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Common fish in the hobby that aren't beginner-friendly


StephenP2003
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What are some common fish you find at your LFS that beginners probably shouldn't get?  I'm thinking less about the species that get bigger than you think, get aggressive, etc. -- more so, the overbred, high-turnover species (or those inherently fragile) where the deathclock countdown has begun by the time they make it to the LFS, or just those species that have a higher chance of success in an established tank (e.g., neocardina). I've witnessed friends and neighbors giving up the hobby immediately after losing their first purchase of neons, cardinals, fancy guppies, etc.

It's often difficult to figure out what to avoid when a google search gives you a list of common beginner fish -- and often the prevalence of that fish is the very reason you're more likely to get bad stock.

Just from personal (and limited) experience and subsequent conversations with employees at my LFS, the tough ones around here include:

- Line-bred fancy guppies

- Neon tetra

- Cardinal tetra

- Rummynose tetra

- Rams

- Dwarf Gourami

 

What else would you add to the list??

 

Edited by StephenP2003
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17 minutes ago, StephenP2003 said:

What are some common fish you find at your LFS that beginners probably shouldn't get?  I'm thinking less about the species that get bigger than you think, get aggressive, etc. -- more so, the overbred, high-turnover species (or those inherently fragile) where the deathclock countdown has begun by the time they make it to the LFS, or just those species that have a higher chance of success in an established tank (e.g., neocardina). I've witnessed friends and neighbors giving up the hobby immediately after losing their first purchase of neons, cardinals, fancy guppies, etc.

It's often difficult to figure out what to avoid when a google search gives you a list of common beginner fish -- and often the prevalence of that fish is the very reason you're more likely to get bad stock.

Just from personal (and limited) experience and subsequent conversations with employees at my LFS, the tough ones around here include:

- Line-bred fancy guppies

- Neon tetra

- Cardinal tetra

- Rummynose tetra

- Rams

- Dwarf Gourami

 

What else would you add to the list??

 

Stephen,

Nice article of information.  😊

I also feel that part of the dilemma with, perhaps someone's beginners judgement, is they may buy a fish which requires water parameters much different than their home water provides.   Ask me how I know.  😉

 

 

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6 minutes ago, DaveSamsell said:

I also feel that part of the dilemma with, perhaps someone's beginners judgement, is they may buy a fish which requires water parameters much different than their home water provides.   Ask me how I know. 

Absolutely. But at least that part can be remedied somewhat. My LFS has a sign on their guppy tanks that says they like hard water and keep them at around 12 dGH in store (our tap water is 0 dGH). The sign doesn't say "these beautiful guppies over here are probably going to die in 3 weeks so make sure you buy some of the females."

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I feel like a beginner. I haven't kept most fish or grown most plants. I have kept a few kinds of cichlids, and a few kinds of corydoras. The only deep dive I have done was bettas. I've grown a handful of easy to grow plants. My go to plant is hornwort. The hardest thing I ever tried to do was breed Heckel discus and that didn't work. But that is what makes it fun, lots to learn!

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10 minutes ago, Daniel said:

I feel like a beginner. I haven't kept most fish or grown most plants. I have kept a few kinds of cichlids, and a few kinds of corydoras. The only deep dive I have done was bettas. I've grown a handful of easy to grow plants. My go to plant is hornwort. The hardest thing I ever tried to do was breed Heckel discus and that didn't work. But that is what makes it fun, lots to learn!

I know what you mean.  😊 I feel the same way.  What I meant by "beginner" is someone totally new to the hobby, with no experience.  I think I know about 3 % of what's available in fish & plants.  😅. Agreed, learning is part of the fun......

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I am a pollyanna beginner myself.

One thing that I really appreciate in fish store staff is not saying "No, you aren't a good enough aquarist to keep that yet." or "Heck yeah, put that bala shark in a 10g!" but instead "Here is the reality of what it takes to keep that alive." Like, yes, puffers are cool, please be aware that you may have to trim this species teeth.

I think, in my (limited) experience, neon/cardinal/rummynose tetras are harder to keep than I would have expected.

To me it is all about realistic expectations though. Don't say "don't keep them", Say, "here are the meds you will need, expect some potential losses."

If you send someone home with a fancy goldfish, 4 African cichlids, 6 cardinal tetras, a geophagus, an iridescent shark, a bala shark, 3 clown loaches, a single corydora, and an uncycled 55g tank, you are a jerk. That was the actual list of fish my family was sold when I wanted guppies for my 10th birthday.

It did not end well. Ah, the 80s...

