For the last three weeks I checked local aquarium stores that carry fish, my impressions:
Big Al's at Scarborough:
- widest choice, good prices. Exclusively young male staff other than cashier, hobby-specific? Cheap 10-30 gal glass tanks, including tall and not deep, glass covers; fluorite substrate and 2-3 mm small rounded gravel, fertilizer tablets and "Watch them grow" plant collars, Quick dip strips tests - all-in-one (Junglelabs), ammonia monitor Seachem, very long forceps and handler/cutter for underwater gardening, air flow regulators for all air pumps that come without built-in regulator, filters seems to be more oriented on bigger tanks. Plants are very healthy, some low grow for the small aquariums, including hairgrass. $5 crayfish, less than finger size.
PJ's at Yorkdale mall:
- just like an atmosphere there - easy to choose and buy. Less in depth chemicals supplies and small aquariums choice, but fast and easy for general needs. They have enough plants, but choice could be bigger. Best marine aquarium display, IMHO.
PJ's at Scarborough Centre:
- less choice, some fish was sick.
PJ's at Eglinton and Young mall:
- very small, some fish was dead, more basic supplies store.
Petsmart at Eglinton East:
Next after big PJ's stores. Best aquarium decorations, easy to choose and buy, beginners' hardy plants are here, fertilizer tablets also.
Menagerie at Parliament:
Small but well stocked. Big Al's and this store are the best and complementary, what one doesn't have - the other has. Store seems to be run by a students' group - no family shop atmosphere as was mentioned before, more university spirit. Widest choice of plants, including small; nice touch - plants for sale in the fish tanks are marked as such with prices shown. Display tanks show what can be done in small tanks with their supplies. They have marine fish also. Three kinds of shrimps, fish choice is very specific and out of my interests, all very healthy. I like their choice of filters - AquaClear and smallest immersibles for the smallest tanks. And the rarity - they have plastic legs for the lights, pricey. No Quick dip tests or ammonia monitors or glass covers (at least I didn't find them). Good choice of chemicals.
Mayer's at Victoria Park/ Danforth:
Size of Menagerie, family run shop, good people - nice local store. No widest choise of in depth chemicals, filters or plants (which are Big Al's and Menagerie only), but all solid medium level of supplies is present, seems to be Tetra-oriented. They also have very small gravel, but sharp one. Fish choice is in my area of interest, they have very specific ones that I hadn't seen in another stores. Not enough plants, especially small, may be it's just a winter time.
Wong's Aquarium at Broadview:
Steamy atmosphere. Not a polished Yorkdale look, but interesting fish to see. Very large fish, a lot of fish, specific fish (not for the smallest aquariums), plants. Pond and cychlids people might find it useful.
I like their aquarium heaters - you can see temperature that you are setting. Have two of them, no problems yet.
No alive small food was found.
Also, I find it to be very useful the online stores, recommended on this forum - mops and canadianfeeders. Best prices, choice with descriptions, and food that is not available anywhere else. Didn't ordered yet, but will.