When it comes to the increase in variety of options of reef products, from aquarium kits and easy-to-use filters and skimmers to programmable controls, it’s almost like the age-old question of what came first, the chicken or the egg. Has the growing interest in reef tanks led to the development of new products? Or have the new products that make reefkeeping easier and more convenient led to the growth of the category?
Whichever way you look at it, exciting things are happening, thanks in part to innovative new products and technologies that make reefkeeping more convenient and accessible for beginners.
“Now that things are easier, it seems almost everyone wants corals in their tank, and then they’re looking for fish that will live with corals,” said Moses Alcala, manager of Ocean View Aquariums in Miami, Florida. “The way things have advanced with technology, it has made the hobby a lot simpler.”
One way to help ease people into the reefkeeping arena is via aquarium kits. Getting the right equipment is one way to help ensure success, and successful fish and reefkeepers turn into regular and loyal customers. Coralife is one manufacturer that offers consumers a turnkey introduction to reef keeping, with its 16- or 32-gallon LED BioCubes. Each glass aquarium comes equipped with LED lighting and customizable filtration systems.
“Our BioCubes are suitable for low to medium light corals, and are perfect for entry level to reefkeepers,” said Andy Hudson, R&D tech at Central Garden & Pet.
Biota Aquariums takes things a step further by including fish and corals with its reef kits.
“The idea behind our product is to get beginners started in marine aquariums with a complete setup,” said Kevin Gaines, owner of Biota Aquariums.
The customer purchases a saltwater kit in the pet shop. The kit will include a Fluval Evo aquarium with LED lighting, a filtration system, live sand, water conditioner, a thermometer, live rock and a month’s supply of food. Once the tank is up and running, the customer contacts Biota to have the livestock shipped directly to their house.
“What we’re trying to achieve is healthy fish, which helps the entire industry,” Gaines said.
The fish and corals that are shipped to customers come from a conditioning warehouse, where they’re transitioned to Biota’s food and checked to make sure they’re healthy before getting shipped to the customer.
“By shipping directly to the customer, we’re eliminating one of the transition points in the livestock’s life, helping improve the condition of the product the customer has at home,” Gaines said.
Shipping directly to the customer might seem unusual to retailers at first. After all, in essence it’s taking away a sale. But the purchase of the kit is just the initial investment. With the goal of establishing a healthy tank, Biota envisions creating long-time hobbyists, which means these customers will be in stores on a regular basis for months and years to come, purchasing food and accessories, and maybe even upgrading the aquarium.
Making things more convenient in reefkeeping isn’t all about getting beginners interested in the hobby. There are a lot of new technological advances that have improved control and convenience that appeal to everyone, from first-time reefkeepers to long-time hobbyists.
One of these is the growth of inter-networking of devices, also referred to as the Internet of Things.
You can turn on your home’s security system when you’re at work and monitor what goes on at your house through cameras that transmit to your smartphone. You can figure out what you need to buy at the grocery store by checking in with your refrigerator. And you can make sure everyone in the family knows to meet up for dinner by putting appointments on cloud-based calendars. And for reef aquarium hobbyists, the benefits this type of technology brings are added convenience and control to reefkeeping.
Hydor’s brand Aqamai has even made its tagline “The Internet of Tanks” to emphasize the connectivity of the company’s products. The line includes two circulation pumps, the KPS and the new KPM, which is a larger pump designed to circulate up to 2,700 gallons per minute. The company is also introducing the LRM LED light in a slim, ¾-inchthick design. All of these products are wirelessly controlled through the Aqamai app, where you can adjust the settings, create customized programs or use preset features to control what’s going on in your aquarium from anywhere.
Neptune Systems also offers an easy-to-use app with its Apex system. You can plug in up to eight devices, including lights and pumps, and use the app to control the features. Th rough the app, you can set up routines that will run in case of a power outage or a change in temperature. The app also monitors temperature, pH, ORP and salinity. Just this fall the company announced a new device, the Trident, which connects to the Apex system to test alkalinity, magnesium and calcium levels.
“The Trident takes away the need for manual tests and manual dosing, adjusting the dosing based on the feedback loop,” said Terence Fugazzi, vice president of sales and marketing for Neptune Systems. “Our motto is, less hassle equals more success. The easier you can make it for people to have healthy aquariums, the longer they’ll stay in the hobby.”
Whether it’s an app to control accessories or a kit for easy setup, the goal of many new reef products is to make it easier for people to enjoy their reef tanks.
“Having a saltwater tank takes dedication, but by making it a little simpler to monitor the system and maybe more fun with the programmable accessories, I think we’ll see people staying with it longer,” Alcala said. “And the longer you stay on top of things with your reef aquarium, the more established it becomes, and the prettier it will be.”