Buying fish online opens up an exciting world of aquatic life right at your fingertips. With just a few clicks, you can discover and order rare, exotic species from around the globe. However, this convenience also comes with risks. Between transportation stress on the fish and dealing with less-than-reputable retailers, purchasing fish sight unseen can be daunting.
This comprehensive guide will walk you through the ins and outs of buying fish online. You’ll learn how to find the most reputable stores, what species work best for online ordering, warning signs for retailers to avoid, and vital tips for ensuring your new fish arrive happy and healthy.
Overview: Is It Safe to Buy Live Fish Online?
The first question many hobbyists have is simple – is it safe to have live fish shipped?
The short answer is yes. Insulation and shipping technology advances have allowed fish to be packaged and transported without undue stress or harm. Most online retailers have perfected the art of safely packing fish to endure the journey.
However, there are still risks to be aware of:
- Stress – Even in optimal conditions, transport is stressful for fish. Choosing hardy species better suited for shipping is key.
- Water Parameters – Ammonia buildup can be deadly. Reputable sellers utilize chemicals to neutralize the water.
- Temperature Fluctuations – Drastic changes in temperature, such as boxes sitting on hot tarmacs, can shock and kill fish. Insulated boxes help prevent this.
- Delays – Shipping delays and mistakes can be fatal. Select retailers with live arrival guarantees.
- Disease Transmission – Unhealthy fish can infect others in crowded bags and boxes during transit. Choosing quarantined fish is ideal.
While buying fish online does come with some risks, selecting reputable retailers and choosing suitable species can lead to success. Proper acclimation and quarantine once the fish reach your home are also vital.
Best Online Shops for Freshwater Fish
For those looking to add vibrant freshwater species to their aquariums, purchasing online can help you find rare and unique fish unavailable locally. Here are some top online freshwater fish stores:
1. Flip Aquatics
- Specializes in nano and exotic freshwater species
- 30-day guarantee plus specialty guarantees on sensitive species
- Quarantined fish
- High-quality YouTube videos provide care information and insights
- Wide selection of nano fish, including Celestial Pearl Danios, Pygmy Cories, and Scarlet Badis
2. Imperial Tropicals
- Ships freshwater fish worldwide
- Wide selection of tetras, rasboras, catfish, and barbs
- Active blog and video library to aid hobbyist education
- Offers quantity discounts
- Carries many hard-to-find species, like the Dwarf Orange Crayfish
3. Wet Spot Tropical Fish
- Family-owned business with decades of experience shipping fish
- Excellent reputation for packing and service
- Diverse selection of characins, killifish, livebearers, and invertebrates
- Specializes in wild-caught, locally bred, tank-raised species
- Stocks rare finds like Marbled Hatchetfish and Blackwater Bettas
4. Aquatic Arts
- Stores and ships from a 33,000 sq. foot sustainable greenhouse
- Innovative systems minimize transport stress on fish
- 30-day guarantee plus extended guarantees on sensitive species
- High-quality photography shows exact fish for sale
- Top seller of dwarf shrimp and nano fish like Ember Tetras
5. The Wet Spot Tropical Fish
- Retail store and greenhouse offering mail-order fish
- Excellent reputation for packing and service
- Stocks interesting species like Rocket Killifish and Pygmy Rainbowfish
- Active species breeding program produces rare, high-quality fish
- Guarantees live arrival
Best Shops for Ordering Saltwater Fish Online
While freshwater species tend to ship better, ordering saltwater fish online has become more commonplace. Here are go-to online retailers for marine fish:
- Massive selection with over 2,300 saltwater fish species alone
- Offers popular fish like Clownfish, Tangs, and Gobies
- Detailed care guides for most fish
- Allows price matching on fish
- 7-day health guarantee plus extended guarantees on sensitive species
