Aquatic Variations in Mountain View are very good. Agreed - the prices on equipment are far too high, but the fish are good and hand-picked by Matt, the store owner and SW
expert. Very good store.
Another place that looks very good is Aquatic Gallery in Milpitas. I just found it recently and have only been there once. The store is totally dedicated to SW
Reefs and they have a good selection of stuff. Prices are very good and they even have a little room with books and an internet connection for researching those impulse buys before you take them home
I suspect I'm gonna be a frequent visitor there.
One word of warning - there is a store in Sunnyvale called something like "Natural Life Aquarium". AVOID AVOID AVOID !!!! Being a newbie I went in there at the start of January for some advice and to get started with a Freshwater tank. We got talking with Matt (not the Matt I referred to above
) and he convinced that these days SW
tanks are just as easy to keep as FW
, so we foolishly took the plunge into SW
. He told us nothing about cycling the tank, and suggested we bring in a water sample after the tank was running for 3 days. We did and after testing the water they proudly proclaimed that the tank was ready to be stocked !! (I ran some tests myself and the Ammonia and Nitrite were both over 1, unfortunately I didn't know what that meant at the time). He proceeded to sell us a Coral Beauty, Flame Angel, Royal Tang, Clownfish and 8 Chromis for a 55g, telling us that was enough for now and we could put in more later !!!! Anyway, of course the fish started dying pretty quickly and I had to rescue them by bringing them into Aquatic Variations who gave me credit for those that survived. I initially tried to bring them back to the store in Sunnyvale but they were less than helpful to say the least. His immediate reaction was to accuse me of overfeeding them. (They were finishing all food provided once a day in less than a minute). Then he said there was no way they would have sold us those fish at the water levels I listed above. Yet somehow they magically appeared in my tank
. Then of course I told him I had been getting advice from other places such as online and other stores and he promptly declared that the other stores are staffed by liars, that they all buy cyanide-caught fish whereas he only buys net-caught fish !! I should have asked him how he is sure all their fish are net-caught but was so pissed at this stage that I just walked away and haven't been back since.
Anyway - sorry for the rant but I wouldn't like to see anyone else get screwed by these guys. I of course am ultimately responsible for not doing enough research up-front but I think it's not unreasonable to expect much better advice from your retailer than I was given.
Good luck !!