Location and Hours

7575 University Ave.
La Mesa, CA 91942
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Telephone: (619) 465-5333

10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Monday - Friday
10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Saturday - Sunday
  • pet store pic
  • pet store at night
  • pond
  • koi fish
  • aquarium supplies
  • aquarium equipment
  • aquarium gravel and plants
  • 1000 gallon display tank
  • custom aquarium
  • reef tanks
  • reef aquarium
  • discus tank
  • red discus
  • tree aquarium
  • fish tanks
  • fish tanks 2
  • aquarium systems
  • fish tanks 2
  • fish tanks
  • tree aquarium
  • red discus
  • discus tank
  • reef aquarium
  • reef tank
  • custom aquarium
  • 1000 gallon display tank
  • aquarium gravel and plants
  • aquarium equipment
  • aquarium supplies
  • koi fish
  • pond
  • pet store at night

A trip to Fountain's is a treat for the senses!


pet store history article

California Couple Uses Neon, Custom Fish Displays And Long Hours To Find Success
By Ginny Guidry (As Published in: Pet Product News & PSM, November 1993)

Many years of persistence, hard work and dedication have paid off for Gary and Judy Hoffa, owners of Fountain's Aquarium in La Mesa, California. The Hoffa's recently moved their operation from a 1,500 square-foot converted house to a huge building (a few doors away) stretching 17,000 square feet.

The Hoffa's began building their business in 1975 when they bought Fountain's Aquarium from its original owner, who established the operation in 1950. Today, Gary and Judy, along with their son and daughter, Marc and Jennifer are busy settling into their new and spacious quarters that includes 5,000 square feet of retail space. The remaining 12,000 square feet is dedicated to the Hoffa's wholesale business, San Diego Aquarium and Pet Supply, Inc.

What prompted the Hoffa's to purchase three lots down the street and build a new facility? "We outgrew our old location. We outgrew it several years ago," said Gary, noting that 1,500 square feet wasn't enough space for 10 employees and more than a hundred customers every day. Today the Hoffa's have a staff of 23. The new facility took about a year and a half to build, beginning with buying three lots (with homes), clearing them and working with an architect on the design. "We built this from the ground up," said Gary, noting that one of the most difficult aspects of the job was working with the numerous contractors.

But the benefits of Fountain's luxury of added space certainly outweigh the hard work and difficulties associated with building a new pet store. "The expanded space [is a benefit] and the ability to show a product properly so people can see what we have. It is a lot easier to work in because we're not so crowded," said Gary.

Chances are, whatever Aquarium-related supplies hobbyists are seeking, they will find it at Fountain's. The fish store stocks thousands of fish, including saltwater, freshwater, goldfish, and koi; wet and dry systems; supplies and accessories; and gifts.

Judy, Gary, and their staff, are knowledgeable about the aquarium hobby and can answer questions and give advice. "We specialize in everything to do with aquariums. And what we can't buy, we makeā€¦," Gary said. "We manufacture our own florescent fixture kits, we manufacture a lot of our own aquariums. We do quite a bit of our own manufacturing."

A trip to Fountain's is a treat to the senses. As colorful and vibrant as tropical fish are, so too is the exterior of Fountain's Aquarium. The building is wrapped in a strip of pink neon. The windows, which have been painted with realistic illustrations of colorful fish, are filled with water (thin, tall tanks) that bubble continuously. The building appears to be filled with water - an effect carefully planned and executed by the Hoffa's.

Inside, there's a 35-foot counter area, a pond filled with koi, rows of carefully stocked shelves, numerous gravel bins, aquariums and stands on display and a bagging area, complete with a hookup to pure oxygen and a gravel trap in the sink.

The flooring is a combination of tile and carpeting. The perimeter is tiled and the deep blue carpeting is laid is sections between tile, making in necessary tile replace if necessary.

Bins of feeder fish and brine shrimp are located near the front counter. What's different about these bins are the lids: They are similar to those found on ice cream trucks (they open on the top), from which Gary got the idea. The countertop at the feeder bins, and throughout the store, is made of corian, a practically indestructible (but very expensive) material.

Many aspects of the new building are the result of 20 years of experience, and frustration, Gary said. When they designed the structure, they sought to eliminate difficulties. For example, the lights in the new building are in two locations, making it quick and easy to turn them off. In the old building, it could take 15 minutes to turn off all lights because they were in so many different locations. The counter space is large because the Hoffa's realized many sales take place there. The store is equipped with a tank less hot water heater, which means the hot water supply is endless.

And walking into the fish room is an incredible experience. The tanks, which were designed and patented by Gary, are filled with all kinds of sea creatures. A 4,000-pound "bubble wall" looms overhead. The room is dim, lit only by blue neon and tank lights. What's unique about these tanks are the shapes: Gary designed them to maximize fish display. He said traditional tanks are not a good way to display fish, especially those tanks placed on the bottom shelf.

The tank lights are also unique. Instead of being placed in the lid, waterproof lights are placed in the back of the tank, allowing better lighting on the fish. The tanks do not need to be removed for repair - an awkward and difficult task - because they are all accessible from behind. The fish room is, more or less, a room within a room.

Fountain's tanks are filtered through several systems located behind the scenes. A 47-foot long "pit" houses some 30 pumps, utilizing fluidized beds with bio-balls for re-oxygenation. This state-of-the-art biological method of filtering is effective and keeps tank water crystal clear.

What has made Fountain's Aquarium so successful said Gary, is hard work, being at the pet store seven days a week and paying attention. "Don't get into it unless you plan on working real hard," he said. "We work seven days a week, my wife and I. We take no vacations, whatsoever, except for business trips like to trade shows. She's here from 8 o'clock in the morning to 8:30 or 9 every night; I come in a little later, but I'm here late. The day that she takes off and stays at home she does book work, and we've been doing that for a long time.

"I've heard a lot of people say they are going to retire and get into a tropical fish store. And there isn't any such thing. You don't retire into this business. This is hard work. And to be successful you have to put those hours in."