Mailorder Place Visits
- Trip report: That Fish Place & The Aquarium Center
by resler-at-liberty.mas.vcu.edu (Dan Resler) (Mon, 15 Aug 1994)
- CHEAPEST MAILORDER AQUARI
by pfohl-at-nucmar.physics.fsu.edu (JEFF PFOHL) (9 Sep 1994)
by resler-at-liberty.mas.vcu.edu (Dan Resler)
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 1994
I had an opportunity to visit both The Aquarium Center in Baltimore
and That Fish Place in Lancaster, PA this past weekend, and I thought
I'd post a `trip report' in case anyone was interested.
First, That Fish Place. Real easy to find; it's just west of Lancaster
south of Rt. 30 on the Centerville Rd. My first impression of the
place was related to it's size - it's *huge*. Imagine a fish `shop' the
size of a K-Mart or Home Depot and you'll begin to get the picture. In
fact it's so big you probably need a shopping strategy before going; I
recommend mine - walk the whole store once sorta dazed then double
back to the parts of interest.
The place has the feel of being primarily a warehouse for it's mail
order business. For example, you'd pick your Challenger-I air pump off
a warehouse-type shelf that would hold several *hundred* (thousand?) other
Challenger-I pumps neatly stacked below it. Prices are marked below
each item on the shelf or hanging above if it's a floor display.
Speaking of prices, as far as I could tell they are the same as their
ads and/or catalog. In other words, just about unbeatable.
They had a large area (the largest I've ever seen devoted to this) for
displaying new tanks and stands that I particularly enjoyed. It was
organized well and had just about every size and shape you could imagine.
Nice for comparing sizes/looks.
They also had a reptile room which I confess I never even went into.
One thing that puzzled me about the place was a rather inane room
filled with perhaps 50 `display' tanks already set-up. What was so
silly about it was that there were hardly any fish in any of the tanks
and it appeared that the sole purpose of the room was to show off
various combos of plastic plants, bubbling divers and ceramic castles.
The biggest disappointment of the place is their fish room. It was,
well, ... grotty. Or maybe I was just expecting too much after being
wowed by their dry-goods section.
It is quite large with I think over 600 tanks. All of the fish tanks
are bare-bottomed with most of them having some sort of background
scene. Now I don't mind bare-bottom tanks but it appears that they've
done absolutely nothing to spruce up the place and make it more
presentable. Plus I saw many fish that looked pretty stressed out, and
there were *alot* of empty tanks. They did have a considerable marine
section plus huge vats of live rock, though I can't really comment on
the quality of the rock.
BTW - they had no SAEs. They did, however, seem to have an unusally
large variety of fresh-water catfish.
Their plant section was rather pathetic. Most of their mail-order plants
must be shipped directly from some supplier, for they didn't have much
of a selection, nowhere near what's listed in their catalog. The
quality of the plants was questionable as well.
One of the reasons I found TFP's fish room so disappointing is that I
had actually visited The Aquarium Center (TAC) in Baltimore first. TAC
is located in Randallstown west of Baltimore off of I-685. Take the
Liberty Road exit (Rt. 26?) west for several miles to Offutt Street.
Turn right and it's located in a small mall near a large grocery store.
Other than TFP, TAC is the largest and best stocked fish store I've
ever seen. They have a large selection that includes just about
everything imaginable from high-to-low tech: tanks, stands, pond
accessories, books, marine stuff, bulk gravel ($20 for 100 lbs!), trickle
filters, CO2 equipment, etc, etc. All is displayed quite nicely; I
especially appreciated a large tank that they had set up for the sole
purpose of displaying filters actually working - they had hung outside
filters all around the tank plus had an Eheim and other canisters set
up as well. Nice touch.
Their prices were of course higher than TFP but they were considerably
better than your local strip mall `Pets R Us' store.
What really impressed me about TAC was its large fish room - very
nice! About the same size or maybe a bit smaller than the fish room at TFP.
The tanks were attractive and labeled with identification tags telling a
little about the fish you were looking at. They had a wonderful
selection and I couldn't find any terribly stressed out or unhealthy
fish in any of their tanks.
No *real* SAEs, however, even though one tank was labled `Siamese
Algae Eaters' (they were the `Chinese' variety).
They had an especially large African cichlid section; more varieties
than I'd seen anywhere else. But what really caught my eye was their
live plant section - they had over 40 tanks! And almost all of them
looked in pretty good shape, which is unusual for a pet shop. TAC also
had many varieties of live food for sale - brine shrimp, various
varities of worms, crickets, guppies, etc.
They had an unusual system set up for cleaning tanks and doing water
changes. They attached a large PVC pipe running the length of
their display tanks about waist high; every several feet was a joint
with a small opening (drain) facing up. To clean the gravel in a tank
and do a partial water change all you had to do was use a standard 3' siphon
tube/gravel cleaning hose and place one end into this open drain while you
were vacuuming the gravel. To continue cleaning you covered the drain
end of the hose with your thumb and moved to the next tank (they had a
central water circulating system with UV sterlizers, as did TFP). It's
fast with no buckets or long hoses. Clever.
Another plus is that they had lots of friendly help. I found it tough
to get help at TFP.
TAC had recently won the Best Tropical Fish Store in Baltimore award.
I would say it ranks up there with the best in the whole country. At
least I've never been to a finer one. All-in-all it made me very
envious - I wish I had one like it in Richmond!
If I had to choose which one I'd prefer in my area, either TFP or TAC,
I'd pick TAC.
Dan Resler email: resler-at-liberty.mas.vcu.edu
Dept. of Mathematical Sciences
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, VA 23284-2014 USA
by pfohl-at-nucmar.physics.fsu.edu (JEFF PFOHL)
Date: 9 Sep 1994
MOPS without question!! I LOVE them and order from them all the time.
I have never had a single problem with a wrong order and the stuff
always gets here in 5 working days or less.
Here is some raw data for you to analyze yourself. I was putting an
order together yesterday and decided to compare prices so I could post
to the net. I list weights when shipping depends on it. A description
of the shipping policies is at the end. All costs come from the
current 1994-95 catalogs.
ITEM MOPS TFP PW
Ebo-Jager 150W Heater 14.39 16.99 (0.8#) 16.79
Reef Crystals 50 gal 17.79 16.99 (14.5#) 14.98 (16#)
CoralLife PO4 Remover 30 oz 16.89 26.99 (2.15#) 24.59
Hagen 802 Powerhead 22.69 29.99 (2.25#) 26.98
Subtotal 71.76 90.96 (19.7#) 68.36 no salt
S&H (UPS zone 5) 5.99 8.39 6.75 no salt
Additional S&H 0.75 handling 6.01 salt S&H
GRAND TOTAL 77.75 100.10 96.10
Explanation of shipping:
MOPS: straight fee based on cost of total order. Weight not important.
TFP: 0.75 handling charge for each order plus UPS actual freight.
PW: straight fee based on cost of order except on selected items which
are designated in the catalog and carry their own shipping cost. Salt
is one of these so we do not include the salt price in the subtotal,
figure the shipping subtotal based on the item subtotal, add in the
special items and the UPS shipping charge for these special items and
then total the whole thing. Unpleasant to do IMO.
PHONE : (904) 644-1598 work
(904) 224-0707 home
(904) 644-9848 fax
"Two wrongs do not make a right, but three rights make a left"