Introduction to buying saltwater fish and corals online
The advice and support you can get from a local fish store can sometimes be worth its weight in gold, but if you are like some of us in the hobby, you either aren’t located in an area with a lot of good local fish store options or you are looking for a selection of saltwater fish and corals that expands beyond what is available in your local shop. If you are interested in buying saltwater aquarium fish and online, this article is intended to give you a few ideas to get started. Some of the biggest names are Jason Fox Coral, Cherry Coral and LiveAquaria, but be sure to check out the list for some other great saltwater fish and coral online stores.
Things to consider
If you are ordering fish, corals or other invertebrates online, there are a few things you will want to consider.
Shipping a live animal in a box is one of the most stressful things you can do it (beyond capturing it in the wild and extracting it from its home). Suffice it to say, you need to spend some time carefully acclimating the saltwater fish and corals you purchased online to life outside the box and life in your aquarium.
This acclimation process starts by being there for the delivery (which can be a challenge if you work a traditional 9-5 type job…although traditional 9-5 jobs are more like 8-6 jobs these days, aren’t they?). You also need to gradually acclimate them to the light (they spent the night in a pitch-black box) and also the water parameters.
Most of the reputable saltwater fish and coral online stores have recommended acclimation procedures. Be sure to read up on those prior to ordering, so that you are ready when your saltwater fish and corals arrive. This is important to the health and wellbeing of the livestock you ordered, but is also extremely important if you want to be covered by any warranty the store may provide. Many of the warranty programs require you to follow certain acclimation steps and also require you to contact them immediately after the package is received if you notice a specimen that is dead on arrival.
The big downside to ordering saltwater fish and corals online is undoubtedly the cost. You need to ship live saltwater fish and corals overnight–and overnight shipping is expensive. Plan on shipping to cost you $50-$75. Of course, the online saltwater fish and coral stores know this–and they tend to offer FREE SHIPPING when you exceed their minimum order amount. That sounds like a great deal (and it is) but the challenge can be that you will need to place an order somewhere between $150 and $250, which is no trivial sum. It is also (potentially) a lot of livestock to add to your tank all at once.
So one way to capitalize on free shipping and not blow your budget or biological filter is to connect with fellow hobbyists in your area and place an order as a group. If you can connect on a group buy, you can fairly easily exceed the minimum to secure your free shipping and get the one or two specimens you were really the most interested in.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but keep in mind that the pictures you see (most of the time) when buying saltwater aquarium fish or corals are just representative pictures of the species you are thinking of purchasing. They are generally not pictures of the actual specimen you are going to get, unless the website specifically says that. So while the image may look like a full-sized colony, or like an adult fish, the actual saltwater fish or coral you should match the description, but it won’t be the actual one from the picture.
The big exception to that rule is if the saltwater fish or coral is listed as WYSIWYG. (WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get)A few places to get started
If Corals are what you are looking for, here are the names of a few popular and reputable vendors you will want to check out.
The Cherry Corals website is eye candy for the reef aquarium enthusiast. Don’t check it while you’re at work, or you may find that you lose track of time and miss your next meeting.
Their mantra is, “If it’s not HOT, it’s not here!” So don’t think you’re going to find a garden variety soft coral on the cherry corals site. They specialize in…well…cherry corals.
Cherry Corals offers a variety of SPS Corals, LPS Corals, Zoas & Palys, Mushrooms & Ricordea and Anemones. But if you are really in the mood for something new and something special, and if you have some money in your pocket (many of these are not cheap), be sure to check out their page of “Fresh Cherries”.
Check out Cherry Corals here
Here’s a little tip, if you want to see what they have in stock, check out their facebook page first–they update that page first, several times a week.
Cherry Corals is based in Michigan and they do guarantee their shipments will arrive alive, or they will credit it you for the lost coral.
Jason Fox Coral
Another premium aquarium coral online store is Jason Fox Coral. Jason Fox Coral is the online store for the reefkeeper with the same name who has been keeping corals since 1996. He has a collection of amazing corals. The Signature Jason Fox Corals are available from his website, Jasonfoxsignaturecorals.com, where you can find a variety of amazingly colored SPS, LPS and zoanthid corals. On the site, you’ll feast your eyes on corals with names like the Jason Fox Aquaman, or the Jason Fox Atomic Sunrise or the Jason Fox Bubble Buster.
Looking for something exclusive? Check out the Jason Fox Coral WYSIWYG Page.
Jason Fox Coral is located on the east coast, in Maryland, and they do offer an arrive alive guarantee and will provide a credit for any Jason Fox Coral that is dead on arrival, as long as you contact them within 1 hour of receipt of the box….so get unpacking fast. That seems a bit of a narrow window to me…but what do I know…
You can also find Jason Fox Coral at some aquarium shows and frag swaps, like MAMAX 2016.
