Creating a Healthy Ecosystem

As pond keeping and water gardening increase in popularity, more and more owners are turning to natural ecosystems as the method of choice for managing their creations.

A properly designed, balanced aquatic ecosystem will provide its owner with years of trouble-free enjoyment, and will be much more stable and aesthetically pleasing, than one that relies on chemical additives and artificial means. It is essential for retailers to understand the dynamics of a balanced aquatic ecosystem in order to provide sound advice and ensure their customers’ success and long-term involvement in the hobby.  The following principles are natural, relatively easy to implement, cost-effective and sustainable. 

The most important aspect of managing a pond or water garden, and the one that gives novices the most trouble, is dealing with nutrients from fish waste.  Even minor accumulation of nitrate and phosphate in a pond can produce unsightly and stubborn algae blooms.

Most algae problems can be traced to an imbalance in the ecosystem.  Conventional methods of algae control have typically focused on the use of chemical algaecides, preventives like barley straw or barley extracts, or filtration media designed for nutrient removal.  While sometimes effective, all of these products or techniques can be expensive and require frequent replacement.  Proper planning in terms of pond size and depth, filtration, stocking, and the use of plants to absorb nutrients, will alleviate the need for artificial methods.

Breaking It Down

Size does matter.  A larger body of water can support more fish, absorb more nutrients, and is more stable than a smaller one.  Bigger is better when it comes to outdoor ponds, so retailers should encourage hobbyists to create as large a feature as their available space and budget can accommodate.

Pond depth is also important.   This is especially important when a large surface area is not possible due to limited space.  A minimum depth of 36 inches is essential, especially if fish are to be kept over winter in climates where the pond will freeze over.

Filtration is even more important, as it determines how much waste can be processed.  Most manufacturers rate their pond filters in terms of gallons of pond water, but make no mention of the number and size of fish they are capable of supporting.  Here again, bigger is better.  Always recommend a filtration system rated at 50 percent to 100 percent higher capacity than the size pond it will be installed on.

Circulation and aeration go hand in hand with filtration.  Supplemental pumps to move water around the pond, fountains, waterfalls, streams or cascades all help to increase the oxygen content in the water, which helps break down waste and process nutrients.  Make sure you recommend these add-ons when getting hobbyists started with their first pond or when helping to solve algae problems.

Stocking density refers to the number and size of fish in the pond relative to gallonage and filtration capacity.  Keeping this low is crucial to maintaining a healthy balance.  It’s important to remind customers that those cute little koi or goldfish will be lunkers in just a season or two.  An overcrowded pond will quickly result in algae problems and maintenance headaches.

It’s fun to feed fish, especially koi, as they become very tame and will eat out of your hand.  But remember, what goes in must come out, and what comes out is pollution and food for algae blooms.  Excessive feeding will overwhelm the filter and quickly lead to nitrate and phosphate buildup.

Most pond fish forage on natural foods available in the pond, so feeding should be done sparingly and limited to what the fish can consume in 2 minutes or less, once a day or even every other day.  It’s helpful to actually demonstrate this in a store pond or aquarium containing pond fish.

Finally, and most importantly, a true aquatic ecosystem is dependent on the use of plants to remove nutrients and maintain good water quality.  Floating plants such as Water Hyacinth and Water Lettuce provide shade and grow rapidly, removing nutrients in the process.

Underwater plants, also known as oxygenators, such as Elodea sp., Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demmersum) and many others have the same effect, however, are best suited for ponds housing goldfish and smaller koi, as larger koi will quickly devour them.

Emergent or marginal plants can be potted and placed on ledges in the pond, and will provide additional nutrient removal.  A heavily planted pond with low fish population will stay crystal clear and require minimal cleaning.

Sometimes referred to as wetland filters, bogs are gaining in popularity among pond owners.  A shallow basin is dug adjacent to the main pond and lined with pond liner material.  Water is pumped from the main pond through a grid of PVC pipe which is covered with pea gravel.  As water wells up, nutrients and pollutants are absorbed by emergent plants planted in the pea gravel. Irises, cat tails, rushes, taros, sweetflag and a variety of other plants that like their feet wet can be planted in the bog, creating a beautiful garden that also becomes an inviting habitat for visiting birds, frogs and other wildlife.  Bogs require little maintenance and provide both beauty and function to any aquatic ecosystem.

By offering your customers the products, equipment and livestock they need, and providing the knowledge and expertise to make them successful, aquatic retailers can develop long-term loyalty and compete effectively with nurseries and home improvement centers in the water gardening marketplace.

EcoTech Marine Receives Award for Responsible Corporate Conduct

EcoTech Marine has been selected as the Small Company winner of the 2014 Societas Award for Responsible Corporate Conduct.

The award recognizes companies with exemplary ethical business practices such as accountability, strong compliance systems and corporate citizenship. The competition, now in its fourth year, is open to all for-profit companies in Eastern Pennsylvania.

“This honor is incredibly humbling,” Tim Marks, president of EcoTech Marine, said. “Since EcoTech was founded more than a decade ago, ethical standards have been a touchstone of everything we do at EcoTech Marine. Doing the right thing is in our DNA. From how we deliver customer service to the design and manufacturing of our products, to how we treat our employees, we are focused on creating an environment and a company that reflects our values.”

The Societas Award was first introduced in 2011, with the goal of honoring  companies that apply ethical business practices in their day-to-day operations.

Founded in 2003, and based in Pennsylvania, EcoTech Marine has helped revolutionize the way people think about aquarium technology, and has raised the industry standard for aquarium equipment.

Its technologically superior products include its VorTech pumps, Radion lighting products, Elements coral glue and accessories.

 

It’s Good to Be a Flake

Despite all the innovations, new products and fish-feeding fads that have come and gone over the years, flaked and pelleted foods remain the most popular fish foods.

It’s really no surprise why. They offer complete fish nutrition in a convenient, no-mess form. But within this broad and established category of foods are new products for retailers to be aware of.

Tetra, part of United Pet Group, has come up with a unique take on flake foods, called Crisps. 

“This food type feeds just like a flake, but with advantages over other flake foods,” Nick Kornblith, senior product manager, consumables, at UPG Aquatics, said. “For one, Crisps are a consistent round shape and float longer than flakes, leaving less waste in the aquarium.”

The production process for the Crisps uses lower temperatures than is typical for flakes.

“Therefore, more vitamins, minerals and trace elements remain to nourish your fish,” he said.

