Fish, Aquariums and Stuff may be the closest Boise has to an aquarium. The store's display tanks hold hundreds of brightly colored tropical fish, waving marine plants and oddly pockmarked rocks. It's no wonder that Bill Knight, owner of the fish store that recently moved to 6112 Fairview Ave., is so relaxed--watching the fish is nearly hypnotic.
Knight specializes in saltwater fish tanks, including growing live corals and raising saltwater fish, which he says is an increasingly environmentally sustainable hobby. We spoke with Knight recently about corals, the industry and his coolest fish.
What's the "stuff" in your store's name?
Bill Knight: Just all the dry-good-type stuff like the food, all the, you know, bulbs, all the other stuff that goes along with ... fish tanks.
Do you specialize in saltwater fish, or do you have freshwater fish, too?
No, we do both fresh and salt. But we do just fish. We don't do any other pets like turtles and reptiles and that kinda stuff.
Why is that?
I tried turtles for a while--well, when I had the store in Mountain Home, we did a lot of that other kinda stuff, and it was just more than I really wanted to deal with.
What's the draw of fish?
Just the tranquility of dealing with a fish tank, I guess. Actually, my wife had a small tank when I first met her. And, I mean ... I'd messed with fish a little bit, but I hadn't dealt with 'em much until I met her. And then, I don't know ... I just got really interested in it.
What's the rarest fish you've ever had?
They're called the Crosshatch Trigger, they come out of Hawaii. The other thing I got in that same shipment that time, they call them Hawaiian Flame Wrasses. Both of those fish were quite rare as far as the hobby is concerned.
Are they expensive then?
Yes. Flame Wrasses ... to do a pair, you're lookin' at about $450. Some of those Crosshatch Triggers, you're probably lookin' at $800 or $900 ... for a pair of those.
Do you guys have tanks at your home?
Just one. I used to have multiple tanks. The most I ever had, we had five at one time. We had a 120 [gallon], a 125, a 29, a 30, and a couple of 10s.
Tell me about some of your customers. Are there a lot of fish enthusiasts in Boise?
Yeah, there is, quite a few. Saltwater side, maybe not as much as there is on the freshwater side. Saltwater people are probably a little more dedicated. We moved out here where we get a lot more drive-by traffic, and I get a lot of freshwater people that have lived in Boise and never knew I even existed. I mean, they know of the PetCos and the PetSmarts and the places like that, so that's usually where they go ... they don't seek a store like me out. Now ... saltwater people, PetCo does a little bit of saltwater, and, uh, the one Zamzows out on Overland does a little bit of saltwater, but, beyond that, there's not really a whole lot. And so it's more of a specialty type of thing, and saltwater customers typically will hunt out a store.
What do you need to know to keep a saltwater tank?
When you're dealin' with a saltwater fish tank, it's not all that much different than dealin' with a freshwater tank. A little bit more expensive to get it started but the basic principles aren't that much different. When you start dealin' with the live coral and stuff, you really gotta watch your water chemistry, your calcium, and your alkaline a lot more closely because the corals depend on those a lot more than the fish do.
So what are your suppliers like?
Especially on the saltwater side, most of 'em are large fish suppliers. And ... most of them are in the L.A. area, not too far out of LAX there. They're bringing fish and corals and stuff from all over the world.
Can you show me your coolest fish?
Freshwater-wise, we've got a bunch of discus [fish]. They come out of the Amazon region. They come in a wide variety of colors. They run about 60 bucks apiece. They're a little more on the harder side to keep.
What makes them hard to keep?
You gotta be a little more vigilant with your water chemistry, and you really gotta control it. And they don't deal with letting the tank get really dirty much and things like that. And they're a lot more sensitive that way. We've got a lion fish, another pretty cool fish. Their fins, well they call 'em poisonous. They're not really poisonous, well, to a person. I been stung by 'em, and it was like a bad bee sting.