Read This Post Before Getting Fish

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AC Members
Feb 12, 2003
Sevierville, TN
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OK, I must preface this post so everyone will know where I am coming from.
I just read a post from a member inquiring about stocking his 58g tank. He is thinking about getting a Ghostfish, but the species of fish really doesn't matter. He is being told that his Ghostfish can get up to 20 inches in length, but he has fell in love with them and he THINKS the LFS will take them back when they get too big.

My hope is to get this Thread posted as a sticky so that it remains at the top of the Newbie Forum as to educate prospective fish buyers BEFORE they purchase fish.

I will try to keep this short because the longer I type and the more I get worked up about it, the angrier and more indignant I get, so please bare with me.

Whether or not you are new to the fishkeeping hobby (and I use this term loosely) what I am about to post is of the utmost importance if you care about what you are doing.

TOO ALL FISHKEEPERS: (Prospective or Current owners)

Please do not consider your fish merely a disposable item. Fish are animals. They are not simply an impulse buy that you can or should be able to return if they do not suit you.

No rational person would buy a Great Dane puppy to house inside their apt, nor would any rational person buy a DiamondBack RattleSnake and house it in their car. But all too often, fish keepers do exactly this. They buy fish that they are simply not suited to properly house. They buy fish because they look pretty or cool and do not take even one second of their day to research this entirely unknown (to them) animal and make an informed decision as to whether or not they have the ability to house such an animal.

Fish are far too often thought of as disposable in the respect that fishkeepers think they can rely on someone else to house their poor purchase.
They buy a 1 inch Oscar and house it in a 10g tank and KNOW darn good and well that they will have to take it back to the fish store in a couple months because it will outgrow their tank. They buy a fish based on its appeal to them and do not take into account its needs, temperment, living requirements, etc.

Perhaps it is because they are uninformed. Perhaps it is because fish are realtively inexpensive. The same person who would buy an Oscar for a 20g tank would never even think of buying a Cydesdale horse and putting it in their garage. Maybe its because the horse would smell, make noise or be such a physical nuisance. Or maybe its just because the average person KNOWS better than to put such a large animal in such poor housing conditions.

We have animal control. A legal type organization that investigates animal abuses and enforces animal regulations and laws. But rarely does this authority extend to the fishkeeping community.

When someone goes to the animal adoption agency, they typically sign a form giving the agency or their subsidary (local animal control) authority to investigate the housing conditions of the animal being adopted.
A sane and rational personal would not buy 25 cats and keep them indoors. But yet fishkeepers frequently overstock and overcrowd aquariums to the same degree and put their animals in the same danger as the person who bought the 25 cats.
A sane and rational person would not buy a puppy and house it in a 5 foot by 5 foot room with a rattlesnake. But yet this happens all to often in the fishkeeping world when people buy fish that are unable to be kept with other breeds of incompatable fish.

I guess what I am trying to say is please research each and every fish you plan to purchase. You are on a forum like AC because you are looking for information. It is the goal of the creators and moderators of this forum to provide people with information on how to properly care for and maintain a wide range of aquatic life. YOU came here for a reason. That reason was to get information. YOU have taken a step in the right direction.
Make an informed decision BEFORE you buy that next fish or BEFORE you plan your new aquarium. Treat the fish buying process just as you would any other animal purchase. Inform yourself as to what they fish needs...what the fish wants...what the fish MUST have in order to live a healthy and happy existance. Make sure you have the ability to house this animal in such a way that it will be happy now and in the future.
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AC Members
Jan 30, 2005
Well Spoke, ah written...

Recently jumping into SW I was considering getting rid of my freshwater fish and converting a 55g tank. It was stupid thought and would have been worse if I were to follow through with it. I hae been keeping fish on and off for years, when I was younger I made some bad choices. Recently I (about a year ago) I purchased a 55g setup and have been running it with much success. I plan to keep this tank and stick with the fish I have succesfully kept for the last year. Your post was very well written and meant a lot. Here are some pics of the tank,

please let me know what you think.

starting this spring as I redo my basement I plant to build to built in setups, one fresh and one salt. Both will be 250g. I plan to build everything, even the tank. I still have much research to do and it's a whole seperate post but my point is since I love to keep fish and and these fish can get big I want to have plenty of room to avoid a very common problem listed above. Also since I will be spending money on the rest of the basement it will be a while once I get the tanks built before building the filtration, lighting, etc... It will give me plenty of time (hopefully a year) to plan for what kind of fish I will add.
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AC Members
Feb 12, 2003
Sevierville, TN
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The fish look very nice. And I see you have given foresight into your fishes future needs.

I know alot of people come to the internet due to its vast reaches and the ability to speak with people all over the world with whom they would normally never get to speak.

People coming to AC have already to taken the first step. I just hope my thread gets people to think a little and actually heed the advice that is given here.


