Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Small Is Big

Karen M. Alley//October 12, 2015//

Small Is Big

Karen M. Alley //October 12, 2015//

Listen to this article

When it comes to the fish category, there are basically two to consider—and we’re not talking about freshwater and saltwater. The two important categories on retailers’ minds include new fish owners and the tried-and-true hobbyists. After all, long-time hobbyists are more likely to make big, more expensive purchases, while new fish owners are important to keeping the category growing.

A tricky line to walk can be having fish in stock that appeal to hobbyist looking for something unique for their tank, while at the same time having plenty of fish that are relatively easy to care for to keep a beginner interested. The same goes for equipment and supplies, not to mention the type of education you need to give your staff for them to be able to help a new fish owner get started, while at the same time holding an intense discussion on water testing and treatment with a long-time hobbyist.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a product that appealed to both new fish owners and the more advanced hobbyists? Well, that’s exactly what retailers have found with nano tanks.

“Recently the nano aqauarium has grown into a great, profitable category for retailers,” said Dave Chai, president of Aquatop. “Many stores market these tanks for either freshwater or saltwater fish and they are a consumer-friendly entry into the hobby, as well as a great environment for creating specific habitats such as mini-reefs for the hobbyist.”

These smaller aquariums have taken off in popularity. According to the 2015-2015 American Pet Products Association survey, each fish owner has an average of 2.1 bowls and 1.9 desktop aquariums, which means many people own more than one type of small habitat for their fish.

There are not specific guidelines on what qualifies as a nano tank. Some people define them as anything 10 gallons or less and others going up to 15 gallons. Some manufacturers of small tanks under 15 gallons don’t even use the nano label. In the end, what it all boils down to is there is a market out there for small tanks, no matter what you call them.

Keeping Clear of Controversy

Hearing the phrase nano tanks might not evoke the same type of passionate response as puppy mills or trophy hunting, but it’s important to note there is some controversy in the industry when it comes to this category. Many times the tanks are small and are often sold as kits, which are easily marketed to people just starting out in fishkeeping.

Some avid hobbyists object to this, arguing that smaller tanks need special attention to be taken care of properly. This is due in part because smaller amounts of water can allow parasite densities and biological wastes to increase at a greater rate than in a bigger tanks, and temperature changes and fish stress levels are more pronounced in smaller aquariums.

One way to avoid offending anyone is to stay away from the label of “nano.” This is one approach taken by the marketing team at United Pet Group, whose Tetra brand is coming out with a new Tetra Crescent Aquarium in three and five gallon sizes.

“We refer to our smaller tanks as desktop aquariums or lifestyle kits as a way of staying out of the controversy,” said Sean Raines, director of marketing – equipment, UPG Aquatics.

Another thing retailers can do is make sure themselves and their staff are talking to customers and helping them out with purchases when it comes to small tanks. If someone wants a small aquarium that isn’t part of a kit, they need to be sure they are buying the right type of filter and lighting to keep the water safe and the fish healthy. Advancement in lighting and filtration systems have meant that these pieces of equipment are better at keeping the environment healthy for fish in small habitats.

And whether you’re selling an aquarium or an entire kit, retailers need to be informed about the different types of fish that enjoy small spaces and won’t outgrow the tank. Some good species for small tanks are small clownfish, gobies, bettas, least killifish and the Boraras species.

New Offerings Keep Things Fresh

The popularity of nano aquariums is positive for both retailers and their customers because it means manufacturers are constantly coming out with new products to keep the category fresh.

Along with the Cresent aquariums, Tetra has introduced a new half-moon shaped bubbling LED kit. The crescent and half-moon shaped aquariums feature seamless, curved fronts that allow for better viewing of the fish and an even bolder decorative statement in the home or office.

Coralife’s BioCube, which has been a popular offering, is being enhanced with new features, including an upgraded cooling system, a quiet submersible pump with a better flow rate than what was previously included in the kit and a clear glass back panel. Both the BioCube and Tetra’s small aquarium kits come with LED lighting and an appropriate-sized filtration system.

Seamless aquariums are just one new trend in the small aquarium category. Aquatop is introducing a rimless tank as well with its Euro bow-front tanks.

“These tanks offer customers a more European style and provide a great look to add to any room,” Chai said.

Another exciting new entry on the market is the Nanoponic three and five gallon aquariums from Aquatop. These aquariums combine the two hobbies of hydroponics and fish-keeping in one place. In addition to a built-in filtration system and a waterproof LED light, the Nanoponic aquarium comes with a top-mounted plant tray that can be used to display the artificial plants that come with the aquarium or to plant herbs and other small plants that can take advantage of the nutrient-filled water of the aquarium.

It’s clear there are big advantages to thinking small when it comes to the fish category. Whether you cater to avid fish keepers or new pet owners, having a wide variety of small aquariums and appropriate accessories can help increase sales. Now is the time to be sure you have the right options available for people looking to expand their hobby.