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Patrick Donston
Patrick Donston for Fish Absolutely
Successful fish store owner Patrick Donston, of Absolutely Fish in Clifton, N.J., discusses the ins and outs of the aquatic industry from an "in the trenches” retailer perspective. Patrick holds an MS in Ichthyology studies and has been in the aquatics industry more than 20 years. His 7,000 square foot store offers thousands of choices and excellent service to its customers. Absolutely Fish was selected as Pet Product News International’s Retailer of the Year for 2003-2004.
David Lass
David Lass for Fish Absolutely
David Lass has owned and operated retail pet stores and a wholesale fish import and export business. He is a frequent contributor to FAMA and has covered many aspects of the aquarium and pond hobbies. He is also a well-respected moderator on

April 7, 2015
Cross-selling Fish Foods
By Patrick Donston
I love coming up with ways to increase the size of our clients' pantry of aquarium foods. Whether it be frozen or dry, sell high-quality foods, preferably unique SKUs that cannot be found in other shops or chains. ... More»

March 25, 2015
Promoting Fish Club Conventions
By David Lass
Many of my friends who own local fish stores complain about the local fish clubs. The nature of these complaints usually revolve around the local club trying ... More»

March 13, 2015
Creative Marketing for Aquatics
By Patrick Donston
Sales are great, but they shouldn’t be used constantly to meet the numbers we need for stability. Thus, the dink and dunks from day to day make a profitable difference. ... More»

February 24, 2015
Fish From the Wild
By David Lass
Fish hobbyists, breeders and commercial aquaculturists are working diligently to get fish that can no longer come from the wild to breed in controlled tanks and ponds. ... More»

February 13, 2015
Why Cichlids?
By Patrick Donston
Why should every shop, fish wholesaler or manufacturer care about cichlids? I’ll tell you cichlidophiles (as they like to call themselves) are everywhere. ... More»

january 15, 2015
The Wonderful World of Crustaceans
By Patrick Donston
Pet retailers and fish stores that supply marine aquaria most certainly carry decapods, also known as shrimp, lobsters, and Brachyura and Anomura species of crab... More»

december 29, 2014
Introducing New Angelfish Breeds to the Market
By David Lass
Angelfish are my favorite fish to breed, so much so that I even wrote a book about angelfish called "Angelfish: Understanding and Keeping Angelfish.”... More»

december 12, 2014
Why You Should Attend Aquatic Experience
By Patrick Donston
Aquatic Experience-Chicago, which is put on by the World Pet Association, has been held at the Schaumburg Convention Center west of Chicago for the past two years... More»

november 24, 2014
Advancements in Canister Filter Technology
By David Lass
The improvements that canister filter manufacturers have made in the past few years truly are impressive... More»

november 10, 2014
State of the Aquatic Retail Industry in 2015
By Patrick Donston
The history of the milkman can serve as a great analogy for the current state of the retail industry... More»

october 30, 2014
Why Mudskippers Deserve their Own Aquariums
By David Lass
When certain fish require "species” aquariums, it means they need to be kept specifically with their own kind... More»

october 9, 2014
Chemical Remedies – A Thing of the Past?
By Patrick Donston
Ten years ago Aquarium Pharm told me Nalidixic acid would no longer be available... More»

september 26, 2014
Furniture Tanks
By David Lass
Manufacturers finally have received the message—and there is a variety of very attractive, complete aquarium setups that really will complement the interior of any home... More»

september 10, 2014
Tangs Beat Angels
By Patrick Donston
Using social media for connecting and engaging with customers is important not only for maintaining relationships, but also for obtaining feedback... More»

august 29, 2014
Display Tanks
By David Lass
There is nothing, in my humble opinion, more beautiful than a display aquarium... More»

august 13, 2014
Nitrifying Bacteria: What You Didn’t Know
By Patrick Donston
Cycling or conditioning an aquarium is the establishment of bacteria cultures... More»

july 31, 2014
Nothing From the Wild
By David Lass
The freshwater side of the aquarium hobby/industry really needs to reveal to the "general public” that for the most part we do not take anything from the wild... More»

july 15, 2014
Real or False Neon Tetra Disease?
By Patrick Donston
One way to decipher between true or false neon tetra disease without scoping is to determine the time of pathogenesis... More»

june 27, 2014
How to Turn Children Into Fish Hobbyists
By David Lass
One of the best ways to increase children’s interest in the fish hobby is to start out by having some cichlids breeding in the store... More»

june 13, 2014
Beware of Brooklynella hostilis, also Known as Clownfish Disease
By Patrick Donston
Some of the best marine ornamentals to stock are clownfish from the genera Amphiprion and Premnas... More»

may 27, 2014
Selling Test Kits vs. Testing Water for Free
By David Lass
Some stores will perform any kind of water test for any of their customers, fresh or salt, free of charge... More»

may 14, 2014
Where Have All the Loricariids Gone?
By Patrick Donston
During the wet season, Loricariids migrate to headwaters of rainforest streams to spawn... More»

april 24, 2014
Aquaculture in Your Store
By David Lass
All too often uninformed people complain that the aquatics industry is "ruining the wild” by taking fish and invertebrates from their natural habitats and somehow or other laying waste to those lands... More»

april 10, 2014
Become an Expert on Discus
By Patrick Donston
The best way for tropical fish departments to survive in retail today is to diversify... More»