The Crisps are available in three varieties: TetraMin Tropical, TetraColor Tropical and TetraFin Goldfish. Of course, Tetra also offers an extensive array of more traditional flake and pellet foods. These include TetraFin Floating Goldfish Pellets, TetraColor 2 in 1 Cichlid Pellets and TetraColor Tropical Fish Food Flakes.

Cobalt Aquatics’ flake and pelleted foods also contain a unique element. These are the BLUE flakes and pellet.

“Unique to Cobalt is our special BLUE flake or pellet, which contains a triple dose of vitamins and immune stimulants, giving the fish an extra bump to keep their disease resistance at its peak,” Les Wilson, Cobalt’s co-founder, said.

Cobalt also incorporates probiotics into its foods.

“All of our flakes and pellets blends include two species of Bacillus bacteria that populate the fishes gut and support a healthy digestive system,” Wilson said.

Cobalt also has a wide variety of flaked and pelleted diets, including Marine Veggie, Mysis-Spirulina, Goldfish and Pro Breeder.

Innovations in the Category

In June, Piscine Energetics will have a new line of Mysis flakes and pellets on the market, the PE Mysis Energy Flakes and Energy Pellets.

According to Kevin Gaines, vice president of sales and business at Piscine Energetics, these will be the first flaked and pelleted foods available that use whole Mysis instead of Mysis meal.

“You actually see pieces of shrimp in the flakes,” Gaines said. “Whole Mysis yields a high quality product that is very attractive to fish. It allows the high nutritional profile of the shrimp to carry through to the food.”

Mysis contains a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids that are ideal for feeding marine fish. Gaines said feedback from tests with dealers and public aquaria has been very positive.

SeaChem recently launched the NutriDiet line of flaked foods, highly nutritious diets enriched with Chlorella algae. The company added a pelleted diet to this line, NutriDiet Betta. This is a complete and highly palatable diet for bettas made of high-quality ingredients and enhanced with garlic.

Although Fluval, part of Ralph C. Hagen Corp., may be better known for its filters and pumps, it makes a complete line of flakes and pellets for freshwater fish. These include Tropical Flake and Pellets, Color Enhancing Flakes and Pellets, Vegetarian Flakes and Pellets and more. These are high quality, highly palatable aquarium fish diets.

They contain nutritious ingredients such as Atlantic herring, Norwegian krill, green mussels and Spirulina.

“Alternating between Fluval Tropical, Color Enhancing and Vegetarian foods is an excellent strategy to ensure that aquarium fish are provided with crucially important [and] varied nutrition to keep them thriving and colorful,” Francis Yupangco, aquatic development manager at Ralph C. Hagen Corp., said. “Providing fish with a highly nutritious and varied diet will not only keep them healthy and active, but it also helps to promote breeding and other natural behaviors.”

Options, Options, Options

With so many varieties of flakes and pellets available, it can be easy for a retailer to feel lost in a sea of fish food.

Tetra offers some help here with its successful Nutrition System that helps consumers find the right foods for their fish. The system also shows the fishkeeper what supplementary foods might make sense for their aquarium.

“Sales of supplementary foods [in addition to a staple like flakes] are a great opportunity for growth,” Kornblith said. “Introducing consumers to foods such as color foods, granules, tablets and natural treats is key.”

It’s also crucial to know the customer base, so a retailer can stock the flake and pellet varieties that will sell in their particular store.

“A retailer needs to understand their customer base and the type of fish they stock or specialize in; the type of fish the customers keep will dictate what type of formulas they should stock,” Wilson said.

Protecting a Pond

Pond and water garden owners face a variety of concerns when it comes to protecting their spaces, and retailers have a golden opportunity to offer solutions, gain their patrons’ trust and loyalty, and increase sales.

By demonstrating knowledge, offering quality products and helping hobbyists avoid and/or resolve problems, aquatic retailers can enhance their customers’ enjoyment of their ponds and keep them coming back.

Protecting an outdoor water feature typically involves the elements and predators, but introduction of diseases and toxic lawn chemicals are also of concern.  In northern climates winter freeze is the primary concern in terms of the elements, while in southern states excessive heat during summer months can be devastating to fish populations.

Predators typically include wild animals such as herons, cranes, raccoons and even muskrats, minks and large snakes, however free ranging domestic cats are known to hunt and catch fish as well.  Finally, lawn care products can wash into ponds during heavy rains, with devastating results to fish and plant life.

Protection From the Elements

In areas where winter freeze occurs, a pond should have a section that is at least 36 inches deep if fish are to be left out year round, and a deicer and/or aerator should be installed to keep a hole open in the ice for oxygen exchange.

Rolf C. Hagen offers several winterizing kits in their Laguna line that include heating elements and aerators, along with pond netting to keep falling leaves and other debris from accumulating in the pond.

Decomposing organic material not only consumes oxygen but may lower pH to unsafe levels.  These products should be stocked and advertised as autumn approaches.

Oxygen depletion can also occur during extremely hot weather, especially if water circulation is poor.  This is can be potentially lethal to fish in heavily stocked ponds, and is a primary contributor to undesirable algae outbreaks.  Waterfalls, fountains, aerators and additional circulation pumps all help to alleviate this problem.

Many submersible pond pumps such as E. Danner’s Pondmaster line can be fitted with fountain heads to create surface agitation, as well as diverter valves to drive waterfalls or circulate water around the pond at the same time.  Lily pads and floating plants like Hyacinth and Water Lettuce help shade and cool water to improve dissolved oxygen content, and have the added effect of providing fish with refuge from predators.  Water Hyacinth and Lettuce spread rapidly with good sunlight, and help in preventing nuisance algae and green water outbreaks by blocking sunlight and using excess nutrients.  Retailers should stock these plants and promote their use.

Predator Protection

Predatory wildlife such as Blue Herons, cranes, raccoons and even domestic cats are becoming increasingly problematic, particularly in populated residential areas.  Once conditioned to available food, they will return regularly for an easy meal, decimating valuable fish collections.

Offering customers protective devices against these marauders will keep their enthusiasm level high and keep them coming back to your store.  Pond netting can be effective, but detracts from the visual appeal of a water feature and animals can become entangled in them, sustaining injuries and potentially damaging plants and pond equipment as they thrash about in an effort to free themselves.

Herons are territorial by nature and will usually not land where another heron has set up residency.  Artificial life-size herons are inexpensive and easily installed.  They should be moved frequently, however, as live birds quickly figure them out, rendering them ineffective.  Artificial alligators that move around the pond with changing wind patterns are much more effective and can add an interesting visual effect.

