Is Pet Store Advice Good or Bad?

Updated on:

** This post contains affiliate links and we will be compensated if you buy after clicking on our links.

In this post I would like to explain when you can and cannot follow advice given by your local Pet Store workers. Is Pet Store advice good or bad?

People would like to think that workers at Pet Stores are experts and when you walk in and are unsure about a purchase then the advice given should be correct and accurate.

However, this is can be far from the truth.

In fact, this is one of the biggest problems facing new fish keepers every day and it is something I have personally experienced many times.

So, if you want to really know the answer to this question, you will love this candid and honest post.

Please note that this is based purely on what I have experienced and is my own opinion.

You are welcome to disagree.


General Pet Store

The Pet Store Worker

It is unfair to paint every worker with the same brush but it is also really difficult not to as most time pet store advice is totally wrong.

I am not blaming the worker for bad advice that is given. They probably sincerely believe what they say is true.

I do believe that a lot of workers really have a deep love for animals and give their best advice when asked.

But the reality is that they cannot be experts about every animal or fish in the store. 

They could personally own a parrot and have a good understanding on how to look after and care for their bird but does that mean that they know about cycling your tank and how this affects the life of your fish?

Ask that person anything about parrot care and you will in all likelihood get excellent advice but will they be able to tell you that it is not a good idea to buy a tank and fish on the same day?

The sad truth is pet store workers really aren’t required to have any special animal knowledge to work there.

 At the end of the day the store is looking for a sales person with some knowledge of animals.

The store will give basic training on caring for various pets but it is a business and as such they need to make money.

They cannot fully train every person that works there. It is just impossible.

A good worker will do their own research and try to make sure they give good advice but sadly a lot of them won’t as for them it is only a job and a way to make money.

There are a few steps you can take and evaluations you can make as to whether the Pet Store is decent or not. 

This will only reduce the risk of bad advice and will not eliminate it.

Girl buying goldfish

How to Evaluate a Pet Store

  • Is the store clean?
  • Does the store smell bad?
  • Is the staff friendly and presentable?
  • Are there dead fish in the tanks or is there visible disease?
  • Are the cages for small animals clean or is the bedding full of muck?
  • Is there food and water for the animals and birds
  • Are the animals crammed into cages or do they have lots of space to run around in
  • Do the animals look healthy or can you visibly see that they are sick
  • Are the animals and birds well fed or are they skinny

If the questions above raise any concerns then turn around and walk away.

If there is blatant animal suffering then report the store to the nearest animal rescue or organisation. (Try and take some photos to show them)

If the Pet Store Seems Okay

  • Walk around and ‘browse’ so that you can observe
  • Try to listen in on worker and other customer conversations
  • Is the worker trying to be helpful or are they pushing for a sale?
  • With your limited knowledge, can you tell if the information given is correct or not
  • Once the worker is with you, purposely ask a question that you know the answer to and see what there reply is – eg. Can I have more than one male betta fish in the same tank? If they answer is yes then you know that their advice is not to be trusted.
  • Have your phone on and double check answers – Google is your friend.
  • Take your time and do not be pushed into buying anything.If in doubt, do not buy.
Flowerhorn Fish

My Own Experiences With Pet Store Advice

It can be very hit and miss when you deal with a general Pet Store.

Unfortunately, my experiences have not been very good.

I have seen a customer walk out with a tiny bowl and two goldfish in a bag. I know that it will not end well for those fish.

The Pet Store wins because the customer will be back to buy more. Never mind the heartache involved when the poor fish die.

This is sad but a very real reality.

Then on numerous occasions I have heard workers recommending fish that can go in the same tank together.

For example, Tiger Barbs with Angelfish. The Tiger Barbs will kill the poor Angelfish.

The best one is,  ‘The fish will only grow to the size of the tank’.

The worst advice ever. So, they sell the customer a Redtail Catfish.

In the store they are small and cute but they can reach lengths of 4 – 6 feet and are very fast growers.

Redtail Catfish

Do Your Own Research First

It is extremely tempting to just walk in and buy fish that look pretty and the sheer volume and choice of fish can be very overwhelming.

The same goes for tanks and equipment.

You need to first do your own research and decide what type and size fish tank that you want to own.

This will determine which fish you will want to buy.

Research will also help you to not make the wrong decision or to be pressurized into buying the wrong fish or equipment because of incorrect pet store advice.

Where Else Can You Buy From?

You are not just limited to Pet Shops. There are numerous other avenues where you can get advice and buy equipment and fish.

Here are some alternative options.

Buy From a Dedicated Aquatic Fish Store

A general Pet Store has anything from snake food to canaries. The workers there cannot be experts with every animal and fish in the store.

A dedicated Fish Store will concentrate solely on fish keeping. They are specialized and will have a far greater expanse of knowledge that you can benefit from.

That is not to say that every time there advice will be correct but it does drastically reduce the risk of incorrect information.

They will also have a wider range of tanks, equipment and fish.

Specialized fish store

Buying Online

The internet has made it so easy to buy online and with COVID being a reality, it has become a necessity.

I buy a lot of stuff online. It has become the norm for me.

I feel safer staying away from shops where there are lots of people and I prefer to stay at home.

This means that I had to change the way I pursue my fish keeping hobby.

Most items can be bought online and there are even online live fish stores.

The important point to keep in mind is that research will be even more important when you buy online.

You have to know exactly what you want.

My two favorite online stores is of course Amazon and Chewy.

Join Some Fish Keeping Forums

Here you will find people that are just as passionate about fish keeping as you are.

Spend a few days and read the most popular posts.

If you have a question, first do a search and see if someone else has asked the same question.

If not, then post your question in the forum. You will hopefully get some good advice from fellow fish keepers.

Most forums also have a classified section where the members sell and buy equipment and livestock.

Here is a good example of a popular fish keeping forum:

Platy fish

Join Facebook Groups

Open Facebook and do a search for Fish Keeping groups.

There will be many to choose from and a lot of them have thousands of members.

You can also find specialized groups for specific fish like guppies, betta fish and goldfish and even for just freshwater or saltwater tanks.

Members of these groups have a wealth of knowledge that you can benefit from.

Conclusion About Pet Store Advice

Fish keeping is an amazing and exciting hobby and the last thing I want is for you to quit because of bad advice.

You are going to have a mountain of questions when you first start out so you need to choose who you listen to very carefully.

You are welcome to reach out to me.

I will gladly help and if I do not know the answer then I will be honest with you.

You can get hold of me at

Next Step

You can now proceed to the next step of deciding which type of fish tank you would like to set up.

Photo of author


Irma Bense is the founder of She has over 42 years of experience in keeping fish.She has kept both freshwater and saltwater fish through the years.She has extensive knowledge in breeding numerous species of fish from Show Guppies, Cory Catfish, German Blue Rams to Apistogrammas.You can learn more about Irma on the 'About' page.

Leave a Comment