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Discussion Starter #1
Hey everyone,

I wanted to address an issue that comes up form time to time. At IPU we strive to ensure our clients are purchasing fish from us in the right numbers and the right compatibility for their aquariums. How far should this go? For example, we have our coding in place for compatibility. The majority of our clients follow this guide but we will get orders that have incompatible fish on one form. When we address it, usually the order is modified for the greatest success. Often the client has multiple aquariums and that is why the order is such.
The reason I am posing this question is we feel the decision is ultimately up to the client. As a hobbyist, I researched any fish I purchased before jumping at it. When I was younger and was keeping freshwater, I often mixed fish that were completely unsuited to each other but things have changed considerably since then and reputable stores provide a coding or similar system.
We have at times attempted to guide a client's choices to which some take offense. How far should the retailer go? We have always imported rare species and normally the client already is aware of the needs of that fish and have been looking for it. Yes impulse buy still exists but those clients still ask questions. As retailers, we offer the best quality and selection we can but we are not here to tell you what or what not to purchase. This is up to the hobbyist to decide.
Recently I received a message from a client referring to me as irresponsible for carrying a certain fish which had special needs. In reply I explained that this fish is actually quite hardy from it's source we rely on but also that there are people interested in keeping this fish. If a fish is impossible to keep it is not in our interests either to import such a fish on a moral and business level. We are not in the business of importing only to sell a fish before it dies. This is a bad business practice and does not make any sense to me.
My point I am trying to make is the more information you as a hobbyist has on a fish before purchasing the more you will know weather that fish is right for you. I don't feel it is up to the retailer to determine this for you. You would be surprised how offended a client can become when they are told "what they should keep". We all do our best to guide the hobbyist but it is a thin line between guiding and policing. Just my 2 cents.:)
 

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I really like the system at IPU. The recommendations made by the people working in the fishroom is a no brainer to follow and it is truly for the best interest of the hobbiest. It is true that their are so many ignorant people who do as they please, ignore recommendations and then do nothing but complain about things that should really be their responsibility. Something that might be a good idea to do, rather than just recommending; if a customer chooses to mix uncompatible fish/or unsafe conditions (no heater etc) then the 3 day warranty (or whatever the warranty is) of the live stock is removed. I used to work at Pet Habitat in Coquitlam and we were told to always find out as much about the customers tank as possible and then make recommendations...and if they customer chooses to put the fish at risk, then we sign off the warranty.
just my 2 cents :)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I really like the system at IPU. The recommendations made by the people working in the fishroom is a no brainer to follow and it is truly for the best interest of the hobbiest. It is true that their are so many ignorant people who do as they please, ignore recommendations and then do nothing but complain about things that should really be their responsibility. Something that might be a good idea to do, rather than just recommending; if a customer chooses to mix uncompatible fish/or unsafe conditions (no heater etc) then the 3 day warranty (or whatever the warranty is) of the live stock is removed. I used to work at Pet Habitat in Coquitlam and we were told to always find out as much about the customers tank as possible and then make recommendations...and if they customer chooses to put the fish at risk, then we sign off the warranty.
just my 2 cents :)
Well put Turtlez,
Yes we do void our warranty in extreme circumstances. Recently we had a client purchase tropical fish for an aquarium that had no heater or filter. Clearly that is not a question we should have to ask. responsibility truly needs to fall on the hobbyist for the most part. Of course there can always be instances in the hobby where the information given may be only that person's experience and not the more commonly accepted explanation. That is true of most hobbies, particularly with the internet unfortunately.
 

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When i first entered the hobby i would have loved for someone to do that for me, instead i more than doubled my stock for a 10 gallon and even got me a common pleco. The fish shop took advantage of my ignorance, even went as far to show me fancy guppies that would go nice with my wife's betta.....

That shop got used to me coming in for more fish and never once asked my tank size, i was replacing dead fish at first thinking that they were just sensitive. Luckily i learned from my mistakes and researched a lot on my own and no longer bring my business to that shop. Thats who you don't want to be and thats the shop the kind of people who take offense to decent advice should shop at.

As for IPU, i've visited the burnaby location several times. The coded system works great, Most visits when im there for livestock, i get a probing question or two that let the attendant judge my knowledge on the hobby. Never has it been pushy, But if i were to insist on mixing completely incompatible species (ie Discus with cichlids) the attendant should be pushy. Afterall, its not tetra's and other feeder fish you're likely talking about. Sometimes its a loss of a customer but more often than not, it'll lead to a loyal customer since a foundation of trust has been started.

