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.


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… 😉


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

Czech Republic – A surprising source of quality freshwater tropical fish

What do you think of when the Czech Republic is mentioned? Prague? Pilsner? Stag do’s?

When we visited in December last year we didn’t experience any of that (ok one or two Pilsners – rude not too!) but we did experience something that may not be obvious to fishkeeping hobbyists – houses and outbuildings filled with tropical fish, fish and more fish!

Fuelled by low gas prices associated with an Eastern Bloc nation and low living costs due partly to the Czech’s non involvement with the Euro, with some hearty insulation (the outside temperature rarely got above freezing during our visit) it is possible for families to captively breed tropical fish on a small scale basis and sell them to the lucrative European market providing a steady and healthy income.

Landing in the late afternoon we were met by our hosts and driven from the small regional airport to our base in the east of the country not far from the Polish border. Certainly not Prague and you’ll struggle to find a quieter town in the whole of the UK, seemingly no traffic around – almost as if cars were banned in order to protect the quaint cobbled streets. Wondering how on earth there could be a thriving tropical fish breeding facility in our midsts we insisted on squeezing in a visit to our first supplier immediately to prepare us for what to expect the following day.

Back in the van we got and within five minutes pulled up outside a lovely house built into a hillside with perfectly manicured gardens and an Arsenal FC flag hanging from a bedroom window (great taste in football teams the Czech’s…). Assuming we were picking up the breeder to head over to his warehouse initially none of us rose to exit our minivan. Summoned to get out into the subzero temperatures we rushed to go inside the house through what looked like the basement door…

Instantly hit by a rush of warm humid air and surrounded by the bubbling of a hundred air powered foam filters we had encountered our first tropical fish breeding facility and it was under his kitchen! Used to visiting expansive facilities of thousands of systemised aquaria it was a pleasant surprise to encounter a low scale, low tech facility with high quality captive fish at every (cramped) turn.

Although brimming with both broodstock, fry and everything in between there we only 5 varieties to be seen – Electric Blue Rams, Golden Eye Dwarf Cichlids, Bristlenose Catfish, Rummynose and Cardinal Tetra.

Instantly it dawned upon us that this was the set up, this was were the fish were bred and raised. And the only way to do so with such limited resources was to focus on a small number of species and do them well.

Each breeder would have specialist knowledge in reproducing his particular varieties and our agent would have up to a hundred breeders producing fish exclusively for export through them. Already on that you maths the agent has 500 varieties available, each bred and raised with the care and passion that only a small scale producer could manage, but are able to offer the selection of an intensive large scale producer.

We explained to our agent what varieties particularly excited us and which we felt our customers back in the UK would be keen for us to stock. We had three days and weren’t going to visit 100 basements in 100 towns in that time! That evening a shortlist of facilities was drawn up and we were told to be ready to leave the hotel at 6am and not expect to be back before midnight – we had a serious day ahead of us…

The morning soon came and straight off to our first breeder! A quick pit stop on the way to a slightly larger facility this gentleman only produced two varieties – Serpae Tetra and the true Bloodfin Tetra, Aphyocharax anisitsi. Beautiful healthy fish, yes, but not the Dwarf Cichlids, Catfish and Rift Valley fish that we had earmarked the previous night for our attention. What was interesting however was the again low tech spawning method. Small unfiltered 8″ glass tanks with coarse webbing raised from the base to protect freshly laid eggs from the parents and abundant Java moss to encourage the scattering in the first place. Parents were rotated every couple of days and eggs removed to bare aquariums with air agitated water movement. An exclusive diet of Cyclops raised the fry to adult size ready for export within weeks.

WARNING! Rift Valley Cichlid overload coming up!

We moved onto the largest facility that we were going to visit on our trip. The owners lived on site but this was actually an outhouse dedicated to Rift Valley Cichlids.

The broodstock here were amazing and mostly kept in groups of a single male and several females which is really how they should be kept, and boy did they look good because of it! And no matter what we offered they were not for sale… Sorry, we tried!

An amazing find was the rarely seen Placidochromis phenochilus lupingu. The patterning on the male was particularly impressive!

What was really fascinating to see was how these mouthbrooding cichlids were raised. When the female has been holding fertilised eggs long enough she is ‘milked’ by the breeder and the eggs placed into a submerged wine glass where they are kept in constant suspension until they have hatched and consumed their yolk sac, after which they are transferred to small heavily fed and filtered aquariums to grow on ready for sale.

And once fully raised there were copious amounts to choose from….!

Who lives in a housing block like this?

Well don’t forget we are in the Czech Republic, land of micro hatcheries!

Within this housing block we met a lovely semi retired couple whose passions were tandem bike riding and breeding Tanganjykan Cichlids.

Below are some lovely Julidochromis that were sharing their front room.

Other highlights….

We visited a couple of breeders who specialised in Catfish. You can see baby Hoplosternum thoracatum to the left. Also present were Synodontis and several more varieties of Ancistrus and Whiptails, including the amazingly graceful Sturisoma panamense.

One breeder in particular was massively into his Corydoras and was establishing good size colonies of Barbatus, Weitzmani, Venezuelan Blacks among others. Watch out for these fish in our stores in good numbers and at good prices.

On the last day we managed to see many varieties of Dward Cichlids – Apistos, Rams, Kribs of all varieties, Nannocara among others.

And finally we were delighted to find a relatively new variety of Apistogramma agassizi – ‘Flameback’. Only available on the market for a year or so they have previously commanded prices in the UK of upwards of £40 for a pair. We hope to be able to supply them on a regular basis for as little as half that.

When it comes to importing fish it is really important to have a good relationship with the suppliers at the other end, and we certainly now have that with many of the breeders in the Czech Republic.

As they are familiar with us they can take constructive feedback to ensure that the fish always arrive in the best possible condition, and hopefully knowing that they are going to a retailer that cares about quality they ship nothing but the best.

The first deliveries of fish from these personally visited breeders have arrived at the Fishkeeper Scotland stores in Glasgow (Coatbridge) and Edinburgh this week for the first time and are also available from selected Maidenhead Aquatics stores.