Aquascaping is growing in popularity, and Roger Ma, owner of Pet Zone Tropical Fish, caught on to that. In fact, he opened a second location dedicated to the hobby.
After opening your first location in 2007, why did you choose to open a second store in 2016?
San Diego County is vast, and we had customers driving from over half an hour away just to get to our shop. Since our first location doesn’t have a parking lot, this created more of a burden on our customers having to loop around multiple times just to find street parking. Our second store is centrally located and much easier for the majority of our customers to access, along with having a parking lot (we’re in one of the main plazas of the Convoy District in Kearny Mesa). The first store was also too narrow for us to build the aquascape tanks we’ve envisioned. With this second location, we’ve been able to achieve this and have over a couple dozen planted tanks along with having over 150 tanks just for our livestock.
What are your thoughts on aquascaping?
We see the hobby rapidly growing and people of all ages and walks of life are being intrigued by this beautiful craft. A few years back, we would sell dozens of fake decor and plants on a daily basis, but this has dropped so significantly that we ended up just getting rid of all our plastic plants and only have a small section of plastic or ceramic decor on the shelves now. Young children and their parents are particularly fond of castles and other plastic decor but nowadays even they are opting for more natural options such as driftwood and live plants. Since they are being exposed to this hobby at such a young age, we truly believe aquascaping will continue to flourish for many generations to come.
A lot of working professionals have fish tanks at their office desks as well. More and more companies are becoming lenient and allowing their staff to decorate their office space with aquariums, and aquascaping has gained traction with this particular demographic, so much that we have groups of people within the same company come together and help one another select plants and hardscapes for their workspace tanks.
Many of our customers are constantly experimenting with unconventional designs and methods with their planted tanks, and we truly see a shift in the focus of aquariums leaning more toward plants as the focal point and fish as a complement to this tank. There is truly a community of aquascapers here in San Diego and we love fueling the passion so that others may become inspired and spread the love of this great craft!
Pet Zone’s Kearny Mesa location offers aquascaping workshops. What are those like?
We hold these workshops as a way to spark more interest and show people that it actually isn’t as hard as it may seem to get an aquascape tank of their own. We cover all the fundamentals such as substrate options, hardscape (stones, wood, etc.) placement and planting methods.
Our workshops are held about once a month and are free to anyone who has an interest in learning. We typically run a raffle at the end of the workshop and a lucky attendee will have the chance to win the fully scaped out tank we worked on during the workshop. At the end of the workshop, we will do a quick Q&A and give additional pointers to those who would like to learn more about a particular part of the aquascape process.
We get a good turnout at our workshops. There is anywhere from 15-30 people that show up and many of them will stick around and ask questions and shop right after the workshop has ended. We truly believe there is a good community being built with our store and the local aquascaping hobbyists.
Why is social media important to building the aquascaping hobby?
People spend a large portion of their time on social media throughout the day and are typically attracted to things that spark their interest. With social media, we are able to build upon this interest and form a community. There are numerous Facebook groups catered just to aquascaping and you’ll find people ranging from beginners to experts sharing pictures and the progress of their tanks and giving out advice to one another. We find joy in staying connected with our customers and having them share their tank progress with us on social media is a great way to build upon this community of hobbyists. We also get in numerous new products (including livestock and plants) on a weekly basis and our social media posts help people stay updated as our customers are constantly looking to add to their tanks.
What are some brands/products you sell that can help aquascapers replicate nature within a tank?
Aqua Design Amano (ADA) is by far the ultimate brand when it comes to aquascaping (comparable to Apple in the aquascape world). The founder, Takashi Amano, contributed significantly to the hobby. Without him, aquascaping wouldn’t be where it is today. ADA has a huge range of products that cater to those looking to achieve Nature Aquarium-style aquascapes. The most popular plant substrate would be their Amazonia Aqua Soil, and it is by far the most superior product for many years now and when you speak with many planted tank enthusiasts, they would give you the same answer. Many other items that give any aquascape a natural look would be hardscape items such as spiderwood, driftwood and stones such as dragon stone or seiryu stone. The placement of these hardscapes in conjunction with the plants mimic what one would see on a mountain top or rainforest. With a good imagination, many things can be achieved with the use of wood and stones!