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.
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.
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”.
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.