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.