With the rise of the internet and fast shipping, it has become easier for aquarium enthusiasts to purchase fish and plants online. Many online stores offer things like guaranteed live delivery, even shipping overnight. However, this isn’t always the case, which is one reason that it is so important to choose the correct online store for your purposes.
Different stores have different qualities of products, selections, and shipping standards. These all affect the usefulness of the store, as well as whether any of the things that you buy actually show up at your house in one piece.
If you’re looking for the best place to buy fish online, you’re in the right place. In this article, we review 10 of the best online fish stores currently out there, based on their selection, quality, guarantees, and other things. If you’re looking for something to do with fish, one of these stores probably has it.
The 10 Best Online Fish Stores
1. Live Aquaria
Live Aquaria has one of the widest selections on the market. It has fish of all sorts, plants, coral, cleaner packs, and more. Just about anything you need, it probably has. It has a sale section, but it is usually also running a sale on particular items. It also provides free shipping on orders over $149, which is a nice addition if you’re ordering many expensive-to-ship fish.
It often offers free items when you purchase specific things. For instance, it may offer specific plants if you purchase a certain fish. Or it may provide a storage container if you purchase a certain amount of fish food.
All of its live plants and foods must be shipped overnight for obvious reasons. Frozen foods are also shipped overnight to ensure that they are kept frozen. It offers a guarantee on all its live products, including plants, invertebrates, live rocks and sand, corals, and fish of all sorts. It is careful when shipping its products. It even offers a 7-day guarantee on most products, which covers any particular damage while shipping.
It has an extensive resource library, which covers many of its products. It also has guides for acclimating fish and that sort of thing. All in all, we think this is the best place to buy fish online this year.
2. Aquatic Arts
Aquatic Arts is far above the usual online fish store. It sells premium fish that are well taken care of. Its shipping is top-notch. It does not ship animals during certain parts of the year, when the temperature may damage them. It provides highly effective insulation with each shipment, which is one reason that its shipping is somewhat more expensive than other stores. You’re getting what you pay for.
It offers a newsletter that contains special discounts. If you are an enthusiast, it may be worth signing up for this to ensure that you don’t miss out on discounts and sales.
It has a sales section on its website, where it typically offers many discounts. It provides a decently wide selection that includes freshwater fish, snails, plants, crabs, and other animals. Its selection isn’t quite as large as other stores. However, its quality is higher.
It offers a live arrival guarantee and is careful when shipping its products. Its animals are well taken care of and typically healthier than what you get from other sources. However, it is extremely expensive compared to other options. This is why it came in second on this list. While its quality is top-notch, you’re going to pay for it, but it may be worth it for you to buy from one of the best online freshwater fish stores.
3. Imperial Tropicals
Imperial Tropicals is one of the oldest online fish stores out there. It is based in Florida and has been doing this for a long time — since 1970. If you are in the southeastern U.S.A., then you can enjoy flat-rate shipping, which is extremely affordable compared to other stores. If you are elsewhere, then you may have to pay extra. How much depends on your location.
It has a live arrival guarantee, which covers everything that it has in stock. You have to take a picture of the fish within 2 hours of receiving it, however. It also has a unique section that shows pictures of the exact fish that you will receive when you make your purchase, which is great if you’re a little unsure about purchasing fish online. This section sometimes also includes breeding pairs.
It offers many aquatic plants, but most of these are average. It doesn’t offer many exotics. It does offer a few rare invertebrates for freshwater tanks, so it does have that going for them.
Its Facebook page is the best place to discover discount codes and similar information. It is active on social media.
4. The Wet Spot Tropical Fish
The Wet Spot Tropical Fish isn’t only an online store. It also has a brick-and-mortar business in Portland. It has a serious presence on the web and is well-known among those who order fish online.
Its selection isn’t quite extensive. It mostly carries cichlids, tetras, and catfish. If you’re interested in these fish, then this store is perfect for you. It does carry a few fish of other sorts, but these seem to be its main stock.
Minimum orders are required on some cheaper fish, like livebearers. You’ll need to purchase quite a few of these to make an online order. This is great if you’re looking to stock a completely new tank, but it won’t be ideal if you just need a few fish.
It has a decent selection of plants. It isn’t huge, but most of what you’d expect is there. It carries high-demand species and rarer options, so you can find just about anything to fit your needs.
It does offer a live arrival guarantee, but it isn’t nearly as good as some other stores. It isn’t a 14-day guarantee, for instance. It also offers a few exceptions for sensitive shippers. It states that these fish just don’t do well with shipping, so it can’t apply its guarantee.
