I tend to travel a lot and I’ve also moved quite a bit. In every town I called home, I’ve had my favorite local fish store (LFS) and I tended to be loyal to my favorites. Whenever travelling abroad, I always seek out the reef stores. It’s interesting to compare the retail side of things between various cultures. Based on my experiences, I’ve come to notice certain elements separate great stores from average ones. Allow me to outline some of the criteria that make a LFS a favorite.
- This hobby is always changing. Trends come and go, but it’s nice to see a store that keeps up with these trends. It’s nice to walk into a store just miles from your house and see biopellets on the shelf and a nice orange hammer coral in the LPS section. It shows that the employees and owners are excited by the same trends and developments as the hobbyist.
- Seating! With a wife and baby, my LFS jaunts are usually mixed in with other errands like picking up diapers at Costco. If my wife can sit down on a couch in front of a nice display tank, she’s usually content to let me peruse the corals and fish a little longer.
- Provide livestock for all tank sizes and interests. For example, the nano-reef has made a major impact on this hobby. Nano-reefs have lowered the financial barrier of entry on this expensive hobby. This is particularly true for younger reef hobbyists. LFS ought to carry a greater variety of smaller fish. Clownfish and Grammas are great and all, but let’s see some unique gobies and such. It’s also good to walk into a store and see a rarity of some sort. Keep it interesting for the hobbyist who has seen everything.
- Quarantine and condition fish prior to sale, keeping them in a hyposaline holding system as well as providing the arrival dates on fish for sale. Every hobbyist should quarantine their fish, but seeing that a particular angel arrived three weeks ago and is eating well is nice information to have.
- Rare fish that are conditioned well is a great thing but the whole magic is lost if the store is dirty, cluttered and humid. Walking into a clean store is a breath of fresh air — literally! Look, there is always something charming about the dingy reef store with the grumpy kid behind the register. But a clean store and good customer service will always attract a wider demographic.
- Carry a variety of drygoods. It may seem silly to have four different brands of carbon for sale but hobbyists are quirky and loyal to brands. It’s nice to walk inside a store, and know that the brand you like is available. And hey, while you’re there you may pick up a coral that you wouldn’t have if they didn’t carry the brands you like.
- Focus on captive bred and grown. There are so many avenues for aquacultured and maricultured acropora that most of the demand for SPS corals can be met through sustainable means.
These are things I’ve learned to appreciate when executed properly. In my next post, I’ll highlight a store in my area that exemplifies the perfect reef store for my needs. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from our readers. What do you look for in a LFS?