- Specializes exclusively in marine fish and inverts
- Regularly updates “What’s New” section with latest species
- Active YouTube channel with acclimation tips and species spotlights
- Runs frequent sales and offers coupon codes
- Carries harder-to-find fish like Dragonets and Basslets
3. That Fish Place
- Retail store offering delivery across the US
- Wholesaler with huge selection and quantity discounts
- Carries marine fish, corals, live rock, and supplies
- Overnight shipping available for West Coast
- Excellent packing reputation
4. Unique Corals
- Retail and wholesale supplier of marine fish and corals
- Ships only the healthiest, aquaculture-raised species
- Smaller selection focused on popular species
- Quality guarantee on fish
- Special flat-rate overnights shipping available
5. Albany Aquarium
- Established Brooklyn aquarium with worldwide shipping
- Impressive selection of marine fish and invertebrates
- Active YouTube channel with weekly new arrivals
- Overnight shipping options available
- High-quality captive-bred species
Best Places for Ordering Rare and Exotic Fish Online
One major perk of buying fish online is access to rare, exotic species not found locally. These online retailers can help you find the most unique fish from across the globe:
- eBay-style marketplace for buying and selling fish and aquarium livestock
- Connects hobbyists directly rather than centralized inventory
- Features unusual species like Black Ghost Knifefish and Vampire Shrimp
- Allows you to search for specific rare fish
- Specializes in wild-collected freshwater fish from South America
- Brings in limited numbers of rare, micro-collected species
- Current stock includes Zebra Otos, Red Tailed Marbled Hatchetfish, Blackwater Pencilfish
- Provides detailed origin data on all fish
Wet Spot Tropical Fish
- Invertebrate section features exotic shrimp like Green Babaulti and Blue Bolt
- Wild-caught fish from remote regions of the Amazon and Rio Negro
- Frequently stocks rare species like Marbled Hatchetfish
- Active breeder of exotic freshwater fish like Zebra Plecos and Tiger Barbs
- Special order list allows pre-orders for rare fish
- Recent offerings include Black Ghost Knifefish, Clown Killifish, Medusa Pleco
- Wide selection of marine fish from the Indo-Pacific
- Provides exotic species like Harlequin Shrimps and Crocea Clams
- Frequently imports rare finds like Dragonets and Mandarinfish
Best Places to Buy Popular Aquarium Fish Online
For hobbyists looking to stock up on classic, popular aquarium fish, these online stores offer the prime selections:
- Cardinal Tetra – Live Aquaria, Imperial Tropicals, Aquarium Fish Sale
- Neon Tetra – Flip Aquatics, Wet Spot Tropical Fish, Aquatic Arts
- Rummy Nose Tetra – Imperial Tropicals, Arizona Aquatic Gardens, Albany Aquarium
- Tiger Barb – Imperial Tropicals, Arizona Aquatic Gardens, Seattle Aquarium
- Odessa Barb – Live Aquaria, That Fish Place, Aquarium Fish Sale
- Cherry Barb – Flip Aquatics, Imperial Tropicals, Wet Spot Tropical Fish
- Fancy Guppies – Aquarium Fish Sale, Seattle Aquarium, Aquatic Arts
- Feeder Guppies – That Fish Place, PetSolutions, Arizona Aquatic Gardens
- Wild Guppies – Imperial Tropicals, Below Water, Albany Aquarium
- Common Goldfish – That Fish Place, PetSolutions, King Koi Goldfish
- Comet Goldfish – Seattle Aquarium, Arizona Aquatic Gardens, Imperial Tropicals
- Oranda Goldfish – Coast Gem USA, Aquarium Fish Sale, Albany Aquarium
- Electric Blue Acara – Imperial Tropicals, Live Aquaria, Aquatic Arts
- Yellow Lab Cichlid – Wet Spot Tropical Fish, That Fish Place, Aquarium Fish Sale
- Blood Parrot Cichlid – Coast Gem USA
- Crowntail Betta – Coast Gem USA, Flip Aquatics, Aquarium Fish Sale
- Koi Betta – Space City Fish and Coral, Coast Gem USA, Aquatic Arts
- Dumbo Ear Betta – Imperial Tropicals, Seattle Aquarium, Aquarium Fish Sale
- Bristlenose Pleco – Live Aquaria, Flip Aquatics, Wet Spot Tropical Fish
- Clown Pleco – Imperial Tropicals, Below Water, Albany Aquarium
- Zebra Pleco – AquaBid, Wet Spot Tropical Fish, Unique Corals
- Blue Diamond Discus – Coast Gem USA, The Wet Spot Tropical Fish, Seattle Aquarium