5. Aquarium Plants Factory
If you’re looking for aquarium plants, you can’t get much better than Aquarium Plants Factory. This store offers extremely high-quality aquarium plants of all sorts. It carries common species, as well as rarities that are nearly impossible to find elsewhere, even at specialty retailers. All of its plants come from its farm and are harvested the same day that they ship, improving the chances for plants’ good health when they arrive at your door.
It offers discounts of all sorts, including a “Buy 2, Get 1” deal that covers many of its plants. This makes purchasing large amounts of carpeting plants much cheaper. Shipping for plants is also completely free, saving you plenty of money compared to other retailers.
It also offers a few fish but its stock is small. It only offers a few plant-safe invertebrates for the most part. However, it does have a few fish that are popular for aquascaping.
It provides stony and soft corals for saltwater tanks as well. Many of its corals are captive varieties, which is more sustainable than wild-harvested corals.
6. The Shrimp Farm
As the name suggests, The Shrimp Farm mostly only carries shrimp and similar invertebrates. This is a bit of an odd niche, but it seems to work out quite well. It is one of the growing distributors for shrimp and has operations in both the U.S.A. and Canada.
On top of live shrimp, it also carries shrimp-related supplies, like feeding dishes. It is basically your one-stop shop for live shrimp and everything that you need to care for them.
Due to the nature of its business, it can offer a flat-rate shipping fee of $9.99. This is true no matter how many shrimp you order and is one of the cheapest shipping rates that we’ve come across. Of course, it is a bit easier to ship shrimp than other fish, so that is likely how it is able to keep costs so low.
Typically, shipping can take 1-3 days. It does offer a live arrival guarantee. Unlike other stores, it will directly refund you for any dead fish instead of giving you store credit. This is significantly more useful, especially if you decide not to repurchase a singular shrimp that died in transit.
7. Aquarium Co-Op
The Aquarium Co-Op is focused on the freshwater fish-keeping community. It specializes in aquatic plants and freshwater, tropical fish. This company is run by a popular YouTuber who often shares information about aquariums. It is transparent about its business, including its shipping procedures and fish care.
Its local store provides fish but its online store does not. It currently does not ship any live fish. However, it has a great selection of supplies for freshwater tanks. If you need something, it probably has it. It carries niche brands that are difficult to find elsewhere. Its fish food selection is also huge and has just about everything, including hard-to-find insect-based foods.
It does offer a few plants. Most of these are what you’d expect, though it does sell rarer varieties as well. It keeps its plants in a tank with algae-eating snails and fish, which reduce the number of algae on your plants upon arrival.
Chewy is one of the largest online retailers for pet-related things. It does carry a variety of items for fish tanks. However, it cannot carry nearly as much as specialty retailers. It offers quite a few different brands and standard fish tank equipment. It has things that you’d expect, like fish food, as well as some specialty items, like pumps.
It provides free shipping on orders over $49, and you can subscribe to save even more on each product.
The main problem is that its selection is quite low. It does not carry more than what your local pet store likely does. Its selection is aimed toward those new to the craft and children, not necessarily hobbyists.
It also does not sell anything live. This includes fish, plants, and corals. For the products it does sell, it provides a 100% satisfaction guarantee. It allows you to return most products, even after you have already removed them from the box and tried them. Because it doesn’t sell live fish, it doesn’t offer a live arrival guarantee
9. Bulk Reef Supply
As you might expect, this retailer focuses on saltwater tanks. That’s different than most of the retailers on this list, which tend to focus on freshwater fish and plants. It offers quite a few saltwater reef-specific items. It provides aquariums, food, filtration systems, and more. Each product also comes with educational videos if applicable. For instance, an automatic feeder may include a video on how to program it correctly.
It also provides quite a bit of information on its website for a range of different skill levels. Just about everyone will learn something new about saltwater tanks from its website.
It doesn’t provide a huge range of deals, but it does include a 5% cashback on future orders.
This company is far more focused on supplies than live goods. It has a decent selection of corals and plants, but there are many stores out there that do better. It isn’t threatening anyone with its selection size, but you may be able to find decent plants and corals.
It does not sell fish at this time. However, it does offer a great range of macroalgae. If you need to purchase some, this is probably your best option.
MarineDepot is an often-recommended store. It only sells supplies, not fish, shrimp, plants, or other live products. As far as supplies go, it has a rather large selection. It’s a great place to stop for common and specialty goods. It provides dosing pumps, aquariums, and even themed clothing. These are often hard to find at a local fish store, especially if you’re looking for something specific.
For beginners, it offers complete packages that already have everything that you need. It includes the recommended lighting, skimmer, and filter for the tank size that you choose. You won’t have to shop around to find all the products you need; you can simply purchase them all in one simple package.