march 24, 2014
Showing Off Shrimp
By David Lass
I am fascinated by little ornamental shrimp that are now in the hobby/industry, and I keep five or six different types... More»

march 11, 2014
Contrary Beliefs, Misconceptions and Facts About Fishkeeping
By Patrick Donston
If you're like me, you hear and read a lot of information about fishkeeping as well as gather information from customers, Internet forums, articles, blogs and the like... More»

february 24, 2014
Big Reef Display and Frag Tanks
By David Lass
I recently visited Underwater World in Taunton, Mass., a store owned by Greg Driscoll, who has a terrific tank idea that I want to share... More»

february 10, 2014
The Art of Conversation
By Patrick Donston
Have you ever talked with a random customer in your shop and found out they didn’t purchase their initial aquarium setup with you?... More»

january 27, 2014
New Fish Food Products
By David Lass
The topic of fish foods in the aquatics industry is where most introductions of products are either completely new or improved... More»

january 13, 2014
A Review of Commercial Marine Systems (Part-2)
By Patrick Donston
Biological filtration is a model of research and development that brings technical aspects of microbial principles and balanced ecosystems to captive animal care... More»

december 27, 2013
Low-Light Plants
By David Lass
One of the most important conclusions I have drawn about fishkeeping is that aquariums look better, and fish do better, with live plants growing in the tank... More»

december 9, 2013
A Review of Commercial Marine Filtration
By Patrick Donston
A few years ago, I read a fascinating article written by Valerio Zupo, Ph.D., regarding the development of a marine aquarium filter... More»

november 25, 2013
New Wild Angelfish
By David Lass
Since it is simply what they do, ichthyologists are often babbling about whether the different angelfish that they found in some out of the way stream in the Amazon is a new species... More»

november 11, 2013
Individual Aquariums Vs. Full Systems
By Patrick Donston
When it comes to housing sellable livestock, I am often asked about when it’s appropriate to use individual aquariums as opposed to full systems... More»

October 21, 2013
What’s New in Nano Tanks
By David Lass
The popularity of nano tanks is growing as more manufacturers bring out their latest offerings... More»

October 7, 2013
Exhibit Protocol for Aquarium Upkeep
By Patrick Donston
We just finished a few new exhibits in the shop. I think it is important to follow an exhibit protocol with display aquariums... More»

September 23, 2013
New Canister Filters
By David Lass
I often hear people complain that there is nothing new in the way of equipment for aquariums, and I try to tell those folks that they do not know what they are talking about... More»

September 9, 2013
Upcoming Aquatics Conferences and Why You Should Go
By Patrick Donston
This August, I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful conference in Maine: the Ornamental Fish Health Symposium sponsored by the University of New England... More»

August 26, 2013
New Fish
By David Lass
Even though the big-box stores would rather not have anything to do with new fish being introduced to the hobby from the wild, there are always interesting new introductions... More»

August 12, 2013
Explanations with "Big Words”
By Patrick Donston
I’ve always thought there is a right and wrong time to use "big words” when explaining or selling within the aquatics industry... More»

JuLY 22, 2013
Fancy Guppies
By David Lass
If there is one fish that most hobbyists have kept, or are at least familiar with, it would have to be the humble guppy... More»

JuLY 8, 2013
Are Mom & Pop Pet Stores Becoming More Corporate?
By Patrick Donston
In one of our latest meetings we discussed the idea of having name tags made for us to wear in the shop... More»

June 27, 2013
High Tech Controllers
In the past the aquarium hobby / industry was not always that eager to embrace new technologies from other industries... More»

June 11, 2013
Designer Shrimp Boom
It continues to astound me how quickly a niche can develop in the aquarium hobby/industry, and one such niche that is exploding right now is filled with the new "designer” shrimp... More»

May 31, 2013
LED Lighting and Aquariums, an Update
In just a few short years, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have pretty much taken over as the lighting method of choice for the aquarium industry, with a couple of provisos... More»

May 8, 2013
Bristle Worms: Harmful or Helpful?
Also known as fire worms, bristle worms can be pests in reef aquariums by harming corals and tridacnid clams, and they are toxic to people. However, they also can be helpful by sifting sand beds and consuming detritus and other unwanted wastes... More»

April 19, 2013
Mantis Shrimp: A Destructive Pest?
By Patrick Donston
Do you believe mantis shrimp are devastating and extremely destructive pests to reef aquariums... More» 

April 16, 2013
Promote Wave Controllers in Your Store
By David Lass
Not to be a heretic, but some aquarium products manufacturers come up with can be a bit over the top and do not really contribute to the success of an aquarium...More» 

March 26, 2013
What Are You Doing For Earth Day?
By Patrick Donston
A conference I’ve attended and highly recommend is the Pet Industry's Top2Top Conference hosted by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. This year...More» 

March 13, 2013
It's Easy Keeping Seahorses
By David Lass
One of the most interesting animals that we keep in our glass boxes has got to be the seahorse...More» 

February 26, 2013
The Importance of Having an Animal Exit Strategy
By Patrick Donston
In my last blog, I talked about helping clients select the right fish for their tanks. Once that has been accomplished comes "The Animal Exit Strategy”...More» 

February 15, 2013
Target Feeding Fish and Coral
By David Lass
Very often in a marine aquarium—especially in a reef tank—it is necessary to get food to a fish or invertebrate that will not get enough food if left only to its own devices...More» 

