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A Visit With Tropical Marine Centre,

Europe's Premiere Marine Livestock Supplier and More

Bob Fenner

The Lads themselves, Derek Thomson, Livestock Manager, Paul West, Managing Director, and Daniel Stokes, Product Development and Technical Support

In any field of endeavor or enterprise it seems the "cream does rise" or struggle "to the top. Such is the case even in the business of ornamental aquatics. There are "A" players, who do more than just know and do their job'¦ innovators who make the industry progress. To my mind there are two "best" marine livestock wholesale firms; Phil Shane's Quality Marine in Los Angeles, California, USA. And Tropical Marine Centre, London, UK. This story is about the latter, but the two businesses are related in friendship, purpose and cooperation, as you will see.

The philosophy at TMC is obvious on a casual glance, let alone as a guest/friend being shown around their grounds'¦ If you and I had the time, resources coupled with ambition to be ever-reaching to provide the best products and livestock to the marine aquarium trade'¦ we would make a business like Tropical Marine Centre. Allow me a few moments to try to explain the breadth and depth of their excellence.

Some Company History:

Tropical Marine Centre was established in 1970, and has grown to be Europe's leading supplier of wholesale marine fishes and invertebrates, as well as select drygoods. TMC produces ultraviolet sterilizers for hobby and commercial use (as well as complete filtration gear for stores, research), and Gamma Frozen fish foods.

Livestock Wholesale:

Wouldn't it be great to have a one on one relationship with your actual collectors'¦offering advice and support'¦ securing a "zero loss" philosophy, ensuring high quality livestock year round? Well, I'm constantly amazed to be just ahead or just missing their staff in my many visits to collecting sites around the planet. All told TMC has a network of some 39 suppliers of marines in 26 countries worldwide.

TMC is the primary supplier of marine fishes and invertebrates in the UK, receiving about 18 cargo shipments every week. These animals are all acclimated in a separate specialized acclimation room immediately adjoining the holding facility. The newly arrived boxes are opened under red fluorescent lighting to reduce stress and all mixed, used processing water (synthetic, Tropic Marin from Germany), is subsequently vented to waste. Compared with the US their selection was wider and deeper than all but the largest American wholesalers. In particular, I have never seen a bigger selection of Wrasses or Gobies anywhere.

The individual Fish and Non-Fish (Invertebrates, Algae) systems are serviced by three huge protein skimmers, TMC ultraviolet sterilizers, mechanical and biological filtration systems'¦ the wet side (total Tropic Marin gallonage 40,000) including skimmers, biological/fluidized bed portions being housed independently from the mechanical, UV and pumping mechanisms for ease of maintenance. And a real boon here and in the live-holding and culture portions of their business'¦ dehumidified rooms! Yes, the rooms aren't the typical in-door rainforests, but very comfortable human environments that have been fitted with humidity extractors that retain heat and return the air some 7 times an hour! A very nice touch I can tell you, having spent some years of my life in more primitive wholesale settings. (Images "Q,R,S" Daniel Stokes happily in the dry, mechanical side of the livestock wholesale mechanical room.)

As everyplace else in the company, the livestock wholesale branch is blessed with happy, conscientious personnel. Folks here really have a/the "spark"; not missing an opportunity to move a fish that needs moving, or stopping to make something right. Neil Thompson, Customer Service, Fish House, Stewart Elsam, Fish House Manager, and Derek Thomson, Livestock Manager have rights to be proud of their operation.

The Need to Breed, Culture Aplenty: (Image #1, Mark Wilson, Daniel Stokes; in the lab and the culture facility)

Tropical Marine Centres commitment to preserving and protecting natural resources goes beyond assisting their suppliers in management, fair payment and education at the source. They have the put up and operate the most advanced commercial livestock production in the field, generating tens of thousands of Clownfishes and Gobiosoma gobies (great facultative cleaners )(see Gobiosoma and Amphiprion ocellaris images provided).

Many other species have been produced by TMC's production staff. Most notably the Scarlet Shrimp, Lysmata debelius (the only other article ever produced about the company that has run in the U.S.) In the same genus, the Pacific Cleaner Shrimp, L. amboinensis are starting to be produced by TMC in commercial numbers for European markets (five print photos and Press Release from TMC in envelope). On this last visit, we saw two species each of Seahorses and Pipefishes (Doryrhamphus multiannulatus) that had been tank bred and reared to adulthood. Quite a feat to "close the loop" with these tube-mouthed fishes. (Images W,X,Y,Z'¦. Mark Wilson (who with wife Deborah manage the culture facility) with Seahorses, Pipefishes in culture facility). Note to Dealers, TMC's tank bred and reared livestock is available in the U.S. from Quality Marine in Los Angeles.

Dry Goods Wholesale: To Mention A Few On Offer

TMC only sells a few lines of other manufacturers products, but they are the best available for the consumer. Tropic Marin salt mix which they, Quality Marine, and many public aquariums and research institutions use exclusively, is brought in from Germany for distribution; as is Tropic Marin's fine supplements, hydrometer, thermometer and test kits.

Near the top of accuracy and precision, Saliferts additives and test kits are distributed exclusively by TMC in the UK. Besides the standard marine and freshwater tests offered by other manufacturers, Salifert produces useful assays for Activated Carbon, Organics, Magnesium, Strontium and Silicate. The last of real use to aquarists fighting brown scum (diatom) problems.

