Retailers report that customers are turning to new aquarium pets in a big

way, and they’re buying tanks large and small.

New aquarists are entering the hobby at a rapid pace, which is driving tanksales higher year-over-year. Retailers are seeing strong demand from existingcustomers as well, as those who start out with smaller nano-sized tanks oftenend up purchasing several more tanks over time.

Demand has increasingly shifted toward nano-sized aquarium sales, but themarket for tanks is complex, and customer interest in mid-sized and largeraquariums is still robust.

“Roughly 60 to 65 percent of the tanks we sell are under 55 gallons,” saidDonna Harris, co-owner of Blue Reef Aquatics, a tropical fish store in NorthLas Vegas, Nev. “We still do a lot of larger tank sales, upwards of 120 to 200gallons.”

Each store is unique, however, and local demand often dictates what type oftank retailers offer to their customer base.

“My business is a little bit different than any regular local fish store,”said Shabbir Ahmed, owner of Click & Fish Aquatics in Henrico, Va. “I focusmore towards nano fish and freshwater shrimp setups. My customers are prettymuch buying all small rimless tanks for planted aquascaping setups.”

Which segment of the hobby an aquarist is interested in—freshwater orsaltwater—also makes a difference, and tank purchases with aquascaping in mindare strong.

“Tanks for aquascaping are still popular,” said Claus Frenken, sales managerfor Sera North America, a Montgomeryville, Pa.-based manufacturer of aquariumproducts. “More stores now sell nano tanks. This trend is reflected in theincreasing number of live plant sales on the freshwater side of the hobby. Forsaltwater, I hear of more people looking for individual, custom-made tanksthat are mostly larger than the average tank available in many stores.”

The market for mid-sized tanks, roughly between 50 and 100 gallons, ischanging. Some retailers stated that they are seeing growth in this segment,while others reported a drop-off in sales.

“Customers are going with nano tanks,” said Lee Laimuddin, owner of Coral ReefAquariums, a tropical fish store in Tampa, Fla. “Sales are pretty good,especially of smaller tanks. Tanks in the 55-, 65- and 90-gallon sizes arealmost a thing of the past. Some customers want large tanks, but … I can’trecall selling anything larger than a 55- to 75-gallon for as long as I canremember.”

Part of the change in demand is due to price increases as tank volume headshigher.

“A 75-gallon is the best bang for your buck for a big tank at a reasonableprice,” said Brian Robinhorst, owner of Reptile Emporium & Aquatic Center, astore in Highland, Ind. “When you make the jump to a tank larger than 75gallons—for instance, up to a 100 or 150 gallons—the price is exponentiallymore expensive.”

Some retailers have experienced issues with keeping tanks in stock, as theCOVID-19 pandemic and supply line disruption have taken their toll ondistribution.

“A lot of stuff is out of stock,” Laimuddin said. “A lot of stuff is made inChina. The supply either stopped coming, or [suppliers] don’t know whenthey’re restocking. I’ve seen that a lot.”

Despite supply issues, tank sales are robust, retailers reported. Some localfish stores have not had problems restocking tanks, and geographic differencesmay influence tank availability.

“We haven’t had supply problems with tanks,” Harris said. “We are very closeto several different builders, so that might influence our experience. We havebeen having problems getting a lot of medications. A lot of products that comefrom China have seemed to be on back order. We have probably sold more tanksin the last three months than we sold all last year. It’s been very busy.”

New Products

Nanos Are In

Market demand for nano-sized aquariums suited to freshwater aquascaping is up,and manufacturers continue to refine their offerings in this segment.

Sera launched its Scaper Cubes at the start of 2020, which are availableexclusively in Europe, said Claus Frenken, sales manager for Sera NorthAmerica, a Montgomeryville, Pa.-based manufacturer of aquarium products. Thereare three models available, each with a 16-by-16-inch base and either 12, 16or 20 inches in height. Sera also offers six matching hardscapes, Frenkenadded, designed to suit each aquarium setup with a different motif.

“At the moment, those tanks are only available in Europe, but maybe we canbring them to the USA as well,” Frenken said. “The success of the Scaper Cubesled us to launch three additional tanks this year. We saw high demand forlarger tanks, so we just introduced three open design aquariums … in 25-, 34-and 42-gallon configurations.”

The new aqua tanks are lidless and are designed to hold fish that need morespace. Sera has also introduced a drop-ship program, Frenken said.

“Store owners are familiar with the problem of not having enough shelf orstorage space to offer all the products they want to carry,” he said. “Thismakes them think twice about what aquarium combinations to offer and showcasein the store, especially as there is a lot of capital commitment involved. Toavoid this, we created our drop-ship program. The end-user just configures theindividual aquarium and orders it from the local retailer. Sera then deliversthe tank, including all accessories, directly to the customer’s house. Thatway, the retailers save money for storage and shelf space, and the customerdoes not have to worry about transport from the store to the house.”

Smaller reef aquariums are also trending, and new tank kits are available toserve this demand as well.

“Our newest aquarium is the Reef Ready 32.5G Flex,” said Johnathan Hester,aquatics brand manager for Mansfield, Mass.-based the Hagen Group, whichmanufactures the Fluval brand. “It comes fully equipped with built-infiltration, Fluval media and a custom-fitted, app-enabled 3.0 Marine LED.”

