HOW TO BUY AQUARIUM SUPPLIES ONLINE
Why buy Aquarium Supplies online?
Buying aquarium supplies has both its pros and cons. We'll discuss the pros and cons over the following aspects: selection, cost, time delay, shipping cost, and caveat emptor (buyer beware), and customer service.
- Selection. How many times have you read about a new aquarium filter, drove over to your local pet store only to find that they don't carry that new filter in stock? It can be very frustrating hunting down local sources for many specific aquarium supplies. Probably the biggest advantage to buying your aquarium supplies online is the available selection. If you can't find what you're looking for at one online, you can probably find it at another online site. You can quickly develop your quick list of favorite stores, one of which will always carry what you're looking for.
- Cost. With online shopping, you can easily do comparative shopping, which will help you keep your costs down. Make sure you consider shipping costs and the company's shipping guarantee or warranty (or lack thereof) when you compare prices.
- Time delay. There are two ways to look at this. On the one hand, shopping online will require some delay of gratification. Most online stores will provide expedited shipping. So going into a store in person will definitely get you your supplies in your hands faster. On the other hand, if you can't find what you're looking for locally, depending on how far you'd have to travel to get what you want, using an online site might make sense here.
- Shipping cost (may not make sense to buy small orders)
- Caveat Emptor. Besides cost of shipping, this is probably the single biggest problem that you'll encounter buying online. There's simply no guarantee that you're going to get what you think you're going to get. That's because you're not right in front of the product, looking at physically. There are two ways to deal with this short-coming of shopping online. First, only deal with an online store that has a good reputation among other fish hobbyists. Second, always go with the store that has the more generous return or exchange policy. For livestock, there won't be a return or exchange policy. But what is their shipping guarantee that you're going to receive the fish alive and in good shape?
- Customer Service. With online stores, this is a mixed bag. On the one hand, you can come across the online site for a very successful aquarium supply store that provides much better customer service and information than you could get in a local general pet store. But on the other side of the spectrum, you may find that they have limited guarantees on how well their livestock will do once you get them.
The one thing to remember here is to go with a supplier that has a good reputation. You don't want to spend your money with a business that doesn't have a happy client base because 1) you may not get your money's worth and 2) your fish may not come in as healthy as they could. Here is a list of my favorite online aquarium livestock and supplies stores:
- Marinedepot.com and their sister site, MarineDepotLive.com Boy, are these site FAST. MarineDepot has an extensive inventory for saltwater and reef aquariums. MarineDepotLive sells livestock and offers a 5 day shipping guarantee. That's not bad!
- LiveAquaria.com This is Dr. Foster & Dr. Smith's online site for selling fish livestock and aquarium supplies. What I like about this site is that they have a 14 day guarantee with their fish. That is, if you can show that you properly acclimated your fish, they'll guarantee that any fish they sell to you will survive for the first 14 days. If not, they'll refund your money. This also includes fish that don't make it through the shipping process! They ship everything by FedEx and they ship straight to your door. You'll find that many other livestock sites may only ship to the nearest airport and you'll need to go pick it up yourself.
- eTropicals.com This is another Drs. Foster & Smith's online site that focuses just on fish, coral, and invertebrates from the Caribbean only. Besides their wonderful 14 day guarantee, they provide a helpful site with lots of info on each product or fish that they sell.
- Aquadirect.com This company has had an online presence for a long time so they definitely know what they're doing regarding getting you're your order as fast as possible. They sell anything related to aquariums. They have a 30-day return policy but watch out for the 20% restocking fee!
- AquaFX.com These guys do filtration and they do it well!
- http://clearwatersaquarium.com/ Another site that sells aquariums supplies and accessories. They don't offer "price matching" before you buy something from them but they will offer a "110%" of a refund for the price difference.
- PremiumAquatics.com They sell both dry goods and live fish (saltwater). This site offers live chat help during most of the day. They also have a "price matching" policy for hardware. They have a livestock guarantee that you'll get your fish alive but they don't guarantee that your fish for any time after you receive them.
- J&L Aquatics.com Based out of Canada, this company focuses on providing value to the customer. Keep that in mind when you consider their rather limited livestock guarantees (24 hours!) and that they'll expect you to deal with the airline for any fish damaged en route. They don't ship livestock to your door; you'll need to go to the airport to pick up you new little babies.
Where to Find product reviews Online
Here is a short list of websites that offer product reviews or forums where other fish hobbyists talk about their experiences with specific products:
Use these tips to save yourself some money or grief when buying aquarium stock and supplies online:
- Confirm what you're buying; if you have any questions, send an e-mail or call them for verification.
- What is their return policy on tank equipment and accessories? What is their guarantee (if any) on live stock?
- Find out if they have a "matching" policy. Many times you can find a site that will match prices of their competitors for aquarium supplies.
- For supplies that you know you're going to go thru, consider buying in bulk if there are cost savings.
- Buy food from stores that do high volume so you don't get fish food that's been sitting around for a long time
- Consider shipping costs when comparing suppliers
- Taking advantage of specials. Look online for coupons.
- Get on mailing lists for customer specials. Many online sites will rotate through specials that they only advertise to their e-mail lists.
- If it sounds too good to be true, consider that it might be. While some of the bigger names might be slightly more expensive all-around, you'll appreciate their professionalism when it comes to shipping and returns.
- Use your credit card over other forms of payment so that if you have any problems with what you receive, as a last resort you can make a complaint to your credit card company for a charge-back.
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