When Tara Massarelli got her first fish tank at 12 years old, she didn’t know how quickly it would turn into a lifetime devotion.
“That one grew into another one, and another one, and another one until I had a whole roomful,” Massarelli said. “I had some lizards and things, but I always liked fish the most.”
Now a 36-year-old Flowery Branch native, the impressions from Massarelli’s childhood would motivate her all the way through adulthood.
“When I was 14, I admired my father because of how hard he worked, and I wanted to be a businesswoman like my dad was a businessman,” she said. “My mom has always instilled in me how to take care of things, so I wanted to start my own business when I was little, and I named it My Fishy Business.”
While Massarelli went on to become a firefighter, she wondered about her watery childhood ambitions. After her firefighting career ended, she decided to pursue her old dream.
“One day I was just sitting around and I thought about it, and I wondered how hard it would be to start it,” Massarelli said.
She investigated business plans and researched how to start one online. After discovering it wouldn’t be “that hard,” Massarelli made My Fishy Business a reality. She established a limited liability corporation and obtained a Hall County business license in 2012.
My Fishy Business now has eight regular customers in the North Georgia and Metro Atlanta areas. Massarelli cleans tanks and maintains the environment at pristine levels. She takes care of freshwater, saltwater and brackish water tanks whose owners range from corporate entities to private individuals.
One such client is C.W. Davis Middle School in South Hall County. Massarelli takes care of the tanks for free, viewing it as a community service.
“I always knew that no matter what I did I needed to give back,” she said. “It wasn’t about money or fame. It would just be for something good because that’s what God wanted.”
Massarelli helped Michelle Petersen, a seventh-grade life science teacher, establish a tank in her classroom thanks to a PetSmart Pets in the Classroom grant.
“When we start talking about animals, it really gives us the opportunity to see some of the things we wouldn’t necessarily see on a daily basis,” Petersen said.
The tank enhances Petersen’s students’ education experience by offering them a close-up view of a marine ecosystem.
“We do have corals and hydrozoans, which the textbook references several times but (the kids) have no idea, even with pictures,” Petersen said. “So it’s a lot easier to say ‘Well, it’s grown in the tank, here it is.’”
Massarelli also maintains the tanks in C.W. Davis’ front offices. She enjoys providing the “hardworking” office staff with a glimpse into another watery world in between its daily duties.
“The front office staff and the principal, they just get a lot of joy out of looking at it,” Massarelli said. “That’s the thing I like. I like to do service.”
But one of Massarelli’s most unique clients owns a 47-gallon tank in which they keep two seahorses.
“It’s so magical when I clean that tank,” she said. “(The seahorses) are like little fairies floating around. It’s really neat.”
My Fishy Business’ prices range from $15 to clean a 10-gallon tank to $100 for 55-gallon tanks and above plus $10 per hour of labor.
While she spends her days with the underwater critters, Massarelli insists the human element is the most enjoyable part of her business.
“I think the most fun part is talking to the people,” Massarelli said. “Really the customers that I have are more like family than customers.”