The first port of call after having a brief but detailed introduction chat with Mark Flynn-Ryan, who’s at the helm as sales manger for TMC, was the most coveted possession and shining banner of what TMC represents....The Hatchery.
On entering through the compulsory foot bath in the doorway, and washing our hands with an alcohol solution to minimise the possibility of contamination. (I later twigged why Scoob was licking his hands all day). There are two things that grab your attention. The first is the hospital style cleanliness and order of the set up. Everything is spotless, without a hint of salt creep anywhere (god I wish I could get a fishroom looking like that ). Everything has its place, with every jug cleaned and hung. Nothing is left lying around, nothing is left uncleaned after use...Its all, absolutely, gleamingly professional. The second thing you notice is the look of immense pride on Mark, and his teams faces. I'll emphasise 'pride' in that statement, and not arrogance. Indeed Mark made it quite clear, he still gets a buzz when he looks at the tanks full of baby clowns and smiles affectionately like some doting dad.Mark then ran through the way the hatchery runs, from brood stock, to egg laying, to growing on. He added some interesting observations regarding the behaviour of the juvenile clowns under differing conditions. The thing most evident here, is the amount of effort and time that has been put into this operation, just running through some of the following will spell it out.
These skimmers are 4.5 metres tall and 1.5 metres in diameter. The collection cup (shown in the photo) alone is 2 metres tall with the remaining 2.5 metre skimmer body below ground level. They were made by Sander, and each one is fed by a pair of 2 horsepower pumps. The collection cup is jet-cleaned several times per hour, but has a large inspection panel on the side, through which some unfortunate soul has to actually enter the skimmer in order to scrub it clean.These two skimmers are for the "fish system" - the "invert system" has yet another of the same skimmer. The rest of the details of each system are basically the same.
On the walls above the pumps were half a dozen pairs of tubes each 3 foot long. These were the TMC Professional UV units to control the pathogens. That's mega-UV, I thought. But no, Mark explained that these were mainly new designs on long term trial. They trial everything, sometimes for several years, before making them available for sale. We were to see the main UV units later on our tour. A corridor goes all around the outside of the large fish room, and there were similar UV units on the wall all along this corridor. Now that's mega-UV!Behind us was the Ozone generator - a unit the size of a fridge. Forget measuring mg/hr, this monster was supplying kg/day to keep their water clear. For safety, there was an air extraction unit, so that the whole room is kept at a slightly lower air pressure than the outside.
There is a spare pump always available close by, so after isolating the pump at the main supply cabinet (again neatly labelled with the pump number), the faulty unit could be quickly swapped out, and the system brought back to full running status. The faulty pump can then be serviced and fixed later.The main power supply cabinets, lining one wall, were equally well organised, with everything carefully labelled and independently switched, so there could be no confusion in the event of sudden problems arising. When you are dealing with the current supplied by the 3 incoming power cables, each the size of your wrist, you don't take any risks. I'm just glad it’s not my 'leccy bill.
Briefly back outside and then into the next room. We shuffled into the darkened space, lit only by red fluorescents. As our eyes slowly adjusted we could see several rows of acclimation benches. Mark explained that the fish don't see well in the red end of the light spectrum, so to them it was night time in the room, which keeps them quiet, and relaxed as possible. TMC go to great lengths to minimise the stress to the fish. Not for TMC the moving of fish from storage to storage before finally shipping as consolidated collections.They have their own collection stations and divers on the reefs in 26 countries, collecting only from local reefs so that the fish spend the minimum time possible in transportation. The fish are housed in properly filtered holding facilities using TMC’s commercial filtration equipment and then transferred to special shipping containers and flown straight to the UK, where they are brought to the acclimation room. Several shipments a day are handled. Even during the flight great care is taken that they don't share cargo space with anything that could affect the fish, e.g. frozen carcases as they emit CO2 which in the confines of the hold would adversely affect the water. TMC have a zero tolerance of fatalities and a near perfect success rate for shipment of fish.
The Fish room is the only side of TMC that most of its customers get to spend much time in. For us it was like being a kid in a sweet shop! Banks of tanks of all sizes containing literally hundreds of different species fill the majority of the room whilst the rest of the area is taken up with low invert tanks full of a myriad of different corals as well as anemones, shrimps and other assorted crustaceans.The tanks of fish range from fairly small containing the tiniest of gobies, to very large tanks that most of us would love to have in our own homes housing beautiful angel and butterfly fish, as well as many unusual or rarer specimens. I was struck by the cleanliness of the tanks and the health of the livestock. I did not see a single fish that I would not have been more than happy to have in any tank of mine. There were no dead fish in any of the hundreds of tanks and no signs of any disease or white spot on any fish particularly on species such as regal tangs that are more susceptible to that sort of thing. They do run a base level of copper in their fish system to help combat any disease or parasite that may have not shown itself in the acclimation/quarantine procedure, but this is a wise precaution considering the number of fish entering and leaving the facility during any particular day.
The inverts and corals too share the same pristine conditions as the fish, although obviously not the same water! Everything is well thought out and placed, right down to the anemone tanks that are lined with a special reef safe ‘carpet’ giving the animals a substrate to attach to whilst making them easy to remove without damage when they are sold. For a reef keeper it was nice to see the corals in such a good condition. All stock looked happy and fully expanded and the many SPS/LPS corals were bright and colourful and the choice for the dealers who make the trip to pick their own stock was large. There were quite a few unusual pieces including a beautiful sponge type colony that nobody had been able to identify and some lovely aquacultured colonies containing dozens of different coloured mushrooms and small polyps on the same rock, almost like a complete nano tank setup on a single large rock. Shrimps and lobsters were also held in their own tanks but to prevent the different species preying on each other each was held in its own container that in turn was part of a ‘raft’ of similar containers floating in a large tank.In one corner of the fish room were some large vats, these are used to house some of the larger species imported to order or for stock destined for public aquaria. At the time of our visit there was not a lot in this section except for a few lovely silver ‘lookdowns’.
It was explained that in recent years the design of the fish house had changed some what. Previously tanks had been mounted on concrete pillars, but due to the need to adapt and change, the decision was made to have all banks of tanks on their own free standing metal stands. The old pillars have been removed leaving only a small mark on the floor where they had once been. Looking to the future in the original build the fish room was tiled from floor to ceiling and everything has been built on top of this, thus allowing for change without damage to the floor. Overflow from the tank banks ultimately runs into gullies along the side of the building and then back to the filter room for processing. The whole room has a light and airy feel to it and the cleanliness is akin to an operating theatre.Like everything else at TMC, the bagging station is well organised. As they supply strictly to the trade only, their 'customers' are free to select and collect their own fish and corals. They bring them to one of two collection trays at the bagging station where TMC staff then take over.
An air-filled padded box is fetched from the adjacent storeroom, and the bags of fish or corals carefully packed into it. The full boxes are taped up and the stock is ready for its journey to the LFS. Many LFS keepers like to come early, before their shops open, so TMC opens early for them, from 7:00 am.TMC's care for their stock doesn't end there. They have a team of experts who regularly visit their LFS clients to assist with their setups, and advise on all aspects of keeping their stock healthy.