Where to buy a fish ?


In the past various veterinary authorities have made strong recommendations to the public about where they should or should not buy pets from. These recommendations followed scandalous reports in the '70's  about the neglect and abuse of puppies in so-called "puppy farms". As a result many countries (including the UK) have now introduced legislation to control establishments involved in the breeding and selling of animals.

If you are thinking about buying fish the first thing to do is to realise the commitment you are going to have to make to look after it ensure that you provide all the necessary :

  • Environmental conditions - water conditions, temperature, aeration
  • Food

There are several possible places you can get fish :

  1. A neighbour, relative or friend - good idea as you probably know a lot about the background conditions and care of the fish. BUT see Guidelines below
  2. A specialist serious breeder - generally a good idea - if anyone knows how to breed and rear fish properly a breeder should. Still, see Guidelines below
  3. A casual breeder - careful - do they really know what they are doing ? Are they just in it for the money. See Guidelines below.
  4. A pet shop (small private concern) - not a bad idea if the fish have genuinely come from a good source and the pet shop is clean, well run and practices good basic hygiene - see Guidelines below
  5. A pet store (large chain) - not a bad idea if the Pet Store is well run, clean, practices good hygiene and they can give assurances about the origin of the fish. See Guidelines below.

Here are some Guidelines to follow before you buy fish. 

If you follow these Guidelines you should reduce the chances of disappointment with your new fish.

a) Consider your situation first

  1. Do not buy fish unless you are sure that you can afford to look after them properly,  and that you have the time to commit to them. See "What type of fish should I get ?"
  2. NEVER buy on impulse - for example, when you see a stunning aquarium collection of fish in a shop window don't rush in and buy it.
  3. Can you afford to look after the fish properly ?
  4. Have you got the time to look after fish properly ?

b) The premises

It is important to be satisfied about the health standards of the establishment that you are buying the fish from :

  1. The most important single Guideline is this : Whenever possible buy from a source that has been recommended to you by an independent person - a friend, neighbour, a well known breeder or member of the family. Someone whose judgment you can trust.
  2. Satisfy yourself that  the premises are clean and tidy. Are the fish tanks clean? Are there any dead fish in some of the tanks ? Ask to inspect "behind the scenes"
  3. Do the fish look clean, healthy and active ?
  4. Is the tank water clean and well aerated ?
  5. Are fish from different sources kept separately (advisable) or are they mixed together (not desirable as this increases the likelihood of exposure to disease) ?
  6. If you have not been given a personal recommendation about the establishment - ask them to give you the names of three reference sites where you will get a positive endorsement.
  7. Where appropriate satisfy yourself that the establishment is a registered facility and that it satisfies all local registration requirements. Ask to see their Certificates of Registration.
  8. Poisonous fish may be subject to local legislation controlling their ownership eg in the UK the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 - check with your local authorities

c) The fish

Buying a sick fish is the worst possible start for you and for your new pet. There are plenty of healthy fish looking for a new home. Think THREE times about the possible consequences before you commit to buying a fish that is obviously  ill. Signs to look for are :

  • Not eating food
  • Abnormal appearance - abnormal colour, sores on the skin, white fungi on the skin, spots on the skin, damaged fins
  • Underweight
  • Overweight
  • Lethargy
  • Large number of surface parasites
  • Swimming on the side or upside down
  • Swimming at the top of the water
  • Swimming at the bottom of the water

This is particularly true if you are going to introduce the fish into a household with young children. They will be heartbroken if you have to take the fish back because of illness or if it dies.

  1. Never buy a fish that looks ill
  2. If you are buying an expensive fish insist that the vendor has it checked and gets a clean bill of health from a veterinarian who specialises in fish before you buy it 




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