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FAQs 2 About the Business of Pet-Fishing, Are You Ready? 

Related Articles: Should You Join Our Industry?, Finance

Related FAQs: Aquatics Biz 1, Financing/Funding A Business, Set-up for Your BusinessCollecting Marine Livestock

There's a LOT more to being in the biz then keeping livestock healthy.

Question about WetWebMedia       10/13/16
<Salud Kim>
I was doing some research about pet and animal care when I stumbled upon your website, which I find to be a comprehensive source for readers to find relevant information.
I also notice that you link to a number of resources about pets/animals and I was wondering if you could include these links as well.
I am requesting your good person to check the links out and I am hoping that you would consider placing them on any part of your website.
I hope we can help each other out and I would love to be able to support your cause.
Thanks for your time and I hope you have a great day!
All the best,
Kim Cabatuan
Trainer & Assessor
Open Colleges
<Will upload on the morrow. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Wet Web Media Site Compliment/Resource Suggestion        6/30/15
Dear Webmaster,
I just came across your awesome website and found it to be a great aquatic/aquarium
resource! I love keeping fish (though I am not very good at it) and found some helpful tips on your site - thanks a lot!
While I was browsing your site, I noticed you have already kindly linked to our sister sites, Can Stock Photo, Foto Search, and Go Graph in the "Photography" section of your page at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwlinks.htm  and would like to suggest an additional resource for you and your users, Barewalls.com.
<Ahh; will add this AM. Bob Fenner; common progenitor>
Created in 1996, Barewalls was the first company to capitalize on the tremendous potential of selling posters and prints online. Our vast collection contains artwork from thousands of famous photographers and painters from Ansel Adams to Vincent Van Gogh. Popular styles include Abstract art, Cubism, Impressionism, Pop Art, Renaissance, and more. Our
extensive list of artists can be found here:
I created an HTML link for your use if you find us to be a useful addition to the site!:
<a href="http://www.barewalls.com">Barewalls.com</a>
Megan A. Kos
Barewalls, Inc.

Dactylopus kuiteri swimming to the surface at dusk        3/6/15
Hi Bob,
<Hey Jan>
I have a gorgeous Orange and black dragonet that was sold to me as Dactylopus dactylopus.
<Ahh; see often in Indo. in muck dives, but not often in the trade>
It is difficult to distinguish between the two if research isn't done very well. So after the fact I came across Dactylopus kuiteri and noticed that mine has an orange mouth and in fact is D. Kuiteri.
<And Rudie's namesake is a much smaller animal>
Be that as it may, I have the fish and am doing all I can to keep it alive. So far it's ok. I'd like to see it gain more weight, but it is active and sifting the sand bed for food. It also eats frozen on occasion.
It has a large supply of pods and lots of live rock in my system. I have noticed that unlike most dragonets this fish doesn't graze on rocks very often, it is more of a bottom feeder, dweller and sand sifter.
<Don't feed on rocks, or get up on them...>
I've observed it closely for weeks now and have noticed that at dusk it swims to the surface. it appears to be looking for food.
It does this every
evening. Why is that? What is it looking for?
<I think (guess) a mate... am sure you have seen the many pix of Synchiropus et al. Callionymids that divers take of these up and spawning>
What can I add to my system
that goes to the surface at dusk? Do pods rise to the surface at dusk/night?
<Some species do>
I know that copepods will go to light when lights are out in my system and in a refugium. Is this what it is searching for? Thank you.
Best regards,
<Do put the words Synchiropus spawning in your search tool and look at pix.... Bob Fenner>

Re: Dactylopus kuiteri swimming to the surface at dusk    3/7/15
Ah, ok. Never crossed my mind it could be looking for a mate. Poor thing.
I've got a pair of green Synchiropus that spawn all the time and a pair of ruby red ones I think are just too young yet. I would love to release this one back into the wild....going back to the indo anytime soon? ;-)
<Was in Bali most of last Sept., not scheduled to haul out till May 2016... you should come w/ us>
so much.
Best regards to you,
<Cheers, BobF>
Re: Dactylopus kuiteri swimming to the surface at dusk... Life, the trade
Oh how I would love to!!! I was a paramedic instructor for the New York City Fire Department and because of my job responded to the WTC attack on 9/11. My pulmonologist informed me a month ago that I could never ever
scuba dive again. I have air pockets in my lungs from the damage and the doctor discovered something in a recent CAT scan. Too small to biopsy at this time.
<Ahh; a shame.... I strongly encourage you to seek other opinions; perhaps there is a repair/remedy>
I was going to take refresher course for SCUBA this summer. We moved to Florida a little over a year ago just so I could be closer to the ocean and get more involved in the hobby. Then I received this news. My lungs are damaged from all the garbage I inhaled while I was there the first week helping people the first day and searching through the piles that week. I was very ill on the 5th day and could not return to work. It took 3 different antibiotics and 3 inhalers to get me back to normal. Then I retired. I was also a rescuer at the WTC bombing in 1993 and inhaled all
the smoke while in the stairwell making my way up trying to help people there. My dream of switching careers from pre-hospital emergency care to something hobby related needs to be re-evaluated.
<Am rooting for you.... perhaps some time... a few hours per day.... as a retail clerk, developing into installs and maintenance>
I was about to register to take a certification course this Summer at the University of Florida in aquaculture and disease of warm water fish, but honestly to what end? That would be $6,000 worth of study for which I'd  get
a professional certificate and then what?
<You can see my bio. on WWM; there's academia, research and practical application fields to consider. I went the last route>
for now I have the fb group and I'm helping beginners aquarist get started the right way. It is a nice small group of over 500 people who are serious about being good responsible hobbyist. I'm not looking for numbers as much as quality and character.
<Great news! >
The Journal of Emergency Medical Service (JEMS) did a write up in April of 1993 about the WTC bombing. That's me assessing someone's vital signs on the 34th floor.
<I see>
Sorry for being such a downer. I'd be there in a heartbeat if it were not for the lousy lungs. It would be no fun just watching everyone else. I'm  so honored that you asked. I'm a big fan of yours and of what you do with your
site. I can't thank you enough for the invite and for all you do for all hobbyist. I sincerely appreciate it.
<I have some other medical issues; but thus far have continued to dive travel. I do hope to meet you above and underwater someday. Bob Fenner>

Re: Dactylopus kuiteri swimming to the surface at dusk... Now: Life; the trade        3/8/15
Thank you. Have been to several doctors over the years. Need to wait and see what this spot on my lung is first. Fingers crossed. I'm young, only 53. Not giving up yet. We are losing many many rescuers these past 5 years to 9/11 related cancers.
<Am still querulous re the exact cause/s here>

We met at a WAMAS meeting in NoVa about 4 years ago. It was brief. I asked for an autograph, LOL!!!
<Ho boy!>
I would love to be a coral retailer. Am Applying for a CITES license, but have no clue about where to begin to find trans-shippers in Australia, Jakarta, etc.. Need to find reputable people.
<Best to attend one or more international trade show... press the flesh, get to meet folks... Aquarama's coming up in May>
Also would like to start my fish food business again. I was very successful in VA. with homemade fish food in biodegradable packing made only from sustainable chemical free and organic "sea" ingredients. I enjoyed that and the results were very positive in livestock; breeding in captivity, brighter colors, healthier, etc.. I cannot find fresh seafood in South Florida. It's crazy!!! I thought for sure 'd find vendors.
<The field's a bit crowded, but there is room for niches...>
I also love to teach. I would very much like to teach people how to start a saltwater fish tank. How to care for fish and corals. Maybe do workshops at local fish stores discus basics; disease identification, how to choose live stock, review pests and parasites identification and treatment all in layman's terms.
<Take a look at Mr. Saltwater (Mark Callahan)'s videos... he claims to make a living from them. I assure you there's not much money in the print or e-biz content wise>
I'm above basic in my knowledge. Being a retail clerk would not work for me. I'm always advising them. LOL!! I have no interest in maintenance and installations.
<Ah good>
These are the reasons I want to take those courses. It would help to have a little deeper knowledge.
Do you know how I could go about finding reputable trans-shippers?

Is there a site where they are listed or is it all word of mouth?
<There are organizations like OFI that weed out most non "A" players... But the visits... are golden.
Bob Fenner>
Re: life; trade        3/9/15

Yea, you and me both!!
Singapore? Really? Makes sense nothing beats human contact.
<Agreed. Do look it up; consider... alternate years, the Interzoo in Germany... and... bonus! Possibly getting out altogether and doing a bit of dive/travel/adventuring. Usually Egypt's Sinai following>
Yes, have no interest in writing a book or making videos. I like the more personable approach.
<Tres bien! BobF> 

curious, WWM Crew, recruitment     2/18/14
How is it going, Bob? I have always been amazed at the vast and varied knowledge not only you have, but also the people on WWB who answer questions as well. Just curious, what does one have to do, or have, in order to answer questions on your site? Is it a reference system, people who you have met over the years? Or is it knowledge based with credentials someone acquires?
Thank you
<A good question. The WWM Crew are made up of folks who have come forward, volunteered, who have discernible useful knowledge, plus a capacity with written English, AND an earnest desire to share, help others. Some I've never met in person; but many are folks that I've come across at petfish, industry and scientific get togethers. One today, is a gentleman who has sent in responses for others re pond issues. I sent him a request to see if he would like to log on directly to our WWM mail-server. Bob Fenner>
RE: curious... Now petfish industry career prep.     2/19/14

Ahh, understood. I am currently 28, and one day would love to possess the experience and knowledge to help others. I received my masters degree in education, however if I had to do it again, would have chosen a biological science background.
<Oh!? We've had at least three folks join us in their teens. I have a teaching credential... for H.S. chem., bio. and physics>
I currently work in insurance, but my ultimate dream one day is to own an exotic pet store. Not in the sense of pure exotics, (primates, large cats, etc) but rather saltwater fish, reptiles, as well as birds.
I currently have an African Grey, but over the years have had various snakes, lizards and tortoises. In my own perfect world, I wouldn't sell your everyday, run of the mill, iguanas, ball pythons, etc, that is often wild caught and end up being sold and given away.
What would you suggest as a good starting point for someone who aspire this in the future?
<Working in the field for sure... Read:

and the linked files above>
 I feel a lot of the dot coms and mass merchandisers, have made it really tough for mom and pop places, as well as the few specialists who do not have the capacity to order crates of products, to be stored in a warehouse.
There are 3 lfs's in my general vicinity, say a 20 mile radius or so. To me, none of them have the "entire" package. One guy in particular, has great knowledge, but in a 1,500 sq. foot store, has limited space for supplies. He also has zero personality, and to me, makes it harder for people to buy from. To me, you should feel good about acquiring fish, not like you just purchased them from a vending machine.
Another store by me is gigantic, 10k sq. feet or so, but there isn't  a soul that works there that has any experience or know how. Heck one woman who worked there, told me it is ideal to have some nitrites (yes, nitrites, not nitrates) in a FO saltwater tank.
I would like to be that guy, who is charismatic, makes you feel welcome and shows positivity when someone buys a new set up. One who also has a lot of "good" suggestions, but realizes he does not know everything, and is not afraid to raise his hand when he is not sure of something, to any confident degree. Perhaps that came with my education, that when teaching a class room, you need to show energy and excitement.
Any tips or advice you have I will surely absorb. I know a lot of it comes with time and hands on experience, but the aforementioned steps, such as location, realistic size, foot traffic, etc, I would be at a loss at.
<Academics isn't necessary to work in the industry (in the business); but useful knowledge, marketing, financial know how, good communication skills are... Charisma too (which you seem to have) is requisite. B>
Thank you, Bob
Re: curious... Considering the industry        2/19/14

Thanks, Bob. The wheels in my head are spinning, but before they touchdown, I have to sleep on this, probably for more than one night. 

Jobber Info...mainly mark ups, charges for services in providing marine livestock selection     6/21/13
Hi Bob,
I have some questions on Jobbing that I hope you can answer as I recently started my own jobbing business.
<Ah, congratulations!>
What is the average going rate for jobbing services currently? I've heard numbers from as low as 10% all the way up to 35%.
<Mmm, well; don't know re current rates, but years back it was more like ten... maybe another five from the wholesalers end... for volume, cash paid up front>
 I would imagine it being somewhere closer to 25-30% which is where I plan on having my business at.
<Wow, fat! Or whatever goes as an exclamation of surprise nowayears>

I think a flat rate would be easiest and just absorb the credit card processing fees (typically around 2.5 to 4%),
<Mmm... do make a deal w/ whomever you intend to deal with... to not pay or charge these fees. Too much money... Instead, there's got to be a level of trust, assurance... After all, I will tell you, unscrupulous people can refuse to pay their credit card bills as well...>
 any taxes, other fees, and expenses.
<These are hopefully ALL going to be pass through costs... your just adding onto invoices. Trust me here; you don't want to become a/the paper worker... slave>

The only additional cost I plan on passing on to my clients (the fish stores) would be shipping costs. So far is my thinking correct?
<Thus far; though would mention that this might/should include local delivery as well, if this is a cost to both of you. And if there's any handling on your end, for re-bagging, oxygenating, changing out water... there should be a box charge or such to cover this>
Also as for taking payment I am assuming I would do payment first, product later.
<Mmm, well; good luck if you can develop and sustain this "A" position as a provider and seller. IT really would be GREAT if this works out for you>

 Like take my payments in the middle of the week like Wednesday, and do my jobbing on that coming Sunday through Tuesday. So far does this sound correct?
<Mmm, well; again, times may have changed, but most businesses did not pay up front for livestock in my day. Lines of credit (through banks), wire transfers that "meet the shipment/s" in the middle, credit card "holds" are about as good as it got in the sixties through early nineties>
Any additional words of wisdom and incite would be greatly appreciated.
<Yeeikes! There's a bunch (days worth) we could go over... w/o knowing what you already know this might be of not much worth to you. Do feel free to write me anytime w/ specific questions, concerns>
Thank you for your time.
<Certainly welcome; and again, congratulations on your new venture. Bob Fenner>
Re: Jobber Info    6/21/13

Hi Bob,
Thank you for the quick response.
That is interesting to hear that the older rates were 10-15%. I am assuming when you say "pass-through costs" you mean my clients would pay, correct?

Because I don't get how someone could make any money having to pay for all the fees, expenses, etc at such a low rate. I guess my thinking was have me pay all the random fees and costs, and just bump up my overall cost to my clients (hence the 25 to 30% rate) and have a flat rate.
<I don't think the market will bear this margin>

 Some people I talked to said that 25-30% is fair and reasonable, while another guy was shocked and said 15% was normal.
<Mmm, well, can, even needs to be figured forward and backward... the net-landed-cost, probable mark ups, market/turn over, and factor for cost of business, incidental mortality... from the collector or breeder on out... Think on this... IF your charge is 30%, likely the organisms will have to sell for fifty percent to a hundred percent more to the end user/consumer>
To me having a flat rate would overall just make everything seem simpler to me.
<One way to price something is indeed "what the market will bear"... I do encourage you to be the previously alluded to "A" player... to sell your services on quality and performance... not simply price. Question: CAN you develop the customer base that will support such a mark up?>

That way my clients only see two or three numbers (Livestock cost, My Rate, and possibly shipping/delivery).
The only other thing would maybe be a box charge if I decide to use my own personal boxes, and not the wholesalers which would probably end up being best since I don't think I really know if I want my clients know where I am getting their livestock from as long as its great quality.
<You will become expert at using a razor/box knife, cutting away all such stickers>

As for taking payments. I think that me receiving my lump sum payment from my clients first, then going to the wholesalers and buying the livestock (minus my rate of coarse), then clients receive purchased items.
<... The trade must be very different than my time... I don't know of anyone who will pre-pay for livestock>
To me this doesn't sound any different than how it works when a consumer buys any product online or even in a store. Money first, product later. Is this wrong in my thinking?
<You're not Jeff Bezos/Amazon... what guarantee do people have that you'll  deliver?>
Plus I can't exactly afford to go out on a limb taking lines of credit trusting that my client will pay it. While I trust my clients, sometimes things happen.

