Caribbean Chris and I get lots of excellent, thought-provoking questions from Saltwater Smarts visitors that we believe might be of general interest to other salties out there. So we thought it would be worthwhile to begin posting some of them here in Q&A format.
I was visiting an LFS in another part of the country while on a business trip. The store is highly rated on various social media sites, and I was impressed by the diversity and apparent health of the livestock in the first 10 or so display tanks that I viewed. Then, in the course of viewing the next 10 tanks, I saw three tanks that had at least one livestock specimen dead or clearly diseased in the tank (with other, apparently healthy livestock still in the tank). As a newbie, should this be a huge red flag for me that a store like this is not a great source of healthy fish?” – submitted by Robert Bruce
Thanks so much for your question, Robert. I think the situation you observed may be a red flag, which is why I list “healthy livestock” among my “Eight Traits of a Good LFS.” As I see it, the apparent health/physical condition of specimens offered for sale says a lot about a dealer’s level of concern not only for the well-being of the livestock, but also for customers’ future success.
The biggest concern is, of course, whether the specimens died or are dying from an infectious disease rather than due to improper acclimation or some other non-contagious cause. If that’s the case and the store’s tanks are all on a centralized filtration system, you have to assume all the specimens being offered—including those seemingly in good health—have been exposed and may succumb later on (i.e., while in your care).
I always find it baffling that some dealers leave deceased specimens in their sales tanks when doing so sends such a powerfully bad message—sort of like a deli leaving spoiled luncheon meat that’s turned off color in their display case. After all, it’s neither difficult nor particularly time consuming to give the sales tanks a visual “once over” a few times throughout the day and net out any dead specimens that might be discovered.
Now, that being said, I think it’s also important to understand that your experience with that particular LFS could have been a “one-off.” Even the best LFS has bad days or occasionally employs staffers who are less conscientious than others when it comes to livestock care protocols and/or simply maintaining good front-of-house presentation. Also, you have to keep in mind that when stores get really busy, the staff can get so preoccupied helping customers that other chores get neglected. It’s not ideal, but it’s a reality.
So I like to think in terms of broader trends when choosing where to shop. Admittedly, this would have been difficult to assess in the travel situation you describe, but if an LFS generally offers healthy livestock, dispenses good advice, and tries to employ conscientious staffers, the odd misstep won’t necessarily dissuade me from spending there. On the other hand, if general indifference seems to be the store’s modus operandi, then I’m apt to “vote with my feet” and shop elsewhere.