Week in, week out we visit our local fish stores. We seek advice from those who work there, we congregate and converse with like minded people inside. We make friends and we relax in a place that most of us probably spend several hours per visit. Our local fish stores are one of the most pivotal and important aspects of our hobby as without them, we have no hobby and supporting them is so very, very important.

I decided that something that DansReef should do is celebrate those stores who are ‘good’. Im sure you’ve all heard many horror stories about those stores you should avoid but people are all to quick to moan when its bad but seldom shout and smile when its good! As of now DansReef is launching Fish Store Spotlight, a series aimed at giving you a tour of those ‘special‘ stores and the ones that you really MUST visit!

Reef Exotics is Marine Specialist store situated within a freshwater store (Betta Aquatics) in Colchester, Essex, UK. The shop is owned by a young, enthusiastic and driven chap named David.

David purchased Reef Exotics in October 2017 and has since begun to turn the struggling store into something quite special. Ive been watching from a distance now for some time and have nothing but admiration for what they are doing and i felt it was time to share why!

The shop is small but well formed. A large soft coral bay fills the centre of the store and dry goods, fish and hard corals the outer rim.

When David took the store on, it had if we are honest seen better days. The fish stocking was average and the tanks needed some TLC.

Just 4 months on and the progress is quite phenomenal. David has torn out some of the old and struggling systems and begun to give the store an overhaul. 

The dry goods selection is good, albeit brands you aren’t ordinarily familiar with, this is not necessarily a bad thing as its good to see and try new things! Just about everything you could need for your Reef Aquarium can be found in here and it stocks the necessary essentials!

The coral stock is also good. If your a soft coral fan, then the soft table will almost certainly have something in there to take your fancy. Its large and often full, and as a soft coral lover myself every time I’ve seen it, i could have gladly taken something home from inside it!

Hard coral selection is rapidly improving. A new SPS system is being installed at present and the LPS selection is always varied.

The fish selection is quite special! David has really excelled here and is making phenomenal effort to stand out amongst a crowd. Fish are hand selected and David travels to wholesalers to choose the fish he sells. Early starts and long journeys pay off as this extra effort mean he really does have some gems on sale! Quite literally as at my time of visit a stunning 7’’ Gem Tang was gracefully exploring the large coral tray hand feeding nori and coming out to say hello!

A whole host of weird and wonderful wrasse could be seen in the sale tanks, a personal favourite of mine. I often judge a store by the selection of wrasse within it, and if i could award marks out of 10 purely based on this, then Reef Exotics would score well!

The attention do detail here is noticed and all fish that come into the store undergo a quarantine procedure prior to sale. Sadly not all stores do this and so its a breath of fresh air to see that some still do make that effort, especially the smaller stores like Reef Exotics.

Overall this shop is blossoming, its growing, its improving, its fish stock is excellent and its coral stock fast becoming similarly so! Not that its hugely relevant, but I am immensely impressed that David as a young gentleman has taken on this project and is turning it into something great.

I’m a fussy buyer and probably more critical than i should be, but this remains a shop i will keep my eyes on and one ill visit with excitement at what lies in those fish holding tanks for sale!

Rumour has it he also makes a brew if your there long enough, offer the biscuits with the brew David and ill be there every week!

If you want to see more you can check them out on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/elmsteadmarketmarines/

or visit them in person at Inside Betta Aquatics, The Barn, Colchester, Essex, CO7 7EE

Happy Reef keeping.


As a lifelong adult hobbyist, making it almost 15 years in the making, Danny has been keeping Saltwater for quite some time. As one of the biggest passions in his life in 2014 he combined that with his second biggest passion, photography and videography.