 

 

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They are active and pretty and the males do a funny little display dance with startlingly fancy fins that are otherwise folded flat, plus their pectoral fins look like ridiculous little antennae to me. Mostly it is the exotic finnage that makes them look like a "complicated" fish to me. They move like they are stop action somehow, dart, freeze, dart, freeze. 🙂

I think their other name is dwarf rainbow?

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1 hour ago, StephenP2003 said:

What are some common fish you find at your LFS that beginners probably shouldn't get?  I'm thinking less about the species that get bigger than you think, get aggressive, etc. -- more so, the overbred, high-turnover species (or those inherently fragile) where the deathclock countdown has begun by the time they make it to the LFS, or just those species that have a higher chance of success in an established tank (e.g., neocardina). I've witnessed friends and neighbors giving up the hobby immediately after losing their first purchase of neons, cardinals, fancy guppies, etc.

It's often difficult to figure out what to avoid when a google search gives you a list of common beginner fish -- and often the prevalence of that fish is the very reason you're more likely to get bad stock.

Just from personal (and limited) experience and subsequent conversations with employees at my LFS, the tough ones around here include:

- Line-bred fancy guppies

- Neon tetra

- Cardinal tetra

- Rummynose tetra

- Rams

- Dwarf Gourami

 

What else would you add to the list??

 

I think plecos in general, but especially the more carnivorous species of plecos have this problem:
I've seen plenty of ppl who either believe this myth or have been wrongly instructed by fish sellers, where they were told that plecos don't need to be fed and will do perfectly fine by just eating algae and fish poop in the aquarium.

Also bettas. Most beginner fishkeepers beleive a betta is perfectly fine in a >1 gallon bowl or tank without a heat or filtration , and with very few or even no water changes

Edited by gcalberto
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1 minute ago, StephenP2003 said:

What's the usual condition of a betta-in-a-cup when you get it from a big box pet store? I only have one betta, and I got it online -- but assuming one takes home a petsmart/co betta and puts it in the proper environment, do they tend to do ok?

As far as I have seen, they aren't usually in too bad of a shape. But still, that's assuming you take care of them the proper way, which most new people who don't do proper research beforehand don't do.

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27 minutes ago, StephenP2003 said:

What's the usual condition of a betta-in-a-cup when you get it from a big box pet store? I only have one betta, and I got it online -- but assuming one takes home a petsmart/co betta and puts it in the proper environment, do they tend to do ok?

We've been buying these for years.  My son considers it to be a rescue mission.   We bring them home and put them in a 10 gallon..  They seem to last about 2 or 3 years.  In our experience at around the 2 year mark they slow way down and just quietly pass away.  So hopefully we're losing them to old age.  We have two in the house right now and after a few months in our aquariums they are looking gorgeous!  

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  • 4 weeks later...

I was very frustrated when I started diving into guppies. I had just finished my "super beginner" phase and wanted to breed something. Well, guppies are easy, right? Well, those albino red delta tails are really pretty! In sure it will be a breeze! Needless to say it was impossible for me to keep them alive, let alone breed. I tried several times, buying new stock to replace the old. In retrospect of course, there were a lot of things I could be doing better. But as mentioned above, a highly inbred guppy line was not a good place to start.

Edited by Kat_Rigel
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Some that come to mind over here in my city:

  • Koi Carps: They're really popular, but hardly anyone has ponds, they put them in tanks inside that are very small. Same with goldfish.
  • Oscars: They're cute when little, but they can be a real handful. Grow mega fast and are very messy.
  • Rams: Our water here is liquid rock. close to 400ppm general hardness, I learned the hard way this. All the rams I always see in shops are very stressed and pale.
  • Golden Wonder Killifish: They will obliterate your small tetras, so many people learn this the hard way, cause this fish is so pretty and radiant, but it's a mini predator in disguise.
  • Kissing Gourami: They can be reall bullies, people put them with other gouramis here, I've seen it lots of times. Recipe for disaster.
     
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Mbuna cichlids- I often see them in tanks labeled "Assorted African Cichlids" in big box stores and there are many different species together that will often not work out once they get older. They can require some juggling to get the right balance. I have a Convict that was being sold as an Assorted African cichlid, which shows how much thought they put into what they toss in the tank together. 

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I think a big part of it comes down to knowing what water you have and so what species would be easier to work with in your individual case. Most beginners don't hop into the hobby by getting an R/O unit or even getting the tests to test for things like kH and gH or TDS. They're doing good if they even get the API 'master' test kit and that's only pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate. They don't know what sort of water they have, they don't know it matters, and the stores usually do nothing to educate them on that matter. 

