Is This The Best Loach Shop In The World?
An article describing a day when several Loaches Online regulars met for the first time. This is an expanded version of the post on the Loaches Online forum.
I have to thank profusely Helen Nightingale for giving me the lift
from Norwich to Crowland. Emma Turner for organizing everyone else to
be there, which made it such a fantastic day, and a terrorist group for
completely screwing up international air travel with carry-on liquids. This took away any possibility on my part to spend a lot of money on fish.
The temptation was unbelievably huge.
The Best Loach Shop In The World.
That's a hell of a claim.
It's me that's claiming that, not the ever so
modest proprietors. Why do I think it's the best? Well firstly, I doubt
there's a better one anywhere. I can't see anywhere else getting close
when it comes to variety of species, cleanliness of tanks and premises,
healthiness of the stock, and being run by someone with complete
I think that's the key.
Emma and Steve set up the store around 4 years ago. Steve is a super nice guy and obviously the businessman of the pair. Emma, as we realize from her posts on LOL is highly knowledgeable and the passion behind the Loach section. I'm sure she drives Steve nuts with her desire to get in rare species for the loach enthusiasts amongst their customers.
You reach Maidenhead Aquatics Peterborough store at it's Crowland location by walking through a Garden Centre. This is a big place, immaculately clean and well laid out. Then you reach your goal.......
Walking in, you pass on your left well stocked shelves with fish foods and other equipment. The first thing that you get awed by are the two enormous Marine show tanks. One to your left houses large specimens and the right-hand one is a fabulous Reef tank.
Note the neat stacking of equipment stock. This shop is tidy.
This houses some beautiful fish. Yellow Tangs, Zebrazona flavescens
And an absolutely beautiful Acanthurus sohal, with attendant Cleaner wrasse.
Over in the other display tank was this guy, a Clown Trigger,
To the left of this tank are banked rows of well-stocked marine tanks with beautiful specimens of fish and invertebrates. I found this cute Blenny peeping out of a large clump of Barnacle shells.
As you walk through the shop you pass other show tanks that are all
beautifully set up and attractive. Quite a few loaches in evidence too!
Then you get to the 8 foot long display tank that houses Clowns and other loaches amongst its inhabitants.
There's some unusual residents. An unusually marked adult Botia histrionica who refused to make catching his photo an easy task.
And an Ancistrus that has a single long "bristle" that makes it look like an Anglerfish's lure.
The group of visitors gathered in front of the tank for the "team shot".
Left to right: Emma Turner, Helen Nightingale, Graeme Robson, Martin Thoene, Susan (dlenn), Les (LES) and Mark Duffill (Mad Duff).
So now you can put faces to those names on the Loaches Online Forums.
We are all lined up in front of the impressive 8 foot tank. It's hard not to just stand and stare at it as fish appear out of the many hiding places within the tank. Here, the group does just that while chatting. Emma, as usual is all smiles. Between Les and Graeme you can see the quite large complex of cold-water fish holding vats, and all around an impressive array of equipment stock.
Just to Mark's left, you can see the edge of this beautifully set up Palludarium. It has terrestrial plants, trickling water, a misting device and in the water section a nice group of Yasuhikotakia sidthimunki. Emma denies all knowledge of how they got to be in there. I think she sleep walks in that case!
To the left of the 8-foot tank is the entrance to Paradise....well the Loach and Catfish Section. The sign makes you realize how seriously Emma takes the care of these fish and tries to make customers aware of their specialized needs.
Maybe the sign should read "Beware, you may become addicted" ?
All Maidenhead Aquatics branches use similar banked tiers of aquariums with large tanks in the base. These often house huge fish that people could not keep. I spyed this beautiful Tetraodon mbu who was around a foot long. Emma told me that he was being rehoused soon. Beautifully coloured fish.
This bank of tanks is supported by some very serious filtration plumbing.
So.....what's in these wonderfully clean tanks then? Some lovely Yasuhikotakia modesta.
Botia rostrata, Botia striata and Garra ceylonensis.
Another Garra species....maybe gotyla.
Yasuhikotakia sidthimunki and Garra gotyla.
A mixed tank of Syncrossus species. S. helodes and S. berdmorei.
A beautiful Syncrossus berdmorei. Almost certainly one of the several that Graeme took home.
