As an aquatics specialty retailer, what is your favorite part of
Roger Ma: Turning on the lights on all our nature aquar-ium-style planted tanks! It amazes me how we’re able
to replicate a piece of nature in such a confined space
and makes me very proud of the entire Pet Zone team
for putting such effort, dedication and passion into
keeping these aquascapes beautifully maintained and
What are the most challenging aspects of what you do every day?;
Ma: I’d say limitation on space. We are limited in the number of livestock tanks and cannot accommodate all the
species of fish and plants that we’d love to bring in, so we
have to really pick and choose wisely.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received from a
Ma: We’ve had a handful of customers mention that we
have the rarest fish they’ve ever seen in any local fish
store. These are fish that they’ve never seen in person and
only on the internet, so they are amazed and immediately
take a picture and will post it onto their social media platforms to share with friends. It brings a smile to our face as
we were once in their shoes and never thought we’d have
a shop of our own with rare specimens.
What challenges are you facing as an;aquatics retailer?;
Ma: Price-sensitive customers. We do have quite a loyal
following of customers that don’t mind spending a bit
more in our store as we provide them with extra knowledge they can’t get from an online vendor, but, overall, it
is tough to compete with online retailers that price their
products at low margins we simply cannot afford to sell at.
What’s the most notable change you’ve seen in the pet spe-
cialty aquatics space since you started out?
Ma: We’ve seen a big shift in décor. For many
years, huge artificial decorations such as wrecked ships
or castles would fly off the shelves. Nowadays, people are
moving into an all-natural look and only use real hard-scape such as driftwood and stones. Plastic and silk plants
were also popular, but, in the last couple years, the demand has dropped and almost every one of our customers buys live plants.
Given all the changes that have occurred in the pet market in
recent years, where do you see your particular niche of the
market—as an aquatics retailer—heading in the future? Do
you foresee growth?
Ma: We’ve shifted into doing planted tanks and are
using the plants as more of a focal point, with the fish
complementing the overall aquarium setup. With
aquatic plants, an aquarium is more balanced, and many
hobbyists also consider planted tanks a form of art. We
definitely see this niche growing as we’ve had a surge in
business throughout these last couple years just on the
aquatic plants segment alone as more people are getting
the proper knowledge on the overall benefits of keeping
live plants in a fish tank and find joy maintaining them,
similar to how one would enjoy maintaining a garden
in their yard.
There is definitely some stagnation in some areas
of the aquatic industry, but as long as companies can
follow the trends and keep up with the hobbyists’ changing needs, the industry will continue to grow. •
Aquatic Experience is set to make
a splash on the East Coast, Oct. 19-21.
Uncommon species, meticulously
cared for aquascapes and expertise
make Pet Zone the destination for
freshwater tropical fish lovers.
in Aquatic Retail
A Rare Find
One of the year’s top aquatic shows takes the plunge in a new location this October as Aquatic Experience 2018 moves to the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Se- caucus, N.J. Coming off the success of the 2017 event in Chicago, where 21 percent
growth made it the most attended to-date, the show is poised for another exceptional
year in a new region.
Aquatic Experience is where retailers of all sizes can gain fresh perspective to help
start or maintain a competitive business. No matter what you’re looking for—whether
it’s tips on how to keep your business afloat in a changing environment or how to take
your brick-and-mortar store online—you’ll hear applicable advice from subject matter
experts. And if you’re attending in search of new products and business solutions, you’ll
find everything under the sun—or, rather, the sea—on the show floor. It’s the ideal place
to re-energize a passion for aquatic retail, refresh business practices to appeal to both
existing customers and a new generation of aquatic fans, and move forward into the
future of fishkeeping.
This year, Aquatic Experience taps in to all things social and digital media, appealing
to consumers’ demands for an online shopping experience. Through sessions such as
“Building and Maintaining a Thriving Aquatic Business in Today’s Digital World” and
“Are Your Customers Finding You on Social Media?” business owners will get tried-and-true tips to boost business with the touch of a keyboard. And, for those looking for
even more extensive training, the full-day Fish Health Management course is a must.
“Aquatic Experience has established a longstanding reputation as a leader in the
aquatic industry,” said Zach
Franck, exhibit sales—aquatic specialist for the World Pet Association (WPA), organiz-
er of Aquatic Experience. “With consumers’ changing interests and shopping habits,
aquatic retailers need to shift the way they think about their business, and this show is
a great place to see emerging trends, source new products and stay on top of customer
The Northeast has long been a thriving location for aquatic businesses and provides
the perfect setting for retailers to discover new trends, innovative products, and proven
strategies to stay competitive and profitable in today’s changing environment. Here,
marine and freshwater professionals will source the latest, top-selling products, learn
business-building strategies from leading industry experts, get quality facetime with
other retailers to share challenges and discover solutions, and enjoy the lively atmo-
sphere and proximity to attractions in the surrounding tristate area.
“All in all, Aquatic Experience is the event I most look forward to every year,” said
Patrick Donston, Aquatic Experience speaker and owner of Absolutely Fish in Clifton,
N.J. “Just when I think there’s nothing more to learn about aquatics, I come away with
new insight, new knowledge, new solutions to common industry challenges and new
connections with fellow aquatic enthusiasts every time.”
Join your fellow aquatic retailers as well as hobbyists and consumers in New Jer-
sey, Oct. 19-21, and immerse yourself in all the underwater world has to offer. Visit
aquaticexperience.org to learn more. •
IT’S A RETAIL LIFE
Locations: Mid-City: 4266 University Ave.,
San Diego, CA
Convoy District/Kearny Mesa: 4160 Convoy
St., San Diego, CA
Co-owners: Roger, Jenney and Paul Ma
Pet Zone Tropical Fish At a Glance
Co-owner Roger Ma (second from left) and the Pet Zone
team take special care in creating and maintaining
aquascapes for display within the stores.