The Contech Scarecrow is a motion activated sprayer that hooks up to a garden hose and releases a high velocity water jet when predators approach.  They can be adjusted for spray arc and detector sensitivity for maximum effectiveness.

More recently, ultrasonic repellers like The Guardian are gaining in popularity.  These devices release a high pitched sound that is undetectable to humans but scares predatory animals away.  Many are programmable for specific animals, and have adjustable sensitivity ranges.

Chemical Worries

Another concern for pond enthusiasts is run-off from lawn chemicals that are applied around or near a pond.  Lawn care providers should be well-versed in proper use of their products, but heavy rains can wash these chemicals into a pond, wreaking havoc on fish and plant life.

Ponds that are installed at the bottom of slopes where lawn care chemicals will be used, should have a burm or raised planter bed around them to prevent run-off from entering the water.
Providing pond enthusiasts with sound information and quality products to address their needs will establish retail aquatics shops as go to destinations and ensure success for years to come.

Catering to the Consumer’s Taste

Every pet retailer knows that there exists a seemingly endless variety of aquarium decorations.

Given this, manufacturers continue to produce interesting, attractive, and sometimes innovative new décor items sure to capture an aquarist’s imagination.

Kid Approved

Resin aquarium decorations have long been popular, and there is a tremendous variety of them to choose from. These can range from the classic treasure chests and octopuses to more modern designs.

Paul Demas, project manager at Penn-Plax, Inc., is particularly excited about décor that attracts kids to the aquarium hobby.

“We feel a major effort is necessary to get the next generation involved,” he said. “With that in mind we have put forth great effort in developing ‘kid friendly’ aquarium décor, to help get young people involved in our wonderful hobby. We have found that fun and whimsical décor along with licensed products really captures the attention of the younger demographic. We have some very new and exciting licensed resin aquarium décor that should really appeal to younger hobbyists. Making it fun for kids is what it is all about.”

Some of the new Penn-Plax resin décor items designed with the goal of getting young hobbyists interested in fish keeping feature beloved children’s characters including SpongeBob SquarePants, the Little Mermaid, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and characters from Finding Nemo. Along with these designs are the Gazers, resin skulls with faux ruby eyes.

“All of these items are fun and designed to capture the imagination of the younger hobbyist, as well as the big kid in all of us,” Demas said. “Getting kids started at an early age is critical in building lifelong hobbyists.”

Exotic Options

Blue Ribbon Pet Products has added a wide range of new items to their Exotic Environments line of resin aquarium decorations. There are three pixies to add a whimsical touch to any tank.

Bronze Buddha with Plants, Happy Buddha with Plants, and Buddha Warrior with Plants helps create a serene, mystical environment. For the more fanciful minded consumers, there’s the UFO Crash Cave, the Viking Helmet Cave, and the T-Rex and Triceratops Nests. For those who like bubbling ornaments, Blue Ribbon offers a realistic Bubbling Alligator in two sizes.

All items in the Exotic Environment line are safe for freshwater and saltwater use, and many, like the Driftwood and Ram’s Head Skull, can also be used in terrariums.

Complimenting Each Other

It’s no secret that GloFish are wildly popular. These little genetic marvels have taken the aquarium hobby by storm. Tetra, part of United Pet Group, is launching a line of décor products designed to complement the unique colors and lighting of a GloFish aquarium.

For inside the tank, there are new additions to the GloFish Aquarium Plants and the GloFish Resin Ornaments lines. The plants come in fluorescent and pearlescent colors, and stand out beautifully under an aquarium’s blue lighting. The new varieties are Small White Moneywort, Large White Bacopa, Small Moonrise Pink Bacopa, Medium Moonrise Pink Moneywort and Medium Moonrise Pink Moneywort. The GloFish Resin Ornament line introduces five new additions, featuring natural designs and fluorescent paint highlights that stand out beautifully under blue LED lights.

For outside the GloFish tank, Tetra has two reversible backgrounds: Jellyfish/Anemone and Cityscape/Cave. These will fit aquariums up to 10 gallons and look dazzling under the lighting typical of a GloFish tank.

Recently, manufacturers have started incorporating LEDs into fish tank décor. Aqueon is expanding its popular line of flexible LED bubble wands to include multi-colored models. Multi-Color Bubble Wands change color continuously while creating a decorative bubble curtain in the aquatic habitat. The flexible wands allow for bending around décor and creating that perfect, customized aquarium. For freshwater or marine aquariums, the Multi-Color Bubble Wands are available in 14-inch and 21-inch sizes.

When it comes to selling décor to retail consumers, it’s important to not just consider the individual items you offer, but also to think about the bigger picture.

Can your customers completely outfit their tanks in your store? Do you have a range of different items that match in style?

“Whether hobbyists create a natural environment in their tank or they throw convention aside and choose bold décor pieces, there is a common trend among them: consumers are looking for coordinated décor,” Catherine Langford, product manager of aquarium environments at United Pet Group, said.

Taking advantage of this tendency could mean organizing décor by theme on the shelves or setting up a themed display tank or two in the store to demonstrate the possibilities to your customers.

“One of the biggest trends influencing aquarium décor preferences is what I refer to as the Pinterest effect,” she said. “Consumers have access to endless images of beautifully decorated aquariums and are inspired to recreate these scenes at home. As a result, I expect to see consumer preferences move toward easy-to-shop collections. Retailers can take advantage of this trend by supplying gravel, ornaments, plants, and backgrounds that fall into common themes. The average consumer takes multiple trips to purchase their décor, but with the right product mix, a retailer can inspire a consumer to complete most of their décor purchases at once.”

Welcome to the Fish Bowl

Move over Puppy Bowl and Kitten Bowl, there is a new “Bowl” in town, the Fish Bowl.

Live from PetLife Stadium, fighting fish Mahi Manning and Wahoo Wilson will compete to bring the trophy back to their home “reef.” Five cameras will bring viewers all the action and analytics will score one point for every time a player crosses into the end zone.

The Fish Bowl is the invention of the company, EarthCam, a global leader in delivering world class webcam content, technology and services. Fish Bowl festivities kick off at 3 p.m. Sunday, and be viewed at http://www.earthcam.com/events/fishbowl/2014/.

According to their press release, “these fierce competitors are going tail-to-tail for the ultimate prize in this first-ever match-up. All participants have agreed to play fair and use good sportsmanship, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be an exciting game. And be sure to stick around for a special halftime performance with musical guests, the boys from Liverpool.”

