#handsoffmyhobby

We have disturbing news that we are compelled to share with our customers in the pet loving nation of Scotland. The Scottish Government have announced that Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, has committed to a review of the trade and importation of exotic animals for the pet trade in Scotland after discussions with the “animals rights group” OneKind. However prior to this announcement there has been no consultation with the pet trade or pet owners.

The definition of “exotic” means anything not native to this country, whether captive bred or not. This could ultimately lead to almost every species of aquarium and pond fish as well as invertebrates being outlawed if poorly thought out and unnecessary sweeping regulation is brought in on the back of the extensive lobbying of several animal rights groups, who let’s be clear would ultimately like to end all pet ownership. Realistically they’ll never manage to banish dogs or cats, despite the greater dangers they can pose to humans and the environment than the humble Neon Tetra or Guppy. However, viewing “exotic” species as an easy target is an attempt to restrict the keeping of all pets.

Let’s remind them that nearly 1 in 10 households have an aquarium and that we are all committed fishkeepers who are proud of our hobby and our commitment to providing for the needs of our animals – whether exotic or native, with fur or fins!

Check out the following worrying quotes:

We believe that it would have been in the animals’ best interests if the institution of “pet keeping”—i.e., breeding animals to be kept and regarded as “pets”—never existed. – PETA

The legislation should facilitate a reduction in the numbers & types of non-domesticated birds, mammals, fish & reptiles in private keeping. – ONEKIND

We don’t need MORE regulation, we need better enforcement of the existing regulations. The licensed pet trade is already actively promoting the highest levels of animal welfare and sustainability and is heavily regulated, as pointed out by the Scottish government themselves:

The sale of animals as pets, including over the Internet where holding premises are within the UK, is currently covered by the Pet Animals Act 1951. The husbandry of certain exotic animals considered to be dangerous is covered by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, while the transport of all animals for commercial purposes, including pets, is covered by the Welfare of Animals Transport (Scotland) Regulations 2006, which implements EU requirements. The welfare of all protected animals, including exotic pets, is provided for under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

Abandonment of any protected animal is an offence under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

What can you do to help?

  • Sign the petition at Change.org AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
  • Visit the dedicated #handsoffmyhobby campaign website for further educate yourself on this very important and pressing matter – www.handsoffmyhobby.org
  • Write to your local MSP and Richard Lochhead who is the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. You can find their contact details on the Scottish Government website including postal and email addresses. Contact them for free via www.writetothem.com. You could also contact them directly via their social media accounts! Remember – they want your votes too.

What are Fishkeeper Scotland going to do?

  • We are going to heavily promote the #handsoffmyhobby campaign in conjunction with OATA who along with its members give fish welfare the highest priority.
  • We will be inviting MSP’s to visit our stores along with other licensed pet shops and for them open a constructive dialogue with both the pet trade and responsible pet owners.
  • We will be posting a series of articles to show the largely undocumented positive impact that the fishkeeping hobby has on animals in both the wild and captivity, as well as the communities around the world that are involved in their care.

Remember when you leave this page do three things!

Sign the petition here, educate yourself here & write to your MSP and Richard Lochhead MSP here!

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Get the Fishkeeper Scotland app!

We are pleased to announce that you can now download our “Fishkeeper Scotland” app from the Apple App Store and Google Play store!

It is a great way to follow our latest updates and offers as well as keeping in contact with our stores from the comfort of your mobile device.

We will keep adding new features over time which will automatically update within the app.

Simply search “Fishkeeper Scotland” on the App Store or Google Play or follow the links below to download now on either iOS or Android!

AppStore link: https://appsto.re/gb/f3rd4.i

Google Play link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.conduit.app_0650bfea87544bdd9bbe5fb438709901.app&hl=en

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New hand picked German Cultured Corals now available at Fishkeeper Scotland

We are always looking for new and exciting livestock at Fishkeeper Scotland and good quality cultured corals are high up on our wish list.