January 31, 2013
Train Your Staff to Help Customers Select Compatible Fish
By Patrick Donston
The compatibility of fish living in the same aquarium is just as important as the aquarium's equipment and daily, weekly and monthly husbandry practices...More» 

January 15, 2013
Combining Land and Water with Paludariums
David Lass
Some stores may be missing out on significant selling opportunities simply by not considering setups where land meets water...More» 

December 10, 2012
Know Your Wrasses: Not All of These Beautiful Fish Are Good Living-Reef Inhabitants
Patrick Donston
Wrasses, colorful beautiful Labrids; their diverse pigmentation includes all the hues of a rainbow. From the smallest (1 inch) to the largest (over 8 feet), wrasses also differ dramatically in behavior....More» 

December 4, 2012
Ensure Customer Loyalty with Frequent Buyers Club Programs for Aquarists
David Lass
One of the biggest components of a successful local fish store or fish department of a full-line pet store is to get your customers to keep coming back....More» 

November 21, 2012
Teenage Employees are Worth the Training Effort
Patrick Donston
Do you think pet retailers--and fish stores in particular--can survive without teenage employees? I’m inclined to say no, especially on the retail end. Teenagers have curious, moldable minds...More» 

November 2, 2012
Selling Glofish Attracts Kids
David Lass
To say that the tropical fish hobby/industry is changing in terms of what kinds of fish are being offered for sale is an understatement...More» 

October 12, 2012
Prebiotics vs. Probiotics for Fish
Patrick Donston
Prebiotics are not probiotics. Probiotics are living microbes that are advantageous to animal health through the following: Increasing digestive measures in the gut...More» 

September 30, 2012
Ultraviolet Sterilizers for Aquariums and Ponds
David Lass
Ultraviolet (UV) sterilizers are one of the most misunderstood—and under-utilized—products in our industry...More» 

September 27, 2012
Giving Back to Customers Is Good For Business
Patrick Donston
Create a social concept where everyone wins. Wow! What a clever idea...More» 

September 3, 2012
Selling Aquarium Additives
David Lass
Much as I am a "purist” and do not use many additives at all with my own tanks, displaying and selling the right additives at your store is essential...More» 

August 6, 2012
Unfiltered Fish Tanks
David Lass
Technology seems to be what the aquarium hobby/industry is all about these days. Manufacturers are always coming out with the latest and greatest filter, pump, light or additive. I may be an old fuddy-duddy...More» 

July 30, 2012
Promoting Coral Health
By Patrick Donston
I don’t need to talk about reef aquariums and nano-reefs and their popularity in today’s aquatic industry. What does need to be addressed is the health of corals as they pertain to a captive environment...More» 

July 12, 2012
Knockout Show Aquariums
By David Lass
Thanks to the new shows on TV and the Internet, the standards for what is a "knockout” show aquarium have moved up a number of rungs...More» 

June 21, 2012
To Err Is Human
By Patrick Donston
Did you ever hear the phrase, "Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted?” It means that a person who has failed often knows how to avoid future failures...More» 

June 7, 2012
Encouraging Customers to Breed Fish
By David Lass
The single best way to "hook” someone on our wonderful fishkeeping hobby is to have their fish breed...More» 

May 24, 2012
The Well-Kept Discus
By Patrick Donston
A friend of mine from college came out for a visit recently. Like always, we recounted old times and caught up on what’s new in our lives. Our conversations always end up with what led to our meeting each other: talking about fish. During our last visit we discussed discus...More» 

May 16, 2012
Aquarium Installation and Maintenance
By David Lass
There are plenty of folks out there who would like to have a beautiful aquarium in their home or office, but simply don’t have the time or inclination to purchase, install and maintain one...More» 

May 9, 2012
Green Tetras
By David Lass
Normally I don’t talk about specific fish or products in this space, but this time I am making an exception...More» 

April 26, 2012
Reverse Osmosis for Making Marine Tanks
By David Lass
I’ve been keeping fish for many years, as a hobbyist, retailer and wholesaler. And yet, I have only recently been convinced of the most basic key to success for a marine aquarium—the fresh water you use to make the salt water...More» 

April 16, 2012
Why Do We Underestimate the Power of Water Changes?
By Patrick Donston
In my never-ending quest to keep fish healthy without the use of medicine, I would like to emphasize the effects of clean water...More» 

April 9, 2012
Quarantine Tanks
By David Lass
Quarantine tanks are something everyone in the industry recommends, and they would help lots of folks at all levels in our hobby if they were only used...More» 

March 28, 2012
Sourcing from the Wild: Pro and Con
By Patrick Donston and David Lass
A sustainable animal is a must from a marketing standpoint and the future of our industry. Furthermore, if and when the choice is available, they are a better buy for health and vitality...More» 

March 19, 2012
Aquatic Ferns
By David Lass
Live plants make a tremendous difference in an aquarium. Besides the fact (or actually my opinion, which I state as a fact) that live plants look better and the fish look better with them in a tank, live plants actually make a tank healthier for the fish...More» 

March 12, 2012
Nutrition for Health
By Patrick Donston
Nutrition is as important to fishes’ optimal health as it is for dogs and cats. Food research and development is one factor contributing to the success of the growing hobby. However, a problem that exists is that aquariums are usually kept with multiple species...More» 

February 24, 2012
My New Fish Died
By David Lass
It still amazes me that together, as an industry, the aquatics business is really terrible at helping hobbyists keep their fish alive and their tanks thriving...More» 

