Stepping into the warmth of The Fish Bowl, the first thing you notice is the quiet bubbling coming from the aquariums that line three sides of the store.
The tanks hold close to 100 different types of fish, from rare species for the serious hobbyist to garden-variety goldfish. There are chubby puffer fish, inch-long neon tetras, red-bellied piranhas and decorative African cichlids in yellow, orange, silvery-green and electric blue.
Scheri Graul and her partner Steve Millinger opened The Fish Bowl in Elmira’s Birdland Plaza last week. Between the two of them, they have 20 years experience with fish; at one time, they had 10 tanks at home.
“We just love fish, all tropical fish,” Graul said.
They’ve been selling wholesale for about two years, but the plan was always to open their own store. They looked at the Birdland location several times over the past few years, and when it came available, decided to take the plunge.
The store’s focus is creatures rather than supplies, Millinger explained, although they do have a selection of aquariums and food. In addition to fish, they have some reptiles like geckos and turtles and will be bringing in more small pets like gerbils and hamsters. Come summer, they’ll be offering a selection of pond koi, goldfish and pond plants.
Many of the fish in The Fish Bowl are from the cichlid family, which boasts more than 1,000 species. Many of those species are brightly-coloured and easy to care for, making them well-suited to aquariums. Graul’s favourite is the red oscar, a palm-sized cichlid that will eat out of her hand.
“He has a lot of personality for a fish,” she chuckled.
Their priority is to keep their stock affordable for the average person, Millinger said, meaning they don’t sell the really rare, high-end fish. Their prices range from $1 to $50.
The store is also a showroom for what can be done with an aquarium installation. In addition to being pets, tropical fish can also be decorative and therapeutic. The Fish Bowl will do installations for homes, nursery schools, offices, hospitals and nursing homes.
“When we do installations in hospitals and nursing homes, we want bright, colourful fish that are easy to look after,” Millinger explained.
Once their website is up and running, they plan to offer online ordering and live fish delivery right to the doorstep. And for couples who want to move beyond traditional flowers and candles, they do living wedding centrepieces.
Graul and Millinger currently live in Kitchener but opened the store in Elmira because they wanted to cater to Kitchener-Waterloo and the area north of the cities.
“Now that we have the business here, we’ll probably look at moving here shortly,” Millinger said.
The Fish Bowl is located in Birdland Plaza, 120 Oriole Parkway.