This week we were fortunate enough to go and hand pick a selection of SPS, LPS, Softies and Anemones from a top quality German mariculture facility. And despite the long drive back, the corals have arrived back into the stores in top condition and are opening up and looking bigger and fuller in size by the day.

These corals are available whilst stocks last from your local Fishkeeper Scotland store! Please see a small selection of images below…

Fishkeeper Glasgow

Fishkeeper Edinburgh

Fishkeeper Inverness

Fishkeeper Scotland birthday events raise £1450 for good causes

We are delighted to advise our customers that through their generous support of our recent charity raffles held at each of our Fishkeeper Scotland stores birthday weekends in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness we have raised £1450 for good causes.

This fantastic amount of money has been split evenly between the World Land Trust and the children of Vipingo in Kenya.

We have already been working closely with both causes who have now received a further £725 each of much needed funds.

The World Land Trust have placed the money into their “Action Fund” which is being used to urgently purchase land in Armenia, Bolivia, Borneo, Colombia, Ecuador, India and Mexico to save under threat tropical forest areas.

This is in addition to the money that we have already raised on their behalf by donating £1 from every sale of our Maidenhead Aquatics 30th Anniversary “Bag for Life” made from natural, renewable and sturdy jute fibres, dedicated to buying and conserving an area of Colombian rainforest. In doing this, our aim is to protect an area of wilderness that is home to beautiful and familiar aquarium favourites such as the Cardinal Tetra, Ram and Angelfish, and to thereby help preserve them. So with your help and support, we can help ensure that future generations can enjoy the hobby too. With the new carrier bag charge regulations coming into effect in Scotland on the 20th of October now is a great time to join us and show your support for the wildlife that we all love.

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In our search for the very highest-quality fish and invertebrates, Maidenhead Aquatics and Fishkeeper Scotland use suppliers from all over the world, with one of our most trusted suppliers based in Kenya.

Close to the supplier’s facility lies the village of Vipingo – home to many of the fishermen who collect the fish that find a home in your aquarium and to the fish-house staff that care for and pack them. The children of Vipingo are keen to learn and gain a proper education, but suffer from an acute lack of facilities, often being forced to study whilst sitting on the muddy floor of their makeshift “classroom.”

Our supplier has personally funded and organised the construction of an extension to the school helping to enable more children from the village gain an education. We’re happy to say that the main building is now constructed with the new roof due to be fitted soon, and benches have now also been purchased for the children so that they no longer have to sit in puddles during the rainy season.

Seeing the children’s efforts in trying to gain an education reminded us that it’s essential to try and contribute something back to the hobby of fishkeeping and to the communities that support it, so with the help of our supplier, we’ve been helping to supply much needed school equipment in an effort to make the learning progress a little easier for the children.

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The extra money raised through your generous support of our raffles will go such a long way to providing even more simple things such as books, writing paper and sports equipment, through this together we are helping to make a tangible difference and help a little towards benefiting these children and giving them a chance at a decent education and the prospect of employment in their future.

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Fishkeeper Inverness – Opening early July 2013!

We are delighted to announce that we will be opening our newest branch of Fishkeeper Scotland within the award winning Simpsons Garden Centre in Inverness. Work starts in late May and we plan to open in early July.

Fishkeeper Inverness will stock a wide range of both tropical freshwater and marine fish for aquariums as well as coldwater fish and Koi carp for ponds. Visiting children will be able to feed the fish in glass fronted ponds and gaze at Lionfish and Moray Eels amongst others in the large 600 litre dedicated marine aquarium display.

Biorb on customer service desk

We’re delighted to be opening our third store in Scotland within only three years of our first site in Glasgow. The support we have received from our customers since opening has been fantastic, without them we would not be continuing our mission to serve the fishkeepers of Scotland with an unrivalled selection of top quality livestock and accessories for their fishkeeping hobby. This new store at Simpsons Garden Centre will do just that in a fantastic environment with free parking and restaurant plus much more.

