Thursday, April 18, 2013

Behind the Scenes: Vegas Weddings build for Tanked

When we were first approached by Brett and Wayde from Tanked to do a GloFish tank, we were naturally thrilled. When we heard it was to be an over the top, 700-gallon, "old Vegas" inspired build--well, we were just blown away. Anyone who has seen a properly lit and laid out GloFish® display knows how impressive a sight it isbut to do something on this vast scale in the neon capitol of the world was just perfect!

So after weeks of planning, hundreds of calls and emails back and forth with both the ATM crew and the awesomely talented Tanked production team we had a solid plan for what was to date the most creative and unique Tanked build we had been a part of. The build required the combined expertise of the master fabricators and tank designers at ATM, our own farm production coordinators (who oversee farming of all of our GloFish, which are raised right here in FL), our purchasing team, and lighting experts from Marineland/United Pet Group who provided a massive amount of high-powered LEDs in just the right actinic blue spectrum to best highlight the GloFishes' brilliant fluorescence. For my part, I helped coordinate all these details and was Segrest Farm's point of contact with the production team.
Original concept sketch for the Wedding Chapel tank
Aside from the hundreds of GloFish that this tank would need (which, as mentioned previously, are all raised in our own farms here so supply was not an issue), ATM also wanted a fish to tie in with the fact that this was a wedding chapel--so what would be more appropriate than that aquarium classic, the Kissing Gourami? To round out the tank we added a group of adult albino longfin bristlenose plecos (also Florida-bred) both to add interest to the bottom layers of the tank and to help keep the tank free of algae.

Once we had determined the group of fish needed, it was time to head on out to Vegas along with the fish to make sure they made it to the build site safely and on time. Our packing crew had bagged and boxed all the fish with sufficient oxygen to last at least 48 hours in transit, and sent them on their way to Southwest Air Cargo. I arrived at Tampa airport bright and (extremely) early for my flight out, armed with nets, salt, nitrifying bacteria, and a TDS pen (much to the confusion of TSA, I'm sure, who left a nice note in my checked bag to inform me it had been opened for inspection). 

Waiting for takeoff, the woman seated next to me struck up a conversation, asking if I was traveling for business or on vacation. When I told her it was to be a business trip, she asked what it was I did for work. Unfortunately in the fish business there really isn't an easy one-word answer to that question. To simplify things I just said I was going out to install a large fish tank for a business.
"Oh, you mean like Tanked?" she said, excitedly

"Sure, something like that" I replied noncommittally, not wanting to get into too detailed a conversation and hoping to get a few hours sleep on the flight out (which didn't happen)...

On arrival I headed on over to air cargo where the ever-competent Southwest staff informed me the fish had arrived right on schedule and helped me load all 18 of our large thickwall boxes into the rental van. For a minute it seemed like they might not fit but with some careful maneuvering we were able to get them all loaded in (barely!). with every square inch of space taken up by fish boxes, I made my way over to ATM to check in and then downtown towards Vegas Weddings.
Fish boxes completely filling the rental car

One of the best descriptions I've heard for doing any sort of work for TV is "hurry up and wait". This was definitely the case after I had unloaded all the fish on location and found myself sitting on a stack of Segrest boxes waiting for the crews to get there. As I mentioned earlier the fish had been packed for a long transit time so I was not concerned for their health but as always the sooner I got them in the tank the sooner I could breathe a sigh of relief.

As the hours dragged on and the delays continued (inevitable when dealing with so many variables), I started getting a little worried. The atmosphere was tense as the tank finally made it into place. Next, the crew arrived to complete the exterior theming for the tank to complete its transformation into an old vegas-style slot machine. Finally, ATM's installation and plumbing technicians arrived on the scene to plumb the filtration systems into place and ready the tank for water.
Fish in boxes as the crew finishes the installation
Now I know the show Tanked gets a some criticism for the way it portrays fish being added to their systems almost immediately and all at once. I don't want to debate whether or not they're misleading potential hobbyists or not by doing so, but it is important to keep in mind this is tv, and entertainment. Technical details like the nitrogen cycle and dechlorinating water just won't interest the average viewer. That said, there is a ton of behind-the-scenes prep work that goes into every build before a fish ever gets put into one of their tanks. Techniques like using aged water, pre-seeded biological filter media, and heavy dosing with laboratory grade nitrifying bacteria allow for what on TV appears to be a seamless introduction of fish into a newly filled tank. For many in the industry this is standard fare for setting up aquariums at trade shows, etc. where a tank needs to go from brand new to fully stocked in a very short time. When done properly, there is no detrimental effect on the fish and water quality should remain optimal.

