Fish Shop Etiquette

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Visiting your local trop shop isn’t like taking tea at the Savoy, but even so, there are ways to show good manners!

Think of an aquarium shop like a zoo

You’d never let your children bang on the cages at London Zoo, so why do some people think it’s fine to let their children do the same in a fish shop? Many of the fish on sale will be wild-caught, and even the farmed ones are sensitive to noise and vibrations. So, please, parents, keep a close eye on your kids. A fish shop visit can be an educational treat, with everything from conservation to adaptation up for grabs if you think about ways to explain where fish live, how they survive, and what man-made threats they have to put up with.

Shopkeepers are people, too

Just because you’ve had success with a species doesn’t mean you’re the world’s expert! A lot of tropical fish shops are run by hard-core hobbyists who absolutely love tropical fishkeeping — they certainly aren’t in it for the easy money or family-friendly hours. Nothing beats building up a good relationship with your retailer, and it’s just good manners not to make someone feel uncomfortable in their workplace. Much better to strike up a conversation when it’s quiet, and in a chatty sort of way, share your experiences while listening to theirs. You never know, you might learn something too!

There’s more than one way to skin a cat(fish)

Of course when you hear someone spouting nonsense about Guppies doing best in pairs or Angelfish getting on fine with Neons, you might well be tempted — justified, even — to say a few words. But think about how you’re going to do that. Be subtle, and instead of undermining the shop staff to their face, perhaps go with the second opinion approach once the store clerk has move on. “Nice fish, those; but when I kept them, I found them a bit nippy…”

Social media can be distinctly antisocial

It takes years to earn a good reputation, but only seconds to lose it, and with the viral nature of social media, it’s all too easy for a single bad review to cause major problems for an otherwise successful business. If you think a shop has problems, you’ll be doing the entire hobby more of a favour by putting your concerns to the manager first. Shops can be unexpectedly busy, or dealing with staff off sick, or having to unbox new stock alongside serving their customers — all of which could explain the dead Guppy in the corner tank. Posting a scathing criticism online may be help you earn internet points, but it doesn’t otherwise do any good.

Everyone makes mistakes: even you!

However great you are fishkeeping, a degree of humility is still a good thing. Yes, your new fish might have died because the shop sold you a duffer, but it might also be your fault. Reflect on water quality and chemistry, tankmates, and often overlooked, how carefully the fish was transported home and acclimated to its new home.

Words: Neale Monks