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I want to know about your FANTASIES (for fish stores)


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Yes, well - a little - but believe me, while it's general discussion - it's all TERRIBLY relevant.

So here's a hypothetical that either is or is not true (I will deny everything) still obscure? yes, get to the point please. OKAY

So say, for example - that you were helping with the renovation of a fish store... you know, the ones we go into and drool over EVERYTHING.. then end up spending WAY too much money...

The back half of the shop with the stock fish and the plants are all sorted - they're really healthy and look great - tanks are good....

But the bit that needs your guidance/help/suggestions/advice is the entrance, display tanks (tropical and fresh water only) products, food, all that guff

Can you answer any of this?

* What do you want from your LFS? (advice/priduct/stock/entertainment/education/community?)

* How would you suggest you improve your EXISTING LFS, ignoring staff... what do you want to see more of / less of ?

* Where should everything be - do you want to help yourself? look at packaging, compare products, or are you more likely to ask questions/advice?

* Would you want to see every product in the store demonstrated somehow?

* Why do you like your LFS? Why do you go back to the ones you are loyal to?

* What are some fantasy suggestions for your LFS, like an interactive App. that updates what's new - shows you quick-glance fish needs etc?


Oh, and quickly would be ace - I may or may not be walking through the space with floorplans on Saturday morning


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If they want to make an impression on customers then having a display tank near the front entrance or a highly visible spot in the shop is always a good thing to have in my opinion. It is a very relaxing feeling walking in and seeing a big display tank on show.

Thats pretty much the only advice I can give on setting up floor space as it does not matter how good the floor space is set up if the customer service is not there then I would not be going back. One of the best shops I go to has the worst set up floor space wise as it is in a narrow shop so space is limited but the service and knowledge I get from them there makes me go back.

Just today I was in a "pet store" that has a good floor plan but only one person working there had knowledge of fish who's time was taken up by another customer. So I asked the 2 other employee's if they could help and I was told I needed to speak to the fish guy as they did not know about the fish.

Oh another thing I can tell you is not to have the fish food and fish products as soon as you walk in the door as one of the stores I go to has it set up like that and it just looks unsightly, especially when you have customers moving products around and taking them off the shelves all the time.

Hope that helps.

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I tend to like niche-market fish that not every store stocks. Therefore, I frequent stores that can either order these fish in for me from wholesalers list, or stock these types of fish on a semi-regular basis. I don't bother going to stores that just stock the generic guppies/goldfish/tetras. I want something out of the ordinary, and have no problems paying for it if the store is willing to go that extra mile.

Layout wise, I am not too fussed. As long as I can clearly see the livestock in each tank, and easily access dry goods, I don't care how the store is set out. It could be a dank dark cave for all I care just as long as the staff is friendly and they stock what I want *lol*

I do like to be able to handle the dry goods, as some stores put their products behind the counter and it is a pain having to ask them to get them down. Being a slightly shy person, I tend to like to browse by myself and not have to be continually bombarding staff with requests when they could be helping someone else.

I want to see at least one or two display tanks. More is better, as I generally like to have a gander at the different products in use, as well as possibly use them as a source of inspiration for my own tanks back home. I prefer though, that if a tank is going to be used in display that everything within it, should be available for sale somewhere else in store. I get so disheartened when I see a tank full of something (fish/plants) I am really after only to find out that they are not something the store even sells.

I only really have one actual store and one store I order through online that I frequent. I spend a lot on my fish over the course of a year, and I feel these two stores reward me for that. The staff at both of these stores are always willing to go that extra mile for me, and I reciprocate this by remaining a loyal customer. Some stores seem to forget that it is their regulars who are their bread and butter, not the people who spend big on one trip and don't come back.

I also want a store that can get lots of great hardscape material in and I don't have to pay an arm and a leg for it. I am sick to death of stores supplying the same exact thing in regards to hardscape materials and plants.

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Agree with Ash about the hardscape stuff. Variety and low prices. It's impossible to get something good without blowing half your budget.