Back to the install—it was long after midnight by the time the tank was filled (by which time I was thoroughly soaked), the last bits of plumbing tweaked, and the filtration up and running. One of the producers, myself, and an ATM maintenance tech were the last standing after a long and exhausting day. I had been awake now for almost 40 straight hours, and the fish in their boxes were nearing the upper limits of safe transit time. Despite my full confidence in the pros who packed up this order of fish, I still found myself really nervous by the time the fish were set to get acclimated into the tank.
As we unloaded box after box to temperature acclimate the fish, I could breathe a bit easier every single bag of fish looked pristine!
Fish in: large Kissing Gouramis checking out their new tank
After waiting for the fish to acclimate, and with the help of some much needed pizza and beer, the fish were in the tank, swimming happily and looking none the worse for wear. And what a tank! It was just awe-inspiring seeing a tank of that size just filled with brilliant, fluorescent GloFish®. And so after making sure one last time that everything was running smoothly, we left the build site and headed off to try to get some sleep... The last day of filming, including the big reveal to the client, started the next morning at 6am! As I drove up the Vegas Strip and back to my hotel, brightly lit as always but deserted at 3am, I felt tired beyond belief but very proud to have been a part of yet another awesome Tanked build. I was just very grateful I didn't have to do that every day!
All of the fish acclimated and in the tank

And of course the finished product. Stunning!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Global Pet Expo 2013: Part II

Finally getting around to posting our take on Global 2013 only about 2 months after it took place (it has been a very busy couple of months!). So here to wrap up what we took away from this year's show are some new and noteworthy aquatics products and other interesting news. We're especially excited about the last bit of news on this entry- read on to find out more!

Highlights of Global 2013- Continued:

Innovation(!): After a somewhat stale stretch in terms of new or interesting aquarium products, the market seems to have picked up again with some creative, unique, and just plain practical product innovation. It was a ton of fun getting to sneak away from our fish display to check out what's new and exciting in the industry and as a hobbyist with an ever-growing number of tanks at home (funny how they just seem to multiply, isn't it?) I always enjoy seeing what standout products to look out for in the coming year...

So a quick run through what I was most impressed with on the dry goods side of things:

Aquatop: These guys just continue to impress with sleek design, solid product and extremely reasonable prices. I think at this point everyone at Segrest Farms has a substantial hoard of Aquatop product (myself included!) in and around their home and office aquariums, and it doesn't look like that trend will be over anytime soon. Standout products include their gorgeous high-clarity glass rimless tanks, submersible heaters with LCD display, and their awesome canister filters with integrated UV clarifiers. Anyone who's been in retail knows how good packaging sells product, and I have no doubt that their superbly well-designed packaging is going to help move this company closer to the spotlight very soon... keep up the good work guys! Oh, and check out this video recap of their display at Global:

Canister w/ UV- I have affectionately renamed mine R2-D2.
See the resemblance?

Rimless Bowfront: 3 and counting in the Segrest office

Current USA: Current has been around the block a few times when it comes to aquarium lighting (I remember setting up my first reef tank with their 48" power compact fixture and brand new LED moonlights...anyone else remember those?), so it was great to see them getting into the LED market with a really innovative fixture. And unlike so many companies who are entering the market with high end ultra-high-powered LEDs that can be seen from space and cost roughly the same as a down payment on a house, the Current fixtures cater to the middle ground of aquarists who just want a really nice light fixture for their aquarium (nothing against the high tech LEDs, because everyone knows how gadget crazy reef aquarists are and some of them are very cool). These lights feature an adjustable spectrum and an awesome "lightning storm" feature you can trigger from the (included) IR remote. I must have watched the demo unit cycle through the storm feature several times...all I could picture was an Amazonian biotope tank with a simulated rainy season...very cool stuff.

