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An Expanding Niche

Tom Mazorlig//December 1, 2014//

An Expanding Niche

Tom Mazorlig //December 1, 2014//

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Once only the hobby of the elite aquarist, reef tank keeping is at an all-time high of popularity among hobbyists.

“Within the aquarium segment, saltwater aquariums and reef tanks in particular are the fastest growing category within the hobby,” said Francis Yupangco, aquatic development manager at Rolf C. Hagen Corp (makers of Fluval and Marina products). “The growing number of easy-to-maintain and relatively low cost all-in-one reef aquariums like the Fluval M Aquariums are driving growth in the reef aquarium hobby. Additionally, well-formulated salts and coral supplements have helped make reef keeping much easier for even the most novice hobbyists.”

By adding a section of reef products and livestock retailers can profit from all that growth in this segment.

Salt, Supplements and Media

Among the most important items reef-tank hobbyists need is aquarium salt. However, the salt needs of reef tanks and non-reef saltwater tanks are different.

“A good reef salt is important because the invertebrates in a reef will thrive with the elevated levels of calcium, magnesium, etc.,” said Mike Noce, sales director of Fritz specialty division, Fritz Aquatics. “Stores need to choose and recommend a good quality salt that they use themselves.”
“RPM (Reef Pro Mix) is a complete salt mix made with the highest quality raw material,” said Noce. “Small batches, quality control and lot numbers ensure consistent blends and ideal tracking.”

Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM) offers ATM Hot Salt Reef for the reef hobbyist. They use the highest quality anhydrous raw materials to make a pure and fast-mixing salt. Hot Salt absorbs water rapidly, developing an exothermic reaction that heats up the salt until fully hydrated. It can be ready to use in about an hour.

Salinity from Seachem’s aquavitro line is a salt specifically formulated for reef aquariums. It contains all major, minor, and trace elements found in natural reef waters with no non-essential components. It is available exclusively to independent retail stores.

Reef Crystals by Instant Ocean has been a staple number-one seller in this category for years.
Various mineral supplements and other additives are often necessary to successfully keep corals, clams and other desirable invertebrates, even when using a good reef salt.

Seachem offers Reef Complete, a supplement containing calcium, magnesium and strontium that won’t affect the pH of the water. This product is best used with the company’s Reef Carbonate, a carbonate supplement that keeps pH in the desired range of 8.3 to 8.4.

Chemipure Blue Nano from Boyd Enterprises is a filter media made with the nano-reef hobbyist in mind.

“The new Nano packets will be ideal for all sorts of application, from the tiniest little reef tanks to filters that don’t have much room for additional media,” said Sean Berner, sales manager at Boyd Enterprises. These will come in bags of five packets, each lasting for about a month. It will be available in early 2015.


LEDs have taken over as the lighting of choice for reef keepers, as they efficiently provide the needed spectrum for spectrum for spectacular corals.

Coming in early 2015, EcoTech Marine is launching the AI Prime Light for their AquaIllumination brand. The AI Prime is the first light from AquaIllumination to include Wi-Fi control standard. All a keeper will need to control the light is a computer or smartphone.

From Coralife, the LED Aqualight features LED tri-lamps, directional lunar blue LEDs, a 3 Power Cord system and cooling fans. The interchangeable LED tri-lamps give each user the ability to increase light intensity and create customized light color combinations to sustain any thriving freshwater, reef or saltwater environment.

Marineland has relaunched their LED strip lights, including the Reef LED Strip, in new packaging that is easier for the hobbyist (and retailer) to understand. The packaging makes it easy to select the right lighting for the aquarist’s needs.

Other Items

There are endless other products necessary or useful to reef keepers. Perhaps the most important of these is food for the corals and other inverts.

Coral Food by Cobalt Aquatics is a fine powder, fully nutritious food for all corals and other filter feeding invertebrates. This highly attractive formula causes a strong feeding response in corals.

New from Hikari is Coralific Delite, a miniature pellet food that can be used for targeted feeding or as a broadcast food. It is fully nutritious and similar to the zooplankton coral eat in nature.

When first building the reef out of rocks or adding new corals to a tank, hobbyists need to a way to keep them in place. Reef Glue from Seachem is great for this purpose. It bonds within seconds and has excellent holding power.

Seachem also offers aquavitro Aquarium Tools, a complete line of stainless steel aquascaping tools useful in both freshwater and saltwater tanks. For the true coral enthusiast, this line has the Coral Cutter, which enables easy trimming of even thick corals for fragging or just to maintain space in the tank.

Educated Staff

One of the best assets a retailer can have in the reef segment is an educated employee.

“Having an educated and unbiased staff is paramount to continued sales of reef tanks, supplements, and equipment,” said Trevor MacLean, director of sales and development at Seachem. “Seachem offers dealers its Platinum Training program to learn in-depth knowledge about our specific products and how they enable hobbyists to be successful.”

“The experience level of the employee directly impacts the sale of new reef tanks and equipment,” said Dean Tapper, VP of sales at Blue Ocean Corals. “Since there have been so many advancements in equipment and husbandry techniques, the knowledge of the employee directly impacts the message that is given to the customer. You can directly compare the success of a customer’s experience in fish keeping to the information he or she is given when they start in the hobby. Reef aquariums require a more detailed and focused look at conditions when compared to a fish only system.”