Check out Jason Fox Coral here or search Google for “Jason Fox Coral”.
Tidal Gardens is a coral propagation (aquaculture) company, centrally located in Ohio. They carry a full line of corals (not just the hot corals), including SPS, LPS, Zoanthids, Mushrooms, Gorgonians, Clams, Anemones, Soft Corals and more. Than Thein started Tidal Gardens in 2005. In addition to providing amazing livestock, Tidal Gardens also produces one of my favorite YouTube Channels.
One of the cool things about Tidal Gardens is that Than documents everything–for example, check out the Tidal Gardens Greenhouse page. It’s like a behind the scenes tour. You get to see exactly how they have everything set up there, which makes you feel like an insider.
Tidal Gardens offers an arrive alive guarantee.
Fish and Corals
If you are interested in purchasing fish and/or corals, here are a few of the most popular online stores I’m aware of. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should help you get started.
LiveAquaria.com is one of the best names in the business. They have been around for years, have a great track record and are even renowned for the way they select and acclimate their fish. It’s hard to go wrong by choosing LiveAquaria. This site typically has a great selection of aquacultured fish and corals, wild-caught fish, and if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind specimen, check out the divers den, for the latest WYSIWYG corals (WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get).
While you’re there, check out their very helpful saltwater fish compatibility chart.
The best part about ordering your saltwater fish and corals online from LiveAquaria.com is their guarantee. They guarantee all of their purchases to arrive alive and then stay alive for 14 days or they will either credit your account or refund your money, so you can buy with confidence.
Furthermore, if you purchase one of their certified captive-bred corals, they come with a 30-day extended guarantee.
ThatFishPlace started in 1973, as a small aquarium store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but the operation has grown significantly over the years. For me, and other Eastern, PA residents, ThatFishPlace is both an interesting local fish store with a giant fish room. For those of you who live beyond a reasonable driving radius (most likely YOU), the good news is that they are also an amazing online store.
If you order saltwater fish or corals online from ThatFishPlace, you are also covered by their 14-day guarantee, as long as the fish isn’t on their restricted species list. The only downside there is that the restricted species list is actually fairly large (in my opinion), but it is certainly better than NO guarantee.
Based in California, BlueZoo Aquatics started in 2001 as a custom aquarium design and maintenance company. Naturally, anyone who orders a custom aquarium wants to fill it with amazing fish–and out of that need, BlueZooAquatics was born. Check out BlueZooAquatics here:
Blue Zoo Aquatics has a 7-day guarantee on their fish.
If you’re looking for a centerpiece clam to spice up your tank, the biggest name in aquacultured clams is Dr. Mac’s Pacific East Aquaculture. They’ve been around since the year 2000 and have a great reputation for great clams (and corals) and customer service. They are based in Maryland and boast that they are a short drive (less than 2 hours…) from Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.
Pacific East Aquaculture
Pacific East Aquaculture doesn’t offer free shipping, they offer a program called Better Than Free Shipping.
Most of the other online saltwater fish and coral retailers offer free shipping if you order at least the minimum amount. Pacific East Aquaculture takes that concept and turns it (slightly) around to focus on getting more stuff. So rather than credit you for an expense that nobody wants to pay for, they try to give you more of the stuff you’re there to shop for. Which is an intriguing concept. Truthfully, I don’t think it’s quite better than free shipping (the rates posted the day I typed this article show that you get a $25 credit when spending $175 (an amount that would qualify for free shipping on many sites)–and we know that the cost of shipping is generally $50 or more…
So I think their better than free shipping program has a little ways to go to live up to the marketing hype, but who doesn’t like the idea of getting more stuff for the money–and while I’d debate whether it is truly better than free shipping, it is certainly better than nothing…and most definitely better than a stick in the eye.
Check out Dr. Mac’s Pacific East Aquaculture website here
Do you have an aiptasia infestation? If that’s the case, you may be interested in ordering berghia nudibranchs to fight the infestation natually.
There are two prominent purveyors of berghia nudibranchs that I’m aware of:
Check out the Salty Underground website here
Check out the Reeftown website here
If you’re looking for live cultures of phytoplankton, rotifers, copepods or mysid shrimp, one of the best sources online is Reed Mariculture, a California-based company that is one of the largest providers of microalgae concentrates and other related products.
I hope you found this list of online retailers supporting the saltwater aquarium hobby helpful. This is by no means an exhaustive list. One of the challenging things about this hobby is that stores pop up and unfortunately, disappear with regularity. My goal with this article is to point you in the direct of some of the most established, tried and true online saltwater fish and coral livestock stores to help you start your journey in considering getting those saltwater fish and corals shipped to your doorstep.