Also I would want to be purchasing the stores fish and corals (and possibly even the random little inverts). I don't want to make my wholesale vendors feel as if I am just trying to clear them out of their good coral.
Currently, I feel that Jobbers have a bit of a bad rep in the industry, which is unfortunate.
<Some better, some...>
Granted I am sure some of them earned that reputation, but I would hope to change that outlook.
<There is a saying... you're only as good as your last shipment... >

I feel that I could provide a valuable service to my clients (the fish stores), the wholesalers, myself, and the hobby in general. I want my business to be built on honesty and integrity.
<The only way to go>

Thank you again for your help.
<Thank you for sharing. BobF>

Proper filtration for saltwater rack system... New home retailer, reading/using WWM     6/15/13
Hi I just started selling saltwater fish from home and would appreciate some advice on properly acclimated a fish shipment when it comes in from wholesaler.
<An important topic. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/acclimat.htm
 I've heard  fresh water dip with formalin. 
<And here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/formalinfaqs.htm
Also can you give me advice on proper filtration for a 400 gallon saltwater rack system,
<... aye ya. Yes>
it is a two tier system, each system has about 180 gallons. I'm thinking a large wet dry filter?
<... no... Please learn/use the search tool on WWM, and take the time esp. to peruse the Industry subweb... all this and much more of interest, use is gone over and over. Do write back w/ specific questions if something is incomplete, unclear to you. Bob Fenner>
 Any advice is greatly appreciated thanks a lot

Starting a LFS  12/6/11
Hello, my name is Will Rayburn, and I live in North Alabama. I have been wanting to open up a lfs for some time now and I have a few questions for you! A little back ground on the marine hobby in North Alabama, on April 27th Coral Reef Aquatics (CRA) in Athens (about a hour from my house) got destroyed by a F-5 Tornado and the owner is not going to rebuild. Other than CRA, all I had access to was a Petco which had a small SW section. The other lfs is 2 hours or more away in Huntsville and they are over priced and sell a very limited supply of corals. I am considering opening either a 1,200 sq ft store ($2,000 a month rent)
<A chunk of change... and VERY important to understand what is involved here contractually... Most esp., can you easily get out of this lease if need be?>
in a strip mall or a 2,000 sq ft place ($1,000 a month) off the main highway next to a tattoo place.
<Mmm, will take longer to become established... cost more in the shorter run. What data do you have re the potential for such a business at either location?>
 I will be open to the public 2 days a week and the rest will be as an online retailer as I will also have another job that pays better than owning a lfs.
<... when will you rest? Please assure me you have a on-the-floor, vested (as in cash and liability) partner who is going to work this venture with you. Otherwise, don't do it>
 I have contacted Sealife Systems and Robert Exon gave me some info on his fixtures. I found a storefront build on nano-reef.com that the company Coral Collections owns http://www.nano-reef.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=272229 . I want my layout to look like this if I go with the 1,200 sq ft space.
<Can be done>
Robert Exon read the thread and said it probably cost the guy about 30-35 thousand for the build and about 5-8thousand for the bins if they were new.
<DO look around a bit... see if someone, not too far away has some decent fixtures for much more reasonable>
Could you please give me some input on the design?
<Of a certainty I can and will help you>
 I know that I will want 3 coral bins so I can keep SPS, LPS, and Softies separate and not risk a war so-to-say.
<Much less so>
I want to be able to hold about 150 species of fish<es> (give or take). I counted the compartments and the double sided system has a total of 40 small and 8 large compartments per unit, and the wall unit has 36 medium and 24 large compartments for a total of 80 small 36 medium and 40 large compartments. My first question is, about how many gallons would you estimate the thread from nano-reef.com have.
<... easy to do... measure in inches... multiply the three dimensions, divide by 231 (cubic inches per gallon) times the number of cubicles... add>
 My second is about how much do you think this build cost them (Just curious to see if you and Mr. Exon are on the same page price wise).
<None of my business>
And my third is, all things considered, do you think this is enough specimens for a online retailer to sell?
<Only if they're very active, successful, don't have too many incidental losses, troubles>
 I would have a 3 day warranty from walk-in purchases and a 7 day warranty on shipped purchases (With pics of the dead animal to confirm). Shipping throughout Alabama is $11 and that includes the Florida Panhandle, some of Georgia, some of Mississippi, 80% of Tennessee, 50% of Kentucky and a tiny portion of Indiana. P.S. I forgot to mention, the city I live in has 35,000 citizens but the metro area
<A good number... and no independent, mom and pop shops?>
(Lauderdale and Colbert County) has over 100,000 people. The area is growing as the University of North Alabama is in a transition into NCAA Division 1 athletics and there is a 7% growth rate expected for the area.  
Thanks for your help, Will Rayburn
<Much for you and I to relate Ray... Exciting. Bob Fenner>
Re: Starting a LFS  12/7/11

Thanks for the quick response! You ask me when I will rest, well, my uncle is the top manager at the local Ford dealership and him and the owner said when I turn 21 I can be a salesman there (which will be this July).
<Also a demanding (exhausting) more than full-time career. Hard to do both>
 the thing about the 1,200 square foot space is that the anchor tenants are K-Mart and TJ-Maxx with various restaurants and jewelry stores there too.
<Ahh! We built many LFS with KMart as anchor... a good/similar draw/base for new aquarists>
The 2,000 square foot is in my opinion the best place to get just because you get more room for the money so to say, and being open 2 days a week there wont be the everyday walk-ins.
<But, I assure you, if you are "all aquatics" (not full-line... companion animals, birds...) you don't need 2k of space... Unless... and again I can't strongly enough encourage you, TO HAVE AN EQUITY PARTNER! In fact, please don't open w/o one... a person of integrity, drive, who has as much vested as yourself. You won't be able to make this business a success running it by yourself for two days a week. No one can/could>
The place in Athens was open three days a week 4pm-7pm during football season and they did a great deal of business those three days. I was going to ship orders the next day so say if the order was on a Monday I would go to the store Tuesday morning and package the animals, take them to UPS (which is in the same shopping center as the 1,200 sq ft place) then go to work at the dealership.
<My friend... this won't work. First off, whatever you're shipping in REALLY has to rest up... a few to several days ahead of being re-shipped.
For two, it is rare that shipments arrive "on time" or take a predictable amount of time to re-pack et al...>
I have heard that the average utility bill of a lfs was $0.25 per gallon of water so its not too bad, especially since I will only be open to the public for 2 days a week and the overhead lighting will be off when not in use.
<Mmm, no; it won't. All aquatic life "appreciates" a regular photoperiod... Photosynthetic life absolutely so... and the water is the cheap expense. Electricity is much more>
I googles used aquarium fixtures but I have came up with nothing, do you have any suggestions on keywords to use for Google?
<Mmm, best for you to do a "drive about"... to other contiguous towns and states/towns of size, ask around re folks that have folded...>
As for competition, all I would have to go against is Petco and I doubt that would be much competition since they just have 2 MARS systems. There is a local chain of pet stores but they don't sell marine fish and they sell a very limited supply of marine products (salt, bagged live sand, food, and conditioners is about it).
<I was their initial buyer and consultant, 91-94>
 As for partners, when I am open to the public I have my pick of employees, my mom said she would do the register and my sisters know a good deal for there age about marine fish.
<I salute your ambition, but must warn you... that mixing your family and business life is almost always a poor idea... doesn't work in any time length of time frame, results in hard feelings. You don't want to not go home to your troubles>
I also have a good friend who has kept reef tanks longer than I have and he might join in on the venture.
<Ahh! DO draw up a business plan, marketing strategy, including two years of spread sheet data for income and expense. Have you read all that is posted on WWM's Aquatic Business Subweb:
DO SO; and write/key good notes, questions... I can and will save you a good deal of trouble (anguish, dollars) at this planning stage. Take your father into confidence re this possibility... What does he think?>
In all likely hood, I will be the person on the floor while someone else is on the register.
<Mmm, don't think so... a very valuable time to complete w/all>
I do have one question that I have not been able to have answered on different forums: If most of the "players" in the wholesale industry have WYSIWYG, why do you need jobbers?
<As intermediates... They do have their place. Am bcc'ing one party to get in touch w/ you... For a year or two down the road possibly... when you know more of the in and outs of this part of the industry and yours>
I have also heard that you will get shipped a box of corals that have one or two good pieces and the rest is junk, is this true?
<Can be... there are "A" players at all levels of the trade; and less than "A" players... which will you be?>
 I have read mixed things about that and want a professionals opinion.
Thanks, Will
<Welcome. BobF>
Re: Starting a LFS   12/7/11

I think we have a few miss understandings between us. When I said if the order is on a Monday then I would ship on a Tuesday, I meant if a customer makes an order from me on a Monday than I would ship the Tuesday. I would acclimate all species two weeks unless one is sick as I would treat before selling.
<Ah good>
 As for the lighting, I mean I would have the lights on for the fish and corals but I would have the lights on the ceiling off when we are closed. I currently work for a dealership (none <non>sales position) and the salesmen say that it's not as bad as people may think. But then again the hours are 8:30-6 with a hour lunch haha. And in your professional opinion,
<I have been in the trade more than twice your lifetime>
do you think the 1,200 sq ft is better just because of the anchor stores, even though rent is high compared the 2,000 sq ft place?
<Yes... for where "you are" currently. Read where you've been referred to on WWM. B>
Thanks for your professional input,

Opening a store, picking your brain.  8/31/10
Hello Mr. Fenner. My name is Mike Gioia,
<Hey Mike! I have a friend, Bob Gioia here in San Diego... he owns/runs Greater San Diego Electric and is a fellow Hash House Harrier>
currently owner of Fish Mike aquarium services. I was told by a good friend of mine, Nate Guerette, to contact you to basically get your advice.
<Ahh! And I know Nate from UNE, the recent Fish Health Conf. there in Maine>
Nate is a friend of mine who I entered the hobby and the aquarium line of business with originally when I met him in college, since then I have been servicing aquariums for about 3 years.
<I did this for 19 years myself>
He has told me that you are basically 'the' aquarium man when it comes to ANYTHING aquarium related. I have read a
bunch of your book (me and Nate refer to it as a Bible.) Anyways, I have been planning on opening an aquarium retail store and plan to continue servicing aquariums. I have been working on a business plan, but basically Nate told me to get in touch with you to see what you have to say.
<Am glad to assist your efforts>
Quickly, my plans are to open a mid-high end aquarium store, in the range of 1600 - 2500 sq ft. And sell reptiles, FW and SW. Currently I focus on reef, fish only, fresh and reptiles as well (terrariums, and whatever along those lines) I plan to have the essentials, as well as some of the harder to find supplies to sell at this store.
I do not have a bunch of money to start the store, but I hope to start small and grow as I make money.
<Mmm, do take care here... Undercapitalization is likely the single largest cause of new business failures>
I want to have limited livestock in terms of reptiles, and have a small livestock system for fish both salt and fresh, but keep them well stocked with primarily higher quality fish (hard to find, popular, and focus on captive bred when I can)
I need to find a balance between reliable product, with what sells.
Offering variety without stretching myself too thin.
If you want to give me any advice, or care to hear more, let me know.
From what I have heard form Nate, you are a cool guy and missed out at the emporium, and from what I have read form your book, you got some good experience tips for both the seasoned and knowledgeable, down to the new hobbyist.
<I do think I can help you>
Hope to hear back form you when you have some time.
-Mike Gioia
<Please start by perusing the Business Subweb of WWM:
<Our service co.s (Aquatic Life Services) Operations Manuals, Action Plans and much more hard-wrought/won input is embedded there. Do compile your questions, concerns and let's go over these systematically... As you will see, there are "Five Critical Elements" to such ventures: Finance, Location, Personnel, Set Up, and Stock... I would ask that you consider each... in particular the personnel issue... and likely seek out a good partner (someone who will be "on the floor" along with you, who has something substantial to gain and lose...). You will find the business more enjoyable and profitable to share. Bob Fenner> 

Neale's drive-about/UK, the petfish industry 7/30/2010
> I was off visiting a fish shop yesterday, a very nice one that mostly handles marines plus community tank tropicals. Anyway, they had some goldfish. When people buy them, the first ask the size of the tank, and then what sort of goldfish they have. They won't sell to anyone with a tank too small, and won't sell standard goldfish to people who have fancies. Definitely a step in the right direction.
> What impressed me was that this was a family-run store, but a very profitable one. The owner was going through the accounts with. His modal average spend per customer is about $50, and it's a poor week if he doesn't make $10,000.
> All the sales staff are trained, and all have to maintain one of the marine tanks -- including daily water tests -- which is surely a pretty good handle on expertise.
> He also manufacturers and delivers his own line of mid to high-end reef-ready aquaria. He holds spares for the bargain basement filters and whatnot, but doesn't sell them, and instead treats things like Tetra and Eheim as what people should start with. His argument being that people buy a cheap Chinese filter, it breaks after two years, so then they buy an Eheim, so why not cut out the middle step and go straight to the decent stuff.
Bottom line, if this is anything to go by, if the independents want to compete against the generic chain stores, it seems to be they have to aggressively go upwards in terms of training, livestock, hard goods, etc.
But how to get this across to the struggling retailers who think cost-cutting is the way to survive?
Cheers, Neale
<Setting examples, offering help... time going by; awareness (if poss.) by consumers. B>
> Oh, I'm sure it's subliminal... people stay in the hobby longer, spend more money, if they have a useful retailer who sets them up right.
<Ah, yes... this direction, perspective is actually not only the best form of promotion, but the only way to build the hobby, industry long-term>

Question about LFS that I can't find answer on site... New LFS!?   6/25/10
Sorry for the late reply,
I have been a past marine hobbyist and was very good at it. Also been a business owner, set up corporations, etc.
I recently became disabled with somewhat limited mobility. Had to go on disability. Needing something to supplement my income, I am thinking about a small LFS. None in area, closest is about 55 miles away and it's limited.
Town we live in is 2500 population w/about 60% retirees. Many small towns around within 25 miles.
<Mmm, okay... hard to "make a go" of a specialized LFS w/ such a small, and even... "older" population demographic... but if they're wealthy-enough, you have time to develop this enterprise... Can be made to be profitable... and a great deal of fun>
I have read your posts on setting up LFS's and the pitfalls. It seems that most inquires were for shops where that would be their sole income. Mine won't.
Is this a viable idea?
If so, how hard is it to get livestock and dry goods wholesale for a limited operation of about 800-1000 sq. ft.
<Not too hard>
Any advise greatly appreciated. P.S. have used your site for years and appreciate it more each time.
Regards, Mark.
<Let's "go through the whole process together" Mark... Do send me along the prospective locations, lay-outs and what you feel comfortable relating concerning how you intend to finance this business... IF you have written
business and marketing plans (a VERY good idea/practice) to share send them along as well. We can/will chat up marketing, dry goods and livestock assortment, personnel/staff... other secondary matters in turn. Might I ask, have you been out, visited other retailers you deem excellent?
Wholesalers, distributors in our fields? I will and can gladly help you.
Bob Fenner>

