Passion, Love, and Responsibility- What being an LFS owner means to me

What do you think of when you hear the term “LFS”? ( local fish store)  I hope for many of you it’s a term that makes you happy. I hope you smile and think about the last saltwater pet you bought and see him swimming happily in your aquarium. But that term too often these days makes people mad or sad. I can tell you what that term means to me. It means passion, love, and responsibility. I am a second-generation LFS owner. My parents bought a store when I was one year old in the early 80’s. They had it for 29 incredible years before they retired. Any small business retail these days is tough, but when you have live animals it gets tougher. I grew up being fascinated by our fish and had all types of pets growing up. The Passion: You have to have a passion for this business. I am passionate about helping people solve their fish problems. I am passionate about matching the right fish with the right aquarium. I am passionate about getting healthy fish in and keeping them healthy.  I am unbelievably passionate about aquaculture. 

lined seahorse

The Love- It’s not just work, it’s our life and our love.  I love every animal in my store. They are amazing, and we are constantly learning about them. I went to college to find a career that my parents thought would be easier then retail. I came home on weekends to help them out at the store and I was always good at talking to people and guiding them. After college I stayed at the store and helped out 7 days a week. We were a great team. The big stores eventually took their toll and the overhead was too high; my parents weren’t getting any younger, so they decided to retire. At that point I thought about being a housewife for a while till I figured out what else I wanted to do. Then an opportunity presented itself two miles from my house. A small retail location in town with no other stores around. I went for it and Colchester Pet was born. I pulled my parents out of their 5 minute retirement and we never looked back. That is a love you don’t find often. 

rainfordi goby

Responsibility- As your local fish store, we have a profound responsibility to give you the best advice possible. In a world of internet advice (good or bad) there has to be a place where you can go and get help from someone who has experienced it first hand more than once. We have a responsibility to you, your fish, and our planet to help you make the right decision. We have a responsibility to tell you all about captive bred fish and carry as many as we can because it’s better to have them instead of taking one from the ocean. We have the responsibility to tell you the best advice even if it costs us the sale. We have the responsibility to get the most healthy fish and care for them in the best way we can. Overall, we have the responsibility to educate you to the best of our knowledge. 

I truly hope that you have found an LFS like this. If you are one of the unfortunate ones who have not, then keep searching. We are out there, we are the humble ones who are in it for the love of the fish and not the almighty dollar. Do you have an awesome LFS? Please tell us about them in the comments

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The Story of Tango the Tang



How did a little store like Colchester Pet get their hands on such an amazing fish?

Here is something I wrote in September telling the story:

There have been such exciting breakthroughs in the marine aquaculture industry.  As you know from our previous posts, we have 3 of the very first aqua cultured yellow tangs. They are so beautiful swimming around in their 150 gallon home. Another recent breakthrough was raising Dory in captivity which is a new development. Dory is a very beautiful fish called a pacific blue tang (also called Hippo Tang or Regal Tang). These fish are not on the easy side of saltwater fish but they are one of the more popular ones. Even way before Finding Nemo and Finding Dory were around these fish were popular. People just love their color and personality. I think they did a really good job capturing the personalities of these fish in the movies. If you look at a Hippo Tang in an aquarium they are very fast swimmers going in and out of all the caves and rock formations with such grace and beauty.

We were so excited when we heard the aquaculture news. I watch the Rising Tide Conservation Facebook page daily and when I saw what they had done in conjunction with the UF Tropical Aquaculture Lab with these fish I was beyond excited. This popular fish would do well with being raised in captivity. They can very easily come down with Ich. (a parasite that attaches to a stressed out fish and can kill them if left untreated, it can also spread to other fish). I can only assume that a fish that is aqua cultured will be healthier than one taken from the ocean.

If you want to see how really excited I was watch our short FLOG (fish video blog) here:

We really tried to get one of these aqua cultured Hippo tangs, we even talked to the director of the University of Florida Tropical Aquaculture Lab where they were bred and asked if they would sell us one. The answer of no was understandable and expected. But we had to try anyway right?  There were only a handful of these fish available and they wanted to send them out to public aquariums to show everyone this truly amazing accomplishment. Two of the fish were auctioned off to the highest bidders through Dynasty Marine and the money went back to the research facility to help make this happen again.

The day that the auction started we watched the first bid come in. $200 won that days bid. This was a few week long auction and they posted the highest bid every night. In the beginning they were slow to bid. There were days where no one bid at all. We figured that this would be like an eBay auction where everyone waits until the last possible second, then bids like crazy.