This new store is should raise the total number of jobs created by Maidenhead Aquatics in Scotland to 15, with more planned as we continue with our investment and expansion plans with Fishkeeper Scotland.

We spoke to Andrew Simpson the owner of Simpsons Garden Centre and he said “Fishkeeper Inverness by Maidenhead Aquatics is the latest addition to our continually developing garden centre. Along with our recently extended award winning plant area as well as our existing on site restaurant, farm foods shop, and florist we are providing a rewarding and mixed shopping environment for our customers. Despite winning Scottish Garden Centre of the Year for the last three years running we are not resting on our laurels!”

Fishkeeper Inverness is due to open in early July 2013.

www.facebook.com/FishkeeperInv
www.simpsonsgardencentre.co.uk

South East Asia Buying Trip – Bali Fish

Indonesia is an archipelago consisting of over 17,500 islands of which Bali is just one, however due to it’s relatively central location and well connected airport thanks to its status as a centre of tourism it is one of the main exporters of marine fish in South East Asia as well as cultured corals as we have covered in a previous post.

Bringing our fish directly in through London Heathrow from trusted suppliers such as these as well as also buying from UK wholesalers allows us to offer the fishkeeper the widest selection of quality livestock year round, allowing for seasonal availability.

Bali Fish HouseAlthough not the most modern looking of facilities this supplier is owned by a local family with years of experience that we have now been dealing with successfully for several years. In fact the grandfather of the family started as a marine fish exporter in the Philippines which is evidenced here by the Filipino style wooden marine ply aquariums with glass fronts. Not modern but certainly durable and effective as we found out whilst clambering over them looking for hidden treats and taking (not so effective) photographs!

Getting a closer look

One of the things we like most about this supplier is the recognition that fussy eaters such as Tangs and Bangaii Cardinals need extra rest and time to adjust to feeding in captivity and to regain strength before export and as such are held for longer periods of quarantine.

The Cardinals for example, upon arrival are placed in deep tanks and fed food which floats slowly down towards the bottom meaning they can feed as they naturally do in mid water. Once settled and feeding well they are then moved into the main fish house.

Newly arrived Bangaii Cardinals being fed:Bangaii Cardinals being trained to feed in captivity

Healthy rested fish ready for careful shipping to the UK:
Bangaii Cardinals reading for export

Tangs are fed on a combination of lettuce and seaweed:Powder Blue Tangs feeding on lettuce

Interestingly voracious feeders such as Unicorn Tangs are mixed in with delicate feeders such as Powder Blue Tangs and Copperband Butterflies:
Powder Blue Tangs alongside Unicorn Tangs

Rather than ending up being outcompeted as you may expect, the huge appetite of the Unicorn Tangs serves to encourage the other more delicate feeders to be more confident in taking forms of food they have no prior experience of. Truly a case of “fishy see fishy do”!

Carpet Anemone hosting a Common Clownfish:08-IMG_9375

Most of our Clownfish also come from this supplier and are captive bred at an inland facility on the other side of the island which due to time limitations we were unfortunately unable to visit on this occasion.

As well as many common varieties such as Ocellaris, Percula, Maroon, Tomato and Clarki we are also able to special order A grade “Picasso” Clowns from this supplier.

Adjacent mangrove:Mangrove from where filtered sea water is piped to the facility

The recirculation systems holding the fish at this facility have large filters and protein skimmers, but being situated just next to a mangrove means filtered saline water can be pumped in for regular water changes with ease. As the salinity is higher in the mangroves the water is first diluted with reverse osmosis water in holding tanks before being added to the systems.

More belated updates from our buying and research trip to South East Asia still to come including highlights from Singapore and a truly impressive freshwater breeder in Jakarta.

South East Asia Buying Trip – Bali Cultured Corals

One of the highlights of our trip so far has been getting the opportunity to hand select some top quality cultured SPS and LPS corals for our stores during an ocean pick in Bali. The first of two shipments of these corals arrived into our stores last night and are available on a first come first served basis!