- Red Turquoise Discus – Imperial Tropicals, Discus Madness, Live Aquaria
- Pigeon Blood Discus – Below Water, Discus Madness, Aquarium Fish Sale
- Electric Blue Johanni – Albany Aquarium, Live Aquaria, Imperial Tropicals
- Electric Yellow Cichlid – Aquarium Fish Sale, The Wet Spot Tropical Fish, Flip Aquatics
- Frontosa Cichlid – Coast Gem USA, Seattle Aquarium, Imperial Tropicals
- Red Cherry Shrimp – Flip Aquatics, Aquatic Arts, Wet Spot Tropical Fish
- Ghost Shrimp – Seattle Aquarium, Aquarium Fish Sale, PetSolutions
- Amano Shrimp – The Wet Spot Tropical Fish, Aquatic Arts, Albany Aquarium
- Guppy – Already covered previously
- Platy – PetSolutions, Aquatic Arts, Seattle Aquarium
- Molly – Arizona Aquatic Gardens, Albany Aquarium, Aquarium Fish Sale
- Swordtail – Imperial Tropicals, Seattle Aquarium, The Wet Spot Tropical Fish
Best Places to Buy Pond Fish and Koi Online
Enhancing backyard ponds and water gardens often starts with choosing vibrant pond fish online. These retailers offer top selections:
King Koi and Goldfish
- Extensive selection of imported Japanese Koi
- Also offers a variety of goldfish for ponds
- High-quality, disease-free Koi and goldfish
- Experts in packing and shipping pond fish
- Overnight shipping available
Coast Gem USA
- Family-owned business shipping Koi nationwide since 1989
- Specializes in exotic varieties like Metallic Koi and Gin Rin Koi
- Also stocks goldfish, orfe, and sturgeon
- Ongoing health and replacement guarantee
Next Day Koi
- Retail pond and water garden center with delivery
- Top seller of imported Japanese Koi
- Also offers goldfish, orfe, shubunkins
- Experienced at packing pond fish for shipping
- Next day delivery available throughout most of the US
Kloubec Koi Farm
- Breeder and importer of quality Koi
- Specializes in Butterfly Koi varieties
- Stocks extra-large, show quality Koi
- Facility open for pick up in Iowa
- Ships to most states
- Retailer and breeder carrying pond varieties like Sarasa Comets
- It also offers Goldfish, Shubunkins, Orfe
- Volume discounts available for pond stocking
- Experienced with packing and overnight shipping
Best Places to Buy Aquarium Supplies Online
You’ll also need supplies like lighting, filters, and décor when stocking your tank. Here are top online retailers for aquarium supplies:
Bulk Reef Supply
- Carries a massive selection of saltwater aquarium supplies
- Top seller of RO/DI units, reactors, salt mixes, and more
- Known for high-quality, customizable products
- Regularly runs sales on popular marine items
Drs. Foster and Smith / Pet Solutions
- One-stop shop for freshwater and saltwater supplies
- Wide variety of aquarium filters, lights, substrates and more
- Also stocks pond supplies, fish foods, and cleaning tools
- Runs frequent sales and promotions
That Fish Place
- Huge selection of equipment for freshwater and marine aquariums
- Carries major brands along with own products
- Known for quality filtration systems and protein skimmers
- Offers wide range of live rock and driftwood
- Specializes in premium, reef-specific products
- Top seller of LED lights, wavemakers, calcium reactors and more
- Carries professional-grade equipment from Neptune, NYOS, Kessil
- 30-day return policy on most products
- Specialty aquascaping store for planted aquariums
- Massive selection of aquatic plants and mosses
- Also stocks driftwood, stones, substrates, CO2 systems
- Free shipping on orders over $39
Best Places to Buy Quarantined Fish Online
To avoid introducing disease into your tank from new fish, choosing retailers that quarantine is ideal. Here are top options for quarantined fish:
- Operates a massive, state-of-the-art quarantine facility
- All marine fish and majority of freshwater fish are quarantined
- Multiple rounds of prophylactic treatments ensure fish health
- Offers 7-day guarantee against contagious diseases
- Quarantines all freshwater fish before sale
- Utilizes sterilized systems for isolation
- Employs prophylactic treatments during quarantine
- 30-day guarantee covers most contagious illnesses
- Quarantines saltwater fish before sale
- Isolates fish in individual containers during quarantine
