In the Clear

Karen M. Alley//May 3, 2016//

In the Clear

Karen M. Alley //May 3, 2016//

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Every living creature needs clean water to live, but dare we say water is even more important for fish? After all, water isn’t just what fish drink—it’s also their home. A well-balanced, clean tank is vital for fish to stay healthy. And of course, it’s also important for fish owners because a tank that is beautiful to look at is a lot more pleasing than one that is cloudy and dirty.

Not much changes when it comes to the basics of water treatment from month to month or year to year. The science of making tap water habitable for freshwater or marine animals and the other treatments that adjust pH and mineral levels remain pretty much the same. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t new things in this category. New products that make keeping water at optimal levels easier for customers and healthy for fish are always being introduced, and today you will find many formulas in easy-to-dispense tablets or products formulated for different types of fish to help customers take an active role in managing their water parameters.

“We are seeing better understanding and sales around regular maintenance products like conditioner, pH buffers and bacterial products,” said Tim Plafcan, senior product manager of consumables at Spectrum Pet Home & Garden. “In the past, many aquarists just added water care products when they had a problem. Now they realize being proactive is a better path and much safer for the fish.”

Easy Care with Apps

One way of helping customers manage their aquarium is by providing the tools they need to monitor the water and make appropriate adjustments. In the past, it was up to retailers to provide education at the store and hope that it was carried out at home. Today, in-store education is still vital, but with the introduction of some apps that can be downloaded on a tablet or smartphone, it’s easier for customers to get the information they need right at their fingertips.

The API Water Care app is easily accessible through a computer or smartphone, and the Tetra Water Care app and the Marineland Water Care app are both available for download on Google Play, the App Store or Amazon. All three use owners’ test results to provide a treatment plan for the tank size, as well as allowing the user to set reminders and track test history. The Marineland and Tetra apps are designed to be used with their brand of test strips.

Use signage and in-store education to alert customers of these new tools at their disposal. Anything that makes water care easier to understand is a welcome addition to your marketing arsenal.

Specialized Products

Making water care easier on the customer is also why retailers are seeing more species-specific products in the water treatment category.

“We have seen a growing trend in consumers that like to shop by the type of fish they have, similar to the dog food industry that has breed-specific formulas,” Plafcan said.

A customer that has one betta or a few GloFish at home can feel confident in the fact that they are doing the right thing for their fish when they buy water care products or food that is marketed specifically for their type of fish.

Specialized products are about more than marketing techniques to draw people into the store and help them stock up on all the products necessary for their tank. In the case of bettas, water conditioners for these fish are slightly different formulas created specifically for small tanks.

“Our Aqueon BettaBowl Plus and Kent Marine Betta Bowl essentials are formulated to dose for 1 gallon of water or less,” said Pam Morisse, associate brand manager, Central Garden & Pet. “This is more manageable for fish owners, as bettas are often kept in aquariums smaller than 10 gallons, the size our Aqueon Water Conditioner is formulated for.”

Tetra’s BettaSafe and Elive’s Betta Water Conditioner are also formulated for small tanks.

In addition to betta products, Tetra also has products tailored to goldfish and GloFish. Each species has its own water conditioner, and you will find a GloFish Color Booster formulated to reduce harmful fluctuations in pH and to lower nitrates, which helps enhance the color proteins of the brightly colored GloFish.

While small tanks have become more common thanks to the popularity of betta, GloFish and nano tank keeping, there is also a trend going the other way, with more customers interested in monster fish and big tanks full of fish. To meet the needs of these specific customers, Fritz Aquatics introduced Monster 360 and Monster 460, concentrated formulations of its popular Fritzyme bacterial product for either freshwater or saltwater tanks.

Helping customers understand the intricacies of water care is an important and sometimes time consuming job for pet industry professionals. Tools such as apps for the smartphone, easy to use test strips and products formulated for specific species can make water care easier on the customer and take some of the burden off the retailer. But even with the advanced tools and new products, customer education is a primary concern whenever retailers and store associates are selling water care products.

First, be a model for your customers. Make sure the water in your tanks is monitored regularly and adjusted for healthy levels, and conduct regular cleanings. Second, educate your team so everyone is fully prepared to answer questions and help customers as they care for their fish. After all, healthy fish mean happy customers, and clean, well-balanced water is the key to having healthy fish.