If you look closely at the image to the left you can see poles marking the area of the coral farm which has been established on a shallow sand bed.

Below is a view from the farm to the beach and just visible are the trays of coral under the water surface.

Some close ups of the corals as we explored what was on offer:

Starting at 7am we then spent 3 or 4 hours at low tide hand selecting the best of an already great looking crop which was fluorescing under the Balinese sun. This also led to some impressive tans among our group!

Here are some images of us hard at work. If you look closely you will see that some friendly fish are following us around as we inspect the corals, each time we lifted one they would dart in for unearthed scraps of food!

Colin with farm owner Ilias – a young and enthusiastic man who has taken over ownership of the farm from his father who established the business. He has recently brought his brother into the business to make it a truly family affair and to prove the point his sister (a baker) provided lunch too!

After selecting the 900 best corals from an estimated crop of over 7000 here is a selection of what has/will be arriving in our stores!

All of the corals are propagated on site from cuttings (fragging) of mother corals and glued to artificial rock bases. In these natural conditions it takes only two months for each coral to grow from a cutting to a saleable size.

Not only are these corals cultured independently of wild stocks, Ilias also donates 10% of his crop to the government for replanting onto actual reef… actually expanding the biodiversity in the area.

The current donated stock awaiting collection (note how fish are living on this ‘reef’ already!)

As well as this we also found plenty of wildlife living in the area surrounding the farm which was previously just a plain sand bed with little life. As this area has been dedicated to farming and not exploited for tourism it is also a turtle breeding ground sanctuary.

These corals are now available to purchase from selected stores whilst stocks last. More updates to follow!

Click on the images below for a fullscreen gallery:

South East Asia Buying Trip – Day 1 – Jakarta Hard and Soft Corals

Our first day in Jakarta was a long but enjoyable one. We escaped the chaotic traffic and visited a coral supplier in the outskirts of the city. This is an existing supplier that we use regularly for soft corals and from time to time for hard corals – mostly LPS. All corals were kept at a salinity of 1.026 using natural seawater which is brought in from the coast nearby on a weekly basis. Temperature was maintained at 27 degrees celsius.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We started by hand selecting the very best 600 hard corals from a stock holding of over 3000 pieces. Due to the limited stock available, on this trip we are directly selecting on behalf of 20 of Maidenhead Aquatics and Fishkeeper Scotland’s 115+ stores as well as building future relationships with the suppliers for the remaining stores.

          

          

          

This supplier is where our popular “Coral Gardens” come from. These are a piece of plating rock with several different types of polyps growing together as a colony and we were able to witness these being produced.

                   

There was a great selection of soft corals of which we hand picked over 1000 of the best pieces which will arrive into selected stores along with the hard corals from this facility on Tuesday evening of this week (20/11/2012).

          

          

We also saw some cultured SPS which have been propagated and grown in the Jakarta region and were destined for export to Japan. These corals are not available to us in the UK yet but looked very promising… It will be interesting to compare them to the cultured corals that we will see and hand select in Bali next week. A little sneak preview….

         

Click on the images below for a fullscreen gallery:

South East Asia Buying Trip

At Maidenhead Aquatics and Fishkeeper Scotland we stock a comprehensive range of “dry” goods such as our lovely exclusive AquaOak aquariums and Aquamanta filtration technology. Although these products among others are essential purchases for the avid fishkeeper we are well aware that what hobbyists get really excited about is good quality livestock at affordable prices.

We source our fish from around the world and have long standing relationships with many of our suppliers. These relationships are key to our success in bringing new varieties of fish to market before our competitors (see Golden Denisoni Barbs at Aquatics Live 2012) but more importantly allows us to have direct communication with the breeders and fish house managers rather than just dealing through an agent. It allows us to provide direct feedback – whether praise or constructive criticism so that only the best fish are supplied and packed with the greatest of care.

