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Old 11-24-2012, 04:47 PM   #1
Maine_Fish
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Default Petco Employee: "Don't worry about pH."

While at a local Petco today, I observed as a gentleman purchased a few Bala Sharks. He told the employee waiting on him that his previous attempt at keeping Bala Sharks resulted in dead fish...and that he wanted to try it again. The customer mentioned that his pH was low. The employee promptly told the man "Don't worry about pH, what you really need to watch is your ammonia."

I was so tempted to interrupt and ask how low his pH was and how he checked it--which should have been the employee's response, in my opinion.

Bala Sharks are tough fish that can probably withstand a wide pH range. Perhaps it wasn't the pH that resulted in their death. But, I was baffled by the thought of a customer basically being told that pH was not really important.

I see this kind of stuff all the time.

I once watched (at another Petco) as an excited family spent hundreds of dollars on their first tank...a full 55 gallon setup. Before leaving the store, the salesperson that sold them the setup also sold them several bags of fish to put in the tank when they got home. No cycling. Just throw them in there. I have little doubt that most of those fish met an untimely death.

At another store, a young couple came in looking for fish to put in a 5 gallon tank for their daughter. They decided to purchase a bunch of comet goldfish. Not only did the employee waiting on them encourage the comet purchase, but when asked about filtration told the couple that "goldfish don't need filters...just change the water every couple weeks." Prediction: those fish will die.

I'm just curious...have you ever intervened when you saw somebody getting bad fish keeping advice? Any stories you can share?
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Old 11-24-2012, 07:12 PM   #2
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No stories to share that I can remember. But a pH drop doesn't kill fish as fast as an ammonia or nitrite spike will. Although a drastic pH drop could send the fish into shock and therefore they die from the shock.

Goldfish for a 5 gallon tank is definitely not a good thing at all. They will definitely outgrow that tank really quick. They will become stunted.

That employee needs to reevaluate his knowledge about fish. An uncycled tank will kill many fish. Many fish need an established tank in order to not get sick and die. Clown loaches need an established tank in order to thrive.
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Old 11-24-2012, 07:38 PM   #3
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HEY !!!!! watch it there ; i am a Petco employee...lol
actually i just started yesterday.....amazed at how much emphasis is put on routines that just aren't practical.....and at how little some of the "Aquatic Specialists" actually know about fishkeeping...kind of sad...
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Old 11-24-2012, 08:37 PM   #4
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lohachata: I don't think that Maine_Fish was just referring to some Petco employees. Some petco and petsmart employees truly don't know about fish and their care. I am really sure that you know your stuff loha, because you are knowledgeable with fish and their care.
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Old 11-24-2012, 08:47 PM   #5
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so I guess this is a bad time to mention that we don't monitor our pH?
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Old 11-24-2012, 10:02 PM   #6
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I don't think it's always Petco or Petsmart in general. I've seen it happen in Walmart and other stores as well. There are some good Petco/Petsmart with staff knowledgeable to fishkeeping.
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Old 11-24-2012, 10:32 PM   #7
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OMG Loha- you got a job in a mainstream place. (If you are indeed not kidding). You can imagine where my mind has gone with that information
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Old 11-24-2012, 11:16 PM   #8
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Actually, I'm with the first guy. We get newbs on here all the time that are testing pH hourly and putting in drops of pH UP & down. They assume its important because the stuff came in there tank kit and a sign in the store said "community fish pH 7". They also feed the fish every hour when they do the pH test. The pH test reads "yellow" which can be anything from 0 to 6.5. The real reason it was in the kit because it was cheap and no one was buying them. The fish die of ammonia poisoning within the week and the buyer assumes it was pH.

Yes, pH matters but you need to get a new tank owner laser-focused on ammonia and latter nitrite. Distractions lead to dead fish

The second case is just profiteering. The store knows if you leave, you may go somewhere else. They want to get all your money upfront before you either discover online supplier and fish clubs or kill off you fish and put the tank in the storage unit. They give a little packet of bacteria and hope for the best. After the first fish dies, this is where we get most of our new members as smart people decide to ask for help. Many stores will punish or fire employees who try to avoid selling fish right away.

The third case is just ignorance. This is the way the seller had fish as a kid and he never bothered to learn anything about fish even though giving advice is part of his job. This is the quality of minimum wage labor. Yes, there are people even in the worst places who know and care about fish, but they leaned on there own and weren't trained by the chain.

I just stay mostly out of stores except for the few that have my fish club friends working there.

I would like to see a culture of responsibility take hold. You can't legislate decent care, you get stupid laws like you can't sell fish to a 14 year-old or you can't buy a bowl or a tank with a clear bottom. Nothing that would actually help fish.
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Old 11-25-2012, 06:38 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by emc7 View Post
Actually, I'm with the first guy. We get newbs on here all the time that are testing pH hourly and putting in drops of pH UP & down. They assume its important because the stuff came in there tank kit and a sign in the store said "community fish pH 7". They also feed the fish every hour when they do the pH test. The pH test reads "yellow" which can be anything from 0 to 6.5. The real reason it was in the kit because it was cheap and no one was buying them. The fish die of ammonia poisoning within the week and the buyer assumes it was pH.

Yes, pH matters but you need to get a new tank owner laser-focused on ammonia and latter nitrite. Distractions lead to dead fish
I know what you are saying, and I basically agree with you. The pursuit of "perfect pH" with chemicals is often disastrous. I'm a firm believer that stable pH is just as important--if not more important--as ideal pH.

