Pet Age spoke with Les Wilson, a former research biologist who helped establish Cobalt Aquatics in 2011.
Q Can you tell me how Cobalt Aquatics got its start?
A Cobalt was founded by myself, Viral Surati and Randy Parham. We are lifelong hobbyists and have all worked in the industry for more than 20 years: from LFS (local fish store) retail and fish importing to public aquariums and fish magazines. We spent many years at Marineland, including its evolution into United Pet Group (UPG) and now Spectrum. I was a research biologist in Marineland’s aquatic lab and then moved to the marketing group and was a director of marketing at UPG when I left the company. Viral and Randy were on the sales team and headed up key accounts and the independent sales team. We really love fish as well as the aquarium hobby and industry, so we decided to start up Cobalt Aquatics.
Q How would you describe the mission of Cobalt?
A The mission is to have a successful aquatics company based on the values instilled in us by the mentors and pioneers that we’ve had the opportunity to work with. We focus on fishgeek level products and hobby products rather than for the “numbers.” We’re always asking, “What products can we make that will make a difference for the hobby and keep the hobby and industry thriving?”
Q You have made a big splash in the industry. What’s the secret to your success?
A Our secret to success, it’s really no secret: hard work. We never stop. Anything that we can do to get our brand out there, we try and do it. From advertising to industry shows and customer events to consumer shows and even monthly club events across the country, we are there. We try to build the brand ground up, starting at the hardcore hobbyist level.
Q Cobalt Aquatics has produced hundreds of items, from flake food and frozen mysis shrimp to heaters and pumps. Which products have been most popular with fishkeepers?
A Our probiotic flake foods have become the most important part of our business. Industry folks looked at us like we were completely nuts for launching “another food,” but we had a solid idea and formulation using a very solid nutritional base, along with cutting edge immuno-stimulants and probiotics. Our heaters have been a great area for us as well, led by the award winning Neo-therms, the four lines of heaters provide solutions for almost any size tank or budget.
Q How would you describe the relationship between Cobalt, your distributor partners and pet retailers?
A Without the inspiration, knowledge and guidance that independent aquatic dealers bring to the consumers, our aquatic industry would be in trouble. So at Cobalt, we try and do everything we can for the pet retailers to be successful. And without good distribution partners, we could not be nearly as effective reaching the retailers. We try our best to give the best support possible to both groups.
Q What’s next for Cobalt? Any new products in the works?
A We are always working on something new! We have a giant list of ideas that I keep on my desk. We are excited about our decoria hand-blown, single-piece construction, ultra white glass, nano/pico tanks that are perfect for the trend that has been in Europe and Asia: freshwater shrimp and micro-planted tanks. We think this is going to be a big thing in the U.S. as livestock becomes more available. This style tank is small, but easy to care for, and the plants and the shrimp are beautiful!