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Visiting George Fear of Shark Aquarium, NJ
My vacation to the east coast was tempered by not making too many stops into tropical fish stores. After all, I was on vacation to relax and get away from being around dead fishes in bottles and live ones in aquariums. So it was that I would make the ultimate side trip to Hillside, New Jersey.
My family and I drove a bit over 7 hours from Rochester, NY through bad weather where the rain just didn't want to stop. I actually questioned myself out loud, did I really want to make this trip? Aside from the rainy road conditions, we also had to navigate through road constructions that seem to never end. Finally, we arrived at the fish store which was a navigational feat in itself. The main road is a one way ordeal that takes you over an overpass back to the main road going one way back the other way to get into the Shark Aquarium parking area. I had no idea what to expect when I first drove in. I was absorbed by the large Shark Aquarium building sign looming overhead and now knew that I had finally arrived. We had entered what I thought was the front of the building only to be directed to another part of the building towards the rear. So we climbed back in and drove the extra few feet from the rediscovered front door. I walked in and found George busy on the telephone with his back to me. I waited for a few minutes for him to turn around and finally he did. We exchanged cordial hellos and a few words. With a glad to finally meet you from me, he took me to the backrooms where his fishes were displayed for sale. He then left to take care of business while I walked around the rows of aquariums, peering into each one looking for anything that might catch my eyes. I took many photographs of fishes while I had this time alone. George later came up to me and asked if I had seen his unknown species. I told him that I had not gotten to them yet. He then walked away to take care of other things.
The Shark Aquarium store is unique in the number of piranha species displayed and other oddball fishes. He had a few different species some very large ones at that.
It was a treasure trove of species to be bought and collected by beginning to advanced hobbyists. My interest was centered around the other species away from Piranhas. I took some photos of a South American version of our U.S. salmon, the Dorado. George had quite a few specimens for sale, including many cachorro (Acestrorhyncus) and many unusual and stunning catfishes. My wife fell in love with the Discus Fish in the large display tank. Overall, the fishes that we saw seemed to be in excellent condition. In one case, I did see a cramped S. rhombeus in an aquarium that was way too narrow for the fish to turn around. Hopefully, that fish has found its way into a larger space or home aquarium. I looked into the S. spilopleura (= S. maculatus) aquarium where young ones were hiding among plants. As is typical for that species, their fins were bit up, but none too seriously. George had some beautiful S. elongatus and few listed as unknown that I identified as S. sanchezi and Pristobrycon striolatus.
A few fish that caught my eyes. Photo by Frank Magallanes
We stayed in his store for just under 2 hours and decided it was time to leave. George offered us directions to a motel to send us on our way. Because the rain was no longer pouring heavily, we elected to try and make it to the Pennsylvania/NJ border. It was a good decision as the Delaware River was flooding its banks and we crossed it in time. My wife had noted the water was just under a bridge in the distance from the bridge we were crossing. Later the next day, we found that over 3000 people had been evacuated from the flooding in some of the areas we had just left going back to Rochester.
My thanks to George for the time spent his store.
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