Best Place To Buy Fish Online: A Complete Guide 

Jennifer Doll

Jennifer Doll


best place to buy fish online

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The Covid-19 pandemic has revolutionized the aquarium fish trade.

Many local fish stores were forced to close their doors or have limited stock, making online fish stores the more convenient and accessible source for a large selection of freshwater and saltwater fish and invertebrates. 

Just like in person, where you shop online matters. Price and quality can differ greatly between vendors, and you definitely want to know what you’re getting.

Keep reading to find out the pros and cons of shopping for aquarium livestock online and some of the best stores to buy from!

How To Buy Fish And Invertebrates Online

Buying fish and invertebrates online may seem questionable at first, but vendors and hobbyists have nearly perfected the process.

Before your fish get into the pet store, they have most likely been shipped from wholesalers from a different country. Tropical fish are extremely hardy, although few won’t be able to survive the initial trip.

From there, the fish store will acclimate the new additions to their systems until they are ready for resale. Then, the fish are sold and then acclimated to the hobbyist’s tank.

Buying fish and invertebrates online adds an extra step to the shipment. Searching for and purchasing the fish is easy, but shipping them from the original location to your house can bring additional stress to the fish and expenses.

Generally, live animals are shipped overnight. They are packaged with heating pads and insulation to maintain their ideal temperature.

Alternatively, live plants can be shipped over a few days and may not need heating pads depending on the weather and season. 

How Much Does Buying Tropical Fish Online Cost? 

In general, buying tropical fish and invertebrates from online fish stores is cheaper than buying in-store, especially when buying in bulk.

Many online sellers list items under the price found at most in-person stores. However, shipping costs have grown exponentially over the past few years, making small orders more expensive than similar-sized orders in-store.

Luckily, most online sellers offer free shipping after a threshold has been met, which is usually a couple of hundred dollars but can be worth it depending on your order.

Some hobbyists even pair up when ordering online to meet this threshold. 

On average, you can expect to pay $40 for overnight shipping in addition to below-average prices for a large selection of fish and invertebrates online. 

Pros Of Buying Fish Online

best place to buy fish online

With retail stores opening back up, is it still worth it to buy online? Generally, you may still find a better deal online, but we also recommend supporting your local fish stores as much as possible!

That being said, a couple of benefits to buying fish through online sellers include sales, selection, and arrival guarantee. 


As mentioned before, many online retailers offer fish and invertebrates at a lower price than in-store. This isn’t always the case, but it’s easier to sign up for memberships and newsletters that keep you updated with current sales.

For instance, many online companies run several different promotions and sales, which are uncommon to find in-person at stores.


The selection of fish and invertebrates that can be found online is unparalleled. 

Some online sellers specialize in only fish while others offer only saltwater corals or only live plants. There is a specialized store for every aspect of this hobby.

This access opens up a wide variety of aquarium stock to hobbyists who may never have the chance to see this spectrum of fish and plants otherwise.

In addition, you may find online stores that offer more responsible livestock collection methods, like aquacultured or tissue-cultured specimens. There is transparency that is offered online that can’t always be found in-store.

Arrival Guarantee

Most online fish stores offer a dead-on-arrival guarantee or DOA policy. This ensures that fish, saltwater corals, aquatic plants, and other invertebrates arrive alive, If not, they can be refunded with proof.

If buying in large quantities, sellers will often send more livestock than ordered to account for any deaths along the way.

However, if anything does happen to die on the way, simply send pictures within a certain timeframe for reimbursement, either through full refund, store credit, or replacement.

An arrival guarantee is a great safety net for longer shipments during cooler months. While unlikely, fish and invertebrates can die in transit from your local store to your home and there is usually no replacement policy. 

Cons To Buying Fish Online 

Though there are many benefits to buying fish online, especially if buying in bulk, there are several drawbacks that keep hobbyists supporting their local fish stores instead. 

Some of the largest cons to buying fish and other pet supplies online are not being able to see the exact fish or plants in person as well as shipping expenses.

Blind Buying

To make things easier, most online vendors use stock images of their inventory. This means that what you see is not what you get. However, some online sellers do keep up with taking pictures every time they get new stock, especially with corals.

This makes it nearly impossible to know exactly what you’re getting: fish, corals, and plants will all vary in size and color. Sometimes hobbyists get so much extra stuff from their online orders that they need to give some away to fellow hobbyists!

