POLICE are investigating a suspected poison attack on a pet shop after hundreds of tropical fish died overnight.
Around 300 of the exotic pets were killed when a thick “carpet of fish food” was poured into six tanks at Paws pet shop in Musselburgh – 24 hours after it officially opened.
Staff believe a suspicious couple left unattended when browsing the animals last Thursday may have deliberately sabotaged the business.
Many of the dead fish were tropical cichlids worth up to £20 each.
The total cost of the damage is estimated at £2000 because several filters will now have to be replaced.
Shop owner Sam Lawson, 24, branded the ordeal “heartbreaking” and told how staff spent six hours removing all the dead fish.
“You wonder what goes through people’s minds,” she said.
“Even if someone had a problem with me, there is no reason to hurt the animals.”
“This has been an attack on Paws.
“Whoever did this, it took thought and planning as they were in and out in a matter of minutes.”
Miss Lawson said overfeeding alone would not have killed the creatures in such a short space of time and suspects fish tanks were laced with a toxic liquid.
She said elevated levels of ammonia were detected in the water and staff claimed the water had turned an unusual orange colour.
A police spokesman confirmed a probe had been launched and called for witnesses to come forward.
He said: “We have received a complaint that someone went into the pet store and poisoned six out of seven aquarium tanks and that the majority of the fish stock were killed.
Jenny Quirk, 30, had been supervising the shop while Miss Lawson spent her birthday with her family.
She believes that an older man and a younger woman went into the aquarium while she was busy dealing with customers in the front of the shop.
“I feel so awful because I was minding the shop,” she said.
“Sam’s the owner and doesn’t take a lot of time off and she was away for her birthday.
“She must have thought ‘I can’t even leave the shop for half a day.’ I feel like I have let her down.”
Miss Lawson, who is now installing CCTV throughout the premises, vowed to bounce back from the blow.
She said: “We are going to get up and running again as soon as possible.”
Dr Martin Brammah, a tropical fish expert, said “an ammonia spike in the water” was one of many possible causes.
He said: “If you have too many fish and then more food is added, ammonia is produced.
“It could have been a problem with the water supply, or even a lose wire.
“If some one poured something like a can of Irn-Bru in that could easily do it, particularly if the tanks are on a centralised system,
“If you wanted to poison them you could do it quite easily.”