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April 30, 2015

“For too many years we have treated fish like a hobby, like sewing or stamp collecting,” said Jeff Tyo, national sales and marketing director for Mars Fishcare. “It’s time to start treating it like a part of the pet industry and take advantage of the growth other categories are seeing.”

Easier Is Better

One way to achieve growth is by attracting new people to aquatics to build the customer base. That’s an arena where the water treatment category is coming into play. Water treatment is an important part of keeping fish healthy and happy but understanding the science behind it can be complicated. Water conditioners, beneficial bacteria and water chemistry stabilizers all play an important role in proper fish care. With the creation of new products that are easy to use and understand, more people will see success with their first fish tanks, encouraging them not only to continue but possibly grow their tanks.

“Our research has shown that, within the first year, half of all people who bought an aquarium leave the category and the primary reason is their fish die,” said Tyo. “Our goal is to help these beginners keep their fish alive and that’s what inspired us to create Perfect Start.”
Perfect Start is a package of water treatment products that comes with Mars Fishcare’s aquarium kits. It has three pre-measured formulas: one to use on the day the tank is set up, another to use during a water change at day 14 and another to use at day 28. The first envelope contains Mars’ Stress Coat, salt and Quick Start. The second envelope also has Stress Coat and Quick Start, as well as Ammo-Lock. The third envelope contains Stress Coat, Quick Start and StressZyme.

“By following the simple instructions, we have not only helped the customer learn that water changes are a healthy habit but that using treatments keeps your fish alive,” said Tyo.

The pre-measured, single-dose version of water treatment products is one of the innovative ways the water treatment category is staying relevant with younger consumers. As we’ve seen from the rise in popularity of Keurig coffee machines and detergent pods, Millennials are looking for convenience and are willing to pay more for it.

In addition to Perfect Start, Mars Fishcare is launching Monthly Care, which picks up where Perfect Start leaves off. It provides envelopes of pre-measured water treatments that contain multiple products to help keep tanks clear and fish healthy. United Pet Group also has water treatment products that come in a pre-measured form; it’s a tablet in a line that includes Correct pH Tablets, AmmoniaSafe Tablets and Water Clarifier Tablets.

Even water testing is more convenient with products like Tetra’s Easy Test Strips.

Water treatment products don’t have to be pre-measured to help customers get off to a good start. Many popular products on the market provide people with the right mix of chemicals and beneficial bacteria to maintain a healthy environment for their fish without having to go through a lot of tests or studying up on marine science.

Tetra’s SafeStart and Fritz Industries’ FritzZyme Nitrifying Bacteria both provide the necessary elements to seed the filter and introduce fish to the aquarium right away. There are also plenty of choices for easy-to-use water conditioners, including the Aqueon line from Central Garden and Pet, StressZyme and Quick Start from Mars Fishcare, and Tetra’s EasyBalance and SafeStart. Seachem has taken things a step further by packaging the treatments necessary to get up and running together in its Head Start pack.

Making Sales

Having a knowledgeable staff and taking the time to properly educate the customer is always important but probably even more so when it comes to first-time fish owners. In addition to providing convenient products that are easy to understand and use, it is up to the staff of the pet store to make sure their customers are walking out the door with the information they need to keep their fish alive.

“At the start of every successful aquarium is a very basic lesson in water chemistry,” said Trevor MacLean, national director of sales and support, Seachem Labs/JurassiPet Reptile Products. “It can be as easy as pointing out the simple example that humans cannot drink polluted water, and we can’t expect fish to live in it.”

In addition to that all-important one-on-one communication, there are other things retailers can do to provide customers with more information and make taking care of fish even easier. Many manufacturers provide brochures and videos explaining their products and how to use them. Have those videos available for people to watch in the store and keep brochures on display so customers can take them home for future reference. Package the basic water treatment products together and sell them with smaller, starter-size aquariums, or just sell them as a pack on their own at a reduced price. You can also offer free water tests and use that as a starting point for discussions about proper water treatment.

In the end, the primary goal is to entice new customers to aquatics and keep them involved for years to come. You’ll do that not only by getting them started on the right foot but by building a sense of trust with them so that when they do encounter trouble, they have somewhere reliable to turn for help.

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