February 15, 2012
Livestock Guarantees: Pro and Con
By Patrick Donston and David Lass
I'm in favor of a store having a guarantee on their freshwater fish; however a blanket guarantee on anything marine doesn’t make sense...More» 

February 8, 2012
'L' Number Plecos
By David Lass
The "L” number plecos (they represent many different genera and species, but are usually referred to as plecos, meaning plecostomus) are some of the nicest and most interesting fish in the hobby today...More» 

January 30, 2012
Artificial Reefs
By David Lass
I like to think that everyone involved in the aquarium hobby and industry cares about preserving our planet. A large part of our responsibility involves what we do with marine reefs in the wild...More» 

January 24, 2012
Promoting High-Mortality Rate Fish: Pro and Con
By Patrick Donston and David Lass
Is it right to promote—sell and capture—certain species with a high mortality rate? Species such as ribbon eels, pinnatus batfish, regal angels, assorted coral-eating butterflies, walking batfish and moorish idols die in most shops or home aquariums...More» 

January 17, 2012
System Saver II
By David Lass
As with many arcane hobbies and industries, of which I definitely include fishkeeping, there is always a great deal of "lore.” By this I mean "tricks of the trade” or other ways of doing things that you never see in books...More» 

January 9, 2012
Designer Clownfish
By David Lass
While in general, the commercial aquaculture industry seems to be taking their own sweet time coming up with tank-raised marine angels, tangs or triggers, there is plenty going on with clownfish...More» 

January 3, 2012
Painted, Tattooed and Dyed Fish: Pro & Con
By David Lass & Patrick Donston
For our first blog where Patrick and I each take a different side of an issue, I drew the short straw and am thus writing in favor of painted, dyed and tattooed fish...More» 

December 22, 2011
Both Sides of the Story
Patrick Donston
As business people and, especially, as aquatic retailers, we have to make a lot of decisions every day. Husbandry choices, inventory selection and good business-practice decisions are most of them. For me, I try to justify my choices before making them happen...More» 

December 14, 2011
New Nano Tanks
David Lass
The aquarium hobby seems to be diverging in terms of most-popular tank sizes. Some of the professional aquarium installation and maintenance guys I know say they are getting more requests for large tanks: 180 gallons and up. At the same time, they say there is terrific interest in the other extreme...More» 

December 5, 2011
Aquatic Frogs
David Lass
Aquatic frogs are, to most hobbyists, very cute and appealing. On more than one occasion when I’ve had friends and their kids down to my fish room to pick out something for their tanks, the kids ended up in front of the dwarf frog tank...More» 

November 29, 2011
The Future of Sustainable Harvesting of Reef Fishes
Patrick Donston
As the fall trade show season comes to an end, it was a pleasure to see a lot of new companies, products and innovations...More» 

November 21, 2011
Plecos and Algae Eaters
David Lass
Every once in a while I feel the need to get up on a soapbox and rant about something. This is one of those occasions, and I beg your forbearance of me for this short period of time...More» 

November 14, 2011
Value in Your Merchandise
Patrick Donston
Anyone who's been in my shop knows I'm not the cheapest store in my area. There is a margin you have to get to grow and stay in business. With that said, from a consumer's view, price still matters...More» 

November 10, 2011
Water Testing
David Lass
It always amazes me when I see a store "fishperson” ask a customer what the pH of his/her water is and the answer is "Oh, it’s fine.” The answer is a number—with a decimal point—and the customer’s response is really that they have no idea...More» 

November 4, 2011
CO2 for Planted Tanks
David Lass
Growing live plants in an aquarium is fairly popular these days, mostly, I think, because it is much easier to do. The lighting systems with high-output T5 fluorescent lamps and the newer LED lighting systems provide plenty of light for most live plants to thrive...More» 

October 24, 2011
Brackish Tanks
David Lass
Very often in the fish departments of larger full line stores—and almost always in stores that are fish only—there will be one or two tanks devoted entirely to brackish-water fish. This makes for an excellent opportunity to sell your existing customers that second (or third) aquarium setup... More» 

October 13, 2011
Coral Fragging
David Lass
The marine side of the aquarium hobby is growing very well, and corals make up a significant portion of that business. We have learned a great deal about keeping and propagating corals by division—i.e., fragging... More» 

October 7, 2011
David Lass
Livebearers comprise at least half of the "bread and butter” fish every local fish store has in its sales tanks. And justifiably so, as livebearers are hardy, inexpensive, colorful and interesting in their form and behavior... More» 

Septmber 29, 2011
Patrick Donston
I refer to the above equation as IQUS (I pronounce it ICKS). Each item must be in sync to establish growth. I constantly evaluate each letter in the hopes of improving our game plan and selling our "brand.”  ... More»   

Septmber 22, 2011
Biotope Tanks
David Lass
It always sort of amazes me when I get into a conversation about fish with someone and it turns out they have no idea where the fish come from, especially freshwater fish. Once when I was delivering fish to one of the better stores I sell to, the owner and I  ... More» 

Septmber 8, 2011
Service Needs
Patrick Donston
One of the most challenging projects I've done over the past 12 years is to provide aquarium service maintenance to homes and businesses. Experts will say you should provide this service to stay competitive in today's market. ... More» 

July 12, 2011
Sea Anemones in the Reef Aquarium
Patrick Donston
I’ve never been an advocate of keeping sea anemones in reef aquariums. Although anemones are similar animals to coral (phylum: Cnidaria), they tend to require more care and better filtration than their counterparts.  ... More» 

