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5 Green Flags for Buying Fish


Okay, your fish shop passed the test in the first section.

Now for the fun part. Let’s go fish shopping!

But you are not out of the woods yet… Stay tuned to see what you should look for when purchasing fish.


#1 Fish look and act healthy



This one requires research on your desired species and the following points are based on general guidelines. 

Most fish should look full, but not bloated. The eyes should be clear and not appear to be bulging out like a telescope goldfish (potential popeye infection), and avoid any fish that look like a pinecone (potential dropsy). 

They should be active, but take into account individual factors like how a nocturnal species might hide while the lights are on, conversely an active species should not be hiding during the day. 

We want to see colors that are bright and not pale or faded. I should emphasize again that coloration, behavior and size may vary based on sex, age and species. 

The set up and stocking of the display tank may also play a factor (for instance, a shoaling fish may be hide if it is the only one in the tank).


#2 No obvious signs of stress



Fish can become easily stressed which may lead to a variety of health concerns and even death. 

But be aware of fish glass surfing (this is not as fun or as cool as it sounds), not eating (if you are lucky enough to be there during feeding time), and clamped fins or tails. 

It is safe to assume that the fish will be somewhat stressed while in a holding tank in the store. 

I mean think about it, they have long travels before arriving at the fish shop, super bright lights on for 14 hours a day, and tons of foot traffic to spook them. 

So minor signs of stress may be okay, but stay clear of a fish that looks significantly stressed.


#3 Fins that look full



Speaking of fins and tails, they should look full and should not be torn, ripped, or rotted looking. 

These can be signs of infections or other health ailments which can often stem from poor water conditions.

 Would I suggest that you avoid an otherwise healthy fish with a bite mark in his tail who lives with another aggressive species? 

Not necessarily! However my answer would depend on your knowledge and experience of rehabilitating fish and the severity of the wound. 


#4 No signs of Ich

 See that grains-of-salt dusting?

The dreaded white spot disease! (be warned that there are other diseases that may have the same or similar appearance as ich that may require a different treatment)

Most of us fishkeepers have dealt with ich at some point in this hobby. And truth be told, it is not as scary as we make it out to be when handled properly and addressed quickly. 

However, If ANY fish in the tank looks like they have been sprinkled with salt or sugar, then it is in your best interest to just walk away and refrain from buying any fish from this tank. 

This coincides with the first point in the beginning of my last article pertaining to red flags. I do not particularly find it concerning if your fish shop has one or a few tanks with itch and they respond appropriately (not selling fish from these tanks). 

In this event, you can probably wait until they are back up for sale and all of the fish appear healthy again.


#5 Length of time in the store



I’ll admit that this one is kind of outside of the box. 

I also find it to be an under utilized method. I'm no stranger to being quirky and will ask when the fish was delivered to the shop. I prefer to buy fish that have been at the fish shop for a week or so.

It should be enough time for them to color back up after the stress of shipping, enough time for the fish to develop symptoms of any illnesses, and enough time for most fish who will not survive to die off and be removed from the tank. 


In conclusion, purchasing aquarium fish can be an exciting and rewarding experience.

By keeping an eye out for these FIVE GREEN FLAGS, you can ensure that you are making a responsible and informed decision when it comes to selecting your new aquatic pets.

Remember to consider the fish's needs and compatibility with your existing tank inhabitants, and always choose a reputable seller.

With these factors in mind, you can create a thriving and beautiful underwater ecosystem that will bring joy and wonder to your home for years to come.

So, what are you waiting for? Dive in and start exploring the world of aquarium fish today!

Feel free to share this article and let me know what your thoughts are in the comments below!

- Michael Z.

Check out that first article: FIVE RED FLAGS When Going Fish Shopping

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