What to look for when buying an Aquarium fish? By Lev Ingman
When you are buying a fish the first thing you need to do is find a store that specializes in selling tropical fish. DO NOT GO TO A LARGE CHAIN STORE that sells salt-water fish and tons of other products for various animals because they rarely have the staff experience necessary to teach you how to do things the right way.
Once you have located a fish store that you feel comfortable with, do some research on your own and test them. See if they are trying to sell you just anything, or if they are really being honest. Ask them about putting a puffer in a reef tank or a large african cichlid in a community fish tank, and if they tell you that it is ok, then you know that they are just trying to sell you something.
Once you have found a credible fish store that is not going to B.S. you, do some more research on what kind of fish you want to put into your tank. When you finally find the fish that you are looking for, the real scrutiny can begin.
Look at the other fish in the same tank. Look at the fish that are in the tanks next to that tank. Often times tanks are linked together in the same system and infections can spread quickly. Make sure that none of the fish have ick(white spots on the fins), pop-eye(eye balls that are distended), slimy substances coming off of them, have any signs of cloudy eyes, or are showing any signs of scratching(the fish will dive toward the sand or a rock usually to scratch a parasite off of its body), or have any red open sores. All of these issues are signs infection. Even if your fish does not show any of these signs, they may still be infected by the fish around them or even by fish in another tank that is connected to their tank.
It is easier to buy a 100% healthy fish than it is to deal with a fish that is sick, so take all the precautions you can. If the other fish in the vicinity of your fish are not showing any of these signs(and your fish is obviously also not showing any of these signs) then there are a few other things that you should look at. Make sure that when you point at the fish, or tap on the viewing surface in front of him, the fish reacts (usually by swimming away). Make sure that you look at both of its eyes at several different angles, and there are no opaque oval shaped parasites on the eyes and the eyes are not cloudy. Make sure that the fins are round and are not unnaturally tattered. Finally, make sure that the fish eats. Do not ever buy a fish until you ask to see it eat. If the store refuses to feed the fish for you, then go to a different store.
There is one final thing you must consider when you buy a fish. A fish from one place is not necessarily the same quality as the same species of fish from another place. Quality matters, so do not judge a fish store as being expensive just because its fish are more expensive than the what you purchased at PETCO because these fish have different qualities and values. Usually if a deal seems to good to be true, then it probably is to good to be true. Find a store that you can trust and spend the extra few bucks, because in this hobby if you try and pinch every penny and don’t see the bigger picture, you will spend more money learning the hard way.