And, of course, clownfish are in demand. Made popular by Disney’s “Finding Nemo,” these colorful fish are full of personality, making them a favorite for many owners. There are even lots of variations available thanks to line-breeding, which helps retailers offer customers the variety they desire.
While many advances have been made in captive breeding, the majority of saltwater fish are still wild caught.
“Yellow tangs are probably one of the most popular fish right now, but no one has succeeded in getting them from egg to adult in captivity, even after working furiously to try,” said Michael Griffith, marketing specialist, Segrest Farms. “We enjoy providing hobbyists with these and other types of exotic fish, making sure we only source through fisheries that are run sustainably and ethically.”
Keeping the Tank Healthy
While saltwater fish make up a very small percentage of total fish owners—only 1.8 million households own saltwater fish as opposed to the 14.3 that own freshwater fish—it is a growing category, according to the 2012 American Pet Products Association (APPA) survey. The allure of colorful corals and fish with fun personalities is only a part of where the growth can be attributed. Some of it comes from products that make keeping water quality at an optimal chemical balance easier for serious hobbyists as well as beginners.
“There is no longer the stigma that saltwater fish keeping is largely impossible,” said Chris Brightwell, president of Brightwell Aquatics.
The first step to a healthy tank is proper water maintenance.
“We have developed a line of fast, easy and accurate kits to test the parameters in an aquarium, which allow fish keepers to be proactive, staving off problems rather than dealing with them when they happen,” said Scott Kohler, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Red Sea. The company has a 5-part video series available on YouTube and on its website to show how to use these tests and to explain in detail what the results mean.
“These videos are instructional and can be used with anybody’s products,” Kohler said. “Our primary goal is to see people succeed.”
A variety of products also help take the guess work out of regulating water balance. Seachem, which makes popular aquavitro products that are sold only in independent retail outlets, has added three new products to its filtration category: Seed, for starting up new aquariums, Remediation, formulated specifically to break down organic waste and remove sludge, and Phosfiltrum, an ultra-high-capacity granular ferric oxide (GFO) phosphate and silicate remover.
Acrylic Tank Manufacturers (ATM) offers saltwater-specific formulas such as Colony, Outbreak! and Supernova Living Carbon, which are popular thanks to their ability to dramatically reduce contaminants in the water through the use of organic-consuming bacteria.
Microbiologists at Brightwell Aquatics have produced a line of products that help keep tanks healthy. The X-Port line uses a filter material based on nanoscience that has a tremendous capacity for nutrient uptake. Their MicroBacter7 is also popular, thanks to its ability to improve water chemistry and clarity.
“The end goal is to provide products that help people have a better looking aquarium and healthier fish,” said Brightwell.
Of course, getting the right start with salt is just as important as maintaining a healthy tank. Retailers have a variety of good options to offer their customers, each with its own unique formulation. Red Sea’s salt is mined straight from the Red Sea to provide customers with a consistent complex of trace elements necessary to create the perfect balance of healthy water for saltwater organisms. ATM’s Hot Salt is an anhydrous salt mix, eliminating the water found in some other salts that can contain contaminants. And Brightwell’s NeoMarine is formulated to contain everything in appropriate ratios based on sea water chemistry.
Sell Yourself, Not Your Products
When it comes down to it, most people can get almost everything they need for their saltwater aquariums by shopping online in the comfort of their own home. So what is it that keeps saltwater enthusiasts coming into the store? The search for knowledge from experienced, trusted professionals and personal interactions are key.
According to APPA, 95 percent of saltwater fish owners report having visited their local pet store seven times on average in the past year and that’s a number retailers can be proud of. Keep it that way by taking advantage of manufacturer’s educational programs.
Both Red Sea and Seachem offer in-store training programs geared to make learning fun for your employees while providing them with the expertise needed to guide customers—from beginners to experienced hobbyists—in their purchasing decisions.
And, of course, one of the biggest selling points is your own display. Brightwell suggests setting up a system in your store just for display only.
“When people buy something out of a tank, it creates turmoil,” said Brightwell. “You want something that makes people think, ‘Wow, I’d like to have one of those in my home or office.’ Think of it like a car dealer’s showroom. Keep it clean and healthy and people will not only be inspired, they’ll gain confidence in you as an expert in the field.”