MarineDepot provides a simple shipping policy. If your order is under $29, it charges a flat-rate fee of $2.99 for shipping. Anything over that is shipped for free at standard speed. Orders over $250 are expedited for no extra cost.
Buyer’s Guide – Choosing the Best Online Fish Store
Deciding to purchase fish online is often a hard decision. Purchasing aquarium supplies online is one thing, but getting a live creature shipped to you in the mail is another. If not shipped properly, fish can easily die in the mail. It is even more stressful when you’re purchasing something rare and expensive. You don’t want all that money you spent to go to waste or be the reason that a fish died a horrible death.
The store that you choose to purchase from is an important factor in whether your fish ends up dead or not. You also need to shop at the right place to ensure that your fish is even healthy at all.
In this section, we look at what you need to know when choosing an aquatic online store.
When a company is shipping anything live to you, it is essential that there is some sort of guarantee involved. Often, this is called a live arrival guarantee, as it ensures that the animal shows up on your doorstep alive. However, many stores offer an extended warranty that covers a few days or weeks after the animal arrives as well.
Just because a fish arrives in your mail alive doesn’t necessarily mean that it will survive the next few days. Sometimes, the shipping process simply stresses a fish out so much that it can’t go on. In these circumstances, you may be out of luck if the guarantee ends the second that you open the box.
Some companies will have guarantees for certain fish, but not for those that are sensitive to being mailed. This is often in the fine print, so be sure you check that your fish is covered under its policy before purchasing the fish. These sorts of policies can seem a bit unusual because companies shouldn’t ship a fish that likely won’t survive transit.
In any case, if a company has no guarantee, it is not invested in whether the fish actually shows up alive at your door. It may not be motivated to use the best shipping practices, and you’ll be out of luck if something in your order doesn’t arrive intact.
A company’s shipping policy is extremely important. After all, its shipping standards determine whether the fish that you purchase show up alive. There isn’t one accepted way to ship a fish. Some companies insist that using heating and cooling packs is essential, while others don’t even mention these on its website. In the end, it likely depends on the type of fish. If the fish is sensitive to temperature, then keeping that fish at the correct temperature is essential.
Sadly, shipping live animals are expensive. There is no way around this. There is much that goes into the process, such as extra insulation and heating or cooling packs. Such things aren’t required when you order a book, for instance. Furthermore, fish must be shipped overnight. It won’t last 7-10 business days in a box.
Companies with strict and high-quality shipping standards often won’t ship if the weather is in certain temperature ranges. This is largely because there is no way to keep a fish alive if it is below freezing outside or almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re ordering in the winter or summer, be sure to check the company’s shipping information.
The selection of a store can be judged in two ways. Not all stores should be judged the same, depending on the kind of store it is. Some stores carry a wide variety of items for aquariums. These may include shrimp, fish, tanks, plants, and other supplies. Such stores usually focus on the more common items from each category. You can’t expect them to have a rare shrimp that hardly anyone has heard of. However, if these stores are missing common fish or even whole categories of fish, your ability to shop at them may be dramatically produced.
Can you get everything that you need for your aquarium? Does it sell moss, for instance? If not, it’s likely missing a wide variety of common aquarium products.
On the other hand, some stores specialize in one particular product. For example, the Shrimp Farm focuses heavily on shrimp. It provides just about every kind of shrimp out there, as well as shrimp products. You can’t expect them to have fish, though.
Your best bet is to find a quality generalist store that you can shop at for most of your needs. But if you’re looking for something specialized, you’ll likely going to have to find a quality, specialized store to get it. You simply aren’t going to get rare plants from a store that only sells common plants.
The quality of the items that you purchase matters. No matter how good the selection or shipping standards of the store are, you don’t want to spend money on a sickly fish or plant. You’ll likely be able to tell right away if the plant or fish that you are looking at in a store hasn’t been well taken care of. But since you’re purchasing items online, it can be difficult to judge their quality. You can’t see the fish before you buy them, which is sometimes a recipe for trouble.
Also, you can’t always trust the store’s website for information on its quality. After all, it’s trying to sell you a product. It isn’t going to tell you that the quality is bad.
Instead, you should check reviews from actual people before making a purchase. If the store has low-quality items, this is how you’ll find out.
For general purchases (and even specialized items), we recommend Live Aquaria. It offers the widest selection on the market and has great shipping standards and extremely good guarantees.
Aquatic Arts is another top-tier fish store that we recommend. Its fish are extremely high-quality, and it is extremely careful with its shipping. However, it is also quite expensive.
The specialty stores in our reviews, like The Shrimp Farm, are great if you’re looking for the specific items that they carry.
Featured Image Credit: Piqsels