I know your store has a lot of square footage and is far from crowded, perhaps a little nook filled with basic information might help out a bit, take the information beyond an attendants word of mouth. A couple ideas would be a Chart of the Basic equipment (with pictograms) and the biggest thing: Parameters that make fish incompatible

Aggressive/calm
size
Soft water/hard water
Acidic/alkaline
salt/freshwater
Temperature

Keep it simple pretty much, a couple fish at the extremes as examples, nothing more. I know when i first entered the hobby if someone asked me about Hardness and PH i'd have went blank eyed, after all i was only looking to give my betta in a vase a bigger home :p I know you guys have a pamphlette you hand out with some information, but too many people need the information in their face for them to pay attention
 

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I was in a LFS right after 'Finding Nemo' was released. There was a mother asking if she could add a 'nemo' to her son's freshwater tank. The guy at the store obviously said no, and she didn't look pleased. It shows how little some people pay attention when they go fish shopping. He said it had happened multiple times a day since the movie had come out.

I can't say I always researched my fish before buying them. I have also had some fish together in a tank that shouldn't have been, but they worked out fine. Other times I lost lots of fish by adding too many at one time. Over the years this has changed and now I rarely lose a fish unless it is old age.

As a responsible LFS I think it is definitely in your role to try and help people make the right choices for stocking their tank. That being said, if they refuse the advice, then you can either refuse the sale or void the warranty. It would be tough for me to send off a fish, especially the more rare ones, knowing it was going into a bad set up. Asking if there is a heater or filter shouldn't have to be done, but some people just really don't know.

I think lots of people see a large aquarium at a friends, or in a store and want that in their house. They don't realize, or want to think about, the hours and hours of research and work that went into getting that tank to run as it should.

Anytime I am in your store I like having your staff check what the fish I am buying will be going home to. To me it is much better than the stores who will sell you anything and hope you come back when it dies. No one should get offended by the staff asking, it is just being responsible. My 2 cents.
 

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Yup, and these questions/precautions are even more important with saltwater fish. The other BCA members would probably be shocked at how often people don't think or research before buying an expensive sw fish. Too many hobbyist have a Naso tang in their 33g to 50g sw tank when these fish grow to around 2' in the wild. Of the hundreds of Naso tangs sold in the Lower Mainland every year, I doubt more than a quarter (if that) go home to tanks at least 6' long.

A few years ago, in Japan, the craze was for keeping live jellyfish in a little jar next to your bed. Yup, they redefined the term "temporary pet" and killed thousands senselessly. A little research on the net would have told them what is required but nope, too much effort.
 

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Just to let you all know...

When I first started keeping fish, I didn't have any filter or heaters.
1. No heater necessary in India (due to hot climate)
2. I changed 80-100% water change every 2-4 days.
3. Tank was planted.

I kept tropical fish (guppies/mollies/swordfish) and plecos and I often had babies...

My point is that it is really the responsibility of the fish keeper to care for their fish.
 

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I think another REALLY good tack if customers are not responding to sensible advice is to politely remind them that fish can feel pain and suffering and therefore as a store you are simply doing your part to ensure the animal has a good home.

Also if they are buying the fish for a kid it may not hurt to stealthily inject the tidbit that causing suffering to an animal for the happiness of their child is not a good way to bring kids up. I mean, a lot of parents buy kids buy their kids pets to teach them responsibility, so stressing that you advocate educating kids about ethical and responsible fishkeeping may be productive.

Just keep doing what you guys are doing and keep setting an example for other pet stores :)
 

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Yup, and these questions/precautions are even more important with saltwater fish. The other BCA members would probably be shocked at how often people don't think or research before buying an expensive sw fish. Too many hobbyist have a Naso tang in their 33g to 50g sw tank when these fish grow to around 2' in the wild. Of the hundreds of Naso tangs sold in the Lower Mainland every year, I doubt more than a quarter (if that) go home to tanks at least 6' long.

A few years ago, in Japan, the craze was for keeping live jellyfish in a little jar next to your bed. Yup, they redefined the term "temporary pet" and killed thousands senselessly. A little research on the net would have told them what is required but nope, too much effort.
i would be shocked to learn they cared even a smidgen for those lives, no more than for their last snack. they generally don't regard marine life very highly, as its their main source of protein.
and lately japanese waters are being overrun with jellies which is taking a toll on the fishing industry so i can see them wanting to kill jellies tbh.
according to a show on tv earlier this week they even drag nets thru the water there designed to cut up jellyfish as they pass thru them.
the best part tho is that they were doing this without realising that when u kill a jelly it releases all its sperms and eggs so they just created a population explosion :p
 

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The responsibility is shifting more towards the owner though Smiladon. Not completely, but its seen as their job now to ensure pets of any kind make it to a decent home. Responsibility and sustainability seem to be the focus now on store models, those who haven't shifted are falling behind from those who have made the change.

IPU does a great job leading the way, Clearly stating their fish source, write ups about rare fish they're recieving in stock and how their stock differs from the run of the mill. They definitely cover themselves when people like the guy who contacted Rastapus blindly accuse them of being irresponsible. In this age of fish keeping, a store can't afford a bad reputation, theres just too much business to lose and you open yourself up to a couple hippies hanging outside your shop with signs like 'FISH FEEL PAIN TOO!'

Just think Smiladon, in india would a shop keeper open this sort of dialogue over a small complaint?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
When i first entered the hobby i would have loved for someone to do that for me, instead i more than doubled my stock for a 10 gallon and even got me a common pleco. The fish shop took advantage of my ignorance, even went as far to show me fancy guppies that would go nice with my wife's betta.....

That shop got used to me coming in for more fish and never once asked my tank size, i was replacing dead fish at first thinking that they were just sensitive. Luckily i learned from my mistakes and researched a lot on my own and no longer bring my business to that shop. Thats who you don't want to be and thats the shop the kind of people who take offense to decent advice should shop at.

As for IPU, i've visited the burnaby location several times. The coded system works great, Most visits when im there for livestock, i get a probing question or two that let the attendant judge my knowledge on the hobby. Never has it been pushy, But if i were to insist on mixing completely incompatible species (ie Discus with cichlids) the attendant should be pushy. Afterall, its not tetra's and other feeder fish you're likely talking about. Sometimes its a loss of a customer but more often than not, it'll lead to a loyal customer since a foundation of trust has been started.

I know your store has a lot of square footage and is far from crowded, perhaps a little nook filled with basic information might help out a bit, take the information beyond an attendants word of mouth. A couple ideas would be a Chart of the Basic equipment (with pictograms) and the biggest thing: Parameters that make fish incompatible

Aggressive/calm
size
Soft water/hard water
Acidic/alkaline
salt/freshwater
Temperature

Keep it simple pretty much, a couple fish at the extremes as examples, nothing more. I know when i first entered the hobby if someone asked me about Hardness and PH i'd have went blank eyed, after all i was only looking to give my betta in a vase a bigger home :p I know you guys have a pamphlette you hand out with some information, but too many people need the information in their face for them to pay attention
Neven,
Thanks for the compliments. When dealing with a new aquarium, most beginning hobbyists want to buy fish right away which gives us the opportunity to provide them with information on how to proceed. I have heard of many instances where stores will sell fish with the aquarium for simply tell the customer to return once the tank has been set up and pick up their fish. This is not a good practice which usually leads to a garage sale for that aquarium. Consider for a moment how many people may buy an aquarium at say Costco for example. This is a fictitious example as I am not even sure if Costco has ever sold aquariums but obviously the customer is not going to get too much information about their next step.

I am glad you brought up the pamphlet because believe it or not, we get accused occasionally of selling a "gimmick". This is sort of the point I am trying to make. Offering advice without being asked can backfire and can actually cost you a customer. We do enquire as I say if we get a strange vibe or an order form that has strange combinations. We tend to promote more the number of certain species that should be kept appropriately even if it means the client will reduce his order overall it's worth it.

As far as the information area, great idea but is fairly ineffective. Most people would rather stare at all the colorful fish then actually read something. We have handouts on Bettas, Turtles, water parameters, maintenance etc. and that is hard enough to get across unfortunately. Due to our size we do tend to attract more experienced hobbyists as well which is why it is difficult to ask too many questions. More often people will take offense to too many questions then not.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I was in a LFS right after 'Finding Nemo' was released. There was a mother asking if she could add a 'nemo' to her son's freshwater tank. The guy at the store obviously said no, and she didn't look pleased. It shows how little some people pay attention when they go fish shopping. He said it had happened multiple times a day since the movie had come out.

