The dreaded big box pet stores (what they don’t tell you). Where I get my fish/Suggestions for fish buyers

Hi guys,
So we all know of a few places to buy goldfish right?
The pet store..craigslist, you can even buy them online.
I’m writing this post because I wanted to share my experience of getting new goldfish from different places, and what I found to be a great experience, and what just caused headaches in the end. I made a complete list below of the places I would absolutely go for my fish, and a list of places I would absolutely not go for fish-explanations for my reasoning included.
I’ll start off by saying that as a member of the forum “Goldfish Keepers” I have seen over and over again someone who is new to the hobby, or someone with not a lot of finances readily available, purchase low quality grade fish. Almost 3/4 of those people post on the forum asking for help because their goldfish has taken a turn for the worst almost immediately after bringing them home-or the fish has some sort of underlying disease such as parasites, ich, or has been transported and crammed in unhealthy conditions. However, we must keep in mind that this can happen when purchasing from anywhere.. Though it is more unlikely when going to someone/somewhere reputable. Between the fish being shipped from overseas to the store, it’s immunity is low causing it to be more susceptible to getting sick and if it’s kept in poor conditions when it’s received by the store/business it’s more likely that it will not be able to recover as quickly/get worse by the time you get it. Every time I hear about these stories, I get a mix of sadness for that person who has to go through the endless battle of treatment, and also anger at the pet stores/businesses for willingly selling bad fish.
Before I continue, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am in no way bashing, making fun of-or calling these people out for making these mistakes because in all honesty, we have all been there before. Some people even swear by pet store fish, which is totally fine because this isn’t a rigid black and white “do this or your wrong” post. This is honestly all based on my opinion(s)/experience and like I said, everyone is entitled to their own regarding this topic.
What I would like to get out of this post, is to share some other ways to get a hold of great looking and healthy fish, without having to go through the despair later on when your new baby ends up belly up from something that could have been prevented if the proper steps were made to secure a good reputable breeder/business.
Now that that’s said, let’s get down to the knitty gritty!
Here are a list of fish places I would NOT purchase my fish from (in no particular order):

Petsmart and Petco-While many fish stores receive their fish from overseas, most small local businesses will take measures to ensure you are getting a healthy fish by treating and quarantining.
A lot of the time when you visit Petsmart or Petco, you see dead fish in the tanks with the live ones..stuck to the filter.
Also, (as stated above) most of the time the fish do not have any quarantine procedures after shipment, they are immediately opened up and placed right into the display tank and then sold to you. This ultimately weakens their immune system and stresses them out, which can lead to disease.
These establishments often over pack their tanks for extended periods of time without proper care and clean water. Diseases such as ich and parasites will spread like wild fire.


Walmart-This one is pretty self explanatory, if anyone has visited the fish section of Walmart, you understand what I am talking about.


Craiglist- This one is subjective. I would purchase a fish from someone on craigslist if they were involved in the hobby, had knowledge of the breed and took great care of their fish. However, I do not turn my nose at rescues.
It’s hard to know the exact care the fish was given prior to you purchasing it. There are so many goldfish I see on CL for sale that have been living in water that you cannot even see through, with several other fish and no filter.


Online stores that do not have a dead on arrival (DOA) guarantee-if something happens to your fish during shipment, the company will simply turn a blind eye to you because they have already received what they wanted from you..your money.
So, the above places are where I try and avoid as much as possible. I still go to Petsmart and Petco occasionally to buy fish products (fish food, substrate etc.), but even then I try and support my LFS first.
I wanted to point out that I have come across cases (especially in the goldfish forum) of people who has successfully purchased and grown out really nice looking fish from places like Walmart. They have before and after pictures to prove the success and sometimes I catch myself jaw dropping! On the other side of the fence, these cases are great success stories and sometimes even rescues which I wouldn’t attempt if you are getting into goldfish for the first time. I was told once by someone who does this that those fish need homes too and if we can get them out of a situation like those crowded sickly pet store tanks, and give them a real chance at becoming a beautiful fish, then why shouldn’t we? I really sat and thought about this statement for a while, it dawned on me that we often do this with shelter animals as well. This really opened my mind about buying from pet shops for that reason alone, other than that..I wouldn’t personally do it. Another reason someone gave me was that if a newbie to goldfish keeping didn’t want to spend a fortune for a fish that could potentially die in their care (due to inexperience) then why wouldn’t they buy from a big box pet store? This to me is a double edged sword only for two reasons:
-Why would you not do your research prior to buying a fish? In order to give the proper care wouldn’t you want to at least give yourself a fighting chance by starting with a good quality fish? This approach to me seems like you are just setting yourself up for failure from the beginning.
-And lastly, there are plenty of places to get a fish for a cheap buck that will not run you the risk of dying the first night you bring them home. I don’t think big box stores are the first and only option for new fish keepers, which I will get into more a little later.
One thing I think is your best defense on battling the new fish keeper syndrome is simply research. There are a bunch of great, informative books out there specifically relating to goldfish care and illnesses. The links below will bring you to some great reading material on amazon that will help you along the way to giving your fish (and you) the best possible life.

