Patchogue’s Country Critters staffers were on a need-to-know basis.
“Just looking at that tank it’s got to be something deep-sea,” said one employee at the Route 112 pet shop, eyeing an empty tank that would soon be home to exotic fish arriving from overseas.
Piranha? No way, they’re illegal in New York. How about grouper?
“Just stop guessing,” said the manager, Michelle Hope.
The fish would come soon enough, she assured. At the time of the guessing game, they were believed to have still been in China. But actually, they were in Queens — at JFK airport.
The special package arrived that night, about 9:30 p.m. And then came the big reveal.
The fish — available for viewing the next day — turned out to be five weedy sea dragons, which are basically cousins to the seahorse; two red boxfish; and one male ornate boxfish (a.k.a. ornate cowfish), the only creature of the bunch that wasn’t shy to curious onlookers. (Click the links to learn more.)
So why all the drama leading up to their delivery?
“They’re very difficult to get and difficult to keep,” Hope explained, adding that this group of exotic fish will not be for sale. “You’re only probably going to see them at an aquarium. We just wanted to make sure that they were here, and that they were OK.”
As part of its Collecti-Beats series, GreaterPatchogue.com will be making regular visits to local collectible, hobby and other speciality stores in search of unique, interesting or notably expensive items to showcase.
First photo caption: The ornate boxfish, or cowfish, shown here at Country Critters on Route 112 in Patchogue, can be found in the waters off southern Australia. (Credit: Michael White)