Sleek fixture, nice lighting, and Segrest fish in the tank!
The poor discus in this tank had to endure me playing with the "lightning storm" function on their light over and over again!

Eshopps: Another product that really caught our eye (and a sign that freshwater aquariums are starting to catch up to salt tanks, tech-wise) was this sump/refugium designed for freshwater aquariums. An awesome way to allow for nutrient export in setups that otherwise wouldn't be conducive to plant growth, or to raise fry, these sumps are a great option for an advanced freshwater hobbyist. With all the hype about freshwater pipefish lately I couldn't help but think this would be a perfect environment to raise them- away from other fish and in a densely planted environment.

Photo via reef builders

Other Highlights:

Aquatic Experience Trade Show: The aquatics industry is experiencing encouraging growth at the moment, and we're seeing no signs of this trend slowing down any time soon. There is a lot of excitement among industry members, our customers, and the hobby community and the enthusiasm for all things aquatic is contagious. At Global we were thrilled to learn that World Pet Association is planning an all-aquatics trade show in Chicago for late 2013. Most industry members and retailers alike will agree that the larger US trade shows have largely become dog, cat, and grooming shows over the last decade or so, with specialty and aquatics in particular having a somewhat marginalized presence. So it seemed only natural for the aquatics industry to come together and we have to give a lot of credit to WPA for having putting the time and effort into making this happen. Rest assured that Segrest will be there with a strong presence and the best fish in the industry on display!

We'll see you there!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Global Pet Expo 2013 (Part I)

A few weeks back, one of the larger events on Segrest Farm's (and the pet industry at large's) calendar took place in Orlando: Global Pet Expo 2013. One of, if not the largest pet industry trade shows in the US, Global is a great showcase for manufacturers, distributors, and their retail customers to come together and see what's new in the industry.

View of one corner of the trade show floor from above
For us, the show is an opportunity to show off our fish in the Aquatic Lounge, a huge central area in which a circular bank of commercial aquarium units contains displays by a number of major tropical fish wholesalers and producers. This whole 'lounge' area is decked out with tables, chairs, and couches arranged around the tanks creating a great (and heavily utilized) meeting space for attendees. For several years now Segrest has foregone the hassle and expense of setting up an elaborate booth in favor of a simple, elegant display across a bank of aquariums in the the center of the lounge. It fits in with our longstanding philosophy that our fish should speak for us as a company, and gives us a chance to show our current and potential customers a cross section of some of our nicest, newest, and of course, weirdest fish. This year was no exception, and I had the pleasure of being there from the setup phase all the way through the frantic breakdown on Friday afternoon. Over the course of the 3-day show I had the chance to really explore the show floor, catch up with industry friends old and new, and see some really cool new product in the meantime. Here are some of my (unabashedly aquatics-biased) highlights:

Fish! Everywhere!
Perhaps the single most notable part of the show was that a large number of manufacturers, distributors, and the like who were there primarily to showcase their dry goods incorporated live fish into their displays. This was a refreshing change of pace from previous years where many vendors balked at elaborate "wet" setups, considering them to be not worth the expense and added difficulty to break down. This year, it seemed like almost everyone with something aquatics-related to show off had at least a tank with fish in it. Many had gorgeous, well-stocked display with a whole spectrum of fish, plants and invertebrates. Even better, we supplied nearly all of them with fish!

Well-known manufacturers such as Penn Plax, Hagen, Marineland/UPG, Aqua Top, Boyd Enterprises and Current USA all opted to integrate live aquatic displays into their booths, and we were happy to provide them with a great selection of fish that did justice to their stunning setups. I spent Tuesday morning hurriedly carting around boxes of fish all over the huge trade show floor to each of the respective vendor's booths while two of our sales reps worked their magic to aquascape our tanks and acclimate fish. By the end of that day we were all pretty worn but the end result was so worth it. Here are some shots of our fish (and non-fish!), both at our area in the Aquatic Lounge and in other exhibitor's booths:

2 nano aquariums on display at Penn Plax's booth

More of Penn Plax's booth: Reptology product and some really fun Spongebob aquarium gear

More Aqua Top product including their new line of artificial plants

Relative newcomer Aqua Top had a really impressive display including some Segrest Fish. More about their product in part II of this post!
Aqua Top booth during setup, check out their rimless tank with Segrest fish! 

