One of the first things someone that is setting up an aquarium is to decide where to buy the equipment and fish. Many stores carry aquariums and equipment to furnish a tank. Where to purchase fish is a different matter. It may take trips to several different stores to find one that suits.


Angelfish photo is public domain.

The Store

Stores are normally arranged in a logical manner. Generally the tanks are grouped with like fish such as angelfish, discus and other South American cichlids grouped together. There should be room between the aquariums so that a person can stand back to observe the fish. Find out if they do free water tests. This is something that offers the store a good return on a small investment. Find out their return policy and guarantee policy for fish.


One of the first things to look for is clean tanks. The tanks in a fish store should be consistently clean with clear water. Dirty tanks aren’t conducive to purchasing a fish that will live when moved to the home tank. The aquariums should be free of alge, uneaten food and fish waste. There shouldn’t be dead fish in a tank, and certainly not one of the higher priced fish like a discus. A fish from a diseased tank may carry the disease home. Not only should the aquariums be clean, but also the whole store should be.

Customer Service

Clerks in the store should be knowledgeable. They should be able to answer a question, find someone that can, or recommend literature on the problem. They should be able to give advice on tanks, filters and fish. Friendly, knowledgeable employees are the store’s main asset.

The Stock

Most stores carry a wide enough variety of fish to stock tanks for beginners to experienced hobbyists. Employees should be able to give advice on what fish live together peaceful to help with species that are difficult to keep.

Equipment and Supplies

Most stores carry a wide variety of equipment. If clerks are good, they’ll give their opinion or experience about the latest fad, and whether there’s something else they would recommend.


Most stores carry a variety of food for the fish they sell. This variety should include flake, freezedried, frozen and live.

Things To Ask

Ask employees what fish and tank setups they have. Most keep aquariums at home, and probably enjoy talking about their tanks. They may be specialists in certain breeds, and can give advice for problems. Find out when the store receives store shipments. It’s a good idea to not buy a fish that came in that day. Do they purchase stock from local breeders? These are general questions, but individuals will have specific questions they need answers to.

Online and Magazine Fish Stores

Choosing a fish store off the internet or from a magazine can be a problem. See if they have associations with any organizations. Pick one that has a solid return policy, and is well known. Buying equipment and supplies is less of a problem, but fish is a different story. The best advice is to start out slowly.

Finding a good fish store is an important part of aquarium keeping. It is a place to discuss problems, fish and equipment. Special orders won’t be a problem. It is an inviting place for an aquarium keeper.