Last year we spent some time in the Czech Republic visiting dozens of small scale freshwater breeders and selecting those that offered the highest quality fish at the best prices. These fish are now being seen in our stores on a regular basis at lower prices to our customers than they were previously.

Over the next 10 days we are in South East Asia visiting breeders in Indonesia, Bali and Singapore, again searching for new varieties, better quality and better prices. We will be attempting to post regular updates of our trip with as many interesting images as possible. This will hopefully give you a snapshot of what you will get to see in our stores over the coming year and further helping you understand where the livestock in your aquarium comes from.

Singapore is a major hub location and benefits from being able to source and supply fish from all over South East Asia and beyond, regularly including new species as and when they are discovered. It is also the largest exporter of captive bred tropical freshwater fish in the world. We will be visiting six breeders here over 3 days.

In Indonesia we will find both freshwater and marine breeders as well as coral farms. The freshwater breeders are interesting in that they are investing large sums of money in expensive and hard to acquire species to build up broodstocks in order to supply more captive bred stock to the hobby at lower prices. We are for example hoping to see thousands of captive bred L046 Zebra Plecos ready for export along with hundreds of the priceless mature parents. For conservation reasons these fish have been banned for export from the wild for several years (they originate from the Rio Zingu in Brazil) however due to their desirability they have still been at risk of collection by unscrupulous individuals. By being able to supply ethically sourced and healthy stock we are helping to reduce the demand for wild stocks of these lovely fish. We will also get to see the Golden Denisoni Barbs we recently launched to the trade at source as well as many rare and unusual shrimps and invertebrates. The first handpicked LPS and Soft Corals will arrive in stores week commencing 19th November.

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Bali is home to two of our favourite marine exporters who are both working hard towards working sustainably. Our fish supplier is producing a wide range of captive bred Clownfish among others and takes great care in the packing and transportation of their livestock. It will be interesting to see these fish at source and hopefully pick some of the best examples for our stores. We will also be visiting our cultured coral supplier who is doing great work growing both SPS and LPS hard coral varieties on artificial reefs whilst actively returning a percentage of what they farm back to the actual reefs themselves. We will be hand picking the best varieties and individual pieces to come back to our stores in two batches, first to arrive week commencing 26th November and the second the following week.

We look forward to providing you further updates over the next 10 days or so and hope you find them both useful and interesting.

Our newest fish shop opens in Edinburgh on Saturday (but the City of Edinburgh Council says you can’t buy any)

We are delighted to announce that our new Fishkeeper Scotland store will be opening at Leith Mills, 70/74 Bangor Road, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 5JU on Saturday the 4th of August at 9am! There will also be special offers and fun for the family to coincide with our “Name That Tuna” competition being featured on Real Radio next week.

Having only started the shop fit out three weeks ago we have been working day and night to get everything in place for an early August opening for the fishkeepers of Edinburgh and beyond.

We are really pleased with the results so far and have been working carefully to slowly stock up the fish house with a wide selection of healthy, quality livestock for opening (although rarer species will arrive over the coming weeks).

However a curve ball means we will be unable to sell ANY fish initially when we open…

As with any aquatics store we require a pet shop license in order to sell vertebrate animals (in our case – fish). Usually issued within a matter of days, we were still conscious that we had a very tight lead time for opening, so within two hours of the first fish arriving on the final system we rushed down to City of Edinburgh Council to make our application as we were now ready to demonstrate our working systems to the authorities.

We were astonished to be informed that the process would take between 6 weeks to 6 months, despite the procedures and requirements being the same as the many other areas across the UK where we hold licenses which are granted within a matter of days. How we were supposed to submit our application 6 months before signing our lease we’ll never know!