Hagen is also focused on streamlining the purchasing process for retailers andcustomers.

“Consumers like the grab-and-go philosophy of tank kits, and so do retailers,”Hester said. “It makes for a more efficient and a less complicated buyingexperience. The consumer’s time is spent having fun picking out décor, plantsand gravel to personalize their new aquarium.”


Making the Most of Your Space

Livestock sales and aquarium tank sales are closely correlated, specialtyretailers reported., so setting up and displaying quality livestock indecorated and aquascaped tanks helps drive sales.

“We just moved into a much larger building,” said Donna Harris, co-owner ofBlue Reef Aquatics, a tropical fish store in North Las Vegas, Nev. “We movedso that we could have more room to merchandise tanks. We dedicated an area ofthe floor space to larger tanks. We stack all of the kits up. Some of the kitscome out of the boxes so people can see what they come with and what they looklike on a shelf. The smaller kits are on the shelf next to items we recommendto include with them. Otherwise, the large tanks get some decorations anddifferent options that customers can add to them.”

Space is the decisive limiting factor when it comes to showcasing displays forcustomers.

“We can always use more space,” said Brian Robinhorst, owner of ReptileEmporium & Aquatic Center, a store in Highland, Ind. “I could open a zootomorrow if I had the space. It’s expensive.”

Aquascaped displays are very popular, and, in many cases, retailers havesuccess selling the displays “as-is” to customers.

“I aquascape these display tanks to give customers an idea of what they can dowith the tank,” said Shabbir Ahmed, owner of Click & Fish Aquatics, a tropicalfish store in Henrico, Va. “The kind of fish you sell dictates the kind oftank you are going to sell. The largest tank I sell is probably a 29-gallon.Most customers want low and long tanks. I sell a lot of 12-, 20- and 30-gallonlong tanks. Sometimes I sell my display tanks as well.”

Using livestock to inspire customers and promote tank sales is standard advicefrom industry professionals.

“I always advocate that retailers take [a tank] out of the box and decorate itwith plants, décor and gravel,” said Johnathan Hester, aquatics brand managerfor Mansfield, Mass.-based the Hagen Group, which manufactures the Fluvalbrand. “Livestock sales and aquariums go hand-in-hand. Provide a coupon forlivestock when an aquarium is purchased, and remind customers to bring a watersample in for testing prior to adding fish.”

Offering attractive displays and tying them together with beautiful livestockcreates opportunities to build repeat business.

“Aquascaped tanks sell way easier and are more eye-catching, and thus drawmore people into the store,” said Claus Frenken, sales manager for Sera NorthAmerica, a Montgomeryville, Pa.-based manufacturer of aquarium products.“Think about cross-selling or follow-up sales. Offer special discounts onlivestock or water conditioners and food, so that customers will not justleave the store with a tank, but also everything else needed to get the tankrunning. Offer free water tests over a specific period of time. That way,customers come back to the store on a frequent basis and the retailer has theability to generate repeat sales.”

Pricing and Competition

Livestock Drives Tank Sales

The price point of larger tanks rapidly increases beyond a certain volume,specialty retailers reported. One of the main drivers behind the nano aquariumtrend has been affordability for newer hobbyists.

“Customers that are already into the hobby don’t mind spending money,” saidShabbir Ahmed, owner of Click & Fish Aquatics, a tropical fish store inHenrico, Va. “Even if I don’t carry some product, they will special-order thetank. I’m getting some of my tanks for around $200, and [dedicated hobbyistsare] willing to spend that amount. But most of my customers are in a range of$100 to $150 for the whole setup.”

The average price point most customers are comfortable with varies dependingon geographic location, but most retailers reported that they definitely seecustomers come in with a similar price target in mind.

“In terms of tank kits, anything under $200 is a seller,” said Lee Laimuddin,owner of Coral Reef Aquariums, a tropical fish store in Tampa, Fla. “My storeis located in a lower-income area. That is the sweet spot in terms of pricerange.”

Tank sales offer retailers an advantage over online competition, both in termsof availability and shipping costs. Because tank sales dovetail with livestocksales, these competitive advantages mean customers still favor supportingtheir local fish store for tank purchases.

“Not many hobbyists order tanks from the internet,” said Donna Harris, co-owner of Blue Reef Aquatics, a tropical fish store in North Las Vegas, Nev.“Most of the time when they do get a tank quote from us, it’s a lot lessexpensive than what some of the tank people that sell online are selling for.”

A wide selection of livestock and various tanks in different configurationsleads to growing customer interest that translates into revenue.

“Having a wide variety of livestock helps drive tank sales,” Laimuddin said.“I’ve seen more customers come into my store specifically because of ourselection, even though my store is only 1,400 square feet. … There arecustomers who think they are getting a bargain shopping online, even if theprice is only lower by a little bit. … If merchandise doesn’t have MAP[minimum advertised price] pricing, I don’t even look at it anymore. … Someonline retailers sell below MAP pricing and take away business. It’s a tough,competitive environment when it comes to online retailers. But I do have acompetitive edge on livestock. If you look online and compare livestock pricesto those in my store, online companies are much more expensive for sure.”

Source: Ethan D. Mizer Pet Product News

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