After spending the last three weeks setting up a goldfish tank I have to endorse the opinion that you should steer away from the generic pet stores. And I mean completely.
Chances are the staff haven't a clue, and management couldn't care less, even if they are cheaper. Before I knew this I went down to the local generic store to buy the basic materials, a tank, a filter etc. I fooled myself into thinking I'd pay less by buying basic glass tank, and compeltly failed to factor in the price of a filter and a light. Even on this score It's hard to tell if I came out ahead or behind.
At every jucture I asked if item x was suitable for a cold freshwater aquarium. Turns out the gravel I brought wasn't, it buffered the water and drove up the Ph, so much so that I couldn't make it budge from a reading of 7.5 no matter how much ph down I put in.
So I spent half a day replacing the gravel, with the stuff I got from an aquarium shop. Unlike the generic pet store these guys will not sell you a fish without testing a water sample first. When I complained about the buffering the first thing the Guy said to me was, you have white gravel don't you? And yes I did.
So I went back to the pet store and asked for a refund on the gravel, No can't do that, Not responsible. The manager says in a I've got your money and I couldn't care less tone. Half way through the conversation after telling me how all his gravel comes from the same place he admits that the ph problems occurs, but stress that its not his responsibility, as its prepackaged. He says the black gravel can be even worse. Still after all this the only thing he offers is to replace it with another bag from the same place. Then turns his back on me to go and get money out of another customer.
Needles to say I was ticked off (yes self censorship is going on here). Still I have new gravel and the ph is dropping towards where it's supposed to be, and I have learnt a lesson. Now all I have to do is find an alternate place to buy replacement pads for my filter, as I don't plan to give that particular shop any more of my money.
I have half a mind to make a complaint to fair trading, would I be wasting their time on an item which cost $16.00 though?
PS while fantails at the Pet shop were $1.50 cheaper even I could see the difference in quality. The fish I got from the Aquarium shop are shiny, with bright orange and gold scales. The ones at the Pet shop meanwhile don't look shiny at all, and have pale dull colours. If the fish weren't a different quality to begin with, clearly the petshop is doing something wrong to them.