November 1, 2014

“With the advances that have been made in lighting, as well as in general knowledge, keeping and maintaining planted tanks has become relatively easy for the everyday hobbyist,” said Stevens.

To have a successful aquatic plant business—whether you are just now adding a section to your store or you’ve been at the forefront of the planted tank trend—you need a wide selection of products and plants to attract customers.

Let There Be Light

“Appropriate lighting is one of the most important products that a retailer should stock. The one thing every aquarist will need to keep a planted tank is lighting; therefore lighting is the easiest and most consistent seller for retailers to stock,” said Stevens.

And there is no shortage of lights available specifically for planted tanks

“For plant-specific lighting, hobbyists want to use lighting suitable for photosynthesis with adequate PAR ratings per the tank size,” said Orlando Morales, owner and manager of Green Leaf Aquarium LLC. “Most hobbyists look for full-spectrum LEDs and T5HO around 6.”

One lighting product Morales likes is the Radion XR15 Freshwater from EchoTech. It can be programmed through EcoSmart Live, EcoTech’s free cloud-based aquarium command center. “This technology is brand new to the planted aquarium hobby and we are very happy to see EchoTech Marine jump on this wagon,” said Morales.

There are plenty of other great lighting products for planted tanks.

Marineland has introduced the Aquatic Plant LED Lighting System. Chlorophyll absorbs most light in the blue and red ends of the spectrum. “In addition to the 1-watt 6,500K LEDs, each light comes with 3-watt RGB LEDS that provide blue, red and green accent lighting specifically designed to make aquatic plants thrive,” said Sean Raines, UPG Aquatics, director of marketing, equipment.

In fluorescent lighting, Coralife offers the Colormax Lamps. They have a high red intensity to help plants thrive and 6,700K color temperature to cast a natural-looking white glow. These are available in the T8, T5 and T5 HO formats.

Feed Me

There’s more to planted tanks than just lighting. For a lush, green aquascape, hobbyists need the right substrates, fertilizers and other water additives.

Seachem has a great line of supplements in the Aquavitro Plant line,” said April Harris, the company’s sales support and education specialist. “The line includes supplements that utilize counter ions (e.g. potassium) as a baseline that provides additional benefits to plants.” With six different products in the line, there is one that’s right for almost every planted tank.

Kent Marine has Pro-Plant, a supplement that provides nitrogen, magnesium, and micronutrients for lush freshwater plant growth. Kent’s Iron & Manganese is a micronutrient supplement designed to spur plant growth without promoting algae growth.

FloraPride by Tetra is a fertilizer for all aquatic plants and promotes lush, leafy growth of both floating and rooted plants through a combination of nutrients including potassium and iron.

“Aquatic plants require carbon to fuel the photosynthetic process and turn light energy and nutrients into new plant growth,” said Celine Pillu, trade marketing manager, North America at Mars Fishcare (makers of API products).  “Carbon deficiency is one of the leading causes of poor plant growth in aquariums.”

To solve this problem, API has CO2 Booster, which adds carbon to the water in a form plants can absorb. “It can be used alone or with CO2 systems,” said Pillu.

Another API supplement for plants is Leaf Zone, a liquid food containing a blend of chelated iron and potassium. It is absorbed readily by the leaves for lush, colorful growth.

“For plant substrates, we look for a soil-based substrate that will buffer the water to be slightly more acidic,” said Morales. “Cal Aqua Labs Black Earth Premium is an excellent example; it’s rich in natural nutrients and minerals. It does not leach harmful ammonia into the water.”

Tools of the Trade

Seachem also has a number of tools to aid in aquascaping, the Aquavitro Aquarium Tool line. This line features surgical steel tools including straight and curved fine-tip forceps, a soil spade and multiple styles of shears.

“These tools make tedious plant grooming easy and fun,” said Harris.

Hobbyists sometimes have a problem with plants floating away from where they want them to root. Seachem solves this problem with Flourish Glue, a cyanoacrylate glue that can be used to adhere plants to rocks, driftwood or even to the substrate.

The Plants

Of course the most important component is the plants themselves.

“Too often plants that are a bit difficult to maintain are sold to beginners, usually plants with high light and nutrient requirements that will be difficult for the less-invested hobbyist to meet,” said Pillu. To combat this, stock a range of plants to appeal to hobbyists of different skill levels, with a focus on the hardy species.

“Some great plants to carry would include Anubias, hairgrass, Java fern, Glossostigma, Hemianthus callitrichoides, Rotala species and Ludwigia species,” recommended Morales.

In addition, Pillu recommended cryptocorynes,Vallisneria, and Java moss. “Keeping a colorful variety of plants will keep your customers coming back for more,” Morales said.

“The key to success in marketing items for planted aquaria is to have display tanks that showcase how beautiful a well-manicured planted aquarium can be,” said Harris. “By showing people the many options available to them to become an aquatic gardener, you can pique interest and market yourself as a plant specialty store.”

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