To Buy Or Not To Buy? A Guide To Choosing Aquarium Products From The Internet


Online aquarium retailers offer every imaginable aquarium product (even tropical fish and other livestock) at a highly competitive cost. Given the recent boom in online retail activity, I think a brief analysis of which aquarium products are best obtained from the internet, and which online offers you should stay away from, is in order.

One of my readers recently emailed me to ask whether or not I would advise buying a canister filter (an Eheim Classic) from the internet. Although he felt a bit uncomfortable with purchasing the filter online, he was nevertheless enticed by the low internet price.

As well he should be! I not only encourage him to buy the canister filter online, but I also got him to get a much needed aquarium heater from the same website. All in all, he saved $43.00 by opting to buy his brand new canister filter and heater online!

Yes; when it comes to dry goods (aquarium filters, heaters, food, books, etc) online retailers are able to provide aquarium supplies a very low price that aquarium shops just can’t compete with.

But, that is not to say that every aquarium product found online is worth the cost. In particular, there is a huge difference between buying dry-goods and getting livestock (fish, invertebrates, and plants) from the internet.

I, myself, have saved a fortune by getting my aquarium dry-goods from the internet. At the same time, I’ve had mixed results from getting tropical fish and invertebrates online.

Although I’ve never bought freshwater fish online, and therefore cannot attest (from experience) to their quality, I have purchased a few saltwater fish and coral specimens from the internet. About half the corals shipped to me did not match the photos the site had provided of those specific specimens. In particular, the photo coloration of a Platygyra sp. and a Montipora tuberculosa was apparently “adjusted” by that particular online retailer.

I was a bit peeved and disappointed, but the experience did teach me that it’s best to buy aquarium livestock from your local aquarium shop.

Indeed, when getting your tropical fish from aquarium shops, you can see and observe the particular fish you’ll be taking home. Basically, you see before your eyes your future fish. On top of this, you can (and should) ask the people working at the aquarium shop to feed the tropical fish for you, so that you can determine it’s activity and health (a luxury that an aquarium livestock website just can’t deliver).

Unfortunately, these same neighborhood shops tend to overprice aquarium dry-goods, and they often won’t carry the product that you’re looking for. For these two reasons, I strongly encourage obtaining your filters, food, and books online. In so doing, you’re guaranteed to save big bucks!

So, here’s my simple formula for the most cost-effective aquarium purchases: buy your fish from local stores, and all your other aquarium products (filters, heaters, food, books, etc) online.

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