I'm also pretty shy, so I like to browse by myself and only ask when I can't find what I'm looking for. But when I do ask I prefer happy, cheery staff members that won't make me feel like an inconvenience asking them. Also people with lots of knowledge so I can get an answer to any question that I might come up with.

I see this far too often in pet stores. Some that have dead fish is so off putting! It's like seriously, why wouldn't you go through in the morning and take them out! That is a big no for me as anything in the same tank or system is off my choices for purchase.

I like to see some of the best things from the shop in a display tank- nice combination of fish, plants, accessories etc. all out together as an inspiration and something really eye catching but like Ash said, they have to have it or be able to order it cause otherwise it like dangling infront of me- I love it, but I can't get it. Frustrating! Probably 2 maybe 3 tanks depending on store size.

As long as all of one thing are in the same area, then I'm happy. Like all the medications at the one spot, not some here and some there. The same for all the other dry things.

A bit of walking space too, so it's not really cramped so that you have to almost hit a shelf to make way for someone coming the other way.

The reason I keep going to my LFS is that they're always really happy. I always feel welcome when I go there, they know me by name and always ask how I am- little things like that. But not said as if it is part of a script and a chore to say- they're genuinely happy to see me and make me feel comfortable. Granted, they might not have the best range but I try to spend as much as I can there because they're so nice and I know I'll leave with a smile on my face!

Clean livestock tanks, unless a display tank I prefer the different fish seperated so I know what I'm looking at- even though it's usually easy to distinguish anyway. I think go bare bottom- looks clean and easier to keep pristine as well as take dead fish out. If youre going to put gravel, put plants as well. I don't think there is anything more tacky then a tank with fish and gravel only.

Clear water, clear front glass. Keep it clean!

Also being able to order different things in and try to help find a specific fish or plant I may be after. Huge range of livestock (both plants and fish) and a more exotic type regularly would be swell.

That's about all, so space, knowledge, friendly and happy, cleanliness, fairly cheap, organisation and range :D

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All I want from my LFS is all round genuine customer service, be able to help me with what I need/want instead of shoving the first most expensive thing in my face and tell my i NEED it.

I haven't been able to find a LFS recently that I enjoy going to except for one but his floor plan is odd, as you walk in he has got the first half of the shop with tanks for sale that look like they have been sitting there for a long while just covered with dust and then the counter in the corner. He doesn't have much variety as far as products go. The only reason I go there is because he sells betta's and not just your veiltails he has had a variety and has new shipment every week. I havent been able to pop in on the day he gets the shipments.

I had asked for some Halfmoons and was told he'd call me when he got them in and he must have forgotten or wasnt able to get any because I never heard back.

I'd love to just go into a LFS and see well taken care of tanks and just friendly service with a decent variety of products. I dont mind paying that extra for good service.

so to sum it up

-Dont Make promises unless you keep them

-Listen to your customers

-being helpful even though your not going to make an immediate sale


-Going that extra mile

-Knowing your products

Even a great idea is something like an app or rewards program of some sort.

thats my 2cents lol

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Also opening hours. I'd love to be able to drop by after work on the way home to pick up some fish food or whatever else I might need, or sometimes just to have a browse.

There's one store I know that is closed by 5 to 5.30pm Mon to Sat, they're not even open Sundays which I can't quite comprehend. It means I simply cannot make it to that store at all other than Saturday.

Most of the other stores either have a couple weeknights where they're open later or they're open late(-ish) every weeknight. And they're also open both days on the weekend when I would presume most of the fishkeeping hobbyists have time to come in for a browse. To close on Sunday is kind of making it hard for yourself as an LFS, really.

Edited by SiameseFightingFist
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This is tough...

A LFS needs to consider two things; profitability and customer service.

No matter how much the owner and staff know their fish and love them they are soon going to be stressed to the max (and it will show) if their profitability is down. I do not begrudge anybody that is working hard trying to make a penny, that's exactly what they should do.