Keeping Tanks Crystal Clear

Aquariums are beautiful, fascinating, and soothing windows into another world, when everything is going right.

When it’s not, aquariums can be a source of frustration and may not look, or smell, at all appealing.

Fortunately, there’s a growing array of water treatments and supplements to both correct and prevent water quality issues from interfering with the enjoyment of the fishkeeping hobby.

Most aquarists use water conditioners, and SeaChem offers a complete line of these popular products. These include Prime, a complete conditioner for both fresh and salt water that removes chlorine, chloramine and ammonia, and Clarity, a reef and plant safe treatment that will remedy any type of clouding.

Another SeaChem conditioner is Stability, a supplement of beneficial bacteria that establishes the biofilter in a new tank. The use of bacterial supplements is a growing trend among both freshwater and saltwater hobbyists.

“Our Microbacter7 and Reef Biofuel are the basis of new wave of biological nutrient management,” Phil Edwards, scientist at Brightwell Aquatics, said. “As a scientist, I’m really excited to see people using biology instead of just chemistry to achieve long-term and stable fixes for their aquariums.”

Microbacter7 rapidly establishes the necessary bacteria for biofiltration for marine and freshwater tanks. Reef Biofuel provides a carbon source for rapid bacterial growth.

In the bacterial supplement category, Fluval offers the Biological Enhancer for establishing and maintaining healthy levels of beneficial bacteria, and Biological Aquarium Cleaner, which contains bacteria that reduce organic wastes and keep the aquarium cleaner.

Water treatments, supplements, and testing are taking on a 21st century feel with the release of apps and testing machines. Tetra, a division of United Pet Group, is making testing and treating a tank easier than ever with a free smart phone app, according to Tim Plafcan, senior products manager at United Pet Group Aquatics.

“You just test your water with a Tetra EasyStrip and then match the color on the app,” he said. “The app calculates your aquarium volume, the water treatments you need and the dosage to maintain optimum water quality.”

Innovative Testing

One of the most innovative approaches to water treatments is the Thrive Water Lab from Thrive Aquatics/Blue Ocean Corals. It is a free-standing water testing and solution center available to retail stores.

“It’s like a water testing ATM,” Dean Tapper, vice president of sales at Blue Ocean Corals, said.

Customers will be able to bring in a water sample and have it tested by the Water Lab. The Lab provides a printout that tells them the exact problems with their water and what products address those problems.

The Lab walks customers through the steps and even asks questions, such as, “Do you have a dead fish?” or “Is the water cloudy?” Then, tests are suggested for those problems. The retailer charges a fee for the various tests and the Lab drives product sales by allowing the consumer to “The Thrive Water Lab turns the retail store into a destination for fish keepers,” says Tapper.

It will be available early this year.

While Thrive Aquatics may be best known for marine products, the company has brand new pond and freshwater supplements coming out in 2014. These will be a full range of treatments and supplements, everything from water conditions to pH adjusters. These products make adding treatments into an easy, step-by-step process that addresses the cause of the problem, not just the symptoms.

The Type of Tank

“Among freshwater hobbyists elaborate planted aquariums are becoming increasingly popular,” Francis Yupangco, aquatic development manager at Rolf C. Hagen Corp., the producers of Fluval, said.

Fluval and other manufacturers have plenty of products to help out the growing number of planted tank hobbyists. For example, Fluval Plant Micro Nutrients is a balanced supplement essential for healthy, vibrant aquarium plants.

A company known mainly for saltwater products, Brightwell Aquatics, also has a complete range of supplements for freshwater planted aquariums. This line includes FlorinGro, which provides plants with vital nitrogen along with a growth accelerant, and FlorinDelta GH+, which establishes an optimal mineral balance in water that has been purified, as well as a range of mineral supplements to fill the needs of every planted tank enthusiast.

SeaChem’s Aquavitro line provides the planted tank keeper with everything he or she needs to keep those plants in top condition. The Aquavitro line includes Premier, a water conditioner specifically for planted aquariums, and Envy, a supplement of vitamins, amino acids, and other nutrients for aquatic plants.

It seems like there are always new products available for the growing reef hobby, and that, of course, includes new supplements.

“Fluval has recently rolled out a number of exciting marine liquid supplements and bacteria to make aquarium keeping easier and more enjoyable,” Yupangco said. “Fluval Sea Marine Supplements is composed of seven unique reef aquarium products formulated with ultrapure ingredients. Reef aquariums can house a diverse mix of corals, many of which will deplete specific compounds at different rates. Fluval Sea meets all their needs.”

This line also includes Fluval Sea 3-Ions Supplement, Fluval Sea Alkalinity, Fluval Sea Calcium, Fluval Sea Trace Elements, and more.

Boyd Enterprises manufactures Vita-Chem, a vitamin supplement that helps to boost the health of fish and invertebrates. It is available in freshwater and marine formulas. Additionally, Chemi-Clean is a product that treats for stains from cyanobacteria and helps removed trapped organic sludge.

The GloFish craze is still going strong, and soon there will be water treatments just for these popular fish.

“We will be launching all new water care and nutrition items that focus on keeping your fish bright and colorful,” Plafcan said. “Based on vast research collaboration between GloFish and UPG, we have identified nutritional additives that strengthen and enhance the coloration of fluorescent proteins, which is what makes the fish so colorful. For care, we have a new water conditioner with stress reducers and immunostimulants to strengthen your GloFish and maximize color potential.”

Getting an Early Start

Pond and pond keeping is a category that has continued to expand and gain popularity.

The New Year is the perfect time to start carrying all the products you will need for the upcoming pond season.

“It’s definitely an expanding category and it’s getting much easier for a traditional pet store to be able to offer some of the products in the pond category,” Damian Hall, senior marketing manager for Rolf C. Hagen, said. “You can look at specific types of nutrition and food, also the water treatments and consumables. There is definitely synergy there that is making it easier for a traditional pet store to get into the category. We have always tried to get people into it because it’s really easy to carry some of the accessories.”

January is one of the best times to start talking about pond and pond accessories in your store and with your customers. From a retailer perspective, it is the beginning of all the different trade shows that support pond and pond accessories.

What to Stock

In January, it’s important to stock the basic items that customers will need each year.

“One of the first things you should stock is water treatments,” Hall said. “Those are the items that people are going to want at the beginning of the year. In the beginning of the year, when you open your pond, you will want to wait till the temperature gets to be around 50 degrees, 45 to 50 degrees, depending on your area. Your pond is kind of just starting to wake up. At that point, you need to clean your pond and start feeding your fish. In the spring and in the fall you need to give your fish a high protein diet and be fattening them up. Much like an aquarium, as you are taking some water out and you are cleaning the leaves that fell in during the winter, you will want to do a little bit of water treatment.”