Some photos of the Hagen aquatic display below. Always one of the most impressive and popular booths at industry trade shows, we were proud to supply all of Hagen's live fish, inverts, and corals for Global this year. Their spectacular displays took more than a full pallet of fish boxes to stock!

144 gallon extreme bowfront with shoals of Rainbowfish, Green Tiger Barbs, and Festivums

Nano Tank with a school of Black Rasboras

 Thanks for reading and stay tuned for part II of our review of Global Pet Expo 2013!


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A closer look: Anemones

      This will be our first entry actually taking a look at care and husbandry, but we certainly hope it won't be the last. As a wholesaler we have a huge number of fish and invertebrates pass through our facility daily and with the importance we place on quality, we have had to develop ways to handle, house, and care for all of them in a way that ensures they get to our retailers and then on to a home aquarium in the best possible condition. A lot of this accumulated knowledge, technique, and "tricks of the trade" never really makes it past an industry level and to hobbyists so I thought it would be helpful to share some of our knowledge through our blog.

    Today I'll be taking a closer look at what is still a poorly-understood group of aquarium animals: the anemones. As a hobbyist, I'm consistently surprised at the lack of good information available on these popular marine aquarium creatures and the prevalence of not-so-accurate "aquarium lore" regarding anemones that despite not being factually based still comes up surprisingly often in the literature. With that said, let's take a look into this fascinating family of cnidarians.

The Haitian Pink Tip or Condylactis anemone (Condylactis giganteus). All purple color form, left
     The anemones as a group are very diverse and are found in both tropical and temperate seas, but for most aquarists the focus is on anemones collected from tropical reefs. Much of their popularity can be attributed to the fascinating symbiosis they share with the clownfish, but anemones make fascinating aquarium residents in and of themselves.

Care and Handling:
      One of the most frequent issues experienced with anemones in captivity (and probably one of the reasons they have retained a reputation for being difficult to keep) is improper handling, either when collected, at a wholesale facility, or at a local shop. Anemones anchor themselves to the seafloor using an adhesive "foot" called a basal disc, and ensuring that this disc does not get damaged throughout the chain of custody is crucial to any anemone's long term health. The basal disc is easily torn or damaged, and because of this we keep all anemones in soft mesh baskets to ensure that they have a rugged surface to adhere to but one that makes it easy for staff to gently remove them as they get shipped out. Keeping anemones in empty glass or acrylic tanks encourages them to cling to the sheer sides and can make it extremely difficult to safely remove them. Worse yet, anemones housed in aquariums with any rock or similar structures will be nearly impossible to remove without damage. Keeping them in a tank with a mixed-grade aragonite substrate and some rock rubble is fine and can actually facilitate removal, especially in a retail setting.

Our anemone baskets in use and full of healthy Condylactis enjoying the mid-day sun
Another somewhat surprising feature of anemone handling is obvious to anyone who has spent time packing/unpacking them: they slime. A lot. Anemones produce copious amounts of mucous, especially when in transit. So much so that they can quickly foul their packing water and suffocate themselves. We have found that anemones (with a few exceptions) fare far better packed "dry", that is, in a damp bag inflated with pure oxygen. This does not harm the anemone during normal transit times, and helps them arrive intact and without tissue damage from oxygen starvation.

