What to look for when buying a fish

Adding a new fish to your aquarium can be very exciting. It’s extremely easy to impulse-buy a fish when you go to your local aquarium store and see the beautifully decorated display aquariums and rows upon rows of beautiful fish. Before making any decision, it’s important to get all the information about your potential new pet, otherwise you could risk the health and harmony of your tank.

The right information

Make sure you find out everything you need to know about the fish you intend to buy. You can either research the species online, or ask an experienced staff member at the store. Always double-check everything the shop keeper tells you – they deal with a lot of different species and can’t know everything about all of them.

Important things to consider are:

Diet; can this fish live on the food you regularly feed your other fish, or will you need to purchase different food?

Schooling requirements; can this fish live on its own, or does it need to be kept as a school of fish?

Compatibility; will your existing fish attack it? It’s important to ensure all your fish have the same aggression level. Furthermore, can this new fish tolerate the pH and temperature of your fish tank?

Healthy fish

Avoid purchasing fish that are slow and lethargic, or appear to be resting at the top or bottom of the tank. If there are several sickly looking fish in a tank, don’t buy any fish from that tank or any connected tanks. Fish tanks that have been medicated (discernible by coloured water) should be avoided under the assumption that all contained fish are sick.

Clean tanks

Dirty or algae infested water is a sign of poor maintenance practices, which means disease is likely to be present.

Refusing to buy fish that are poorly looked after also serves a secondary function; it punishes shop keepers who don’t care about the welfare of their fish. If enough people don’t do business with the bad actors of the industry, they will eventually be driven out of business.

The best price

Don’t be afraid to shop around. Chances are you’ll be able to find a store or breeder offering the same fish at a much lower cost. Stores, of course, have much higher overhead costs that will factor into their pricing.


The best advice I can give you is to think through each purchase carefully. If something about the fish doesn’t feel right, don’t buy it. There will always be another pet store stocking the same species.

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