely "not for everyone", but want to re-emphasize that a large issue/lesson of "growing up" for all is this "ownership" question... Do be like the sun, and have the goodness in you shine on others. My goal as well. Cheers, BobF> MMFI Aquaricare W W M: Is the Denver area company MMFI Aquaricare still in business? I purchased equipment from them last year and never received any product. Now I can not even get through to the company via phone, fax or email. This in spite of the fact that their website indicates near daily 'updates'. Any information would be most appreciated. Grant Creasey C.E.T. <Mmm, never heard of them... Would try the big BB's re... and the State's business fraud civil servants. Bob Fenner>

Fish stores Thank you for the interesting article on tank set up and care. I found it interesting that you mentioned stores you feel comfortable and clean, because in the last two months since my kids and I started our first fish tank, we have seen problems with different stores. These were large chain type stores too. If you don't mind and I have no affiliation with any of them, PetSmart stores have been exceptional! We were lucky that this happen to be the store that got us set up initially. We had great , clean and disease free fish from there, and very helpful and courteous service. Two other chains we have much problems with were PetCo. and Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart actually had huge algae build ups on their tanks, and PetCo. 6 out of 8 fish we bought there were either diseased or died with in days of getting in our already broken tank, with fish from PetSmart. TY Mike Oien, St. Paul, Minnesota <Thank you for your testimonial. Very glad to find discerning minds in fellow aquarists/consumers. Bob Fenner>

Your article Hello Bob, I'm a member of a Marine Aquarium Society in Sydney (Australia) and was looking to furnish LFS's with some doco on responsible stocking etc. I came across your article - Hobbyist Drop-out: The Number One Problem Facing Your Business & Our Industry. I was wondering if I could reprint it to Furnish to LFS's in our area? Thanks Simon Finn <Yes, and thank you for both your efforts and request. Bob Fenner>

Overcrowded  Hi once again <Hi Bryan> I have a 55 gallon bow front with a magnum 350. My pets are a 10" snowflake moray, 3" crown squirrelfish, 3" red emperor snapper, 6" lionfish, and my personal favorite, a 7-8" panther grouper. Yes, I know it is crowded! Yes, I Know it will get worse! <Ah yes, I remember!> While I am deciding which of my pets to sell back to the petstore I have a couple of ?'s.  <Shoot> My fish guy is telling me that I should have my tank at 80 deg and 1.019 salinity. According to everything I have read on your site it should be 1.023-1.025. He also says that the correct salinity depends on the temperature of the water. Is he wrong or am I missing something? <He is half right/ half wrong. Yes, SG depends on temp to a degree. No, at 80 F SG should be 1.023-1.025 as per most salt manufacturers labeling. Most affordable plastic SG "gauges" are temperature corrected for water heated to approx. 76-80F. Spectranometers and soluble salt meters must factor in temp for the most accurate results.>  My second question is what should I expect from a pet store? Is it fair to ask them to hold a fish for a few days with a deposit? Is that a standard practice or should I just give up on trying to get them to do this? <Each store has it's own policy. The better ones will hold a fish for even a couple of weeks with a deposit. Find a store that provides you with the service you need to acquire and keep healthy pets.>  The main problem we have had is that most of the fish we have bought there have died within 3 days even though we have followed all of their instructions. Now, do I get another pet store or what? <I would rely on the outcome of your experience, and either keep it or change it based on your experience. Trust your feelings. How do you feel? I try to avoid stores with high mortality problems. I am attracted to stores where the stock is healthy and has a good survival rate and where I get accurate advice not necessarily aimed at generating sales.>  Thank you for all the help over the last couple of days. P.S.  The deaths weren't due to overcrowding as we only had three small fish then. <You are more than welcome Bryan, please don't hesitate to write WWM. Do make good use of a quarantine tank and reduce your overcrowding and you are on your way to a lot of enjoyment! Best Wishes, Craig>

Dealing with less-than-diligent LFS's Hi Bob, Just imagine...for every person that writes to you, there are dozens more that you've probably inspired. Until now, I've only been of the latter. <Glad to "hear" from you> I recently stopped in at Apex, a LFS on Sepulveda in Culver City. I was shocked to see that they must have had more than 50% sick or stressed livestock. <Don't all people feel ill at ease on viewing a child about to fall down a well?> I also noticed that they have a massive single filtration system, and therefore, they didn't feel the need for any kind of substrate. Of course, being conscientious, I pointed out to the owner of the store that her fish were swimming over a reflective blue surface all day, and that this might not be so healthy for them. Needless to say, my advice was not welcomed. <A shame, for them and their livestock> All she could say is that they've been in business for over 22 years, blah blah blah. Therefore, I sent a copy of your article (without permission, but not for commercial purpose) with yellow highlighter covering the psychological benefits of providing a "ground" point for the critters in her domain. <Good for you> Hope she got the point. But if she didn't, who would be the governing body that enforces cruelty to animals laws, and would there be anything they could do in this sort of case? <There is no one as far as I'm aware... for fishes, invertebrates... the various governmental and societal functionaries relegate their influence to "companion animals" (dogs, cats) and what they deem worthy "exotics" (psittacine birds, some reptiles...)> Too bad you don't need a license to open up a pet store. I wish we had inspectors grading them like we do for restaurants. She'd get a big red "D" in the window. <If they will listen, sing them a song... Volunteer to help them, their competitors, advise others through your efforts here, local clubs. Above all, be yourself. Vote with your feet and wallet... Bob Fenner> Thanks, Jonathan

