A BELOVED Isle of Wight aquatics supplier celebrated its 30th anniversary this month.

Hunnyhill Aquatics, based in Newport, hosted a special event at the weekend to celebrate the big occasion, complete with a raffle, BBQ, and a series of special offers.

Among the prizes was goodie bags from Tropical Marine Centre, gift vouchers, and a pond vacuum worth around £200.

But how did it all begin?

"It started with a friend of my father selling his business," said owner, Lee Copeland.

"At the time, it was called Island Koi and Pond Supplies.

"My dad, John, said to me, would you like to come in half and half? and I said yeah, lets go for it.

"I was 21 at the time, and 22 when we opened up together on March 8, all those years ago.

"We both had capital, and we loaned some against my mum and dad's house. It's what you call high risk strategy.

Isle of Wight County Press: Some of the beautiful fish at Newport Aquatics Centre.Some of the beautiful fish at Newport Aquatics Centre.

"The first five years were very difficult. Lots of long hours, bank repayments, loan repayments of the loan repayments.

"It was a massive learning curve. We'd had fish, but never on a commercial scale."

Was it what you were expecting?

"No. Nothing like it. Where we were buying an established business, I thought it would be seamless and I'd be making a fortune.

"We changed the name because of the location, and to give it an identity, and added indoor aquatics."

What about now, 30 years on?

"The business has grown and grown.

"We did take a hit from the internet, and the 2009 financial crisis, and then Covid came along.

"We were allowed to stay open, and we actually got busier. The months of lockdown were some of our busiest of all time.

"We've expanded the business over the years, and we have more full-time staff.

"When we started off, it was just me and dad. I remember one year, I think I worked 121 days in a row."

Isle of Wight County Press: Some of the tanks at Hunnyhill AquaticsSome of the tanks at Hunnyhill Aquatics

Any horror stories to share from the past 30 years?

"We have loads. Once, we had someone build a fish tank out of bathroom sealant, which contains fungicides, which kill fish.

"Within two hours, they were dead. We replaced them, and the next day, he came in again and said those had died as well.

"After that, he told me he'd built his own tank out of bathroom sealant, which is half the price."

What is your favourite fish?

"My favourite fish used to be a koi we named Benny.

"He was a Japanese koi, and we kept putting the price up so no one would buy him.

"He started at £250 and by the end he was up to £750. I got very attached to him.

"He got struck down by a bacterial infection in the end.

"In the early days, I got too emotionally attached."