There is a variety store here in town that is the only place in 60 miles that sells fish and supplies. I finally went in just to see what they had in there and browse around. While I was trying to look into the aquariums, the girl behind the counter (whom I know as the co-owner) said, "I'm sorry you can't see them very well, we haven't gotten to cleaning the tanks lately." The tank walls were black and where I COULD see in there was a LOT of debris floating around - I figure mostly feces, along with dead fish.
In hopes of finding a "LFS" I could call my own, I drove 60 mi. east to a small, locally owned "LFS". Once again, I was disgusted by the care given to cleaning the aquariums and removal of dead fish. There were birds and ferrets, etc. The ferrets (about 5-7 of them piled in a hammock) were in a small pen full of piles of feces, as were the guinea pigs. I didn't even see the bettas until I was on my way out. They only had three, thank goodness, however they were in brown water and did not look well. Now I know why people do the "sympathy" purchase. Had I had a place for one or all three, I would have made that purchase myself.
I know folks are down on PetsMart (60 mi. west), but I've got to say, not one time have I been in that store and seen anything filthy, dead fish, or bettas in anything but clean water. Perhaps this particular PetsMart has better management in that department than most?
There's still this little part of me that wishes I would have picked up at least one of those bettas in the dirty water...just one. Maybe next time.
That's the same story around here. Not many LFS around South Jersey anymore. There is one but it seems they mostly deal with salt water. Their plants were kept poorly and the fresh water fish were not impressive and they didn't have bettas. The water conditions didn't seem that great for a store that specializes with fish keeping. Then, the Pets Plus store stopped selling live plants and half of their tanks are empty. I didn't even think they sold bettas until I spotted tiny cups on the aquarium tops that did have fish in them. They were in dirty water and had fin rot or they were very bloated. You would think with so many empty tanks, they could put the bettas in the tanks instead of dirty cups.
There aren't any Petco stores around but there is a Petsmart. They keep the best care of their fish. Water is very clean and they all seem healthy. The employees are also very polite and helpful.