June 16, 2011
Peculiar Things Our Customers Say and Do
Patrick Donston
I thought I would share some odd or funny things our customers have said or done in the shop over the past year. These anecdotes have let us scratching our heads and wondering.  ... More» 

June 13, 2011
Kids and Hobbyists
David Lass
Whenever I find myself in a group of industry professionals, be it one-on-one at a local fish store or a panel discussion at an industry trade show, the topic sooner or later migrates to complaining about the sad state of the aquatics hobby.  ... More» 

June 7, 2011
Display Tanks
David Lass
I see many local fish stores each week and have observed that the ones that do the most business have at least one thing in common: They all have a few different, but beautifully designed and maintained, display tanks. Nothing sells  ... More» 

May 27, 2011
Good things in Small Packages
Patrick Donston
Do you like these nano-planted set-ups? I love them. They’re easy to maintain, educational, artistically stunning and affordable. There are so many possibilities it becomes endless for consumers to mix and match their ecosystem.  . ... More» 

May 9, 2011
Good Freshwater Snails
David Lass
IMention the word "snail” to a local fish store owner, or to most hobbyists, and you will be greeted with all sorts of invective. With the exception of the Malaysian live bearing snail (which does a great job of churning up the gravel), small snails are a  . ... More» 

May 5, 2011
Butterflyfishes (Chaetodontidae) are very difficult to keep alive in captivity (?)
Patrick Donston
In the wild, butterfly fish hunt for small prey upon coral reefs. Many eat algae, but most feed on coral polyps and sponges. In spite of their alluring appearance, professionals and hobbyists write they are the most sensitive of fishes, thus beginning aquarists should avoid them. ... More» 

April 29, 2011
David Lass
One of the best things about the "flatness” of our world is that we have instantaneous communication and excellent air freight service from all corners of the earth. This includes the ornamental fish business. I’m a teeny-weeny fish ... More» 

April 20, 2011
High-Tech for Marine Tanks
David Lass
Anyone who thinks the aquarium hobby--or aquatics business--is dying clearly hasn’t been paying attention to the high end of the marine side. New products are developed as we learn more about fish and corals’ needs, and it behooves any ... More» 

April 6, 2011
The Internet
David Lass
In case anyone out there is in doubt, I’m going to state the obvious--the Internet is here to stay. In just the last few years, the Internet has totally changed the way that we get information and do business. The pace of this change is ... More» 

April 1, 2011
Livestock Guarantee?
Patrick Donston
Do you guarantee your aquatic livestock? I know this is a controversial subject in our industry, having participated in a number of discussions with colleagues at industry events. Arguments on both sides make sense, and even partial guarantees ... More» 

March 29, 2011
Biological Cycle Starters
David Lass
Old truths are often repeated, sometimes too much. But the reason is, quite simply, because the old truths are true. In my book, the oldest and truest old truth about keeping fish is that it is all about the ... More» 

March 10, 2011
Marine Protozoa: Treating the Disease
Patrick Donston
I’m constantly asked about good suppliers for marine fish. A good supplier is important, but I’ve yet to find one where we don’t have to be prepared for sick fish. Medicating marine fish can be simple if you understand that most diagnosed problems are caused ... More» 

March 3, 2011
Aquarium Safety and Convenience
David Lass
In the competition to sell tanks, filters, lighting systems and fish, there are two very simple items that should always be offered as a "must have” for any aquarium. These are a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) and a lighting timer. ... More» 

February 24, 2011
Change is Good
Patrick Donston
I contemplated this blog on Groundhog Day. As I sat and reflected on the popular movie named after the day, I thought about how much it pertains to us as retailers. ... More» 

February 7, 2011
The Internet and You
David Lass
In case anyone out there is in doubt, I’ve got a news flash for you--the Internet is here to stay. In just the last few years, the Internet has totally changed the way we get information and do business. ... More» 

January 26, 2011
"Creepy Crawly" Uses in the Invertebrate Ecosystem
Patrick Donston
Do you want a more sophisticated sales person on the floor, especially when it comes to younger, less-experienced aquatic staff members? Teach them the uses of critters in reef aquariums and why a hobbyist would benefit to purchase them. ... More» 

January 17, 2011
David Lass
Puffers are one of the various interesting fish that are becoming very popular in the hobby. The spotted green puffer (Tetraodon nigroviridis) is probably the most common one available to local fish stores, and it is being bred in commercial ... More» 

January 10, 2011
Diversify Your Marine Livestock
Patrick Donston
I would like to start by saying the marine aquarium trade is growing. Some may disagree, but it's true. Studies show the diversity of marine aquariums has increased in most cities globally and nationally during the past five years. ... More» 

December 30, 2010
New Fish Foods
David Lass
The variety and quality of new fish foods now available has made it possible for us to maintain almost any fish or invertebrate in excellent condition, both in the retail store and for the hobbyist. In addition, the new foods provide a terrific opportunity for ... More» 

December 22, 2010
Farmed vs. Wild-caught Fish
David Lass
Somewhat behind the scenes in the tropical fish industry, there is a very interesting--and important--debate going on. Basically, it involves whether it is better for the environment for most (perhaps all) of the fish and invertebrates sold in the hobby to be ... More» 