I live in an area with liquid rock for water. Guppies? Breed like weeds for me. So fancy guppies are pretty popular with beginners (understandably so!) but they usually do alright in these parts because we have the water for them. 

African cichlids? Well the water parameters are usually workable for them out of the tap, its just the 'assorted african' mix is really misleading to people because they have no idea what they are looking at other than its bright and colorful. Who doesn't love bright and colorful? So they get some of those and inevitably a few months down the road the carnage happens... 

Rams and angels along with most tetras are what deceive many people around here as 'good beginner fish' and they usually aren't. Not around here with liquid rock water. Rams do not like 8.2 pH out of the tap and most people have no idea why their rams keep dieing. Thankfully we have folks around here who have bred angels to be much more hardy to higher pH, but many beginners don't know the difference of getting those angels vs ones sold in the big box stores that are already struggling in the store, soon to fade away when taken home. Were we to live in another area that had soft water? I bet these would do better with new aquarists.

New aquarists who read 'cichlid' on the tag at the store and think 'those all go together!' I have seen so many folks that have bought apistogramma and blue acaras right alongside a bunch of mbuna and plan to put them all in a tank together because 'they're all cichlids and those go together'. And the store does nothing to try and educate them that an African cichlid and a central or south american does not go together.

One of my favorite little LFS actually divides their freshwater fish up into rough types by their placement in the store. They tell people 'everything on the left wall is a friendly community fish. Every fish on the back wall is a semi-aggressive so it COULD go in a community but please ask us first so we can help you. Every fish on the right wall is a mean brat. You've been warned.' They will of course explain and answer any questions someone has, but as you can guess the right wall is african and central american cichlids. Its not perfect but I think it helps group things better for the average beginner aquarist to grasp : stick to the left wall. 

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7 hours ago, HenryC said:

Koi Carps: They're really popular, but hardly anyone has ponds, they put them in tanks inside that are very small. Same with goldfish.

Ugh, at my wife's school where she teaches, the front office has a 55 gallon with 8 koi and a common pleco. The koi keep dying and getting replaced. Some teacher's boyfriend "maintains" the tank. Cloudy green water, no air stone, no plants, 8 koi. Gee I wonder why they don't live long. 

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On 7/29/2020 at 2:45 PM, StephenP2003 said:

What are some common fish you find at your LFS that beginners probably shouldn't get?  I'm thinking less about the species that get bigger than you think, get aggressive, etc. -- more so, the overbred, high-turnover species (or those inherently fragile) where the deathclock countdown has begun by the time they make it to the LFS, or just those species that have a higher chance of success in an established tank (e.g., neocardina). I've witnessed friends and neighbors giving up the hobby immediately after losing their first purchase of neons, cardinals, fancy guppies, etc.

It's often difficult to figure out what to avoid when a google search gives you a list of common beginner fish -- and often the prevalence of that fish is the very reason you're more likely to get bad stock.

Just from personal (and limited) experience and subsequent conversations with employees at my LFS, the tough ones around here include:

- Line-bred fancy guppies

- Neon tetra

- Cardinal tetra

- Rummynose tetra

- Rams

- Dwarf Gourami

 

What else would you add to the list??

 

Cardinal tetras were my second fish and, for me, they seem bullet proof. There are some fish that are more difficult to keep but, in my opinion, we often don't research what fish do best in out specific water parameters. My water is really soft. Guppies hate me, lol. I don't like trying to "fix" my water so the fish will do ok so I look for fish that thrive in my soft water. When I was new to the hobby I just saw a pretty fish at Petco and brought it home. I started buying from other local fish stores and they took the time to educate me when buying new fish. I so appreciate that!

With that said, I've kept fish for years and there are still some I won't attempt even though my water is fine for them. 

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On 7/29/2020 at 5:50 PM, StephenP2003 said:

What's the usual condition of a betta-in-a-cup when you get it from a big box pet store? I only have one betta, and I got it online -- but assuming one takes home a petsmart/co betta and puts it in the proper environment, do they tend to do ok?

I'm like a  betta cop at our local big box pet store. One day I notified the staff there were 4 that looked half dead. She said she would treat them and took them to the back. I hate seeing them like that. Too many of them don't look well. I have bought them over the years and sometimes they do fine and live 2-4 yrs. Other times they live a few days to a week. I decided to quit supporting the way they're kept and bought from a local person. The difference is crazy. From day one he was so much more active, ate right away, was interactive and explored his tank. Yes, he was more expensive but in the long run I spent more trying to doctor unhealthy bettas and then they die I hate it when my wet pets leave me. 

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