Purchasing cichlids for you aquarium generally isn't a complicated task...but it can be. If your source for new fish is local then, depending on where you live, limitations on selection may be high. If your LFSs always have what you want at a price you're willing to pay, then everything is good. However, let's be honest, most of us cichlidophiles don't have the luxury of having half a dozen LFSs nearby, each of which carries dozens of cichlid species.
Then there is the matter of purchasing fish replacements (new cichlids to replace some that have died or that you've sold, traded away, etc.) versus purchasing for stocking a brand new tank that you've set up. The former may be easier to do, especially if you only keep a couple of species and your LFSs always have them in stock. The latter is more difficult, especially when you're wanting some species you've never kept, wanting some species that are hard to get, or both.
If you follow my blog, you've seen several posts that mention my intent to set up a new tank. In fact, that day is nearly here. Of the two scenarios described in the previous paragraph, my situation is obviously the second.
There are numerous online cichlid retailers available, many of which are highly reputable. My LFS has some nice fish, but not everything I'm looking for. It appears that I'll be able to get some species locally and then have to order the rest online. This introduces a dilemma, especially if your conscientious about supporting your LFS, which I very much am.
Ordering online is most cost effective when you order a higher quantity of fish. This reduces the total cost you pay per fish. Consider an overnight shipping expense of $60, which is probably close to the average for most online buyers. If you buy four fish at ~$10 each for a total fish cost of $40, adding the $60 shipping and dividing that by each fish raises your overall cost for each fish to $25. $100 total divided by 4 = $25. Order 10 fish at $10 each, you're total fish cost with shipping now becomes $16.
Here's the dilemma(s). If you only have room for four new fish, then buying them online might be less cost effective than getting all four from your LFS. Splitting the purchase between your LFS and online doesn't offer much financial relief either. The solution to the dilemma(s) is to decide what you're willing to pay, how badly you want the fish, and whether you're willing to leave your LFS out of the equation.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub