Pier Aquatics: Wigan's world-famous tropical fish experts

(From left) Neil Woodward, Rachael Horrocks, Tracy Cunliffe, and Matt Rowson.
(From left) Neil Woodward, Rachael Horrocks, Tracy Cunliffe, and Matt Rowson.

In 2007, Neil Woodward, owner of Pier Aquatics, became the first person to breed stingrays in captivity in a 500-gallon tank his Wigan home. Having made countless excursions to the Amazon in search of rare tropical fish over the years, Neil's passion for all things aquatic is embodied in Pier Aquatics to this day.

Opened in 1997, the award-winning shop specialises in rare species of tropical and cold-water fish, supplying a number of large zoos and aquariums including Chester Zoo, the Blue Planet Aquarium, Chessington World of Adventure, and the National Aquarium in Denmark.

Matt Rowson

Matt Rowson

"We specialise in fish from South America, mainly catfish, but we import fish from literally all over the world: India, Indonesia, Thailand, Colombia... loads of different places," said Manager Rachael Horrocks, 27. "To be honest, I was never a fish person before this job. When I first started, I'd kept goldfish, but it grows and you get addicted.

"People always say they start with a small tank, but it soon becomes a passion and takes over your life!" added Rachael, from Wigan. "I've got five tanks at home and [my colleague] Matt has a fish room.

"It's a really interesting business to be a part of, no two days are the same," Rachael, who has worked at Pier Aquatics for nine years, continued. "One day you can be rushed off your feet with customer and another day you have a shipment of new fish to unpack. We can be unpacking fish at one in the morning depending on when flights comes in."

Now employing seven people, the aquarium welcomes customers from all across the globe, including a group who arrange regular coach trips down from Scotland and a gentleman who travels to the North West from Denmark once a year.

Manager Rachael Horrocks

Manager Rachael Horrocks

"We get visitors from all corners of the globe and we've built up a good relationship with them," explained Supervisor Tracy Cunliffe, 41. "We're putting Wigan on the map!"

Having worked at the shop for 11 years, Tracy says that learning about the fish and building up a rapport with the strong community of customers Pier Aquatics serves makes the job more than enjoyable. "I'm very lucky to be one of those people who really enjoys their job," she said.