Hagen offers several different kits and water treatments, including their Laguna Pond Maintenance kit that makes tap water safe for fish and plants.

The Microbe-Lift KH Active Booster is meant for tap water, and water changes to help when a pond carbonate levels fall below the necessary level.

If a customer’s pond Koi and goldfish have become ill, Tetra produces a Pond Koi and Goldfish Treatment that treats infected fish by protozoan parasites including Ick or White Spot. It will treat and prevent pond fish diseases.

Getting Ready for Spring

After your accessories are stocked, a lot of customers will be coming to your store during spring.

“In spring, pond keepers are going to be visiting your store,” Hall said. “In the beginning of the year it is important to have those basic accessories. You may need a new net, new media for your filter. All those things you buy every year, that’s what I recommend for that store to carry.”

Aquascape features several different size nets that include heavy duty extendable handle nets and mini pond nets.

Nycon has large to small nets and skimmers to clean every area of a pond.

With Filter Media, Pond Logic features the BioBalls, that are an easy to clean and reusable filter media to keep water healthy and clear.

TetraPond also has several different replacement foam filtration medias. All of their medias help remove suspended matter and debris while improving water quality.

New Regulations Could Impact Coral Trade

As most readers are probably aware by now, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service is in the process of considering listing a number of species of corals, several of which are very common in the aquarium trade as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Following requests from several organizations including the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, NOAA recently announced it would extend its review period for the proposed coral listing by 6 months because of the “substantial disagreement … regarding the sufficiency and accuracy of data and analyses relevant to the 68 proposed listing determinations.”

PIJAC notified NOAA that it was working with JEN “Charlie” Veron to update his Corals of the World reference series into an open-access online database so that NOAA would have access to up-to-date scientific data.

NOAA/NMFS is also reviewing a petition to list ocellaris clownfish and several damsel species under the ESA. The Center for Biological Diversity recently notified NOAA of its intent to sue because NOAA has yet to act on the fish proposals.

Its title, “Lawsuit Launched to Save Clownfish That Inspired Finding Nemo”, speaks to the insidious tactics these organizations use to elicit emotional (rather than rational) support for their agenda. After all, who wouldn’t be willing to gloss over some boring science if it meant saving “Nemo?”

During the recent Marine Aquarium Conference of North America, Julian Sprung, of Two Little Fishes and long-time PIJAC member, delivered an eye opening presentation on the harsh realities of what any potential ESA listing will mean to home propagators and commercial aquaculturists and retailers alike.

Sprung delved into the legal ramifications of listing; a much-needed reality check for the reef hobbyist community who at times believe that these sorts of regulatory issues don’t or won’t affect them.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Listings under ESA can result in not only bans on importing the listed species, but also a ban on interstate movement.

For years, PIJAC has been working behind the scenes to help prevent legislation that would potentially cripple the aquarium, and, on a larger scale, pet, industry. But due to the unprecedented scope of these recent attacks on the marine aquarium trade, the extent to which they would affect the average marine hobbyist, and the pressing need for funding and support, the leaders of PIJAC’s Marine Subcommittee realized that for their efforts to succeed they needed the full backing of both the hobby community and the commercial industry.

Faced with a flurry of anti-marine industry activity at both the federal and state level in 2013, PIJAC’s Marine Subcommittee launched a Marine Defense Fund so concerned members of the industry and hobbyists could provide much needed funding to defend the industry, help fund Dr. Veron’s project and deal with a number of proposals in Hawaii as well the proposed ESA listings.

Many feel that ESA listing would not affect them, saying “I get my corals through frag swaps” or “I only deal with aquacultured corals/fish.” Some say that they are in favor of protecting reefs and that the trade shouldn’t import wild corals anymore to begin with.  Such opinions ignore the substantial amount of maraculture practices both here and abroad as part of an important sustainability initiative to preserve coral resources.

As Julian made eminently clear in his talk, ESA listing has the potential to devastate domestic and foreign aquaculture on every level. And despite the broad impact it will likely have, ESA listing of corals is just one of many threats the hobby and industry currently face.

It is important for everyone in the commercial sector to spread the word not only with their customers, but also others in the marine industry including suppliers or competitors.

Providing support through PIJAC’s Marine Defense Fund will ensure that the marine community is at the table, has a strong advocate, and that its voice will be heard at all levels of government.

For more information, contact: Sandy Moore at sandy.moore@segrestfarms.com, Chris Buerner at Chris.Buerner@qualitymarine.com or Marshall Meyers at marshall@pijac.org.

–  Mike Tuccinardi and Marshall Meyers

Zeroing In On Aquatics

It was several years in the making, but when it finally happened, the first Aquatic Experience Chicago, produced by the World Pet Association, was by all measurable means a success.

“It exceeded expectations,” Doug Poindexter, president of the World Pet Association, said on the last day of the three-day event held at the Schaumburg Convention Center, just outside of Chicago. “Talking with vendors, retailers and consumers, it was more than they expected from all standpoints. It created a really good foundation for the show to take off.”

The goal of the show was threefold, a trade event that attracted retailers, a show that brought in advanced hobbyists and great speakers and an event that drew families, he explained.

Although final attendance numbers were not immediately available, initial estimates showed they well surpassed their estimated goal of 2,000 attendees by more than 1,000. There were over 100 retailers who pre-registered for the event, which translated to about 400 people, because many of them, especially local ones, brought multiple people from their stores.

For example, Christopher Hall, the manager of Wilmette Pet Center, brought two of his employees to the show with him, while others from the store attended the day before.

Hall said they use the show as a learning experience, as well as to see what’s new.

“We are focused on the consumer,” Hall said. “So, I want them to learn from the vendors. Learn the terms, hear that enthusiasm that they have when dealing with customers.”
There were two important trends those attending the show continually pointed out; the need for an aquatics-only event and getting younger generations involved in the hobby.

“It is a great opportunity especially for stores, because they get to see both salt and fresh water in one place,” Poindexter said, explaining that at other large industry trade shows there is such a focus on dog and cat products that the aquatics get lost.

As Aaron Kline from Acurel pointed out, a hybrid show like this can create a positive manufacturer, retail, consumer cycle.