This could also work in reverse and you end up receiving less than you expected from your online order. In addition, fish can be sick and undersized, corals and plants can be browned out, and death could occur outside of the acceptable time frame for refunds.

For the most part, hobbyists have found these vendors and have cautioned buyers. However, sometimes things go wrong and you could have a poor experience buying from a reputable online seller.

Shipping Expenses

The largest issue keeping hobbyists from making the full shift to online shopping is the shipping expenses.

When you’re paying more in shipping than the actual cost of the fish, corals, or invertebrates that you’re buying, it may not be worth the additional expense.

As mentioned before, it’s safe to assume that overnight shipping will cost $40. This fee may be waived if a certain threshold is met, but otherwise, it’s a fairly universal figure.

Sometimes the shipping cost alone can be the price of several fish, many plants, or another piece of coral. It’s up to you to determine if the extra cost is worth it! 

The Best Place To Buy Fish And Invertebrates Online

A huge benefit of buying aquarium supplies online is being able to search through all the different species that can’t be found in pet supplies stores.

However,  if you are looking for specific items you’ll often find what you’re looking for spread out across several different online stores. 

We’ve made a comprehensive list of the best places to shop online for fish, corals, and plants below to help you better navigate your online shopping experience. 


LiveAquaria is one of the leading online vendors for freshwater and marine fish. If you want it, they most likely have it.

This company provides almost every species imaginable, even offering wild-caught and aquacultured options. They have a very wide variety of quality fish, corals, plants, and invertebrates.

In addition, they have a strict dead-on-arrival policy that offers store credit. Unfortunately, many hobbyists have experienced delayed shipping in addition to above-average prices from LiveAquaria lately. 

What we like:

  • A large variety of freshwater and saltwater fish, corals, plants, and invertebrates
  • Multiple options for animal sourcing
  • Dead on arrival policy

What could be better:

  • Shipping delays
  • Above average prices
  • Store credit refund

Aquatic Arts

Aquatic Arts is the premier destination for freshwater hobbyists looking for high-quality fish, invertebrates, and an assortment of aquatic plant species.

This aquarium company has freshwater fish for sale that can’t be found anywhere else. They offer a 100% live arrival guarantee which means that deceased animals and plants will be replaced at no extra charge or store credit will be given.

Fish, invertebrates, and plants arrive to the majority of hobbyists alive and in peak health. Hobbyists have had little problems dealing with Aquatic Arts, and if they do, customer service is excellent.

What we like:

  • Large selection of freshwater fish, invertebrates, and plants
  • Multiple options for animal sourcing
  • Shipped with 100% live-arrival guarantee
  • Great customer service

What could be better:

  • Above-average prices
  • Limited stock

Imperial Tropicals

Imperial Tropicals specializes in African and American cichlids, but also offers an assortment of more common freshwater fish, plants, and invertebrates. They are especially great for picking up juvenile fish, making harems safer and easier to start. 

Though hobbyists have great reviews about shipping, customer service, and fish health, Imperial Tropicals is significantly more expensive than its competitors. Luckily, their dead-on-arrival policy guarantees full credit reimbursement.

What we like:

  • High-quality African and American cichlids
  • Fast and safe shipping
  • Knowledgeable and accommodating customer service

What could be better:

  • Expensive
  • Limited stock is a one-stop-shop for marine fish, invertebrates, corals, cleanup crew packages, live rock, and supplies.

This online saltwater fish store offers some of the most common and desirable species that are usually always in stock. has more than reasonable prices and offers a 15-day live guarantee.

To get the most out of your order with, make sure to thoroughly read through their acclimation guide. Fish and corals are shipped in low salinity, which should be matched to the parameters of the desired fish tank.

What we like:

  • Readily available, high-demand fish 
  • 15-day live guarantee
  • Inexpensive

What could be better:

  • Slightly more challenging acclimation process

TSM Aquatics 

TSM Aquatics caters to the marine hobbyist with a refined taste.

They offer some of the rarest high-quality fish, including the Epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium Ocellatum) and Achilles tang (Acanthurus Achilles). TSM Aquatics also offers a limited selection of corals. 