Re: Poor Retailing Behavior. Hi Bob, I just wanted to let you know that I went back to PetMart in St Petersburg, FL (not PetSmart) ( my LFS near where I live) and I was subjected to one of the worst treatments a customer can get. This store proved to be unfriendly, and the manager lectured me for 10 min.s on following his store's opinion and not yours or everyone else's. <Indeed, unfortunate... Poor customer service is unacceptable> He said that he has been in the business for 20 years (when I mentioned your name he had no idea who you were) and then said that "if we tell you to shake the fish like this, and dip it like that" then you have to do it because we have the best employees in the business incidentally one of his saltwater fish guru suggested to use Alkalinity/ Hardness Plus daily, as well as dip my clown fish in peroxide clown fish had Brooklynella & perished after the 2nd dip for 10 min.s)). I guess the argument started when he said that I question everything they tell me you bet I do, since I am the one who spends the $) <... you are the customer... and as a consumer have every right, indeed, obligation to voice your concerns, question...> (i.e. they think Eheims are worthless, while I read/was told the opposite by other sources.) <Eheims pumps are used in critical applications (medical, industrial...)> Also, he has a sign above his "heaters" section that reads "Keep all saltwater fish at 82 degrees F". When I told him that "Marine Depot recommends (on the website) that triggers are kept in 72-78F, he blew up and started lecturing me again!!!(??) Being stubbornly opinionated is not a virtue, and of course they lost a customer. <These practices and stores don't last...> I just wanted to bring this to your attention just to prove that as a newbie(8 months in the hobby) you can be subjected to a lot of misinformation that can lead to a tank disaster or potential problems( my pH is now constantly at 8.2 now that I stopped adding the above supplements). <Yes... unfortunate all the way around... After being in the trade for thirty five years, having been an earnest "content provider" to magazines, books... am still at times discouraged to hear of such callous, backward treatment of others...> This is what a local website had to write about their store (If I had only known before). "Like other large stores, they tend to suffer from their size when it comes to friendliness and knowledgeable staff." found at "http://www.tampabayreef.com/stores/petmart.html" <A shame... size doesn't necessarily translate to "poor performance"... as excellent retailing businesses like Wal-Mart and Sears show... Bob Fenner> Thanks, Dimitri

LFS Hi Bob, <Hello> Thanks for all the great articles and FAQs. I visit WWM at least three times a week to look something up, and I always find what I need. This question has nothing to do with my setup. Instead, it has to do with a LFS. About a year ago, when I made my initial setup, I thought it was a pretty decent store: lots of books, wide variety of equipment, good display of freshwater creatures and a small but fairly nice marine section and fairly knowledgeable employees. I thought it was pure coincidence or bad luck that I purchased a couple fish there that succumbed to disease - seemingly internal parasites judging from the symptoms. Well, in the last nine months or so their marine fish section has been overwhelmed with disease, and otherwise neglected. <Have you spoken with the manager re this concern?> I have made several visits each month just to see the trend, and it gets worse. Last time, every tank had at least one dead, decaying fish - certainly several days if not longer. One of the tang tanks had eight sick tangs floating sideways and upside down. Five tiny acrylic box tanks with dead or dying lionfish. Hum-Triggers jammed into the same size boxes rotting or dying. The clownfish all covered in black slime and gasping for air. Even the damsels appeared sick and discolored. Dead coral display and urchins with spines all over the sand. Red slime algae and mounds of dirt in every tank (most don't have any type of substrate other than this "dirt" for lack of a better word). Even their "prized" main display tank was yellowed and the beautiful triggers were sick-looking, though not as bad. <Yikes. Terrible> I don't want to keep going but it is really sad to see this terrible neglect - and they keep stocking fish...new displays every week and they all look awful. Nobody in their right mind would by any of these fish. I asked the kid working there if they needed help with their water quality, and he said it wasn't his department. I spoke to the manager who is usually walking around. He eventually said it wasn't my business and I could go somewhere else if I chose (I haven't actually purchased from this store in months). I asked why he even bothered to stock marine fish. He didn't answer. Their freshwater specimens are in very good to excellent shape most of the time. The place seems to do a hardy business - it's a full pet store spanning mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish. <Very hard to run this sort of "all in one" operations efficiently> My question comes down to: is there some sort of group or organization, that might put some pressure on this store to clean up their act? I think it would benefit everyone if they would either clean up the tanks or stop stocking marine fish altogether. Thanks for anything you can suggest. <I empathize with your position, desires... there is no "outside" agency that exerts such influence (other than ultimate economics) like the ASPCA for companion animals... There are "internal" ones like the American Marinelife Dealers Association... and the benefits of "telling all" re this stores apparent poor attitude on various chatforums/BB's on the Net... (Ours: http://talk.wetwebfotos.com/ where you'll find a "rating area for LFS'). Hopefully a better business in the field will come into place in your vicinity. In the meanwhile do continue to ask the folks there what they think they're doing, offer your help. Bob Fenner>

