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2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008
, J. Atchison

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In the summer of 1999, my brother invited me to help in with a business he was starting up. Because my brother, Tom, lives in the Northern Virginia area it made perfectly good sense to site the business in that area. At least the location of the business made sense for Tom. For me on the other hand the location of the headquarters made for a very long commute. You have to remember that I live in the Northern California area something like 3000 miles from the location of Tom's business.

I'm a creative sort of guy and will take nearly every opportunity to look at and for fish that I can. The commute became a vehicle to see more fish in an area of the country that I was not all that familiar with. I took the opportunity to visit with other fish people at meetings of societies and clubs when every I could. I have learned that a little field research is a very good thing to do when you are in an area that you are not familiar with. Because I would be making a number of trips to the East over the next couple of years, I new that any information that I gathered would be put to good use during one of my visits. During one of my visits to the Chesapeake Area Killifish Club I was told that one of the largest shops in the East was located in Baltimore. I was mapping the trip to the shop as I left the meeting. One of the new offices for our firm was starting up in Delaware. I was going to be driving to and from Delaware on a weekly basis. The shop that I was told about was in my sights.

Timing is everything. My trips back and forth to through Baltimore did not take me all that close to the shop in question. To get to the shop from I95, the route that was most efficient and easiest for me to take on my trip, I would have to make a one hour detour. One hour or five hours...hey I'm a fishy guy...time means nothing. But the timing of the visit was important. If I was going to be lucky enough to find a fish or two that I would like to have in my fishroom, I would have to time the trip to the shop so that I could bring the fish back with m. The plan...pack them up in double bags and put them into the miniature styro box that I always take with me on my trips...sneak them onto the plane and bring them home. No problem.

Well, I didn't think about the possibility of getting the fish and then being moved from the Delaware office back to the Northern Virginia office with the plan of moving on to the Richmond office...all prior to my departure from Baltimore. What was suppose to be pretty easy was not going to work. The fish would have been rebagged at least three times before I was to fly home. I changed plans and shipped the fish Express Mail...in February no less. The Mermaids were with me and the fish all arrived home in great shape.

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About the shop that caught my attention...700 tanks of fish in about 19,000 square feet of space. Nearly all of them are freshwater...three kinds of brackish puffers...several gobies...tetras galore...over a dozen corydoras...mucho macho fish and on the Sunday of my first visit...tons of people. The name of the shop in The Aquarium Center. It is located in Randallstown, Maryland...east of Baltimore and outside of the 695 beltway.

The shop had a lot of fish but not many to my taste. I did pick up a gourami and a couple of Corydoras that I hadn't seen in my home area. The prices weren't too bad...a good thing because the shipping was not cheap. One of the advantages of big shops for people like me is that the staff is usually so involved in the volume of the situation that there are almost always mis-identified fishes in their offerings. Such was the case for one of the Cory's and the Gourami.

Because it was so crowded on Sunday, I called the store on Monday and asked which day the fish came in and which day was the "slowest" for them...the fish arrive on Monday and Thursday...the slowest time is Tuesday afternoon. I went back on Tuesday afternoon and was nearly alone in the store...I could take my time and look twice. Much better than the Sunday experience. The shop was kind enough to give me a styrobox to ship the fish in.

Now that I have been to the shop a few times, I plan to go back. I can't say the same for all of my local fish stores. There are enough tanks in The Aquarium Center to give one hope of finding some special prizes and that is part of the fun of traveling and doing "Urban Collecting."