Anyway, being the fish geeks we are, we had to check out the local fish stores while we were there. In general, we were really impressed. The stores were really nice, and the people were phenomenal. Three particular standouts:
Ocean Aquarium - a freshwater only fishstore, despite the name.
This was a little tiny store in an alley over in the tenderloin run by a husband and wife. I wouldn't want to be in the neighborhood after dark, but as fish stores go, I can't recommend it enough. Every tank had a profusion of live plants in it, and they had some great home brew CO2 injectors. They appeared to specialize in F1's, and they had a nice collection of F1 killies ( luxopthalmus ( lampeyes ), epiplatys annulatus ( clown killie ), some gardneri and spotless australes. He also provided us with some really nice DIY drip acclimators that are remarkably accurate and consistent for free.
They also had a profusion of fancy guppies, rasboras, microras, apistos and some f1 brown discus that were just too beautiful to risk trying to bring them home. Best of all, all of fish were all healthy and in beautiful color.
This one was also in San Francisco proper but in a much nicer neighborhood. This is a store for plant geeks. They have a remarkable selection of aquatic plants that you can usually only find on aquabid, or get from someone like TxGal in the Dallas plant club. It's also the 'official' ADA store here in the US. As you would expect, their tanks were all meticulously maintained, well groomed and gorgeous.
The staff was friendly, and extremely knowledgeable, and best of all, more than willing to admit when they didn't have an answer. We're not exactly new to the hobby, so we ask a lot of obscure or complicated questions, and we know that. We don't expect employees to know everything - there is just too much to know, and when you get to the advanced stuff, too many questions about taxonomy and behavior that are in flux. We'd far rather people tell us that they don't know, or aren't sure , than pretend like they know the answer if they don't. In this respect, and a lot of others, they were just amazing. We came home with a LOT of plants.
Fish selection was not as eclectic or unusual as Ocean, but it was certainly nothing to scoff at, and we picked up two pairs of scarlet baddis there. Being a plant focused store, they focused on community and plant friendly fish, so there was no african cichlid section, which we thought was pretty cool. YMMV :o)
This one was WAAAAAAAAAAAY up near Berkley, and was another wonderful store. These guys actually had a nice salt water section, but we liked them alot anyway. :o) We made the mistake of heading up around 4pm, and traffic was a beast. We got there about 30m before close, and ended up hanging around and talking until well after close. They were just really nice, knowledgeable people. They also had a very impressive selection of plants, and we came home with more than a few from there too. They also had a cool pair of goodieds that I really wanted to bring home, but we couldn't make it back up there before we flew out on Monday.
Somehow, I don't have any pictures from Albany. We spend so much time talking, that we just plain forgot!
Anyway, if you're in the area, go check these guys out and support them if you can. We were impressed to find three really standout stores while we were there. By the way, just as a note, do not try to check a fish box on American Airlines. If you're flying American, you'll need to ship them home air freight.