Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why Pet Shop Advice is Less Reliable Than the Internet

The novice fish keeper often has no previous experience with caring for fish. A few facts may have been picked up over the years, hearsay that may or may not be true, but that is all the knowledge the novice may have upon walking into a pet store to begin the fish-keeping hobby for the first time. More often than not, the first choice of a fish is one that is easiest to care for and/or requires little expense in comparison to the rest. This typically narrows down the beginner hobbyist’s choice to one of two starting fish species: goldfish and Betta splendens.

Unfortunately, neither species is well represented for their true needs. Both are commonly misunderstood and have a variety of rumors surrounding their care that are endorse by popular culture, word-of-mouth, and inappropriate products pushed onto the consumer. There are many choices for the novice aquarist and when the choices become confusing or overwhelming, who is better to turn to than the friendly pet store employee?

The answer: the internet.

Photo from

It may seem surprising to some but a quick internet search with essential keywords is often more reliable than the knowledge passed along from a pet shop worker. This is because the average pet shop employee typically knows as much as the consumer does. Yes, the employee has gone through training and probably has read a care or two relating to the animals in his or her department. However, the information provided through training by pet shops such as Petco or PetSmart is often based on the incorrect myths of fish keeping in order to sell more products. Petco, for example, cites on its care guide that Betta splendens can thrive in 0.4 gallon (1.51 liters) tank. This is untrue for a variety of reasons. In short, Betta splendens require no less than 1 gallon (3.78 liters) with regular, twice-weekly, water changes.
Why would pet stores purposely provide in correct information to their employees and consumers? To sell more products. More often than not, the novice fish keeper is not willing to pay the true cost of owning a Betta fish. These fish are thought of as cheap, costing no more than $20 with supplies. Even then, many beginners are not willing to pay such an amount of money for what they see as no more than a colorful piece of interactive d├ęcor. And the employee, knowing this and having been trained to take advantage of this, will push the idea that these animals are cheap and do not require a lot of work or dedication. This results in an easier sale. There are more people willing to spend a few dollars on the aquarium hobby than there are people who are willing to spend a lot of money for it. Quick, cheap, sales end up as a larger profit than rare, expensive, sales.

It is not uncommon, as a result, to be told that Betta splendens are more likely to thrive in low water volumes, do not need heaters, and do not need to be fed that often. The beginner fish keeper may not even be told about the necessity of water conditioners or even what the differences between them are. The pet fish industry relies on the selling and reselling of fish species. It is a sad cycle of death and/or pain for the living creatures involved because business is telling consumers that these animals do not need what is required for their care and that they live shorter lives than their actual potentials.

Novice fish keepers would be better off finding reliable sources on the internet. Although correct information is hard to come by in a world full of fish myths, more often than not it is easier to find life-saving information through online communities, forums, and websites. Even better is when information from multiple, non-related, sites begins to match up and when trust worthy sources are cited in claims. Benefits of researching online are greater than the risk of following pet store advice blindly. While some websites are better than others for advice, there is a lot of correct information out there. Many of those websites or official sources are cited on this blog and its Facebook page.

True facts are out there. It may take some time, and some research, but all animals deserve to be cared for in a way that will allow them to thrive. Taking the time to fact-check pet store employees can vastly improve the quality of life for Betta splendens at the least and save their lives at best.