Northwestern Illinois LFS reviews


I live just outside of the far Northwest Suburbs of Chicago and have spent considerable time surveying the Aquarium Store landscape from McHenry and Crystal Lake out to Rockford as close to Chicago as Lombard and many places in between. I could list many reviews, but I'll stick to the ones that stood out:

1. Birds and Beasts - Crystal Lake - A store with a large selection of Marine, Tropical, Cichlids, Plants, Inverts, etc. Very knowledgeable staff. Best general variety as far as species go. The only place in dozens of fish stores that I went to where I found Keyhole Cichlids. A+ Their stock comes from very good breeders too. They are very lively in the tanks and coloring is very good. My fish that I have purchased from this store have thrived in my tanks. Don't go on the day that they get new fish though because it is crazy, chaotic, and you'll have a hard time getting help.

2. Datz Cichlids and Reptiles - McHenry - Hands down the most customer friendly retail establishment of any kind that I have ever been to! The owner shared that he retired at 31 and opened this business because it's a passion first. It shows. They have a fridge in the front with free beverages. I took my kids there and the owner showed them some of his snakes and let them hold them while I strolled around a VERY impressive floor. It is obvious that this is a breeder who sells the fish. The tanks are not glitzy, it's like an industrial breeding facility. But it's well organized and was like going to the Shedd Aquarium for me! Excellent place to visit. Many, many species of primarily African Cichlids, but a lot of Plecos and other odds and ends. I can't say enough about this place.

3. Aquarium Adventure - Hoffman Estates - If #2 above was not glitzy and industrial, Aquarium Adventure is the opposite. It is glitzy and shiny and literally like a showroom. It is cool to see some of the big tanks and pond displays and they have a lot of hard to find species here. However, they are the most expensive LFS I know...and I have not had very good luck getting fish purchased from there to live very long. I have heard the same from others too. They do have a very nice selection of various types of driftwood, rocks, and decor, and that's ultimately why I still go there. For fish, I'll look at them, but don't want to break the bank buying fish...particularly because just around the corner in the next parking lot is...

4. Beyond the Reef - Hoffman Estates - They are much smaller than their nearby neighbors, but they have much, much better prices. Their store is very clean and you can tell that they take care of their fish and tanks. They have a good selection and a fair amount of plants too. I have purchased both fish and plants from this store and they have done well.

5. Sea Escapes, Inc. - Elgin - A little smaller in the selection of fish, but some of the more pricier types of fish here. I have not purchased any fish here, however, I did get the large driftwood that is in my 20 Gallon Hex tank. The young man who helped me with that was extremely helpful and showed me pieces that they didn't even have on the floor. They even mounted it to slate and attached a smaller piece at the top for me.

6. Wayne's Feed - Rockford - An old fashioned farm and feed store that has both salt and freshwater fish for sale. It's not the glitziest shop around, but the stock is decent, the prices are very good, and it's the only real option for fish (outside of the box stores) anywhere around Rockford.

7. Prism Bettas - DeKalb - A very small, newer shop, but if you're into Bettas, it is well worth the trip as I have never seen such a collection. They are premium, show quality and gorgeous!! They have some other fish and inverts there as well, but not a ton. They also have some very healthy looking plants. A small section of decor and food has extremely good prices! I bought a really nice piece of driftwood for $8 that probably would have been 2-3 times that amount at most other fish stores. The lady who runs it is very nice and knowledgeable. I really hope that she gets a lot of traffic because this is a shop that has great items and fantastic value.

That's it. I don't know that there will even be anyone that has any interest in all of this, but I spent a lot of time surveying the fish stores in a very wide region, so figured I'd share my experience just in case. Happy fish-keeping!!


I go to Chicago whenever I want to get fish, but live 3 hours away, this is so helpful, thanks bunches.
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