A quick Google search will return dozens and dozens of marine fish and coral e-commerce sites. I’ve certainly not purchased from them all, but have purchased from many different sites. Based on purchase experiences my ratings are summarized here. Please note that I do not have any business relationship with any of these vendors and they have not given me anything free to gain a positive rating. The ratings reflect my personal experience/opinion.
|LiveAquaria.com||Owned by Dr's Foster and Smith - Corals and Fish||AAA||Professionally packed, excellent communication, quality marine life, detailed acclimation instructions.|
|Aqua Coral Farms||eBay Seller||AA||Top notch packaging, quality corals.|
|The Reef Preserve||Retailer of exotic and rare corals (especially Zoanthids)||AA||Good packaging, quality marine life.|
|Reef Lounge||eBay Seller and e-Commerce website - corals||A||Packaging was okay in a box with styrofoam panels. All livestock arrived alive. No acclimation instructions.|
|Coral Cove Online||eBay Seller||B||Low cost shipping; however, Monti arrived dead.|
|Blue Zoo Aquatics||Retailer of fish, invertebrates and corals||C||Low minimum purchase for free shipping. Both deliveries had "dead" wildlife within the warranty period.|
|Reefs 2 Go||Retailer of fish, invertebrates, corals and related supplies||D||Low cost, but repetitive dead and incorrect items.|
AAA Rated: Live Aquaria
Pros: Large selection, Extremely good and thought-out packaging, detailed acclimation instructions. Everything I ordered was very much alive and opened in the tank within a few hours. I had one question about my order and called Live Aquaria customer support – minimal wait time, very courteous and responsive.
I placed an order large enough to qualify for the free shipping.
Cons: It takes $229.00 purchase to qualify for free shipping. One way to look at this is their prices are very competitive. It is easy to offer free shipping at lower price points if your prices are inflated (subsidizes the shipping cost).
AA Rated: Aqua Coral Farms
This is an eBay retailer.
Pros: Packaging is first class. Instead of each coral frag simply packed in a bag, they place each frag stem through the bottom of a small condiment cup (like you find inside a fast-food restaurant). This prevents the coral frag from floating around in the bag and keeps the coral from knocking into the sides of the bag. The frag stays fixed in the condiment cup, with the edges of the coral totally surrounded by water at all times. All corals arrived alive, undamaged and fully opened within 2 hours. I had a couple of questions about the seller’s products – very responsive and helpful.
Cons: Does not always have items available for sale.
AA Rated: The Reef Preserve
Pros: Awesome Zoanthids that are hard to find elsewhere. Pricey, but rare. Everything is WYSIWYG. Corals all opened within 2 days. Exactly as pictured on their website. Packaging in styrofoam inside a box, double bagged. Definitely will buy from again.
A Rated: Reef Lounge USA
This is an eBay retailer and I later learned they have an eCommerce website as well.
Pros: All corals arrived alive – several different types of Chalice and Zoanthids. Packaging was okay. The box arrived a bit beat-up (which could have been attributed to the shipper). Instead of a styrofoam cooler, they use styrofoam panels. Prices on eBay were very reasonable.
Cons: No acclimation instructions and would prefer a styrofoam cooler which is more protective. With that said, everything arrived alive.
B Rated: Coral Cove Online
This is an eBay retailer. They are a newer seller and based on the responsive nature of their customer service, I expect their shipping practices will improve as they gain more experience.
Pros: All Zoanthids arrived alive. A montipora arrived dead, but the seller was very responsive and offered to replace the item. Excellent customer service.
Cons: The Monti arrived dead. Zoanthid polyps were quite small compared to other suppliers.
C Rated: Blue Zoo Aquatics
Pros: Good selection. They have a WYSIWYG selection. Packaging is good quality. Acclimation procedure as well as an acclimation kit are provided in the shipment.
