Looking for an apartment-friendly pet? Join the Island's aquarium community

·3 min read
Brandon Dunphy's three tanks are home to saltwater fish and coral. (Photos submitted by Brandon Dunphy - image credit)
Brandon Dunphy's three tanks are home to saltwater fish and coral. (Photos submitted by Brandon Dunphy - image credit)

When Brandon Dunphy was an employee at a local pet shop, one of his main duties was taking care of the fish. It was there he got hooked.

As a nature-loving child, Dunphy was always fond of animals. But his parents couldn't have more mainstream pets due to allergies.

"I kind of had to go the different route and kind of got into everything else," he said.

Dunphy has been into the aquarium hobby for almost a decade, and currently owns three saltwater tanks which are home to fish and corals.

For many pet-loving Islanders who are currently unable to find a dog- or cat-friendly rental, getting a small aquarium can be the only viable alternative.

John Pineau, who owns The Atlantis in Charlottetown, said a lot of his customers have pet allergies or aren't allowed to keep dogs or cats in their apartments.

Photos submitted by John Pineau
Photos submitted by John Pineau

"You get to care for something. I think it's very important for a lot of people to have something to take care of," he said.

"You can create all different kinds of [aquascapes] in your tank, you know, with live plants and all that kind of stuff. And it's very entertaining to just sit and watch the fish. You can sit and watch fish for hours — you basically don't need a TV."

'A little zoo'

The P.E.I. Humane Society this year has dealt with an increase in the number of pets being put to adoption due to housing-related issues.

Dunphy, who also owns two bearded dragons, some frogs, geckos and even a parrot, said he gets a lot of his animals from people who are no longer able to take care of them.

Submitted by Brandon Dunphy
Submitted by Brandon Dunphy

His girlfriend is an animal lover too, and cares for some guinea pigs and bunnies.

"We're … both living with each other over the last couple of months and have a little zoo, I guess."

Dunphy runs a Facebook group for the saltwater aquarium aficionados on the Island and another for local reptile pet owners.

Though he said the aquarium hobby can get pretty complicated once you start dealing with animals that are harder to take care of. There's also others that require much less maintenance.

"I'd say the first rule is it's not as hard as you think it is," he said. "Everyone kind of knows 'oh, well, you know, that's harder to take care of.' But you can make it hard or you can make it easy."

But Dunphy did say that when something goes wrong, it can go really wrong.

"Sometimes you can have things die and you don't know why," he said. "You can look at the tank and it looks OK until you test and, after your tests, you realize something's off."

His tanks currently house some clownfish, each having different patterns and colours, as well as plenty of corals, some of which could fetch up to $400. He also recently started selling coral to other enthusiasts.

Dunphy said caring for an aquarium is a relaxing hobby, just like gardening — except it's underwater.

"It's rewarding to see something grow, and to see other people not be in the hobby and come into your place and see a fish tank and to see corals glowing in the blue light, you know what I mean?," Dunphy said.

"It's almost like a fairy tale to people."

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