I’ve just read your December edition ‘tailpiece’ on public aquariums and can completely relate. this summer my wife and I took our two children to a well-known uk aquarium, hoping to show them some exciting behindthe-scenes stuff as well, so I bought special VIP tickets. For the four of us, this cost over £120, so I was expecting a lot.
It was disappointing from the start. the staff member on reception was trying to do five jobs at once and would only give blunt answers to my questions while trying to deal with other customers at the same time.
the aquaria were a mess. I realise the outside of tanks get handprints and scratches, but the insides were worse – covered in algae, dirty substrates and terrible lighting that could barely cope. the fish were all wrong, too, like gouramis in south American set ups, and guppies in African rift lake displays. I could look in every tank and see something that shouldn’t be there, and worse, my 10-year-old son was spotting even more of them than I was.
then there was the health of the fish. I’ve never seen so many with hole in the head disease in all my life. tangs in display tanks were ravaged with it. there were deformed fish all over the place, and loads that looked like they had been bullied.
I could go on. the water was cloudy, the drinks were so expensive we almost went without, and the only tidy, well-organised part of the whole experience was the gift shop. the less said about the behind-thescenes tour the better.
In ‘tailpiece’, you said that for a moderate outlay, most people could do a better display at home than they’d find in a public aquarium. When I add up the cost of our day out, including travel, food and drink, and souvenirs for the kids, I spent over £200. For that I could have set up a planted aquascape with healthier fish and far more interest than anything our day out offered.
What I don’t get is how they think they can get away with it. It’s just costing them customers. I’d ask for my money back, but I’d rather they spent it on hole in the head treatment. Name withheld on request
Nathan replies: The number of people who’ve spoken to me since I wrote that piece has been shocking. Shocking because everyone says the same thing – that their experiences have been bad. Maybe I’m looking at it with rose-tinted glasses, but my childhood memories of public aquaria weren’t like they are now.
Either way, I’m sorry to hear you had such a bad time, and I can only hope that someone in the industry is reading this and taking note.