Customer service is the core of any bricks and mortar retail business. For good customer service I'd pay more and won't bother with trying to find the best price elsewhere. If the customer service is lacking or non existent, I'd rather shop online.

I personally prefer smaller display tanks to large ones. In the floor space that occupies a single sixfoot display a store can have multiple displays.

eg. African cichlid display -shellies

Simple scape with shrimp

Simple scape with livebearers

Simple scape (anubias) and goldfish

Planted set-up with schooling fish

I feel this is more efficient in displaying what is possible. To most of us here, simple display of run of the mill guppies or goldfish does not sound very exciting, but those two items alone have some of the larger turn overs of any other item in most LFS.

It would be nice if the customers were involved in setting up the displays. Organizing an after hours session talking about the display and putting it together and then offering 10 to 20% discount on purchases that night is a good marketing tool and a warm and fuzz way of gaining regular customers.

*Since we are in electronic/technology age: it would also be good if the set-up/construction of the display tank is recorded on video or with frequent photos. Then the step by step process can be shown on a largish screen TV (mounted on the wall) on a loop somewhere in the store would be good. The tank being shown can be physically marked saying something like "If you like to see how to put a tank like this together at home watch how it is done on our screen" or some such. These days you can get semi OK large enough flat screens from BigW or ALDI etc.

Just some ideas,


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i LOVE the idea of an interactive App. that updates what's new. So often people go to their LFS website and it has a stock list and you go to the store thinking you will get what you want but they arent selling or dont have any in stock!! drives me crazy!!!

just my 2 cents :P

Edited by jay_ro
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my thoughts are actually very similar to other people's although there's somethings in particular I like, things like

- making sure the fish are only kept together that matches their temperature (cold water fish and tropical fish together is not doing either fish any favours), water chemistry need (putting hard water fish with soft water or vise versa is cruel), temperament (putting in two male fighters in one tank is not acceptable)

- I like beautiful display tanks that help teach the rest of us who's not artistic water to do learn to make our tanks beautiful.

- not just packaged products but things like worm cultures, brine shrimp hatchery, cycled filter media material (maybe can offer swap service or people who buy the media at the shop they can choose the cycled the material or the new packed one), CO2 etc.

- do not push for sales ("you NEED this or your fish is going die' is really not a good tactic but highlight things like although DIY can sometimes save money but sometimes finish products are properly designed and much easier to use. Let people make the decision themselves.

Things I like from my local aquarium

- let me catch or choose the fish out of lots of identical fish I want when they're not too busy

- tell the things straight (no they're not going to be able to be kept with ""

- have staff who's excited and have kept fish as I am

I think that's it. I'll add to it as I go...

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Serkan's ideas are pretty good :D

-simple display tanks would be nice. or even just adding a bit of anubias on driftwood in the wholesale plants, imo makes the tanks a little nicer to look at, that being said, i'm aware fish get harder to catch once you've got bits in the tank.

-1/2 large planted display tanks is also really nice because i think it shows people the possibilities of what they can achieve with their fish and plant, but like Ashlea points out, most of the stuff in their tanks should be on sale. my Local LFS barely knows what's in their display tanks let alone sell the stuff.

-someone to comb the tanks regularly for dead fish. even if nothing is wrong with the water and the fish has just died of shock or something, the likely hood of me purchasing from that tank goes to zero and the chances of buying any livestock from that place drastically falls

-neon pink/blue gravel... just no. keep it simple or bare please <_<

-cater for short people! i like observing fish close up and this because almost an impossibility for tanks situated above my head and as a result i'm more likely to be interested in purchasing fish at my eye-level or below.

don't think i've got anything else to add that hasn't already been said in the area of customer service.

@Joan: seeded media selling/swaps i don't think is a really viable idea because of potential pathogens? I think i read something on EA's FB thread explaining that they couldn't sell 2nd hand tanks or something.

