selecting a betta supplier 

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how to tell the good from the not so good from 
the pretty darn bad breeders/sellers.

                   
Once upon a time, only a dozen breeders in the U.S. offered bettas for sale. Everyone knew who they were and trusted them. Now the internet has made it possible for no less than 5749000050043 breeders and breeders wanna be to advertise their stock and try to sell it. Betta sites pop up daily. In this jungle of betta sites, betta photos and betta sellers, how is one to know who to pick as a betta supplier? Do you really know who you are dealing with? Here are some very vital facts and advice designed to help you make sound choices.

Things to look for in a betta seller 

You know how picky you are about selecting a doctor? Well, think of your betta supplier as you would a doctor. You must trust him/her. They must have a good reputation and EXPERIENCE. They must be available and willing to help you if you need help. They must know their stuff. They must be able to save your (you know what) LOL. People rarely pick a doctor because they are "cheap". Instead they look for one that they know is going to help them, and be there for them in their time of need and be a life saver (literally, when it comes to a doctor LOL). One with which they can build a long term relationship. One that is going to be around for a long time. All the above are qualities you must look for in a betta supplier, too.

The following are the criteria you should go by (and a few things to meditate upon) when looking for a betta seller:  

                           

bulletaccomplishments. Has this seller accomplished anything worthwhile? (for example won on the IBC show circuit, created new betta strains, wrote articles for fish magazines, been featured on television LOL etc.)
bulletlongevity. How long has this person been in the hobby? If only a couple of years or less chances are they might not (yet) know what they are doing and may not even be around tomorrow. Betta hobbyist are notorious for getting in heavy into the hobby and then quitting within the first 2 to 3 years. Only those who pass that 3 year mark will stick with the hobby.    
bulletexperience. How many years has this person been breeding bettas? Anything less than 2 years is not worth mentioning. Years of hands on experience are usually necessary before someone knows what they are doing when it comes to bettas.
bulletknowledge. Does the seller appear to be very well versed in all aspect of betta breeding/keeping? Remember that they will be your customer support person, so make sure they have the extensive knowledge to back it up. It might make the difference between all your stock dying on you (because they were unable to help you) and your stock being saved (because they promptly and accurately assessed your specific problem and provided the solution to it).
bulletprofessionalism. Is this seller professional, organized and efficient? If not, I would pass. After all you are going to trust this person with your money. You want to make sure they do not lose your payment, send you the wrong fish, type the wrong address on your betta's shipping label and send the fish to the Bermuda triangle!!! As you see professionalism can make the difference between a smooth transaction and one that turns into alter HELL !
bulletIBC affiliation. Is this seller an IBC member? Here is a rule of thumb: All reputable breeders are IBC members BUT IBC members are not all reputable breeders. Many novices who have never bred bettas do sign up and become IBC members. So be careful cause an IBC logo does not in itself constitute any guaranty.  However, no IBC logo is usually a bad sign ;).
bulletavailability. Does this person update their site once a month? If so they are not focussed on their betta business and it is likely they will not be available to help you when you will need them most. A happening popular seller updates his/her site very often and replies within 1 to 7 days to their vital emails.
bulletreputation. Does everybody know about this breeder? Good breeders are usually widely known.
bulletpopularity. How fast does this breeder sell their bettas? Do they have a lot of orders under their belt? These are two sure indications of a seller's level of success. 
bullettrack record. look at numbers. They should speak for themselves. How long has the seller been selling, how much does he/she sells, etc...
bulletshipping experience. A very important detail not to be overlooked. An inexperienced shipper can kill or hurt the bettas you have ordered! This has always been my biggest complaint. Not only do beginners not know how to ship, but many seasoned breeders do a very poor job, too! Some may be very negligent in the way they go about things (ship without letting you know, not use a heat pack when necessary, send your fish priority mail etc...).  
bulletshipping track record. Find out if sellers has a lot of DOA (Dead On Arrival) on their record. Most sellers will have at least 1 to 20 a year. The lower the number, the more highly it speaks of the seller's shipping savvy. But remember you must ask how many bettas they have shipped and then ask how many died during or right after shipping. Just asking for a DOA number means nothing. For example if a novice only sold 4 bettas that year and 2 arrived dead, it means he/she has a 50% DOA record (BAAAAD). But if a breeder shipped 2000 bettas and 2 arrived dead, then he/she has a 0.1% DOA record (good).
bulletcleanliness. That is an important issue but also a difficult one to assess, since you will not have the opportunity to visit the sellers' set-up. Some breeders are notorious for being "filthy" and having very poor set-ups. Dirty tanks, overcrowded tanks and careless handling will quickly spread diseases to all the stock they sell. So if a seller's fishroom does not look 'squeaky clean' I would pass in a heartbeat. Many fishrooms I have visited over the years were very musky and had a lot of mold everywhere. Breeders only had 1 to 5 nets for all their fish. I'll spare you the details. For that reason, photos of a very clean, organized, well stocked fishroom are always a plus in my book.
bulletshared water. If a breeder relies on a system with shared water to spawn bettas or keep their stock, I would pass too. There are too many diseases that are HIGHLY contagious and deadly and will wipe out an entire fishroom in less time it took me to load this page! One fish or live food carries it in, the system (with its shared water) will quickly spread it from tank to tank, from jar to jar and from betta to betta. Soon all the fish are contaminated. So beware!!
bulletreferences. Make sure your seller has a LOT of references. 2 to 20 is not enough. 50 and up starts painting a more accurate picture. Read the references and see what others have to say.
bulletage. You might take this factor for granted but I would not if I were you. Many of the sellers that have websites or auction their bettas out there are no more than teenagers. I once had a 15 year old in my fish club who had her dad bring her to the meetings (she was too young to drive). One day I bumped into her website and just about fell off my chair. The website described her as a 'top professional betta hatchery aiming to provide show quality stock to betta hobbyists across the nation, etc etc.". Meanwhile I knew for a fact she bred bettas in her bathroom and was barely 15 (and had only bred bettas for a few months). Had I not known her personally I would have swore by looking at her website that she was a top seasoned breeder, THE seller to go to! So be very careful! I would personally favor a breeder between 30 and 60 years of age. There are, of course, exceptions to this broad rule of thumb.
bulletattitude. Does this breeder have a good, positive attitude? Does he/she feel the need to flame or put down another seller in order to steal business away from them? A successful seller does not need to resort to such sordid practices to build his/her business. So if a seller flames another seller on a forum or on his/her website, I would not select this person as my supplier. Flaming other sellers shows a great lack of professionalism and a negative attitude that usually will reflect in the seller's dealing with their own customers, especially if a dispute should arise. This hobby is notorious for attracting a lot of mean people (petty, jealous, negative, gossipy etc). Trust me, you do not want to have dealings with that type of betta people and should stay as far away from them as you possibly can. (if you want to preserve your sanity, that is LOL). I have been flamed and attacked so many times on forums and have read some of the most delusional lies about me on occasion LOL. I just go about my business and let the ugly people waste their time saying ugly things. While these people are busy doing their little petty betta warfare, I am busy becoming better at simply doing bettas. So then it is no surprise that Animal Planet interviewed me (and not them) hehehehe. If they stopped wasting precious time relentlessly flaming others and invested that time in working on their craft, surely they too would soon be on TV ;). (outch LOL). Well and having said that, there are also some wonderful, awesome, friendly, kind betta breeders out there (which I am honored to have as friends). These positive people should be your aim and who you should buy from.
bullet'personability'. Just as you would with a doctor, you will want to build a relationship with your betta seller. It is important to have a good rapport. Is the seller personable, friendly and likeable? If not, I would have reservations about purchasing stock from them. A friendly person is more likely to help you and to be patient with you. Also you are more likely to become friends with them. This friendship may save your betta fannies one day ;).  


