Exotic and rare fish worth thousands of pounds were scooped from their tanks and stolen in a raid on an aquatic shop.

An estimated £15,000 worth of fish, coral and equipment were stolen from CK Aquatics at Wyevale Garden Centre, in South Hinksey, Oxford, during a raid on Saturday night.

Thieves cut through locks on a security gate and forced open a door before taking more than 100 of the most expensive fish from their tanks.

It is believed they left with £8,000 worth of exotic marine life including Angel Fish, Butterfly Fish, Dwarf Angels and Hermit Crabs.

The most expensive fish stolen were Emperor Angels worth £80 each.

A pile of bags - believed to be of the type used to carry away the fish - was left at the scene.

Joint owner Carole Beesley fears the break-in could have been committed to order, because only the specialist fish, and guide books on how to care for them, were stolen.

She said: "I noticed the side gate was open and saw the alarm had been tripped. I then saw the mess inside and just burst into tears.

"If they have stolen to order then hopefully they have been put into proper tanks by now, or as soon as possible, otherwise they will die - they need to be in salt water inside four hours. But if it is a professional job they have probably got somewhere to put them.

"They took all the expensive ones. We are left with just a couple of Clown Fish and lots of empty fish tanks."

No freshwater fish or wildlife from the centre's outdoor ponds, including expensive Koi Carp, were stolen.

As well as the fish, the burglars also escaped with £2,000 worth of rock and coral, and £5,000 of electrical equipment.

Mrs Beesley added: "I am very worried. I don't know where we will get the money to restock.

"Because it was a Bank Holiday weekend we were fully stocked, expecting a busy time. The thieves could have known that.

"We've had some of our more loyal customers come in and everyone is totally mortified."

There has been a marine wildlife shop at the garden centre for the past nine years but CK Aquatics has been run by Carole Beesley and Karen Richmond for the past nine months.

Thames Valley Police spokesman Anamika Madar said it would be speculation to comment on whether they had been stolen to order. Scenes of crimes officers had found an item believed to have been left behind by the burglars, she added.

The raid is believed to have taken place between 5pm on Saturday and 10am on Sunday.

Anyone with information should call police on 08458 505505 or the anonymous Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555111.