- Treats proactively for parasites, bacteria, fungi
- 14-day guarantee against contagious diseases
Wet Spot Tropical Fish
- Select imported fish are quarantined
- Isolated systems used for quarantine process
- Pre-shipment exams ensure only healthy fish sent
- Extensive guarantee policy on diseased fish
Aquarium Fish Sale
- Retailer offering quarantine as a customer-paid service
- 21-day quarantine with 4 rounds of treatments
- Hospital-grade UV sterilization systems
- 7-day guarantee against contagious illnesses
How to Buy Fish Online: Step-by-Step Guide
Once you’ve selected a reputable retailer, follow these steps for a smooth fish buying process:
- Research fish species – Read up on the needs, behaviors, tank requirements, and temperaments of the fish you want. Select beginner-friendly, hardy options ideal for shipping.
- Choose a seller – Read reviews, check guarantee policies, and verify licenses to select a retailer with a proven history of providing healthy fish.
- Pick your fish – Look at photos and descriptions to select your specific fish. Reputable sellers offer views of the actual fish for sale.
- Order quickly – Don’t leave fish lingering in carts too long, as inventories change rapidly. Order ASAP once you’ve decided.
- Understand shipping – Read shipping policies and opt for overnight or expedited shipping, if possible. Be aware delays can happen.
- Prepare for arrival – Have quarantine and acclimation supplies ready. Follow the retailer’s instructions for opening the shipment and acclimating new fish.
- Inspect new arrivals – Assess the health of each fish before introducing them to main tanks. Quarantine new fish to observe them.
- Provide optimal care – Research and provide the specific care requirements of your new fish. Maintain pristine water quality and appropriate tank conditions.
- Enjoy your new fish! – Once fully acclimated, you can enjoy these exciting new additions to your freshwater or saltwater aquarium!
Warning Signs of an Untrustworthy Online Fish Store
While many excellent retailers operate online, some poor vendors slip through the cracks. Be wary of sellers that:
- Have no online reviews or consistently negative reviews
- Offer extremely cheap prices or “too good to be true” deals
- Lack licensing information or business address details
- Do not provide guarantee policies on fish
- Have no photos of actual livestock, only generic pics
- Have dated or broken website design
- Push excessive upselling during checkout
- Cannot provide shipping details or have restrictive policies
Stick to established retailers with longstanding positive reputations in the hobby to avoid getting poor quality fish from disreputable sources.
Key Tips for Safely Buying Fish Online
Follow these crucial tips to make your live fish purchase online a success:
- Research species suitability for transport and adjust expectations.
- Select only retailers with proven track records and guarantees.
- Read recent reviews to verify the seller’s current reputation and service.
- Understand shipping policies and opt for fast shipping if possible.
- Choose hardy fish, avoiding extremely delicate or small species.
- Have quarantine and acclimation supplies ready before fish arrive.
- Do not open bags immediately. Allow temperature to equalize first.
- Inspect each fish for signs of disease or injury before releasing into tank.
- Be prepared to give a freshwater dip or saltwater bath upon arrival if necessary.
- Quarantine new fish for at least 2-4 weeks to observe health.
- Research proper diet and care needs of your species before purchasing.
- Provide pristine water quality and correct water parameters for your new fish.
- Start with 1-2 fish to test a seller before ordering more.
- Only order when you can be home to receive the shipment.
- Have backup tanks or supplies ready in case of issues or losses.
- Know refund, return, or replacement policies in case of problems.
- Be patient – let fish settle and de-stress before expecting them to eat or behave normally.
Following these best practices will help set your new fish up for success as you venture into buying fish online!