“For retailers, they get to see a lot of products they may have never seen before, that maybe their sales rep hasn’t shown them,” he said. “For the consumer, we give them a sample of something, they use it and like it and then go back to their local store and ask, ‘do you have that?’ It gives everyone an opportunity to try things out.”

Zeb Hogan, aquatic ecologist and host of National Geographic Channel’s “Monster Fish,” was the keynote speaker during a special banquet the second day of the show.

“There is an underlying passion for fish that I don’t see very often,” Hogan said of the event and those that attended it.

In an effort to pass that passion on to the next generation, there were activities geared directly to children, including a kid’s aquarium contest.

Sponsored by Seachem and United Pet Group, kids were challenged to design a fish freshwater aquarium that reflects their personality or showcases their favorite hobby.

Not All Ingredients Are Equal

With all the brands and varieties of fish foods available, it can be hard to know which foods are best for your customers, not to mention the fish in your own tanks.

“There are always new buzz words and trends that come up, natural, eco-friendly, probiotics,” Kelly Randall, marketing director at OmegaSea, said. “We always encourage hobbyists and retailers to dig deeper. Beyond the buzz words, how is this food really better? The only way to truly tell is to check the ingredients. Marketing is marketing, but ingredients tell all.”

OmegaSea’s OmegaOne line of frozen fish foods offers a complete diet of frozen seafood, essential vitamins and omega fatty acids. The mini cubes create less waste in the water, and they float for easier feeding. They are available in 10 varieties, including cichlid, reef, discus and freshwater and marine veggie formulas.

Andy Schmidt, owner of Ocean Nutrition, agrees that ingredients are critical.

“Real ingredients, like 20 percent sponge in the new Frozen Angel Formula or 10 percent sea urchin in the new Frozen Trigger Formula make our foods more palatable and digestible,” he said. “Another of the major new items is probiotics in the Frozen Pygmy Angel Formula.”

Piscine Energetics is another company that pays close attention to their ingredients.

“Our Mysis are from a freshwater lake, which reduces the risk of introducing parasites to marine fish,” Kevin Gaines, vice president of sales and business development, said.

In a unique and patented process Piscine Energetics nets them into a tube feeding into a catch boat and freezing them while they are still alive and full of nutrition.

“Mysis are high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the ideal 3-to-1 ratio for marine fish,” Gaines said. “Many freshwater fish can benefit as well. The Daphnia the Mysis eat feed on algae and phytoplankton, making the Mysis themselves extremely nutritious.”

Piscine Energetics will be bringing their high-quality Mysis to the dry foods section of pet stores, starting in the spring of 2014, when they will have Mysis flakes and pellets available.

SeaChem has launched a new line of fish foods, called NutriDiet. These are highly nutritious flake foods, enriched with Chlorella algae, GarlicGuard and vitamin C. They are available exclusively at independent pet and aquarium retailers and come in eight varieties: Tropical, Marine, Cichlid, Goldfish and four specialty flakes, MarinePlus, Chlorella Algae, Shrimp and Discus.

Looking at Trends

Chris Clevers, president of Hikari, elaborated on the topic of ingredients.

“For us the new trend is the identification of novel ingredients, which we have found help the fish better utilize the uniquely balanced formulation that includes these ingredients,” he said. “Additionally, the inclusion of a proprietary probiotic also has proven to assist some fish.  For this reason we have spent considerable time at the Hikari Aquatic Lab working to identifying and verify those fish which benefit from this type of ingredient in their food.  We also have some new technology we’re testing that could prove to be beneficial for corals and inverts that we are hoping to introduce in 2014.”

Hikari’s line of dry foods includes something for every fish keeper. For saltwater hobbyists, Marine-A and Marine-S diets, for large and small marine fish respectively, provide most types of fish with well-rounded nutrition. Hikari’s Seaweed Extreme diet is perfect for herbivorous marine fishes. They offer a full range of pelleted, frozen and freeze-dried foods for koi, freshwater fish and goldfish, along with more specialized diets for marine angels, discus, cichlids and invertebrates.

“For us developing species specific diets has allowed us to show consumers what the proper choice and blend of specific ingredients can do to help their fish look better, be more active and live a long and health-filled life,” Clevers said. “Our keen insight from the breeding and fish wholesaling side of our business really helped us identify specific ingredients that certain species needed to really develop in to the beautiful specimens consumers are looking for.”

Cobalt Aquatics line of foods also includes some species-specific diets.

“Cobalt just recently partnered with the world famous Discus Hans and brought his hatchery recipe to the public in both a flake and pellet form and the sales have been tremendous,” Les Wilson, co-founder of Cobalt Aquatics, said. “Other niche diets like our innovative Mysis-and-spirulina, and our pro-breeder conditioning formulas are also good sellers and provide the independent dealer a point of differentiation that they can offer that is very hard to do in a big-box environment.”

Wilson offers these thoughts on innovation in the food category.

“Fish food in general has historically been a fairly steady category as far as innovation and trends go,” he said. “However, in the past year or so there have been many new innovative products, including Cobalt foods being the first to feature probiotics, along with frozen mysis shrimp, soft pellets, and the explosion of coral specific feeds have reshaped and really redefined the category of what was fish foods and now should be more accurately labeled as aquatic nutrition category.”

Zeroing In On Aquatics

It was several years in the making, but when it finally happened, the first Aquatic Experience Chicago, produced by the World Pet Association, was by all measurable means a success. 

“It exceeded expectations,” Doug Poindexter, president of the World Pet Association, said on the last day of the three-day event held at the Schaumburg Convention Center, just outside of Chicago. “Talking with vendors, retailers and consumers, it was more than they expected from all standpoints. It created a really good foundation for the show to take off.”

The goal of the show was threefold, a trade event that attracted retailers, a show that brought in advanced hobbyists and great speakers and an event that drew families, he explained.

Although final attendance numbers were not immediately available, initial estimates showed they well surpassed their estimated goal of 2,000 attendees by more than 1,000. There were over 100 retailers who pre-registered for the event, which translated to about 400 people, because many of them, especially local ones, brought multiple people from their stores.

For example, Christopher Hall, the manager of Wilmette Pet Center, brought two of his employees to the show with him, while others from the store attended the day before.

Hall said they use the show as a learning experience, as well as to see what’s new.

“We are focused on the consumer,” Hall said. “So, I want them to learn from the vendors. Learn the terms, hear that enthusiasm that they have when dealing with customers.”

There were two important trends those attending the show continually pointed out; the need for an aquatics-only event and getting younger generations involved in the hobby.

