Thomas’s Tropical Fish – 2004

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On a quiet street in Athenry, in the shadow of the North Gate, you will find one of the finest home aquarium showrooms in the west of Ireland.

Thomas Cheevers, an Athenry man with a great love of fish, opened the new showroom at his Home Aquariums shop earlier this year.

35 temperature-controlled fish-tanks are on show, housing some rare tropical fish including catfish, ioaches, catsharks, tetrus, oscars, piranha, mollys, guppys, Siamese fighting fish, discus, angel fish, convicts, shibunkin and white clouds. He specialises in African chiclids, which come from Lakes Malawi, Tanganyika and Victoria and whose mortality rate is low. He also successfully breeds the plecotomus, a fish that is rarely bred in captivity. Coldwaterfish like koi carp and goldfish are also on display outside.

Thomas’s late father Tommy instilled a great interest in fish in his family and Thomas likes nothing more than nursing sick fish back to full health. Some of those like Austin who has no tail, Ruthie, a semper who recovered from an attack and Hannibal and Cannibal, two oscars, he ,eeps as pets and they are not for sale.

He is proud of the fact that he has encouraged some of his customers to breed some rare tropical fish in their home aquariums and he replenishes his stock from their successful breeding. His new showroom is beautifully laid-out and decorated and is well worth a visit, even for those who are not contemplating a home aquarium at the moment.

Thomas not only sells home aquariums, tropical fish, fish-tanks and ornaments, he also installs the new aquarium in his customer’s home. Thomas says: “This is not as easy as it sounds as it takes 35 days before the water is fully matured and checked for bacteria that will suit the particular fish. Also, the water has to be kept at a constant temperature”.

One Sunday in September, a slightly different installation was undertaken. Thomas, his wife Aine and his father-in-law Jackie Monaghan rose early at 6:00 a.m. They were on their way to lnisheer, one of the Aran Islands, to install a home aquarium.

The 180 litres of warm water, at 78 degrees C, was carefully siphoned out of the tank into four containers which were then wrapped in bubble-wrap and placed in aeroboard boxes lined with tinfoil. Twenty African chiclids were put into a special travelling tank. They reached Rossaveal Harbour at 8:45 a.m., loaded their precious cargo and set sail for the Aran Islands at 9:00 a.m.

Having been met at lnisheer pier by Peadar Joyce, they were unloading the aquarium at the house at 11 :50 a.m. By 12:30, everything was in place and they were in time for Mass in lnisheer Church!

Local girl Clara Barrett has been Thomas’ very knowledgeable assistant in the showroom for the past three years. She knows exactly when the fish need to be fed and how much food to give them. Ciara points to a sucker fish who comes out at night and cleans the glass by devouring all the minute algae that might accumulate there during the day! She introduces me to two small pet turtles in their own special tank that are not for sale.

When new fish are delivered to the shop, they are all quarantined for seven days before mixing with other fish and going on sale to the public. It’s slightly ironic that Thomas also carries a large range of fishing tackle for anglers. l wonder if I had the right bait, could I catch that beautiful Siamese fighting fish? Forget it!

Frank Kennedy is a well known local artist and writer!

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About this record

Written by Francis Kennedy

Published here 31 Dec 2023 and originally published Christmas 2004

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