It was a few days before the end of the auction and we threw out a bid for one of these historic fish. That night we were the high bidder and my initials and our bid sat there hoping that people didn’t want to go higher. The next day I checked the page periodically and was amazed to see our bid still there. That night our bid was still there as the high bid, OMG really? I was totally excited and getting a bit nervous. What if we won? What if we got this fish? This is a lot of pressure to make sure nothing happens to this little one. What tank would we put him in? He is much too small for the 150 with our yellow tangs.  Then I checked the post on the day before the auction. We were still in it for the second place if no one else bid.  They day of the auction I kept looking at the page and watching the bids go up and up.

I don’t know what the final highest bids were but I sure hope the people that won know and appreciate what they are getting. I hope they appreciate the piece of history and realize that this industry has changed for the better with the fish they won that will proudly swim in their aquarium. I hope they appreciate the hard work and countless hours of everyone that had a hand in making this possible. I hope they know that they hold a key to the future success of every aquarist who will ever want a saltwater fish in their aquarium. I hope they feel the same love that we do of our fish and that its not just a bragging right for them.

This is how I feel every time I walk to the back of our store and see our three captive bred yellow tangs. I feel so proud to be part of this industry that is working so hard to make a difference. I love all of our fish. I love helping people pick out the fish that will do the best in their aquarium and not just survive, but thrive. I love looking at all of our fish and coral every morning to make sure they are all happy and healthy.

When you have a passion and you can spend your days talking to people about it and giving them advice that is true happiness at work in my opinion. When you have the knowledge to solve their problem, not because you read it somewhere, but because you have owned the experience that is happiness. I am very proud and honored to be a part of this amazing industry that brings joy and happiness to all who are captivated by it. What I love most about this hobby and industry are the fish and corals. I accept the challenge and love every aspect of it. I hope the passion shines through with every blog post, or every conversation we have that we really love our fish.

I just want to say thank you to all of the research facilities and universities that put in countless hours to make a better future for our marine friends. You are truly amazing people.

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Tango the Tang: One of the first Captive Bred Pacific Blue Tangs


Once in a lifetime a fish comes along that changes everything……

Some people wont see our passion about these fish and some people wont care about a fish raised in captivity. But those people don’t see the future in the eyes of this Pacific Blue Tang that is swimming around in my tank. I look at this fish and I see the future of our hobby. I see my daughter and her sons or daughters sitting in their living room staring at these fish that are all raised in captivity. They do not know the harsh journey that a wild caught fish goes through to get to their tank. I see people forgetting that we ever took fish from the ocean and the ocean flourishing again. I see the fish in the future happy and healthy because of this tang staring at me. The reason I am so passionate about aquaculture is all about the fish. They are the reason I come to work everyday. Now for a fish geek like me, it doesn’t get any better then the first aqua cultured tangs. Look what aquaculture did for the clown fish. They were almost an endangered species and now they flourish. Being aqua cultured took the pressure off of the wild clownfish and made a sustainable source for the hobby. This is why its so amazing and important. I love showing our customers all of our aqua cultured fish. The list is getting longer and now I can introduce them to aquaculture with Tango our Pacific Blue Tang.

Aqua cultured or captive bred means that they were bred, hatched, and raised up in aquariums. They were not taken from the ocean so they are usually stronger.

Tango and his siblings as eggs…Cute huh?
5 days after hatching
At 29 days after hatching

I have to say this is not the first tang breakthrough that we have displayed in our store. You cannot forget the amazing work they did with the aqua cultured yellow tang months before. The three aqua cultured yellow tangs in our 150 display tank are a thing of beauty and they helped to unlock the key to success for the aqua cultured Pacific Blue Tang.


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The Absolutely Amazing Coral Beauty Angelfish

“Aquaculture is the future”


A streak of orange and purple catch your eye as you walk down the aisle at your local fish store. You turn to the tank and see nothing, when you start walking again you see the streak fly back to the other side. Now you stop and look knowing for sure it wasn’t in your head. You see a tag for a Coral Beauty Angelfish and you know it has to be the one, it’s a beauty alright. Once you can stand there and look at this fish you really start to notice the beautiful details in his coloration. There are dark stripes in the orange coral color that is wrapped in the most vibrant dark purple you have seen on a fish. You ask the fish expert if this magnificent fish is okay for your aquarium. They answer with an energetic “yes”.

