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Aquatic Marketplace: A Clear View

Posted: September 26, 2013, 3:45 p.m. EDT

Water changes, additives and conditioners keep aquariums clean and sell fish.

By David Lass

When it comes to tank maintenance products, retailers agree that maintaining the tanks from which they sell fish is one of the most important aspects of running a fish room.

"Routine is critical,” said Keith Taylor, store manager for Pet Life in Stratham, N.H. "Fish like constant conditions, and we do water changes every week and monitor the water condition in all of our selling tanks.”

It Starts at Store
A clean tank starts with performing water changes—for store and hobbyist tanks alike.

"Regular partial water changes are an essential part of fishkeeping,” said Andy Ternay, technical sales manager for Fritz Industries Specialty Division of Dallas. "In combination with gravel vacuuming, they allow for the removal of organics from the aquarium.”

Aqua Maintenance
Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp.’s Fluval Accent Aquarium Kit features a one-step filter cartridge and a built-in water change system. David Lass

Many stores use MARS (Marine Aquatic Retail Systems) or DAS (Dutch Aquarium Systems) displays, which usually allow for easy water changing. Some stores either have modified these systems or built their own.
"We have original MARS 1 systems that I have replumbed for our use,” said Kevin Willyerd, owner of Animal Ark in Kingwood, Texas. "All the water runs through separate UVs, and we turn the entire system over twice an hour.”

Many stores, and virtually all hobbyists except those with a dedicated fish room, are dependent on a hose and bucket for doing water changes, which might explain why so few hobbyists actually do them.

"All real hobbyists do water changes, and of new people buying fish tanks, maybe 50 percent do them,” said Lance Reyniers, president of Milwaukee-based Python Products, a manufacturer of water change and tank maintenance products.

Water changes are like going to the gym; everyone agrees they are a good thing, but not many people actually do them, Reyniers continued.

Industry Voices
What are the most important aspects of tank maintenance?

"A 50 percent water change once a week. I have our tanks set up so I can do this in about one hour.”—Kevin Willyerd, owner of Animal Ark in Kingwood, Texas

"Water changes and topping off. Our tap water runs 7.0 to 7.4, and all we do is run it through an activated carbon filter.”—Jeff Nethers, owner of Winchester Aquarium & Pet in Winchester, Va.

"Water changes. In nature, fish get a water change every few minutes. Every real hobbyist who knows anything about fish does water changes.”—Lance Reyniers, president of Python Products in Milwaukee

"Make sure there is no algae or other unsightly problems. Converting to 100 percent LED lighting has helped tremendously.”—Adam Marietta, owner of Aquatic Environments in Davenport, Iowa

"The top priority is reducing organic compounds. A buildup of organics in a closed system is a major source of many other problems.”—Andy Ternay, technical sales manager for Fritz Industries Specialty Division in Dallas

"Water changes—getting rid of problems in the water that you can’t see. It’s time-consuming. But well worth it.”—Dave Enedy, owner of Oddball Pets and Aquariums in Pittsburgh

"We overfeed and overmaintain. Well-fed fish look great. Three times a week we feed frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp, and sinking pellets for bottom feeders. And we gravel-vac and water change at least once a week.”—Keith Taylor, store manager of Pet Life in Stratham, N.H.

"Water quality is the most important aspect of tank maintenance. Could you breathe contaminated air and stay healthy? The same applies to an aquarium; if the water is unhealthy, the fish will be too.”—Andy Black, partner of Market Strategies (representative for Hydor USA) in Loveland, Colo.

Filters, Additives and Conditioners
The second-most important maintenance item for an aquarium is the filter, and there are plenty of options. In fact, several manufacturers have recently introduced new filters to the market.

"API Superclean is a new line of power filters that also offer a complete range of filtration media,” said Celine Pillu, trade marketing manager for Mars Fishcare in Chalfont, Pa. "Not only does API provide a wide range of solutions, but Mars also offers densely filled cartridges with unique blends of resins for the best filtration.”

Eheim North America in Dollard Des Ormeaux, Quebec, Canada, has introduced its Mini Flat, which is recommended for small terrariums.

"With the intake on the bottom, this small compact filter is ideal for a small terrarium,” said Jenny Georgiopoulos, marketing manager.

The Fluval Accent Aquarium Kit, manufactured by Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass., is an integrated water-changing system with a one-step filter cartridge designed to simplify water changes.
Cobalt Aquatics in Rock Hill, S.C., is scheduled to introduce its new canister filter, as well.

Water additives and conditioners, also an important part of tank maintenance, should be used in conjunction with—not in place of—water changes.

Hydor USA’s Prodibio line of water additives/conditioners prolongs the shelf life of nitrifying bacteria for as long as several years without refrigeration, said Andy Black, partner of Loveland, Colo.-based Market Strategies, which acts as a representative for the Sacramento, Calif.-based company.

"Glass ampoules charged with argon gas put the bacteria to sleep,” he added.

Other products in the Prodibio line enhance the live bacteria of the nitrogen cycle, Black continued.

Retailers sell favored algae-control products in addition to advising hobbyists to reduce the amount of light and food in the aquarium.

Pet Life’s Taylor said he cleans the glass of his store’s aquariums as often as needed.

"We scrub our aquariums with algae pads weekly,” said Shane Howard, manager of Steve’s Pet Shoppe in Lebanon, N.H.

"We have two complete sets of ornaments and plastic plants, and we rotate them between being in the tanks and getting a treatment of bleach, rinsing and drying,” said Adam Marietta, owner of Aquatic Environments in Davenport, Iowa.

"I keep live plants, mostly crypts or ferns on wood, in all of our livebearer and tetra tanks,” said Jeff Nethers, owner of Winchester Aquarium & Pet in Winchester, Va. "I’ve been doing this for about two years now, and it has cut losses in those tanks to almost nothing.”



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