Tropical Marine Centre is a force of the aquarium hobby in Europe so while touring the UK on our way to Germany for InterZoo, we had to make the trek out to their world-famous facilities. We traveled to Chorleywood on the outskirts of London during the height of their own preparations for InterZoo and despite our unannounced arrival, we were treated to a lightning tour of their amazingly clean and efficient facility.
We already knew that TMC produces and distributes a range of their own products and we really made the visit to see their livestock facility, essentially a wholesale livestock division. While on the premises we learned all about TMC’s commercial aquarium filtration division which specializes in making unique highly vertical stacked equipment for space-restricted aquarium installations.
Tropical Marine Center’s livestock division is immaculately clean and the brightly-lit fish-holding cubicles were packed with lots of very healthy, robust and colorful marine fishes. The presentation of TMC’s wholesale fish selection was so nearly perfect, walking the aisles felt more like visiting a very well stocked retail store than the typical dingy and dark American fish wholesalers we’re used to.
We’re still curious as to how they keep all the acrylic cubicles so clean and algae-free despite the abundance of lighting. What is really exceptional about all the light is that it helps viewers give close scrutiny to the loads of marine fish, highlighting their health, brilliance and vitality – we didn’t see a single dead fish, a single spot of Ich, nor any split fins – TMC must have some really gifted fish handlers working that section.
Moving on to the corals, it’s hard to compare the sprawling coral-only wholesalers in the US with the full-range selection of fish, corals and inverts that TMC keeps in stock. Nevertheless, there was a nice diversity of soft and stony corals to pick from at TMC and there was definitely a few corals we would have gladly placed in our own home reef tanks. Equally noteworthy about TMC’s presentation of their coral selection is the exclusive use of their AquaRay line of LED lights which were used to great effect with bluer lights installed over the LPS and chalice corals, and brighter LED clusters for the SPS and maricultured Acros.
One of the major differences we noticed about the presentation of TMC’s invertebrates is that they were getting treated with much more care. Each big group of hermits crabs, starfish, and various snails was placed in their own cubicles as opposed to many of them being crammed together in baskets or perforated cups and we imagine that it entices buyers to pick more of the inverts that they want, rather than simply stocking up on the clean up crew invertebrates that they need.
While it was quite a delight to peruse the brightly lit and healthy livestock in the fish room area, getting to spy the central filtration systems behind the scenes was an incredible sight. Rows of pumps are neatly arranged in the approximation of a clean room while the salt-spraying skimmers, “trickle towers” and other open water equipment was located in a separate room.
There were at least eight large and stout commercial RK2 protein skimmers and it was a treat to see them all performing and foaming very well, their aquatic life support staff is on the ball and has that part of the livestock maintenance really dialed in. Furthermore, TMC’s experience with commercial installation is evident in how they installed and maintain their own large scale aquarium filtration.
Overall, Tropical Marine Center’s headquarters including all the various departments is one of the most impressive aquarium facilities we’ve ever visited. Even though our visit was completely unannounced, and with all the work that is going into getting ready for the big InterZoo conference, the place was very clean, bordering on immaculate and it is clear that TMC has a certain, elevated level of professionalism in how they operate.
We want to thank Mr. Gyles Westcott for making the time to give us a spurt of the moment lightning tour of TMC’s facilities and departments. And since there is a strict no photography policy at TMC, our companion and newest writer Jane Hallam whipped up these fantastic drawings to help us produce the first-ever illustrated special report on Reef Builders.