My first interview of 2019 with Dale Humphrey was a delight. That man loves his fish and his passion is infectious.
Hailing originally from the Valleys, he jokes that Pembrokeshire is Lanzarote for Valley people and only had one moment of concern when first moving here a couple of years ago.
“The silence on our first night here was eerie after our previous home,” he laughs, “ but we quickly adapted. It’s a wonderful place for my wife and I to live and for our children to grow up. We have no regrets whatsoever.”
I chat to Dale at the counter of Fishguard Aquatics, a business that has been at its current location since 1993, but which has only been in his care since July.
“My taking on the business came about purely by accident,” he told me in the shop he has worked hard to expand and renovate since taking it over.
Always something of a fish addict, Dale had been a regular visitor to the shop for some time. It just so happened that on one of his visits he discovered that the owner was retiring and was waiting to meet a woman who was planning to turn it into a photographic unit. It was just lucky for Dale that she was late for her appointment. By the time the person turned up he had made his decision and after a chat with his wife Bethan, was the proud owner of the business. A lot of work followed, opening the unit up, installing new tanks and bringing in new stock.
“ This was never meant to be a big commercial venture “, Dale insists as he shows me around, “It’s a family run business for myself, my wife and my three daughters and for the community.”
Dale tells me that people can rely upon a personal service with excellent advice and support. He makes home checks to advise and ensure fish will be well taken care of and his tanks are labelled with how easy or difficult the various kinds of fish are to keep . He also has a hospital tank where fish get the best possible care if they encounter difficulties. He also has a close relationship with local playgroup, Little Fishes, who visit regularly and feed the fish.
What does he feed his fish on?
“In the wild, fish will rely upon what grows from the bottom of their habitat or what falls from the trees or the sky. If they are sick with things like Whit spot or Fin rot, they will search out natural remedies like garlic or garden peas. There is no need for expensive food. I feed my fish on things like cucumber, broccoli , bananas and spinach. We also use prawns and raw white fish.”
And it works as Dale’s fish produce so many babies that his customers joke that he must be putting something magical in the water. He is currently creating a breeding shed at home, so his customers can be confident that they fish they buy from him will have the best start in their little lives.
So what about the fish that Dale doesn’t breed himself. Where do they come from?
“ The Czech Republic is the biggest importer , along with Thailand.” he explains, “ but people need to be careful where they obtain their fish. Some are injected with colours and hormones. That can’t be good for them. We do everything we can to ensure fish are in the best possible condition so they will have a long and happy life.”
How long do fish live then?
“ Goldish will live for 25 to 30 years in the right conditions. The little fish like Neons are bred so much that they don’t tend to live very long at all.”
Dale shows me the star of the show, the delightful Gary, a freshwater Stingray. At the moment he is a little baby, but he has the potential to grow to a massive two foot.
I suppose who ever takes Gary home will need to provide larger and larger tanks for him as he grows?
Dale agrees. “ Some of the fish we sell will not grow very large but you are right, some are going to require larger environments as they get bigger. Fish like Gary are a commitment to many years of care and they are not cheap to buy.”
He continues, “ People come from all over the place to look, to get advice and to buy fish from us. You might be surprised at how many people I meet who prefer watching a fish tank to watching T.V. It’s very relaxing”
I ask Dale about Bob, another star of Fishguard Aquatics.
“Bob is a Flower Horn Cyclid Hybrid.” Dale explains, showing me the fascinating creature and then showing me some photographs of other examples. “You don’t see them very often. They are a man-made fish, bred to have certain markings and that very distinctive bulge on their heads which is called a Cok. They are generally a red pearly colour with darker markings and are very distinctive, They can grow up to 30 cms but they are very aggressive and rather difficult to breed. If I wanted to breed Bob I would need to introduce a female very carefully and slowly and there is no guarantee that he would kill a potential mate.”
“ You have to know which fish are solitary and which can live with others, including different breeds. I like to get fish accustomed to hand feeding before they are homed. Most fish like being handled and will respond to their keepers. They have quite distinct personalities and are lot more intelligent than people think.”
Dale laughs, “ I have to work hard at not getting too attached or I wouldn’t ever sell anything.”
What else would I need to know if I wanted to buy some fish from you?
“ Well, firstly fish need to be introduced gradually into a new environment. Temperature is important, so they should be suspended in a bag for about twenty minutes when they first arrive in their new tank to adjust. It’s also very important to keep the tank clean, but that’s really not as complicated as people think. I am happy to advise on that. It’s also really important not to over feed.”
I can’t leave without asking Dale if he will be available to offer advice in the future to Pembrokeshire Online readers on all matters related to breeding, and keeping healthy fish in tanks. I leave him considering my request. Fingers crossed we will be hearing from him regularly in the future .
Meanwhile you will find Dale at : Fishguard Aquatics, 4 Feidir Castell, SA659, Fishguard.
Or on Facebook : Fishguard Aquatics
You can call him on : 01348 873990 or 07751096145
His opening hours are:
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 9am till 6pm
Thursday, 9am till 2pm
Friday and Saturday, 9am till 6pm
Sundays are based on booking an appointment.