The back of a commercial park on Southwest 34th Street in Gainesville hides some of the world’s rarest saltwater fish and coral.
Among the many beautiful treasures is a pair of masked angelfish, which are normally only found in the deep waters around the Hawaiian Islands and are among the most desirable marine aquarium fish in the world.
Koral King, which opened October 21 at 4445 SW 35th Terrace, Suite 280, near Swamp Head Brewery, specializes in everything saltwater tank related including custom aquarium and installation, service and maintenance, water delivery and related dry goods such as salt, sand, and rocks.
“We try to be a one-stop shop for everything saltwater,” said owner Alan Lee.
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However, Lee’s biggest focus is on rare fish and corals.
Swimming around alongside the masked angelfish at the back of the store are a pair of eye-catching angelfish, a blue-faced koi spike and a rare tilefish.
Not bad for someone who only got their first 30 gallon aquarium two and a half years ago as a hobby during the COVID-19 pandemic.
starting the business
Lee, 19, who grew up in West Palm Beach, said he had this tank for about a year before making the move to a 200-gallon aquarium. He created an Instagram account to share his aquarium adventures, which quickly gained momentum and has grown to nearly 40,000 followers.
He said people eventually started asking him if they could buy some of the things in his tank, leading him to think maybe a deal was possible.
Lee then moved to Gainesville to study business administration at the University of Florida. In October 2021 he quickly decided to start his saltwater project and received the keys to his current business in February.
He initially used the building for warehousing and shipping when he began to build his business entirely online.
His industry reputation 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’s already had clients coming through the doors from Sarasota and Jacksonville.
“We’re known for having some of the rarest fish and coral, so people come from all over to see us,” he said.
He said they import coral and fish from overseas and buy from domestic wholesalers. Corals even come from Indonesia and Australia and fish even from Japan.
Lee said the only curveball thrown at him during his brief tenure as a business owner is the time commitment.
“It has proven extremely difficult,” Lee said of the balance between business and school. “I’m usually here from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and then I do homework for the rest of the night. Then rinse and repeat.”
Koral King is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm and Sunday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm