Following our recent visits to Liverpool Reef Centre and Oasis Aquarium, we remain in the North (home of some of the highest ranked marine retailers in the UK) for this feature, but this time travel slightly further afield, to the East of Manchester.
Located in Ashton-Under-Lyne, Cockfields Farm is a business that has grown from humble beginnings. Originally selling potatoes at the front gate in 1966, it has developed into a large complex with custom-built facilities. It still offers top quality farm produce but now also houses a large cafeteria, extensive aquatics/exotics supplies and even a children’s petting zoo! Within easy reach of a major motorway network this site is easy to reach and, with the facilities on offer, it’s ideal for those reefers that can’t escape the family for the day! On-site facilities really are top notch… for a start, parking is excellent. Also, it’s clean and tidy inside with lots of space to move around, and toilets are also available.
Focusing in on marine dry goods to start with, stock from many of the well-known brands is on offer here: API, Deltec, Ecotech, Fluval, Hagen, Hydor, Interpet, Juwel, New Era, Red Sea, Reef One, Reef Scientific, Seachem, Tank Tests, Tetra, TMC, Underworld, Zoo-Med etc etc etc. Prices are reasonable, being generally in-line with other outlets we’ve recently visited, however take note that there are some really good interest free credit offers being promoted at the time of writing. Dominated by two lovely Red Sea display tanks, which are attractions in themselves, the dry goods area is spacious and well-lit. At the time of our visit, they also had some nice TMC microhabitat nanos set-up which are certainly worth a close look! Click HERE to view an interactive 360 degree VR image of this shop, and take a look at our gallery of shop images below.
Moving on to marine livestock, and facing the dry goods area is an impressive 700 litre SPS holding tank. This stand-alone system runs with a TMC V2 calcium reactor and a Hydor Performer skimmer, and is lit by an Arcadia 3x 250w metal halide with 2x 80w T5. There are some really nice pieces in this system; a wide array of species showing good health, colouration and a variety of sizes and growth forms. Fish stock in this system is minimal but a lovely pair of Watanabe Angels and a stunning Chevron Tang immediately caught our eye.
Moving around to the left of this system we enter the livestock section and note a multi-section, two-tier system on our left. This critter/coral system has 4 low coral trays for LPS and one for anemones. These tanks are lit with T5s and AI Sols. Above that, and set back, are 20x 10″ cubes for small fish and inverts. These bring the total system volume to about 1100 litres. Also in this area, to our right, we see a large, well-stocked soft coral tank. Take note that the quality and selection of LPS stock is superb here, and this is despite stock levels being slightly depleted following a hobbyist open day a week before our visit.
Along the back wall we have a fish holding system consisting of 12x 48x18x18 tanks (with a further 6x 24x15x15 tanks in the filter room used as an acclimation system). With a total volume of around 3500 litres, this system is maintained at SG 1.023, and take note that Copper isn’t added to the resale system due to the availability of the quarantine set-up. Fishes, which are mainly sourced from TMC, but also occasionally imported direct from Hawaii, are always double-bagged on purchase and they also offer free polystyrene boxes and heat packs. Although not the largest we’ve seen, this system displayed a good selection of species on our visit; a good spread of sizes, attractive prices, a range of difficulty levels and rarity – and all looking very healthy.
Turning the corner we were pleased to see two large banks of frag tanks made up of 6 long shallow frag tanks. These tanks are currently lit with T5s and are hooked up to 2 large trays filled with soft corals, which are lit by TMC Aquarays. With all fragging done ‘on-site’, there is always a fantastic selection on offer, indeed they usually hold anywhere up to 1000 frags. On our visit, the frag tanks held some lovely Acans, Zoas, Rics and even some Nemenzophyllia and Catalaphyllia frags (the fact that staff here can successfully frag such species speaks volumes about their level of expertise of course). There were some great deals for multiple pieces too. Overall, with corals on offer from just £3 up to £600, they really do cater for all levels of hobbyist.
Facing this system are tanks that are currently home to freshwater cichlids but this section is due to be remodelled and converted to marine use during Summer 2012. Such work should see the frag and soft coral systems upgraded to incorporate low coral trays with suspended lighting. This should enhance ease of viewing for customers and it would also result in the fish system being expanded to a total of 48 tanks. We certainly hope to visit again once this has taken place to bring you an update!
So in summary, as well as fantastic premises which offer much more than the usual store, and an extensive range of dry goods, The Aquarium at Cockfields Farm also offer a fantastic range of healthy livestock and deserve special mention for the choice of stunning LPS and frags on offer. Add to this some of the friendliest, most approachable and most knowledgeable staff we’ve encountered and we have no hesitation in rating them as one of the top 2 or 3 stores in the North of England (… and that’s before the proposed expansion).
The Aquarium at Cockfields Farm, Cockfields Farm, Lees Road, Ashton under lyne, OL6 8AR Phone: 0161 331 3322 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening times are: Monday-Friday 9.00am – 6.00pm, Saturdays 9.00am – 5.30pm, Sundays 9.30am – 4.30pm