As you will see, some books can be relatively cheap for some basic good advice and some can become quite pricey for a more in depth and extensive look on goldfish genetics and breeding. There are also a large amount of forums such as I mentioned Goldfishkeepers and Koko’s Goldfish. I highly recommend these places because you are getting real life advice in real time to any concerns, questions or even picture sharing that you want..all for free! And there are people on there who have a very extensive knowledge and years of experience that can walk you through things you need help with. I especially enjoy these forums because they do not “fish shame” you. You won’t feel embarrassed for not knowing certain things, and I think that’s really important to growing as a person as well as a fish keeper.
Also, I highly recommend (if you are not familiar with her channel already) checking out Jennie from Solid Gold. Her videos are very informative and fun and I swear she can make anyone fall in love with goldfish! Here YouTube channel is Here.
Lastly, I would like to give you my top favorite places to get my fish from. These are just reference points for what I like and have seen quality fish from. You in no way have to take these and only use them. However, if you’d like to know where I get my fish from and look for yourself, I’m throwing it all out there for you 🙂
I’ve added $ to estimate the cost of each. $ being the cheapest, $$ being moderately cheap, $$$ being pricey. If you feel I missed a good vendor in this list, please feel free to add one in the comments!


#1- Dandy Orandas ($$-$$$)- Dandy orandas is probably my favorite place to get fish from! They are always healthy, and of good quality.
The fish are healthy and of good quality
Ken the owner, is incredibly hands on and is willing to work through any issue you may have, or questions you need answering. Responds to emails very quickly.
The packaging of the fish is very good, insulated and double bagged.
Ships overnight for a decent price (usually around the $60 mark)
Has an assortment of photos to view of the fish you are looking to buy.
Fish are only available through auction Friday evening (8:00pm EST), until Sunday Evening (8:00pm EST). Dandy Orandas does not operate Monday-Thursday, except to ship your fish out..which only then I believe happens Mon-Weds.
Since you cannot purchase your fish at an individually set price- due to it being an online auction only, you have the problem of being outbid by someone else who really wants that fish.
This will result in a “bidding war” and drastically raise the price of the fish you want, and don’t forget you still have to pay for shipping.
Although you can hit the “buy it now” button during the auction, the set price to buy it now is usually much higher than the original bidding price though, so it’s kind of a double edged sword. You can buy it now and pay a high amount or wait to see if you are the only bidder who bids- this has happened to me before and I got lucky. Usually though, if its a very beautiful fish, you’re probably going to be outbid, several times. I guess it all really comes down to how much you want the fish.
Those are the only two cons I have with Dandy Orandas, and even they aren’t that bad, It’s still torture to wait all week to see what’s available- though I feel like that’s done on purpose to keep us coming back 😉

Dandy Orandas Website


#2- Water Pigs USA ($)- I personally LOVE water pigs USA. Basically it is run by Joshua McWilliams, who is the sole breeder of his fish. He has an assortment of fish from pearlscales to butterfly telescopes. He is located in Florida and his fish are kept outside in an enclosure year round. I like going here (although I have only been once) because it’s all done with love, and not for profit.
His fish are very inexpensive.
I ordered two fish from him and they were about $20 each. Both were youg juveniles and the colors were great.
His shipping costs were low
I ordered the two fish and received a discount for being a first time purchaser, so all together I paid $50 for shipping and the cost of both fish. This was remarkable to me considering $50 would be the price of one fish before shipping at most places.
He really cares about his fish
When I ordered the two fish, it was a week before Thanksgiving. Due to the time of year, I decided to have them shipped the week after to ensure the post office would be open. Unfortunately that did not work in my favor because my fish were delayed for 7 days! I was so worried and Josh was right there every step of the way and very concerned for the fish. He was also very apologetic, which at the end of the day this wasn’t his fault, but the amount of empathy and concern that went into the situation really made me want to order from him again in the future. Both fish arrived alive, healthy and VERY hungry. They are still with me and doing very well- He has very tough fish.
He ships young fish
I love this. A lot of breeders/businesses won’t ship/hesitant on shipping young fish due to it being stressful on them, and they are afraid they will not make it. Josh is one of the few that can ship healthy young fish. Sometimes you don’t want a year old fish, you want to grow it out yourself into your own and I am glad there is a market that I can choose from to do that.
The standard shipping offered is 2-3 day shipping (you can pay more for overnight)
I know some people do this, and it’s totally fine..But I always get worried because there technically isn’t a rush to get it there and I feel like you have a greater chance of the shipment getting delayed with 2-3 day shipping.
It’s hard to get a hold of Josh sometimes
Unless you go through his Instagram. Before I knew he switched, it seemed impossible to get a hold of him through the website. It wasn’t until he announced on his Instagram page that he would be doing his business through there from now on. -Which I don’t think is a bad thing because most people tend to be on Instagram and he can post videos directly to the page. However, for people without social media it can be hard if not impossible to get a fish from him.