Re: Question about LFS that I can't find answer on site 6/25/10
Thank You so much for the reply.
I wrote you in advance concerning this before I expended any effort towards this goal. Nothing as far as a business plan had been done yet. I wanted your input first.
<I see>
Financing will be out-of-pocket from an expected settlement from my injury.
(now you can see my caution in this venture. Only get 1 chance) I hope to see it by years end.
There is only 1 shop in Springfield, MO. which is about 55 miles away that I consider adequate.
<This distance is too great to either positively or negatively impact your business>
The other mega retailer has been responsible for ruining many hobbyist ventures. I witnessed this personally.
The retirees around here are pretty well off. One of the biggest reasons I even considered this area at all.
<But... are they "pet fish" people? Most hobbyists are in their mid-20's to mid-40's>
Time is about all I have from here on out. I'm going nuts from having too much of it. I used to be a commercial aircraft mechanic.
I only need to pull about $600.00 to $750.00 clear per month to supplement present income.
When the settlement arrives, I will be back in touch and will greatly value your kind offer for the help setting me up. Kindest Regards........Mark.
<Better by far that we "talk" now Mark... Do start your tentative search for a location, look into fixtures (used and new)... Is there any chance of your traveling out of town for weeks, a few months, to work in an up and going shop? BobF>
Re: Question about LFS that I can't find answer on site
I didn't realize that most pet-fish people were younger. The natural assumption that the older less active would be a target market.
<Mmm, not the case.>
Traveling is not an option at this time. There really isn't an up and going shop in Springfield. The Pet Warehouse chain goes through help constantly, but they are the ones who I've seen ruin the hobby. I quit patronizing them.
To many bad practices to list.
<Mmm, tis a shame... and about the best promotion for the industry at all levels is/are more competent folk/s practicing. Put another way, being the only/new proficient business in a geographical area is not as good a choice
as joining ones already there>
SW Missouri doesn't seem to have a really good LFS that I know of. I ended up using all internet suppliers for my home set-up. This seeming lack of interest locally concerns me.
<Mmm... opportunity>
Not sure if it's because there isn't a good LFS, or there is no interest in this geographical area.
<Likely a bit of both>
Google map the
Kimberling City/Branson West area. That's where I'm located. (sorry, I'm having trouble figuring out how to link it.) We get a lot of local traffic because we are located near Branson and Silver Dollar City. One would think that a premium LFS store would do great.
<You're soon to see>
I have been doing a tentative search. Several good locations available presently, but unable to acquire now. Property values are very stable here and compared to other areas in U.S. very cheap!
<Good... do check/see if the SBA still has help programs for new entrepreneurs.>
I've got help when needed. I can construct all the holding/display livestock tanks from 10 gallon units
<Mmm, unless these are cubicles I'd not go w/ anything under 20 gallons>
and centralize them. I've got my own tanks to set up for the "Show Tank". There is a company that specializes in store displays/glass counters, etc. in Springfield. They sell used equipment of all sorts for dry goods displays. I was planning on looking in on them soon.
<Good... you'll need some cases, a stand for your register... some gondola et al. fixturing>
Can you give me a "ball park" figure of the cost to set up a 1000 sq. ft. store?
<I would not start w/o some 150k... at the minimum, w/ another 50k ready to borrow if needed. You will have an equity/on the floor partner? BobF>
Question about LFS that I can't find answer on site
I just found out from a friend that PetCo opened up a store in Branson last year. May go over there and see about working some limited hours there for experience.
<A very good idea. BobF>
Re: Question about LFS that I can't find answer on site
Well, I've got some more planning and investigation to do in the months to come.
<Oh yes>
One nice thing is that there is no hurry. I am also keeping a weather eye on the economy. Still concerned about a possible "double-dip recession.
<This is actually a depression... depreciation of assets and currency>
I really appreciate the correspondence. When the time is right, I'll write
back for more direction.
Kindest Regards,
<Real good. B>

BBC E-mail: Tagged pet shop owner 'stunned'   3/31/10
> Neale Monks saw this story on the BBC News website and thought you should see it.
> ** Tagged pet shop owner 'stunned' **
> A pet shop owner says she was stunned to be electronically tagged after selling a goldfish to a 15-year-old boy.
> < http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/1/hi/england/manchester/8597762.stm >
<Good gosh! 1,750 pounds, 120 hours of community "service" for selling a goldfish to a fifteen year old and neglecting a Psittacine bird? Loco. BobF>
Re: BBC E-mail: Tagged pet shop owner 'stunned'  4/1/10
Hi Bob,
One of the things we at WWM commonly respond to is failures in the pet trade, from misinformation given to prospective purchasers through to neglect on the part of the staff towards their livestock. So while this is admittedly a stiff fine when taken at face value, especially for what is likely a very small business, I personally welcome the fact local authorities are starting to take their animal welfare duties more seriously.
<Seems "over the top" to me, as the woman fined stated>
In this case, English law is crystal clear than animals cannot be sold to under-16s. Furthermore, pet shops are obliged to ensure all their livestock receives at least a basic level of healthcare. On both these counts the store was failing. If we've learned nothing from the likes of Enron it's that businesses are more likely to operate within the law if they think misdemeanours are likely to be discovered and the consequences are likely to be hurt them financially. If pet shops think undercover agents could be testing them at any time, they're more likely to carry out their animal welfare duties more rigorously.
<... so... the onus is upon the shop to "ID" all buyers...>
At this point I shall remind you of the myth of the Ring of Gyges, as discussed by Plato.
So on this one Bob, I disagree with you, and don't find it crazy at all.
Cheers, Neale
<I am off to the side of the/your scale here... and would much rather rely on laissez-faire market drives to bring about positive behavior. I am NOT a fan of draconian, punitive governmental control... Do think on, and remember this... AS it has been my overall experience that such "measures" grow, get out of control... resulting in the deterioration of society, countries. BobF>
Re: BBC E-mail: Tagged pet shop owner 'stunned'  4/1/10
I wish I could agree with you, Bob. But if anything, market forces tend to divide the market into those who care about ethics/morals, and those who care only about the cost/price.
<No my friend... believe what you will till experience changes your mind>
Now tell me which has been best favoured by market forces: the Wal-Mart approach, or the Whole Foods approach?
Who has the bigger market?
<Wal-Mart... but what pertinence is this question? I have been a shareholder of Whole Foods, and can/will state with high confidence that they, the management, owners, have no interest in having a larger market share than Wal-Mart and such>
The free-range chicken producers or the battery hen industrialists?
For me, basic animal welfare is non-negotiable. It's an absolute that anyone trading in animals has to attain. You and I both know that many, many retailers fail to provide adequate animal welfare, sometimes for understandable reasons, but sometimes not. If it takes the occasional swinging fine to encourage better compliance, then maybe that's the way it has to be.
<I understand the thrust of your point, and am not in disagreement... as prev. stated, I am just "further" off on a sliding scale in my position>
You are right that the biggest threat to liberty isn't from the outside, from terrorists or communists, but from over-mighty government. But I don't think this is one of those situations. It's about chivvying a sometimes-lazy industry to meet its obligations to care for the livestock they trade. If they don't meet the moderate laws we have now, sooner or later someone will pass some more draconian laws, like white-lists of livestock we can keep as pets, or licenses for pet ownership at all. Do see the PETA site for where they'd like to go!
Cheers, Neale
<I have "lived through" the Psittacosis/Ornithosis scare and the revision of the Lacey/Black Bass Act here in the U.S.... seen first hand the effects of clean vs. dirty lists for in/excluding ornamental livestock in other countries around the world. When the hobby is about extinguished in the U.K., I believe you will change your stance. In the meanwhile, I am very glad to count you as a friend, fellow-conspirator, and intelligent persona on these matters. BobF>

angels... Comp. of... Aq. Svc. Biz.    1/1/10
what do you think of adding a Multibarred angel to a 75 gallon reef type system with two percula clowns, leopard wrasse, and golden angel
<S/b fine if the Pomacanthids are different sizes>
all these fish are doing very well and have been in the tank for a long time , live rock, refugium, and protein skimmer . I really like these fish would like to try. Also can you give me any tips on starting a business , been in the hobby for 22 years , just retire from city of providence after 30 years would like to promote the fish service business, thanks Ron from R.I.
<Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm
Particularly the articles, FAQs files in the first tray. A wonderful field... I "spent" nineteen years in. Bob Fenner>

Aquarium Storefront Business Plan   8/14/09
Mr. Fenner,
I plan to open up a storefront I the coming months. Thus far I have an investor more or less convinced that I am the right man for the job. But I have a meeting with him in the next few days. I have a lot of important useful information to bring along to the meeting such as Income statement and balance sheets for a local store that did quite well but eventually had to shut down due to management issues.
I was wondering if you knew of where I could get some more information regarding first year results in particular of other aquarium stores throughout the country.
<The SBA is your best source here period. They used to have data/document specific info. per industry... Including retail petfish!>
<... Who else will be working this store with you? Have you read through our Business SubWeb:
Tally ho! BobF>

Licenses and insurance 6/24/09
Hello crew,
Love the site. Been using it for years.
Anyway, my dream (right now) is to open a LFS but seeing how I don't have the time and money right now, that's on the backburner.
<There is time>
However, I was thinking of becoming an aquarium consultant -- help people design and implement aquaria systems. I have about 20 years of FW experience (off and on - although on for the last 10-plus) and about six years with SW. I do tons of research and am just generally interested in the hobby.
<Good qualities... Are you also "business savvy?", Inclined?>
Cutting to the chase, do I/should I need/have a business license?
<Need to check with your State... there are no such "certifications" in the trade itself... But you may require a residential license to operate a for-profit venture from your home>
Would it make it easier (down the road) to eventually open a shop?
<Yes... likely much more so... in terms of working knowledge, as well as strength of commitment on your part>
What about insurance as a consultant?
<Mmm, do you have "much" to lose? Best for now to develop a working business and marketing plan for your proposed venture. Have you experience here? If not, there are books, courses, the Net with useful input... and we are always here for inter-rator checking and agreement>
Thanks for your time.
<Glad to conspire with you, Bob Fenner>
Re: Licenses and insurance 6/24/2009

All right! The esteemed Bob Fenner!
<Heeee! Maybe "steamed"...!>
Love your "Conscientious Marine Aquarists" book.
My original plan is to just help people negotiate the maze and intimidation of the LFS - basically help them decide what kind of tank they want to set up and then help them buy and install.
<Ahhh! How will you meet up with these folks? I.e., how will they know of your services, availability?>
Hopefully that would lead to some sort of service/maintenance contract with them.
<A good idea to put up a web site, offer as much in the way of complete services as you feel comfortable...>
Eventually I would like to get into more of retail part of it -- buying the equipment, livestock myself and selling to customers.
<A good, workable order of progression>
You asked if I'm business savvy - to tell the truth, not a lot of experience in that realm but I think I'm smart enough to figure it out.
<Good... any chance of working with an established firm in the field for a while to gain experience, insights?>
I just know that if I have to work for the rest of my life I might as well do something I enjoy.
<Bingo! We are in total agreement here>
As for insurance, you asked if I had a lot to lose - just my house :)
I do have a book on developing a business plan but the numbers part is kind of confusing and at this point I have no idea what to charge for consulting fees.
<No worries... draw up what you can... and we can visit over the Net, you can easily share with a bank, other money institution, even a relative in the know...>
I was thinking a flat fee for first consultation and them charge hourly?
What should those fees be?
<Mmm... a few ways to come about with a figure... but really, "what the market will bear"... Check about... see what the stores, service companies are charging... Our "olde" service company used to charge $35 per hour for labor (counting transit time), $50 for supervision, and $100 per hour for consultation (minimum two hours)... but this was back in 1991!>
Basically right now my plan is to sit down with clients, discuss what they want then go to LFS with them, buy gear and set it up.
<Mmm... depending on your "target market", and how much business there is to be had in your geographical area... I would "shoot beyond" this... and cater to wealthier folks who most likely will not be going into stores...
Develop pix of your efforts, a web site, portfolio (on a laptop if you'd like, though in-print materials are still the best available, most appropriate technology), and get on out there! Doctor's offices, Restaurants... to generate initial business, contacts... And visit upscale stores to look into forging business associations>
I plan on putting together some kind of presentation to describe the different type of systems (glass/acrylic, FW/SW, different filtration methods, etc).
<Mmm, again... I would not "shoot" for the middle classes... Rich folks, really your potential/real customer segment, aren't interested in such technicalities... Almost always, they simply want to know... how much, how big (or the cost influence of size, height...) and how often you'll be coming by to fix, check all... Do take a few hours to look through friend Jim Stime's fab "LA Fish Guy" videos...
very instructive...>
While the business plan numbers may be confusing, I think I can come up with a marketing plan and a web presence. I'm thinking if I have a business license it might make everything appear more "legit" to perspective customers as well as eventually allow me to but from dealers at wholesale.
<Yes... you definitely will need a fictitious name statement and local business license to purchase anything wholesale in the trade>
As an aside, research on WWM suggests having business cards/Yellow Pages ad. Anyone can makeup business cards but do you need a business license to buy an ad in the Yellow Pages?
<Mmm, often so... and do be careful here re making large cost commitments at this juncture. There are more cost-effective investments for your time, cash...>
Who do I contact to find out about needing and obtaining a business license?
<Do you live in a large/r city? If not, the State bureaucracies...>
Thanks for your time, help and input.
<Welcome. BobF>
Re: Licenses and insurance 6/24/2009

How will I get my "name" out there? Good question. I've seen a couple "aquarium service" ads on Craigslist, but they are very basic and don't seem very professional.
<Ahhh! I don't think this is the route to go either... Again... you MUST define who your target customer is... Do put yourself in their place... Are such people likely to seek out such services via Craig's List? I doubt so>
I'm guessing Craigslist could work, as long as you give enough info. But classified ads? Fliers on the bulletin boards at LFS?
<Mmm... help through the LFSs, but not classifieds... again... think like the folks you want to sell to... Where do they hang out? Interior Designers, Architects, other professional service appliers... how do they reach these folks?
Obviously, door-to-door, per se? Any other ways to get the word out?
<... many ways>
As for target audience, I think it might be a bit easier targeting the "middle class" section -
<... but Nate... these folks (I'm one of them) don't have the means, nor really often the interest to employ someone for such services>
I love talking about this stuff and would like to, hopefully, find people that are interested in the hobby as much as the "how much, just build it for me and I'll enjoy it" people. Although it seems if I want to target this sector, it would behoove me to have a business license so I can buy equipment at cost? After all, there is a reason they're rich :)
As far as I can tell, there doesn't appear to much of a presence of consultants/service companies in the area I live (East Bay Area, Cali) at least none that I can find on a Google search, so it's hard to know what the market might bear.
<Look in the Yellow Pages... there are several I'd warrant>
Aquarium Concepts (formerly of Hayward, now Dublin) is probably the best LFS in my area (perhaps Bay Area) but they are a good 15 minutes from my house. I would guess they offer installation and service but the local LFS in my town doesn't appear to offer anything like that.
<Here is a good place for you to start... Go there and talk with the svc. mgr... and ask for a job>
You gave figures about what fees to charge, adding those numbers were back in 1991. Have those numbers gone up or down since then?
<Some places up... I have not heard much lower>
Obviously logic would dictate they've gone up but given the advances in the industry, have those fees have gone down? I definitely don't want to price myself out of the market.
<You have to find, define the market first>
But first things first: I think I need to do a brain-storming session to determine what I will offer and come up with a presentation to present to potential customers and then develop some kind of website. Agree?
<Actually... concurrent with working in the field itself... pet-fish retail or service... Apply for jobs while doing all else. B>

Transship acclimation   3/1/09  Hey Bob I was reading some of your post's and I was concerned about acclimation from a transhipper .. when I receive fish my method was to cut bags open add fish and there water they came in to the Styrofoam box, then drip , I'm aware this could be wrong because of the O2 and ph difference .My question is if you can help me . lets say the fish that came in the bags after opening is 7.2 my system is 8.2 I need to buffer up what the water the fish came in ? <?! Yes... one REALLY needs to address this process carefully... dilute the acclimation/shipping water ammonia out... matching pH... raising this slowly...> do I have separate water to acclimate and if so when I add my fish to my system my system's ph is 8.2 . <Are you joking? I take it not... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/acclimat.htm and the linked files above... Bob Fenner> can you help me out here thank you so much John Hartson.

