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11:40 AM   April 19, 2015
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The Importance of Lighting

LEDs rank high for future of aquariums.
By Alison Bour

LED lights will soon become more affordable for hobbyists as lighting plays a pivotal role in fish-keeping. (Courtesy of
Even though LED (light-emitting diodes) aquarium lights represent a small part of the overall market, it’s clear to many experts that stores should start making room for them in their lighting departments and displays.

“Soon everyone will be able to afford [LED lights],” says Glenn Laborda, manager of Absolutely Fish in Clifton, NJ.
He says LED lights started as basic moonlighting products but now provide more power and can be used as main lights. They also offer much more color variety.

“They are fully controllable,” Laborda says. “It’s amazing what you can do.” 

In addition to lasting longer and taking up less energy, LED systems put off less heat, eliminating the need for a chiller. A small and mighty product, they cost more. A 48-inch system for a reef tank costs almost double that of a typical system—out of the price range of most customers.

“It won’t be for long,” says Joe Olenik, fishroom manager for Hoffer’s Tropic Life Pets in Milwaukee. Like Laborda, he expects LED sales to grow exponentially in a relatively short time.

Display Tips

Customers need clarity in lighting displays
“If you are a new hobbyist and you go into the lighting department of [most] fish stores, nothing makes sense,” says Laird Maresch, manager of AZOO Palm Aquariums in Whittier, Calif.  These display tips might help both new and experienced aquarium enthusiasts alike:

ØConsider creating departments that make lighting searches easy and fast. Those might include separate areas for saltwater, freshwater and lights designed for live plants.

ØConsider keeping replacement bulbs near the original lighting product. This may go against the grain of some manufactured displays, but it helps customers locate replacement bulbs easily.

ØShow a variety of lights on display, but focus on the more unique ones. Make sure you allow customers comparisons between varying color bulbs and their affect on the water.

ØUse bright, even neon, gravel and coral. Some customers may prefer traditional, dark gravel, but vibrant colors garner more attention.

ØCreate displays that include the works—fish, plants, accessories. Don’t display a light on an empty tank.

Newer lighting technology sparks unconventional-looking products, says Laird Maresch, manager of AZOO Palm Aquariums in Whittier, Calif., a company known primarily for desktop systems but one now moving into traditional aquarium product lines.

A butterfly-shaped LED light for a desktop aquarium sells well, especially with females. With shipping costs escalating and the current cost of glass, Maresch expects desktop systems to be strong in the next several years. As long as one sticks to hardier elements, a half-gallon of liquid supports a saltwater tank.

Larger lighting systems will follow suit in terms of new shapes and sizes. Twelve-inch hoods may be reduced to 2-inch hoods, says Maresch.

The LED trend will likely force store owners and fish product managers to rethink display tactics, and it may open up new doors since LED products will take up less space. But in the meantime, traditional products remain strong sellers, including standard florescent, metal halide, power compact systems, metal highlights, high-output T-5s and ballasts that make them even brighter. New color choices abound in these soon-to-be-old technologies, depending on personal tastes and the type of animal and plant life in the tank.
 It raises the most critical point for retailers when it comes to displaying aquarium lighting. Laborda sums it up: “How do you describe a color?”

Signage Helps

Use signage to explain the financial benefits of LED.

To date, most LED lighting systems list at a price point too high for the average customer. But consider how other industries increase sales of higher-priced energy-efficient products: They offer signage that gives the consumer a clear understanding of the true cost comparison as well as long-term savings. This has been done successfully with products like power strips and appliances and could make the transition to LED aquarium lighting technology faster.

“A light sitting in a box, turned off, will not sell,” says Maresch.  “The ones that do better are the [retailers] that—when they get a product in—that day they set it up, fully decorated with a light on top and accessorized.”

Olenik likes Hager, a company that offers big headers for its products.

“The racking should be very clear on what each bulb does,” he says. “You should have a row for every bulb in case a sales person isn’t handy. You also have to take every choice and exhibit it side by side if possible.”

Signage should indicate when certain bulbs are no longer effective on items like coral, or provide facts—such as the deeper the tank the more blue is required to penetrate the water.

Still, the average full-service retailer doesn’t have an expansive fish department when compared to specialty stores. What should they do to grab the customer?

While carrying a selection of standard florescent systems in basic sizes, and fewer high-end bulbs is probably best, Maresch recommends saving display space for a few unique and vibrant niche products. His company sells a lot of bright gravel to stores. It may be too much for many customers but it sure gets their attention.

In such a high-tech product line, sales training acts—in a sense—as part of the display. Laborda requires passing a test to work in his marine section. Olenik constantly works with his crew to ensure they are updated.

Olenik also warns against a common misconception:

“There are still people hung up on comparing wattage. You can get more lumens with less wattage because of newer technologies.” <HOME> 

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