                     A healthy anemone will be firmly attached to a surface, with a base that doesn't show discoloration or any unusual protrusions. Having fully extended tentacles is a good sign, but be aware that anemones naturally retract and sometimes close up entirely throughout the day; this is not necessarily a bad sign. Perhaps the most important cue to look for, aside from ensuring the disc is not damaged, is coloration. An anemone that is exposed to stessors, particularly high temperatures, is likely to "bleach out" just like corals are known to do. Bleaching means that the anemone expels the symbiotic algae cells in its tentacles. These algae cells are what give the anemone's tissues a brownish or greenish coloration so a bleached anemone is usually, as the name implies, bright white.
Healthy Sebae Anemones. Note the brownish tint to the tentacles

          Some species, especially carpet anemones, are normally a bright fluorescent color and after experiencing bleaching will look neon, almost more vibrant than before. Beware of anemones that look unnaturally colorful or bright, as it is often a sign of advanced bleaching. In these individuals, the tentacles and tissues often appear translucent. While bleaching in no way means an anemone is doomed, it requires skill and patience to care for a badly bleached out specimen. Because the anemone will have lost its ability to take in nutrients from sunlight, it will need to be fed heavily and protected from overly bright light during this time.

Although it may appear to be a vivid neon green, this is just a badly bleached
specimen. Notice the translucent tentacles and body

     Perhaps one of the most important and frequently overlooked aspects of anemone care, especially once it has been introduced to the home aquarium, is feeding. Many people assume that, like many corals, anemones mainly rely on lighting for nutrition. It is important to remember that anemones are carnivores, and despite being opportunistic feeders, can be quite predatory if given the chance. I've found that anemones will thrive on twice-weekly feedings of chopped shrimp, krill, smelt, or other meaty food items. For smaller specimens I use frozen mysis and finely-chopped shrimp. Each anemone will have different feeding preference and you will quickly discover which foods are their "favorites" by which food particles adhere to their tentacles best.

To conclude, anemones are one of the most fascinating groups of cnidarians in the sea. Despite having been kept in aquaria for decades now, there is still a lack of solid husbandry guidelines available to the average hobbyist, which unfortunately perpetuates the myth that they are all difficult to keep. Many of the commonly available species make excellent additions to a reef or fish only aquarium when well cared for and may even reproduce in aquaria if conditions are right. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Looking Back: Segrest's past and some 'ancient' history

A few weeks ago, I helped create a powerpoint presentation about Segrest Farms that we could use for a hobbyist or non-industry audience. Just a basic overview of who we are, how we operate, etc., but with a section entitled "back in the day" which covered the company's history. This was a very interesting project, and it involved not only listening to the stories of some of our "veteran" employees but also getting the privilege of sifting through our founder's personal photo albums. This little detour through the annals of Segrest Farms (and by extension the entire fish industry) got me thinking about the fascinating evolution of the tropical fish industry over the years and just how far we've come from the days of steel-framed aquaria, whisper air pumps and undergravel filters (not to mention the heady days of flying in previously unknown fish from Manaus, Malawi, and Managua on DC-3's).
Founder Elwyn Segrest (left), ever the enterprising aquarist, with local fish store owner
Bob Gallo and what appear to be early saltwater aquaria in the background.
It's interesting to think about how the hobby and industry developed, from basement breeders running banks of sponge-filter powered tanks raising guppies and angelfish to the incredibly vast global network of supply in place today. For people who weren't around for the early days, it's hard to imagine how wild cardinal tetras or a new variant of Aulonocara could have been so coveted but then again, in 20 years who can say what fish that we now consider rare will become commonplace? Already, marine fish breeding techniques have improved to the point where many incredible rare species may soon find their way to the general public as tank bred specimens. And of course we're always looking for worthy candidates for intensive culture on the freshwater side...we have a few we're already getting excited about but only time will tell how successful that may be. Being able to look back at a long history like ours is a great source of perspective, but it is our collective ability to look forward and see the challenges and opportunities ahead that keep us relevant in an ever-changing industry. With that said, let's take a look back at how we were, then and now:

One of our first production ponds, Ellenton, circa 1970:

Current growout pond, Ruskin, on one of our major farms
And last but not least, this little gem came across my desk last week and I just had to share it. Our saltwater night manager, Marie, had mentioned in passing how she had had her picture in a magazine years ago in an article that covered Segrest Farms. Intrigued, I asked her to see if she could find a copy, and sure enough, she brought in a battered copy of the May 1989 issue of Smithsonian Magazine which included a feature story on the tropical fish industry. It is a fascinating snapshot of how things were. I especially enjoyed complaints about the $25-30 price tag of the Blue Eyed Pleco (a fish that now retails at $600-1000) and the colorful stories of Florida fish farmers (who are, as a whole, no less colorful today).
Pdf below: I hope you enjoy the walk down memory lane and hopefully I'll be sharing some more aquarium hobby/industry history in future posts. It's a fascinating topic and one that exists almost entirely in the memories of those who lived it, and through anecdotes passed down over the years. Very little written history exists and what does is typically hard to come by. Please feel free to share your stories and experiences or just memories of how things were in the comments section!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Marine Aquarium Hobby in Jeopardy: PIJAC seeks support to defend the industry and hobby from legislative threats in 2013

