Dan Silvester, Managing Partner at Trust Tropicals in Gloucester gives Aquarist Magazine an interview on life as an Aquatic Store owner and his views on the hobby.
What’s the best aspect of running an Aquatics store
The best aspect of running Trust Tropicals is doing a job, for myself, that I truly love. I have kept tropical fish for around 20 years and had great success with my hobby. Also helping customers to get the same success and enjoyment from fishkeeping is very rewarding.
In your opinion, what is the best product you sell in your shop?
Without a doubt it has to be the fish. With such a variety available today from a guppy to a discus and a sucking loach to stingray there is a fish for every taste. Dry goods wise I would say the foods that are now available are fantastic. Many specialist foods available bring out brilliant colours, stronger immune systems or spawning behaviour. Frozen foods are great as a supplement to live foods as disease is ruled out. Give your fish a quality and varied diet and you will have very happy and healthy fish.
I’m sure it goes without saying that hearing clown fish referred to as Nemo is exceptionally irritating, but what is your main pet hate of running an aquarium store?
My pet hate of running Trust Tropicals would have to be all the paperwork that goes with it. Sadly it’s not just beautiful fish and tanks.
The most common mistake people make is not doing enough water changes, or just doing one complete change when their tank looks really dirty. We advise a 10% water change a week using a gravel cleaner or 20% a fortnight depending what fish you keep. But for most home aquarium this is a good guideline. For discus I would advise at least 10% a day as they are much more intolerant of toxins in the water.
If money were no object, what would your dream aquarium look like?
My dream aquarium would have to be a massive amazon biotope. I have a real passion for discus, so a tank big enough to hold a couple of hundred discus as well as altum angels and a few thousand cardinals would be my choice. If I could bring back a stretch of the amazon and fit it into my house I would be a very happy man.
Have you seen a change in fish buying habits in recent years? What is becoming popular?
I would say that fish buying habits have changed considerably over the last 10 years or so. Technology has helped fishkeepers with items such as co2 fertilisers, the fluval fx5, seneye devices and better lighting to look after and maintain their fish and tanks to much higher standards. Fish such as discus and L number plecs are being kept by many of our customers, whereas a few years ago discus were thought of as near impossible to keep in the home aquarium. Flowerhorn are a fairly recent addition to the fish hobby and are becoming increasingly popular. Nano tanks are also becoming very popular as they take up very little space, look very good and are easy to maintain. Shrimp, betta fish or a pair of dwarf cichlids are the fish of choice for nano fishkeepers.
[sws_pullquote_right] There are plenty of good sources of information available to fishkeepers online and in magazines. [/sws_pullquote_right]
Now that the hobby has become so accessible, especially with Nano tanks, do you find people dive into fishkeeping without making all due considerations beforehand?
Many of our customers do some research before buying a tank or fish. Google is a good source of information easily accessible by most. We aim to help all of our customers make informed decisions about tanks and fish choices. We do not put descriptions up of our fish for sale, just the name and price. We find this encourages customers to ask questions about the fish, and hopefully learn too. There are plenty of good sources of information available to fishkeepers online and in magazines. Your local fish shop should also be able to help you make the right choice for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, its how we all learn and progress.
We have large sump systems on our shop tanks. These are set up to an auto water change unit that changes 10% of the water a day and also tops up any water taken out through gravel cleaning or bagging up fish. They filter through several different types of media such as zeolite and bio balls and also u.v sterilisers. This also increases the volume of water in each system, so water parameters don’t fluctuate as they would in a smaller body of water. This allows more fish to be kept together as the water is kept clean and fresh.
What did you make of the Pets at Home story on BBC Watchdog? What measures does a reputable Aquatics store like yours take to ensure fish welfare?
Sadly the watchdog programme confirmed what many of our customers have told us. Poor conditions for the fish, 3 hours as a quarantine period before sale, oscars sold as community fish, staff that have only ever kept a goldfish they won at a fair, with no knowledge or even an interest in a very rewarding and enjoyable hobby. They really need to invest in some staff training and employ people who keep fish themselves. Its such a shame that customers of theirs as well as their fish have to pay for their lack of knowledge.
At Trust Tropicals we have a minimum of a two week quarantine period, regular water tests on each sump unit and individual tank, we do not overstock our tanks and provide a healthy, mixed diet for our fish to ensure our customers only get the best quality fish.
You may be interested in following Trust Tropicals:
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or even checking out their website Trust Tropicals