I can't say I always researched my fish before buying them. I have also had some fish together in a tank that shouldn't have been, but they worked out fine. Other times I lost lots of fish by adding too many at one time. Over the years this has changed and now I rarely lose a fish unless it is old age.

As a responsible LFS I think it is definitely in your role to try and help people make the right choices for stocking their tank. That being said, if they refuse the advice, then you can either refuse the sale or void the warranty. It would be tough for me to send off a fish, especially the more rare ones, knowing it was going into a bad set up. Asking if there is a heater or filter shouldn't have to be done, but some people just really don't know.

I think lots of people see a large aquarium at a friends, or in a store and want that in their house. They don't realize, or want to think about, the hours and hours of research and work that went into getting that tank to run as it should.

Anytime I am in your store I like having your staff check what the fish I am buying will be going home to. To me it is much better than the stores who will sell you anything and hope you come back when it dies. No one should get offended by the staff asking, it is just being responsible. My 2 cents.
Refusing a sale or voiding a warranty for every customer who ignores your advice would not end well for the company. Many people can interpret a lot of questions as doubt in the client knowing anything. Try to look at it this way, if a client walks into the store, fills out their form hands it to you and all the fish on the form are compatible you have to give the customer the benefit of the doubt that they know what they are doing. Flooding them with questions regarding the health of their aquarium will not end well at all. You have the give the consumer some responsibility here. If a customer walks into an electronics store and states I am here for that TV, would you not assume he has already researched his purchase?
Also for the record, I doubt there is many retailers who sell anything on the hopes it will die. It is more likely inexperience on the store's part than anything.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Yup, and these questions/precautions are even more important with saltwater fish. The other BCA members would probably be shocked at how often people don't think or research before buying an expensive sw fish. Too many hobbyist have a Naso tang in their 33g to 50g sw tank when these fish grow to around 2' in the wild. Of the hundreds of Naso tangs sold in the Lower Mainland every year, I doubt more than a quarter (if that) go home to tanks at least 6' long.

A few years ago, in Japan, the craze was for keeping live jellyfish in a little jar next to your bed. Yup, they redefined the term "temporary pet" and killed thousands senselessly. A little research on the net would have told them what is required but nope, too much effort.
Anthony,
Although I hear what you are saying regarding a Naso Tang, many will "survive" in a 50 gallon for many years. Yes I agree, a larger aquarium is needed for better health and survival but that fish will also not reach 2' in a 6' aquarium. There are many degrees of what is acceptable and to whom. Last month I had an enquiry regarding a Jellyfish aquarium in an office. I explained what was needed and it was the complete opposite of what three other retailers told them. Which did she believe? Hard to say but it is unlikely the other stores researched this, just assumed what would work. Safe to say that those stores has also no experience in keeping them.
I am familiar with your jar aquarium in Japan but in my opinion the other quotes in my example were just as bad as they would not have worked out either. More hobbyists need to research for themselves bottom line and make their own informed decisions and should look to the store for guidance. After all, how can anyone teach someone everything they need to know in a 10 minute conversation?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Just to let you all know...

When I first started keeping fish, I didn't have any filter or heaters.
1. No heater necessary in India (due to hot climate)
2. I changed 80-100% water change every 2-4 days.
3. Tank was planted.

I kept tropical fish (guppies/mollies/swordfish) and plecos and I often had babies...

My point is that it is really the responsibility of the fish keeper to care for their fish.
Agreed. Although 100% water changes is hard on any fish and a heater maintains temperature which no matter how hot a climate is, the temperature will change.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I think another REALLY good tack if customers are not responding to sensible advice is to politely remind them that fish can feel pain and suffering and therefore as a store you are simply doing your part to ensure the animal has a good home.

Also if they are buying the fish for a kid it may not hurt to stealthily inject the tidbit that causing suffering to an animal for the happiness of their child is not a good way to bring kids up. I mean, a lot of parents buy kids buy their kids pets to teach them responsibility, so stressing that you advocate educating kids about ethical and responsible fishkeeping may be productive.

