A special excerpt from the forthcoming May 2020 issue of Practical Fishkeeping, by PFK Editor Nathan Hill, gives a timely look at the current situation for aquarists in the United Kingdom. Hill asks us all to consider the fate of the local fish shop in this tumultuous time for small businesses, imploring us to all do what we can.
It’s a disease that is ravaging our vulnerable, and if we aren’t careful it’ll ravage our beloved stores too. Let’s do what we can to keep them going while we stay safe, okay?
YOU’VE MANAGED to read the whole mag without one mention of ‘that’ virus until now. Here’s hoping we’ve managed to suitably distract you from the woes of what’s going on out there. As I write this, it’s just days after Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown. All week my emails have been blowing up with concerned hobbyists and retailers alike. Can I trade? Can I take the kids to the fish shop? Am I essential?
Keep it at Home
Confusion prevails, and ad-hoc legislation seems to be morphing and evolving. By the time you read this, there might be a full curfew or things may have cleared with some tentative trade resuming.
What is certain is that our hobby goes on. Fishkeeping is famously insular, and we are mentally prepared for occupying ourselves in solitude. Imagine having a hobby that relies on going out or working in groups. In that sense, we are the lucky ones.
Looking to the Future
For those retailers with bricks-and-mortar premises that rely on steady footfall, this will be a terrifying time, and I would be astonished if they all survived.
As the face of the trade changes, so too will the hobby. Any industry that takes an obvious hit during this pandemic will be considered high risk by future investors.
The latest news is that shops can still sell livestock, but at the same time the government is telling us that we’re only allowed out for essentials—food and medicine. APC, the core deliverers of fish around the UK, have announced that they are no longer delivering.
Pet shop owners are duty-bound to care for their livestock—your job might be closed off, but fish store owners have no choice but to be in. For the store owner, looking after thousands of fish while facing down the prospect of catching a virus that could lay them up for three weeks or more is a scary one.
In a nutshell, stores are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they want to keep money flowing, but on the other, they’ll want to protect their staff and keep them safe.
But if we try to get to them, we could be exposing ourselves and others to COVID-19. Let’s not forget why this is all happening—we’re in the middle of a disease that could easily overwhelm our healthcare services and kill tens or even hundreds of thousands.
It’s important to remember that those stores that can still trade are doing so out of necessity. What they need right now is money in the bank, because fish systems gobble up a lot of food and electricity, and many stores simply don’t have the resources to weather out weeks at a time with no revenue.
This pandemic is unprecedented in all of our histories, let alone fishkeeping’s history, and we should do what we can to keep the heart of this industry pumping. If you value your local stores then find out if they have an online sales facility. If not, suggest that they consider it. There’s no need to go mad, but support them where you can—bottle of dechlorinator, a barrel of RO water, a tub of flakes, or even a gift voucher to help tide them over.
Many of them already have a pay-and-collect service in place. You can buy your essential goods over the phone or online, and pick them up from the shop’s door.
A fish industry that can’t sell fish has big problems and needs all our help. If we want our stop our hobby from becoming a coronavirus victim, then we need to spend.
About The Author
Nathan Hill is the Editor of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. He has previously worked as a public aquarist, retail manager, livestock manager, lecturer, and writer, and has kept more fish than he can honestly remember. His background is as philosophical as it is aquatic, and he frequently writes on animal ethics for a range of sources.
About Practical Fishkeeping
Practical Fishkeeping (PFK) is a monthly aquarium magazine covering both the freshwater and marine aquarium hobbies. It is published in the United Kingdom by Warners Group Publications. Learn more about subscribing at https://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/store/subscriptions/practical-fishkeeping/