Re: Transship acclimation I am sorry to bother you I did read those article's and I am trying to follow them and understand them completely. <... Am wondering, what is so incomplete re this protocol... I just re-read it> On my first order I had lost about half of my stock, what I had done was float the bags <... I would NOT do this... too stressful, takes too long, the animals are in need of more immediate acclimation> in my water but I didn't have enough surface room to float all so process took to long, Need to figure out better way to temp acclimate. <This is BEST done by dripping the pH-matched water...> I thought dripping from my system's water would be correct, <?!! No!> but after reading those articles I know the ph and ammonia act up ect. <No such word as ect> So if you could help explain to me would be helpful. Ok if I receive the fish and add the fish in the Styro boxes what should i do from there? <What? Read where you were referred to> add what chemicals to ph up? <... idiocy... the pH will be lower...> drip or don't drip? i will use air pumps . I do not have a separate qT tanks only display tanks. <Then you should NOT be transhipping> . My systems have a ph of 8.2 salinity of 1.024 which is the same as the fish in the bags from the exporters <... not on arrival> , I ask my exporter for his SG. 1.024, my temp of my tanks are 77 degrees. I did buy ammonia destroyer but I read somewhere else that if there's a high ammonia just add fish to main system as it better than leaving in toxic water, so why add ammonia destroyer as some say? I sorry for my lack of knowledge on this but would like to understand proper way of acclimating ..thanks for you time John Hartson <Please... don't waste y/our time... If you're unwilling to read, please quit our trade and take up something that doesn't involve livestock. Really. BobF>

LFS Employee Concerned about Manager's Ethics 08/14/2008 Dear WWM Crew, As an enthusiastic aquarist, I took a summer job working at a chain pet store to help others with fish. I've only been working about a month, but I'm frankly alarmed at the ethics of the store manager. It is very clear that he has little experience and knowledge in marine aquariums, yet he insists on stocking extremely delicate specimens in the store. For instance, he has Tridacna clams under a single freshwater Gro-lux fluorescent bulb in a 20 gallon tank. Granted, they're Tridacna derasa, but I believe that they're still severely under lit. Also, he obtained a species of Nudibranch that he has labeled "Greek Goddess snail", which I feel is a gross error, especially after reading through your Nudibranch articles and FAQs. I could go on from there (placing a reef lobster into the same tank as a porcupine puffer despite my questioning his judgment), but, to top it off, I've seen him sell "black-slime" and "hair-algae" covered rock as live rock, despite having lost its "liveliness" when a fellow employee washed and scrubbed them under hot tap water. I tried to speak out against it to which he replied to me that I should go work someplace else that sells what I would consider live rock. I'm aware that each of these animals that fall into his misguided hands is collected from the oceans and has an impact on the ecosystem. My concern isn't at all with losing my job, since I have to leave anyway to continue professional school. Rather, I'm more concerned about how to get him to see that he needs to use better judgment and ethics when dealing with marine animals. The problem is that he's rather stubborn and believes that his methods work in making a sale. However, if he can't even keep a collection of tomato clowns alive for one week, I personally think he should quit trying to offer marine livestock. Is there any way I can convince him or maybe even organize a boycott? I'm looking for some advice on how to best approach this situation. Sincerely, James K <<Thanks for the ummm "rant"...he he he...Its always hard when looking from the outside in, onto shop situations on how some certain chain stores handle / order / sell livestock, whether it be marine or fresh, whichever. Unless you have a store manager who's best interests are with the wellbeing of the stock, and not the profits, your work is pretty much cut out to get these people to change their ways. It's pretty sickening sometimes to see the conditions which stock is housed and how its labeled / sold. What can we do? Well, we have some choices, as I see it. We either boycott the store and provide an explanation to the store owner as to why you want people to boycott the store...We help them, teach them to understand whats happening, and what needs changing....or we simply turn our backs.... Personally, I would always choose the help / learn route. Help this / these people to understand the stock they are keeping....Provide web links / info sheets etc etc. Then, if after you have tried all aspects of this route, and they still don't listen, at least you can be satisfied in yourself that you tried your best... Good luck....A Nixon>>

Marine West Coast Importers 5/17/08 Crew- <Craig> Can any of the industry-experienced members of your team refer the company name of some marine livestock importers on the west coast (I would think LA area) that would be worth the flight out there to visit? <Sure> I am looking for a specific variant on some anemones and SPS and what I keep hearing from both online and local retailers is: "We don't have the animals in-house, we deal with a warehouse on the west coast who imports the animals. We order from them and thus can't really promise to deliver what you are looking for." So it looks like if I am going to be able to get what I am looking for I am going to have to get an import/export license and go collect it myself <Mmm, much to go over re this premise> or I am personally going to have to visit these large import hubs and see if I have any luck. Regards, Craig <There's quite a few... but some of the best are situated on/off 104th... Quality Marine, Sea Dwelling Creatures, Pacific Aquafarms, Underwater World... A bit more out of the way, but still worth visiting are All Seas (in El Segundo) and Black Coral... even ERI... Bob Fenner>

Pet business questions  3/9/08 Hi to All, <Alfred> I am presently opening a 1800 square foot aquarium store specializing in fish, plants, corals. <Ahh! Congratulations!> I have never actually worked in the business as a retailer but I have done some aquarium service. <VERY different experiences...> I have a good head for business and work does not scare me. <Seven days a week... I do hope you have a hands-on equity partner, other good help...> My question in short is How many dry good suppliers will you need to adequately stock a store. <At least two good ones...> I noticed that some have certain products which are limited and others carry a full line but the prices may not be as good. <Yes> I have made contact and opened accounts with Central Pet and Royal Pet. Could you please give a short list of the DG suppliers you feel would benefit a new store in the NY Westchester area. <These two are good choices... I would "interview" others you can find through Pet-Business Buyer's Guide, the online resources of the APPMA...> I read your article on live stock dealers being concentrated in the airports and such. And don't know how to go about establishing relationships with them. <Contact them... via the Net, the phone... best, if at all practical, in person...> I have been getting stock lists from HIFI-Marindo, their prices seem very good, and wondered if you have any experience or insight in doing business with them. <None to share carte blanche on the Net, with someone I don't know...> I have taken your advice and subscribed to all of the possible trade magazines and am currently waiting for them to begin arriving. <Ahh, good! Not much directly of use in any given issue... but with a discerning mind, reading betwixt the lines... much can be gleaned> Outside of designing the store layout and negotiating the commercial lease; I feel getting the best prices for my end of the products and livestock is ultimately paramount to my success. <And that partner, and employees?> All Help is appreciated. P.S. If one of these topics was already discussed in detail don't bother answering the question just direct me to the discussion. I must have missed it and do apologize for being redundant. <No worries. Bob Fenner> Alfred Idone Allstar Aquarium LLC Thinking about an Aquarium for your Home or Office ? Looking for Aquarium Service or Products at Discount Prices ? Take a Look at my Web-Site : www.allstaraquarium.com

Retail Store... is it right for you?   3/2/08 Hi, <Brian> If possible this question is directed towards Mr. Fenner since it is about some of the comments he has made. I've been in the finance business for about 15 years and always ran my own companies and been quite successful, but am rapidly getting burnt out. My hobby has always been aquariums, ponds, boating, etc, my whole life and is becoming a passion of mine. <Ahhh!> So, I started up a maintenance business for aquariums and expanded into getting a retail license and carrying my own livestock, corals, and dry goods for my clients in one of my back offices and it has been going well. We are actually starting to get walk ins, which is a problems, since it is at my office and not a fish store. The next logical step in my mind was to open a retail store. <Mmmm, a tough choice... limiting ones "freedom" in many ways...> The city I live in is 150k people with 300k in the metro area. <This is enough... is the business "developed" much there... many, any good competitors already?> There are only three other saltwater fish stores and they are horrible. <Ohh, this is a liability> You can tell they were opened by hobbyist and not somebody with any business since. <sense> The one has already offered to sell me his store, but it is junk and going bankrupt. The 2nd is what I would call a fish snob. Only carries the highest end products, won't sale small aquariums because they are worth their time and everybody is stupid in their eyes. The third is actually a nice shop, but they focus on Africans and only have a couple of salt tanks. The market is wide open, and being that my background is running and marketing companies, this seemed like a good opportunity. <Mmmm... there are different foci for retail vs. service... some overlap, but... Do you intend to manage the store? Do you have an equity partner?> However, everything I read on your site says this is the worst thing ever. Don't do it. <Heeeeee! Purposely negative... a screening tool if you will...> Following is a quote from you just last month when someone wrote they had resisted opening a retail shop. <Thank goodness... more time, trouble than it is worth. Definitely a "step in the wrong direction" I assure you> <From service, this is almost always the case> Am I really missing something? Is it really that bad? <Can be... but only experience, personal... can tell for sure... Better for most folks to "open a show room" of sorts instead... NOT have regular hours, go on to other aspects... custom fabrication, installs... NOT retail... almost exclusively different customer bases> I spoke to Aquarium Adventures, a large aquatic store franchise about joining them instead of on my own and they tell me they have stores grossing over a million a year. <Talk with some, a few of the established (a few years) owner/operators re up and downsides... what's their net? What liabilities?> The owner has to be netting at least 150 to 250k a year. <Uh, no> Since I still own my other companies, I was going to open my own instead of buying the franchise, but everything I've read is making me second guess my decision. Please clarify this for me. Concerned, Brian <VERY important decisions/paths to choose, commit to... I implore you to physically visit, "live" in one of these stores for a few weeks... Bob Fenner>

Wet Web Banner  2/27/08 Hi Bob, <Hello Peggy> I'd like to add the Wet Web Media banner/link to my Home page of my website. Would you be interested? I try to direct people to worthwhile, accurate, and educational sites, and yours is surely one of them. If you're interested, please shoot your banner over and I'll have my web designer add it to our Home page. <Mmm, okay... please find attached> Thanks Bob, and I hope this finds you enjoying your Wednesday afternoon! I'm off to clean some newly acquired live rock. Sounds romantic doesn't it? :O) Peggywww.all-reef.com Your Source for Premium Quality Marine Livestock, Fully-Cured Live Rock, and Dry Goods! <Oh, how do I wish all LFSs owners were as conscientious, involved, intelligent/conversant as you... When, over the years, folks have asked me why I haven't quite the trade... it's friends like you that I point to that I'd not miss being in the company of. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Can you help? Aq. industry... ready?    2/8/08 Hello Mr Fenner, <Constantine>I am reaching out to you to see if you can possibly help me. I know you are a very busy man so If you cannot help, I completely understand. As of May 2007, I took on a venture to devote my life to the business of marine ornamentals/corals/etc. <Mmm, why?> I have had an increasingly hard time in trying to find exporters to supply me with corals. I have been the victim of fraud twice in Indonesia sending over $10,000 but no product. <Who?>I really want to make this work. I'm trying to get good reputable contacts so I can place an order and I'm a little hesitant with everything I find on the internet. I know many see the industry as cut throat so getting info by word of mouth is virtually non-existent in my circles. <Not amongst "A" players... we need to start further back in this conversation>I have a thorough business plan that has taken 1.5 years to complete. I operate a small 900 square foot warehouse space <Too small...> and I'm doing well with inverts/drygoods, etc, but I want to take it to the next level. I have searched WWM high and low, and can't seem to find this information. <...? What information?> you can help in any way I would greatly appreciate it. Sincerely Constantine <Who are you? Have you worked in the trade before? In what capacity? For whom? Bob Fenner>

Salt water fish... umm, acclimation... English? Transshipping... not yet. HI, I need to know how can we acclimate salt water fish which we get in transship as it dies after few days also when we put fish in tank it start swimming in circles. <What? Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/acclimat.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> Thank You Maq

New aquatic business  11/28/2007 Mr. Fenner, <Daniel> I am looking to start up a new Aquatic business. I have read over a lot of your information on your web pages, which has been very helpful!, when I read that it would be smart to get a consultant to help. I have decided to do so, but I was curious if you had any recommendations in the Dallas Fort Worth, Texas area. Thanks in advance! Daniel J <What sort of "aquatic business" do you have in mind? A store? Manufacture? Service? Have you worked in the field before? Bob Fenner>
Re: New aquatic business   11/29/07
Bob Fenner, "<What sort of "aquatic business" do you have in mind? A store? Manufacture? Service? Have you worked in the field before? Bob Fenner>" Sorry to be so vague. I am looking at starting a fresh and marine store with aquarium service. <Ahh!> I have worked some in the field, and I have also been a hobbyist for many years. Thanks! Daniel <I see... have you actually worked in these aspects/fields in our trade? Have you started re location, possible layouts/fixturing? You have adequate financing in place? I do hope you plan on having at least one equity AND work partner... Have you committed the business to paper, planning? Do you have business and marketing plans you would have me look over? BobF>
Re: New aquatic business  12/12/07
Bob Fenner, <Daniel> We have committed the plan to paper, and are looking to move forward. <Ahh!> We do have financing in place. The next step we would like to take is have a consultant look over our information. Would you be willing to do this, or direct us to a consultant familiar with the trade? <I will gladly glance over... Am not "in your town" and not recently active in the trade itself, but will gladly make reference to where else you might fill the gaps here> A concern we have is posting our business plan on the internet where others might "beat us to the punch" at the location we are looking at. Thanks again! Daniel <I would not, will not post your specific business and marketing plans, location et al.. BobF>

Wholesalers... reef    7/20/07 Hello, <Hello to you also> First off I wanna say you guys have a great source of information on this site ive followed it for awhile and great job. <Thank you> Second off I have a couple questions and was hoping you guys could steer me in the right direction. Im in the process of starting an online retail business for Saltwater corals and cleaners (hermits snails shrimp etc.)... Im having a hard time finding any suppliers that will sell to the general jobber. I see a lot of people that sell online and don't have a actual store front... Again hope you guys can steer me in the right way for a distributor. <To be able to buy from wholesalers it is required that you obtain a business license, federal tax resale number, business bank account, business cards, etc. The first things to do is obtain these items and then build your online store. Once you have all of these and your online store is active the wholesalers will be happy to service you.> <Thanks Rich aka Mr. Firemouth>

Looking to start a pet business in the GWN   3/8/07 I currently live in Nova Scotia and I want to open a pet shop I was wondering if you could give me information about how much and what i need to open a pet store I want to sell pets and supplies you can email me or my husband at XXXX@eastlink.ca or XXXX@hotmail.com Thanks, Mr. & Mrs. Allen <Congratulations on your enterprise... Much to relate to you... and thankfully most all I know is committed to print and archived here: http://wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm Do take your time carefully reading through the articles and FAQs files here... and making good notes. And do write me back at Bob or Crew@WetWebMedia.com with specific questions, comments, or additions. Bob Fenner>
Re: One more question.
New LFS in Nova Scotia! Where can I buy pets and supplies?  -- 03/09/07 <... I'd ask your not-too near competitors where they order theirs... and look on the Net for pet trade associations, periodicals... in your part of Canada. Likely Hagen... Bob Fenner>
Re: One more question
 -- 03/09/07 Thank you very much and sorry for being a pest. <No worries... Is important... If there is enough time, DO try to attend a few of the industry trade shows... Have you folks worked in the trade before? Very valuable investment... Do read over the input in the WWM Aquatics Business subweb... Bob Fenner>
Re: One more question... refusing to read/study the WWM Aquatics Business Subweb  3/9/07
No we haven't worked in any trades but I have taken a business course just can not seem to find very much on the web or very many people to ask questions. <Read... where you've been referred to... You need to work in the retail pet-fish trade... ahead of investing much... BobF>

Import License - 10/22/2006 Hello Bob and crew, <Greg>   I am starting a wholesale marine facility in Pennsylvania.  So far it is going great!  Do I need an import license from USFW to import live rock and corals directly from Jakarta, Indo, Soloman Islands, etc.? <Mmm, not as far as I'm aware... will need to apply for CITES clearance each shipment> I have the suppliers, but do not want to forward money before I get this cleared up. <Mmm... a comment... unless you know the folks involved VERY well, I would NOT send money... a wire transfer can be arranged to be more or less simultaneous with the shipments... or better still, a credit issued pending....> Also, would it be best to have the shipments arrive first in LAX, clear customs, then forward to Philadelphia or Newark?   <You'll want to check re the time frames and cost of each... I would enlist the help of a freight forwarder in all cases> Should I contact a customs broker for this?   <Yes... there are prominent ones that deal in our trade at every airport that receives livestock. BobF, in Indonesia presently> Thanks for your help! Greg

