Questions & Answers

Brandon Nagata | Retail Store Manager

Questions & Answers

What is your favorite thing about working at Aquarium Co-Op?
My favorite thing about working for Aquarium Co-Op is getting to work for a company that cares about their employees and actively tries to be competitive in pay and benefits. I've worked for many businesses in my life, and Cory and the Co-Op have been incredibly kind and fair with pay and taking care of us. I've watched Cory's videos for at least 5 years and now getting to work for him and help others succeed the way he has helped me is really rewarding and fun.

Being the fish buyer for the shop is also a fun part because I get access to work with a wide variety of fish and actively have a hand in bringing in stuff that some people have never seen before. It's always fun seeing a customer's "Oooh, I've never seen that fish before!" face.

What has been your best moment while working for Aquarium Co-Op?
My best moment working for Aquarium Co-Op has been when I've helped someone who was convinced their tank was "cursed" and couldn't have anything living in it at all — plants or fish. This particular customer had been going to one of the big box stores and hadn't gotten much helpful advice there. She also hadn't seen any of our YouTube videos or blog articles so getting to troubleshoot with her, find out was going on, and solve it was both challenging and really rewarding. Now this same customer is breeding cory catfish and shrimp, has many beautiful, fully planted aquariums, and still comes in to give me and the other staff updates.

What do you do in your daily job at Aquarium Co-Op?
As the store manager for the shop, my primary job is making sure operations at the store are going smoothly. My daily duties include detailed cleaning of the planted sale tanks, helping customers, ordering fish and medicating them in quarantine, communicating any major issues that arise, and much more. I also am tasked with restocking the shop, whether that be CO2 for the planted tanks or other everyday essentials!

What is your favorite fish and why?
My favorite fish is so hard to choose, but if I had to choose one, I'd go with white cloud mountain minnows. They have always been one of my all-time favorite fish because of how hardy they are, how relatively easy they are to spawn and breed, and all the cool varieties there are. My current favorites are the long-finned varieties as well as a new, more tropical species called the lemon white cloud, which is a beautiful and rarer fish with beautiful, pink blush tones on the body, an electric blue lateral stripe, and lemon-lime green fins. I love keeping white clouds either in an aquarium with a heavy current so you can see how gracefully they swim in it or outside in an outdoor pond where they breed so easily and put on extremely intense and beautiful colors.

What would your dream aquarium be?
My dream aquarium would be a really large one with intense, almost whitewater, levels of flow to emulate a river with lots of smooth driftwood and river rocks. I would stock it with a large group of flow-loving fish like danios, hill trout, shiners, gobies, and hillstream loaches. I've always been infatuated with rivers and streams and love seeing how fish interact with the turbulent, fast-flowing parts as well as the gentle, quiet ones. It's one of my all-time favorite habitats that I would love to recreate in a large scale aquarium.

What is your current favorite aquarium at home?

  • Type of tank: Standard 20-gallon long "hillstream" style tank
  • How long has it been set up? 2 years
  • Fish stocking list: Common white clouds, leopard danios, rainbow shiners, borneo sucker loaches, Laos mini dragon loaches, Stiphidon gobies, and some Candi River gobies (Rhinogobius candidianus)
  • Biggest goal or challenge with this aquarium? My biggest challenge is doing frequent water changes on this aquarium, as it is fairly heavily stocked and many of the fish in it want a large amount of fresh water change over. I usually do 30% water changes twice a week to ensure the water is incredibly clean and dilute for some of the rare fish varieties I have in the tank.

What products do you highly recommend?

  • Plant Weights – I love our plant weights because they are fairly cheap, easy to mold, and great for keeping down newly taken trimmings of stem plants. I also use them to weigh down my rhizome plants to make them look like they are planted in the substrate, while still allowing them to grow properly and be easily transportable whenever I want to move them in the aquarium.
  • Multi Test Strips – I love these test strips because they are so easy and quick to use whenever you want to do a quick check up on your aquarium and its parameters. I also love that ours come with the laminated key for reading the measurements and you get 200 strips in one bottle! Great from everything to finding out if your plants are getting enough nitrates as food to checking when you need to re-up on your crushed coral.
  • Intake Sponges – The pre-filter sponges are great because they protect my fry from getting sucked into my power filters and they collect debris that would otherwise go into the inside of the filtration. This allows me to go longer in between opening up the filters and servicing them.
  • Battery-Powered Air Pump – I love this pump because of the battery-powered backup system and the fact that it still produces a decent amount of air flow. I use one of them with some tubing and a gang valve to filter four (yes, four) 2-gallon fry tanks.
  • Kasa Wi-Fi Timer – I use these things everywhere in my home. I use them to make sure my lights on my aquariums and terrariums are on the proper photosynthetic cycle, to turn the lights on my home so my house is lit up early before I come home at night, and to schedule my Xmas lights during the holiday season. The phone app software that you download and use them with is incredibly easy and simple to use, and it is very easy to add more timers as your collection grows.

Top 5 Tips for Hobbyists

  • Add more live plants to your aquarium. Live plants look beautiful, are easier to keep than you think, and are incredibly useful for keeping the water clean.
  • Save your live plant rock wool and plastic baskets if starting a new tank. When buying plants from us, they are kept in tanks with fish and thus the rock wool has a ton of free and good bacteria to start your beneficial bacteria cycle faster.
  • Don't overfeed. The bane of many fish keepers, old or new, is overfeeding the tank and trying to spoil their fish — only to produce a lot of waste and ammonia. Most fish can easily go 10+ days without being fed.
  • Don't add algae eaters too soon. Many algae eaters have highly-specific diets that consist of algae and biofilm only and generally do not take to manmade "prepared" foods like wafers. This is especially true for things like otocinclus catfish and nerite snails.
  • Research the natural history of the fish and plants you want to keep. Knowing more about their native habitats and diet will help you diagnose disease, properly feed, get them to breed, set up the tank decorations, and choose suitable tankmates.

Blogs and videos by Brandon

Videos and articles about Brandon

Brandon Nagata | Retail Store Manager