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One store in particular that I will leave nameless. 4 times I ordered fish expecting different service. The first time I ordered some African cichlids and they came in ok. 2nd time I ordered some panda garra's. Fish were ready for the retirement home. The 3rd time corydoras came in stunted and deformed. 4th time ordered a pleco and they said it was wild. Been in the hobby 25 years and I know my fish. It was far from wild. Hypancistrus plecos get a stubby head deformation without enough genetic diversity when bred in captivity. I paid top dollar for this fish.
 

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I recently tried AquaHuna and liked what I got. But some reviews indicated there were some bad batches, and they happily refunded those people. Sometimes those issues are out of the suppliers control, but how they deal with them is another story.
 

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My rule of thumb in this hobby with retailers: They get to screw up one time on something that isn't amateur hour and they have to immediately make it right. If they don't make it right, they can take a hike and eat the chargeback. If it's something really amateur hour-ish? I make sure others know about it. There's no excuse for bad business practices or bad customer service - even during a pandemic. I realize this is harsh and my opinion may not be a popular one but there are a lot of fly-by-night shysters trying to make a quick buck off newcomers.

There's a retailer based in Indiana that pulls a lot of the stuff OP mentions. It's some real crap. They got a massive PPP loan and started pulling in tons of the absolute worst stock I've ever seen in all my years in this hobby. Every week it's tens of thousands of dollars worth of the worst quality you can imagine. Think that-bad-retailer-in-Arizona-everyone-knows-about but somehow worse. There have been quite a few posts here on the forum about them the past six months or so and I've seen waaaay more on social media. Truly don't get how some can be so awful at this.

That said - most niche sellers and boutique retailers are terrific in this hobby. Mostly because they're all hobbyists like us. Really hate to hear it when a retailer is repeatedly bad.
 

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If these bad experiences have occurred during the last year, you may - MAY - want to blame COVID. I'm fortunate enough to live in an area with three good LFS's nearby and all three of them have told me that they've had a helluva time getting stock from suppliers, let alone good stock. Just like our food and paper goods, aquarium supply chains are just now recovering (but I still can't get my Salifert FW K test kits!).
 

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May want to check AquaCave and other online retailers. I got mine there last month. I think there was some kind of issue with manufacturing the reagent that went beyond what was pandemic-related, unfortunately.
Thanks. I've been on Aqua Cave's e-mail alert list and, foolishly (in retrospect), ignored their alert a few months ago (I had enough at that time). I'm still on their alert and have a pre-order in at Aqua Lab. Good to know that it might be a bad batch of reagent. That would allow for a more certain recovery of supply.
 

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Thankfully I have only ordered online a couple times (usually go to a local boutique store). My experience with aquacave was fine, but found live aquaria to be better. Got my maroon clown there and she's doing really well. Probably try them?
 

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16g rimless cherry shrimp, 20g cube dwarf cichlid, 40g breeder nano community.
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I've only ever ordered fish online and that was Twin Cities Guppies. Their rep is stellar, but they are very niche. I've been thinking of getting some Apistogrammas soon, but have no clue where to source them from. These online ordering horror stories do not make me confident either.
 

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There's no excuse for bad business practices or bad customer service - even during a pandemic. I realize this is harsh and my opinion may not be a popular one but there are a lot of fly-by-night shysters trying to make a quick buck off newcomers.

That said - most niche sellers and boutique retailers are terrific in this hobby. Mostly because they're all hobbyists like us. Really hate to hear it when a retailer is repeatedly bad.
This has been my experience as well. Around me, there are a few very good, locally owned shops that have their own specialties. But recently I've noticed that a lot of amateur "shops" have popped up, advertising their stock on sites like Kijiji. Usually these are "fly-by-night shysters" as you mentioned, and more often than not, they are operating out of a basement or bedroom.

If one absolutely needs to buy online, stick to well-reviewed suppliers/hobbyists.
 
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