Re this website. Franchisee's valuable input  10/5/06 Dear Bob: I am the owner of a Global Pet Foods franchise (10yrs) < http://www.franchisegator.com/cgi-bin/profile.php?key=1210> and we expanded into tropical fish approx 5 yrs ago. <Congrats> We now have 28 aquariums in the store and a great reputation for "good" fish - we have a Wal-Mart in our area which helps!!!   <Mmm, am hoping you're not be facetious here... That this mass-merchandiser does have good staff, yields good service... Bad competitors are the trades worse enemies, stagnators of growth> We have also developed a reputation for "oddballs" and this is where I find your site very helpful. <Heeee heeeee! Have been called much worse!>   I have learned a great deal about Bichirs and rope fish etc (fascinating creatures) and currently have 4 large p. senegalus in my show tanks.  I was also reading about the person who bought a rope fish from a "crappy pet store".  My advice to anyone purchasing fish - or any other pet for that matter - is to "quiz" the store staff extensively and, if the answers are not satisfactory,  SHOP ELSEWHERE. <Good advice> Do not promote stores such as these which, frankly, should not be in business!  Before we bring in any kind of animal/fish/reptile etc. we research on the net and with customers to make sure we can keep it properly.  We enjoy this business very much and our success (with fish) is largely due to sites like yours! Please keep up the good work and let people know not all pet stores are bad, some of us really enjoy what we do and are not in it just for profit.  One last word, I agree with another lady who wrote in - it really is nice to see a site that does not have a zillion grammatical errors!  Thanks.  Marion. <Hallelujah! Thank you for writing, sharing. Bob Fenner>

Advice needed for fish store   10/5/06 Hello once more my wet friends. Despite your continual words of doom surrounding the idea of starting a fish store as a one man op, <You'll see...> I am doing just that.  The quick version is: I just moved from WPB, FL to North Central Arkansas, somebody shoot me please?!?) <Heeee! Perhaps a pilot for a teebee show...> to be close to my father as it is the 8th or 9th inning for him. <I say go for "extras"> There isn't much here for employment and I bought a house that just happens to have a couple of small commercial buildings on the land so, what the heck, right? <Neat! This or perhaps something else fish-ornamental aquatics related... aquaculture?> I won't be relying on profit to live so the store will probably start off quite small and somewhat simple and when/if it starts making money, great.  If it don't work, I'll have a heck of a nice fish room!  Its a new steel building 30 x 40 on a slab.  Yes, its pretty darn small! <Big enough> OK, having never done this, I have a few questions that are likely elementary to you.  Of course feel free to redirect me on any of my plans that I've made that seems unwise to you.  The whole plan is pretty flexible. <Flexibility is a key trait of successful species, individuals> I want to do 4 8'sections in a U shape.  2 tanks high. I have basically a free source for glass cut to my sizes and even drilled wherever I want. <Nice> Its a large glass co. so they have many, many kinds of glass. <Just float will do> I was thinking of just using plain 1/4" glass for the smaller tanks (24 x 16 or 18 x 14 high) 20-25 gal range.  Is this ok? <Yep... have them bevel the exposed edges...> Any special glass I have to use? With the variety at my disposal, is there any 'extra cool' glass you might choose for the sides/backs? <Mmm, no... I prefer to paint the backs (sometimes sides...) with water based enamel paint... so can take off later if want to> Right now, I'm basically planning 4 75s 2 over 2 on the left hand 8'section, then for 16' along the back, two rows of the smaller tanks. For the right side I had a couple of different ideas, my favorite being 2 rows of 8' or 6' x 3 or 4' x 12" open top Using the top tank for a macro farm and the one underneath for larger animals (eel, band shark, etc.)  This bank will be viewable from both sides. <Mmm... is there sufficient population in this area... any currently developed market for marines? What sort of visibility, accessibility is there to this location?> I also have 3 of those stand alone systems.  I forget the manufacturer, but they are pretty nice. 4x2 footprint, tanks 3 high, great drip tray/bio ball, SeaClears, Iwakis.  These I want to put all next to each other facing the back tanks and then black ceiling that area at about 7'. Along the 12' on back of those systems, I plan 2 125s or 3 75s end to end for all of the corals, which would be right in front of you when you walk in the door. That's basically it.  Considering my location and new-ness,  I suspect that a lot of my livestock could be with me for quite a while <Mmm... you don't want this...> and I like to keep my guests comfortable.  I won't be stocking a lot of fish so do these tank sizes sound adequate to you? <Yes... thus far... what about the part of the business that really pays the bills? The dry-goods... display space, lay-out...>   I'll likely keep inverts in the stand alones and tiny gobies, etc. Now here is where I need the most advice.  The whole U fish section will be one water.  The sump area would be in the 'back room' under the 16' section.  I was thinking of 2 pumps, upper/lower level or left/right side. not sure which would be best or just 1 BIG pump. Your thoughts? <Mmm, one of good size will do (a Sequence series is my choice...) look to get from Quality Marine in LA> I also have a RL 120w UV to include somewhere.  I don't have a skimming plan yet.  I went to Kermit's in Memphis and saw his GIANT (at least 12"d) air skimmers and was very impressed but I think I need more input on what I should do for skimming.   Sorry for being so long winded, but I truly appreciate all the help. You guys really do a great service to the hobby. Fred <A large Euro-Reef would do here... one each for the inverts/verts... The building is to be water-proofed, rust-proofed on the inside ahead of all this I hope/trust... Do draw all out on paper/quadrille... Do the codes there call for 42" aisles? Do check this... and I STILL would get a partner... who will likewise be "on the floor"... And... welcome to the trade! Bob Fenner>

Retail Store Question   9/16/06 Hi Crew, <Michael> I have been keeping salt and fresh water tanks for about 13 years now pretty much beyond a hobby and more as a way of life. I have just taken the next step most of us dream of and have purchased a 28 year old local fish store that's just over 22,000 sq ft. <A very large place> I close on it at the end of this month and have been going in and assisting the staff with customers <A very good practice> and sales and here is where my dilemma lies. How does one deal with a customer who simply does not care about the life of (just a) fish? <A hard question... unto yourself be true... but always remember you are you, others are themselves... one can only "be like the sun" and have/allow their goodness to shine on others... but never assume/become them> I had a man come in who simply threw away his gold fish because they didn't interest him any more and another who insisted in buying 3 small Oscars and 2 angels with a green terror after he did not clean the filter and tank for 6 months and everything died! I politely gave my advise and opinion on the neglect and disregard he is giving to life but he purchased them anyway. <Such can be the ignorance of humans... look at the invasion of sovereign nations...> How does one handle this situation?  My background is in sales and marketing and I am stumped.  If not allowing them to purchase them is the only option, have you heard of any laws against refusal of sale? <No sense> I understand this is more of an issue of ethics and morals but I know many of you at the WWM have owned LFS. <I have been involved in several> Any advice on this topic would be much appreciated. Thank you in advance! Michael J. Bukosky <Good that you are "finding out about this" now... but such will be the continuous trials of being in retail... what will you choose? Which can you choose but to be yourself? BobF>

Re: Retail Store Question   9/16/06 Thank you for the words of wisdom Bob. You have helped me out in the past and for what it is worth, you and the crew have passed on much respect and knowledge for this hobby and in return I will do the same for my customers. Thank you again... and again.. and again......! <Welcome Michael... Retail is definitely "not for everyone", but want to re-emphasize that a large issue/lesson of "growing up" for all is this "ownership" question... Do be like the sun, and have the goodness in you shine on others. My goal as well. Cheers, BobF>

Who are the top aquarium decoration manufacturers in the US?  - 09/14/06 Items such as sand, colored rock, someone that can make custom pieces from plastics, center pieces, etc? <Mmm, none in the U.S. as far as I'm aware... Blue Ribbon et al. are made in the Far East...> Where can I locate facts and figures on sales numbers in the aquatic decoration industry? <Not collated by anyone other than distributors I'd guess... and this info. likely treated as proprietary... If you're interested in fabrication, sales/distribution in the trade, I'm willing to grant you what little recent insight I have... some friends have in the last few years "duked it out" in the making of artificial corals... There may be room for another "player" if what you have in mind is "nice", unique... not too-expensive... Have you asked about re distribution as yet? This is often a very useful way of determining whether your product/s/line will "make it". Bob Fenner> Thanks for your help. Shelly Newman Re: Who are the top aquarium decoration manufacturers in the US?  9/15/06 Can you give me the insight you have on fabrication, sales and distribution. <Will try... what do you have in mind?> What I have in mind is indeed unique, nice and not too expensive.... Also, don't know anything about redistribution. Obviously a novice with an "idea" and looking to make it big in the American way....or hopefully just make a living. Thanks for all your help. Shelly Newman <Best to "shop around" with what you have... some local stores... even on consignment... See if what you have size, shape, color-wise is viable... will sell... place some in their systems, on their shelves... And (the cheapest route to go) the Net... develop (if you haven't done so already) a logo, name/tag... and some pix of what you have on offer, price for purchase, shipping... If/when all appears to be "sell-able", approach some of the independent rep.s in the trade (can be found in the back of pet industry publications) and if nearby, one or two distributors in the trade (make an appointment, presentation, following a call or two...) and get their take on what they might be willing to do. Bob Fenner>

Fish store questions   9/5/06   I'm working on starting a fish store and was reading through your articles on it and had a few questions.    <Okay>   My first question is about systems. I really like the look of DAS. Do you have any opinions on them; (quality, durability, filtration, lighting).    <I do like the Dutch Aquarium Systems (was largely responsible for bringing them in for a time as the vendor of choice at Petco for their holding systems in the early nineties)... for their looks... but their filtration in particular... feeble>   I have been looking into distributors and bayside aquatics seems to have most of what I need. Do you know anything about them in terms of reliability and how reputable they are?    <Bayside? Yes... is Ken Wong... the same outfit as their end-user etailing biz Marine Depot... Have been out diving, traveling with Ken in Egypt, Germany, Hawai'i... seen him at his bus. in Anaheim... an honest, competent business person>   Is it worth splitting a store with salt and fresh, or is devoting all your space to one and offering a larger selection a wiser choice?    <Better by far in almost all circumstances (unless the industry is very developed/specialized in your region) to have/carry both marine, fresh... even pond livestock and drygoods...>   Are credit card and debit machines worth all the service charges? <Mmm, yes... for handling charges at your place of business? Assuredly> They seem necessary in some businesses and not in other.      Any recommendations on a livestock distributor? <...?! Need to have more than one for any given group/type of organisms...>   Finally, would you cycle a retail system like a typical tank or is there a different method? <On a larger scale... the same> This seems like it would be a lot of time to have a set up shop sitting, and not open. Once cycled what is the best way to add stock in a timely manner without putting too much stress on the system? <Posted on WWM>      I greatly appreciate any help you can offer. Your site is by far the most informative resource I have found on this subject. Thanks in advance. -Paul <Paul... I salute your earnest effort at becoming a retailer... but would like to chat with you a bit more extensively re these and many other issues... Have you worked in the industry? Do you have time to put in a few months here? A possible visit to wholesaling enterprises? Bob Fenner>

- Marine Aquariums... pondering possibilities  6/15/06 - WWM Crew - New to WWM and loving your site (wish I would have found it sooner)! I've scoured for many hours trying to find info related to my questions but I have been unable to nail down the specifics of what I'm in need of answering, so here goes..... Quick history: Live in Michigan. Currently have a 55 gallon marine tank (8 yrs old) with 5 fish (clown, pink spotted goby, cardinal, royal Gramma, Foxface) and live rock. Closest LFS is 35 minutes away. I've saved $3000 to put towards my next marine adventure. I'm at a point where I've saved enough money to expand on what I have and I'm toying with two different possibilities for the next step. Possibility #1 - spend the entire amount on one awesome large tank. <Believe it or not, $3000 won't get you very far in the "awesome" department in marine tanks. That budget could get a pretty decent 75-90 gallon tank started (as in up and running), but not quite all the way to the finish line (fully stocked with nothing left to purchase).> Possibility #2 - spend the money on many smaller tanks to keep a rather large assortment of fish and with the help of my son (who is in the process of converting his own freshwater tank to marine) start our own mini-store in our finished basement.  For me this would be a benefit... I could continue to observe many varieties of fish and also possibly make enough money to break even. <While this would be fun from a hobbyist angle, it will likely never be a profitable enterprise and will most likely barely pay the electric bill. Not including the fact that unless you pick lots of small fish, then lots of small tanks is less than ideal for anything of size for anything beyond temporary holding.> I'm leaning towards #2 and here's some questions/comments- What size tank would you recommend if I was to have approximately 10 tanks? <55-60? Depends more on how much space you have and the fish you want to keep. Larger is always better.> (I've looked into the MaRS Retailer System vs. buying 10-20 gallon tanks and outfitting them each with a bio-wheel, heater, hood.  The tanks come out cheaper but would that be the best way to go? <For retail display systems, this is a better way to go, but the design of these systems is based on a wholesale/retail holding system and not long term care.> Will just a bio-wheel be adequate to maintain the tanks? (on my current tank I have a canister filter, protein skimmer, powerhead) <A protein skimmer always helps.> Recommendations/contacts for livestock, food, aquariums in the Michigan area? <If you're in the Ann Arbor area, look up Tropicorium. If you're in the East Lansing/Lansing area, look up Preuss' Pets.> Is this insane? <Not insane, but perhaps not completely thought out. Do consider carefully what it will cost you on a reoccurring basis to maintain a large holding system - will this really make you money or just drain it out of your wallet? If you want to make money, then you need to approach this like a business which means you need a business plan, marketing research, etc. - is there anyone around to make money with? This is just a start, but going through these motions should influence your decision.> Thank You for your time Brian <Cheers, J -- >

Thinking of starting a LFS  - 05/21/2006 Sir or Ma'am, <Just Bob please>   Was going through your vast amounts of knowledge on the business side of starting a LFS, and the only part I believe I'm lacking is the most important.... Money! <An important component... We do live in an exchange society/world> Im currently active duty military and with times being as they are, I was debating on waiting to start my LFS, until I know I wont be moved around. <You are wise here. I was a dependent for decades, a recruit, and married with a woman in the services...> Though I do have a strong supporting cast that will help me, such as my wife, if I was gone for a while.  With that said, let me describe my idea, and see what you think. In my town of 80,000 we currently have 3 SW fish stores, <Amazing... in our home town of San Diego we don't have this much... with a population of some three and a half million people> all have a small marine section. One store is your small strip mall type store, they have I believe one or two marine tanks, and both are border line disgusting, I wouldn't even consider them. The other store, which is on the main strip of town has the most advertising. It's a out of the house business and has one "bedroom" dedicated to SW. With 4 big tanks and 4 10gal, the selection is pretty limited. <Heeeee! Perhaps I keyed too soon> The couple that owns the LFS has one intelligent person, and one complete "absent-minded" owner. This is your typical, sell you whatever to make a buck LFS, and I seriously seen someone walking out of the store with a new tank, salt and the fish in the bag. The last LFS is the one I currently shop at is 30mins out of town, it's about 50/50 FW and SW fish, they also sell puppies out the back. It's a garage business with about 12 SW tanks, one dedicated to Corals. Though the owner is the most knowledgeable and friendly in the local business, the shop is very lacking and the selection seems to be pick thru. Both business's I named last have a good amount of customers that go through the stores, I know there is a market, I just believe there isn't a store yet. <I see...>   My location would be next to the new development of higher end homes and closet to the military base which accounts for 17% of the retail market in our area. I believe it to be a high traffic area and see the customer base as a high potential for above average sales. My question is after coming up with a business plan and ill be trying to buy up some display tanks used in the paper, what area should I focus on next. Obviously ill have to gain some capitol and make a price sheet, but where else should I be focusing my attention on. Thank you, Leroy <As you will find, hopefully learn by simply perusing the Aquatics Business subweb of WWM, there are five critical elements of business, including retail... Set-up, stock, personnel, financing and location... all these can break such an endeavor... Do read re. Bob Fenner>

