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This is in response to the Herb Harris email concerning sales...in a sense....

After some time keeping fancy goldfish and actively participating in several
goldfish lists, I was becoming disenchanted with the "trophy" fish aspect
of that part of the hobby and the "my dog's bigger than your dog" mentality
that makes a $650 Hong Kong import a "better" goldfish than my lovingly
raised and cared for Wal-Mart treasure.

Inspired in large part by Robert Rice's FAMA article on the Flagfin Shiner,
I began looking at native fishes, reading the NANFA web site extensively,
and generally thinking about a shift in focus to native species. At the
same time, I was exploring in the killiefish areas on the web, trying to
decide which group I would be most comfortable with - which group of
hobbyists I could be most comfortable with, and which group of fish would
provide the greatest challenge and (intangible) reward.

This is a process not unlike that which most prospective members of NFC (or
converts to native fish keeping) might go through, and I offer three
observations for what they're worth to this group.

1. As it happens, another Wichitan whom I have never met began exploring on
the Killie list at the same time I was. When we expressed an interest in
beginning to keep killiefish we were both inundated with offers of free
(except for postage) fish (both eggs and fry). The killie folks are truly
"evangelistic" about their hobby, and seem wildly willing to share more
than advice. The other guy in Wichita chose to go the killie route, and he
has already received eggs and fry and has three tanks of killies "up and
running." Needless to say, he is a killie convert completely now, and we
all know how three tanks leads to four tanks leads to five tanks...etc. I
decided to concentrate on native fish (although I realize the two groups
are not mutually exclusive), which leads me to point two.

2. I decided to get a "sample" group of what I believed to be one of the
more common native fishes (not in my area, but in general): H. formosa. I
looked through the NANFA Trading Post and picked out two breeders who
advertised there. (Unfortunately, I didn't choose Robert Rice because his
ad seemed to imply that his fish only went to those with "established
breeding programs," and I didn't think I qualified - my experience might
have been completely different had I chosen to deal with him!). One of the
breeders to whom I sent a query ignored my email completely. This person is
a "mover and shaker" in the native fish movement, but I don't think
ignoring potential converts to native fish speaks to his moving and shaking
for anything more than his personal aggrandisement. The other person
responded with an offer of fish for sale, to which I responded immediately,
with the check for said fish sent within two days. That was nearly five
weeks ago and still have NO fish, nor even a subsequent email from this
gentleman for over four weeks. Initially he said the weather was too cold
to ship H. formosa, but that reason seems a bit thin as we suffered through
100 degree days last week - perhaps now it is too hot? I cannot believe
that this gentleman is dishonest - anyone scamming would figure out a
better way of doing so than selling "vapor" fish! It is difficult to figure
out what his game is: do I not qualify somehow for keeping H. formosa? Does
he doubt my qualifications (he never asked)? Is my set-up somehow not
adequate for taking care of these fish (again, he never asked)? I've asked
myself a lot of questions like that in the past four weeks, and not come up
with any good answers. But you'd be right if you guessed that I wish I
chosen killies like the other guy in Wichita who woke up this morning to a
lively population of killiefish!

3. I am somewhat bewildered by the 12 fish minimum that seems most popular
for NFC fish sales. For someone who wants to "test-drive" native fishes
before plunging off the deep end, 12 fish of a particular species can be
frightening. I wrote to Robert Rice awhile ago outlining my experience with
White Clouds which I bought to "season" the tank which was waiting (and
still is) for the H. formosa. I bought only 8 of them, and now I am
practically run out of house and home with White Clouds! The idea of buying
12 of any species gives me nightmares of sleeping in the yard while the
house fills up with new tanks full of more and more and more fry! Sell me
three of something; let me play! As a teacher, I'm sure that play is the
real way to learn; time enough for the work when the student is engaged and
interested. The same method works with converts to the native fish
movement: let us play with a smaller number of a species or two; get us
hooked and we'll be moving out the kids to covert their bedrooms to fish
rooms to hold the 12 fish minimums of our new interest!

I'm writing to the gentleman who "sold" me the H. formosa this morning to
tell him to forget the whole deal. It's not that I no longer want H.
formosa, it's just that I no longer care to do business with him! Will I
ever get H. formosa? Will I ever get any native fishes? The bigger and more
important question is do I care? It does very little good for Robert Rice
to convert ten-thousand FAMA (or TFH in the coming year) readers to the
native fish movement if there is no follow-through. If six months later
those converts are still watching empty tanks (or tanks full of White
Clouds!) then 9,999 of them are going to find something else to do with
their time!

As I say, just my two cents worth. Your mileage may vary. Forgive the long

Terry Mercer

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