A Very Fishy Business
A Very Fishy Business
Joe Nelson loves tropical fish. Joe has so many fish tanks in his house that he’s buying a bigger house! He currently has twelve tanks that range from 20 to 200 gallons, but he has 125 more tanks waiting in the garage. Why? It’s his retirement plan. “I’ve gotten good at growing fish to sell, so I’m gearing up to sell a lot more fish once I retire,” Joe said.
After spending 23 years in narcotics law enforcement, Joe is now a construction supervisor. Each night when he gets home, he spends two to three hours cleaning tanks, which he and his wife Dee Anne both describe as a labor of love. Joe’s interest in fish goes back to the 1960s when he was a child. “I visited an amusement park, and they had a game where you would throw ping-pong balls at fish bowls filled with water. If your ball landed in a bowl, you got a fish. I won six that day. When I got home, my grandparents bought me an aquarium, and I’ve been interested ever since,” Joe said.
“After we got married, I gave Joe a 29-gallon tank one year for Christmas,” Dee Anne said. “His sister said, ‘You obviously don’t understand how much Joe loves fish.’ I guess I didn’t, but I support him because that’s what makes him happy.”
Joe’s tanks are incredibly clean and crystal clear—which is the perfect backdrop for the beautiful angelfish and discus fish that Joe raises. Both are strikingly colorful species from the Amazon Basin. “I currently have five varieties of angelfish: zebra, silver, koi, platinum and marble. They are big, beautiful and easy to care for,” Joe said. “If you feed them and keep their water clean, they do really well.”
His specialty, however, is in raising discus fish, which are large, flat fish with extremely bright colors. “They are so flat and round that they look like dishes. We have some that are 9 inches across—as big as pie plates! You won’t see them in pet stores, because they are pretty expensive, and they’re not for amateurs. A breeding pair can go for upwards of $600,” Joe said. “I bought my first discus pair in the 1990s for a lot of money—and promptly killed them, because I had no idea what I was doing. Now, I’ve gotten good at it.”
Most of the Nelsons’ buyers are individuals who’ve heard about their fish by word-of-mouth and live in the area. Joe and Dee Anne especially enjoy the reactions they get from visitors and buyers who see their tanks. “It’s like they’ve walked into a mini pet store. They always say, ‘Wow!’” Dee Anne said. Their operation is also starting to attract online, out-of-state discus buyers who are willing to spend the high shipping fees for exotic fish transport.
“It’s wonderful having fish at home. Watching a large tank is like watching a bunch of grade-school kids interact at recess. If you watch long enough, you start to understand what they are doing. Dee Anne’s gotten really good at understanding fish behavior. Last night she said, ‘That pair is getting ready to lay eggs.’ Sure enough, there were eggs in the tank the next day,” Joe said proudly. “This business can be lucrative or a big loss, but I just enjoy the fish. It’s my passion. They’ve been around for thousands of years. They each have personalities, and they are so beautiful.”
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