Pet shops can stay open. The decision to sell fish is yours – OATA

The latest update from the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association is that aquatic shops are allowed to carry on trading and now that if they want to also sell fish, they can.

This comes a day after they advised that “Shops must stop selling livestock immediately,” and to “Limit your sales to food or other essential supplies such as medicines/treatments or replacement kit that have broken down.”

As of this morning, the UK government is also saying that you can leave the house to go to work if you can’t work from home. 

This is causing major anxiety for some construction workers who state that it is almost impossible to practice safe social distancing in the job that they do, and the same can be said for many aquatic shop staff.

OATA released the following statement:

UPDATE to earlier advice. Please read and share

We have updated the advice we issued earlier after requests for clarification on not selling fish. The Government has not published any advice on this.

So the decision on whether or not to sell fish is yours providing you can do it within the social distancing rules which are that retail and public premises which expect to remain open must:

Ensure a distance of two metres between customers and shop assistants; and

Let people enter the shop only in small groups, to ensure that spaces are not crowded.

Queue control is required outside of shops and other essential premises that remain open

Read the guidance here.…/230320_-_Revised…

Please accept our apologies for any confusion caused during these difficult and quickly changing times.

Earlier advice which has been updated:

Pet shops are allowed to open under the restrictions introduced by the Government last night (23 March).

It is of course up to each individual business as to whether you stay open to the public. You know your personal circumstances and those of your staff and how practical it is to stay operating some kind of service within your premises to enable your customers to get essential supplies for their animals, like food and medicines/treatments or replacement kit that have broken down.

If you decide to close to the public totally we believe you can still travel to your shop to look after the animals under your care. You should carry some kind of proof of where you work to explain to officials should you be asked.

Below are some ideas on what to think about to safeguard your staff and customers if you stay open.

  • Remember to keep safe and well – follow the latest advice from Gov.UK and the NHS on ways you can protect your and your staff if you are open to the public e.g. regular hand washing with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds etc, wiping down surfaces regularly.
  • Place tape markers on shop floors 2 metres apart and tell customers to use these markers to keep a safe distance from each other. Place such markers near to tills so those queuing to pay 2 metres distance apart.
  • Use markers to introduce a one way lane around your store so that customers avoid being within 2 metres of each other
  • Take payments via contactless card payments and clean/wipe down card machines regularly
  • Limit the number of customers who can be in the shop at any one time. Have a clear sign on the door that explains your system eg knock and wait before coming in or what is your limit on customer numbers in the shop at any one time.
  • Introduce a ‘click and collect’ system so people can order ahead. This will enable you to package items up and leave it in a place before customers approach to pick it up.
  • If possible sort out a home delivery for customers in your area which will also help to ensure people are going out infrequently. Set out a defined geographical area for such deliveries and communicate this clearly with customers.
  • Make a clear list of the essential products you will sell so customers know what they can purchase. We would suggest this is limited to food, medicines/treatments and replacement equipment that has broken down.
  • Think about supply chains to ensure you can help as many customers as you can. We would suggest you do not let people ‘stockpile’ so establish buying rules on numbers if you think that is appropriate. We are currently working with other pet trade associations to ensure supply chain businesses can still work to ensure you remain stocked.
  • Keep your websites up to date! Tell customers what you are doing to protect public health. Make sure you have information prominently on your home page about whether you are open, what people need to do to when they visit your shop to buy essential supplies, what you will sell (make clear what you won’t sell as well), if they can buy online and if you are operating a home delivery service in your town
  • If you have social media channels keep these up to date as well. ‘Pin’ a post at the top of your feed explaining how you are selling and what – eg online, home delivery etc. Seek out local Facebook groups for your town and post information on that.
  • Make a short video explaining what you are doing in your shop, what you will sell, how and to whom and post this on your social media channels and relevant local Facebook groups.
  • Post offices are still open but think about how you can safely visit these to send items through the post.


So stores can take the decision to continue selling fish if they want to, but distance selling of fish has just been hindered by courier APC suspending transportation of livestock while they themselves prioritise the delivery of essential items. 

Livestock importers and wholesalers are also feeling the effects of the global pandemic as more and more flights are cancelled in light of the virus. So the ability to sell fish to the public may pale into insignificance if the supply chain further up runs out of fish altogether in a few weeks time. 

Cost-saving measures

FKN has spoken to several retailers and suppliers who are already putting cost-saving measures into place to help them survive these unprecedented times. Some stores are turning off fish tank lights wherever possible, including on fish selling systems. Others are moving reef safe fish into coral trays and shutting down livestock systems where possible in order to save on electricity.

This is the worst possible start for the pond season, which has had a terrible past two decades as it is. Irish stores are also still suffering from the closure of airline Flybe.

This the biggest test the UK aquatic industry has ever faced.

More info at OATA 

Jeremy Gay

Author of three fishkeeping books and lifelong fishkeeper. Experience includes editor of Practical Fishkeeping magazine, editor of Pet Product Marketing magazine, multi award- winning livestock manager and aquatic store manager.