Pet Age recently spoke with Chad Clayton, the live feeds supervisor at Reed Mariculture, the parent company of Reef Nutrition, to discover the newest developments in the care of aquatic livestock as the aquatic hobby continues to grow in popularity.
How has the aquatic hobby changed from the start of 2020 to now?
The year 2020 was a very interesting time for our hobby. As a result of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, we saw an explosion of hobbyists. Many of these people were new to the hobby, while others bought more tanks to add to what they already had. We also saw people that were primarily freshwater hobbyists getting into saltwater and vice versa. Since most people were stuck at home, they turned to aquariums for a distraction from all the uncertainty. Hobbyists, new and seasoned, had access to livestock and dry goods via online vendors, which made it easy for them to stay home and set up new tanks or upgrade their existing setups. Virtually every manufacturer in this sector experienced a dramatic increase in demand for aquarium related products. Brick-and-mortar stores adapted by offering curbside pick-up, as well as offering online purchase of their product(s) which were shipped to the consumer.
Another thing we saw was more hobbyists getting involved on forums and Facebook communities where they could access information from other, seasoned aquarium keepers and retailers. Suddenly, people had all this extra time and they were able to interact with thousands of other hobbyists via their computer. We also saw a large rise in aquarists and retailers sharing their successes and failures with their followers and subscribers on platforms like Instagram and YouTube. Many of these individuals and companies helped to guide the decision-making process for newcomers. This really helped to minimize mistakes early on, driving home the “slow is better” mentality, which resulted in keeping animals alive. We always say that “nothing good happens fast in this hobby,” so patience has been hammered into the minds of novices.
Computers also helped many aquarium clubs, and social media groups access speakers like never before. As people became accustomed to using video conferencing platforms, like Zoom, aquarium clubs jumped on virtual meeting options and were able to bring in speakers that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. Web conferencing platforms are now incredibly commonplace making it easier to connect with each other and discuss our passion for the aquatic hobby. We use them readily to educate our stores and distributors that carry our products which has been a boon for us.
How has technology enabled more aquarists to enjoy keeping marine livestock?
The technological advancements in this hobby have been astounding. I’ve been in the hobby since the late 80’s. We had terrible lighting, poor filtration and no cell phones with apps that let us know something is wrong with our tank.
With the welfare of our animals in mind, companies and hobbyists have innovated ways to provide better lighting, filtration, water quality testing, dosing systems and control systems. The advancement in these areas have resulted in better quality of life for our aquatic friends. Hobbyists are now able to keep fish, corals and a myriad of invertebrates long-term.
What are the essential needs of a novice aquarists in terms of food and accessories for fish, corals and invertebrates?
I always recommend that a novice aquarist gain as much knowledge as possible before diving into this hobby. This will help to avoid simple mistakes which, in turn, keeps animals alive. Researching compatibility, tank sizes, animal types, nutritional needs, life support systems and general husbandry techniques will be vital to the success of a prospective aquarist. You must have the mindset of consistency, care and commitment when setting up a tank. Do not get into this hobby if you have a lazy, “I’ll get to it later” mentality. Many of the fish and invertebrates we keep can live for many years, so the commitment, desire and love for these animals needs to be entrenched in our brains. Animal welfare is paramount: I can’t say that enough. Providing the right habitat, nutrition and enrichment for your beloved aquatic pets is rewarding not just for them, but for you, as well. Aquariums reduce stress, so make sure to kick back and enjoy every moment. Watch your animals, take a deep breath and relax.
What is your advice for pet retailers looking to expand their offerings for aquatic hobbyists?
Education and experience are the driving force here. Retailers really need to thoroughly research new offerings and get hands-on experience. There are so many products in this industry, and more and more coming out all the time. It can get quite confusing for hobbyists, as well as retailers. I always recommend that pet retailers know the products, inside and out, so they can offer sound advice to a customer. Also, with product experience comes the knowledge to help trouble-shoot issues when they arise. Just because there are new things coming out, it doesn’t mean you need to abandon what works. Read, get involved in the forums, listen to your customers, talk with the manufacturers and take your time bringing in new products. One further thing to add is that retailers need to train their employees on all levels. A well-trained employee is priceless. Education training sessions should be part of the routine of all stores. Do yourself a favor by bringing in manufacturers to talk about products, have skilled hobbyists present, make standardized testing for employees and promote those that take it all in. You will not regret it. The end result will be good quality of life for the animals you sell and a hobbyist that will become a long-term aquarist, making a place in their heart for this hobby.