“It is a great opportunity especially for stores, because they get to see both salt and fresh water in one place,” Poindexter said, explaining that at other large industry trade shows there is such a focus on dog and cat products that the aquatics get lost.

As Aaron Kline from Acurel pointed out, a hybrid show like this can create a positive manufacturer, retail, consumer cycle.

“For retailers, they get to see a lot of products they may have never seen before, that maybe their sales rep hasn’t shown them,” he said. “For the consumer, we give them a sample of something, they use it and like it and then go back to their local store and ask, ‘do you have that?’ It gives everyone an opportunity to try things out.”

Zeb Hogan, aquatic ecologist and host of National Geographic’s “Monster Fish,” was the keynote speaker during a special banquet the second day of the show.

“There is an underlying passion for fish that I don’t see very often,” Hogan said of the event and those that attended it.

In an effort to pass that passion on to the next generation, there were activities geared directly to children, including a kid’s aquarium contest.

Sponsored by Seachem and United Pet Group, kids were challenged to design a fish freshwater aquarium that reflects their personality or showcases their favorite hobby.

Healthy Fish Equals Happy Customers

Aquatics retailers face big challenges in keeping their livestock healthy. With so many fish and invertebrates moving through the store, there are bound to be occasional problems.

But, unhealthy fish can create problems in customers’ tanks. So, it’s always worth your while to ensure the health of your aquatic livestock.

“Retailers don’t have it easy when it comes to maintaining fish health, most don’t have the facilities nor the staffing to quarantine fish separately from their sales floor so all their fish are on display to their customers at all times,” Mike Tuccinardi, marketing director at Segrest Farms, said. “This makes it essential that all their fish are looking their best. Really staying on top of water quality is key as is learning to recognize and treat disease before it turns into an outbreak.”

What is the most important practice Segrest Farms uses to keep their fish healthy?

“I think it really comes down to the visual inspections our fish health staff do multiple times a day,” Tuccinardi said. “Having someone knowledgeable and experienced actually walking through our buildings, taking the time to look at each tank and spot check fish for signs of disease or stress is the single best way to prevent health issues before they have a chance to get out of control. And that holds true whether you’re a small retailer or large importer/distributor.”

It’s All About The Water 

While observation is key for heading off fish health problems, there also are numerous products available to prevent health problems by maintaining water quality. Keeping excellent water quality makes it much less likely that a problem will develop.

It’s good practice to use a few of these in-house and observe the results. This will help you better advise customers who are having problems with the health of their own fish.

Many products support fish health by removing toxins or impurities from the water. No matter what the exact water quality issue may be, there is likely a product to remedy it.

These include Anti-Nitrate Media and Anti-Phosphate Media from Cobalt Aquatics. These are resins that absorb the respective toxins, creating healthful conditions for fish and invertebrates, although the Anti-Phosphate Media should be used carefully in planted tanks because plants need some phosphate in the water.

Chemipure from Boyd Enterprises is a multipurpose filter media. Chemipure is a blend of activated carbon and resins designed to stabilize pH and remove ammonia, nitrate, copper, other metals and phenol from the water, ensuring a healthy environment for the fish. The Chemipure Elite line adds ferric oxide to the original Chemipure media, so it will filter out phosphates and silicates as well. Chemipure is safe for freshwater and marine tanks.

AquaSafe PLUS BioExtract formula water conditioner from Tetra, United Pet Group, neutralizes harmful chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals, making tap water safe for fish.
This product contains seaweed extracts, which support the development of beneficial filter bacteria for healthy and clear water. It is safe for marine and freshwater fish.

EasyBalance Plus water treatment, also from Tetra, benefits water quality in many ways. It reduces phosphates, stabilizes pH, and replenishes essential trace elements and minerals.

This formula contains Nitraban, nitrate-reducing granules. These are biodegradable and are broken down by the beneficial bacteria present in the tank.

Tim Plafcan, senior product manager at United Pet Group Aquatics, believes that alkalinity and pH decline are likely the move overlooked factors affecting fish health.

“Studies have shown that even monthly 20 percent water changes may not be enough to replenish essential buffers and minerals,” he said. “In turn, long term pH decline can cause problems, and that’s why we recommend using a product such as EasyBalance.”

Keeping Them Healthy

Tuccinardi also swears by the addition of aquarium salt.

“The one thing that I think is most overlooked by retailers is the use of salt as a stress reducer and disease preventative,” he said. “Having the right TDS [total dissolved solids] levels can mean the difference between a system full of fish that arrived rough but look great the next day or a systemwide ich outbreak. Just make sure you’re testing levels and adjusting as necessary. A $30 TDS pen can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in losses over the course of a year.”

Don’t overlook the role that diet plays in keeping fish healthy. It’s important feed a high-quality diet appropriate to the species in question.

“All of our flake and pellet feeds include probiotic bacteria in the form of Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus licheniformis in a concentration of 1,000,000 CFU/g,” Les Wilson, cofounder of Cobalt Aquatics, said. “When the food is consumed, the probiotic bacteria populate the gut of the fish and support a healthy digestive system.  In addition all of our foods contain the Cobalt Blue flake that is super-packed with immunostimulants and a triple-vitamin boost which help the fish fight off disease and helps keep it in top shape and color.”

Keeping the fish and invertebrates you sell in top condition is the first step to helping your customers avoid fish health problems. To get their return business, offer them a wide range of health-maintaining products and your expert advice to address their particular needs.

Aquatics Industry Sees Growth Despite Industry Reports

Is there growth in the aquatic category?

The answer is yes.

I’ve been involved in the aquatic field since the ‘70s and although this pet industry category is no longer the driving force it was back before computer toys and electronic gadgets diluted the pastime of tropical fish keeping, I am heartened by the steady growth our organization is seeing in the aquatic specialty stores across the country.

While the industry surveys tell us the aquatic category is in decline, that’s not what we’re seeing at the independent aquatic specialty store. As part of our service to our vendors, Market Strategies calls on aquatic retailers nationwide and we’re consistently hearing from the store owners that they’re doing better than the year before.

We first began to notice the inequity between what industry surveys were saying verses what we were hearing from store owners as far back as 2009. Remember the economic panic we all experienced back then? The downturn in the economy hit the aquatic category too, but since then our indicators have shown nothing but increases.  Since national industry surveys rely on input from their category-diverse database, we believe the outcome may devalue the aquatic category in favor of the much larger dog and cat food segment in general merchandise stores.

