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May 31, 2017

It’s a simple fact that fish thrive in clean water. Keeping the right pH balance and “bad” bacteria at bay helps keep oxygen levels high and infections low. While the basic science of properly balanced water doesn’t change, there are some new innovations and trends in the water treatment category that help improve customer satisfaction, both in their purchases and in their success with their pets.

Easy-to-dispense products, customer-friendly instructions on packaging, apps for tablets to bring more interaction on the part of the consumer and a greater number of natural options are all helping grow this category.

Eliminate the Guess Work
For many fish owners, especially those new to the hobby, worrying about nitrates, ammonia or sludge can be time consuming and even complicated. Today’s water treatment manufacturers know that ease of use and convenience are top priorities for customers, and they’re coming out with products and apps to help make it easy for everyone to have clean water for their fish.

Product packaging is one way to improve ease of use for the consumer. Clear, concise directions printed on the package of most water treatment products go a long way in helping customers know what they need to purchase. Aqueon’s line of water treatment products include a calibrated dosing cap to make it easy to apply the correct amount every time. API Fishcare has combined products in a Perfect Start pack and a Monthly Care pack that include the different products needed for healthy water. Both contain Stress Zyme, Quick Start, Accu-Clear and Stress Coat, while the Perfect Start also has Ammo-Lock.

Tetra is going a step further by creating a new merchandising display for independent retailers.

“We’ve found that the majority of fishkeeping customers don’t understand water care products at a glance, including why the products are important or when to use them,” said John Fox, division vice president of Aquatic Marketing for Spectrum Brands, Inc., Pet, Home & Garden Division. “This new display gives education on water care so customers can be more successful. We are also organizing the products by species, making it easier for customers to quickly and easily find what they need.”

In-store education isn’t the only place seeing innovation. Tetra recently launched a new My Aquarium app, giving on-the-go consumers in today’s digital world the ability to track their tank’s needs on their tablet or smartphone. The app lets customers create a profile page—allowing for multiple aquariums—that will provide the ability to manage water tests and obtain instant recommendations; set custom notifications for things such as food dispensing, water testing and water changes; and track supply inventory. API Fishcare also has a water care app that allows fishkeepers to analyze water test results and receive recommendations.

Going Natural
Just because customers want water treatment to be easy, doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention to the contents of what they’re putting into their aquariums.
“We’ve seen a number of trends in the past few years, including an interest in more natural water treatment options,” said Rachel Torrence, a tech support agent for Seachem. That company’s Remediation, part of its Aquavitro line, continues to be a popular product, using bacteria to break down excess food, sludge and waste while naturally cleaning the aquarium’s substrate.

Fluval also maintains an emphasis on remaining chemical-free.

“For us, the best thing you can do to keep a tank clean is to make it a complete eco-system, using beneficial bacteria, herbs and minerals,” said Chris LeRose, aquatic division manager, Hagen Group.

Fluval’s popular Aqua Plus water conditioner uses valerium root as a natural de-stressor. Its other popular product, Cycle, combines two types of beneficial bacteria, lipotropic and heterotrophic, to break down solid waste and control ammonia levels. Tetra’s Safe Start also uses live bacteria to create a healthy environment for fish by jump-starting the natural bio filter, while also reducing the amount of ammonia and nitrate in the water.

It isn’t just treatments that are poured into water that help maintain a healthy aquarium. New innovations in filter media are using natural minerals to bind with bacteria and create a cleaner environment. Seachem has a new line of Tidal Power Filters with an assortment of accessories and filter media. This includes the Zeolite ammonia binder for both marine and freshwater, using the naturally occurring zeolite mineral to maintain healthy water for the fish.

Another choice, the Water Polishing Unit for Aqueon’s QuietFlow canister filters, uses a carbon cartridge for a final filtration step.

“This filter makes maintenance easier, less time consuming and more cost effective,” said Lenitra Friend, brand manager for Central Garden & Pet. “It quietly returns water to the aquarium while at the same time breaking the water surface and enhancing oxygenation.”

The Personal Touch
While manufacturers work hard to make the product packaging speak for itself and introduce merchandising displays to help organize and sell products, the true key to success in the water treatment category comes from taking time to talk with customers and make sure they fully understand the workings of their aquarium and how to keep bacteria at bay and maintain proper pH.

“We encourage retailers to be aware of what the water treatments they use actually do, and to be critical of any new claims that aren’t backed by true research,” Torrence said.

Being able to answer customers’ questions and lead them to products that will work well for them will help build a good relationship and encourage customer loyalty. After all, the end goal for everyone is healthy fish and happy customers!

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