TECH PROVIDES A BOOST
With new technology and foreign product lines appearing in U.S. markets for the first
time, there are fresh options to offer customers in the planted aquarium segment.
On the high-tech side of the hobby, which usually involves injecting CO2 into
planted aquariums, Fluval has revamped its CO2 line, and now includes larger supply
kits, said Chris LeRose, aquatic division manager at Mansfield, Mass.-based The
Hagen Group, manufacturer of the Fluval line.
“We are showcasing our new planted nano kit at Global Pet Expo in 2018,”
LeRose said, adding that Fluval has also released new planting tools manufactured
with carbonized stainless steel.
Other manufacturers are expanding their lines of aquascaping tools, as well.
Seachem Laboratories in Madison, Ga., is planning to introduce a scissor designed
to be compact, light and well balanced, said Amanda Neese, supervisor of sales,
support and education for the company.
Full product lines that cater to the trend toward nano freshwater shrimp setups
and demand for high-quality products are increasingly popular. Seachem and
Aquamaster have done well for Mike Calli, owner of Global Aquatics & Pet Supplies in
Ontario, Calif. But he said he’s excited for another line that’s catching on in the U.S.
“The thing that needs to get more popular is the Dennerle product line from
Germany,” he said. “It’s distributed by JBJ, and it also includes a shrimp line that
goes along with it. We carry the whole line, the tank setups and all their products. It’s
a little on the ‘spend-y’ side, but it’s pretty good quality. We’re promoting more of it
In terms of lighting options, LEDs are increasingly popular, though some
customers still prefer traditional T5 fluorescents.
“LEDs are really doing quite well,” said Alexander Racho, plant manager for Wet
Spot Tropical Fish in Portland, Ore. “I tend to recommend them more than our T5s
specifically because they are more energy efficient and they last longer. But T5s are
Add-on sales and items that require periodic replenishment are also profitable for
retailers, and they keep aquarists coming back into the store.
Retailers reported that substrates and fertilizers, which are required in most
cases for plants to thrive, are strong sellers.
“Substrates are something that we sell a lot of here,” said John Kuehlman, owner
of Aqualand Aquarium Center in Minneapolis. “Eco Complete from CaribSea does well
for us. Seachem has a really nice line of substrates that seem to be selling well also.”
THE WISDOM OF BRICK-AND-MORTARS
With the vast availability of information on the internet, many aquatic hobbyists are
well informed about planted tanks, with strong ideas of their own on what they are
seeking before they visit their local specialty store. However, customers continue to
value the support of knowledgeable retailers, industry participants reported.
“With the internet, a lot of customers come in with research and information
under their belt,” said Mike Hresko, owner of House of Tropicals in Glen Burnie, Md.
“That’s good, but we still get people with a lot of questions, and we’re still here to
The planted tank hobby can be technical, and many customers might have
opinions about plant husbandry and aquarium keeping, even if they’re new to
“There’s a lot of knowledge on the web,” said Mike Calli, owner of Global Aquatics
& Pet Supplies in Ontario, Calif. “I don’t get opinionated all the time. I provide
knowledge. If you get opinionated, you’re going to lose out.”
Between various forums and You Tube, it has never been easier to learn the ins
and outs of keeping planted aquariums, including how to use CO2 injection to drive
“Because You Tube has a lot more informational help and how-tos, I would say a
lot of people who have a spark for a planted tank will likely have watched a video or
two,” said Ian Glish, acting manager for Ultimate Aquarium in San Mateo, Calif. “It’s
pretty straightforward until you start adding CO2 to the tanks. Planted tanks are kind
of like pre-reef tank setups.”
With the difficulty of keeping planted tanks, it may behoove retailers to reach out
and offer extra education opportunities, and even consider leveraging technology and
information on the internet.
“We give all our customers the tools they need to make a successfully planted
tank,” said Alexander Racho, plant manager for Wet Spot Tropical Fish in Portland,
Ore. “Repeat customers are successful customers who are happy with their
purchases. I really want to make people happy, and I’m in a very unique position to
Fish keepers can
capture the beauty
of nature with tank
setups such as this
Fluval Flex model from
The Hagen Group.
How can retailers use the planted tank
category to help compete with online
competition and stay in business?
“The industry as a whole is shrinking. No
doubt about it. We’re trying to adapt to
the world we live in. … On the aquatics
side, I think it’s something that needs to
be done on a retail level. It can’t be done
well on an internet level. That’s the issue
today. Anyone can buy on the internet,
but they don’t get the expertise and they
can’t see systems in operation like they
can in a retail display setting.”—MIKE
CALLI, owner of Global Aquatics & Pet
Supplies in Ontario, Calif.
“The margin is in the plants themselves. We
have a number of different suppliers who offer
high-quality plants we can turn around and
sell at a reasonable price. Even when people
do comparisons versus online, the quality and
being able to see them in-store makes the
difference.”—JOHN KUEHLMAN, owner of
Aqualand Aquarium Center in Minneapolis
“Making live plants a significant theme and
establishing your store as a destination for
quality plants, related products and reliable
information is bound to increase customer
traffic and sales in this area.”—SCOTT RABE,
director of marketing for Central Garden &
Tropicals in Glen Burnie, Md.