Read This Post Before Getting Fish

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AC Members
Apr 3, 2005
When I first started aqauriums, I was a bit dumber, and took the word of a salesperson from petsmart. She said I could put 3 small tiger barbs with a couple dwarf gourami in a ten gallon tank. After a few days and a half eaten fish, I called the store and asked if I could return the fish.
"How many barbs do you have?"
"Oh, well you need at least 8 tigers"
Obviously, I had no set up for that, so I was out of luck. Another time I was sold a dragon fish (violet goby) (I had a larger tank). No one told me how big it got and it was a brakish fish. It died shortly after. And they were trying to sell me dwarf african puffers for my 29 gal community. All I've heard about them are they are teritorial and nippers.(I still messed up) So no matter what, the person (me) should do their reserch
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Puffer Mom
Apr 3, 2005
Phoenix, Az
Try my dunce cap on for size!!! I bought the fish first, impulse buyer that I am. I saw the cutest little dwarf puffers in the Petsmart while my husband who is doing fishless cycling was browsing for what kind of fish he's going to put in his 55 gallon when it's ready. I was always attracted to puffers but thought I would have to do salt water and was uncomfortable with that idea. So finding these freashwater babies I thought they'd be gone if I didn't get them that day. I bought 2 teeny babies and brought them home to put in a 1 gallon bowl. I KNOW...I KNOW...sorry now. I had two bamboo plants and a Betta (Betta died 2 weeks ago)in the bowl. So in my ignorance I put in the two little unsuspecting puffers. And started researching them on the net. Oh, oh, I need an algae eater for these messy carnivores, more research and I was back to the petstore for a otocinclus catfish. More research...Oh, oh, bowl is too small. Went to second hand store found 5 gallon tank setup for $5. Cleaned it. Set tank up. Now a little wiser I had a decision to make. Do I rescue them from the first mistake I made of the too small bowl, or do I wait for the tank to cycle like my husband warns. I opted for the tank. So here's what I did...I went to the water machine and got 2 gallons filtered drinking water, poured it into the tank with new cleaned rocks and new filter for the second-hand pump. Added the rocks from the fish, floated my babies with the fishbowl water in the tank for 1 hour while adding small amounts of the tank water to their water, then put them into tank. I also borrowed 1 gallon water from the fishless cycling 55 gallon tank that's 2 weeks into its cycle. Then back to web for more research. Found your site...Oh I understand what my husband was trying to tell me. As usual I'm doing everything backasswards. So now it's three days later and I'm back to the store for plants and test strips. That was yesterday, I've been up all night reading every website, searching every forum, checking water morning and night, praying seeded rocks, and plant water, water from fishstore aquarium, and research, will save my babies. Thanks you guys for being here. Wish you had been at the PetsMart Sunday tho!!!


small glass fish
Apr 1, 2005
wish i heard this about a year ago...
anyway, ive heard of some instances that involve buying fish that will get too big for a tank, but with the idea of selling them back, but our lfs has a policy (a price on every type of fish) and will buy back any fish. Another reason why this happened was because the fish in question was relitively slow growing, and it would take a year or so untill the fish got too big, the fish was good because it digs into the gravel (upside down catfish) and is great at cleaning up.
under these sercumstances, (including that it will be about 3 years before the tank has to be dismantled b/c the guy that owns this tank will go off to college) isnt it o.k. to buy a fish w/ the intention of selling it to a lfs in the future?


AC Members
Mar 21, 2005
The LFS could change their policy or go out of business.

I personally think that if you won't be able to look after the fish when it reaches its full size, then you shouldn't get it.


AC Members
Sep 7, 2004
Ashburn, VA
I have to say that not only is it beneficial for the fish but also for the fishkeeper to do your research. My love for fish grew rapidly faster than my knowledge. I'm getting there.... but I do have to say that I have always rectified the situations I've been in. Fancy Goldfish... they are goldfish right? Designed to be in bowls..... HARDLY. I love my fancies to death... they are really awesome fish.... but it would have been nice to know that goldfish are harder to keep than most saltware fish (granted you dont have as much monitoring but water changes and stuff). I dont think there is a messier fish out there.... and I had bought 3 fancies for a 10 gallon. Yes, I learned later..... Unfortunately when I moved from PA to VA I lost one of my fancies so I have 2 now.... I am proud to say there is now a 29 gallon sitting in my room for them. The thing I dont think people realize is the amount of upkeep that is required for a tank that is overstocked. I know I was CONSTANTLY doing water changes in my 10 gallon goldfish tank. I would do a 50% change, clean all the decorations, and wipe down the glass and within 3 days there was brown algae and waste everywhere.... there just simply wasnt enough volume of water to handle the waste that a goldfish puts out. :hang:

Thanks to aquariacentral I've been moving towards keeping fish better.... And I wish I knew everything but I dont.... but anytime I find out something that is unfit for one of my fish, I rectify it....

Great post.... I really do wish that it was published as a handout to everyone that walks into a fish store... especially the big chains (petco/petsmart/etc) that have employees that don't really know whats going on.