This online saltwater fish store is not for the average hobbyist as prices reflect the unique and quality species. Those hobbyists who have made one-of-a-kind TSM Aquatics additions to their aquariums have had nothing but success.

TSM Aquatics offers an arrive alive guarantee for the first 2 hours after delivery.

What we like:

  • High-quality and uncommon fish and invertebrates
  • Good customer service and knowledge

What could be better:

  • Expensive
  • Limited supply

Next Day Koi

If you’re a pond hobbyist who’s been struggling to find top-quality koi fish and other pond fish species, Next Day Koi will cater to your every need.

Next Day Koi offers a huge selection of premium koi fish with up-to-date WYSIWYG pictures of the exact fish you’ll be purchasing. They also offer regular sales and discounts.

As their name suggests, koi fish arrive the very next day after ordering. They also offer a 14 Day Worry-Free Guarantee in case things go wrong.

What we like:

  • Current WYSIWYG photos of the exact fish
  • Frequent coupons and discounts
  • Next day shipping
  • 14-day worry-free guarantee on fish

What could be better:

  • Little to no problems experienced

The Best Place To Buy Marine Corals Online

Shopping for corals can be a challenge. Shopping for corals online has made the experience a little easier, but it can still be difficult to know exactly what you’re getting.

Hobbyists have searched far and wide for the most high-quality and budget-friendly corals. Here are some of the best online vendors they have found.

WorldWide Corals

Worldwide Corals are certainly not the most affordable corals, but they offer some of the most diverse and high-quality corals around.

With WorldWide Corals, you are certain to fall in love with something you can’t afford. They even offer a monthly coral club subscription where you’re surprised with different frags every month.

For the most part, WorldWide Corals come pest-free, healthy, and almost immediately ready to open. Deceased corals may be replaced or reimbursed for credit up to 10 days after arrival. 

What we like:

  • Top quality, pest-free corals
  • Coral subscription boxes
  • Large selection and availability
  • 10-day guarantee period

What could be better:

  • Very expensive
  • Limited selection for more common coral species

Cultivated Reef

Cultivated Reef carries a wide variety of corals, inverts, and macroalgae.

At any given point, there is usually a sale running to save a few dollars here and there. However, the minimum purchase is higher than other online vendors because Cultivated Reef offers frag packs and colonies.

Outside of the minimum, customers are happy with the quality, shipping speed, and 3-day livestock arrival guarantee.

What we like:

  • High-quality coral colonies
  • 3-day livestock arrival guarantee
  • Frequent sales and promotions

What could be better:

  • Slow to restock and limited selection
  • Focuses on colonies instead of smaller frags

Tidal Gardens

Tidal Gardens is another popular stop for coral enthusiasts. They pride themselves in having rare and exotic species, though they offer an extensive assortment of more common varieties as well.

One of the best things about visiting the Tidal Gardens website is the plethora of information and accompanying videos you’re greeted by. They offer equal amounts of coral colonies and frags, all in top condition. 

In addition, Tidal Garden corals seem to be more reasonably priced and come with a 7-day guarantee.

What we like:

  • Large section of high-quality coral colonies and frags
  • Dependable site for information
  • 7-day live guarantee
  • Reasonable pricing

What could be better:

  • Limited selection of WYSIWYG corals

The Best Place To Buy Freshwater Aquarium Plants Online

Freshwater aquarium plants are incredibly easy to buy online. Live plants are inexpensive, easy to ship, and available in large quantities.

One of the best things about live plants is that they don’t need to be shipped overnight. Most species do just fine with a heating pad if temperatures are correct.

Keep reading to learn about the best online distributors with quality plants at reasonable prices!


BucePlant is all about accommodating the freshwater aquascaper. From bonsai trees and various types of rock to the rarest and reddest plants, this site will probably have what you are looking for.

BucePlant offers any type of freshwater plant you can think of, delivering generous bundles that are often on sale. They have a 100% dead-on-arrival protection plan that offers a full refund or store credit in exchange.

The only drawback is that a heating pad is recommended to be added on to purchase at a minimal expense depending on temperatures.

What we like:

  • Large selection of live plants and aquascaping materials and supplies
  • Generous bundles of plants
  • Full refund or store credit

What could be better:

  • Recommended heating pad for an additional cost

Aquarium Co-Op

Aquarium Co-Op is another great choice when shopping for live freshwater plants. They also offer fish for sale, but most hobbyists frequent them for their leafy greens.