My only point is that, in my opinion, a competent employee would have asked a couple follow-up questions when the customer stated his pH was low. What is low? Was the customer simply aiming for a pH of 7 and testing at 6.8? Or was the pH actually low enough to cause harm?

Perhaps I'm a little sensitive about this subject because I had a bad experience with low pH. Almost a year ago (definitely still in the "amateur" stage at that point), I set up a 220 gallon tank at work. I added some sand and filter media from established tanks to help with cycling. I ran a panel of tests, and my pH was about 7.2...I decided that was fine and left it alone. A few days later, I started adding fish...mostly tetras, barbs, etc. Over a period of a couple months, I tried adding fish multiple times. Each time, they were dead the next morning. I decided to try something more hardy...a few medium sized South American cichlids that somebody gave me. About an hour after putting them in the tank, I noticed a milky white film over their entire body. I decided to test my pH again...it had dropped very low (around 5). I believe the fish were dying from some kind of pH shock and/or burn. I raised the pH by adding a bag of crushed coral to one of the filters, and gradually adding small amounts of baking soda. The tank has been fine for quite some time now.

I also agree that most newbie's problems are related to ammonia, nitrite, etc. However, based on personal experience (which is ultimately how most of us approach fish keeping), I would not dismiss a claim of "low pH" from somebody whose fish were dying. It might not be the most likely cause of trouble...but it is a possible cause. Just my 2 cents.

And for the record, I've met some very competent fish hobbyists at local big box pet stores. I just think it's a shame that these stores don't do more to educate their employees. I know one guy who doesn't hesitate to intervene when he witnesses a customer getting bad advice in one of these stores...he's got some interesting stories to tell.
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Old 11-25-2012, 08:45 AM   #10
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I'm going to run for Governor of Alabama starting next year.
If I win, believe me, I will find a way to put a stop to some of this. I'm thinking about a certification test that must be taken and passed before anyone can open a petshop or renew it's business license.
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Old 11-25-2012, 08:59 AM   #11
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I've killed fish with low pH, too. But not until I moved here where the water is soft. In many places its a non-issue. But you are right a few more questions would have helped. People are known to plop fish into straight RO or DI water.
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Old 11-25-2012, 10:04 AM   #12
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With the Ph issue I would want an answer for one main reason- Does the customer need to drip acclimate. I think this is always a good idea, but if the Ph in the store is close enough to the Ph at home then there would't be a problem. But if your store's Ph is 6.8 and your homes Ph is 8.0 (had this happen at my place) then the shock will be an issue and likely cause the death.
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Old 11-25-2012, 02:11 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by TheOldSalt View Post
I'm going to run for Governor of Alabama starting next year.
If I win, believe me, I will find a way to put a stop to some of this. I'm thinking about a certification test that must be taken and passed before anyone can open a petshop or renew it's business license.
If the petshop doesn't pass the test, are you going to have all of the employees lose their jobs which of course will damage the economy? How much will it cost them to take the test? It's going to cost a lot of money, damage the economy, and hurt businesses. I don't think that's your plan for Alabama, but you deserve a heads up. It looks good on paper, but won't be good in real life. Just like socialism and communism. It's good that you want to save fish though...

I personally have seen people getting 1/2 gallon betta bowls with no heaters which is a bad idea unless you keep your house at a minimum of 78 degrees F.

This person at petsmart told me that all male bettas have long fins and all female bettas have short fins. I felt like bursting out in laughter.

I got told by a petsmart employee that bettas can stay in those little teeny jars for their whole lives. I extremely doubt that that person knew anything about bettas.

On the other hand, I learned a lot of stuff from a petco employee. We would call him up and ask him questions. He was very knowledgeable. There was also a petsmart employee who successfully kept 10 gallon reef tanks. From what I've heard, that's tricky.

Both petco and petsmart have knowledgeable employees and employees that know nothing. The majority of them are don't know a thing. Both of them do weekly water changes on their betta when daily water changes are barely adequate. Petco overfeeds, petsmart feeds the right amount. I pray that neither of them go out of business. They employ thousands of people and without them, a lot of people, including lohachata would be unemployed. In my opinion, they're a mixed blessing.
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Old 11-25-2012, 02:26 PM   #14
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Its possible that a week of training for new hires would actually help the stores make money by keeping new fish-keepers from getting disgusted and leaving the hobby so quickly.

I don't know about the chain stores being a good thing. A lot of small LFS went under when they came in. A lot of fish get killed a lot of tanks get thrown away. Fish are equip are certainly cheaper now. Or rather a cichlid costs the same $6 and a heater costs the same $25 as 30 years ago. But the cichlid now comes from Hungary and heater cooks the fish. I think people would at least try to take better care of fish if animals costs more.

Low wage workers collect food-stamps and medicaid whereas the places they replaced paid a living wage. Totally "free" enterprise is clearly best for shareholders, but whether it is best for everyone is debatable.

I would vote for TOS, but I don't want to live in Alabama.

Last edited by emc7; 11-25-2012 at 02:31 PM.
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Old 11-25-2012, 04:43 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by TheOldSalt View Post
I'm going to run for Governor of Alabama starting next year.
If I win, believe me, I will find a way to put a stop to some of this. I'm thinking about a certification test that must be taken and passed before anyone can open a petshop or renew it's business license.
Governor?! Why not for President in 2016? Go big or go home! LOL!
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