I might have to copy this post to a few people if thats ok :idea2:


AC Members
Jun 25, 2005
Learning Quickly

Great Post! I wish I had known enough to do some research a few months ago.

My wife, son (3 yrs) and I went to a PetCo to pick up some dog food. As usual, we wandered over to the fish area, as my son really loves to watch them swim around. Totally on the spur of the moment, I thought it would be great to buy a fish or two. We picked up a 10g starter kit and two fancy goldfish. The salesperson never told us anything about water treatment, cycling, waste, or pretty much anything else. We were getting goldfish because we thought they were a low-maintenance fish.

The first mistake we made was a doozy. We had been to the beach earlier that year and picked up two jars full of pretty ocean-smoothed black rocks. I thought they'd look really good in the aquarium with the white gravel. In they went, without so much as a rinse-off. We also didn't know we had to condition the water - there's a lot of chlorine in our local water supply. Needless to say, the fish were both belly-up in about an hour. :-(

At least the PetCo wouldn't sell us another pair until we brought in a water sample. I'll give them that. The next time I left, I had two more fancies, a bottle of AmQuel and a bottle of NovAqua. "Coke" and "Sailboat" did pretty well . . .

. . . until my three-year-old decided to feed them one day while mom was napping and daddy was paying bills upstairs. Luckily, he came up and told me that he fed them. Alarmed, I ran downstairs, and sure enough, he had dumped an entire (relatively new) jar of flakes into the tank. The fish had eaten enough that they were no longer even interested. I pulled them out, and momma got up and cleaned the tank.

Unfortunately, she didn't know I had been conditioning the water. She didn't add the AmQuel, and poor "Coke" was belly up an hour later. When I saw him getting sluggish, I realized what had happened and added in the solution, early enough to save Sailboat but unfortunately Coke was too far gone.

Now I'm a lot more informed. The fish food is on top of the refrigerator where Max can't reach it; we have special buckets that are used for the aquarium to prevent contamination, water changes are done regularly, and I do research before making purchases.

The research part has paid off, especially since I found this forum. The other night I got online to find out if a frog would be okay in the tank with the goldfish. Not only did I find out that if would NOT, but I was able to diagnose a Black Moor that's been acting funny lately (see the post in General Freshwater about the "sleepy" Black Moor.

I'm now considering getting a larger tank to try some other freshwater varieties. Thanks to this forum, I feel a lot more educated and prepared.



Registered Member
Jul 23, 2005
method of testing

there so many fancy ways of testing for chemicals in aquariums... is it possible to just taste the water and know? my theory is: if your tongue tingles, ph is too low, if it feels chalky, ph is too high. if you taste something funny, nitrates too high, if you taste carion, you need to do a water change! better than paying for expensive test kits. how's my theory?


Global Moderator
Staff member
Feb 18, 2002
Raleigh, NC
Test kits aren't that expensive.


Sep 24, 2004
Toronto, Canada
aliasaid said:
there so many fancy ways of testing for chemicals in aquariums... is it possible to just taste the water and know? my theory is: if your tongue tingles, ph is too low, if it feels chalky, ph is too high. if you taste something funny, nitrates too high, if you taste carion, you need to do a water change! better than paying for expensive test kits. how's my theory?
Its not a good idea. First off fish water is not always safe for humans. The water is the fishes plate, toilet, desk, work, etc. Would you eat off those things? There might be dangerous bacteria on it that can harm humans. There also is no way to get the exact levels of ammoina, nitrite, nitrate, and pH. And when a fish dies, or when injecting C02, exactness counts. Something could go wrong with out ever knowing. And unless you tast the water everyday, its pointless. Just do a weekly water change and test when you do that. Test kits are only $13 at And thats not expencive, even to a kid thats broke and needs a new XM radio :rolleyes:


AC Members
Aug 21, 2005
fishstoreguy said:
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.
i can understand where you're coming from. its not smart to keep a knife fish in a 10g tank. i have a 10g tank and i personally wouldnt want it in my tank. not that i dont like them i just would prefer not to have it outgrow my tank.

i can see also where you're coming from on the selling fish thing. i have had those questions asked to me. i have also been refused to buy tetras. of all things. TETRAS. little neon tetras!!! the lady was like "what size is your aquarium?" and i told her "10 gallons" and she said "these will outgrow your tank" and i was like "ok fine whatever" i know very well and you all know very well that neon tetras only grow to about 1.5 inches long. all i wanted was 5 or 6 neon tetras. thats all. nothing else in the tank. (this was while my aquarium was set up for about 2 weeks with nothing in it.) i had enough so i talked to her manager and some mean words were exchanged and she ended up losing her job temporarily (asked to take a break). i felt bad but it turns out this has happened for the past few years that this lady was working there. what im getting at is dont go too overboard with it. in other words just dont get in trouble with your boss. unless you are your own boss. then i dont think it matters because no one is above you to tell you what to do.

also FYI. i ended up not buying from that store and i went to another store and just bought 3 tiger barbs.

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