Capitol Aquarium closes after 52 years

Goodbye, Sherbet, the huge orange cyclid that loved to be teased in his tank. Goodbye Moby Dick, the giant gourami that held careful watch over the freshwater fish. Goodbye Capitol Aquarium.

The owners of the specialty fish store that has been a fixture at T and 29th streets since 1978 turned out the lights on the tank lids for the last time Wednesday after unsuccessfully trying to find a buyer for the struggling business.

“It’s really a sign of the times,” said Bob Pasley, son of Capitol Aquarium owner Grant Pasley. “The business wasn’t supporting itself.”

Pasley, 44, said the combination of a bad economy and a sharp decrease in sales contributed to the closure after 52 years in business.

The website for the store said it featured more than 500 aquariums with a wide variety of both freshwater and saltwater fish, along with products “for every aquarium hobbyist, from beginner to pro.”

“I’ve come here for years,” said Rick Moore, 28, a security guard from Sacramento. “I have a 3,000-gallon pond with 40 Koi carp in it.”

When he found out that the business was shutting down, Moore brought his daughters, ages 2 and 3 years old, to the aquarium for one last purchase.

“Good luck finding Koi anywhere else for a good price now,” Moore said.

Grant Pasley started the business in 1959, the year his oldest son, Mark, was born. After that, the business saw a lot of growth and eventually moved to it’s current 9,000-square-foot location in 1978.

“I worked here back in high school,” said Mark Pasley, 52. “Now, things are all happening very quickly.”

For some local fish lovers, memories of Capitol Aquarium go all the way back to early childhood.

Connie Xiong, 20, and her brother, 18-year-old David, said they came in to admire the “famous” Koi fish in the pond near the front door of the aquarium.

“I came (here) in elementary school for a tour, Connie said. “I remember the Koi fish the most. We fed them then. They’re just beautiful.”

Ron Coleman, an associate professor of fish biology at Sacramento State, is a member of the Sacramento Aquarium Society and said he has been associated with Capitol Aquarium for close to 12 years.

“The owners have been members of the Aquarium Society for 50-plus years,” Colman said. “It’s a really old society, and this place has been the focus for fish in this area for a long, long time.”

Coleman said that, for a lot of kids, this was their first fish store.

He recalled kids coming into the store to feed the Koi and to “tease” Sherbet – a huge orange cichlid that had been an icon in the store for years.

“It’s economics,” Colman said. “People have less money, and they just don’t buy as many fish, or they buy them at discount pet places and on the Internet. It’s hard for places like this that specialize in fish.”

For the owners and staff at Capitol Aquarium, closing the store is a real disappointment.

“We’ve been here a long time,” Bob Pasley said. “We have seven people on staff who are really dedicated to the business. They’ve been working their butts off today and every day to make this place what it is.”

Manager Carolyn Taylor has been with the fish and aquarium store for 22 years, and she along with the other staff members told Pasley that they will all stay with the business even after it closes to get through the cleanup and emptying the building.

What’s next for Capitol Aquarium?

Pasley said that he has contacted other fish stores in the area to offer “everything living” at an even greater discount than what is being offered to the public.

As for the tanks, equipment and supplies, they will all be moved into storage and offered on Craigslist over the next few weeks.

Coleman said that there are still fish to be found in town – but nothing quite like what Capitol Aquarium had to offer.

“For a lot of people, the only concept of fish they have is what’s available at PetSmart. That’s about 20 species at best,” Coleman said. “At (Capitol Aquarium), there were always a lot of special fish from the far corners of the earth. They had hundreds of species here. It’s a real loss to see them go.”

As for Sherbet and Moby Dick, they were each sold to families that Bob Pasley said were very excited to take them home.

“It was awesome to find people who really loved them,” Pasley said. “They’ll all be happy.”

Melissa Corker is a Staff Reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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July 6, 2011 | 11:00 PM

What happened to SMUD? The electric Eel? I’m in my 40s and I remember going to see SMUD as a little kid at Capital Aquarium. Man, this sucks.

July 10, 2011 | 6:01 PM

I agree- it does totally suck! I am 40 years old and was born and raised in Sacramento-
Capital Aquarium was a must place to stop by when you were in the area-so much fun and a relaxing place to go check out the koi fish and all of the other fish and “critters” that were there.
Capital Aquarium like Tower Records was a historical Sacramento landmark. Sacramento has its priorities all screwed up- I say keep Capital Aquarium, keep our teachers in the schools and drop the Sacramento Kings!

July 25, 2011 | 6:28 PM

I am very saddened and disappointed to see the closing of this wonderful establishment. Best wishes to all associated with the aquarium. Sacramento’s aquarium enthusiast have really have a hole in their hearts without you.

August 7, 2011 | 12:56 PM

I’m heartbroken!!!

December 31, 2011 | 2:10 PM

OMG! I am pushing 60 and for the past 6 years I have been living out of the area. I am moving back in 2 weeks and have been telling EVERYONE how excited I am to be able to go back to “MY” fish store! This relocation is not welcome or voluntary BUT Capitol Fish Store was the one bright spot!!! Before I moved away it was an hour each way to get to “THE Fish Store” but it was the ONLY place I Ever shopped for my lifelong aquatic obsession. NOW WHAT??!! Might as well keep cats instead–

May 11, 2012 | 11:03 PM

OMG!!!!! I can’t believe it! Capitol Aquarium is where I bought my dad a 55 gallon aquarium with money I earned from my first real job working at a West Sacramento icon…The Club Pheasant. I am so sad that I will never be able to take my kids there when we visit. It is a shame when such a wonderful, fun, exciting place is lost do to a lousy economy. Mom used to take us there ALL the time. I loved SMUD and Mobey Dick….as well as the HUGE fish tank. We have spent hours there…also remember begging mom for money to feed the Koi. And the punch cards were the first “rewards” cards. Dam was just talking about this store the other day….now it’s gone.

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