Fisher’s fishkeeping business lives on


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It’s quite a coincidence that Ed Fisher, 57, went into the fish-keeping business.

He is the owner of the Coralville Bay store, which specializes in tropical and marine fish.

People think he changed his name, but he’s always had it, Fisher said and chuckled. With more than 40 years of experience, he is quite comfortable in his position.

Even in his own home, he has a 300-gallon fish tank. Too bad it can’t hold his favorite: the pinnatus batfish.

“They are beautiful,” he said. “I think they are just striking.”

When he was 8, Fisher’s aunt bought a 10-gallon tank, set it up in her basement, and told him it was his responsibility.

“She would call in the middle of the night and say the guppies are having babies, and I would run over to see them,” he said.

His responsibility for a tank a of guppies led him to share his love of aquatic life with others.

At first glance, Fisher’s store seems devoid of fish, but walking farther toward the back and a turn to the left, it’s like a mini-aquarium — big fish, little fish. Some bright and colorful, other dull.

“He keeps fewer of the bread-and-butter and more of the oddballs,” said Denise Jennings, 47, who has been a friend of Fisher’s for more than 25 years. Jennings has worked in the store off and on for a year.

Jennings said Fisher wants his customers to enjoy the fish for a while, not just for a few months.

Doug Brown, 59, who farms near Grinnell and is amateur fish-keeper, heard of Fisher’s shop through word of mouth.

“I visit this shop every time I’m in town,” he said.

He drives the 60 miles from Grinnell to Iowa City for appointments, and he started going to Coralville Bay more than a year ago.

“I think he has amazing selections and keeps the tanks clean,” Brown said, his own tank holding small pigeon blood tetra.

But the business hasn’t always been great for Fisher.

The 2008 flood destroyed his business along with those of his neighbors on the Coralville Strip.

“When the flood came, I lost everything,” Fisher said. “Right before the dike broke, we only had an hour to pack everything.”

As did many other business owners, Fisher lost most of his stock and filed for bankruptcy.

Fortunately, he fell into kind hands in the Iowa City/Coralville area, from finding a place to stay from a close friend and landing a new store location from a former church pastor.

Author and Iowa Writers’ Workshop Director Lan Samantha Chang also wrote about him for a New York Times op/ed piece, which resulted in gifts from friends, family, and complete strangers.

“I can’t thank them enough,” Fisher said.

In his free time, he likes to grab a pizza from Old Chicago and watch TV at home with his pug, Wilma.

In the future, he wants to just grow the business, Fisher said.

And maybe he can, especially with the help of movies and TV shows based on the animals of the sea.

“God bless Nemo,” Fisher said. “He’s been great for business.”

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