LiveAquaria.com (Doctor Foster & Smith)
Opening thoughts – Their the best in anything Freshwater, Brackish, & Saltwater of Online Companies to my opinion. If I could compare them to the Computer Industry…they are like Apple and all the other companies are like PCs, lol. Mantis Shrimp wise, they do get some in but they don’t specialize in it.
Customer Service & Knowledge – They give out a very corporate professional feel but sometimes makes you feel like a number. (Personally, what I like about companies is how they are personal to their customers.) They have a customer service team to answer all your questions and or concerns. Again they remind me of how Apple’s website, lol. If they don’t have the answers for you, they will get back to you and forward your questions to the right departments. They’re knowledgeable in their products and will recommend you the best for your personal situation. They even have a website dedicated to articles of the animals they sell and or products. (Link - www.peteducation.com)
(46%) Mantis Shrimps – They know enough but not as much detail as one would like. Or they know what’s the general information one could find on the web. They can identify some species, I’ll give them that but not perfect. Also they can't gender the Stomatopods for you and if you ask, they simply can't. If you request for an additional photos to sex the animal yourself. The picture(s) isn't always given, unless you buy the item in question. Then they do their best to get it out to you before your shipment is sent out. So, its more like a surprise when you get it, lol. (Sorry, I don't like surprises and sometimes even the good ones.)
Availability & Variety – Fish, Inverts, Coral…etc. you name it they got it. Or if they don’t you can go to their section that you can submit a request. (Link - Will post it when i find it...) However, it isn’t guaranteed that what you request would appear. I think its possibly like a combination of a survey. The more of a particular species is requested, those are likely they would obtain over those are not as requested? Shrugs, or possibly in combination of availability from their collectors. I would like to add that they have a section called The Diver’s Den. Its what they call their WYSIWYG. They have a very large stock you can choose from that is first come first serve. How it works... place it in your cart and check out as soon as you can. if you don't check out right away other customers can buy it.
(76%) Mantis Shrimps – They have an okay variety of Stomatopods, I assume they don’t exactly hunt for any particular Mantis Shrimp species. I guess its ether what they find in collecting or what hitchhiked in their live rock. What I did notice…often they post of two species, however, do get other types. The two I see most of the time are Lysiosquillina maculata and Odontodactylus scyllarus. Many of them are not as vibrant as you would have found in Stomatopod.com. Also the animals come in all different health circumstances, not always in the best condition. Like a few come in as having appendages missing or damage and or possibly with shell rot. Moderately you do get a good condition Mantis Shrimp. They get a lot of Lysiosquillina maculata (sometime in pairs) or species that look like your typical Zebra Mantis. They can’t exactly tell the difference between species just the general appearance. Availability of Stomatopods are not often and are likely seasonal and or whatever their collectors gather during that time.
Pricing – I think its fairly reasonable. I seen in other places they have scary prices for common items. Where in LiveAquaria.com I think it’s a great place to get your live stock for Reefing, FOWLR, Brackish, and Freshwater.
(86%) Mantis Shrimps – What I did notice from the ‘Diver’s Den’, when its new to the site the price is pretty good and they disappear quickly. The more the particular item is popular. The price goes up on the next listing... (A good price of a Peacock from my experience should be from $50 to $80. Any more then that its over priced, unless they looked like Peacocks that were found in Stomatopod.com.) With LiveAquaria.com I think the price is fair but lately their quality is a bit on the poor side.
Policy & Procedures – They have NO Holding of animals and are typically sent out the next day or two days. So when you order from ether facility your system better be set up or you have a temporary system ready. They have an amazing guarantee!
Packaging & Shipping – They have two facilities and each place they package your shipment differently. Both do a amazing job with the same materials. Such as Cardboard with Insulated Styrofoam box with peanuts, cold or heat packs and are double bagged. From the Diver’s Den that ships from their Wisconsin facility. They do a much better job in bagging and packing your shipment. Its just more tidy compared to the California facility. I don’t know, I find it odd my self. Like in the Wisconsin facility you order just a few items it arrives to you as if you order a lot. The box is huge and each item is ‘oh’ber’ bagged with not two but three or more bags and also sometimes put some Chaeto. WOW. Its really professional, like before when I ordered from them it wasn’t like that. Wasn’t so extraordinary…actually, if I remember I only saw that kind of packing from Stomatopod.com. When Stomatopod.com started becoming more popular that’s when I saw LiveAquaria.com packing their shipment in the same manner.
They ship by FedEx by ether Next Day Air by 3:00 pm in most areas at a price of $34.99, which use to be $24.99, long ago (but since fuel cost had gone up so their prices at LiveAquaria.com). They also have FedEx Priority Overnight by 10:30 am in most area (but from my experience from FedEx in my area, Zip 22153 ::: Glares at you! ::: They haven’t been recently arriving at 10:30 am or before noon. It would appear on the FedEx Status website that it said it arrived on time but it isn’t at my door. So FedEx needs to see what’s going on with that.) Pricing for Priority Overnight is $44.99 it’s a nice option if you prefer to get your packages in the morning. They do offer Saturday delivery for $57.49. More information can be found here. I have requested them to have other options but all I get is. Thank you for your email we have forward your comments to the what not department that they have for that
Advertisement – Like I said their very corporate professional like. They have a very well established website that links to all their products and sites together. (Links - DrsFosterSmith.com, LiveAquaria.com, & PetEducation.com) They have a Mail in Catalog and email system. Also, I guess what makes up for the impersonal feel would be they're FaceBook page. They're websites are nice, clean and well made. I got a small issue with it a bit, as it slightly hard to navigate around. I saw this because they have a lot of information and details and sometimes I find it hard to locate some information, however, you can always email the Customer service them to tell you or help you located it.
They take a photo of the animal of a dorsal and or side view and sometime with close ups. The quality of the image is okay but better then most places but nothing as good as Stomatopod.com. They have a small description of physical traits and where it was collected from. I would actually enjoy seeing a longer description of the item but I guess it isn’t as important as it would be bought quickly.
Conclusion – I will compare all my Saltwater companies to LiveAquaria.com. Since it has been the best i have seen as far. I find LiveAquaria.com very professional and they offer amazing quality in all their products & live stock. I highly recommend them!
Average Total (69.33%) Mantis Shrimps – With the exception of the Mantis Shrimps...its a hit or miss and I hope they can locate more variety and quality of the Stomatopod specimens in the future.