Jestersix

Bay Bridge Aquarium - thumbs up or thumbs down?

Bruce Spiegelman

Supporting Member
Rich --

The owners name is Michael and he dumped a lot of money into starting the business over the span of 2-3 years with the idea that he'd offer the store he would have wanted when he was just a reefer. Central to that is a full blown QT system where every SW fish spends time before being offered for sale. He's running something like 2000w of UV on the system along with two or three dozen holding tanks that he runs cupramine, etc. I think his minimum QT is one month. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, he hasn't gotten the support of a lot of local reefers, and it's costing him a fortune. Between DOA livestock and then some losses during the QT process it's costing him a lot to offer fish, and that's backfiring somewhat. Turns out people prefer dirt cheap fish to healthier fish. Over the past 2 years I think his cash-flow has been shrinking and that's taken a toll on the shop as a whole.

Will you be happy? Not sure. Michael wears matching socks, but it's worth checking out. The caveat to that (and my advice) is I haven't been in there in almost a year.More importantly, how are the college co-eds?
 

Solitaryensis

Supporting Member
I’ve been stopping by once every couple of months pretty religiously over the past year with the hopes that I’ll see a shop that’s fully stocked. Hasn’t happened yet. If you’re looking for fish, they have a decent selection but priced on the higher side, I assume because of all the quarantining they do. Unfortunately, their systems are not very aesthetically appealing so it doesn’t quite feel like you’re getting a quality fish.

As for corals, they recently began stocking some corals but very very limited selection that doesn’t look particularly healthy.

I hope it works out because id love you have a store closer to home but from what I’ve seen so far, it doesn’t look too promising.


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tankguy

Supporting Member
This a tuff tuff business to be in. While I like idea of him qt’ing his fish unless he has a strong following I don’t see it working. I went there once but that’s when had first opened up. Nice guy and I wish him luck
 

Wlachnit

BOD
Staff member
I haven’t been there in a year but I pretty much agree with what others have said. I also wish him well and hope that he can be successful. Personally I’m happy to pay more for healthy fish. And He’s been very supportive of BAR
 

MichaelW

Guest
Hi folks, Michael here from Bay Bridge Aquarium. Just wanted to chime in and share some details about what I'm doing here (plus some more store info than the other QT thread)

We do quarantine and treat every fish here. Some people have been skeptical about whether we really were doing so, but I've now been doing tours of the QT system and have photos to share; it's kept in the back of the store away from normal viewing because of the risk of cross contamination and for the physical space needs. I'm probably over $75k in at this point just building the QT, dealing with growing pains, labor time, materials, trial and error, failures, livestock loss. Some people think this is easy but it really is not anywhere close, and no matter what, no process will ever, ever be 100%. Unfortunately I've had customers refuse to pay even $5-$10 more for a fish than the PetCo or other store price, despite our costs being 5x higher.

Our system consists of individually plumbed compartments/tanks/chambers each drained and plumbed one by one, and sterilized with massive amounts of ozone and UV and then recirculated. We just recently upgraded the capacity in a big way. I'm happy to spend hours talking about it as this has been my passion for a long time. I have tested the system and I can put fish with visible ich in one compartment, and without any medications at all, it goes away and does not spread - this is basically tank transfer method on steroids. Nevertheless, I still use medication as a precaution.

Depending on the source of the fish and how it was shipped, and the bag pH, I acclimate carefully at matching (~low pH )to diffuse ammonia out of the tissue, and waste lots of saltwater, and then use ciprofloxacin, methylene blue liberally. I buy kilograms at a time of chloroquine phosphate, metronidazole, praziquantel, levamisole, and other meds. The UV breaks down CP and I have a spectophotometer to measure the amount in the water, which I tend to keep on the low side, depending on the load and what I'm keeping, I vary it because it does kill some anthias and wrasses. Sometimes I've used copper and prefer not to, it's really not good for the fish. That's tempered as I use CP medicated food; I have a recently updated recipe using sodium alginate as a superior binding agent (and happy to share or provide).

There is no set time frame on the fish QT. They are ready when they are ready and I don't rush it. I just recently started doing and getting more familiar with gill, fin and skin/scrape microscopy and am checking all the fish in the microscope before calling them ready. The results have been rather surprising - I am still finding signs of some TBD pathogens despite fish long being healthy and showing no visible signs. It's a separate discussion on how sterile a fish is expected to be before you can call it "ready" and whether it may even hurt at some point, depending on the sterility of the target tank it's going to. If you remove all fish immunity to ich completely, for example, (which it sees constantly in the ocean) and hold it a while, and then put it in a system with a subacute ich infection, it's going to act as a carrier and could make the tank break out.

