I was curious to know if anyone here ever buys fish from local fish stores anymore, or do you feel they are too low quality, carrying diseases, etc. If you found an interesting strain or species at an LFS would you consider buying from them?
While one of the LFS's in San Diego is involved with hobbyists and therefore has some non-commercial livebearers, the others do not. The shop that does, has them high priced [price=desireable?] and only a few. It has more commercial trade cichlids, catfish, and other stuff.
I don't buy livebearers from them, and only select fish that I want [catfish, cichlids, anabantids]; and usually their fish are healthy.
The commercial world has never been the best place to get what we want, but it is typically the only game in town.
The store I deal with the most is a wholesaler that has opened up his store to the public. The other store I deal with is a private owned out of the basement of a friends house. I don't usualy deal with box stores unless I need something badly.
The combination of the big box stores and the internet have pretty much killed the old style stores. Big box gets the common fish cheaper, so beginners go there not realizing that they usually get better information at the smaller mom and pop place. This was already a problem when the internet came along; suddenly aquarists could get rare fish without having to go through the LFS, taking away their remaining market. Many people these days also go to the internet for information - not a good idea for novices, as anyone can put anything on the world wide web. I tell everyone to buy a good book first, then you can better figure out who's helping you and who's full of detritus.
Those stores I've seen surviving are becoming general pet stores with products the chains don't carry, and the fishrooms tend to be less than inviting. I still prefer to buy a fish I can see first, but they have to be worth seeing. I will buy fish from a LFS on occasion, but there is only one shop left within an hour's drive that has a fairly decent and clean fishroom. Unfortunately, they are heavy with Rift Lake Cichlids, not so much with the things that interest me.
We have a mom and pop store here that's doing great. I try to support them as much as I can given what little money I have to spend. plus they'll pick up stuff from their wholesaler if you ask them. plus they actually carry decent antibiotics. The trouble is they don't support me by buying or doing store credit for plants, etc and their prices are high even with the 10% discount we get from being a member of our local aquarium club. Most of my stuff typically comes from our aquarium association auctions or trades with friends. Last month I picked up a longfinned male albino bristlenose pleco, plants and some apple snails in trade for some swordtails and fish bags.
Since I've been in the hobby, the trend has gone from few fish from hobbyists at meetings--pre auction years--to clubs getting most of their operating funds from auctions. It turned hobbyists who shared their fish into 'sellers' [though some sharing still goes on] and changed the dynamic of clubs.
With the air shipping and Rift Lake explosion of the '70's, a lot of fish go pushed out of the aquaria and changed the hobby dynamic, and that changed the wholesale picture significantly.
On the other hand, like Chromedome indicated, the Walimarts, Petco, Petsmart, etc. dominated the trade for a while and only had the commercially available species. That dried up the availability of 'cool stuff' that was unusual and that smaller shops would take a chance on with importers/wholesalers, and changed the overall trade. Unfortunately.
And now it is a struggle to survive. It's almost all business now, and the bottom line, and the give-and-take of hobbyist-aquarist-smaller dealers has diminished, tragically. And it forces successful breeders to specialize or do the Aqua-bid/club thing more...an unfortunate decline for the LFS.
The hobby has changed, for better or worse, and lamentable though it is, it will be a challenge for LFS's to go back to being 'friendly' and 'aquarist oriented'. The rarities will continue to do well since they understand the quality and fish that can be had.
That's why the ALA Convention--and other specialty groups--are great places to get fish, or through The Trader. We have an availability to help other specialists, but little opportunity to get the fish exposed to the public. The LFS's lose out because they have gone in another direction--they've had to--and we have to be inventive in our support, and in our ability to access what WE need.
It's all a bottom line issue that hurts us all. Those LFS's that do support the hobby, and the hobbyist, do us a great favor, and hopefully still survive, but the competitive dynamics of business rule the real outcome.
I owned a LFS for years and sold it a couple of years ago.Had a great group of costumers that came in on a weekly basis,some every day.Every Sunday I would leave early in the mourning and go to the fish wholesaler, and bring back 5 or 6 boxes of handpicked fish.Costumers would be waiting for me at the door.At 12:00 depending on how many people were in the store I would buy enough pizza for everyone in the store.Would sell most of the fish before I had time to put them into the tank.Now I have a fishroom with over 1,000 livebearers and around 500 to 600 hundred Angels.
I still frequent my LFS but the one that I use is an hour away and they understand what it takes to bring people in. They have a good selection of fish at reasonable, not cheap, prices. The selection includes fish that I have looked for elsewhere and only seen on the internet or in their store. They also support our local fish club auctions and hand out their 10% discount cards at the auction door. They get the folks who come to our auction partly just to visit their store as customers so it is a win-win situation for them and the club. For me the store is an hour drive but compared to the places in my own town, they are worth the drive. The Petsmarts and Petcos of the world are fine for hardware but I will drive an hour to get good fish. Club auctions have become a much bigger source of supply to me than they once were but that is because even the good LFS often does not have what I am looking for and can't afford to stock it just for me. It is a store that I would be happy to supply with stock but the commonly available fish are not something I would expect them to take off my hands. As you can imagine, I would be insulted if they offered me a dime for one of my fish but they can get that same fish for 15 cents from Singapore so why would they give me more?
If I see nice looking livebearers in LFS I would buy them if they are healthy. I had nice looking platies and swordtails from Walmart, Petco, Petsmart and my lfs in past. And I've seen mollies with nice colors. However most livebearers in LFS aint purebred. Some people I knew bought petstore livebearers and breed them at home to produce more hardy but healthy strains. Home-bred petstore livebearers will never fetch lots of money compared to show/fancy/uncommon strains but still its better than buy a diseased fish from LFS with poor care.
shadowhyrst wrote: Since I've been in the hobby, the trend has gone from few fish from hobbyists at meetings--pre auction years--to clubs getting most of their operating funds from auctions. It turned hobbyists who shared their fish into 'sellers' [though some sharing still goes on] and changed the dynamic of clubs.
I haven't been around very long, and I am not an objective disinterested observer so it is difficult for me to separate out my personal bias, but it appears to me that any hobby left over from the good ol' days is quickly being overrun by commercialization.
I fear that being a good auctioneer is more of an asset to a local club these days than being a good breeder. Not only are clubs getting a large percentage of their operating funds from auctions, but a big part of the auction profits are coming from sellers/wholesalers who are not even members of the local club.
I wasn't involved, but I'm guessing that even in the hay day of the "hobby", LFS owners were not getting rich. I suspect that they were only surviving because they were doing something they enjoyed and as yet there was no "market" to compete with them. I predict that local clubs will fare no better as long as their strategy is to make money from selling fish.
I know this forum isn't where the vast majority of ALA members hang out, but for those of us here I wonder how the ALA is handling this transition? Where do our operating funds come from? Are we still a hobbyist's club or a vehicle for selling something? Do we put ads in the "Trader" to exchange fish or do we put ads on AquaBid to try and make a few bucks? I wonder if we should change the name of the Trader? How about Traitor? or Seller? or Cellar?
Ok. I admit those last few comments crossed over the line of good judgment. But does anyone else share my frustration at the way things are going?