Though sometimes a loss leader, marine tanks open up options
for sales and help build retailers’ customer base.
BY E THAN D. MIZER
Marine systems are often thought of as the pinnacle of the aquarium hobby, and tank sales are integral to pet specialty retail survival and success. Marine tanks provide a competitive advantage for retailers, help bring in new customers and open
a gateway for additional sales.
Nano aquariums continue to be one of the dominant trends in the
marine aquarium hobby, according to industry participants.
“The nano style of marine tanks is popular right now,” said Chris
LeRose, aquatic division manager for The Hagen Group in Mansfield,
Mass. “Customers are looking for the ‘grab and go’ type of tank, with
price being a big factor. A nano kit is ideal because most have all the
Steve Maletzky, owner of Tropical Lagoon Aquarium in Silver
Spring, Md., noted the trend in nano tanks as well.
“In our customer base, there are a lot more nano customers than
there are larger-volume customers,” Maletzky said.
Still, while nano aquariums attract a lot of business, sales of
larger-volume tanks are showing signs of life, as well, according to
Maletzky noted that he tries to sell 75-gallon aquariums or larger,
because the setup is more stable. Other retailers said that larger setups
offer them the chance to make big sales.
“We sell a lot of big tanks because [competitors] aren’t going to go
near anything past 55 gallons,” said Siegfried Gutekunst, owner of
The Hidden Reef Inc. in Levittown, Pa. “We sold a 125-gallon aquar-
ium yesterday, and we sold a 210-gallon aquarium today. We’ve got
a 180-gallon aquarium on order for next week.”
Tanks from Aqueon and Marineland do well for him, Gutekunst
noted, though he’s dealt with All Glass products for a long time and
likes to offer its aquariums to customers.
Novel shapes are also appearing from various manufacturers,
but on the whole, the traditional rectangle or square aquarium is
still the preferred format for most marine aquarium customers,
“I think a lot of the [odd shapes] are more freshwater-oriented,”
Gutekunst said. “With the reef tanks, I see more people trying to do
the lower setups because of the intensity of light required, but … it
still seems like customers are interested in the [more traditionally
Some brands do well in odd-shaped and smaller formats, however.
“Innovative Marine does this well,” said Bruce Kelley, manager
at Aquatek Tropical Fish in Austin, Texas. “Their tanks are innova-
tively shaped. They’ve got their step-down, peninsula-style stuff, and
they’re two-layer tanks, with a deep spot and a shallow area. They’re
introducing different designs.”
Kelley has had success with the brand, and it’s probably one of his
best-sellers, he stated. Maletzky also noted that Innovative Marine’s
tanks do well for him in-store.
NANOS AND ALL-IN-ONES DOMINATE
With the continued interest in smaller marine aquariums,
and the advantage of being able to offer all-in-one setups in
an affordable package in this format, many manufacturers
are reporting success building out their product lines in the
“We’re seeing a tremendous amount of activity in the
smaller cube, our 24G Reef Cube Nano Tank, which is a
24-gallon cube,” said Francis Kudla, sales and marketing
consultant for Aquatop in Brea, Calif. “That’s been probably
the most popular item in our line.”
The cube is part of the recently introduced Recife line
from Aquatop, Kudla noted, which includes the 24-gallon
setup, as well as a 32-, 40- and 48-gallon cube option. The
line is designed to offer a turn-key marine tank setup, he
added, and includes the high-clarity glass aquarium, an LED
light, a protein skimmer, an assembled stand, a multi-cham-
ber sump and other equipment.
The Hagen Group continues to have success with its
Evo 13 nano aquarium, said Chris LeRose, aquatic division
manager for the Mansfield, Mass.-based company. Hagen
focuses on nano-sized setups to help entice newer custom-
ers into the hobby.
“When it comes to marine aquariums, we look more for
the success of the customer with the tank,” LeRose said.
“We need to focus on success of the customer—more so
the beginner—to captivate the customer to stay in the
All-in-one kits remain popular across the board, said
Karina Esquivel, senior brand manager for Central Garden &
Pet Co. in Franklin, Wis.
“The technology aspect has been refined so that
filtration and lighting systems work effectively and position
hobbyists for success, no matter what their level of expe-
rience is,” Esquivel said. “[All-in-one setups] also eliminate
confusion at point of purchase.”
Coralife’s 16- and 32-gallon LED Bio-Cube aquarium kits
now offer integrated filtration and LED lighting, replacing the
old power compact lights, Esquivel added.
The emphasis on nano-sized complete systems is good
for everyone in the business, manufacturers reported.
“Selling the solution, rather than parts, makes a great
deal of sense,” Kudla said. “For someone we want to attract
to the hobby, I think an all-in-one makes a great deal of
sense because everything is optimized to work together,
and the number of decisions that have to be made to take
that aquarium home are diminished.”
Cobalt International is putting the finishing touches on
its new line of C-Vue all-in-one aquariums, said Les Wilson,
co-founder/marketing for the Rock Hill, S.C.-based company.
The line is designed to house a small reef or marine
setup, and it comes with multiple built-in features to help
“When it comes to aquariums, flexibility is the reigning
trend we are seeing,” Wilson said. “For a while, complete all-in-one style tanks dominated, with integrated lights, pumps
and skimmers already incorporated into the system.”