A beautiful group of Botia dario, clinging tight to a piece of bogwood. Emma keeps lots of bogwood in the tanks to provide cover that can be easily removed during fish capture.
In the background can be seen the oddly marked Indian Botia species that Helen now owns. Also one of many red-tailed Schistura and peeping out of the ceramic ornament a stunning Garra fuliginosa.
Here's a couple more views of the Garra, including its impressive head array of tubercules.
Yasuhikotakia nigrolineatus and Aborichthys elongatus.
Garra ceylonensis with a Nemacheilus corica buried in the substrate.
A beautiful Garra flavatra surrounded by Botia striata....and a Sinibotia robusta on the left.
A closeup of a beautifully marked Garra flavatra. The "Rainbow" or "Panda" Garra.
There were lots of quite large unidentified species, Sewellia "Spotted".
These are really beautiful close up.
There were lots of Sewellia lineolata too. Note the clear tank labelling.
These were in lovely condition.
Even complete fish crazies can only take so much before they need a break, so we all trooped down to the local pub for lunch. Here's me about to tuck into a ridiculously large portion of beef and beer pie. It tasted even better than it looks!
I'm wearing a siamensis.org T-shirt....thanks to Nonn Panitvong who sent it to me from Bangkok.
After lunch, Emma took us back around to their place for tea or coffee and cakes....biscuits as well.... and for an audience with Marge the magnificent.
There is no way the pictures do this fish justice. You have to see her for real.
The whole room kind of went "O-M-G!" when she appeared from where she was hiding.
After being completely awe-struck by Marge, we got to see the world's first
tank-bred Sewellia lineolata....so cute!
Emma and Steve's River-Tank is very beautiful.
We returned to the shop and I decided that I would check out the non-loach stock.
Emma gets in a truly impressive lineup of different species. They're all in beautiful condition.
Wonderfully coloured Cherry Barbs (Barbus titteya) show off nicely against stunning Barilius species, possibly gatensis.
Beautiful examples of Puntius denissoni and Puntius pentazona.
I could have taken even more pictures to be honest. There were so many beautiful fish. I didn't take pics of a lot of the loaches.....there were far more species.
Unfortunately, due to having to travel back to Canada and because of carry-on restrictions imposed after the terrorist threat just days before I left, I had to leave without any, but Graeme went nuts. Here's Emma catching his Syncrossus berdmorei. Every fish was bagged separately by Steve for the long drive home. SO professional these two.
Emma has that rare quality which you seldom find in people catching fish in shops . You say "That one" and she takes this mental picture and just latches onto it. Awesome!
Here, Emma is all a blur catching fish for Mark while Susan and Les look on.
Mark and Graeme left loaded down with boxes and Helen and I stayed till after closing and chatted with Emma. Then Emma and Steve invited us back round for some tea.......and cakes.
We finally left after 9pm!
Helen drove me back to Norwich where my Sister picked me up.
A long, but fantastic day.
So is this the BEST LOACH SHOP IN THE WORLD?
It's good.....it's VERY good. Emma and Steve are consummate professionals who only employ other dedicated fish-keepers. No weekend kids here! The shop is wonderfully kept and the livestock is absolutely second to none. It's an unfortunate fact that some of the species we saw there may no longer be imported soon due to new UK import restrictions on certain species. That may affect the sheer numbers of species stocked in the future. Something tells me though that Emma will just scour the shipper's lists for unusual tropical species and compensate for the cooler water species that will be restricted.
Right now this absolutely HAS to be the best loach shop in the
world. I'm sure that will continue. The thing is, I've never seen
another shop anywhere where every fish in there looks so fit and
healthy and is tended by such dedicated and professional staff. They
stock a wide variety of equipment, foods, and everything you need for
your hobby in very clean conditions. Emma told me that in her opinion
the shop was not as neat and tidy as it should be. That's a reflection
of WHY this place is so darned good. When it's run by people with such
high standards the person who really benefits is the customer.
I don't just think that Maidenhead Aquatics Peterborough is the best Loach shop in the world, I think it's the best FISH shop I've ever seen, and it's owned by two of the nicest fish-keepers I've ever met.
Oh.....and they gave me a sticker.......
To confuse Ontario fish-keepers. Must get that rust fixed...............................