Pets at Home get the UKAPS treatment this weekend


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Pets at Home is preparing to convert two of the largest aquariums in a UK retail store to planted aquascapes.

The refurbishment of the New Malden and Stockport tanks is part of what the retailer claims is a pioneering project by themselves and its plant supplier, Tropica Aquarium Plants, based in Denmark, to demonstrate the move towards planted aquariums with Pets at Home customers.  
The project also draws on the expertise of CASCO Europe, the pet and aquatic shop fitting specialists.
The gigantic tanks, the largest measuring 4.5m and 1.5m deep and capable of holding 10,000 litres of water will be teeming with life, and will be home to thousands of tropical fish once completed, according to Pets at Home. 
The tanks will be completely overhauled by CASCO to prepare them for their new tropical freshwater forest environments. The aquariums will use plants specially grown by Tropica and wood ethically sourced from Malaysia, whilst Mars Fish Care will advise on the water’s conditioning. 
Pets at Home and Tropica have been planning and working behind the scenes since the start of this year in preparation for the refurbishment.
"The planting of the aquariums involves careful planning and a large team to create an abundant underwater forest, and crucially, planting will take place as the water is added to the tanks to ensure the plants remain wet," Pets at Home stated.
"A variety of species, including fish, shrimp and snails, will be introduced first, in order to keep the tanks free from any unwanted algae, in readiness for the arrival of their colourful counterparts once the tank has matured."
"Every aspect of the new fishes’ arrival will be carefully managed to ensure that they are gently acclimatised to their new home."
"The vast array of species will include cardinal tetras and other tetra species, discus, freshwater angelfish and freshwater stingrays, a close relative of the shark."
Pete Carey, Freshwater and Marine Biologist, at Pets at Home, says:
“This isn’t just an important move for Pets at Home, but for the retail aquatics industry as a whole. The refurbishment of these two tanks is an enormous project and has involved months of planning from Pets at Home and Tropica Aquarium Plants." 
“They will allow our customers to see how amazing planted tanks can be, and our colleagues at both stores are extremely excited about demonstrating their knowledge of the underwater planted landscape.”
The tanks are currently home to two collections of large marine fish, and in order to prepare the tanks for freshwater species, the tanks will be completely drained, emptied of all rock and sand and thoroughly cleaned before being carefully planted.  
The current saltwater fish will move to their new home at the Sealife Centre, Manchester and the Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth in late August.
What we think
"Pets at Home's decision to convert two of their very large marine aquaria into freshwater aquascapes reflects just how big planted tanks and aquascaping is becoming," says PFK and PPM editor Jeremy Gay, "and we always welcome any big tank, small fish, set ups as its the best way to create and then be able to observe small species like tetras living and behaving as they would in the wild." 
"The mention of stingrays being added does start alarm bells ringing with me however, as they will predate small tetras, shrimp and snails, uproot all the plants and stir up all the specialist planting substrate. I wouldn't recommend any species of freshwater stingray for a fully planted set up as they will cause chaos." 
"The only scenario you could get away with would be ferns and anubias on wood, with a substrate consisting of a large expanse of open sand, and no small fish, but then that's more of a stingray tank with a few token plants added, than the sort of aquascape you would associate with Takashi Amano and nature aquariums - the sorts of aquascapes regularly created by UKAPS members."
"Also I think the purpose of an effective retail display tank is to entice and drive sales of the creatures featured within it. There is no doubt that people will then want to buy stingrays, which aren't usual Pets at Home fodder, and require both specialist care and larger aquariums than Pets at Home stock and sell." 
"We've been invited to visit and feature the two tank overhauls by Pets at Home, but I think whether they decide to include stingrays or not will either make or break them as effective planted aquascapes."
"I would love to be able to advise Pets at Home on their livestock choice both for these display tanks and as part of their ongoing aquatic offering as a whole. It's great that they sell Practical Fishkeeping magazine at all their counters, but if just a small part of the excellent advice we give month in, month out, could be applied to their fish and plants then the UK's largest aquatic retailer would also have a chance of winning over more dedicated fishkeeping followers."   

The dates of the ‘Big Planting Weekends’ are: New Malden 24 and 25 August, Stockport 7 and 8 September.