December 16, 2010
Plants or Driftwood or Rocks
David Lass
A part of the live-plants-in-an-aquarium trend (one which I heartedly endorse) is selling pieces of driftwood or rocks with live plants growing on them. The most common "planted driftwood” or rocks will usually have growing on them various Anubias ... More» 

December 8, 2010
Unique Freshwater Fish = Happy Hobbyists
Patrick Donston
Last week I was on Blue Zoo radio. If you've never heard of it, it's a wonderful online program detailing "the wonderful world of tropical fish.” Frank Reece, the host, brings on guests from all facets of our industry to ... More» 

November 29, 2010
Play the Spontaneous Card
Patrick Donston
For those of us carrying marine aquariums and supplies, we are challenged by e-tail commerce. It's difficult to convince the general public to pay more. I believe one way to confront Internet sales ... More» 

November 18, 2010
Ornamental Shrimp
David Lass
When Takashi Amano introduced the tropical fish hobby to his exquisite planted aquariums, he also introduced us to the wonders of small ornamental shrimp--especially the "Amano Algae Eating Shrimp.” ... More» 

November 9, 2010
David Lass
One of the most overlooked groups of aquarium fishes are the rainbowfishes. There are a number of varieties of rainbowfishes that are being commercially raised in either Florida or the Far East, and they make wonderful ... More» 

November 3, 2010
What's in Your Tanks?
Patrick Donston
When I was young and keeping my first aquarium, I loved when my mom would take me to the pet store to buy fish. I really got excited when the shop had new specimens I'd never seen before. I almost always wanted to try them. ... More» 

October 27, 2010
Non-Aquatic Plants
David Lass
I am a firm believer that any aquarium will do better with some healthy live plants growing in the tank. This is not to say that average hobbyists should have CO2 injection, high-intensity lighting or always be adding drops of stuff to the tank. With the good fluorescent lights/hoods that are being sold today, any hobbyist can keep many different kinds of aquatic plants ... More» 

October 20, 2010
Hang On Back (HOB) Filters
David Lass
There is a new generation of Hang On Back (HOB) filters for aquariums that are being offered by the major manufacturers, and they are definitely an improvement in the technology. With the earlier versions of HOB filters there was always a problem when hobbyists went to clean or change out ... More» 

October 11, 2010
Fish Breeding in a Store
David Lass
When it comes to ways to increase sales in your fish department, one of the best strategies is to have some fish breeding in a prominently displayed tank. One of my good friends and fish customers is Lebanon Pet in Lebanon, N.H. This amazing store has, I believe, one of the largest fish rooms around, comprised of more than 300 ... More» 

October 5, 2010
School Days
Patrick Donston
We have our first school classes coming to visit us in the next couple of weeks. A week before they arrive, I'll assess the livestock, making sure we have certain animals in house. We've done a lot of these field trips over the years, so we know what the kids ... More» 

October 1, 2010
Algae Eaters
David Lass
Algae are very often a problem with hobbyists, especially with folks who are just starting out in the hobby. No matter how many times any of us tells them that algae (either growing on things in the tank, or the dreaded "green water” syndrome) comes from too much food and too much light, hobbyists always swear up and down  ... More» 

September 21, 2010
A Brighter Tomorrow
Patrick Donston
I've just returned from Super Zoo in Las Vegas and have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Talking with a number of shops, it seems the aquatics business has been picking up. I was told nice success stories and in some cases, a few shops had ... More» 

September 9, 2010
LED Lighting
By David Lass
Having been in the energy-efficient lighting business for a number of years, I am always interested in seeing how improvements in the commercial lighting business eventually make their way into the aquarium industry. More» 

August 25, 2010
Training Basics
By David Lass
 like to hire young, enthusiastic students. I feel they're a worthwhile investment with a high percentage of return on longevity. More» 

August 13, 2010
Fish for a Freshwater Nano Tank
By David Lass
There seems to be a definite trend in aquariums today, with most of the action being on the two extremes, the very large and the very small ... More» 

August 6, 2010
Two New Rams
By David Lass
Rams (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) are a fish that has been around in the hobby/industry for many years. Most rams available for sale are farm-raised, either in the Far East or Florida. True wild rams are not around that much, and when they are they can be very difficult to keep. For years, most of the rams came in from the Far East, in both normal (blue) color ... More»

July 28, 2010
Angelfish Feeding Habits
By Patrick Donston
Do you recommend marine angelfish, in particular dwarf angels as reef compatible inhabitants? Marine angel fish (Pomacanthidae) are found on coral slopes throughout the tropics. They are much sought after by aquarists and, by many, are considered prizes of the marine aquarium. These fish require careful maintenance because of their delicate nature ...


July 20, 2010
Painted and Dyed Fish
By David Lass
While I have no problem with genetically modified fish, or fish that are the result of hybridization between two or more species, I am completely opposed to dyed, painted or tattooed fish. I am enough of a realist that I know full well that these monstrosities – there – I said it – are too firmly entrenched in the hobby/industry to ever hope that they would be done ...


July 16, 2010
Ecosystem Displays
By Patrick Donston
An Amazon River ecosystem is a really cool display. It incorporates different rocks, driftwood, lush-green plants and thousands of fish choices. What's really neat is the diversification and appearances a shop can experiment with. They can be small (5 to 10 gallons) with small tetras and algae-eating shrimp or moderate with unique specimens. Larger displays ...


