BY ETHAN MIZER
In much of the country, pond product sales—particularly in the pond food category—tend
to wane during the cold months
of winter. That’s when fish, turtles and other pond critters hunker down and hibernate, slowing
their metabolisms and fasting for
But as soon as those water temperatures warm up in the spring, a
feeding frenzy begins and sales in
the pond food category surge, said
Rick Preuss, owner of Preuss Pets
in Lansing, Mich.
“We stock cooler-season
pond food and products through
the winter, but in the spring,
April or so, we bring out the
spring food and supplies,” he
said. “And when temperatures
really heat up, the peak-season,
color-enhancing and fast-growth
formulas come out.”
Whether it’s spring, summer
or fall, pond food is a reliable
category for retailers who sell
water garden goods, said Dami-
an Hall, marketing communica-
tions manager at Rolf C. Hagen
(USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass.
“Consumable pond products are steady and rising product lines for most retailers; sales
trends in this category are consistent,” Hall said. “Like any food
product, consumers are looking
for quality products that meet the
nutritional needs of their fish.”
The Magic of
WHAT’S NEW IN MAINTENANCE
The necessity of maintaining aquariums
means customers come back for advice,
cleaning products and more.
The maintenance and cleaning category is well established, but it
has a few new products to keep customers interested.
“The Flipper [Algae Cleaner] is the best product that’s come out
in a long time,” said Mike Tonemah, owner of The Fish Shop in Las
Vegas. “I use the Flipper Max and the regular ones when I go out
and do maintenance.”
Mag-Float also made some changes to the product line.
“Mag-Floats are industry standards,” said J.J. Elliott, co-own-
er of Triad Reef Critters in Greensboro, N.C. “They haven’t really
changed much, although we’ve had a lot of luck with the new
scraper blades they’ve put out. These are the attachments, and they
do these in all sizes.”
Other retailers noted that the addition of replaceable blades
makes the Mag-Float a great buy.
“Mag-Floats aren’t new, but they used to be really expensive,
and if you wore out the inside and outside, you couldn’t do anything,” said Scott Tracy, owner of Aquarium Oddballs in Tulsa, Okla.
“Now, they’re a great purchase because you can buy replaceable blades and pads.
That’s one of the No. 1 items we sell around here.”
Additives and cleaning agents sell well in the form of probiotics and chemical
“We’ve had a lot of success with chemical filtration,” Elliott said. “Seachem has
done a lot of interesting stuff that has been really popular for us lately. We’ve had a
lot of success with their additives. Customers really seem to find them beneficial.”
Probiotics in particular are popular with customers right now.
“We use Tropical Science, which is a probiotic and an antioxidant,” said Laura
Hampton, owner of Aqua-Holics in Kissimmee, Fla. “That keeps the fish healthier, too.”
Siphons are mainstays in the hobby, and retailers reported Python products sell
very well. And Aquatop Aquatic Supplies introduced EZ Start siphons in two sizes to
accommodate different tank depths, according to Frank Kudla, sales and marketing
consultant for the Brea, Calif., manufacturer. These include a flow control and inte-
grated gravel vacuum, he said.
Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp.’s newest entry to the category is its Fluval Aqua Vac
Plus Gravel Cleaner, which is a 100 percent waterproof, battery-operated, motorized
gravel cleaner that can be used to do a water change and debris cleanup.
“The easy-to-use, hand-held Aqua Vac features a simple push-button lever that
EDUCATION IS KING
controls your cleaning options,” said Chris LeRose, aquatics division manager for Rolf
C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass. “The Fluval Aqua Vac comes with a hose for
the water change and filter pads that will catch debris.”
Fluval also recently introduced an add-on to the FX6/4 line that is an inline gravel
cleaner with the option to do a full water change and fill, LeRose added.
One of the most important aspects of retailer success in the aquarium space overall is
educating customers, and it especially is necessary when it comes to maintenance and
“Aquarium maintenance challenges are the most often cited reasons consumers
give when asked why they leave the hobby,” said Chris LeRose, aquatics division
manager for Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass. “This is an industry issue
that we, as manufacturers and retailers, must do a better job addressing for the health
of the overall category. We, at Fluval, have been working diligently for years to develop
products that make maintenance simple and easy.
“Water changes and filter cleaning are probably two of the most daunting tasks for
new hobbyists but absolutely vital to the health and success of any aquarium,” he said.
“Fluval takes education of consumers seriously; we produce maintenance ‘how tos’ and
hold seminars at retail locations with the goals of educating consumers and associates
on the process of aquarium upkeep and show how everyone can have a successful
“It’s important to set realistic expectations as soon as [customers] come in the
door,” said J.J. Elliott, co-owner of Triad Reef Critters in Greensboro, N.C. “This is our
responsibility to the fish and coral. We have our store staff educated on that. We have
to all stand together, as well.”
The goal, retailers said, is to ask questions, figure out what customers need and
find a way to meet their needs and generate sales at the same time.
“We kind of quiz [customers],” said Laura Hampton, owner of Aqua-Holics in Kis-
simmee, Fla. “What size is their tank? What else is in it? I won’t sell a fish to somebody
[when] I know [it] is not going to survive in their tank.”
By focusing on informing customers about the realities of the hobby, retailers
reported greater success in long-term retention and repeat sales.
“We prefer to educate people that way,” Hampton said. “We do testing for free
here. We’re constantly educating our customers.”
Water testing offers retailers an opportunity to peer further into their customers’
setups and figure out what else they can offer for sale.
“We offer free in-store water testing,” said Scott Tracy, owner of Aquarium Oddballs
in Tulsa, Okla. “It definitely can lead to more sales. If [customers are] having water
issues, obviously that’s going to lead to some product sales. A lot of people are really …
lost when it comes to that type of stuff.”
Focusing on opening conversations and letting customers know how vital tank
maintenance is allows retailers to appeal to aquarist interest in attractive setups as well
as concerns and problems they might experience.
ROLF C. HAGEN