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Business / Last week’s power cut wipes out pet shop’s tropical fish

Rainbow Aquatics' Phil Todd pictured this week. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

EVERYONE’s experience of the recent power cut in Shetland was different – but for one man in Vidlin, it involved more than 100 dead tropical fish.

Phil Todd runs pet fish shop Rainbow Aquatics, but much of his stock – and all but one of his own personal collection – was wiped out.

He believes it was the lack of heat that did it, and while Todd tried to find a solution, it was not quick enough.

Like thousands of other houses in Shetland, Todd’s home and shed where he runs the business from lost power last Monday – with supply resuming around two days later.

He said with the roads ridden with snow and ice, mobile signal out and a need to look after his daughter, the chance to head out to find a generator was limited.

“I guess the problem was not knowing how long it was going to be,” he recalled. “It [the shop] is a very well insulated, heated shed. So I just thought, close the door and leave it.

“The idea was basically to keep it closed. I’ve got tanks inside [the house], so I was watching those.

“The fish inside were kind of doing okay, but as things dragged on I was trying to work out a solution. But it was very difficult to do – not able to drive, no mobile signal.”

Todd has a wind turbine, and with the help of numerous extension cables, he tried to run a link into the shed. But it seemed to trip the system.

“Eventually I managed to get a phone signal and get in touch with Nordri and get back on, but by then I’d lost quite a bit of stock, stuff I got in a few weeks ago.”

Todd said between his house and his shop, he probably lost around 130 tropical fish in the power cut.

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In his three tanks in his sitting room – which housed some fish he’d had for a while – there was only one survivor. It was a “big gnarly” six inch electric blue acara, but it has now got a damaged eye and its days may be numbered.

But Todd said with the small nature of his business he did not have insurance to cover the impact. “I think all in all it would be over £1,000 of lost business, I think,” he said.

“It’s a small business, so it wipes out basically my work for this order.”

Fish which live in cold water survived, as did some shrimp. Some can handle lower temperatures, “but there’s a lot of fish that are used to the Amazon or whatever”.

Todd has run the business for nearly two years, taking in batches of tropical fish to Shetland before selling them onto local customers.

He reckons he might stand to make some extra business from people who have lost their own fish in the power cut, which in some areas of Shetland lasted until Sunday.

But it appears the increasing cost of electricity has put some people off from getting into the world of tropical fish.

“With the electricity prices I’ve noticed a drop in people setting up new tanks,” Todd said. “There’s been no people saying they’ll get a big tank for the living room. I don’t think anybody is looking to add to their electricity bill.”

Add in extra costs, such as in transport, and it “makes the long-term viability of a business like mine difficult”, Todd said.

But keeping fish as pets is a popular hobby in the UK, and there is a hope that despite the squeeze on people’s wallets there will remain a market for aquatics.

“I had a chat with my supplier, he said that tropical fish and hobbies in general actually do quite well during recessions,” Todd said. “People spend more time, and you’re at home, and it’s not a huge expense to buy some fish.

“But I think these particular circumstances are different from your average downturn.”

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