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A Nano for Everyone

Both novices and pros are embracing the nano tank trend, thanks to improved technology and emerging consumer trends.


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Although they’ve been around for years, nano tanks are growing in popularity these days, as manufacturers in the segment seek to grab the attention of both seasoned and entry-level aquarists with equipment that is easier to use and more efficient than ever.

“Definitely, the nano tanks are driving the business on both ends of the spectrum,” said Frank Kudla, vice president of sales and marketing for Aquatop, based in Brea, Calif. “We’re seeing more people getting into the hobby for the first time because the threshold to entry has gotten dramatically lower from a price standpoint, and they’re successful in the hobby.”

Among the most notable developments to occur in the segment in recent years is the fact that manufacturers are making better-quality equipment at more affordable prices.

“There have always been cheap kits out there through big-box stores, but they really had very poor equipment, so your chances for success in the hobby were pretty limited,” Kudla said. “Nowadays, you go into an independent retailer or even a national retailer to buy a nano kit and the equipment it comes with is pretty good. The filtration is pretty good and the lighting is pretty good, so your chances for success now at the entry level are much greater than 10 or 15 years ago.”

The nano tank trend is also being driven by the increasing number of consumers who want the beauty of an aquarium in their homes without the hassles often associated with keeping one.

“Nano tanks are becoming a lifestyle,” said Bill Wymard, a marine biologist and the owner of Aquarium Adventure in Hilliard, Ohio. “A nano tank makes a lot nicer statement from an aesthetic standpoint, because when you look at an aquarium as part of your lifestyle in the home, you see a self-contained unit with a neater, cleaner look.”

Still, consumers should know that maintenance is necessary for the upkeep of all tanks.

“You have two maintenance chores with any aquarium; one is partial water exchanges, and the other is cleaning algae,” Wymard said. “Those chores become a little bit easier with a self-contained, all-in-one aquarium, but they’re all the same job. You’re going to have to do it no matter what size aquarium [you have].”

A Guiding Hand

Manufacturers are focusing on the functionality of nano aquariums while at the same time creating beautiful pieces of living furniture that fit into the consumer’s lifestyle. However, new aquarists often require some guidance from the experts in order to have a successful entry into the hobby.

The initial step of choosing an aquarium can be daunting. Sean Raines, market specialist for Spectrum Brands in Blacksburg, Va., understands this very well.

“Not knowing what to buy when first starting in this hobby can be a barrier to entry,” Raines said. “Some newcomers find themselves overwhelmed by the number of choices, while others may make choices that lead to problems; both can be formulas for early dropout. That’s why we offer kits that supply the basics they’ll need for a successful start. It’s important to include the essentials so that they can concentrate on the fun part of decorating and choosing their favorite fish.”

Jesse Stach, aquatic manager for Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., said he focuses on educating “customers according to the type of aquarium they want, and what type of fish they’ve already decided they want.”

However, getting shoppers who are new to the hobby to understand the nuances of fishkeeping is not always easy.

“The challenge is being sure to give them enough information so that they can make that aquarium work, because most people come at me and say, ‘It’s just a fish!’

“I physically show them how to maintain their new tank, and I try to teach them that it’s not just furniture, that fish have personalities and a hierarchy, and that they’re dealing with a miniature ecosystem,” Stach said.

Functioning displays are another way to show customers exactly what is involved in maintaining an aquarium.

“We actually developed a special rack for our stores just to hold and display all three sizes of our smaller tanks so that their customers could see all the equipment that’s being used in the setup,” said Kyle Thaman, customer service manager for Cobalt Aquatics, based in Rockhill, S.C. “The tanks were stocked with plants and fish, and there’s also a spot on the rack for fish food and heaters and so on, so that in one spot they could see everything they would need to set themselves up at home.”

Emerging Trends

Freshwater planted tanks are trending strongly, and manufacturers are providing the equipment and technology necessary for their continued success. JBJ’s Dennerle brand recently introduced the Scaper’s Tank, marketed specifically to aquascapers. It is designed to provide enhanced LED lighting and optimal panoramic viewing ideal for enjoying aquascapes.

Another JBJ offering is a line of nano tanks called Cubey.

“This line of nano kits has a great price point, and they meet all the requirements to support a wide variety of livestock,” said Dan Gilboa, president of Age of Aquariums in Signal Hill, Calif.  “Available in 10-gallon, 15-gallon and 20-gallon sizes, they’ve been a really nice addition to the products we carry in our store. They have a sleek, modern look that people seem to like. The low-profile LED lighting provides for a form-fitting hood that’s not too obtrusive, and they come in white, which seems to be the most popular color at the moment.”

Cobalt Aquatics, based in Rockhill, S.C., recently released its Microvue series of aquariums, and Kyle Thaman, customer service manager, said the line has been a hit.

“It’s been pretty big to the point where we actually ran out of one of the sizes because we didn’t anticipate this great a demand,” Thaman said. “The Microvue series was engineered specifically for that freshwater aquasacaping category, with the high clarity and nearly invisible silicone seals that provide an unobstructed view, along with a compact filter chamber that’s not obtrusive.”

One of the latest nano tank offerings from The Hagen Group is the Flex, which features a distinctive top-to-bottom, curved-front design, and comes in 9-gallon and 15-gallon versions.

“We unveiled a white version of the Flex this year at Global Pet Expo,” said Damian Hall, senior marketing manager for the Mansfield, Mass.-based manufacturer.

“One attractive feature is the printed honeycomb application around the top of the aquarium that camouflages the water line as well as the side filtration compartment,” he added. “The fully integrated tank with multistage filtration chamber in the back makes for a very impressive design. But the most unique features are the vertically oriented bow front that was an engineering challenge for our manufacturing team to ensure a tight seal with no viewing distortion, and the built-in full spectrum 7500 K LED lamp that supports plant growth and enhances fish color.”

BioBubble Pets released the WonderBubble some time ago, but the company has since added features to the line.

“We’ve added The Bubble Tunnel Kit to the WonderBubble,” said Philip Root, vice president of sales and marketing for the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company. “This innovative design of a transparent tunnel filled with water allows your freshwater fish to swim through it, often doing very fast loops. It’s pretty amazing to see.”

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