Hiding in the back of a business park off Southwest 34th Street in Gainesville are some of the rarest saltwater fish and corals in the world.
Among the many beautiful treasures are a pair of masked angelfish, which are typically only found in the deep waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands and among the most sought-after marine aquarium fish in the world.
Koral King, which opened Oct. 21 at 4445 SW 35th Terrace, Suite 280, near Swamp Head Brewery, specializes in everything related to saltwater tanks, including custom aquariums and installations, service and maintenance, water delivery, and related dry goods such as salt, sand and rocks.
“We’re trying to be a one-stop shop for everything saltwater,” owner Alan Lee said.
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Lee’s biggest focus, however, is on rare fish and coral.
Swimming around with the masked angelfish at the back of the store are a pair of conspicuous angelfish, a blue face koi tang and a rare tilefish.
Not bad for someone who got their first 30-gallon aquarium just 2 ½ years ago as a hobby during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting up the business
Lee, 19, who grew up in West Palm Beach, said he had that tank for about a year before moving up to a 200-gallon aquarium. He created an Instagram account to share his aquarium adventures, which quickly took off and has grown to almost 40,000 followers.
He said people eventually started asking him if they could buy some of the things in his tank, which got him thinking that maybe a business was possible.
Lee then moved to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida to study business. He quickly decided in October 2021 to begin his saltwater venture and got the keys to his current store in February.
He initially used the building for storage and shipping, as he began to build his business entirely online.
His reputation in the industry began to grow after attending coral conventions in Orlando, New York, Texas and California.
He then decided to allow the public to see the inner workings of his passion firsthand and has spent the last few months getting his showroom ready. He said he has already had customers come through the doors from Sarasota and Jacksonville.
“We’re kind of known to have some of the rarest fish and corals, so people come from all over the place to check us out,” he said.
He said they import coral and fish from overseas as well as buy from domestic wholesalers. Corals come from as far as Indonesia and Australia, and fish from as far as Japan.
Lee said the only curve ball thrown at him during his short time as a business owner is the time commitment.
“It has proven to be extremely difficult,” Lee said of balancing his time between his business and school. “Usually I’m here from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and then I kind of do homework the rest of the night. Then, rinse and repeat.”
Koral King is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.