SHOP­TOUR

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Contents -

The PFK team visit aquat­ics shops in St Al­bans and Le­ices­ter.

Ad­dress: North Or­bital Road, St Al­bans, Hert­ford­shire AL2 1DL. Tele­phone: 01727 825815 Web­site: www.fish­keeper. co.uk/store/st-al­bans Open­ing hours: Mon-sat 9am6pm, Sun 10am-4pm

What is it?

Opened in 2005, this is one of Maiden­head Aquat­ics’ flag­ship stores. It’s the largest of the Maiden­heads and uses the space to of­fer lots of choice – aquar­i­ums, wa­ter fea­tures, live­stock and gravel is here in abun­dance. There are 328 trop­i­cal tanks plus 42 small Betta tanks, 76 marine tanks, 8 cold­wa­ter tanks, 48 square feet of plant-hold­ing tanks and 96 square feet of co­ral tanks. Plus there’s a good-sized pond fish sys­tem and 3 large koi sales vats.

High points

Straight off a main road, this store is easy to get to, with a good-sized car park. Walk­ing through the front door you see the size im­me­di­ately – a vast, open-plan shop with a sec­tioned-off fish house, café and a chil­dren’s play area.

The se­lec­tion of tanks is large with all shapes and sizes of oak tanks and cab­i­nets in-store, Ba­sic to high-end nanos, through to large Evo­lu­tion Aqua tanks, D+D Reef Pros and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. The dry goods se­lec­tion is full of op­tions with four types of ex­ter­nal fil­ters of­fered, 18 types of rock and lots of con­sum­able and spare parts hang­ing up to give you just a taste.

It was snow­ing on our visit and the pond area wasn’t in sea­son, but we peeked out­side and were im­pressed. There’s a great se­lec­tion of rocks, drilled and un­drilled from 8in river cob­bles to 4ft-high slate mono­liths. There’s also a good se­lec­tion of Ja­panese stone or­na­ments, like lanterns and dragons, and in sea­son there’ll be plenty of pond plants, too.

The best of high points goes to the trop­i­cal fresh­wa­ter fish se­lec­tion. We could eas­ily fill a fish house with some of our favourite and most-wanted fish here.

With so many tanks, all the nor­mal, more ba­sic, species are in situ, plus a large se­lec­tion of rift lake ci­ch­lids and rarer, wild, in­ter­est­ing and odd fish.

Low points

We found that the in­door cold­wa­ter fish se­lec­tion wasn’t overly in­spir­ing, the large aquar­ium plant sales area was rather av­er­age and there wasn’t a great se­lec­tion of healthy plants.

Though we en­joyed not see­ing com­mon tank-busters or bal­loon fish, some of the rare species did raise con­cern – like a large, lone Ser­rasalmus geryi.

Over­all, we’re nit­pick­ing for low points since ev­ery­thing else about the place was “big and ex­cit­ing”.

Ver­dict

Well worth a trip in our view. If you’re look­ing for your first aquar­ium set-up there’s so much choice here that you’re bound to find the ideal items.

If you’re a sea­soned fresh­wa­ter hob­by­ist there’s go­ing to be some­thing to get your heart rac­ing and if you’re a marine keeper they have all you need plus an 8,000l marine dis­play tank to drool over.

Ae­quidens metae - one of many va­ri­eties of ci­ch­lids on of­fer. Koi vats lead down to the cof­fee shop.

This is just half of the fish house.

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