While pet retailers with small basic aquatic sections holding a few standard varieties of freshwater fish may have seen a decline, this is not indicative of the whole category. Consumers are getting smarter about spending and go where the variety and knowledge is available to spend their hobby dollars.

In my opinion, the independent aquatic retailers who have invested in, and are selling the latest technology, have seen their sales grow each year between 2010 and today. One of the important reasons for this is the average independent aquatic retailer stocks more than three times the amount of aquatic SKUs in their average 2500-square-foot store than the big chains do in their 10,000 plus square-foot locations.

Another indicator convincing me the aquatic category is on the rise is the aquatic vendors we represent have realized growth every year from 2008 to 2012. We’ve seen that if you produce a product the consumers want, there is no shortage in sales for that product. Aquatic retailers who understand their business aren’t afraid to invest in products they know will sell.

One more indicator has been the increased attendance at aquatic consumer shows. A great example of this is the local Denver Reef Stock Show which had 200 attendees their first year in 2008 and by 2013, attendance was well over 2000.  Every year the MACNA and Reefapolooza aquatic consumer shows are well attended and the industry has taken note of this by offering new venues such as WPA’s “Aquatic Experience,” a major consumer show scheduled for Nov. 15-17, 2013 in Chicago.

If you doubt the potential of the Aquatic Category just look at the example of Philips Feed acquiring Royal Pet Supplies, a major aquatic distributor. Other large feed distributors are also looking into this growth opportunity that aquatics will add to their bottom line in the future.

Although the channel of distribution has changed for the livestock industry, the growth has still been quite positive.  Existing fish wholesalers are expanding and specialty wholesalers are opening to meet the demand of the growing reef and live plant sectors.

Through our field surveys we have seen the general growth in aquatic livestock sales climb to over 10 percent a year since recovering from an all-time low back in 2008. That’s better growth than many stocks on Wall Street can offer and encourages investment in the category.

RD Webster

Selling Fish Tank Decors Relies Heavily on Customer Preference

With such a bewildering variety of fish tank décor available, it can be hard to know which ones will resonate with customers. The first step to finding the right selection is to know what’s out there.

It’s useful to think of fish décor as being divided into two major categories, natural and natural-appearing decorations versus artificial or unrealistic items. Most items will fall in one of these categories. To please all customers, it’s wise to have a mix of both.

Philip Chau, owner of Pristine Aquariums in Alexandria, Va., sees a preference for the more natural items in his store.

“Driftwood is our best-selling decoration, especially Malaysian driftwood,” he said. “The Malaysian driftwood is popular because it’s dark and it sinks. This is a problem with other woods, which usually float. We probably sell over a thousand pounds of driftwood in a matter of a few months.”

Chau elaborated on topic of naturalistic décor.

“Artificial plants sell well,” he said. “They are a staple. The most consistent sellers are live plants and driftwood. Rocks sell well too, especially for cichlid tanks. Lace rock and reef rocks are best for African cichlids. They help raise and maintain the pH, which is ideal for these fish.”

Oliver Vallier, co-owner of University Aquarium and Pet Shop in Ann Arbor, Mich., sees more sales in the less-realistic items.

“Castles, structures — like ruins— and boats are some of our best sellers.”

Both men agree that when it comes to replica plants, the more natural-appearing ones are better sellers than the neon or otherwise brightly colored models.

Getting Creepy

Replica skulls have long been popular, and there are some interesting new types ready to bring a creepy touch to aquaria.

“[We have] some really cool new skulls and dragon skulls that have these ruby eyes that really pop out in an aquarium,” Paul Demas, project manager at Penn-Plax, Inc., said. “They are called Gazers.”

There are three different types of ornaments within the Gazer line: Skull-Gazers, Dragon Skull-Gazers and Tiki Gazers. All are made of durable, aquarium-safe resin.

The Skull-Gazers look, more or less, like human skulls with red-jeweled eyes and swim-through holes. They come in two sizes and plain, Celtic, and tribal designs.

The Dragon Skull-Gazers seem to come right from the pages of your favorite fantasy novel, with draconic horns and mesmerizing jeweled eyes.  The Tiki-Gazers are obviously not skulls, but instead resemble Polynesian idols.

These come in two different hand-painted designs, each with the ruby red eyes unique to the Gazer line.

Of course, Penn-Plax makes less fanciful skull decorations for aquaria, too.

Their Deco-Replicas are highly realistic — except for size — resin skulls. These come in four different designs: alligator, ram, rhino and wooly mammoth.

The Classic Look

Many of the classic décor items also remain good sellers.

“Ships are always one of our most popular décor items,” Demas said. “Action ornaments are still popular to this day. People get a real kick out the moving parts and bubbles. Skeletons with treasure chests are as popular now as when they first came out, decades ago.”

These ornaments require air pumps to run, creating an additional sale.

Play to the Kids

Parents often buy aquarium décor with the kids in mind. There is an enormous variety of products aimed at the young aquarist.

Penn-Plax makes décor and aquarium kits featuring SpongeBob Squarepants, the Little Mermaid and Dora the Explorer, to name a few.

Vallier has found the SpongeBob-themed items to be especially popular in his store, while Chau sees parents buying glow-in-the-dark ornaments for kids, even though the parents often want something more naturalistic.

What’s New?

One of the new trends in aquarium decorations are items that incorporate LEDs.

“We are selling a lot of the new underwater LEDs,” Vallier said. “There’s a ring that bubbles and a 20-inch bar with color-changing lights. There’s an LED volcano. These have become really popular.”

Pam Morisse, associate brand manager at Central Aquatics, agrees that LED décor is a popular trend.

“The Aqueon Flexible LED Bubble Wand is the perfect touch to your freshwater or saltwater aquarium,” she said. “The flexibility of the wand allows for weaving in between other tank décor, and with the included suction cups the wand can be attached anywhere.”

Décor isn’t necessary for the aquarium, so individual taste is the deciding factor in what decorations a customer will buy.

Demas has this advice for retailers.

“We always suggest that a store carries a full assortment to hit all taste palettes, natural, whimsical and fun, functional and so on,” Demas said.

Chau agrees, but stresses the importance of catering to your location.

“Know your market,” Chau said. “You want a little bit of everything but usually some things will sell better in your area. It could be stuff for kids, or goldfish, or whatever. As you build a customer base you’ll get a feel for what sells best in your market.”

To help drive décor sales, Chau offers this tip, “put some items in display tanks so customers can see what they looks like.”

Vallier agreed that displaying the items helps.

If a customer likes the way an item looks in your tank, there’s a better chance they will buy it for their own aquarium.

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