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January 4, 2017

Television today is filled with shows about tiny houses, restaurants have meals made up of tiny sandwiches called sliders and even fairy gardens exist to serve as miniature worlds within bigger gardens. People have become fascinated with small-scale things, and that trend extends to the aquarium category.

Nano tanks have become popular over the past few years for a number of reasons. Like tiny houses, they are less expensive and easier to maintain than a larger aquarium. And like the fairy gardens, a nano tank can be a conversation piece, or even a piece of living art work within your home. For children or people just starting out with fish, the price point and size make an easy entry point. More advanced hobbyists enjoy the size of the nano tank to create small habitats, often experimenting with more than one type.

Kits are Key
Whether your customer is new to fish or using nano tanks as a way to expand their hobby, one of the appeals of this category is that most of these small tanks are sold as kits. They contain a filter or a light and sometimes both, making it easy to get started right away.

The look of the tank is also important to customers. For people who will have these aquariums sitting on desk tops or as focal points of a room, high-quality glass and seamless designs are important. For kids, the licensed kits with popular characters, including SpongeBob and Dory, are more appealing.

Penn-Plax, well known for its licensed products, reports Dory products have sold well since the “Finding Dory” movie was released in June, with another bump expected with the release of the DVD just in time for the holiday season. Small aquariums with Dory décor are part of that line.

“Our kits serve as many kids’ introduction to keeping a pet, and they certainly contribute to the popularity of nano aquariums,” said Michael Acerra, digital marketing manager of Penn-Plax.

With kits ranging in size from half a gallon to four gallons, and containing LED light and décor, you can appeal to a wide audience with characters including Dory, Nemo, SpongeBob, the Little Mermaid and, new this fall, Moana from Disney’s latest animated movie.

For the adult customer, super-clear glass with elegant designs helps make nano tanks appealing. The Simplicity aquariums from Penn-Plax and the Fluval Edge both provide clear viewing on all sides, while Fluval Vista’s seamless, panoramic design gives the aquarium an open feel. These are available in 5.5 to 12 gallon sizes, and include LED lighting and filters.

On the bigger side of the nano category is the new Recife Aquarium systems from Aquatop. These systems, ranging in size from 24 to 48 gallons, include lighting, filtration, a protein skimmer, heater and pumps.

“These systems have everything you need to get started, allowing more time for customers to focus on décor and livestock choices,” said Eugene Lee, project manager at Aquatop.

Adding to the Mix
Another growing trend in the fish category is aquaponics. More customers are interested in using live plants to serve as filters, letting the waste from the fish fertilize the plants and help them grow, while the healthy plants help clean the water. Nano tanks are a great place to start with aquaponics.

The AquaDuo 3 is a three-gallon aquarium from Elive Pet that comes with a filter that can be used either as a traditional filter or as a planter for people wanting to try aquaponics. Penn-Plax has also introduced a new AquaTerrium line which includes the AquaTerrium Planting Tank. This kit, just under two gallons in size, includes a rockscape waterfall with planting pods for live plants. For customers that like the look of plants but may not have a green thumb, the kit comes with specially-designed artificial plants.

It’s not just plants getting the spotlight. The AquaTerrium line also includes the Lagoon Tank, which features two separate sections, allowing people to keep fish in one and aquatic wildlife such as shrimp, crabs or crayfish in the other.

“Our goal was to create interest among consumers and provide aquariums that were both beautiful and multi-functional,” Acerra said.

Accessories that Fit
With demand rising for nano tanks, there is also a greater demand for accessories designed for these smaller tanks.

“There’s a void of accessories for these smaller aquariums, so we’ve taken notice and spent some time researching and developing products specifically for these customers,” said Matt Allen, marketing director of Elive Pet.

The company just introduced a five-watt micro heater designed for aquariums sized 1.5 gallons or smaller. This is in addition to its LED Mini Track Light, which clips on with a mounting bracket and is designed for aquariums up to 10 gallons. Aquatop also has a line of heaters designed specifically for nano tanks, ranging from 15 to 50-watt output.

Take advantage of the interest in nano tanks by creating an impressive display to show customers just how beautiful these aquariums can be.

“I recommend having at least one freshwater and one marine/reef nano system so customers can appreciate the full beauty the nano systems can offer,” said Eugene Lee, project manager of Aquatop. “Placing it near or on the checkout helps draw attention and interest, as well as giving customers a positive final impression of the store.”

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