Making a Splash
Right before his interview, Caleb Hubert was hard at work putting a plethora of new pet supplies on his store’s shelves. He was quick to jump up and greet every customer that walked through the door. At just 16 years old, Caleb turned on the open sign for his business Caleb’s Aquatics. His love of fish, however, developed at an even younger age.
“When I was 12, I made a YouTube channel about fish for fun,” Caleb said.
Caleb’s Aquatics began as a hobby operated from Caleb’s home. He started with only one tank and a few goldfish.
“It’s how everyone starts, and I made mistakes,” Caleb said. “I went to Noah’s Critters every day, asking questions and checking for new fish.”
That first three gallon tank was soon accompanied by a ten gallon with a different variety of fish. Soon the number of tanks became too much for his dining room and moved to the basement, and then to his parents’ garage.
“When I moved my tanks to the basement, it was still mostly a hobby for me. I saw people on YouTube with their own aquarium rooms, and I wanted that too.”
Caleb describes his business as “extra, extra small” in the beginning – only seeing about two or three customers a week. When he opened his Facebook page, the number steadily grew. By the time he set up the garage, that number jumped up to about 20 people.
“I would message one person to stop by at this time, then I’d go right to the next person, and it was a lot!” Caleb said.
With the closing of Noah’s Critters in 2018 and Walmart’s decision to stop stocking live fish, the demand for fish skyrocketed.
“People were flippin’ out!” Caleb said. “People still wanted fish and didn’t want to drive all the way to Watertown. They were begging for fish. Christina Olson from Noah’s helped me a lot and directed business for fish to my Facebook page.”
Opening a storefront was always the intention for Caleb’s Aquatics.
“About 8 months ago, I was picking up an aquarium from a closed business,” Caleb said. “I was asking them a lot of questions, and then I drove by this building on Main Street with a ‘for rent’ sign.”
A few phone calls later, Caleb’s Aquatics evolved from a hobby business to its own brick and mortar store. Moving in began in February of 2022.
“I had a lot of help from my parents, Bernie and Tina Hubert,” Caleb said. “They didn’t know much about animals, but they knew how to help paint.”
Funding the Passion
Wondering about the finances? That’s all on Caleb, too.
“Obviously there weren’t many costs when I was still at home,” Caleb said. “When things started growing, the cost of heating all the tanks got to be a lot so I paid for that.”
The fish started to pay for themselves. When Caleb would make a profit selling fish, he’d invest that money right back into his business. Caleb bought tanks and other supplies from Noah’s Critters closing sale.
“Some things were gifts. The signs outside were my birthday present.”
Caleb did take out one loan, but the money from that covered a few important items.
“My car is on there, my computer for work, and a few other things,” Caleb said. “I could have added more, but I want to use most of my money to improve the business and not pay off a bunch of loans.”
Having to juggle school, a business, and a social life is tricky, but Caleb makes it work.
“I could be an A+ student, but with everything going on, I’m more of an A to B+ student,” Caleb jokes. “I get everything done at school, and when the bell rings I go right to the store to feed the animals.”
Store hours are another challenge.
“I want to be flexible, but you don’t want to change your hours too much,” Caleb said.
While the fish take up a big part of Caleb’s time, he has other hobbies too. He showed off some of his tech equipment and said he was going to record some games at the State B basketball tournament.
“Some days, I just want to do nothing,” Caleb added. “I want to travel sometimes and I like to camp in the summer.”
Furry, Fishy, Scaly Friends
Caleb’s Aquatics specializes in fish, and the impressive wall of fish tanks is proof of Caleb’s expertise. For those who are looking for cuddlier pets, there will be plenty of other animals as well.
“I’ll carry basically anything but dogs and cats,” Caleb said. He plans to have guinea pigs, reptiles, hamsters, and parakeets on hand, but he’ll also take special orders for other animals.
Live crickets and mealworms to feed scaly, slithery pets will be stocked too.
Caleb has high hopes for his business. Currently, he’s doing most of the work. Eventually, he’d like to hire some help.
“I’m still in high school so I have to focus on that. But after I graduate in a few years, I would like to expand Caleb’s Aquatics.” //
Follow the YouTube channel that started it all by searching Caleb’s Aquatics.
Stay up to date by following @Calebsaquatics on Facebook. Shoot Caleb a message or call him at 605-290-5351.
Caleb’s Aquatics Hours
4 – 7 PM Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
11AM – 5PM Saturday
Closed Wednesdays and Sundays
Address: 418 N Main St.