Any potential marine aquarist could easily consider that the best source for advice when a marine aquarium is being considered is the dealer. This is completely understandable – who do we ask when there’s a problem with the car or TV or we want advice on a new kitchen?
This young couple went into a pet store and saw some fish and thought ‘what beautiful creatures’. They approached the assistant who advised them the common names of the fish and the couple bought two and took them home looking very pleased with themselves. A couple of days later they were back at the store and advised that the two fish they had bought had died but the other fish in the aquarium were perfectly fine. When asked they advised that the dead fish hadn’t displayed any sign of disease.
The shop assistant was quite puzzled and asked what type the other fish the couple kept were. The couple advised they were goldfish. ‘But the fish you bought need warm salt water’ the couple were told. ‘Oh’!’ they said.
It cannot be verified but the above short tale is supposed to be true. Assuming it is who was at fault, was it the couple or the assistant? At the end of the day it was the couple, if they had asked to buy the fish the assistant could quite reasonably have assumed they knew what they were doing. The final responsibility is with the home aquarium owner.
Marine aquarium shops are generally reasonable (but not overall), with some considerably better then others. To give good advice they need good information. A good experienced dealer will ask questions and advise ‘when’, ‘what if’ etc.
I used to use a local very small shop (sadly marine aquariums are no longer dealt with). The dealer realised very quickly that I knew considerably more than he did. To his credit he used this to his advantage, asking questions when I went in for a coffee and even occasionally referring other customers to me if I happened to be in the store. This doesn’t indicate I’m anything special but shows that he was doing his best for customers.
From time to time I use a much bigger, though not huge store about 40 miles away. I travel this distance because it’s worth it.
Going in to the store is a bit off-putting, there’s a quite narrow drive down the side of a house and a very small car park at the back. The building housing the store looks quite scruffy. However, inside it is well-ordered, the aquariums are clean and reasonably laid out. There are no struggling or dead creatures. They actually sell to the trade but are happy to serve the public too (just have to avoid the despatch day for the trade!). I wander around at my leisure and when I’ve identified what I want the assistant comes over. The price is confirmed and, if the purchase is for fish, they are held individually and carefully by net at the front of the tank for inspection. If I’m satisfied they are quickly bagged. Technicalities could be discussed and it’s obvious that the assistants have experience and are reasonably bothered about the welfare of the livestock. The shop also quarantines the fish stock and do not keep the salt water in the for sale aquariums dosed with copper.
The above is the type of shop that is gold to a marine aquarist – helpful, knowledgeable and to be trusted. However, as mentioned they can advise only on the information they receive, if they receive poor information it’s the aquarist’s fault and the aquarium life could suffer for it.
No matter how good a marine aquarium shop is, at the end of the day they need to sell as selling means survival.
The new marine aquarist needs to know what type of aquarium is wanted, the space for it and the basic equipment required. Equipment prices can be checked on the internet for comparison purposes. The internet and/or books can supply lots of basic information. Once the information is held and covers the basics then try the local dealers and try and judge their abilities with beginners. They need to keep it simple and realise that we’re not all millionaires but that marine livestock need correct technical support. Information could be given by the dealer but hardware purchases made from somewhere else, the internet for example. It’s always worth a try – tell them the price an item can be obtained for and from where. They might just drop the price to obtain a sale.
Even if for example not all hardware is obtained from the dealers they’ll be happy if some livestock and ongoing requirements are because they are selling as they need to. The new aquarist will be happy because the dealer will get to know them and their aquarium.
Who knows, maybe a friendship will grow. ‘See you next week for coffee!’