We are putting pressure on the authorities as the below letter shows, and if you have words of support, please leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Anyway, the party will go on! We will be open on Saturday with or without a license, however unless the City of Edinburgh Council see sense and want to encourage investment and employment within their city then we will have to focus on what we can sell for now which means we will have a great selection of corals, invertebrates, plants and shrimp available on the day. And don’t forget there will be plenty of cake and balloons… 😉

26/07/2012

Dear Malcolm Chisholm MSP,

CC: Councillor Chas Booth, Councillor Adam McVey and Councillor Gordon Munro
CC: Chief Executive of the Council
CC: Head of Licensing Department
CC: Head of Trading Standards

I write to you in regard to Maidenhead Aquatics’ Pet Shop License application (ref: 12/13055/PET1) lodged with the City of Edinburgh Council on 25th July 2012 along with the respective fee of £322.00. We have started work on fitting out our new specialist aquarium store within Leith Mills, 70/74 Bangor Road, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 5JU with an anticipated opening date of Saturday the 4th of August.

I was shocked to be advised that the process of granting the application would take a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks up to a maximum of 6 months. Maidenhead Aquatics hold over 100 individual pet shop licenses across our network of stores UK wide. This is by far the longest period that we have ever encountered. Although we understand that due diligence needs to be applied, Edinburgh City Council’s very lengthy licensing process is going to severely hamper our trade and damage the large investment that we are currently undertaking in your constituency.

Leith has a history of specialist aquatic stores trading within the area, however unfortunately the majority have closed over recent years. This was partly as I understand due to disruption caused by the tram works rather than a loss of interest by the local population in fish keeping. We believe that we will be restoring a service of value to the local community. Also in our experience as people are prepared to travel far and wide for a good selection of high quality livestock we will be attracting many additional visitors to Leith who were previously unaware of what the area has to offer.

Our investment is not limited purely to the cost of fitting out our shop (which to date runs to many tens of thousands of pounds) but we will be bringing employment to the area with the intention of wherever possible employing locally. This licensing process proposed by the City Council, whether weeks or even months, is going to delay and reduce our plans for employment. These impacts will be serious both in the short and long term.  Not least because when we open on the 4th of August, new customers visiting our aquatic store will be given a negative impression because as matters stand they will be unable to buy fish for their aquarium! We have already committed to a large advertising campaign for next week that cannot be cancelled.

With regard the application we wonder if you would be willing apply any pressure to ensure that it is issued promptly, our store in North Lanarkshire had theirs granted within three days. Although we wholeheartedly support the aims and nature of the Pet Shop Licensing act, we believe that as holders of over 100 separate licences in good standing with councils across the UK and the leading specialist aquatic retailer in the UK it is highly unlikely that there would be justifiable reason for our application to be denied. We have grown to the size that we are by working to a winning formula for establishing successful new stores through our own innovation and best practices.

Wherever possible we look to employ persons trained in aquaculture at facilities such as the University of Stirling or Sparsholt College in Hampshire. Where this is not possible all of our staff are employed as experienced fishkeepers and then trained internally. We will be offering all staff employed the option to undertake a diploma in Fish Health, Biology, Water Quality and Filtration which is a course offered by our trade association OATA (Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association). We fund the cost of the course on behalf of the employee and even pay them a bonus on completion.

We have a strong focus on animal welfare and commit to OATA’s code of conduct, specifically their guides on water quality which actually form a crucial part of the Pet Shop License conditions. It should also be noted that we have a director of the company who sits on the board of OATA in an unpaid position.

We also have our self imposed Livestock Charter which places animal welfare before all else in our conduct, and restricts our stores from stocking unsuitable or unethical species.

I hope I have construed to you the positive nature of our company which is looking to expand across the whole of Scotland, providing an essential service for fishkeepers in the area. Fish are actually the third most popular pet in the country in households owning them, by far surpassing cats and dogs, especially in urban areas, in numbers actually kept. As a company of integrity with a good reputation we intend to fully comply with the regulations and to cooperate fully with local authorities that carry out their duties efficiently and in a timely manner.  We are calling upon you to help remove the unnecessary bureaucratic hold up to our continued investment in the area of Leith and the wider City of Edinburgh.

Yours sincerely,
Maidenhead Aquatics 4 LLP