Prob.s concerning bio cycle... new to commercial, SW... parasitic disease, prevention, re-establishing sys.   4/26/06 To whoever picks this up: Dear Sir, I have been gathering too much info from your site the past few months while I was trying to establish a wholesale point for marine fish and I am grateful to you for this. I ve seen that you help a lot of people with the problems they have and I was wondering if you can help me too. I have a commercial system with the power of handling 5 tons (currently use it at its one 1/3 capacity) <For other readers, often systems are measured elsewhere in their weight in water> (TMC Marine system) and 25 kg.s of biomass. It has a 440W UV bio tower sand filter big skimmer... I had it working for a month boosted with the Abil package for a quick 10 day cycle establishment. <Theoretically... that is, under some standard...> The water parameters were monitored and the cycle seemed to be working fine. The NO2s went up and the then down after increasing the NO3s (Strangely a white dusty byproduct was left down on the bottom of my tanks??) <Not uncommon> After that I had my first order coming from Indonesia. At the first 5-6 days everything was good all the 150 fish (2-3 kg.s biomass) came to balance and got back their beautiful colors. The nest few days they started showing stress they developed whitespot and started dying. <Very common that wild fish are infested... you don't (yet) mention acclimation or treatment procedures... these are extremely important, and detailed on WWM for commercial and residential applications> Until I realize what's going on half of my stock was dead my ammonia went to the sky and my NO2s as well <This is to be expected... from the dead, dying source of protein...> the remaining of my stock I gave it to many of my friend because I couldn't watch them die slowly any more. <... are you sure you're suited to this/our industry?> Now I am trying to get things going again and this is where I need your advice. Should I keep the water I have in the system (artificial) or should I sterilize everything and start from the beginning using sea water and wait for the cycle to run again? Thank you in advance for the help Yiannis Christodoulou <Having been in this situation before, and done both, I would bleach (sodium hypochlorite likely) the system and start again... with the same water if it is otherwise in "good shape". Please, do read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/acclimat.htm and the many articles/FAQs files on Marine parasitic disease... Bob Fenner>

BGA Pix, not the algae/bacteria, wanted   4/8/06 Bobbie, Do you have a good photo of some nasty red slime? Aloha Friday...hope you are enjoying it. Best regards... Eric <Do I!? Hey, you have all these on the ext. HD I sent along...> P.S What's new? <Just back from a month plus in HI, doing the Lavaman... trying feverishly to catch up... Have you seen this pic: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm Are you going to Interzoo? The upcoming WMC? IMAC? Some hobbyist fun now! BobF>

Photos, SDC, REEFCHECK, HI    4/8/06 Bob, <Eric> You know....it's very funny that picture of your wife and myself I have saved in my computer as well and see it often. <Is a good pic of you both>   It's cool that you put that on the site which is really cool.  I often recommend the site to new  customers interested in setting up aquarium shops for your great information and  people always thank me for pointing them in the right direction.  It's a  huge help for these people to get the information so they can make the right  decisions for themselves in business. <Outstanding> I was planning on going to Germany with my wife for 10 days or so, but so much happening right now with Sea Dwelling and more, that I just feel compelled   to keep the train moving forward. <Mmm, and I do need and greatly want to chat with you... re building a public facility on the Big Island... at NELHA/former OTEC...> Maybe I will attend one of the shows...Chicago probably more chance than Sacramento. <Would be great to pal about with you there> Which are you going  to other than Germany of' course. <We're actually skipping... Di out of Knop, my publisher (BSV) there selling... and not enough money to help fund WWM crew there or to the Red Sea excursion afterward... Signs of the times... that I hope will be over in coming years. Instead, we may sponsor some folks to come out, dive, tourist a bit in HI... during the mid May into June time-frame. If a short while there would work for you et ux., you're welcome to the master BR suite at our place> You mentioned I already have the red slime photo?  Did you give Scott  a master disc or something? <Oh! Better than this... an external hard drive of all my scans... If it's easier for me to send along some BGA pix direct, please make this known... not hard to do> Ok dude...all is good.  What's Lavaman? <A tri, make that try- athalon... done now (for the year) thank goodness!> You mentioned  Hawaii...by the way, we are (reefcheck.org) having a fundraiser in Honolulu.. the  Honolulu Marathon. <Ahh, some friends are doing this (I did, once, many years back... just thinking of hoofing it up the Diamondhead road is giving me pains!> It's going to be a huge event with lot's of  stars.  Maybe we can get the logo on your site somehow with a link. <Will gladly place. Please just send info. on where it's to be found, the URL> I  have been on the board of directors for nearly 4 years now...it's really taking  off and a great cause with great people.   <Very glad to hear/read> Have a great weekend...lot's of family kids stuff going on around  here. Eric <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Public Aquariums... discover, discern your destiny, seek your path, become yourself   1/25/06 Hello, I love saltwater fish and love taking care of my little reef tank enough that I want to work in a public aquarium. <Think we all did at one time or another.> I'm 18 and a senior in high school and I'm starting to plan out pretty much the direction I want to take. What would you think would be the best step toward working in a public aquarium? I really like saltwater fish and reef type invertebrates but I don't really care much for penguins, seals etc. . There isn't an aquarium around here and the closest I could do would be work at Petco *gag* (One time they played with their sump and accidentally turned their tanks into freshwater overnight killing everything but a snowflake eel--probably fixed the ick problem though...) Anyhow, what would probably be the best thing right now? <I'm baffled...you want to work at a public aquarium but there are none around you. I don't know of any other options outside of working at "*gag*" Petco. The best step I guess is moving near one and submitting an application to them. James (Salty Dog)> Thanks <You're welcome><<I strongly encourage you to get/read Jay Hemdal's "Aquarium Careers" (review, link on WWM). Pursue your path, dream. RMF>>

Starting a business  12/26/05 Hi, <Hello Joel>     I am new to this site. I do not know if you can help me or not but I am interested in using my experience with marine aquariums to start a small business. I have a lot of ideas and have been saving for some time but I realized I do not know where to start. I would like to start off selling hard goods out of a friends business ( car wash {I know the 2 do not really go together but it is a start} ). I have a decent network of people who are looking for a better resource of supplies. My problem is I do not know how to go about becoming a registered retailer to be able to buy from suppliers. Or even how to find suppliers. Could you offer any advice on this. <Let's start by reading info on the link I've posted.  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks, <You're welcome> Joel Hagans

Important discourse re career/s, life, pet-fishing 12/14/05 Bob, <Jeremy> In your book, "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist," in the foreword is written: "To you, the aquarist.  May your brush with captive marine fishes and invertebrates enhance our appreciation of the living world, inspire you to share your experiences with others and foster stewardship of our planet." <Yes... an earnest desire/belief> Working in a civil engineering firm, I have taken that message seriously.  The motto here is that water will be this century's oil. <Interesting... and so> Currently, I work in the land development discipline planning and developing utilities for planned subdivisions and communities.  Lately, I have really started looking toward the environmental side of civil engineering as well as marine biology especially since Texas A&M-Galveston is little under an hour away from me.  Ever since I started this hobby, (about a year ago) more than anything it has made me appreciate the ocean and the balance that it has, since we take such measures to imitate such balance and stability in such small tanks. <An important issue that I appreciate as a benefit of the hobby/interest as well>   It really bothers me to see what is going on with pollutants and the fact that the engineering aspect only seeks the bare minimum as far as standards are concerned and that people couldn't eat the fish (if they wanted to) out of the surrounding water of most cities. <Mmm, not all folks have this minimalist/lower-est common denominator view you'll find> Houston is not alone.  I wouldn't dare use the immediate surrounding Gulf waters in my aquarium.  Also, I have been reading up on what is going on with the oceans and that it may be a big factor in what is causing such a hurricane spike in not only the quantity of storms, but the power these things have been generating lately while churning not too far away.  Scary stuff.   <Yes> Since you are knowledgeable and active in the marine biology field, do you have any advice on where I would start looking as far as pursuing this as a career as far as what to look for in a degree plan? <... A very important question... would/will need to know much re your background, value system, future goals/ambitions to render an opinion with much confidence> As much as I find the biology of marine life and pathology of diseases/treatments interesting (considering I have a tank full of crypt...), I think that I am looking for more along the way of preservation and environmental engineering, although I would consider a minor in the biology area.  Nemo and Dory are cool and all, but I don't want to be limited to just that.    <Indeed... do not limit yourself more than "natural" influences...> I will be going to go upstairs the environmental dept and talk to some of their people before too long as well.  Although I am only 25, the window of changing career and degree paths without turning my life upside down won't be open too much longer. <Good point> I take night classes at a local community college to get my core classes done and I am almost done there.  I will have to make a decision sometime next year.  I just received a packet from A&M-Galveston, so I will also be taking a quick visit out there for more info as well.  I am just looking for actual experiences and backgrounds so I have a better idea to know what to ask and what I am looking for when I get there.   I know you must get a ton of mail and I certainly do not want to add to any load or cause any unnecessary inconveniences, but any advice you have would be helpful.   Thanks, Jeremy <Am glad to proffer my input, share my help in your ongoing planning> Now I get to go home, take apart my LR formation and corral my fish into the sick tank!  Last night, I went ahead and added a nitrifying bacteria culture to the QT and wanted to let it settle overnight. <Good> The adventure never stops around here...  Other than the crypt outbreak, the tank is really nice when functioning properly.  Should be even better once I upgrade to a 180+ gallon size.  If it doesn't work out, I have friends with tanks that size who will take the imperator and possibly hippo tang. <Also good. Life to you my friend. Bob Fenner>

Opening a new store - Start with a Business Plan 11/3/05 Hi, My partner and I are strongly considering opening a fresh and saltwater fish store in Rochester, Minnesota. <Ahh!> There really aren't any fish stores for about an hour from this city. <... why is this so? Demography? Size of population, age thereof? Often it is easier, more timely to "share" a going customer base than develop one> The main thing that we are wondering is if you believe it would be a good idea to do. I know that it would be hard for you to say but the nearest stores from us which are located in Minneapolis, are extremely busy and some maintenance co. are unable to bring in new clientele because of over- bookings. We don't have any experience in owning our own business so any advice that you could give to us would be very helpful. <Much to state... would be better if you had/have worked in the trade for a few months (both/all of you)> We have salt water fish and are very passionate about this idea. It's one of those things that we just wish it was already going. But we really don't know where to start. <On paper... read the "Five Elements of Retail" posted on WWM's Business Subweb... draw up a business plan, spread sheets for monies coming/going for a couple of years...> I know that it is all about the 5 key elements, but where do you really start. <All at the same time... actually, most folks with "Set-up" to gain an appreciation for how large a store you may want/need... the costs of fixtures, stock... then on to Finance...> Thank you so much for all of the advice so far. We look forward to hearing back from you. Lynnzy and Josh <I wish you success in your venture... Retail is definitely not easy (endless hours, headaches...), but very rewarding. Bob Fenner, who spent 14 years "on the floor".> 
Re: Opening a new store 11/3/05
Hi Bob, its Lynnzy again. Rochester has an amazing population and is growing every day. I believe, after speaking to some of my grandparents, that one of the reasons there is not a fish store around here, is that there never has ( at least for the past 70 yrs), and everyone is afraid to try something new and take a risk.  <Self-employment is not for everyone... though I think it should be...> I am an assistant manager of a jewelry store, so I know that retail can be very tough. <Ah, yes... and good> You can go from having one amazing month to almost nothing the next... Very Frustrating!!! However, Josh and I are risk takers and I believe that him and I together have enough heart in this business that it will help make up for some of the missing experience. Just after only talking about our passion for this, we have met and found out of a lot of people close to us, like co- workers, etc. that have salt and fresh water tanks in their homes, and some numerous tanks.  In more cases when I ask them, mostly salt water owners, where they get their inventory, they reply that they are forced to order it on- line and out of catalogs because no one around our area offers anything. This gives me even more inspiration. Everyone starts out like us in the beginning, and look what the fish industry has evolved into, I have faith. Any other advice would be great, thank you!!!! Lynnzy  <Let us keep chatting as your plans develop... have you been out "shopping" for a sight, fixtures yet? Bob Fenner> 

Should I open a fish store / pet store  10/19/05 First off, thank you for such a great site. I've operated a small aquarium maintenance service in my city for about 3 years. It's something that I dreamed of since I was a kid at the doctors and always wanted to feed the fish. It's funny cause I remember then thinking that I could take care of the doctors fish around my town for work. Any ways, I've really considered opening a retail pet/ aquarium store. I work at a specialty marine shop and in the past year six new shops have opened that sell salt water livestock and equipment. 3 being Petcos and 3 being aquatic specialty. Call me crazy for still wanting to dive into what may be a saturated market. What should I know if I were to take the plunge. Thank you for your help with this and all your info on this site. >> Working in the industry I can give you some advice on this, although much will depend on your city and market. Basically independent pet stores have a difficult stand against the big chain stores, because of their limited buying power and exposure. The idea would be to specialize in products and services not offered by the big stores, and maybe bringing in some fish and dry goods that are not offered by the big stores. Go to a local aquarium society meeting and speak with the people that know the industry in your city, to see what their opinions are. You will need the aquarium society for advertising and word of mouth to start anyhow. It may be good to offer a good discount to members, which will get them new members through your store, and you are assured of a customer base that has a genuine interest in fish. This business is not easy, but not many are. Good Luck, Oliver

2 questions about the pet fish biz Mr. Fenner,    Thanks for your work in the industry and hobby. I really appreciate reading your work. Enough kissing up for now, onto the questions: <Glad to share>   1. I have been doing a lot of research on opening a business in the tropical fish industry. I have worked in a chain type store and recently had the privilege of becoming the manager of a start up tropical fish store in the Sacramento area. <A nice area... with some great, well-established retailers> I was able to be there when the building was empty and put it all together. So, far I have gleaned tons of information. The largest of that info being that I would never open a normal retail location!!! <Heeee! Have gotten past this age/step years back as well>      I am only 25 and don't have near enough capital to pull it off (yet.) I am interested in coral propagating/tank maintenance out of my home or small warehouse. It seems that there is a much better chance at success in making money when you don't have a lot to start with. <Mmm, "takes money to make..." as the saying goes... You will need some>     Finally, to my point. I have been thinking about a "co-op" style business though. I have read only one article about this on the web. Where the whole store is based around a "membership" where you basically are turning a fish club into a store. People would pay a fee to join then you could give them discount on products. Also, I was thinking of renting tank space for people who wanted to do coral propagating on a small scale - then if you had enough of the small scale guys you can all collaborate on one large identity website where you sell everyone's stuff. I know this is a very general idea, but any ideas about what would be good or bad about this idea? <Could be done... I take it you have good to great people skills, inestimable patience?>   2. Also, do you have any contacts that you could pass on to me that make "holding systems" like you would see at wholesalers? You know where they would have tiny divided tanks on top then graduating to a little larger ones and then finally the largest ones on the bottom. <Mmm, if indeed you lack much money, I would make your own... or if available, but used... Very expensive to purchase...>   Thanks for your time and sorry it was so long!                                  - Jacob <Not long at all... Please do us both a favor and do the due diligence here... Write up a semi-formal business plan and a spreadsheet of expected revenues and expenses for the next few years. Good practice, and may well reveal some important elements of your dream/plan. Bob Fenner>

Aquatic Plants and Pond Supplies Biz Bob, I am looking to become a distributor for aquatic plants and pond supplies, however I don't know where to start. <Mmm, the industry... or industries if you're talking aquarium plants separate from pond... are easily found... Buyer's Guides in the trade pub.s... trade associations... Have you worked in our interest?> I have enough space and land to make this a home business. I just need to find a manufacture that needs a distributor. Can you help? <... am a bit confused here... Are you looking to actually grow plants, and also to privately rep. pond drygoods? Both? Are there particular lines, sizes... How do you hope to reach your customers? Or are you looking to work as a manufacturer's representative? Let's chat. Bob Fenner>