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the swap I mean is swapping just purchased new media (purchased at the shop) with media that has already being used at the shop. The media is never coming back into the shop from hobbyist always using the new media. But I agree with the potential pathogens that has already exist in the shop but isn't that a risk we all take when buying livestock from the shops? Quarantine is the key to successful integration of new fishes besides cycled media is usually for new tank owners who are most likely purchased livestock from the shop. So the media and the livestock are all exposed to the same thing, if there's pathogens it's already in the livestock so does it matter if it's in the media too?

Another thing that can do avoid this is by using a tank that doesn't have as quickly fish turn over rate as other tanks eg display tanks, it will reduce the chance of pathogens in the tank...

there's lots of ways around it. I'm sure other people will come up with just as good or better ideas but it seems easier especially for people who don't want to wait the 8 weeks cycling process and the shop doesn't want to miss out on an sale (a good LFS needs to be profitable as well) for the well being of the fish. Selling livestock to people who don't know about the cycling process is not a pleasant feeling...

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SAF - please repost, all your opinions are really valuable

I suppose I should have over stated the "forget the staff" element to this.. the reason I'm so confident about this fantasy shop that may or may not exist in reality... is that the owner is the operator is the manager, and he LOVES HIS FISH: I've (may or may not) have been going to this shop for 12 years, and he's taught me literally everything I know.

So thanks for your feedback, but I'm totally confident that the staff at this place are either extremely informed, or under intense training (my god, it's a steep learning curve when you only care about one species)

But the point is, there's always someone there who has the time to explain the details of any questions, so I'm confident about that part of the experience.

What I'm excited about is the interaction between you and the shop - how you like to do things.

Personally my approach was as follows:

Outside shop: Create lush inviting spaces (pond/seating/plants/green) along with clear signage.

Foyer of shop: Aspirational and display tanks, 6ft/5ft/4ft custom tanks here, all pro scaped tanks by award winning aquascaper (who also works in shop) showing happy community fish.

Counter: Easy line of sight from counter to front door for smile exchange / two clear registers so nobody has to wait / storage, organised yo.

Bagging area: Near to the counter, good flow of movement for conversation while you're bagging fish and people are asking questions/chatting

Product: Dry goods and consumables at easy access opposite counter so advice can be given if required, or you can be left to inspect privately

**More expensive goods like heaters and filters that will need some consultation behind counter, also preventing theft.

Another display area: for tanks of all sizes (all planted and lit, and stocked appropriately - HERE's ONE WE PREPARED EARLIER) individual Nano/Betta tanks, custom 2-3-4 foot and Kit style tanks for "starters" or "advanced"

This room also has an insane inbuilt 2.5 x 1 x 1.5 high tank that will be scaped with tank busters. KOOL - aspirational.

The rest of the shop has tanks with your normal cold/tropical stock, rare species, local breeder specialities, and some really unusual stock, same goes for plants.

The tanks are really set up and maintained immaculately (this was the reason I came back every time) with thousands and THOUSANDS of fish, all labeled and priced.

** At this point I wondered if a "quick-glance NEED SHEET" would be useful? like a laminated sign for Angelfish (for example) with Max growth size: / Temprature: / Food type: / Popular Tank Mates: / PH: / KH: / Temperament: / Notes: ....I guess this content could be on the iPhone/iPad app too.... would that be useful for you? (it would for me!!!)

Also - they're looking at developing some "care sheets" like our VB Betta care sheet with the quick-glance notes and a bit of history about the fish with a picture (professional photographer coming through)

Is that the sort of thing you'd be interested in? or u think a new fish dood would be into? Like how to set up a new tank once you get it home etc?

What other stuff do you think people would be into taking sheets home about? Maybe how to ID disease?

6ftaquaman: Good point on the narrow walkways, we're blessed with space, so we're lucky!

Ash/Wild Nut: I'm with you - I like touching and comparing, I know what I want most of the time, so I want room to look - And I think the philosophy is going to be that every product sold is used/displayed somewhere in the shop to prove it's application and quality..... oh - and the hardscape stuff - that's a VERY good point, we need somewhere for the hardscape materials. (noted)

Afr: Agreed - Stock organization, and keep it all together! Yes! - Agree with all your other points.

