Fish enthusiast set to open shop in Chadwell Heath

19:11 23 September 2016

Bala Raj with some of the fish in his shop

Bala Raj with some of the fish in his shop


A former bus driver will be swapping tarmac for tanks when he opens his first fish shop tomorrow.

The outside of the shop in Rose LaneThe outside of the shop in Rose Lane

Bala Raj says being paralysed for weeks last year after an operation on a trapped nerve made him realise his ambition of launching Shammi Cichlids in Chadwell Heath.

“I couldn’t move for quite a while,” he said. “I was thinking about it before but after the operation I realised that I had to do it.”

Bala’s enthusiasm for fish is nothing new. The 41-year-old has loved fish since he was nine and has 40 tanks of fish at his home in Harrow Road, Barking.

“They relax you when you sit and watch them,” explained the dad-of-three.

Some of the fish in the shopSome of the fish in the shop

“If you’ve got a problem in your head you just go and watch them and it just goes away.”

With nearly 3,000 fish, Bala’s shop in Rose Lane – which is named after his eldest daughter Shamilla and his favourite type of fish, cichlids – will cater for everyone from the first-time pet owner to those looking for something a little more exotic.

“Normally people start with goldfish to get used to having a fish,” he said.

“You can keep goldfish in a bowl, they don’t need any tanks or filter pressure. As long as you change the water once a week it’s fine.”

At Shammi Cichlids, one of up to 40 different types of goldfish will set you back just £2 or £3, while the shop boasts 24 types of tropical fish and 1,600 varieties of African cichlid for up to a maximum of £130.

“Cichlids are unique because they lay their eggs in their mouth so they aren’t eaten by predatory fish,” enthused Bala, who even drove to Germany last week to snap up some of the best breeds.

Bala will be joined in running the shop by his wife Trina Raj, 34, a trade manager at B&Q, and his children who he says are even more excited than him.

“This is my dream come true,” added Bala. “I love talking about fish, so even if people don’t have money I’m happy to talk to them in my shop.”

The launch takes place tomorrow at 10am. For more information, go to

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