Friends, fellow hobbyists, and readers-->we urge you to read the following letter and share it with all those you know who are passionate about marine life and the care and culture of saltwater fish and invertebrates:

To our customers, fellow members of the ornamental fish trade, and all marine and reef aquarium hobbyists,

The trade in both wild collected and aquacultured marine ornamentals and our mutual hobby which it supports is facing unprecedented legislative threats in the coming year. Despite the great strides made in recent years toward sustainability in collection and the incredible advances in ornamental marine breeding and rearing, opponents to the trade are advancing legislative measures whose repercussions would be felt from the largest wholesalers to the individual hobbyist breeder/propagator.

In response to the mounting pressures facing our trade, hobby, and livelihood, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), has formed a Marine Ornamental Subcommittee to act as a unified voice for industry members, aquaculturists, and hobbyists against anti-aquarium legislation.  Segrest Farms, as a founding member of this subcommittee, would like to affirm our strong belief that the trade in marine fish and invertebrates can become a well-managed and sustainable use of this precious natural resource. Peer-reviewed research has demonstrated that this trade, with careful management, provides a powerful economic incentive to artisanal fisheries to avoid destructive practices and maintain viable, healthy reefs for future generations (Rhyne et al 2012, Wabnitz et al 2003). 
            In light of this, we urge all of you who benefit from the keeping and breeding of marine organisms to support PIJAC’s Marine Ornamental Subcommittee as it defends the industry and hobby against blanket bans, anti-aquarium legislation, and bills based solely on appeals to emotion and fear, not sound science and best management practices.

Your support is critical to ensuring a future for this wonderful hobby and the livelihoods of all those in the industry it supports—from your local pet retailer to the source country fisherman who collects ornamental fish as a means to provide for his or her family. Please see the attached membership forms for more information on specific issues and how to pledge your support with an annual membership to PIJAC. All donations received will go directly to the Marine Ornamental Subcommittee to be used for the protection of the marine and reef aquarium hobby.


Segrest Farms

Membership information for Hobbyists:

Membership info for Industry Members (retailers, breeders, manufacturers)

For further information on this issue, and for a review of the specific legislative threats we face in 2013,  we strongly recommend Coral Magazine's excellent coverage:

NOAA Proposes Endangered Listing for 66 Stony Coral Species 

Hawaii’s Aquarium Fishery at a Critical Turning Point

And in print, J. Charles Delbeek's article, Lawyers, Corals, and Money in the January/February issue of Coral (p. 124-129).


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fish Rescue

Just a brief anecdote we wanted to share about the often-chaotic logistic aspects of the tropical fish industry and the unsung dedication of so many whose job it is to get fish from distant points across the globe to a local pet shop to a home aquarium safely. The journey a fish makes before it is comfortably floating in its bag in someone's living room is a thoroughly fascinating topic that I hope to cover in great detail in future posts, but for now enjoy this story of how a few of my coworkers and I went on an impromptu fish rescue expedition a few weeks ago.

It was a few weeks before the holidays, a busy time for us and traditionally the beginning of the busy season for fish sales. Our import buyer had outdone himself bringing in shipment after shipment of incredible fish from all over the planet but the fish geeks among us (namely just about everyone here) were holding our breath for the holy grail of imports: Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic, unlike many of the tropical regions we receive ornamental fish from, is not known for its breathtaking biodiversity and has no native fish of interest to the hobby. What it does have, however, is a large network of dedicated breeders and small scale fish farmers which is renowned for exceptional quality and for the availability of species and line-bred variants seen almost nowhere else such as the black cory cat and mind blowing color variants of Apistogramma (see our Facebook album for more pictures).