Just keep doing what you guys are doing and keep setting an example for other pet stores :)
Kelly,
Thanks for the compliments. Although I agree with your first statement, your second I would have to disagree. That one is bordering on criticizing a mother how she is raising her child. I guarantee that would not end with a purchase and a happy face.:) IT would look more like this.:mad:
 

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Discussion Starter #16
The responsibility is shifting more towards the owner though Smiladon. Not completely, but its seen as their job now to ensure pets of any kind make it to a decent home. Responsibility and sustainability seem to be the focus now on store models, those who haven't shifted are falling behind from those who have made the change.

IPU does a great job leading the way, Clearly stating their fish source, write ups about rare fish they're recieving in stock and how their stock differs from the run of the mill. They definitely cover themselves when people like the guy who contacted Rastapus blindly accuse them of being irresponsible. In this age of fish keeping, a store can't afford a bad reputation, theres just too much business to lose and you open yourself up to a couple hippies hanging outside your shop with signs like 'FISH FEEL PAIN TOO!'

Just think Smiladon, in india would a shop keeper open this sort of dialogue over a small complaint?
Thanks again Neven! Your hippy comment reminds me of the customer that was irritated that his 18" Clarias Catfish was worth more than a donation only to return on that freezing winter night and leave it in a bucket in front of one of the stores, frozen and quite dead.
 

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Neven, to tell you the truth, the people who sell fish as well as buy them are not educated towards how everything works. No fish stores sold any sort of filtration until a few years ago.

The only thing they would sell would be an air pump. Thats it!
The fish are so cheap there that customers (usually kids) wont really complain if they die.

As of right now, the best filtration system I've seen in India is a powerhead and most people dont even know how it works.

The majority of customers are either kids or businesses or rich people who want a show tank with an Arowana.

I learned a lot of thing about fishkeeping only after I came to Canada (a decade ago) and I have been preaching a little whenever I see 10 ID sharks in a 29Gallon tank with a small powerhead.
 

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Rastapus, I just wanted to chime in about this, to say that I personally really appreciate IPU's stand on this (and many other) issues. I don't know if this kind of stand earns you or costs you more customers (I suspect the latter), but it sure earns you the respect of many people, including myself. It probably earns you a clear conscience and good nights sleep too! At the end of the day, we all have to make ethical decisions that have consequences on our wallets but also on our conscience, the way we feel about ourselves, and the respect we earn from others.

I totally understand that the particular question you're raising here in this thread is not an easy one and you must be walking a fine line. But to me the very fact that you're thinking hard about these issues and you're willing to take a stand on them, albeit a mitigated one because of the practical constraints, is reason enough to keep giving you my (or some of my) business.

I praise you for your ethical thinking in the way you run your business.
 

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+1 on what he said. I totally agree.

Rastapus, I just wanted to chime in about this, to say that I personally really appreciate IPU's stand on this (and many other) issues. I don't know if this kind of stand earns you or costs you more customers (I suspect the latter), but it sure earns you the respect of many people, including myself. It probably earns you a clear conscience and good nights sleep too! At the end of the day, we all have to make ethical decisions that have consequences on our wallets but also on our conscience, the way we feel about ourselves, and the respect we earn from others.

I totally understand that the particular question you're raising here in this thread is not an easy one and you must be walking a fine line. But to me the very fact that you're thinking hard about these issues and you're willing to take a stand on them, albeit a mitigated one because of the practical constraints, is reason enough to keep giving you my (or some of my) business.

I praise you for your ethical thinking in the way you run your business.
 

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Rastapus, I just wanted to chime in about this, to say that I personally really appreciate IPU's stand on this (and many other) issues. I don't know if this kind of stand earns you or costs you more customers (I suspect the latter), but it sure earns you the respect of many people, including myself. It probably earns you a clear conscience and good nights sleep too! At the end of the day, we all have to make ethical decisions that have consequences on our wallets but also on our conscience, the way we feel about ourselves, and the respect we earn from others.

I totally understand that the particular question you're raising here in this thread is not an easy one and you must be walking a fine line. But to me the very fact that you're thinking hard about these issues and you're willing to take a stand on them, albeit a mitigated one because of the practical constraints, is reason enough to keep giving you my (or some of my) business.

I praise you for your ethical thinking in the way you run your business.
Couldn't have said it any better!
 
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