Cons: Two purchases and four problems. On my first order, the Elegance Coral did not make it. Now, with a little research you will learn that the Elegance Coral has about a 50% mortality rate (depending on which resource you believe). Bottom line, is that it’s not the easiest coral. I sent the picture to Blue Zoo and with no questions asked they said they issued a credit…..but, it is not a credit, it is a coupon. Their DOA policy on their website states they issue a credit. What’s the difference? You can use a credit as a form of payment, just like you would a credit card. A coupon reduces the purchase price. Why does this matter? If you spend $140 with Blue Zoo Aquatics they offer free shipping. A credit would not impact your total price calculation, but would act as a form of payment. Because they treat the credit as a coupon, it reduces your purchase price and it the price falls below $140 you know are required to pay for shipping. If you know this when you make your purchase, then you can make an informed purchase. Unfortunately, their website is misleading and I really wish they could correct this. When I emailed them, their reply was:
Shared Risk – Even when everything is done right, there will always be a few fish that die, even if no reason can be determined. We know this, so we are willing to help share the risk and cost of aquarium fish ownership with our customers by giving merchandise credit for qualified losses.
No Cash Value – Our livestock coupons may be used for merchandise replacement only, and since they have no cash value, they do not count toward our free shipping promotion.
It is worth noting that all Blue Zoo livestock credits have a one year expiration and this can be extended upon customer request. Usually within a year, customers are able to justify the shipping by ordering a few more things and spreading the shipping cost across those items.”
I can’t say that these are unreasonable policies if you know them. Unfortunately, their website does not explain any of these details as part of their warranty/return policy.
The third problem…..when I placed the second order to use my coupon, my purchase price was large enough to qualify for a free Zoanthid frag. It arrived DOA. And, problem four….the first coral that I purchased which included a free pest: the infamous Aiptasia Anemone. Fortunately, I noticed it immediately and used my Dremel tool to cut the coral in two pieces and discarded the pest.
D Rated: Reefs2Go
When I started ordering corals on-line it was from Reefs2Go. The shipping was free with $89 purchase and I was making small purchases, so this was very economical. Also, they almost always have a sale on Zoanthids which makes their per/polyp pricing extremely competitive.
Pros: Price. Low prices and if you live in Florida, only $89 in purchases gets you free shipping. Pricing is quite an attraction until you learn it is a perpetual purchase to use your credits.
Cons: Dead or incorrect marine life in almost every shipment. They offer you a store credit, so you end up in a perpetual shopping spree with them just to use all of your dead animal credits. Also, there are many items on their site that seem to be permanently “sold out”. Off and on problems with their website. Sometimes works fine and other times not so fine; for example, when I was trying to review my account to see how many purchases I had made, their site kept taking me to a blank FedEx page instead of letting me review the items on each order. The only store that I have purchased from where Zoanthids arrive dead. Their website will state a 2″ x 2″ coral and you will receive less than a 1″ x 1″ coral. Also, be prepared to receive items that are different from what you purchase. No problem, they issue you a credit and you now have to shop/spend again in order to keep the shipping cost reasonable with respect to your total purchase price. Over 10 purchases and always problems. Now, if you call the store and threaten to refuse the charges on your credit card, they will offer a refund. This is the only reason I rated them a D instead of F. I have stopped shopping with them.
One note: I don’t have a AAA rating for suppliers who do not ship live marine life.
A Rated: Marine Depot
I’ve made several orders generally including supplements and a AquaC Remora Pre-Skimmer For Cobalt MJ1200 Powerhead.
Pros: Competitive prices, wide selection, quick shipping and I’ve never had any issues. As an additional benefit, if you sign up for their Newsletter you will get the occasional “how to” or “informative” marine video.
A Rated: Dr’s Foster & Smith (owners of Live Aquaria)
I’ve made several orders including supplements, other marine suppllies and aAquaC Remora Series Protein Skimmer Remora-S.
Pros: Competitive prices, wide selection, quick shipping and I’ve never had any issues.