Where once Czech fish were available in the trade with some regularity, increased cost of fuel, unfavorable exchange rates and increasing difficulty finding appropriate flights had conspired to all but eliminate Czech-bred fish from the industry and hobby. As of late, there were few in the US with the resources and logistics to even consider undertaking the time and effort (not to mention cost) to be able to bring in a shipment. But our import buyer (with the help of almost constant nagging by the sales team) made it a priority to see a CZ shipment before the year's end and put in the time to make it happen.

The excitement was palpable, especially after many of us got a chance to look over the vendor's availability list and make suggestions. The diversity of available fish was stunning and by the time the shipment was due to arrive not only the Segrest Farms staff but our customers were anxiously waiting to see this once-in-a-blue-moon event.

Then the first round of bad news hit: the shipment had been delayed en route. OK, nothing to worry about just yet, but a little disappointing as the fish wouldn't arrive until late that night.

Then more bad news, as we received word that the shipment had not left Heathrow airport in London as planned. Anyone familiar with the vagaries and challenges of dealing with international air freight knows that a second setback on such a complicated routing (Prague-London-NY-Tampa) is not a good sign. The hours ticked by with no updates but with an increasingly negative email thread making the rounds between sales and purchasing (very heavy on facepalm and fail memes). The prevailing mood soured quickly, and it's hard to express how upsetting this experience was for anyone other than a true fish geek, but suffice it to say it came very close to "Christmas is cancelled".

After an interminable delay, what seemed like the final blow came across in an email: CZ was finally en route, but wouldn't arrive until late that night, long past our last truck to the airport. We would have to pick them up the following morning and hope for the best—which after 50+ hours in transit did not look hopeful. 

Loading the truck
Toward the end of that somber day, as we all got ready to head home, a plan was stirring—an attempt to make a daring late-night fish rescue. After discussing it with a few of the sales reps and the import buyer, and procuring a vehicle, the plan was set: we would meet back at Segrest at 9PM then head to air cargo to retrieve the shipment just after it landed. Then, we would bring them back to the facility, inspect, sort, acclimate, and tank them as best we could. 

After a (very) brief rest, the two reps and I, already tired from a full day at work, convened at the farm, armed with red bulls and an airway bill number, and headed out to the airport at full speed in a borrowed pickup. Our excitement was tempered by the knowledge of how long the order had spent in transit but we hoped to at least be able to save some of the hardier specimens...More delays at Air General, waiting, waiting, waiting until finally we got the signal to back the truck up to the loading gate and a waiting forklift drove over with our pallet.
After a looong wait, the airway bill is signed and we're ready to go!

The first fish out: beautiful black cory cats!
As we loaded the boxes into the bed we all became a bit more hopeful—not one box was damaged, crushed, or leaking. Good signs! Driving like crazy back to the farm, we pulled up to freshwater receiving still uncertain of what we would find when we opened the boxes. Despite the fact that it was almost 11PM, our freshwater and R&D managers were both still there and ready to assist as we started the unpacking. It was truly an impressive team effort even with all of us as tired as we were, but as soon as the first bag was removed from its boxan entire bag of black cory catfish alive and healthy(!!!!)—we were jolted awake with renewed excitement and got to work. Only hesitating briefly to ogle at the spectacular fish we were unpacking, it still took us until almost 1AM to finish sorting and acclimating boxes and boxes of fish. 
Acclimating and tanking fish late into the night
While a few fish were slightly worse for the wear having been in transit so long, it was a testament to the care and excellent packing procedures used by our vendor that the fish arrived not only alive, but thriving. And of course, a lot of credit needs to go to my two coworkers and our incredible building crew, who voluntarily gave up their whole night to rescue a wayward shipment of fish for no other reason than their passion for what they do. It was a good night, and one when I felt particularly proud to work where I do in an often-overlooked part of the industry. A part of the supply chain that hobbyists only rarely consider but one which makes sure that fish from across the globe reach them safely and efficiently.

We went home that night exhausted but with the satisfaction of knowing that due to our efforts those fish would soon be on the next phase of their journey to retailers and into home aquariums around the US and the world.
A good night.