Nicole McGowan

How long have you been a Maidenhead Aquatics Team Member?

I have been with Fishkeeper Scotland for 6 and a half years

How long have you been keeping fish?

I have been keeping fish for 25 years

What was your first aquarium and what fish did you keep in it?

It was a four foot community tank with tetra and Angels. A few unsuitable fish too!

What was it that got you hooked on fishkeeping?

The Betta. Absolutely phenomenal fish. It was my intro to more specialist fish. I have always had at least one betta tank in my home since I started keeping them.

What was it that made you decide to turn your fishkeeping hobby into a career?

Ill be honest, it was pure luck. I was looking for a new job at the time and a part time post came up on line. I didn’t tell anyone about it because I didn’t want to boagy myself. Im still excited that I work in my dream career

Which species do you most enjoy keeping and why?

Its all about The African Cichlid !!!!!! Mbuna are just the best. Aggressive, active, intelligent and truly badass. They are also create fascinating family units and are amazing parents. They simply are never boring. The Politics !!!!!!

Which species was the trickiest or challenging for you to keep and why?

For a long time Corydoras were tricky for me and for many years I didn’t know why I couldn’t keep them healthy. I now know that I was simply introducing them too early.

Which species haven’t you had a chance to keep yet but dream of having one day?

I would love to keep an octopus

What pearl of wisdom would you give to first-time Fishkeepers?

Be patient.

What would be your dream aquarium?

A 10 ft rift valley set up.

What was your most memorable fishkeeping experience?

This one is difficult. The moment when a fish recognises you and interacts is always the best. I have a porcupine puffer called kevin who dances for me every day when I come home. And he spits water at me if I’m slow with his mussel! I love our interaction. But also, once I had a Bumblebee Cichlid who made a fighting arena in his tank and would sit in the middle waiting for unsuspecting males to swim past. He made it behind a wall of rock so I didn’t know till I found one of his victims!

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned since joining Maidenhead Aquatics?

Before I started with the company I didn’t know anything about Marines. Learning about coral is amazing

What’s your favourite aspect of your work at Maidenhead Aquatics?

I love maintanance! Cleaning algae and syphoning makes me happy.

What question do customers ask you most often?

Can these fish live together?

What’s your favourite/most useful piece of fishkeeping equipment and why?

Your filter. It is paramount to the health of your tank

What’s your top tip for customers taking their first plunge into marine fishkeeping?

Do your research!

Which aquatic habitat, like the Amazon or the Red Sea, would you most like to visit?

Lake Malawi

What’s the best customer you ever had and why?

Any customer who takes away advice and incorporates it into their own practice get a thumbs up from me. I also love it when they bring in pictures of their tanks so we can see their hardwork. And when we watch customers develop and grow! I have a lot of customers who started off with 30l guppy tanks and now have 300l specialist tanks or marine!!!

What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had at Maidenhead Aquatics?

Working with the animals is simply the best

What species would you recommend for a child’s first aquarium?

Tetra. In Edinburgh we have softwater so tetra fit in really well. In theory they would be the easiest fish to start with.

What’s the most unique species you’ve ever cared for at Maidenhead Aquatics?

Walter the Frogfish, Trigs the Jigsaw Trigger, and the stingrays,

Describe the trickiest fishkeeping problem you were ever able to solve for a customer

When you test water and the parameters are all over the place it can be difficult because if your alkalinity is high but your general hardness is low, sometimes the chemistry doesn’t make any sense. Customer can get quite disheartened when this happens. When this happens one product isn’t going to sort your problem. I would talk the customer through their maintanance ( if they tell me step by step what they have done, they can sometimes answer their own questions). A water change may help lower the alkalinity in conjunction with minerals and live bacteria should help settle the situation.

Which of the fish in your store has the most character?

At the moment it has to be the Pink tail trigger

Do you, or have you had a pond? If so, what is/was the best thing about it?

I have never had a pond

Which wild species do you find the most bizarre, interesting or impressive?

Leaf fish

What’s your secret fishkeeping “top tip”?

Keep you hands out the tank !!!!!!!

What do you think is the future of fishkeeping and what developments would you most like to see?

It is so important that we not only consider the sustainability of the fish in our trade but also the livelihood of the fishers who count on us. I would like to see the introduction of licenses- a bit like a mini test for budding fishkeepers.

What’s your best tip for building a pond?

The bigger the better!

How many aquariums do you currently keep at home, and what are these?

I have a betta tank, an apistogramma planted aquarium, a fish only marine tank, and a Mississippi Map Turtle tank.