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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 07:23 GMT
Tropical fish make tranquil toilets
By Fiona Murray
BBC News Website

Spending a penny has taken on a whole new meaning in Portadown.

For the town is now flushed with the success of its latest venture - fish in the public toilets.

Olive Woodhouse, staff member at Portadown Public Toilet facility, beside the aquarium
Staff member Olive Woodhouse keeps a close eye on the fish

Well, an aquarium to be precise. Filled with tropical fish, it sits in the lobby of the William Street loos, to be admired by all who are caught short.

Home to 14 fish and with another six due to be delivered, the contemporary aquarium boasts a range of species.

Current occupants include the Congo Tetras from Zaire, Rosy Barb from Northern India, Serpae Tetras from Peru's Amazon Basin, Hora's Loaches from Thailand and the Labidochromis Caeruleus from the Great African Rift Valley.

Portadown 2000, the town's management company, thought exotic fish would be a little more convenient than greenery.

Millennium Court manager Karin Lamb said it was an usual idea, but they had been amazed at the response.

"There has been a mixture of delight, shock and amazement at the fish," she told the BBC news website. "But there has generally been positive feedback.

A tropical fish
Tropical fish are adding to the tranquility of the public toilets

"The toilets recently achieved the British Toilet Associations Best Public Toilet Facility 2007 in Ireland, and we wanted to build upon that.

"We had real plants in the lobby but they died, and it was a member of staff which came up with the idea. We did a bit of research and it was feasible.

"Water is already associated with public toilets and the fish makes them more tranquil."

Three attendants work on a rota basis in the five-year-old toilets ensuring that they are kept up to a very high standard, and hoping to deter vandals.

Staff also ensure the fish are properly cared for and fed and this is coupled with a complex maintenance regime and health checks for the fish.

A toilet
Attendants keep the toilets in top condition

"A feeding schedule has been set up in the morning and afternoon and there are only two days in the week when they do not need fed. They also get special protein tablets," said Ms Lamb.

"It is hoped the various species of tropical fish will adapt and settle in comfortably to their new environment and home in Portadown.

"We are pleased we took the plunge and opted for a new bright and beautiful aquarium instead of purchasing standard, every day plants."

The public toilet facility is open from 0830 GMT to 1730 Monday to Saturday, at a cost of 20p a go.

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