Consulting Offer - Chicago, new etailer? Mr. Fenner - Good afternoon.  My name in Jim Roberts.  I would like to talk to you about hiring you to do some consulting for me.  Six months ago I  opened a small internet business (see website below) and will be taking things to the next step and opening a retail marine livestock/supply business in the Chicagoland area by 4th QTR of this year.   <Around the corner... hopefully in time to be fully operational for the Xmas season> I have completed my business plan, which took approximately 4 months, and am currently working with Citibank to secure and SBA line of credit to go along with a home equity line of credit that should give me approximately $100K in financing to set things up.  Looking at facility around 1500 sqft. <... not much money, and very little space...> I have been involved with fish keeping since I was a boy, I am 36 years old now, and due to my second lay off in Corporate America in the last five years will be making the switch to running my own business.   <Good for you> I have read your book "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" and have been using WetWebMedia as a reference for the past couple years.  Your honesty, knowledge and experience in the marine arena are all unmatched as far as I am concerned and I would like to make you an offer to help me design and set up my retail location.   <Am happy, glad to share, help> My knowledge in setting up a large scale operation, maybe larger scale is the correct phrase, is extremely limited and I would like to draw upon your experience to help me get things done right.  I have much I would like to talk with you about and hope that you will give me a call (847-927-XXXX cell) to discuss things a bit further.  I currently have around 500 gallons of water in my home spread over a few different tanks and tubs where I am growing, propagating and housing my inventory.   <... at this point, would much prefer sharing over the Net... much easier to avoid mistakes on my part...> I was told once by an Uncle of mine that you don't have to know the answers to everything, however knowing where to find answers is what is most important. <I would add the adverb/s... readily, useful... to "answers">   I also believe that surrounding yourself with successful people is key to long term success and that is why I am approaching you.  I my time table is to have a location selected by the end of July and to start construction and set up for opening in October.  I plan on covering the marine market only and will carry fish, inverts, corals (all types) and equipment/supplies.  Since I have never owned my own business before I am not sure if my time line is appropriate, however I would think that hiring you for a 10 -14 day stretch (more if necessary) would definitely give me a huge leg up and will eliminate many weeks of research as well as limiting my mistakes so that I can get things done right from the beginning.   <Much more important than the time commitment is knowledge... and even a subset of this, practical experience... My usual strong suggestion here for you to work in the field, as close to something like this... retail, mail-order, aquaculture...> If you are not interested, or simply cannot find the time to help me out, I understand and would appreciate you directing me to anyone that is qualified for such a task.  I am very excited about this venture and know that my sales, marketing and management background will ensure my success once all is set up and running.  Thanks again for your time and consideration.   Jim Roberts Coral Paradise, Website: www.coralparadise.org <Might I propose asking a dear friend of mine as well here? Anthony Calfo has worked extensively in the trade, with corals... and is coming into his "consulting phase". I will cc him here re. Otherwise, please do include me in discussions that I may be able to aid you. Bob Fenner>
ooh, yes. Happy to do this and help if I can/am useful. Gratis of course... and by e-mail as much as we can too, like Bobster. Both of us will be in Chicago in two weeks for IMAC... perhaps you can join us at the hotel lounge some evening for a chat? Fri/Sat eves likely... Bob may fly out by Sunday, no? Anthony * Thanks for the mention/ref Bob :) <Happy to refer you, all who are competent, honest... and desirous of such work! BobF>
Re: Consulting Offer - Chicago Bob - Thanks much for your reply.  I agree with all of your comments. Especially the space and money issue.  Unfortunately, I am going to have to make due with the financing that I am able to obtain.   <Does seem like you are well aware... of the circumstances, and more importantly, your own abilities, limitations. Very good> I am confident that it can be done successfully if care is taken in keeping fixed costs to a minimum and marketing is aggressive.  I would like to have double the space and will see what is available in the marketplace, but I am not going to get myself into a position that forces me to charge outrageously high prices in order to pay the rent. <Ah, volume instead...> We have a few of these types of stores in the area and they are not always well spoken of.  Those that are a bit smaller and offer more competitive prices seem to do better.  The Chicago market is currently anywhere between $22-$25 per sqft for retail rental space and industrial warehouse space is not much less. <Mmm, sounds like a good opportunity to "get into" commercial property...> I agree that there is no substitute for experience and I have worked in a LFS part time for around 3 months, however once they found out (don't ask me how) that I would eventually be opening my own facility some day, I was not asked to come back as an employee or a customer for that matter.  I have also been out to LAX to have a look at some facilities there.  Some are quite impressive and are operated on a much larger scale than I am ready for at this time.  A few years down the road God willing!! <I see> Anyway, I am not worried about mistakes on your end, I am concerned about them on my end.  One of my biggest concerns my lack of contacts within the industry.  I am not sure where to go to get the larger (industrial sized) skimmers, and other filtration devices needed to get things going. <No problems, worries re these contacts, products. Make it known what you are looking for and I/we will gladly introduce you about> So to start things off any advice on these types of companies would be much appreciated. <For large skimmers? For your current operation I would use the Euro-Reef brand... when bigger, the RK2...> Also,  your thoughts on separating systems for different types of livestock please.  I was thinking of each "type" of coral having it's own system.   Is separating LPS, SPS and softies a good idea at this stage?? <Yes... and most all fishes if you intend to offer vertebrates... and possibly macro-algae...> I would think that running the fish on their own system is a must as this was they can be treated with any medications that may be necessary.  Thanks for your help. <You will want to adopt/adapt a very strict dip/bath and quarantine protocol... many problems avoided, good PR generated...> Oh, yes...  I would enjoy working with Anthony as well.  Have read his book and am positive that his experience will prove to be valuable too. <Ah, good. He has responded (to me) re... Is currently on a job in Tonga re... will cc him again here. Cheers, Bob Fenner> Jim Roberts

Re: Consulting Offer - Chicago Thanks Bob.  Yeah, volume is the goal.  Quality product and fair prices. After all you don't make money growing corals and fish, you make money selling them. While I will continue to propagate some corals (faster growing SPS and LPS, xenia, etc.) it will be done out of sight.  Also the quicker the fish and corals move out of holding and into their permanent homes the better.  At least I think. Glad to hear I am on the right track with the separation of species and I definitely plan on some type of bath/qt procedure.  I have read your treatment procedure on this site.  Sounds good to me. What is your opinion on how best to filter a larger fish system??  Fluidized beds??  Trickle??  Not sure what the best way to go is. <Both have their merits... and both will rapidly "ramp up" to loads... For large, fluctuating amounts of biota, fluidized beds can't be (currently) beat... You'll want more than this, these though... likely at least ultraviolet, perhaps ozone with a dryer... and big skimmers... maybe even particulate (mechanical, cartridge) filtration for "polishing". Bob Fenner> Thanks again. Jim Roberts
Re: Consulting Offer - Chicago, commercial holding systems filtration
Again thanks.  Now I have even more questions.  In what order to you place all that filtration??  How should the water move through it all??  Also any suppliers that I can start working with to obtain these items would be most appreciated... Thanks... Jim Roberts <Please take the long read through our Aquatics Business subweb... http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm there is coverage of systems there under "Setup", and linked files beyond. Bob Fenner>

Regarding Coolcorals products http://www.wetwebmedia.com/WWMAdminSubWebIndex/wwminput4.htm Hello Bob, Are you still in touch with Brad Kretzmeier from cool corals? Brad taught me a lot of things about corals. And currently I'm away from Indiana. So I am having trouble contacting Brad. His address and number actually got relocated, and I was wondering if you have his new contact. Sincerely, Charlie Kuo <No... even Google Scholar searching didn't find him, it. Bob Fenner>

A miniature business venture Hi all! I just want to share again how much I adore your website! I can't wait to covertly snap pictures of y'all at the upcoming conference in Chicago! <Please introduce yourself... we're just pet-fish people like yourself> My question is semi-complicated, so I hope it makes sense in the end. I recently inherited 9 20g long aquariums, drilled with one hole in the back left corner. I believe the hole is 1/2", as the 3/4" fittings I bought for it don't fit. Anyway, I've been thinking about setting up one of the tanks as either a coral propagation tank or a clownfish breeding tank, although I'm not sure how realistic doing so would be. I can't set up all of the tanks b/c I know, without a doubt, that I will be moving across the country in May 2007. Basically, my question is this: do you think it's possible to turn a tiny profit propagating corals or breeding clowns in two years in a small tank or would you recommend that I use my time to plan the development of my hopefully larger propagation farm once I'm settled into one place? <Is possible, a lot of fun, and very good practice...> I adore growing corals and I'm not counting on the frags to pay for any of my expenses... well, except for maybe the cost of keeping the tank up and running, but even that isn't completely necessary at this point. <Do pay attention, maybe make a spreadsheet of costs and possible revenue... pay particular attention to energy (mostly lighting) costs... use some natural light if you can on those corals... see Anthony's many good inputs re selection of saleable species...> Anyway, I would love your insight into what you would do if you were in my position. I live in  small town and I'm bored out of my mind, so my aquariums are like my babies! I love em! Many thanks! --Becky <I say... you go woman! Bob Fenner>

Re: your ol' buddy from the west Texas desert... Wasn't demeaning PetCo as a chain. This specific store has a bad showing for Saltwater stuff. The supply of books and reading material is abysmal and the livestock selection is very small. The tanks are okay but not great. I blame it on the management of the store not PetCo. I should have made that more apparent. <No worries... the chains have their shortcomings for sure... space enough for all currently. Bob Fenner> 
Re: your ol' buddy... TURNS OUT
I misstated the name of the store. I went over there at lunch it is a PetSmart store NOT a PetCo. That could be part of the problem. Sorry for any hard feelings my original email may have caused my friend.  <Again, no worries. Both chains have their strong/weak points... I don't take any of these personally> I still do not blame the chain, but rather the local management for the lack of interest in Reef Aquaria. There are several people here, even in my own business, that are clamoring for a store 'of our own' where people can learn and start on this hobby. For now, I have brought in my copy of your book and have highly recommended it. <Ahh, glad you find it worthy> Regards Rick <Perhaps someone there will realize the opportunity, the challenges, and open an independent shop... Bob Fenner> 

Coral color change and Etail advice 4/28/05 I bought 3 blue ridge corals. At the time of purchase they looked baby blue, but now they are turning brown. Are they dyed? I sold one of them to someone because I had 3, and they were furious with me when they received it. They said it was totally brown. Mine in my tank looks brown over the top and blue underneath. They were all blue when I bought them. I refunded the money because they think we did it on purpose and threw a terrible temper tantrum. <I don't think these corals were dyed. Blue ridge coral never has blue tissue. It is always light to caramel brown. The skeleton is blue, so I suspect you saw some blue skeleton that was visible where tissue died.> We're trying to get started in a saltwater online business. We have accounts with Sea Dwelling, Underwater World, Segrest, and many others. The quality really varies in what you receive. <This is absolutely true. It takes time to build good relationships and to learn what each supplier does best. Hiring a "jobber" to go in person to pick your animals helps a lot!> For dry goods we have champion lighting and a few other but I don't think they offer very good wholesale prices. Any suggestions on dry and live good suppliers?  <You are dealing with some of the biggest already, but you may want to check Custom Aquatic for dry goods and Quality Marine for livestock (there are many others).> Also, we have tried no ick and kick ich for marine ich. Do you have any recommended brand? We have ordered more uv sterilizers. <The drugs/chemicals in No Ick and Kick Ick are not effective at the recommended doses. UV is the better solution in a commercial setting, however proper FW dips on arrival and quarantine are the best way to prevent outbreaks. UV is only effective when they are kept clean and the lamps are replaced often (every 6 months).> We got some corals in such as blue carpet and bright pink finger leather sold as purple hairy finger leather, and I\u2019m sure they\u2019re dyed because the water in the bag its colored! How long will the color stay in the coral will it fade soon? <The blue carpet is probably natural, but the pink leather is very suspicious. On future orders, tell your wholesaler that you won't accept dyed animals! The dyed colors usually fade fast, and the dyed animal often dies. Keep an eye on it so that it can be removed if it starts to fall apart.> I wouldn't want to sell something and then have a customer get furious, because some people are less than understanding. I want to try to have the best quality I can have and represent it honestly. Thanks. Any ideas and links to point us in the right direction are very much appreciated. Thanks again. Your site has got to be one of the most informative on earth! Right up there with an encyclopedia!  <Glad you appreciate the site and more glad that you have a desire to run a stand-up business. Beware that this business is very difficult, even for very knowledgeable and experienced people. Please do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm for good information about this business. Best of luck. AdamC.>

Bob's Opinion on Industry Consolidation Hello Bob. I am not sure if you are around or off somewhere exotic, but I wanted to get your take on the latest rounds takeovers, mergers, and acquisitions. Rayovac which owns The United Pet Group (Marineland, Aquarium Systems, and Perfecto) now just bought Tetra. <And a few more pending...> Central Garden and Pets owns All-Glass, Oceanic, Kent, and ESU/Coralife. Do you see the industry eventually being dominated by just a few large companies? <I hope not> Is this a good thing? <Not IMO/E... such consolidation is a "mixed blessing/curse"... Bigger companies are less innovative, more predatory in their practices... not good for the hobby, industry, country/economy in general... On the other hand (the mixed part), larger outfits have the resources for research (look at Tetra, Marineland...) and much better packaging, marketing mechanisms... It's really my hope/opinion that it will all be fine GIVEN that there are still opportunities for small and new/small companies to enter markets, become, be competitive> Will this lead to stronger companies or to simply fewer choices? I guess I am most troubled by a wholesale company purchasing manufacturers. -Steven Pro <Got me Steven... I do hope both stronger companies AND more choices... looking at other "gobbled up" industries, interests, I don't see much of this happening though. Cheers, BobF> P.S. If anyone else cares to comment, feel free. But, I would also like to get Bob's perspective as well. Thanks!

Opening up new shop in SoCal Dear Mr. Fenner, My name is Keith Cox and I am in the planning stages to open up a marine shop in Riverside Ca. I have come across you name before on the web and decided to give you a ring to see if you have any advice for me in setting up shop. <Congratulations on your decision... and welcome to our industry> I have all of the wholesalers covered and have a pretty good idea at how to set up shop but I had a few questions about the time it takes to show a profit and some advertising strategies. I would really like to have a telephone conversation with you if you could find the time. You can reach me at: The shop I want to set up will be full line (good, better, best, in multiple manufacturers), have ultra clean display system for fish and reef systems w/MH and a dedicated system for SPS corals. I believe that there is a market for exotic SPS corals here in So Cal. I plan on getting started and open this summer (05). I look forward to speaking with you. Thank you for your time. Keith Cox <Time on/for phone calls is fleeting, but will gladly e-discuss any aspects of your business, the industry with you. Bob Fenner>

Tropical fish store Hi <Hello there>   I was wondering if you had any idea of the start up cost of a tropical fish store in England? <Mmm, only good guesstimates> Also I'm interested in the breeding side of the fish world too, was wondering if you could run a business just by breeding fish and selling them in store or to other stores? <Can... is done by some folks> Sorry if these questions are stupid, its just I have a strong interest in this area after devoting so much time (and money) to my fish and was just wondering if there was any way I could work with them. To be it sounds better then being a stockroom manager of a clothes shop! I'm just inquiring at this stage to find out if I can and if I'm able to. Any help you can give would be most appreciated. Andy    <Give the Aquatics Business subweb: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm a good read over... taking good notes. As you will see, working for another, going concern first is strongly suggested. Bob Fenner>
Re: Tropical fish store
Hi <Hello there> Thanks for your quick reply. What sort of scale would a breeding business need to be to be profitable? <Depending on species, salability, not large to quite... You need to research your local markets... ask about what is in need, likely to continue to be so... freshwater and/or marine... The easiest, longer-term organisms are fragmented stony and soft corals, Xeniids, Ricordeas, anemones.... Are you familiar with Tropical Marine Centre in the UK? They raise large numbers of Clownfishes... among others... Some plants can be raised profitably... but I would secure commitments from outlets ahead of trying these... You'll need to draw up plans for your physical lay-out, make a spread sheet of costs, prospective returns...> not just as a stand alone business  but maybe as a way of making the hobby profitable so to speak. Or is it only worth on the large scale? I was thinking of breeding tropical fish like Angels and Discus as I've had success with these in the past. Sorry for all the questions any help would be gratefully received thanks. Andy <These cichlids can be produced profitably... but require larger groups of customers, much space to be profitable. Bob Fenner>

Retail Markup of Wholesale Goods Hi Bob, I am interested in starting an online business specializing in aquarium dry goods. I have been unsuccessful in getting a copy of a product catalog from any wholesalers and I would simply like to get a good idea of what prices I should expect to pay compared to what I can realistically sell online. Is there any way to get access to a wholesale product list? <Not w/o being "on the inside"... that is being given access to such. Once you have established yourself, these folks, businesses will find you> What is the average markup of aquarium supplies online?  Thanks for your help. Brian  <Mmm, I would rather re-state, offer my overall opinion that I would not carry an item (per item) that you could not gross 40 points (percent) on... There are folks that skimp below this for specials/promotions, given "come on" attractions, stock reductions... foolish IMO/E. BobF>

