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Guide To Buying Tropical Fish Online

There are many places to buy tropical fish in this day and age and becoming more popular in the UK is buying fish online. There are a few different sources of buying fish online such as online auction websites like eBay, from private sellers through websites such as Aquarist Classifieds or through online only tropical fish shops.


At Tropical Fish Site we recommend following a few basic rules to ensure you are not disappointed when buying fish online.

  1. Check review websites, forums and facebook pages to see what sort of feedback others have given and to see what sort of outfit the company or person you are buying from has.
  2. Speak to the seller directly and ask them as many questions as you like until you feel comfortable that the fish are what they say they are, are of the advertised size and have been kept in the correct conditions – if this means asking what water parameters they are in, what they have been fed, how often they have been fed etc, this shouldn’t be a problem for an experienced genuine seller.
  3. Find out what the reason for selling the fish is, are they fry from a breeding group? If so then ask to see a picture of the parents and the fry for sale. If they are just changing the fish they keep or giving up the hobby, try and find out why this might be.
  4. The length of time the seller has had the fish could also be an indication of whether it is a safe purchase or not. If they are wild caught and the seller has only had them in the country for a week or 2 then this is too soon to be selling them. It could be that they have had problems with them dying and want to move them as quickly as possible.
  5. Always ask for pictures of the actual fish for sale, this means that they can prove they physically have the fish and you will be able to see if they are what you are looking for. Ideally if they are just fry then ask for a picture of the fry and the parents they came from. If possible a picture of them with the whole tank showing and ask for tank dimensions so you can get an idea of scale and how big they actually are.
  6. Find out how they will be shipped and if they ship fish often. Tropical fish should be shipped in a poly box with a 24-36 hour heat pack inside. At the time of writing only APC is licenced to deliver live tropical fish within the UK although I believe Royal Mail may be soon.
  7. What are the origins of the fish you are buying? Can the seller tell you where they got them from and if they are wild or F1 (we have written a separate article on what WC, F1 and F2 means in fish keeping).
  8. Does the seller have a DOA period where they will issue you with a refund if any fish turn up Dead On Arrival. Most reputable online shops will offer this service so long as you provide a photo of the dead fish within 1 hour of you signing for the package.

There is nothing wrong with buying tropical fish online so long as you are confident in the seller and the fish background and, as with any online purchase, that you are not being misled to paying for something which is falsely advertised. We have purchased many fish online over the years and not had any problems.


As a general rule, if a seller’s advert is short with no images and when you request information they tell you to “just come and have a look” then there is a chance they will try and talk you round when you have made a potential wasted journey. If something smells fishy then it probably is fishy!


On the back of this, if you have a good experience of buying fish from someone then why not share it to help others make the right informed decision too.