My first and second choices would be a trusted LFS or a friend.
When I do buy fish online I do so during mild temperatures like spring and fall to avoid heat and cold extremes during shipment.
Another option is have a LFS order specific fish for you so they can include them in their normal shipments. I often do that and pick it up from the store still in the shipping bag so it only gets acclimated once.
I rarely buy live stock on line. Number one unless its a WYSIWYG you really dont know if yor getting a good specimen thats healthy. It is very stressful on fish to be shipped and to a lesser extent corals. I used to recieve 300-500 fish weekly at Under The Sea and its was common to have 5-10% losses when the box was opened up to move them to QT tanks. Most will give you a refund or send another one at additional shipping but thats no cosulation to you or your wallet!
Like previously posted...my first and second choice is a LFS, even if I have to special order it through them. The added benefit is it keeps them in buisness so that they can be there for you when you need them the most as opposed to paying FedEx over nite shipping when you have an emergency or wait 4-7 days for on line retailers to ship a package to you. Both have there place, both offer a degree of service the other doesnt.
It really depends on who you're buying from. Liveaquaria.com are very good folks and they have a great live arrival/14 day guarantee policy. When I used to order from them, if I had a colony of zoos that would go bad they would always give me credit no questions asked.
I'm not sure who the other good etailers are for fish. If your lfs aren't that great then you'll probably have just as much luck shopping with them as you would a reputable online store. Just check out some of the larger forums like Nano-reef.com and see what store has good reviews.
Fish aren't that hard to ship and a good company would know what they're doing. A lot of lfs dose high amounts of copper and have ick running in their tanks frequently so you can get bad fish just as easily from them.
As far as good online coral etailers are concerned, I like extremecorals.com, liveaquaria.com, reefhotspot.com, pacificeastaquaculture.com, and me reefgardener.net .
Good ebay sellers are: donovonsreef, joesephlee, auctionmethis, reefpets, and me reef-gardener .
I second what Reef Goddess said - there are many very reputable online retailers and they generally have a better selection than your LFS - this doesn't mean you shouldn't buy from an LFS just that it's another option. As to shipping, stress, etc., when you are buying online you are basically buying from the same people that your LFS is buying from only they buy wholesale - the fish and other animals have gone through lots of stress from ocean to boat to wholesaler to retailer (or you) - if you have the ability to quarantine then you essentially are ok either way. Also, many online retailers have a WYSIWYG section so often you do get to see what you are purchasing in advance...
Just wanted to add one more thing re: buying online. You can avoid the last leg of the journey, the dreaded UPS, FedEx, DHL etc. truck by arranging to pick up your animals at the cargo area of your local airport - if it isn't really far from you it is a good option because you avoid having the boxes sitting in a hot or cold truck, plus you know when the flight is arriving so the creatures don't have to wait at the airport either for the delivery truck pick-up.
Oh yes! You can certianly have clams in this hobby. Not the best of ideas in a small Nano but with proper attention to detail it can certianly be done. They are best and easiest done in tanks 40 gallons plus.
I use one source for these and one source only...Clams Direct. Barry is located outside El Cajon California and has some of the most vivid and eye popping clams bar no one. I promise you, you will not find a outlet that will give you the kinda customer service Barry gives out either. His prices are about as reasonable as it gets as well. If there is someone better please post a link! Barrys clams are also WYSIWYG and I promise it will look just like the picture when it arrives.
Some of the better clams to try are Maximas and Croceas. The other while nice usually arent quiet as nicely marked and colored but more importantly if properly cared for will get quiet large. I would suggest that you get a clam thats at least 3 inches in size. These can usually get enough food/energy from your lighting if its adequate. Smaller clams than this while cute will most likely need to be taget fed. This is best done in a seperate contianer as pouring something like DT's into your tank can quickly over whelm it and send water quality south in hurry. Not to mention get expensive fast!
Clams are at their best when kept under some intense 10,000K to 12,000K halide lighting and placed in the tank where they can be viewed from high up above them. This is where they will show thier best colors. In small tanks you will have to watch the Clacium levels as they can be quiet the Clacium hogs. You may also have to add small amounts of Stronium and Magnesium to smaller tanks as well as you might not be able to keep up with a growing clam on these two by water changes alone. In a bigger tank these two are usually not an issue.
Clams are awsome and can make for a great center piece in your tank if properly housed and cared for.
I would also agree with reef goddess. Although I have not personally ordered from her, I know of several of our local club members who have and they speak very highly about her. I have ordered on line on several occasions and have had reasonably good luck. As phil-pl said, you have to really trust your shipper.
My recommendation would always be first for a member of a local reef club who is selling a fish or coral, second would be from an experienced and successful breeder, third would be a tie between a LFS with an excellent reputation and an online seller with the same reputation.
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