The Difference Between a Reef Shop and a Saltwater Fish Store
This can be a hard determination to make. Saltwater fish stores usually have a greater selection of non reef safe fish. This would include different types of aggressive fish such as triggers, groupers and sharks. Saltwater fish stores usually have freshwater fish for sale aswell, if not only for fish food. In San Fernando Valley, there are a number of saltwater fish stores inlcuding Aquarium City, Aquarium Depot, and Marks Tropical Fish. On the West Side, there are a number of saltwater fish stores in Los Angeles.
Reef shops, on the other hand, are stores that rarely have freshwater fish available. In general a reef store will have a greater selection of rare corals such as acropora, acanthastrea, brain coral, anemones, hydnophora. Reef stores tend to have a greater interest in reef related equipment as near perfect water conditions including lights, skimmers, ozone reactor and many different ways to deliver calcium and carbonate. Reef stores commonly have a selection of cultured corals grown in house. The most commonly cultured corals acropora including acropora aspera, acropora formosa and acropora pulchra. Reef stores tend to be smaller than saltwater fish stores because the market is considerably smaller for purely reef related equipment and products. The market for corals and reef tank related items is much smaller than the fish market for saltwater ornamental fish. Prices can range from $100 for a 1" frag of watermelon echino to a twelve dollar acropora frags.
In summation, reef stores are usually smaller with a large selection of corals while saltwater fish stores tend to be larger and have a greater selection of aggressive fish such as sharks, rays, basslets and groupers, including the blue devil grouper. Reef shops are usually run better than saltwater fish stores because they require greater attention to water quality conditions. Nitrates and phosphates are much more potent for live corals at lower levels than with saltwater fish only. It is possible to remove the nitrates and phosphates with chemical filtration. When very low nitrate and phosphate levels are achieved, then it is possible to keep saltwater fish and corals growing and healthy for a long time to come.