The Coral Beauty is one of the most popular fish for the marine aquarium. They can go in almost any tank. They are as robust as angels get. In my opinion they are the most resilient of the angelfish. They are a dwarf angelfish and are mostly reef safe. I have no problem recommending them for a reef. They are also one of the first I recommend to newer aquariums after the tank is biologically cycled.

The problem with the popularity of this saltwater fish is that it is still mostly wild caught. Wild caught fish for the aquarium have it tough. Until about 10 years ago it was the only way to get any saltwater fish. Most people don’t know that their precious fish comes right from the ocean. They are taken from their comfortable environment and what they are used to eating. Its no wonder that they are stressed when they come to the fish store, and then to your home. This is such a great hobby but we can make it better by doing what is right for the fish and the ocean. The list of aquacultured or captive bred fish is getting longer and it’s a thing of beauty!

The coral beauty has now been added to the list of  amazing aquacultured (captive bred) fish. Kathy Leahy of Kathys Clowns LLC was the first to successfully raise this fish in captivity.

Here is Kathy’s success with the first captive bred Coral Beauty Angels. They hatched on 5-13-16. Around 6-13-16 they started to be more self sufficient and eat different foods.They also started swimming around the tank and going through their PVC tubes on the bottom of the aquarium looking and acting more like fish. Their coloration came at different times between July and September. Kathy has three survivors and is currently working on a new batch.

Another one to have aquacultured Coral Beauty Angelfish is Biota Marine Life Nursery in Palau. This is where we get our beautiful fish from. Its very exciting that these aquacultured fish are already available to the public. They are usually sent to public aquariums first so its hard for the fish stores and ultimately the hobbyist to get them. The team at Biota is amazing and they have such amazing healthy fish. They sell quickly and one awesome thing about them is you can have more then one in your home aquarium. Watching a group of these beautiful angels swimming together has only been witnessed at public aquariums and in the wild until now.

They are believed to be a bit like clownfish where they can change sex. The young dwarf angelfish are believed to be female and the dominant one will turn male when mature. So, if you start out with two juveniles chances are you may end up with a pair once they reach maturity.


Because of this trait and the fact that they are kept in aquariums when captive bred, two should do well in your aquarium. These fish are already eating prepared food and eat immediately when we get them in. They are small and petite but they will grow up to be strong and mighty.


Coral Beauty Angelfish are such a great addition to almost any saltwater aquarium. I am so happy to be able to offer yet another awesome aquacultured fish to my customers. I am also happy to have companies out there like Kathys Clowns and Biota who are totally into aquaculture like we are. It is the future of the hobby and they only truly sustainable source for saltwater fish.  The price is a bit higher on the fish, but the more they are bred and bought, the quicker the price will come down. I am willing to pay more for a healthier and happier fish, are you?

When a fish is newly aquacultured or captive bred there are a lot of people out there who will say that they have “captive bred fish”. There is no way to prove whether this is true or not except documentation. If your fish comes with a certificate, or your local fish store can show you a certificate before you buy, that is so awesome.

Here is documentation we have right from Biota Marine Life Nursery certifying that the fish I buy from them are aquacultured or captive bred.

Education is the key and it’s the most important thing a professional can do for this hobby. Its my mission to educate the public about captive bred and aquacultured fish.

The saltwater fish industry is headed for the future!

If you would like more information on Biota here is their website:

Kathy’s Clowns:

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Aquacultured Yellow Tangs


Walking around anywhere that has a saltwater aquarium you will hear excited little voices say “Look, I found Nemo” and “There is Dory”! The next fish they will recognize is Bubbles the yellow tang. He was the one in the the aquarium obsessed with the bubbling ornament.

The yellow tang is one of the most recognized saltwater fish by children and adults alike. That bright yellow color is what makes them a staple in most home aquariums. What most people dont realize is that there are very few captive bred saltwater fish, most of them come right from the ocean. Luckily there are aquariums and research facilities out there working very hard to change this. The most recent triumph was 10 years in the making, they have successfully bred yellow tangs in captivity. The Oceanic Institute in Hawaii won the prize.

After months of special care and love the captive bred babies were ready to go to their new homes. Most of them went to public aquariums and research centers. 3 swam their way to their new home at Colchester Pet.  We are so honored and excited to have these special and historic fish at our store. They live in a 150 gallon reef tank with Jock (the shrimp) and Nemo.

If we keep taking these popular fish out of the ocean for our own aquariums then someday there wont be any left. There is still a long way to go until we have captive bred yellow tangs in every fish store, but at least its a start on the way to “Saving Bubbles”.