Cheaper is not the best way to go

Although you may get lucky and get nice bettas from a young unknown breeder, it is usually a GREAT gamble that none of us can really afford to take. You might think you are saving money by finding a cheaper pair of bettas out there, but if you get low end bettas (poor gene pool) you have wasted not only the money spent on the pair (and the shipping fee) but more importantly PRECIOUS TIME!! See, once you spawn that low end betta pair, it will be another 6 months before the spawn grows, the offsprings mature and you can see what you got. If all you got is junk then you have to can the spawn, start again from scratch and go back to square ONE. YIKES! Now you have to buy a new breeding pair (again) and pay for its shipping (again) and in the end you did not save money, you threw money (and time) out of the window. You might want to complain to the seller only to find their email address is no longer valid and their website vanished. These are but a few of the things you must consider when going to whomever has the cheapest prices around (thinking you are getting a bargain LOL). Also remember that you get what you pay for. If a seller is giving away their fish that means that there is no demand for their stock (hence they can't sell them unless their prices are super low). If there is no demand on their stock it means is that the seller is not successful. If the seller is not successful it means they are not good at what they do. And if they are not good at breeding bettas, then how good can the bettas they have bred really be?? So you probably should pass on them. (duh)

Last but not least, at the risk of being redundant, I must remind you again that when you buy bettas you buy genes AND customer support AND a service. So expect to pay a bit more for a seller that excels in all above three. If a seller has 
1)- great gene pools 2)- can provide great support (if ever needed) and 3)- is very good at selling, collecting funds, coordinating, explaining things, packing and safely shipping THEN such seller is worth money themselves. Expect the prices to be a bit higher, but you will be glad you spend the extra $10 or $20. In the big picture, that is truly money well invested.

 

There are some good sellers out there 

There are some good sellers who are professional, honest, competent and have worthy stock. Many of us know each other and are great friends :). So apply the above advice to select a good breeder/seller, whomever they might be, may they be me or someone else worthy :). There are more than one seller out there who do combines all the above qualities. There are also a zillion others who combine only a few or none of above qualities. So it is up to you to do your homework and to chose WISELY. Wise Faithyoda, spoken has.