It’s unlike any other fish store you’ve seen


Photo creds: Katie Pulvermacher / The Advance-Titan– Sanctuary Aquatics has a variety of displays with all kinds of fish.

Katie Pulvermacher, News Editor

Walking into Sanctuary Aquatics is an experience unlike entering any other fish and aquarium store.      

LED lights adorn the fish tanks and a 10,000 gallon saltwater reef, creating a whimsical environment. The fact that people commonly ask the owners if they need to pay to be there is a dead giveaway to how unique the shop is. 

“If you want to see something you’ve never seen before, if you want to experience the aquatic beauty of the fish and corals, it pays to stop in and give us a look,” Co-Owner Dean Akavickas said. “It’s the whole experience, it’s the art, it’s the uniqueness. We create an experience and we’re also a store.”

Sanctuary Aquatics, located at 2923 Jackson St., held its grand opening on Oct. 1, welcoming over 1,000 impressed customers, according to Akavickas. 

South American cichlids, African cichlids, platies, mollies, tetras, plecos, discus, angelfish, freshwater stingrays, zoanthids, mushrooms, saltwater coral frag system and clown fish are a few of the many fish and species habitating in Sanctuary Aquatics. 

“This is a really cool store that shows a bit more of what it’s like to keep fish,” customer Christy Nau said. “When you go to Petco or PetSmart, they don’t have nearly as much. It’s good to see a variety of fish. It’s insane.”

Nau said that co-owner Steven Lund has come to her salon for quite some time. He told her about the progress they made on the shop during their five years of development. 

Photo creds: Katie Pulvermacher

“It’s unlike any other fish store you’ve seen,” Lund said. “It should participate in elevating the hobby from the mom-and-pop ghetto 1960’s fish store to where it can be a trendy and valid hobby.”

Lund said various companies do wholesale distribution for fish and corals. The shop orders various fish and plants which show up via FedEx, they are unboxed, transitioned and placed in-store. 

“We’re trying to be as self-sufficient as we can, so we don’t have to buy as much out of here,” Akavickas said. “We have the initial investment of buying the colonies, and from those as they grow we can take pieces off and make what we sell over here. Then we don’t have to keep buying and buying.”

Lund and Akavickas met when Lund was in school at UW Oshkosh, making filtration for aquariums as a side hustle. He worked at a pet shop in Appleton and ended up installing a fish tank at Kyria Child Daycare Center in Oshkosh, a business Akavickas owns with his wife Kathy.

“I was helping [Akavickas] install that tank and one thing led to the next and I was the only one there putting the tank together,” Lund said. “From there, we developed a pretty good relationship. I kept coming in and helping take care of the tank. Now we’re putting a coral farm in his basement. It kept snowballing from there until we were like ‘Let’s open a store.’”

Akavickas said before becoming co-owner at Sanctuary Aquatics, he worked at a factory. He is glad to be where he is now.

“It’s a labor of love,” Akavickas said. “We’ve seen it all grow from the beginning. For about four years, it was just Steve and I. [I’m proud] of all we’ve done with just a few people.” 

One might be shocked that Lund’s favorite thing in the store is the stylophora corals.

“It’s very difficult to get them happy and stay happy for a long time,” Lund said. “They are super happy because they’re fully extended and super soft. That means they’re loving life. That’s an indicator of good health. As long as those continue to do good, then everything’s good.”

Nau said she hopes customers take advantage of the resources in front of them and is excited for the future of the shop.

“Don’t be afraid to ask about proper fish tank set up and maintenance,” Nau said. “There’s a lot of science that goes into it. Some people think they can get a goldfish and shove it in a tank when there’s a lot that goes on. I’m sure they’d be glad to help out.”