John Jorn has a passion for fish.
Or, one might think that since Shillington Aquariums on Calimesa Boulevard has been in his family since 1970.
Jorn, however, is quick to correct anyone who believes it is just his passion.
“Oh no, this is more than that. It’s a sickness,” Jorn says. “Once someone learns how not to kill fish, how can you not have more than one aquarium.”
As customers come into the store, Jorn and wife Jenny offer a friendly greeting and helpful advice. As he talks to customers about his fish, his enthusiasm for his work comes through.
“Oh yeah, this would work great with that,” he says, his voice carrying through the small showroom that is stacked high with tanks and equipment and accessories for them, and features a variety of fish for fresh and saltwater aquariums and ponds, plus coral the Jorns grow themselves.
He asks customers their names, tells them he wants to remember it the next time they come in and then helps them load their purchases in their car. Some of his customers have been coming to Shillington’s since Calimesa was a two stop-sign town and the tropical fish were located in the back of the store and unique one-of-a-kind items from Shillington, Pa., were sold in the front.
“It just started out as a hobby with my dad,” he says, about the fish and the tanks.
Then the Jorns began to notice more customers were interested in the fish than the one-of-a-kind items from Shillington. They kept the name and added the word “aquarium” to let customers know that was the store’s only focus now.
“I really enjoyed it,” Jorn said about working in the store with his family.
He eventually took over the store, he said, when his mom “made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
Shillington Aquariums, which specializes in expert advice and custom setups for the home or office, does not advertise. Jorn says he relies on word of mouth.
“I want to see the people I am dealing with and I like to see where my fish are going,” he says.
Each tank has an individual personality as do the fish inside, Jorn says. He demonstrates his belief by loudly clapping his hands as he stands in front of the giant aquarium in the middle of the store. All the fish, including the blue tang, aka Dory from the “Finding Nemo” movies, race as one to stop right in front of Jorn. They remain grouped as one, seeming to peer at him from the other side of the glass. He races around the tank in circles, clapping his hands, and the fish follow, going in the same direction and stopping when Jorn does.
“The fish know who I am,” he says. Maybe they do.
He jokingly adds about his fish: “We never argue. They don’t wet on my floor and they don’t shed.”
For the past few years, the trend in aquariums, Jorn said, is nano tanks, which typically range in size from 3 to 10 gallons and come in a variety of shapes as well as freshwater or saltwater. Shillington’s sells both.
When considering a nano tank, there is one fact, Jorn says, customers should keep in mind.
“It takes more to contaminate a large tank than it does a small amount of water,” he said.
So while nano tanks can fit in any environment, like an office, dorm room or bedroom, and can cost a lot less than a regular tank, they require more work and are less forgiving when it comes to contaminates, such as aerosols and perfumes. Those, Jorn said, are the main reason people have trouble keeping their fish alive.
“You can’t spray around tanks,” he said. “No tanks are airtight. All tanks have to breathe.”
When it comes to Shillington’s, Jorn says there is something he is very proud of.
“Being in business here and staying here,” he says about his family’s store and Calimesa.
Shillington Aquariums is located at 965 Calimesa Blvd. It is open Thursday through Monday and closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday and Thursday through Saturday, and 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 795-9011 or visit www.shillingtonaquariums.com.