HOUSE OF TROPICALS (Glen Burnie, MD):
Overall, I like the store for several reasons. First, I drive by the store on the way home from the work which lets me stop two-three times a week (by the way great location just off I-97 within minutes of BWI Airport). Second, in terms of animal-life (fauna), they have a great stock of freshwater and saltwater fauna. Third, I have found them to be well staffed, their staff to be willing to help, and several to be very knowledgable especially about salt water and freshwater fish. Fourth, I have found their plant stock is fairly good though they are not equiped to house or sell hi-tech or specialized plants. Fifth, I have found their two owners, Mike and Mark (brothers), while always busy with store business, are friendly, approachable, and almost always available and happy to discuss special orders.
EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES:
Without going crazy, I found they stock most supplies at a reasonable prices and can probably order you anything you want. In addition, I have found that they have a huge stock of standard aquariums including some monster sized aquariums and several smaller rimless aquariums including shrimp kits and stratum (for example, they have in stock the Fluval Ebi Nano Shrimp Habitat Aquarium Kit
for $72 & Fluval Flora Planted Aquarium Kit
for $99 - both better than Foster & Smith). Recently, I have seen a reef-ready rimless Deep Blue Edge 57
for a really nice price (Deep Blue rimless are designed as reef tanks and come standard w/overflows).
I cannot speak to saltwater in detail as I have little experience with salt water flora, fauna, or tanks; however, the stock broad and solid including fish, shrimp, clams, morays, slugs, sharks, and rays as well as a live rock and beautiful selection of corals.
In terms of their freshwater fish, I can say there stock is excellent and any fish I have asked them to order they have (they will do special orders). I admit I have not asked for anything super rare though I have requested a few challenging items (e.g., celestial pearl danios , hi-fin lyretail swords, tiger hillstream loaches, and true SAEs). When I have ordered, I have found the orders go out with general orders and usually arrive the next week (e.g., orders go out end of the week and fauna tend to arrive Monday-Tuesday). And, with my special orders, they ordered enough to sell in their general stock as well.
Generally speaking, they tend to purchase large lots of a species (18-25+ rather than 2-10). In addition, while I am not an angel, discus, cichlid, or guppy person, they have pretty nice selection of these species. Moreover, they have several very large species of freshwater fish (e.g., gars, angels, rays, and more).
In addition to fish, three kinds of large flower (filter-feeding) shrimp have been in stock from the beginning of my forays (including bamboo/singapore flower, blue, and vampire shrimp). More recently, ornimental dwarf shrimp were added to their stock (i.e., amano, cherry, cyrstal, ghost [feeder], tiger, and, I think I also saw, blue and orange shrimp as well).
*** In truth, House to Tropicals tends to specialize in animal-life (fauna) and their selection is (IMHO) one of the best in Washington-Metropolitian Area and they are willing and able to do special orders. ***
I am no pond expert though they have a fair stock of basic pond supplies including filters, pumps, plastic ponds, koi, and such including a decent selection of aquatic plants for ponds seasonally. Again, I would venture they would consider special orders.
In terms of freshwater plants, I would never suggest that they could compete with specialists including members of GWAPA. In truth, House of Tropicals is not geared for specialized plants with hi-tech needs. With that said, I will say that their stock is not so bad and is a good stop for various things some of which include the obvious anacharis and hornwort as well as anubias (afzelii, barteri, coffeefolia, lanceolata (sometimes), nana, and on rare occasion hastifolia), banana plant, dwarf baby tears (HC), cacopa, cambomba (green), crypts (various species), dwarf hairgrass, java, ludwiga (glandulosa, ovalis, and repens), moss balls, rotala magenta, sagittaria subulata (just recently), swords (amazon, chain & micro [sometimes], osiris, and I think I saw angustifolia), and vals. On rare occasion, they gets something that surprises me Blyxa japonica and Downoi. On a personal note, I have purchased several beautiful plants from them including Anubias (barteri & nana), Cacopa, Cambomba Green, Ludwigia (Glandulosa & Ovalis), & HC (on lava rock).
With regard to plant stock, I will say that they staff is helpful and, while their knowledge is not bad for general aquarist, it is not expert. As I noted I do not believe they are equiped to stock or house hi-tech and specialized plants. Over the last nine-months in which I have been visiting the store, I have found their plant stock greatly improved; however, on occasion, the stock is dips low or is cleared.
In terms of prices, I would suggest that the equipment and supplies stock is fair and competative with any LPS and, and with regard to fauna and plants, are extremely competative w/LPS (often the best). Although I do sometimes need to ask for help, more often than not I am asked, and, regardless, the staff is always ready to help. And, finally, when I have asked for a special order, I have found the owners approachable and willing to entertain any requests. I cannot say with 100% certainty, but I believe one of the owners is always in the store.
In terms of minor issues, I would say the duckweed and snails and these are minor
issues. With regard to duckweed, I have had no real problems though once a few got into my tank, which I could have easily picked-out. Instead, I
(emphasis on I) chose to let the duckweed grow (ah, what a neebie... live-and-learn)... so that was my fault
. With regard to snails, I have seen the staff work to pick-out snails though I suspect the issue is more with their supplier. So, again, it is a minor issue, mainly eggs, but still inspect-clean plants for snails for pond and ramhorn snail free tanks.
In addition, while it is not an issue in plant tanks, a fair number of the tanks housing their fish stock (which are generally bare of live plants) have Black Beard Algae (BBA). With that said, I have used this store to stock most of my fish and have had no major problems. I do have an occasional tuft on an anubias leaf which my true SAEs handle or I snip (back before I incorporated CO2 and Fertz). Once I began to supplement with CO2 and Fertz, BBA cleared and I have not had one problem.
All-in-all, I stop in a couple times a week and prefer House of Tropicals to any other local petstore. I also shop at Congressional Aquarium in Rockville which is a good second choice though their prices are much higher (likely due to their overhead costs - Rockville vs Glen Burnie) and their stock of each species is much smaller.
GWAPA Members are given a 10% discount when they show their cards which I know because I am a member and set-up their sponsorship. In addition, I believe PVAS has established an identical relationship though members should check.
House of Tropicals (Website)