The Tank Is Out There
Jan 15, 2005
PLEASE make this a sticky!!

My only addendums to gsk's wonderful missive are:

Just because your fish can't fight back or vocalize to tell you they aren't comfortable, doesn't mean they aren't suffering and YOU are responsible for that suffering because YOU chose to keep fish. Accept the responsibility before you decide to, or continue to keep fish. Some fish are cheap, but that does not give you the right to treat them cheaply.

The thought process behind "I'll just take it back when its too big" is selfish, pure and simple. There's nothing wrong with getting attached to a fish because it's pretty or interesting - just consider how much prettier and more interesting it will be when kept properly.


AC Members
Sep 11, 2004
I like this thread. It makes me so mad at the fish store sometimes when I overhear people talking to their friends and saying, "ohhh.. it say's they're agressive... lets buy two and watch them fight!" or when someone wants to buy an oscar and the store lets them even though they know the person only has a small tank. I am not quite sure why oscars are even so commonly sold since most people don't have that big of a tank. and dont even get me started on the little things they sell as "betta bowls"! the only thing that is humane to keep in those things would be a snail (and even that is a maybe). I don't mind so much that they keep them in small quarters at the stores, but selling these little 3 inch diameter containers as permanent housing for the fish is a crime!


I'd rather be in Hockeytown!
Dec 6, 2004
Greenville, SC
I need to print this thread out and hand it out to the clueless ones and the uncaring ones I have to sell fish to everyday. Maybe some of them would think more before buying fish...maybe. Don't get too mad at the fish store people though, my store I am not allowed to refuse a sale to someone even if I know they are going to kill their fish. Believe me, I want to cuss someone out every single day for it. It's a good reason to put some pressure on the company to stop selling 'goldfish bowls' and the like, and to disallow the sale of new tanks and fish on the same day, etc.


I once was lost...
Feb 18, 2005
bellefonte PA
Real Name
Julie Probst
sky.eyes.woman said:
disallow the sale of new tanks and fish on the same day, etc.
while i agree this is a big mistake by many begginers i have boughten tanks anf fish on the same day ,it doesnt mean i was putting those fish in that i bought a qt tank for a seprate aquarium and fish for a whole nother one i did get some dirty looks a nd a couple of rude comments from people thinking i was completely new at fish keeping...i think a handout would be a great idea though...if when i first got my first aquarium i had gotten information on how to cycle it would have made it much easier , but the differance is even though i dont think of fish as disposable we all learned by mistakes and for those who truly want to learn ...our advice is good but there will still be one person who finds this site to late or after the fact...a great disscusion though and great advice for those who are thinking of getting into this "hobby"
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In denial of MTS
Mar 24, 2005
I totally agree with you, but some of it isn't all the fishkeepers fault. I've seen newbies go into stores (and I've had this happen to me when I was new) and be talked into buying fish they really don't know anything about. I've heard the people tell the newbie the, "fish only grow as big as their tank" story just so they can sell them the 3 inch oscar for the 10 gallon tank. I've also heard them say, "buy a betta because you don't have to worry about all the water changes" and I've seen people buy them. Part of it is ignorance on the buyers part and part of it is ignorance on the side of the LFS (or just them just wanting to make a sale).


AC Members
Feb 11, 2005
NE Wisconsin
Very well said! As someone who also works with dog and cat rescue, I can't agree with you more! In my nearly 40 years of aquarium keeping, I have never returned a fish because it has gotten too big! I always research before I buy, not after. When my son recently got started with this wonderful hobby, he was immediately drawn to the uncommon, different type fish. What he ended up with was two, male and female red-eyed puffers. Before we bought them, I researched what also might go with them. Successfully we put 3 emerald green cories in with them. Recently I asked for suggestions for another type fish we might add, but was told not to add more because of the bio. Being this is the first time we have kept these types of fish, I was not sure. So will not add any to the mix. I do hope newbies will listen.
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AC Members
Jan 20, 2005
Lincoln, Nebraska
While some fish stores do operate very poorly, I agree that much responsibility rests with the buyer. I work at a LFS, and I mean an LFS not a "big box" pet "supermarket." And before I ever sell a fish I ask a few questions
what size is the tank?
What other fish are in there?
How long has the tank been set-up?
9 out of 10 times I get through these questions and find out the person can NOT keep the fish and I have refused sale to those who don't care. I would not sell a black ghost knife fish that gets 20" to a guy with a 10g. He was pretty ticked at me too. It was already 10" long and it wasnt as if he had othertanks to put him in. It was a 10g community with mollies.
Many times customers will also lie to get the fish. I have had the fish bagged and sale goin through the register when people tell me of all the other fish they have. Too many for the large quantity they are buying. I try to warn all of buying too many at one time. And they always say "well just one more." and I end up baggin up 3 more fish. You can only tell people so much. My mantra on fish keepiing, especially with new saltwater people is patience. that is the most important word in aquaria.