June 22, 2010
By David Lass
Commercial breeders of ornamental fish have adopted many of the scientific breakthroughs in genetic manipulation, and have come up with quite a few fish that exist nowhere in nature. Some folks deride these fish, and call them "Frankenfish.” I have a different opinion. I applaud what they have been doing in coming up with new fish--as long as we are not talking ... More»  

June 14, 2010
The Yellow Foxface
By Patrick Donston
My favorite marine fish to stock in the shop is the yellow foxface (L. vulpinus). Mind you, it's not my favorite fish, but it's a great fish to have on hand for any shop (big or small) carrying marine livestock. Here's why. It's a beautifully colored fish. The body is mainly "lemon" yellow with a white head and black bands over the eyes. A long snout gives it ... More»  

June 9, 2010
Keeping Discus
By David Lass
Discus have a reputation for being difficult fish to keep--but most discus available today do not deserve that reputation. Even though there are sometimes wild discus offered for sale to stores by fish wholesalers, the vast majority of the discus for sale in the hobby/industry are commercially raised. The only requirements they have is that they like the ... More»  

June 2, 2010
Buy Florida Fish
By David Lass
Without too much flag-waving, I hope you will allow me to use my space here to make an appeal to you to buy fish from Florida. The Florida fish farming industry has been having difficult times for the past couple of years, primarily because of intense competition from fish farms throughout the Far East. The industry in countries such as China, Singapore ... More»  

May 24, 2010
Learning by Listening
By Patrick Donston
I wanted to describe conducting a job interview as being analogous to something in life. After I thought about it, I don't think it's like any social interaction at all. It's not like meeting a new acquaintance, a first date or any other business meeting. A job interview is a sales pitch by the candidate to persuade you into banking on them. It is the conductor's ... More»  

May 21, 2010
The Nitrogen Cycle
By David Lass
While this may be old hat, I really believe that the Nitrogen Cycle cannot be over-emphasized in terms of its importance for successful aquariums. With new hobbyists, it is absolutely critical that they understand the process. To cover it quickly, the Nitrogen Cycle is the key to all life in an aquarium. Fish, decaying food, plants, etc., produce ammonia .
.. More»  

May 11, 2010
Interview Interuptus
By Patrick Donston
A few weeks ago, I scheduled an interview for a potential new employee. I usually have phone interviews first before I make any decisions on who I want to see in person. This particular applicant is a college student, sophomore year, and a customer of ours looking for part-time work. I liked how the young candidate presented himself over the .
.. More»  

May 4, 2010
Pond Business - Sharing the Space
By David Lass
As we are coming into the pond season, at least here in the Northeast, I thought I would offer some observations on the changing nature of that business. In recent years, almost every lawn maintenance company--and every guy with a truck and a lawnmower--has become an expert in the pond business. Rather than perceiving this as a threat to a local .
.. More»  

April 26, 2010
Aquarium Plants for Profit
By David Lass
If you do not have a large section of your fish room devoted to live plants you are missing out on one of the fastest growing--and most profitable--segments of the aquatics business. Besides simply making a fish tank look better, live plants in a tank significantly improve the health of the fish. Healthy, fast-growing aquarium plants use ammonia, nitrites and .
.. More»  

April 19, 2010
The Price of Skimping on Protein Skimmers
By Patrick Donston
If you've read some of my previous blogs, you know the importance I place on systems and husbandry practices. It's the foundation of success in the marine ornamental industry. Clients go to healthy livestock and word of mouth travels, too. Captive marine fishes are often exposed to seawater of inferior quality and physical settings .
.. More»  

April 9, 2010
Balloon Belly Fish
By David Lass
On the freshwater side of the hobby/industry, virtually all of the fish that we offer for sale have been raised commercially in either the Far East or Florida. The fish farmers have done wonderful things with creating new and interesting varieties, especially of livebearers such as guppies, platies, mollies and swordtails. In addition to color .
.. More»  

March 31, 2010
What Great Managers Are Made Of
By Patrick Donston
Does your management team understand what you truly expect from them? Do they know what really makes a great manager? I asked myself these questions a few months ago and decided to be clear and cogent. I put it down in writing; created a management manual. I wanted the manual to give specific instructions and policies .
.. More»  

March 23, 2010
Far East Super Ick
By David Lass
During the past few years, the bacteria, protozoa and parasites that cause fish diseases have been doing a little "genetic modification” of their own--meaning that they have become somewhat/very resistant to the standard treatments used in the industry. Tetracycline, which has probably been the most-used antibiotic in the business, is in .
.. More»  

March 15, 2010
QuickCure and Antibiotics
By David Lass
Medicating fish is an important and often controversial topic in the hobby and industry. It is my opinion that it is the job of fish wholesalers to do as much medication as is required while they have the fish, so that when the fish go into the retail store they should not require any medication. Oh, if wishing made it so. The reality of handling .
.. More»  

March 5, 2010
Hole in the Head
By Patrick Donston
A fish disease that's always fascinated me has been "Hole in the Head," also referred to as HLLD (head and lateral line disease). One reason is it's easy to diagnose, yet challenging to cure. I've read many articles, fish disease books and scientific journals on the subject. There is a variety of opinions, with some coming to no conclusion .
.. More»  

February 25, 2010
Taken with a Grain of Salt
By David Lass
One of the subjects that always generate a great deal of debate, and where all hobbyists have an opinion, has to do with the use of salt in freshwater aquariums. Many "experts” on the Internet opine that salt should be added to all freshwater tanks. Many fish wholesalers add salt to their tanks. What I will give you here is just my
... More»  