We've long been doing special orders on fish and getting them to customers when they are ready - so things may not always be visible out on the show floor. When fish are done, they are moved over to the retail side; there is more UV over there, and they also get medicated food. I have seen some ich once or twice sneak through a while back, but that has not happened for a long time and we do our absolute best to make sure it won't ever happen again. Again though, there is absolutely no process that is fool proof, and nobody should ever tell you that there is. You can not tell a fish is healthy by looking at it!

We are on the HumbleFish forum, an excellent treatment and disease resource site (http://humble.fish), as a fully vetted vendor that offers QT and treated fish for sale, and will also hold them for as long as you want, and group together your fish, etc.

I'm currently working on some reef safe truly effective ich, velvet, and uronema treatment protocols with my own pelleted and/or frozen foods, using investigational drugs like niclosamide, L-DOPA, EGCG, various polyphenols, and more, and hope to one day offer PCR detection services to test your sand, water, and fish samples for Crypto, Oodinium, Brook, and Uronema. We may charge a little bit more for fish but your support goes a long way... Always happy to answer anyone's questions about fish disease and treatments and however I can help.

The coral tanks and store work has been incredibly difficult the past 2-3 years. We've been lied to half a dozen times from our landlord about our building, the location of our door, whether we were moving completely to a new spot or not, and when and how much to invest and in what and whether it would be temporary or not. It just recently sold hands to a new owner and we still have a lot of limbo about that. Nevertheless, we've gone full steam ahead and get new coral shipments in now once a month from Eye Catching Coral, which have been awesome, and happy to take requests, and just set up a few new frag tanks. And have just recently hired our third FTE this past week (plus a few more PT), to help keep things going and really try to get the shop cleaned up. Finding and keeping talented staff that won't mislead people and are actually hobbyists is not easy. It may seem like our tanks are dirty or the store is a mess, and it is always a work in progress, but we are most assuredly not just twiddling our thumbs and progress is slow and constant. Always appreciate critical feedback on what to do better and improve and how I can help anyone, whether you are purchasing from here or not.

Thanks everyone.
Michael
 

Attachments

JVU

BOD
Staff member
Wow!

Michael, thank you very much for taking the time educate us about your approach, achievements, and goals!
 

rygh

Webmaster
Staff member
Great write up!
From personal history I can empathize with the business landlord hassles. :mad:

A fun tip: Wall curtains and tiled floor mats.
Curtains can quickly and cheaply cover even the ugliest walls, and add fun colors.
They can also section off and hide ugly warehouse zones without the need for real walls.
Flooring is similar, plus non slip.
No landlord approval needed.
And key - when you have to move, you can take all your upgrades with you.
(Caveat : I have never dealt with the wet fish store environment of course)

It is hard to sell at a premium if your store does not look premium.
 

Solitaryensis

Supporting Member
Thanks for the update, Michael. As I said in my post, I very much hope to have a quality store in the area and hope everything works out. Since you are asking, I would suggest working on cleaning up the “mess” around the store. I am sure it’s not intentional but when there are buckets, cables, water etc on the ground, it makes the store feel less inviting. I’d also recommend making sure all the displays are clean and clear or any algae - I think that goes a really long way. I know that’s not always easy but I always feel better about buying coral out of a clean display. Finally, and anecdotally, I feel like reefers frequent stores more often to look at coral and find that gem. Fish are obviously an important part of a reef tank but I feel like you’ll get more repeat customers by expanding the coral selection and perhaps diverting some of the time and investments in the fish. Just my $02. Best of luck!


