Pub­lic apolo­gies

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - LETTERS -

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.

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