While fish keeping is not a new hobby, many new aquarium businesses have been popping up in Addu lately, which is surprising since hobbies involving additional expenses might not have been on the top of anyone’s priority list during a pandemic such as Covid-19.
While the first few months of Covid-19 did hamper the logistical side business, the months that followed have seen a surge in aquarium keeping. It seems that many people turned to aquariums for the entertainment and decorative value the tanks bring into their homes, which is where many would have spent their time while in lockdown, or curfew.
At the beginning of 2020, the only well-known aquarium business in Addu was Eureka, located in Hithadhoo, which has been in the business for years. However, aquarium stores such as, Suvadive Pets, Aquarist MV and Auga Doce, all based in Hithadhoo have soared in popularity over time. In addition to this, an aquarium store , Iwagumi mv, focused on aquascaping has recently opened in Feydhoo as well.
The popularity of aquariums can also be attributed to the ease of purchase of fish and aquarium accessories. Even during the lockdown, it was as easy as picking out a fishes from a catalogue on Viber or Facebook, confirming the payment via internet transfer and waiting for them to get delivered to your door step.
There are almost a dozen Addu based aquarium Viber groups where sellers post stock updates daily. Some of these groups are run by business owners posting there own stock details, while other groups allow anyone to post fishes and other aquarium related items for sale.
The most popular fish species have been Koi Carp , Goldfish, and Betta (Fighting fish). These are followed by Mollies, Guppies, Swordtails and various types of tetras which are considered great fish for beginners. All of these fish usually sell for less than 100/- a pair, while high quality and rare breeds may sell for as much as 2000/- a piece.
Planted aquariums are also gaining popularity in Addu. While it is possible to own a budget planted tank, they are generally much more expensive and harder to maintain. Aquarium soil is expensive, and with most plants requiring good lighting, plant maintenance kits and Co2 kits, owners of these tanks end up spending quite a lot. However, with proper aquascaping and maintenance, the end result can be stunning and definitely worth the spend.
Saltwater reef aquariums are rare in the Maldives, with the sheer difficulty and costs involved in owning an artificial reef turning away most hobbyists from taking up the challenge. Protien skimmers, wavemakers, high-output fluorescent lighting and aquarium chillers all become a necessary expense when growing corals.
As much as the growing market and a new form of economic activity may be a cause of thrill the new wave of hobbyists may have also increased the mistreatment of fish. For instance, It is important to do some research before throwing 10 Goldfish into a 5 liter water bottle or any fish holding container. The most commonly abused fish in this hobby can be said as the Betta fish, also known as the Siamese fighting fish.
Male Betta are aggressive to other Betta and many other species , thus are kept in small cups as sellers usually do not have the capacity to provide dozens of Betta in a single shipment the minimum 40 liters they require to be happy.
Petstores also fail to point out that female fighting fish, contrary to their name, are not aggressive and can be housed with multiple other female betta and are perfect for most community tanks. However, female betta sales are low as male counterparts show much more desirable colors and fin patterns.
Vases and old Jam jars are insufficient and can be detrimental to the health of any fish housed in them. The majority of experienced aquarists agree that fish bowls, while sometimes look pleasant, should never be used to house any type of fish.
These are a few tips that anyone interested in fish keeping should know about;
- Learn about the Nitrogen cycle, ammonia poisoning is a common cause for fish death.
- Larger tanks are always better. Any deaths in the aquarium and sudden ammonia spikes will have less of an effect on fish.
- Research filtration types. Aquarium filtration can be broken down into 3 main categories: Biological, Chemical, and Mechanical. Ensure you have the appropriate filter for your aquarium
- Research the fish you plan to get. Before buying a tiny 2 inch redtail catfish for your community tank, know that these can grow up to 5 feet. Find out which fish are great tank mates for each other and which fish are known to have compatibility issues .
- Be prepared to do maintenance on your tank. Water change frequency depends on tank size, filter strength and amount of fish.
- It is also a good idea to remove any uneaten food from the tank 5-10 mins after feeding time.
It will be interesting to see what impact the gradual recovery of Maldives from COVID will have on Addu aquarium businesses. Will the increase in disposable income allow patrons to invest even more into their tanks? Or with school and office hours returning to normal, and with many fish keepers going back to their jobs at resorts or going abroad for their studies, how much of their current customer base can they retain? Only time can tell during these unprecedented times.