Another quality, imported product line are the protein skimmers, ozonizers, air dryer, CO2 infuser for planted systems, pH, water level, and Redox controllers made by Sander company of Germany. For small marine systems that can't accommodate an outside unit, the smaller air-stone driven models are advisable. And though the mechanism (air pump, wooden air stone diffusers) has fallen out of favor for larger, crowded systems in the west, Sander does make a venturi type in-line "Compact Skim" Protein Skimmer. Ozone, triatomic oxygen is a useful adjunct for improving water quality as well as increasing dissolved oxygen concentration. Sander's ozonizers are the best units of their kind made for aquarium use.

To their credit, Tropical Marine Centre features a range of worthwhile aquarium books. Authors such as Gerald Bassleer, J.E.N Veron, John E. Randall, Martin Moe, Alf Jacob Nilsen/Sven Fossa, Helmut Debelius, John Tullock'¦ should all be familiar to you.

Not to forget to mention them, TMC also brings in and distributes the U.S. brands of PinPoint and CPR/Creative Plastics Research.

Making Their Own:

When faced with the proposition of not having other peoples products to wholesale that met their standards, TMC did the logical thing: they made them for themselves. Two groups of goods especially deserve recognition; their ultraviolet sterilizers and frozen foods.

TMC produces ultraviolet sterilizers (available from Quality Marine, L.A. and Aquatic Eco-Systems, FL.) for hobby and commercial pond and aquarium use. They also manufacture complete freshwater and marine re-circulatory systems for store, research and aquaculture use which include all necessary components for mechanical/biological filtration, protein skimming, and UV sterilization. Ozone and heating/cooling options can easily be added and units can be built to customers specific requirements. Systems are based on scaled down proven technology used in TMC's own holding facilities and hatchery and are supplied complete and ready to go with assembly cut down to a minimum. No specialized tools or training are required. TMC's commercial filtration systems are available from Tropic Marin USA. Wholesale, culture, research institutions and progressive retailers take note: These are complete, pre-plumbed and wired environmental control systems'¦ the best I've ever seen.

To mention brand names, Vecton and Pond Clear/Pro Clear UV's are made for aquarium and pond use respectively. All come with stock features that I wish all sterilizers had: adjustable fittings for connecting them to a pumping source, quartz sleeving, easily replaceable lamps, safe, plastic housings'¦

Everyone knows the nutritional and palatability advantages of using natural foods. TMC has perfected the availability and safety of these nutriments in Gamma Frozen Foods. These foods are collected, cleaned and quickly frozen'¦ and irradiated with gamma rays (no residual radiation) to kill any possible disease agents. A wide range of species is available, including Mysis and Plankton (these foods are distributed in the US by Quality Marine, Los Angeles). At TMC, both cultured and wild-collected marines are fed up to six times daily with Gamma Foods.

And lastly, I'd like to "plug" their HR (High Retention) Carbon'¦ a fabulous chemical filtrant that is unlike all other carbons I know of on the market, in that it doesn't attract and bind up calcium while removing organics.


What a joy it is to know of excellent people and practices in our field or ornamental aquatics. As with Quality Marine in Los Angeles, here in Tropical Marine Centre we have a "best of" operation where people have really put their minds, hearts and wallets into putting together a business that delivers, indeed, breeds/rears, imports, and manufactures great livestock and drygoods for the pet-fish hobby and business.

Tropical Marine Centre, Ltd. (Wholesale Only) A member of the Cranswick group of companies)

Solesbridge Lane,

Chorleywood, Hertfordshire WD3 5SX, UK


Tel: +44 (0)1923 284151

Quality Marine Comment  9/30/11
Hi Bob,
Just received a nice comment from Kurt Soderberg of Quality Marine regarding the AquaBeam review (see below). I will send him a link to it once it's published and we have one. Do you know Kurt by chance?
Re Quality Marine Comment  9/30/11

Looks great James. I think Kurt and I have met. At any length, QM and TMC are the best businesses of their kind in our interest (on the planet) and both companies are well known by me (have written reviews of them over the years)... TMC makes some phenomenal products... Vectron UVs, Gamma Foods... both have absolute "A" ratings for staff, set-up, practices... the best livestock sources. Am very happy to see you receive kudos, recognition for your work. BobF
Subject: Re: Questions/Review Intro  9/30/11

Hi James,
I just read your review ( Mike sent if my way ). I think you did an excellent job covering the AquaRay lights.
I was hoping that you might be able to add a link to our site. We think it offers a lot of good information in a clean and concise format.
We're planning to add a links/reviews page in the future in which we would definitely link to your article if that was ok by you.
Best Regards,
Re: Quality Marine Comment     9/30/11

Thank you, Bob. I've learned my meager writing skills from you, by reading/learning from your always well done articles.
<Heeeee! Don't be blaming me! Cheers, BobF>

Re: RMF off to Fiji 8/25-10/25
Indeed. Am off to TMC tomorrow for a look-see. Should be fun. Would be nicer if you or James were with me to explain what I'm looking at!
Cheers, Neale
<Ahh, you will understand and appreciate most all. My olde review here:
Hello to Paul West. B>
Re: Neale's visit to TMC   8/23/11

Had quite a few chats with Mike Barrett and I believe you will enjoy your visit.
<Yes, just got back in fact. Fascinating place, and I can see why Bob F. thinks so highly of this company. Very impressed! Got to see some of the new LED products, including an amazingly inexpensive unit for freshwater tanks that only costs maybe 50% more than the equivalent fluorescent unit.
Can see these being sold by the bucketful! Cheers, Neale.>

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