gas exchanges with the water column and atmosphere,
particularly in smaller nano tanks.
More and more manufacturers are starting to inte-
Do you foresee the aquatics hobby growing,
grate skimmers into their filters. But there aren’t many
products on the market geared toward nano tanks. Hob-
byists can find a surface skimmer for their small tanks,
but it does take some sacrifice of not only the space but
the aesthetics of a nano tank (the natural look hobbyists
are aiming for) as well. There needs to be a filter sys-
tem with a built-in skimmer that isn’t too bulky so it
eliminates the need to have multiple equipment [pieces]
plugged in and effecting the overall look of the tank.
Other innovative ideas would be to create better sus-
tainable tissue culture plants that can last longer on the
shelves with better packaging to prevent rotting and/or
die-off. Many of the packages are very flimsy and end
up getting damaged during the shipment process, which
lowers their shelf life as a result. This can turn off potential
hobbyists who buy and don’t immediately plant them.
TrufaNT: The main thing manufacturers could do to
help brick-and-mortar stores is to keep prices rea-
sonable and enforce MAP pricing. It’s embarrassing
when customers come in with an internet price and
make us feel as though we’re robbing people with our
remaining stagnant or declining in the next few years?
and what specific factors do you think will determine
the future of the aquatics segment?
DoNs ToN: I see it going toward more of an entertainment
market. Brick-and-mortars will need to utilize technology and zoo/aquarium models to make their place a
destination. We will have to get creative and use exhibit
display management to provide entertainment.
We have to understand our place with consumers. For
beginners, we will remain relevant. For advanced hobbyists—less so. That’s why we’ll have to discover new ideas
to draw advanced aquarists in. We can get the candy, i.e.,
the fish, but now we have to market and display for enjoyment. They’ll leave the house for that.
Honestly, I do not foresee growth. I do believe only
savvy, market-based retail experts with specialty expertise will survive for an extended time.
Ma: We believe it will continue to grow as it takes
current hobbyists and local fish store owners such as
ourselves to continue working together and pushing
the hobby to new people who have always had an in-
terest and never considered starting an aquarium at
home or at the office. We get people that come in near-
ly everyday and have never had a fish tank, but after
we guide them on what it takes to start and maintain
one and show them examples of how an aquarium
can look [from the display tanks we have in-store],
they end up getting into the hobby.
There needs to be a constant push to spark new interest. Kids and teens may have access to other forms of
digital entertainment, but it also takes current hobbyists
who are also parents to pass along the interest and joy of
fishkeeping to their children. We see families come in on a
regular basis, and over the course of maybe a few months
to a year, it isn’t uncommon to find the husband, wife and
son each have their own individual tanks catered to their
own needs and preferences.
Factors that can affect the future of this segment can
range from environmental protection issues, which may
ban certain species to be possessed or sold within a certain state, to material costs rising, making tanks and/or
supplies/equipment prices go up. Being in California, it
is already illegal to possess certain species of fish as the
state wildlife agencies are afraid they will be released and
become an invasive species. It is really up to all of us, as
a whole, to ensure the entire industry is responsible for
what we do with our fish and to have hobbyists take up
responsibility to get rid of a fish they no longer want in
the proper method by donating to local fish societies or
stores, trading with fellow hobbyists, etc.
There are certain plants, fish and other invertebrates
that are not banned, but if released, they have the potential to wreak havoc on the local ecosystem and outcompete local species. We must continue to be accountable
and also help keep other fellow hobbyists accountable as
many of these fish and/or plant species can and will be
banned if a sizable impact is made from their irresponsible release, whether negligently or intentionally. Fish
hobbyists in this state, and in the U.S. as a whole, already
cannot obtain many fish that other countries have not
banned, and with responsible fishkeeping habits, we can
continue to thrive and grow the interest and work with
what we can already get our hands on.
TrufaNT: Probably stagnant and perhaps even declining. Not only are we competing with digital entertainment, but we’re also fighting folks like People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who successfully
throttled the sustainable harvest of saltwater aquarium
Roger Ma, co-owner
of Pet Zone Tropical Fish,
which has two stores in
B&B Pet Stop