February 16, 2010
Gathering Attention
By Patrick Donston
I often chat with customers who come to us for the first time. The one comment I hear most is, "Your tanks are so clean, there's no fungus like I've seen in other stores." After a sincere thanks, I'll go on to tell them a little more about us, always ending with, "have fun and enjoy your visit." What about this so called fungus? I hope you all know they
... More»  

February 4, 2010
Betting on Bettas
By David Lass
One of the most popular fish that we sell in local fish stores is the male Betta--Siamese Fighting Fish--Betta splendens. These wonderful fish have all of the qualities we like to see in fish. They are beautiful, coming in many different color varieties, all with long flowing fins. They can be kept in small containers without need for aeration. They
... More»  

January 26, 2010
Holiday Rebound
By Patrick Donston
How was business this past holiday season for you? I've been talking with livestock suppliers, wholesalers, and manufacturers, and getting mixed responses from dismal to good. I've been told numerous shops are closing down, while few boast successful numbers. If your aquatic numbers were not what you hoped for this season, now is the time
... More»  

January 18, 2010
Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself
By David Lass
I am pleased and honored to contribute to Patrick Donston’s "Fish Absolutely” blog here on I have known Patrick for many years, and he is one of the most knowledgeable fish professionals in our industry; in addition, he is a skilled communicator and teacher. I will do my best to provide thoughts and information 
... More»  

January 7, 2010
Synthesizing Values
By Patrick Donston
Previously, I've mentioned the importance of lighting in your reef displays. If you attempt to use a variety of light sources, your customers will be able to see (and with the help of your staff) understand the differences between them. The appearances they emit are keys in factoring benefits and consumer aspirations. One should factor Kelvin
... More»  

December 4, 2009
Lighting the Way
By Patrick Donston
If you carry marine livestock--your reef section should be one of the most impressive areas of your store. "A true feeling of being underwater," that's what I like to tell myself every time I want anyone to know how it should appear. Lighting is a crucial consideration when displaying your store’s living reefs. I recommend using multiple tanks or
... More»  

November 19, 2009
Contrary to Popular Belief
By Patrick Donston
I've always been one to view things in multiple directions—Look at it from another point of view; Ask "Why?" Question authority--you know what I'm trying to say. A sphere is only viewable from one side; to see the full picture you need to rotate it. In this spirit, I would like to share with you one of my "Contradictory Bold Statements about the
... More»  

October 30, 2009
Probiotics—For Life
By Patrick Donston
We, as owners and managers, must always focus on our customers’ wants and needs. We should be striving to keep them up to date on new products, ideas and technology that arise. By doing so, we earn their confidence and respect, thus their loyalty over time. I wanted to share with you a recent trend in new products that seem to be entering
... More»  

October 12, 2009
Influential Listening
By Patrick Donston
About 12 years ago, a mom came into our shop with her little boy to buy an aquarium. While answering her questions, the little boy tugged on his Mom's sleeve, and made a gesture that he had to go to the bathroom. Glenn, my manager, took the little boy to the restroom so his Mom could continue to shop. When the little boy opened the store's restroom 
... More»  

September 28, 2009
Knowledge Sells
By Patrick Donston
Knowledge is power--we've all heard that before. The key is that the knowledge must be shared; smart business owners won't have successful businesses unless they have a way to communicate their facts and ideas throughout their whole company. As such, training manuals are a must. I mentioned in my previous blog how important an aquatic manual is
... More»  

August 26, 2009
Knowledge is Strength
By Patrick Donston
I've mentioned in previous blogs how a knowledgeable staff can help a shop develop and promote good marketing techniques. A strong staff offers advantages over the competition by: 1) becoming a shop where advanced hobbyists and newbies go to for information; 2) making fewer mistakes or misleading customers, thus giving the shop a better reputation
... More»  

August 13, 2009
To UV or Not to UV
By Patrick Donston
Ultraviolet sterilization is the most important part of a marine system when it comes to parasitic disease and bacteria control. I've had conversations with shop owners who don't use them, use them incorrectly or believe they do more harm than good. I think maybe they don't understand them or know how to use them properly. When choosing a UV system
... More»  

July 31, 2009
Show Going
By Patrick Donston
Does anyone out there go to trade shows anymore? I was wondering because the ones I've traveled to in the past year had lower attendance than in previous years. Not just buyers were missing; the aquatic exhibitors also had less of a presence than in the booming years. I realize the economy doesn't make it easy for us to generate expendable income
... More»  

July 21, 2009
Water of Life
By Patrick Donston
From my experiences and education, I've learned that water is crucial to healthy living creatures. I’ve also learned that the average hobbyist and store employee truly do not understand water quality and its effect on fish health.
 I know that most shops teach their staffs to understand the significance of pHs, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates when it ... More»  

July 8, 2009
Becoming ‘The Best’
By Patrick Donston
All of us should be striving to have the best fish department or store in our areas. The question is how to truly market your shop and build it as the best. Always debatable, the best fish shop is probably the one that most hobbyists visit, therefore selling the most fish. 
There are three general shop characteristics consumers will seek out when looking for a good place ... More»  

June 29, 2009
More than a Profession
By Patrick Donston
I found myself sitting and staring at the aquarium in my grandmother’s living room. I was mesmerized by the sound and colors as the fish swam about in the glowing light through the decorations. I noticed a community of life, a society that seemed to depend upon each individual. I can’t recall all of the fish except for a red ...

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