Northwestern Illinois LFS reviews

Leeman75
Member
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!!
 
SouthAmericanCichlids
Member
I go to Chicago whenever I want to get fish, but live 3 hours away, this is so helpful, thanks bunches.
 
dwc13
Member
Leeman75 SouthAmericanCichlids --

I'll add a couple of Chicago(land) LFS locations to the list for your consideration:

1. Tropi Quatics Pet Center (Lombard, IL). I used to stop by years ago after first going to nearby Lombard Hobbies. There has apparently been an ownership change since I last stopped by.



2. Ocean Design Aquarium (Chicago, IL). I spent a lot of money (and time) at the previous location on Irving Park Road. This was probably my favorite LFS when I was active in the hobby years ago. The current location is on Addison Street between Harlem Ave. and Cumberland Ave (SR 171). Still the same long-time owner, I believe. If you're heading towards Chicago on I-90 east, exit at Cumberland Avenue heading south. Turn left on Addison Street heading east @1 mile until you see the store on the north side of the street.



There are others including Old Town Aquarium (Old Town neighborhood, Chicago) and Old Orchard Aquarium (Skokie), but they're not conveniently located for those coming in from the far NW suburbs of Chicago.
 
  • Thread Starter
Leeman75
Member
dwc13 said:
Leeman75 SouthAmericanCichlids --

I'll add a couple of Chicago(land) LFS locations to the list for your consideration:

1. Tropi Quatics Pet Center (Lombard, IL). I used to stop by years ago after first going to nearby Lombard Hobbies. There has apparently been an ownership change since I last stopped by.



2. Ocean Design Aquarium (Chicago, IL). I spent a lot of money (and time) at the previous location on Irving Park Road. This was probably my favorite LFS when I was active in the hobby years ago. The current location is on Addison Street between Harlem Ave. and Cumberland Ave (SR 171). Still the same long-time owner, I believe. If you're heading towards Chicago on I-90 east, exit at Cumberland Avenue heading south. Turn left on Addison Street heading east @1 mile until you see the store on the north side of the street.



There are others including Old Town Aquarium (Old Town neighborhood, Chicago) and Old Orchard Aquarium (Skokie), but they're not conveniently located for those coming in from the far NW suburbs of Chicago.
I'm glad you added these! I think it would be cool to change this thread to be a post about all Chicagoland LFS!!

I have been to Tropi Quatics before. I was a little underwhelmed by it and didn't spend much time there. I'd like to go again because, well, I always like going to LFS's more than once even if I feel that they're not the best. It could be that part of my lack of enthusiasm was because I had just come from Aquarium Adventure and there's not a lot of stores that can stack up to the glitz of that store. I'll try to get there again this summer and give it another chance.

I know Old Orchard Aquarium well and have been there several times. I still have some fish that I purchased there about a year and a half ago. It's a great store and has a lot of variety. They were a little pricey as I recall, but they had a pond inside the store with large fish that is worth the trip to see anyways! We actually lived about 10 minutes from the store when we lived in Northfield around 2002, but never went there. Now, living an hour away, I wish I had that fine of a store that close to me!

I feel like I remember passing Ocean Design Aquarium some time ago as our church was on IPR between Ashland and Southport, but we would get off the Edens and drive the whole length to get to it. I've never been and whenever I find myself in that area, I'll have to look it up!

I have also seen Exotic World Pets in Darien advertised quite a bit on some of the local facebook groups that I'm a part of. A lot of people seem to think highly of that store as well. I'll be making a trip out there at some point for sure!!
 
AngryRainbow
Member
I used to frequently go to tropiquatics. It's definitely underwhelming compared to aquarium adventure, but a few years ago the staff was extremely knowledgeable about all things aquarium and they would frequently get interesting oddball fish. I have only been a few times since the new ownership took over. In my opinion, the store has gone downhill since the new owners. The experienced employees left (one still works at another store already mentioned in this post) and the few times I've been there there the selection has been lack luster. I stopped going there about a year ago now, so maybe it's changed since then.

Another store that carries fish and some aquarium supplies is Little Critters in Elgin. It's actually right by sea escapes. Nothing overly fancy, but every time I've gone the tanks and fish have been very well maintained and prices seem fair. They do lack staff that is knowledgeable on fish, so you have to go in knowing what you want.
 
SouthAmericanCichlids
Member
Well, now that it is for all aquarium stores in Chicago. I'll do old town aquarium. They have a very small selection, average prices, it's a quite glitsy place like aquarium adventure. They have a lot of tanks to pick from though, not many decorations as I remember it. I don't remember how the staff was though. But it's next to a starbucks, so I mean it's kind of worth it.
 
Betta'sAnonymous
Member
Well, i won't be driving 2 states away to get fish(most likely)but i certainly appreciate the effort that went into this!
 
dwc13
Member
SouthAmericanCichlids said:
Well, now that it is for all aquarium stores in Chicago. I'll do old town aquarium. They have a very small selection, average prices, it's a quite glitsy place like aquarium adventure. They have a lot of tanks to pick from though, not many decorations as I remember it. I don't remember how the staff was though. But it's next to a starbucks, so I mean it's kind of worth it.
When I moved to Chicago (Lincoln Park neighborhood right off Clark Street) in the 90s, Old Town Aquarium was the primary LFS I bought from. Occasionally I would venture out to other places. Old Town Aquarium had a great setup back then, though it was a bit pricey. No surprise, given the area. Plants & fish were healthy and in beautifully staged, well-maintained tanks. Knowledgeable staff. One of the few places that sold acrylic aquariums. Parking was always challenging, so I would often walk to the store. I stopped by Old Town Aquarium a few years ago when I was in the area. It wasn't the same; things have changed on the retail side. Seemed like the focus is on aquarium maintenance for corporate & individual customers, rather than point-of-sale transactions.
Leeman75 said:
I feel like I remember passing Ocean Design Aquarium some time ago as our church was on IPR between Ashland and Southport, but we would get off the Edens and drive the whole length to get to it. I've never been and whenever I find myself in that area, I'll have to look it up!
Ocean Design Aquarium was located in the shopping center on the NW corner of Irving Park Road & Narragansett Avenue.

IMO, the current location on Addison Street is easier to access coming in on I-90 east. The less one has to drive east-west in Chicago, the better. Cumberland Avenue (SR 171) is a decent road to drive; much better than Harlem Avenue. I recommend checking out Ocean Design Aquarium when you're in the area.
Betta'sAnonymous said:
Well, i won't be driving 2 states away to get fish(most likely)but i certainly appreciate the effort that went into this!
How about when Nebraska plays at Northwestern (or at Illinois)? Aren't you "required" by state law to attend Husker road games?!! Just a reminder -- Frost & Company are playing at Illinois this fall.

Lol, Go Big Red!
 

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