Suss: From a rewards program, what would you like - say a loyalty card for every purchase over $20 you get a stamp (etc etc) then when you reach a certain point you get a credit or percentage off?

Happy to flesh out ideas of what you guys think is a good system?

James/Fist: Hours I can't really change, but they are clever: closing Wednesdays and opening all weekend. The poor owner is there from 6am and often into 9pm (but they're open from 10-6) but he's building tanks, training staff, dealing with breeder fish and following up customer enquiries! but the weekend thing is good.

I wonder if n occasional "late night" with events, tutorials, door prizes etc would be good?

We're doing a launch of the newly renovated shop (no, wait, we MAY or MAY NOT be launching.. bah - whatever) once it's all done - we can see how it goes then.

What I love about this dude is he wants to promote the community and sharing of knowledge....

Would people be into a scaping tutorial by an international award winner? etc?

Serkan: You touched on this - it's a great idea, and will be elaborated on once we get the shop looking pretty!

I do love the idea of a screen showing the progressive set-up of a big tank - sitting next to the actual tank - it creates an involvement so you can see how it's worked.... big and small!!

We have the big 2.5x1 mt tank that I'd love to do this with!!! Excellent!

Jay-ro: (Hi, I don't think we've met) Yes - the app might be cool - we're thinking of getting iPads in the shop, it might be a while off, but I love the idea!

Joan: Great ideas, I'll ask about the cycled media, however personally I wouldn't do it - the amount of fish that move through an LFS just on a weekend alone is pretty scary.... however I see the benefit... so I'll run it by the owner.

Cultures are hard, they need way more care than they're worth for retail sales! but live food is always on sale.

thanks guys - please add your secret wishes for your LFS experience - ignoring the staff thing, trust me, they're awesome.



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Here are my thoughts

What I want:

I like the harder to get species of fish and those things that not everyone has, In saying that I understand that they may not move as quickly as the standard guppies and goldfish. But getting in some special species on a regular basis only opens up the cliental range and encourages people to get into the hobby. When it comes to equipment there is nothing more confronting than when you go into a section and are confronted with 1000 choices of heaters, pumps and air filters etc. I understand you want to have a good range but 10 different brands of heaters is too much. Be smart with the space you have, over crowded shelves lead to things being over looked or lost in the clutter and then it sits there for ages. Your paying to rent that space remember. I think when it comes to equipment you should have a high end brand, moderate and a cheap one. The "hardcore aquarist" will shell out for quality because they know it lasts and the "job blows" can come in and make a simple choice without being over whelmed.

I want good advice on what i'm buying, so that comes down to the store staff knowing the stock and being enthusiastic about fish and plants. Its always a little worrying when you hear a hesitant "yeah I think that should be fine" to any question. If the staff don't have good knowledge then the store needs to invest some time in them and educate them.

when it comes to tanks I like to see a mix of sizes in the display tanks. Small ones mean you can get a larger range of fish in the same space but seeing the larger cichlid species cramped up in tanks they can barely move in is not a good look. Each tank should take the opportunity to spark the imagination of the customer about what they can get or could have in their house, I have been into exotic aquatic for food and saw some of the display tanks and thought "i want that" gone home and started saving/planning for something very similar. besides that, it keeps people in the store for longer and the longer you spend in the store the more likely you will spend and keep coming back. Walking past tanks with plastic plants and metallic stones is pretty plain and not very exciting so I leave pretty quick.

I would suggest a good website that is updated regularly. I guess that would come down to have a good computer system in the store checkout that keep count of fish stock and how many were left. Another idea could be a live video feed of one of the display tanks, some security companies use similar software where you have cameras setup in your house so you can check in while your away on holiday so something like that on your home page could be viewed by anyone that visits your webpage.

But I think the most effective way is to visit a whole bunch of LFS and see what they do well and what they don't. You don't have to invent the wheel as they say but take the good ideas and reconstruct them to fit your purpose.

where will this place be located??