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max_nano

Supporting Member
It is hard to sell at a premium if your store does not look premium.
This is huge. I’m new to the hobby and have a hard time going to stores and paying for coral I see in a tank with dirty glass. If the glass isn’t being cleaned what else is getting forgotten in maintenance. Based on Michaels write-up it doesn’t sound like a concern from this LFS, but I’ve visited other bay LFS and have walked out empty handed based on frag tank conditions


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ofzakaria

Supporting Member
+1 to store look and clean appearance. You look like a passionate owner and I wish you all the success. Spending on wuaranteen systems and falling short on how the store look will not cut it. You need to cater fo the masses and I promise you few ppl will pay extra for a quarantine fish..its nech market. How store look, how clean tanks look is so important..
As long as you keep fish healthy, medicated when sick and have your system well maintained bigger base you will accumulate..
I believe pictures of diversity in fish, colorful coral will have much more impact if pictures of equipments and many tanks labeled quarantine..
Best of luck for you brother
 
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MichaelW

Guest
Thanks for the feedback everyone! Definitely have some new changes in progress, brand new staff have some good ideas to make cleaning easier,, and we are going to block out this large window that brings in tons of AM sun and contributes to daily algae buildup. We have always been working on it, but there is just never enough time :eek: It's getting better with a lot more new staff, give us a few more months and maybe it will be spotless:D
 

JVU

BOD
Staff member
It means a lot to me that you are engaging our community and open to suggestions. I enjoyed talking to you guys at the CFM. I plan to come in soon and see for myself.

I am one of those customers who is happy to pay more for healthy QT’d/treated fish. Having a selection of inverts/clams/high end coral would also be a big plus.
 

Chromis

Supporting Member
I am one of those customers who is happy to pay more for healthy QT’d/treated fish. Having a selection of inverts/clams/high end coral would also be a big plus.
I think QT’d fish is a great value add. I will add that I’m also willing to pay more for tank-raised fish like the Biota yellow tangs to get a fish that might be better habituated to tank life.

I’m curious if there is also a market for corals, nems or CUC that have been kept in fish free tanks? (Edit: so you don’t bring home fish diseases on a coral plug or snail shell for example)
 

sfsuphysics

BOD
Staff member
I’m curious if there is also a market for corals, nems or CUC that have been kept in fish free tanks? (Edit: so you don’t bring home fish diseases on a coral plug or snail shell for example)
I think the vast majority of fish in coral tanks are there for either pest control (i.e. 6 lines) or algae controls (some tang). But never really thought of it though, often you don't see large tangs in those tanks at all, only smaller ones, so it could be a very real thing.
 

ofzakaria

Supporting Member
I think the vast majority of fish in coral tanks are there for either pest control (i.e. 6 lines) or algae controls (some tang). But never really thought of it though, often you don't see large tangs in those tanks at all, only smaller ones, so it could be a very real thing.
Most major stores will run fish only tanks. Snd indeed they will have some fish in the coral only tanks for cleaning like tangs for algae control and 6 line wrasses for pests..
But over all you will buy the fish from fish only tanks in most of the stores I know of.
The concept of quarantine systems to me is not valuable because of how vary from one person to another the concept of quarantine in the industry and because no matter what the store say I will never take it as true quarantine and will consider it as every other store. Every fish I take I will depend on my inspection, my experimce of the store, have it eat infront of me and consider that if I want true quarantine I should do it myself at home..
Remember a medicated fish in quarantine while it will be considerd quarantines might develop the disease again once stresses at our homes.
Also with how large the customer based now, am willing to bet that the majority of issues with fish taken from reputable stores with good history is originated at customer system not the store, but end results will be customer will blame the store especially when paying extra cost for what's labeled as quarantine.
 
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I’ve been purchased from bay bridge since the beginning before Michael officially opened. I purchased equipment and fish from him. I have been in the hobby since 2009. Buying a cheap fish that kills or even makes you qt all your other fish makes no sense. I gladly pay more to have them live. If you want to buy a fish 2-3 times it’s already more expensive then Michael’s qt’d fish.
 
Most major stores will run fish only tanks. Snd indeed they will have some fish in the coral only tanks for cleaning like tangs for algae control and 6 line wrasses for pests..
But over all you will buy the fish from fish only tanks in most of the stores I know of.
The concept of quarantine systems to me is not valuable because of how vary from one person to another the concept of quarantine in the industry and because no matter what the store say I will never take it as true quarantine and will consider it as every other store. Every fish I take I will depend on my inspection, my experimce of the store, have it eat infront of me and consider that if I want true quarantine I should do it myself at home..
Remember a medicated fish in quarantine while it will be considerd quarantines might develop the disease again once stresses at our homes.
Also with how large the customer based now, am willing to bet that the majority of issues with fish taken from reputable stores with good history is originated at customer system not the store, but end results will be customer will blame the store especially when paying extra cost for what's labeled as quarantine.
Do you qt your fish once you purchase them?
 
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