Any Advice ? (very dissatisfied customer) Hi Bob, I thought that since you have been in the marine fish hobby for years, that you could recommend a solution to a problem I had with a local fish store. I have tried everything, including lawyers, Better Business Bureau, Credit Card Company, Consumer Affairs...My story abridged) is presented below in an e-mail I sent to a local reef club that I have joined. <Yikes! Three thousand four hundred dollars for "design"! Hope this included some of the actual set-up... Do you have any of "what they said" below in actual writing, like a contract? If it were me, I'd take these folks into Small Claims Court (check with your local jurisdiction re statutes of limitation), asking for all your funds back, presenting in a systematic, practiced fashion, the order of events, written evidence you have.> Let me know if you have any suggestions. Thanks Chuck Spyropulos <I am a strong believer in good customer relations, more importantly treating folks per "the golden rule". If these folks would like to present their side to me, I will gladly respond, post it. Bob Fenner> Hello Boston Reefkeepers, I am spreading the word that YOU SHOULD NOT shop at Exotic Marine Fish Wholesalers, 65 Hancock Street, Everett MA. When I was just beginning the hobby 2 years ago, these guys (Steve Kramer and Ron DeMillis) recommended a totally inappropriate filtration/water circulation system (**see below for more detail). When I went back a week later to cancel my order, after learning and reading about the equipment they sold me, they wanted to keep $400.00 out of $3400.00 that I paid them to design my system. I disagreed and wrote to the Better Business Bureau among others. When Steve Kramer got a letter from the BBB, he then refused and still refuses to pay me back a dime; even when I finally gave in and said I would take $3000.00 ....so I am out $3400.00 for NOTHING !!!!!! Steven Kramer is both an unethical businessman and an unskilled aquarist who's only mission is to take the money out of your pocket and put it in his. He does not care about customer satisfaction or making things right with his customers. PLEASE learn from my mistake...DO NOT EVEN THINK OF SHOPPING there. Go to Inland Reef in Nashua, Tropical Isle in Natick, or for supplies...go on the web to Champion Lighting and Supply (wholesale prices on lighting, pumps, skimmers...etc), Harbor Aquatics on the web, and also Inland Aquatics are great people who offer 5 day guarantees on most livestock (bad shippers are not included). Also, the tank at Kelly's where we met last time was built and is maintained by Gibbon's Aquaria who is also on the web. Monolith Marine Monsters has high end, high tech equipment, if you are into that like I am. They are also on the web and are home-based in Cambridge, MA. I will continue to tell everyone I know in every reef club, organization and/or Reefkeepers newsgroup on the web about my situation to keep them from getting ripped off as I did. Please let me know if you want to know more about this situation...and if you have been ripped off by Steven Kramer, please write to the Better Business Bureau. My complaint is on file with them and if there are more complaints maybe something will be done to prevent these guys from ripping off any more people. ** Exotic Marine gave me the following advice and system design for my 300 gallon reef tank: - told me that a sump was too complicated and to go with a closed system - recommended 2 Ocean Clear Canister filters for my main filtration system> Anyone who even has a clue about reef tanks knows this is ridiculous and that mechanical filtration is a Nitrate producing mess !!! - sold me a very small Berlin Skimmer...too small for my 300 gallon tank ( and how do you set up a Berlin system without a sump ?!!!) - When I paid for Cured Live Rock they told me that they would give me the "nice fresh live rock" right off of the truck...they tried to sell me uncured live rock for the price of live rock !!! -told me that since they sold me a UV sterilizer (in one of the nitrate producing canister filters) that they could (and no doubt would) sell me sick fish...this is totally unethical and not good for our hobby. - sold me 1 Little Giant Pump to force the water thru the nitrate producers that only yielded 3-4 tank turnarounds per hour...not nearly enough water flow. Suggested water flow rates from many references state 10 tank turnarounds per hour !! -Exotic Marine still recommends undergravel filtration...in fact Steven Kramer even designs "the No Clog" undergravel filter...Oooooh...I need one of these like a hole in the head !!! - Exotic Marine's policy is You buy it ...You keep it...even if the fish or other animal dies right after you hand over the cash ? Chuck Spyropulos

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