Edited by dwalk
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Wow - thanks Denning!

Agree entirely with the stocking and staffing - but I guess we all need to keep in mind that the back end of this shop is about the fish, keeping them happy and healthy and easily displayed for sale.

The front of the shop will be about inspiring beautiful tanks, showing you how a lovely 10 lt tank can work, and a lovely 10000000000 lt tank (?)

So the stock tanks only really have the occasional plant, hiding place and filtration.... (oh, and sure! you can choose your own adventure/individual fish)



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Yeah I think the beginner's market is incredibly important. That's how you get new loyal customers who will come back over and over once they've gotten into fishkeeping.

And showing a simple step by step visual thing as a display or on the shelf re equipment and fish for beginners would be ah'ight.

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for market research isn't it easier if they have a feedback box (online or real) and says write us a feed back and once a month we'll draw a $50 voucher to be used in store.

This way it's actually aimed at the shop's customers rather than random people online?

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The front of the shop will be about inspiring beautiful tanks, showing you how a lovely 10 lt tank can work, and a lovely 10000000000 lt tank (?)

I did not realize this shop was at the bottom of the ocean hahaha. :lol:

Actually from your post about what you had in mind it would probably be the best LFS in Australia but is it all possible with cost, sounds fairly expensive to set that all up. Dont forget all renovations have unforseen set backs too, something you have not planned for is sure to crop up during the process.

Basically I think if you can walk in and feel relaxed whilst browsing then you have done you job with floor space. That point I was making about the narrow space in the shop I like going to is one of the worst things about the place is if you want to look at the fish on a lower shelf when you bend down no one can get past you in the isle so you feel like a yo-yo up and down all the time. Maybe you can be the first LFS with a CAFE!

I think im onto something there, how relaxing would it be having a coffee watching your 10000000000000 litre tank :D

Edited by 6ftaquaman
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Isnt that your normal approach to your route Busman??? :giggle:

I don't have too much to say that hasnt already been.. some excellent suggestions and dream-LFS being described here.

Pre-seeded media could come from an established display tank rather than the main system/s, to isolate any potential output of nasties. I see too many LFS selling newbies a full setup and a full, often incompatible stocklist and then fleecing the customer for medicines when they come back with inevitably dying/dead fish - The seeded media should be a standard part of any full-tank package sold

, IMO!

Display tanks with happy, healthy stock and instructions/advice/availability of everything you need to recreate at home.. priceless. Make it so, betcha it works a treat.

Another thing I've seen once, that struck me as a genius business strategy and really, a nice way to get into the hobby for a youngster - one LFS around here had a big tank set up near the tills, advertising to 'catch your own goldfish' with the purchase of a starter kit. It was admittedly a bank holiday, but you should've seen the piles of kits he went through that day! All for the love of a 99c goldie

Huge turnoffs in LFS, for me..

Goldfish bowls, and too-tiny/inappropriate betta cups

Old stock, I can understand and even enjoy poking through, but it should never be encrusted in dust.

Tanks full of Anubias 'creations' covered in BBA that noone will ever buy..

Tanks full of 'painted/tattoo'd' fish! :(

A dead fish or two is expected, but dead fish left to rot down to nothing.. No, just no.

A plant tank containing broken, melting ambulia/duckweed/vals and little else..

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I'd love to be able to go into a LFS and have it stocking plants that are actually aquarium plants and aren't going to be dead in a month.

Display tanks for ideas/inspiration.

Tanks that don't stock incompatible fish together that are destroying each other.

Second-hand tanks for sale.

Able to custom order tanks through store from glazier.

A selection of unusal fish.

Compatibility guide on tanks (One LPS has colour coding for fish that can go together)

Basic info on ideal conditions for each fish. PH, temp, recommended # of this fish(Example: Betta Males Recommended # per tank 1.), expected max. size.

Loyalty program. For every $xx spent get x% discount or $x off next purchase.

My BIGGEST fantasy??? A LFS south of Perth that specialises in Bettas with staff that know what they are talking about ;-)

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