Buying Saltwater Fish Online vs. Your LFS

Thanks for stopping by! For many reefers, it can understandably be pretty daunting to order expensive fish online, sight unseen.

The Limitations of Local Fish Stores

Ordering fish online may seem a bit complicated, compared to walking into your local fish store (LFS), picking something out, and bringing it home to introduce to your tank. But there are actually quite a few limitations to LFS that you might not be aware of. 

Reduced Quality and Variety of Available Livestock

All of the fish you see at your LFS comes from the same few wholesalers here in Los Angeles. Marine livestock collected in Bali, the Philippines, Fiji, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and more all make a stop here in LA before reaching the rest of the US. Wholesalers will receive the livestock, then turn around and ship it to their LFS customers within a day or two of receiving their shipment.

LFS will receive whatever the wholesalers send them, meaning that the level of quality and variety you experience at an LFS may vary. On any given week, you will be limited by whatever your LFS is able to bring in.

Higher Costs

LFS also need to pay for shipping to receive their livestock, along with all of the other associated expenses that running and maintaining a local store and its peripherals. All of this gets baked into the price you ultimately pay, which most of the time is higher than what you will find purchasing fish online. In some unfortunate cases, because of the shipping costs LFS are responsible for, this also means corners are cut when shipping, such as using less water/oxygen to pack as many fish into one box as possible.

No Guarantees

Finally, once you bring your fish home from your LFS, you are on your own. This isn't an issue if you are an expert and know exactly what to ask and look for at your LFS, but for everyone else, you are responsible for what you select.

Please bear in mind that we aren't against LFS. There will always be a place for them, and there will always be something irreplacable about browsing with your own eyes and picking something out yourself. We have built relationships with several LFS over the years and even supply a few stores you may know with livestock. But they do have some pretty notable limitations that we are able to solve with our online store.

The Benefits of Ordering Fish Online

Like Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, and other stores that have transitioned to online sales, going online has allowed us to reach thousands of customers around the US while minimizing our operating costs. What's important to you is that this means we can bring in greater quantities and wider varieties of livestock, and offer them to you at lower prices. 

Wide Variety of Available Livestock

Unless you are comparing us to a huge LFS, you will almost always find a wider selection of livestock on our website (especially after our Saturday inventory updates when our tanks are full of fish) than at your LFS. Our operations are prioritized toward receiving livestock, caring for them, and shipping them out when they are healthy and ready to go.

On your end, this means that you will have more specimens to choose from when putting your order together, and a greater chance of bringing in everything you wanted to introduce to your tank in the same shipment.

Reduced Stress for Livestock

While several of our sources are exclusive, we do utilize some of the same suppliers (where they collect the livestock) as the LA wholesalers. However, instead of shipping to a wholesaler, then to a LFS, then to your tank, we receive the fish direct from the source, and then ship directly to you. 

No matter how you do it, shipping is stressful for fish, and the more stops in the supply chain there are, the higher the chances are for stress in your livestock. Sadly, with the high costs of shipping, sometimes LFS will instruct wholesalers to pack as many fish into a box as possible, with little regard for their stress levels and health.

Lower Prices

By receiving direct from suppliers and shipping direct to you, we cut out the middlemen, allowing us to lower our prices. You might ask why other online stores are priced so much higher than us, given that we all receive fish from the same sources--the simple answer is that they aren't passing on the savings they enjoy to their customers as much as we are. Please see [The REEF BEAUTIES DIFFERENCE] for a more detailed explanation.

With cheaper rent from an industrial location (versus a commercial retail space open to the public), a more streamlined staff focused on receiving, caring for, and shipping fish to your doorstep, and less overall expenses, we are able to offer our livestock at a lower price to you. 

Higher Quality Specimens and a 15-Day Guarantee

Our job at Reef Beauties is to be your eyes in picking you the best fish out of what’s currently in circulation. With over 20 years of industry experience, our catchers are dedicated to hand-selecting healthy, colorful fish that will thrive in your tank. From our facility to your doorstep, your fish are packed and shipped to your doorstep in less than 24 hours.

This is crucial because it’s our loss if we don’t send you healthy fish, as we have a 15-day guarantee on almost all of our livestock offerings. This means that if something we send you doesn't make it, due to an issue on our part with selecting and/or shipping the specimen, we will take care of you with store credit to use towards a replacement or something else on a future order.

It doesn't make sense for us to send you unhealthy fish (from the cost of having to replace it to time spent evaluating the guarantee claim), so we are incredibly careful with what we send you. 

Staff That Cares--Unbeatable Customer Service

Every store is different, and we cannot generalize the level of service you might experience at LFS, because there are certainly some great ones out there. But we do know our own commitment to customer service, and here at Reef Beauties it's a priority.

Every team member here at Reef Beauties is a consumer, and we've all had frustrating experiences with customer service, especially with online stores where you cannot speak to someone face-to-face. These days, many online stores outsource their customer service teams to people working remotely. We all know what it feels like to be left hanging when we have a complaint with a product or service we pay for.

That being said, we are committed to ensuring that you don't go through that experience as a Reef Beauties customer. We're a small team, more like a family. At Reef Beauties, there aren't any departments to go through, no call centers or outsourcing...just a small team, more like a family, here at your service. You will always be dealing with the same people here, and that has allowed us to build relationships with many of our customers who have become like family to us too.

We genuinely believe that especially in a hobby that requires such a great investment of time, love, and money, we must be committed to doing all that we can to have a customer service experience that does this hobby justice. We know that we have our own limitation of not being able to work with you face-to-face, so we are more than happy to make sure that we respond to your inquiries quickly, and make up for it in other ways such as sending photos/video (within reason) of livestock you are on the fence on ordering.

A Few Cases Where You Should Buy From an LFS Instead

If you've read this far, you've seen us make a pretty solid argument for buying fish online. But we are happy to admit that buying fish online is not for everyone, and where shopping at a LFS makes more sense. Below are the two main instances where this is the case:

  • Making a Small Order: If you are only ordering one or two small/cheap fish, it does not make much sense to order online due to the overnight shipping cost. The cost to ship a small order overnight is nearly the same as a larger one, and we only cover the cost of overnight shipping when the order is over $169. On orders below that, you will be charged our flat rate of $39 for overnight shipping. For example, if ordering a $10 damsel or starfish, it will end up being closer to $50 after the shipping cost which is even more than the item itself.
  • Quarantine Requirments: If you would like the fish you receive to be fully quarantined for 4-6 weeks before shipping, we recommend trying a different store that explicitly states that they do a full quarantine of their fish. Pricing would easily be several times more expensive for fully quarantined fish due to the space, work, and time required to keep them until they can be sold. We do a mild quarantine of 3-5 days in our system running copper and hyposalinity (for fish, not inverts), and expect our customers to either have a quarantine tank (recommended), or to introduce the fish straight to their main tanks while understanding the risks associated with doing so.