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Big Fish Aquarium Opens In Galewood, Continuing Legacy Of Aquatic Animal Shops On The West Side

Big Fish Aquarium offers West Siders a mom-and-pop spot to buy fish, tanks and aquarium accessories.

Owner Eddie Tanglao poses for a picture at Big Fish Aquarium, 6816 W. North Ave., in Galewood on Nov. 19, 2022.
Maia McDonald/Block Club Chicago
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GALEWOOD — Eddie Tanglao has loved fish and aquatic animals since he was a kid — and now he’s turned it into a business on the West Side.

Tanglao opened Big Fish Aquarium, 6816 W. North Ave., with a celebration Saturday. The shop will cater to local fish hobbyists, selling animals, supplies and accessories — and fulfills Tanglao’s childhood dream.

The customers “like the variety, the selection of fish over here,” he said.

Tanglao, 43, has 25 years of experience in the aquarium industry and is excited to share his passion with neighbors. Large tanks span the walls and blue spotlights showcase varieties of fish, shrimp, crabs, frogs, anemones and other creatures for sale.

“There are some other nice fish stores in the city, but there’s not one over here,” said Delaney Woodlief, an employee at Big Fish Aquarium. “I think people are really excited to have a nice fish store over here.”

Credit: Maia McDonald/Block Club Chicago
The fish, shrimp, anemones, frogs, coral and other creatures sold at Big Fish Aquarium in Galefood are quarantined for a period of time before they’re sold.
Credit: Maia McDonald/Block Club Chicago
A fish swims in a tank at Big Fish Aquarium, 6816 W. North Ave., in Galewood on Nov. 19, 2022.
Credit: Maia McDonald/Block Club Chicago
Customers can buy coral, anemones and other non-fish creatures at Big Fish Aquarium in Galewood.

Big Fish Aquarium has been in the works since April. Tanglao renovated the space — previously a COVID-19 testing facility — and built stands for the fish tanks, he said.

Among Saturday’s visitors were Nia Pitman, a Galewood resident who stopped by with her partner after seeing the store from the street. Pitman said she’s had pet fish for the past year and wanted a “mom-and-pop” to support as opposed to big-box stores.

“It gives some competition to some of those bigger places,” she said. “They have a lot more variety than some of those bigger chains.”

Gregory Feret, a suburban Oak Park resident who keeps tropical fish, stopped by with a flyer for Van Oak’s Pet Shop, a business that closed decades ago but once sold fish and aquarium accessories near Big Fish Aquarium.

“I was surprised the new store opens like this in these somewhat trying retail times as you might describe them,” Feret said. “But I will do my best to spread what little business I have around here in places like this.”

Feret said he’s been in the fish-keeping hobby for many years and would like to continue supporting neighborhood stores like Big Fish Aquarium that help him stay in the hobby. 

Tanglao, who chatted at length with Feret about the area’s history and keeping fish, said a neighborhood aquarium makes a big difference by “having a friendly face.”

“You go down to PetSmart or Walmart and you’re talking to somebody that probably doesn’t really care a lot about fish,” Tanglao said.

Credit: Maia McDonald/Block Club Chicago
Oak Park resident Gregory Feret showcases an old flier for a former pet shop that was located several feet away from where Big Fish Aquarium is located, at 6816 W. North Ave., in Galewood on Nov. 19, 2022.

Tanglao said he hopes to someday open more aquarium shops across the city so kids can be introduced to the hobby and have the convenience of getting to talk to someone in their neighborhood about their fish.

Beyond the retail side of the business, Tanglao plans to offer services to customers, including going to their homes to clean their tanks.

“I think that by by doing that here … we should be able to overcome any failures but but the shortcomings that other sources have made,” he said.

Big Fish Aquarium is open 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon-6 p.m. weekends.

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