It is actually possible to buy relaxation and a sense of wonderment. A Windows screensaver with fish on a coral reef is one matter but the real deal is on hand at Grosvenor Tropicals.
Having started in the mid-60s in a terraced house in East Belfast, today it has large modern premises in Lisburn run by Leslie McCutcheon, with a large quarantine facility near Hillsborough. It has a bright exterior and on entering there is an array of tanks with an amazing range of around 800 species. Everything is spotless. Built into the long counter is a spectacular tank with large specimen fish, including a spotted black stingray. The show tank has a selection of corals and beautiful tang fish.
The premises fill one with wonder and, no doubt, children and adults alike love the amazing world of corals, carpet anenomes and fish. It could be difficult for the beginner to choose but Leslie points out that most go initially for community fish such as tetras and neons, with prices starting at 10 for £5. Under-16s, however, must be accompanied by grown-ups. But even adults cannot just buy a stingray or a sturgeon unless they can provide a sample of home tap water and explain their tank facilities. Leslie says that keeping fish requires an understanding of the various species in terms of water quality, filtration, heating and lighting, not to mention feeding.
In adjacent tanks the fish may come from distances thousands of miles apart, those from Lake Tanganyika requiring different conditions from natives of Sri Lanka.
London is the main hub for fish sales. Fish can be sent from Sri Lanka on a Monday and be in Belfast on Wednesday. In terms of conservation, the market is tightly controlled.
Few of us realise that some specimen fish are micro-chipped and have a certificate of ownership. The company’s huge new quarantine facility is designed to help fish acclimatise. Most of the customer base is made up of individuals, some of whom have been keeping fish for 50 years or more. Some have tanks and ponds large enough to hold a diamondback sturgeon which requires some 2,000 gallons.
Knowledge of fish-keeping can be complex and, thankfully, the days of fairground goldfish prizes are a distant memory. The staff are all experienced keepers and they put a lot of work into their website, which is aimed at providing advice rather than selling fish. They won’t, like some, pop a stingray in the post to you! Grosvenor Tropicals will, however, come to your home and install a tank with all that is needed.
Should you be in the area or thinking of starting a new hobby why not at least experience this amazing world by paying a visit?
Riverside Centre, Young Street, Lisburn