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Why do the same fish vary in price from store to store?

Since the day we opened a second store, we've had to live with the practicality of the fact that dealing in ornamental fish isn't like selling tins of baked beans. Our stock varies in price with the seasons, with source of supply and how long it's been in our stores, together with a lot of other variables.

With so many stores, we can't often order the same size of fish from exactly the same supplier at the same time - although we enjoy a privileged relationship with some of the world's best breeders, there's only so many fish they can produce. Add varying exchange rates to the fact that not all producers charge the same amount and already you can see that despite the old saying, many factors have a lot to do with the price of fish.

Size makes a difference to fish prices in a couple of different ways too. As we pay freight and shipping charges by the box, the number of fishes packed will determine how much their airline ticket has cost - smaller fish cost less to transport per head than large ones, so their retail price follows accordingly. The downside to this can be the quantities involved, sometimes even the busiest store won't want to buy eight hundred Neons at a time. In this case it makes sense to buy a slightly larger size in a smaller quantity but a higher price. In a number of our quieter branches, generous feeding and lots of water changes mean that fishes can often increase in size substantially in the time that they're with us and usually their price remains the same.

As well as sourcing fishes from all over the world, we also buy stock from wholesalers who often charge more due to the associated costs and convenience. Closer to home, we have fish returned or bred by customers to add to the mix, as well as those bred in store.

An important factor that's often overlooked is that not all fishes of the same species are of equal quality and we often source our stock accordingly, paying a premium for higher-quality stock from more selective breeders or collectors. Without seeing the difference, it's impossible to appreciate the gulf between price and value.

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