In addition to high-quality plants, Aquarium Co-Op also delivers fertilizers, aquascaping tools, and CO2 aquarium equipment. They do have a limited selection, but your order will usually ship out the same day you make your purchase. 

All dead plants must be photographed upon the day of arrival for a full refund.

What we like:

  • Healthy plants along with an assortment of freshwater aquarium supplies
  • Quick shipping

What could be better:

  • Limited supply of plants is slightly more expensive than competitors due to the large number of plants you can receive with each order. offers a wide variety of plants, hardscape materials, and even pond supplies. However, items can take some time to restock and the customer service is poor.

In addition, has a much more strict live-on arrival guarantee and doesn’t offer a free shipping threshold.

What we like:

  • Large quantity of plants delivered for a relatively higher base price
  • Offer aquarium and pond species as well as hardscape materials

What could be better:

  • Poor customer service
  • Limited stock 
  • No free shipping threshold
  • Strict live-on-arrival guarantee

Other online aquarium supply stores

Thanks to the internet, almost anything regarding aquarium life and husbandry can be found online. Past live aquarium livestock, there are endless sites for dry goods and the possibilities become nearly endless.

Here are some of the more unique pet supplies stores that offer even more specialty products.

The Shrimp Farm

You guessed it. This site is all about freshwater shrimp

Whether you’re just getting started on your shrimp collection or have been breeding high-end varieties for years, The Shrimp Farm has something for hobbyists at all levels.

The Shrimp Farm offers high-end, bulk packages of freshwater shrimp that are hard to find elsewhere. Their live-on-arrival guarantee is only good for 2 hours after delivery, but they’ll usually pack extra shrimp to account for any loss along the way.

Hobbyists have had some trouble with the shipping quality with little to no help from customer service. Though the shrimp are very high-quality, they can also be expensive and not guaranteed to arrive alive.

What we like:

  • Wide selection of high-quality and unusual freshwater shrimp
  • Bulk inventory

What could be better: 

  • Shipping problems
  • Poor customer service
  • Limited live-on-arrival guarantee 
  • Expensive

Jellyfish Warehouse

Contrary to popular belief, there’s a lot that goes into keeping jellyfish alive in captivity. These animals should only be kept by experienced hobbyists who have spent time researching their exact needs.

Once you’ve spent time researching jellyfish, where can you buy them? Probably not at your local pet store.

Instead, Jellyfish Warehouse has made purchasing jellyfish safe and easy.

Jellyfish Warehouse has tanks, aquarium equipment, foods, and bundles all specific to the needs of jellyfish. Their selection of aquacultured jellyfish species is very large, but often out of stock. 

They offer high-quality customer service that is tailored to your needs. However, their live-on-arrival guarantee is only good for the first 4 hours after delivery.

What we like:

  • One-stop shopping for everything jellyfish
  • Wide selection of aquacultured species
  • Personalized customer service

What could be better:

  • Often out of stock
  • Only 4-hour live on arrival guarantee
  • Expensive


No, they don’t just sell algae! Instead, Algaebarn caters to portions of the aquarium that are often forgotten.

This means microscopic foods and macroscopic algae as well as an assortment of other invertebrates and cleanup packages.

Small invertebrates, like copepods, are necessary for the survival of some fish species, like the mandarin goby (Synchiropus splendidus). At the same time, macroalgae can be used to house these invertebrates, improve filtration, or for decoration. 

Some hobbyists aren’t entirely happy with the packages they have received as quantities seem to vary between shipments. Other hobbyists have had problems with the shipping process entirely, even though the live-on-arrival guarantee is for 12 hours after delivery.

What we like:

  • Multiple live fish food varieties and size options
  • Premium macroalgae sure to be clean and pest free 
  • 12-hour live on-arrival guarantee

What could be better:

  • Some quality control issues
  • Various problems with the shipping process
  • Relatively expensive

Final Thoughts

While you should always try to support your local aquarium stores, sometimes they just don’t carry the fish or invertebrate you’re looking for.

Online fish stores have opened up infinite doors to new species, packages, and prices. However, blind buying and shipping expenses may still deter some customers from taking the plunge.

If you have any questions about finding fish for sale online or have had a great experience with one of the retailers listed above, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! 

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