#3 Your locally owned and operated fish store ($-$$$)- Yes I know, this technically isn’t a real place you can order from. However, if you truly want to see what you are buying in person I highly suggest this. I would do your research before hand, look at reviews, take a browse through and really study the fish there. Are they well cared for? is it over crowded, do the fish look sickly/have any diseases? I go to a place called Eddies Aquarium that’s next to where I live and I can tell you they truly care about their fish. They offer free seminars, training’s and even swap meets. Their fish are always up to par and I have never had an issue. The biggest pros to going to your LFS is (like stated above) you can see the fish in person and study them more closely, look around the shop, ask questions etc. One thing I would definitely ask is if the fish are quarantined upon arrival-this will be one of your biggest indicators of a good running facility.


#4 East Coast Ranchu ($$)- These guys have a great selection for a great price! However, if you’re looking for say..butterfly telescopes, fat chance. They have guessed it Ranchu! But! they also have other fish such as oranda, and the occasional ryukin.
ECR offers live streaming, so you will always get the most updated lists of available fish at your finger tips.
Their prices are reasonable so you won’t feel like you’re breaking the bank for a great quality fish
They provide overnight shipping at your discretion and will ship to Hawaii (as long as you have an importing permit) as Hawaii requires one for the importation of animals.
One of the cons (if you’re like me) and want a quality butterfly telescope can’t get one here. So if you’re looking for something out of the context of what I listed above, then you should try to find a nice source elsewhere.
Do no ship to Canada or Mexico, But! If you are in the states for whatever reason and wish to have a fish shipped to you, you can provide the nearest P.O. or a location you would like your fish shipped and pick it up.
Since I don’t own any of the fish from this establishment, I’m afraid I don’t have another pro or con to place up here. However, if anyone reading has experience please feel free to leave your input in the comments section below.

East Coast Ranchu Website


#4 Zhoa’s Fancies ($$-$$$)- Zhoa’s are a little more on the pricey side, but they do have great fish of all breeds. I think there is a little something for everyone here.
Guarantee’s a live on arrival delivery, which is great considering the reliability of getting taken care of if something goes wrong. However, make sure you read their shipping policies before purchase, because they do require a lot of rules to follow in order to get your refund or replacement fish.
Zhoa’s is USA located, and is family run. This is important to me because It’s another good example of a family dream come true. Next time you are on the website take a stroll over to the more tab to learn about the family and how they made their dream a reality. As nice as it is getting new fish, it’s alwaysnice to hear someones success story.
Has a unique variety that many fish keepers can find -no matter what your preference. I’ve seen BEP’s, butterflies, ryukins, jikins…So many nice fish that are available through his site- A little bit for everyone!
Can be a bit pricey, I think the lowest priced fish I’ve seen was for $80 (excluding shipping)
A lot of the fish listed on the for sale page are out of stock. This can become frustrating when you are scrolling through and a majority of them are already claimed. It would be beneficial to have an updated page daily/weekly.                                                                           Zhao’s Fancies Website

These are not technically all of my choices for a good place to get a nice quality fish, but they are a few options. You can always check out eBay, I know..What kind of quality can come from eBay? You’d be surprised though, I know quite a few people who received a good quality fish from a breeder off eBay and it is becoming more common to do so nowadays.
Please keep in mind also, that I know it may seem a bit pricey for…Goldfish! I said that too when I was first getting into the hobby. “how can a simple goldfish cost this much?!” It really is worth it when you go to a reputable site because all of the time and effort into making these great fish and then supplying them to you really should be rewarded. You can go pick out a standard run-of-the-mill goldfish, and that’s fine if that’s what you are looking for- But that’s exactly what you will get, a standard, run-of-the-mill goldfish. Sometimes the finer things in life cost a bit more and when you’re looking at that $80-$100 goldfish, keep that in mind. And Hey, if that’s not your style? no biggie! Different strokes for different folks.
One more thing, As you may know (if you are into Butterfly telescope goldfish like I am) there really aren’t many places that are fully dedicated to breeding, growing and selling quality butterflies-at least not as the center of their business. Although some of these places have great butterflies, it seems to be a ranchu/oranda and ryukin world we live in. With more fish such as jikins coming up more than before. So I am planning to fill that gap with a small breeding business strictly limited to butterfly telescopes. I hope to perfect the breed and distribute to it’s many fans across the country. But for now, I’m admiring other websites stock and adding to my breeding program. Keep and eye out, spring is right around the corner 😉
Thanks for reading and I hope this post helped! Happy fish hunting!
Let me know what you’d be interesting in hearing about next time, you can comment below, or subscribe to my blog and send emails/get emails when a new post has been made. We still have the subscriber giveaway to do!
Talk to you soon,



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