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Can I Purchase Live Aquarium Fish on the Internet?

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Bagged Fish Sabine Scheckel
Question: Can I Purchase Live Aquarium Fish on the Internet?
Answer: Not long ago few, if any, people considered purchasing fish anywhere but at their local fish shop. However, in recent years, selling fish online and shipping them directly to the customer has become fairly common. In fact, some companies make a large portion of their sales from online orders. Although there are risks when purchasing online, keeping these recommendations in mind will increase your chance of success.

The Risks
Purchasing online presents risks that aren't encountered at a local fish shop. Not being able to select the fish ahead of time or observe the condition of the shop itself are enough to keep many people from purchasing online. An even bigger concern is stress the fish experience when shipped. Will the fish arrive alive and healthy? What happens if they are lost, or arrive dead or dying? All of these concerns are quite valid.

Reasons for Online Purchases
Before considering an online purchase think about your reasons for buying online versus making your purchase at a local fish shop. Price should not be the issue, as lower online prices will be offset by the addition of shipping fees, which often are quite substantial. Ordering online because you are can't find a specific species of fish locally, isn't always necessary. Most good pet shops will order fish upon request, and if the fish dies during shipping, the cost is generally not passed on to you. Even though they may not post signs in their shop saying they will order fish, ask the store manager if they will. Many shops will gladly order a specific fish if a customer asks for it.

Lastly, if you order online because you live far away from a fish shop, odds are you pare robably just as far away from a major airport. So even if you order online, the fish may be subjected to a lengthy transit time, which is very stressful. It may be in your best interest to drive to a fish shop even if it is a few hours away, rather than ordering online and risk losing the fish during shipping. At least you can control the temperature in your car, and assure that the fish arrive at your home as quickly as possible.

Precautions to Take
If you still want to order live fish online, you can be increase your chances for success by taking a few precautionary steps. Keep the following things in mind before placing your order:
  • Find an expert - Companies that specialize in shipping live fish directly to customers do a better job of packing the fish, and expediting the shipment.
  • Ask about guarantees - A number of online suppliers offer 'arrive alive' provisions. If they make no guarantees at all, you are taking a big risk.
  • Get a firm price with shipping - Don't settle for undefined shipping costs when placing your order. Often the shipping can be far more than the cost of the fish itself.
  • Go to the airport - If you live near a major airport, consider opting to pick up the package there. The cost will often be less, and there will be no risk of the fish sitting in a delivery truck for a long period of time.
  • Consider the weather - If there are temperature extremes consider placing your order at another time. Keep in mind that although your weather may be good, the plane may travel through areas of not so pleasant temperatures. Fish are usually shipped in a cargo bay that is neither heated or cooled.
  • Order with others - See if anyone else in your area is interested in ordering fish online. By combining your order you can often save on shipping costs.
  • Order Securely - Treat the order like any online purchase - very carefully. Personally I'd call my credit card or bank information in to the company if I had a choice. That way there is less chance of your information falling into the wrong hands. If you do fill out an online form, make sure it is a secure one.
I've personally ordered fish and plants online, and had both good and bad experiences. If you do your homework, you are less likely to have a bad outcome.

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