Aquatic convention Hi looking for aquarium shows .. Like fishing, and hunting, car etc. show.  Is there anything like that were all the venders are so you can buy food and supplies? Pumps if you were. Thanks, Jimmy.. also I live in NYC, thanks. Jimmy <There are indeed "industry trade shows" in the ornamental aquatics interest... as well as engineering, marketing... I attend the two largest ones... Aquarama (coming up in May in Singapore) and alternate years, Interzoo (in Germany)... there are about a dozen retailer oriented shows in the U.S. per year... you can likely most easily search re these through petbusiness.com's site. Bob Fenner>

Online Stores Hello, <Hi there> I have noticed that there are a great many websites selling dry goods over the internet but do not believe that they have store fronts nor do they stock any merchandise. <Mmm, the "real" etailers in our field do indeed have warehouses, many hundreds of thousands of dollars in drygoods... the ones that sell or also sell livestock often "go buy" what they sell...> I assume they are affiliate operations. <Not commonly.... there are some folks who swing by "cash and carry" wholesale operations... but most have well-established wholesale/distribution ties...> Their catalogues are very extensive and the prices competitive.  I would like to set up my own online store but do not know who to contact. <Who?>   I have only encountered Petstop.com that has anything close to a system that you can use to sell merchandise without stocking.  After contacting a great many manufacturers, I found that they were not interested in drop-shipping merchandise. <Mmm, I would NOT do this... how to state my opinion, give direction here? The competition will "chew you up" if you have an "also ran" selection, operation... their pricing has very low margins...> Would you be able to provide any names of companies that would be able to help. <Help in what way?> I have access to a very active aquarist & aquaculture site that would benefit by having an online store. Thank you in advance for your time & response. Aaron <Sounds like you want to talk with a "business solutions" outfit... look into software (most all large web authoring packages support the HTML, secure... to set up a business... Talk with your commercial bank... re setting up accounts... taking credit card payments... SECURE a contract (hire a business lawyer) to define what your relationship is with the supplier/s. Bob Fenner>
Re: Online Stores
Hello Bob, <Aaron> Thank you for the very quick response.  I already have a site with a secure payment option and software is not the problem.  I guess to make this short for you and not waste your time, what I wanted was to know how to sell aquarist & aquaculture merchandise without stocking it.  Apparently this is not possible. Regards, Aaron <Actually, is possible... this is how Amazon.com got started... rushing over to Ingram to buy/ship out what it had just sold... But does require the same sort of arrangement (proximity, solid relationship, flexibility)... Have you seen Aquatic Ecosystems and Argent Chemical (.coms) sites? They do a very good job of offering aquaculture items to the hobby/trade... but have been excruciatingly slow to really generate business in the avocation... they don't "get it"... quite yet... and perhaps you'll be the one (by your practice, competition) to "goose them" into doing so... There is indeed a HUGE market that is currently unaddressed (and strange to me for being absent) in targeting the "aquarium service" industry.... selling them skid units, pumps, totes, good-sized products for their use... maybe even manufacturing "reel trucks" for hauling water, larger "real" aquarium cleaning tools... Let's chat this over if you'd like. Bob Fenner>
Re: Online Stores
I already considered making an arrangement with the local tropical fish outlets but after checking prices online opted out as it wouldn't even allow for a breakeven number. <Ah, yes... as stated, am at a loss at the current situation in the trade... perhaps like the Airline industry, there is a good sized shake out looming> I have also made contact with both Argent & Aquatic Ecosystems suggesting drop ship, affiliate or just plain advertising.  They were not interested. <Sorry to hear this... It does sound like you are an astute person, business entity.... that would well-benefit our trade... Am familiar with these parties, and though they are serious business people... there is a bit too much "personality" at play in their endeavors> Maybe my approach was wrong.  In any event, their products could benefit if I were allowed to market them on my site. <Mmm, well, there are other manufacturers, lines... have your perused the aquaculture press (mag.s) in recent time? Do you attend trade shows... there is the Aquarama coming up in May... In Singapore... I/we will be there> My major users are the wholesale ornamental fish trade and I feel that I am missing the boat by not having product to sell. <Yes!>   Personally I am not in a position to finance inventory, even through a bank, but do have the site to sell product through to any companies advantage in the aquarist or aquaculture industry.  And, I am certainly open to your suggestions. Aaron <... wish there was some easy way... akin to "Vulcan mind melding" we might do... Might I ask, how much time do you have to put into this? And how long are you willing to "get by" with little to no profit? What I am thinking is that there ARE lines, companies who would like representation in N. America (from in and outside)... but lack representation, distribution... that you might be able to assist... as an independent rep., sales associate cum distributor... On your way to developing stronger relations, generating capital... Bob Fenner>
Re: Online Stores
Bob, you have given me a little hope here at least. I have time but not to travel or act as a distributor. For the past few years I have been trading successfully on the stock market but, due to family medical problems I was forced to draw down on my initial stake which in turn caused me to lose the rest. <Yikes, this is too familiar> Now I am totally out of cash and work and this business seems like my last chance. I am over 60 with no marketable skills or qualifications. <Mmm, I disagree... just on the basis of our few emails here... you have demonstrable intelligence, drive> I don't intend to be a greeter at Wal-Mart just yet. I work from home and now have a great deal of free time to consider a new venture. I also have access to the web and a very qualified programmer that will help me if needed.  My site is aquafind.com and the commercial trading boards are very busy each day. Aaron <Very nice... these "things"... "take time"... If you can continue to add lines... and exposure... you will do fine in time. I will help you in what ways I can. Bob Fenner> 
Re: Online Stores
I already considered making an arrangement with the local tropical fish outlets but after checking prices online opted out as it wouldn't even allow for a breakeven number. <Ah, yes... as stated, am at a loss at the current situation in the trade... perhaps like the Airline industry, there is a good sized shake out looming> I'm a survivor of both industries....or let's say maybe I'm still trying to survive both at the same time....hope you don't mind if I piped in. <Yikes! On to better times, industries I hope/trust. Bob Fenner>

About fish biz pub.s Bob, <Jim> I just discovered your web site and found it very useful.  I'm thinking of starting a part-time aquarium maintenance business in the near future, and an aquarium store in the longer-term.  Have you published any books or magazine articles about starting and running an aquarium business?  Are there any references you can recommend? Thanks in advance, Jim K. <Mmm, was in the service end of the industry for nineteen years... and a good part of our old op.s manuals and some industry mag. pieces I penned re are posted on our bus. subweb: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm There are a few self-published works on the field as well... for both service and retail... a VERY good idea to work for other concerns here... taking good notes... first. Bob Fenner>

Not quite ready for the pet-fish biz Bob, <Ron> I have been keeping marine fish for almost 18 years. I was 12 years old when I set up my first saltwater tank after saving my paper route money and Christmas money. I received my B.S. in Zoology with intentions of moving on to graduate school for marine biology. Instead, I have been side-tracked the past few years working as a chemist. I bought a new house a few months ago and intend to finish the basement. Part of the basement is going to be sectioned off into a fish room. My question then, is there grant money available for such ventures and where would I look? <Grant money... for? Building a fish room in your basement?> Also, what is the best way to go about having at least a part time income, e.g. research, breeding and selling, etc.? <Mmm, a bunch of things to relate here... First off, please do take a read through our aquatic business subweb: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm> I enjoy your web page and receive a lot of insight from your answers. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Ron Looker <There are a few avenues you might take... production of rarer cnidarians... Pacific Ricordeas (enhanced by cutting through siphonoglyphs)... Cespitularias... oculinids... You need to research your local market to gauge what might sell... and how much... to find if you're going to need to ship-out principally... There is a bunch more money to be made with far less time, hassle actually manufacturing a few well-placed aquatic chemical prep.s... or becoming a regional distributor of an import line... Bob Fenner>

Re: Your Business Opinion (clearer info.) Hi Bob, <Rachelle> Thanks so much for responding, and so quickly.  I'm sorry, but I wasn't very clear with my email. My husband and I have a bit of capital which we are looking to invest in a business.  We like the idea of artificial live rock and coral propagation, because these products are renewable and have the potential for helping the reefs.  Of course, we only like these ideas from an investing perspective if they have realistic profit potentials. <Coral propagating can be profitable... but takes a good long while to actually culture enough, become established to show a profit... likely between one and two years. Artificial live rock I would not try. Too much labor cost, energy cost, saltwater cost...> We're not looking for creating an install/maintenance type business, because that's really just a job.  My husband already makes a good living as an attorney.  He'd like to do some other things, though.  Lawyering isn't all that much fun.  What we really want is to create a business that we can grow together . . . I'm sure you get the drift. Any ideas? Thanks again, Rachelle <There are some possibilities for importing, distributing aquarium product lines from overseas... And there is a huge gap for supplying products, even manufacturing some for the aquarium service industry... Culture of various organisms, groups can work but is less profitable, more work. Bob Fenner>

Opening a retail aquarium store 10/20/04 dear crew, I'm starting an aquarium business .what license do we need to apply in order to open a  retail fish store? thank you - Patarawarn <I'm very excited to hear of your endeavor... and strongly encourage you to do considerable research before you start. Please take to heart that you MUST do a detailed business plan (FNA, model, etc) if you are to have any hope of succeeding. Please do not underestimate this my friend. Get some easy software like Business Plan Pro to help you along. Use local Universities and business schools for free and paid consultations as well. Subscribe to the industry trade journals like Pet Business, Pet Age and Pet Supplies Marketing (find them with key word searches on the Net). And for specific info about your local laws and licensing - contact an accountant, the local Chamber of Commerce and your tax agencies (state, Federal). Best of luck! Anthony>

Questions about importing Hello Bob. How's it going? My name is Brahm, I met you a while back at Octopus's Gardens down in San Diego (Before Jason moved to Florida). <Ah yes... and he may be coming back... maybe just flying with the hurricane winds!> We talked about my thoughts on opening up a store, well things are looking like they are moving in the right direction, but I had a question, and I was wondering if you might be able to help point me in correct direction.  I met somebody online, in Melbourne, Australia. Who came across some very nice Favias, and Acanthastreas lordhowensis & hillae. They are going to ship them to a friend of mine in New South Wales who can hold them for. She is also willing to ship them to me, but we aren't quite sure what we need to do on the Australian side to obtain the proper permits for a one time shipment if such a thing exists. <Yes... they do... there are some Customs forms to file and CITES permits... that hopefully can be filled out on the Australian end and used all the way through to (LAX?) here. A very good idea to actually see, ask around to see if you can "piggy back" your small order with someone in the area (LA likely) who will umbrella your few boxes with their "can" (airfreight container)... otherwise the cost for individually doing this is going to be quite high. I am going to cc a friend in the trade, Barry Neigut of Clamsdirect.com (who is, or has just opened a retail outlet in SD) and ask him for input here. Maybe he knows someone who will co-op your shipment.> What would be the best means to export these pieces from Australia? <The best? Don't know what you're looking for here... doubled 4 mil poly bags, clip closures, Styros, cardboard liners... in cargo container quantities, with you receiving ASAP from customs, your freight forwarder... IF you have NOT done this before, DO go, chat with people in the trade who DO on a regular basis. Am going to cc another friend in the trade, Eric Cohen, who owns and runs Sea Dwelling Creatures in LA, and ask him if he'd help you here... Importing aquatic livestock is "not for the feint of heart" or "light of wallet" to put this mildly... "Things" go wrong... all the time... shipments delayed, re-routed, time lost and lost and lost... disputes with carriers... DOAs... You REALLY need a large, going business, holding facilities... to justify doing what you propose... unless you're "just experimenting" here or hoping to get some unusual specimens... all this is going to cost you a few to several times what these organisms will/would cost you by ordering, picking them up at a distributor...> Are there any coral export facilities that I might be able to go through (that are trust worthy with such rare pieces)? <Yes. Ask Eric here> Or would I be better of obtaining the permits on my own. I've talked to Dave over at Pacific Aqua, and I think I can use his Cities on Stateside, (or if you can point me to a broker). I would appreciate that... <This is very nice of the folks at PAF... if they will co-op with you and you feel comfortable dealing with them. They also definitely know what they're doing> Although I'm not too worried about the cost, I would like to look into maybe offsetting some of the expense by bringing over a larger shipment of other items (SPS, or hopefully more Acans if I can find them) which I can resale to diffuse the cost. <Bingo!> But my main goal is just to get the Acanthastreas lordhowensis as I have been doing quite well with propagating the current pieces that I was lucky to either trade for, or pick up at LFS mis-labeled as Blastomussa wellsi <I see> Included are a few pictures of the actual pieces. There are a total of 10. Thanks for your time. -Brahm Goodis. <Glad to be of assistance. Bob Fenner>
Re: Questions about importing
Hey all, <Hi Eric, thanks for chiming in> From what I understand here, the corals are coming from Australia.  To  make this conversation brief, it's illegal to export corals from  Australia.   Unless you can get a cites permit from the government office  that works with cites permits...I think you are out of luck. If you find a way (a legal way), please let me in on it and we would be   happy to assist you and give you your best chances to get the corals here alive   and economically. Best regards.....HI BOBBIE! Eric <Thanks mate. See you about. Bob Fenner>

Can I still get into the industry? Hello Bob, << Blundell this morning. >> I've just discovered WWM and started reading, so forgive me if I'm covering areas already covered. << No problem. >> Everyone's story is unique I guess -- it seems a lot of the start-your-own-business questions are coming from people younger than me so maybe I should begin there.  You see I'm almost 52 now, with a long-forgotten B.S. in chemistry (always regretted it wasn't biology, but did take quite a few bio courses) --<< My BS is in Biology.... but I now work in Chemistry. >> and much drifting around in many jobs, always finding that the stress level seems so ridiculous to live with.  This is the NYC area (northern suburbs) and I've carved out a reasonable, treading-water-level of on again off again income as a software designer and developer.  Yes, as others have said on your website, it's been pretty rough.  Fortunately, I finally did find a well-paying job about 5 months ago -- so here I am at a crossroads:  it's no different being a programmer again: it's the same pushy people and the same level of killing yourself daily and pretending you love being in an office with the managers (when you only go because you want the paycheck) knowing that if they come up with an budget-conscious plan focusing on labor costs that becomes accepted, would fire you in a heartbeat anyway. << Terrible to hear. >> I had freshwater tanks for almost 20 years from way way back at 7 years old -- gave it up at around 25 -- then I started again in 1996 (missed it so much!) and found myself totally focused in medium and low tech plant tanks. All we could afford.  Love it dearly -- it's the only area I've ever found where I know I would CONSISTENTLY enjoy working so hard.  Yes, this opens up many questions now, about my makeup, qualities and inferiorities.  But my point is that I would like to continue this love toward marine and reef areas too, and would throw myself totally into it -- but you see, with I.T. and software development there's no peace, no free time, and no relaxation other than surfing the web.  Programming for me has been an all inclusive passion because it's so time-consuming, so demanding, maddening and exhausting by it's very nature, so much so that it's becoming overwhelming as I get older and greyer.  I'm not interested in managing an I.T. department, and I'm sick of the projects and their management.  It's ridiculous.  Try so hard, get things productively done, and you're fired anyway. << Again that sounds terrible, far different than my career field. >> Bob, I don't have the finances, nor the time left now, to be a retail clerk, or start a business, and making my wife and I live as comfortably as we can has been the only reason for bringin' home the bacon (when they let me) over the years.  We can't consider starting a store, nor an aquarium installation/maintenance business.  We live in a noisy, crummy little co-op (with a 55 gal and a 29 gal with happy fish and happy plants) apartment that we'd love to try and figure out how to move out of. This is all just protein-skimming the surface so far, but I'll close with the major question:  is there any hope for me to get in on some of the action, as another writer put it ?  Is it possible to "start" somewhere,  in aquatic maintenance specifically, or in ANY or ALL of the subfields -- even with all the danger signs I've told you here? << Hey if Calfo can do it anyone can (Just kidding you Ant;) ) >>  I DO HAVE some business skills, after listening to them b.s. all day for 30 years in meetings.  I'm also a brilliant conversationalist, and in one-on-one situations I'm thoroughly enjoyed by all contacts.  I'm well-read, well-educated and polished, considerate, warm, and charming, all of which I'm sure could be quite useful in a service capacity.  But really, I'd just rather work on the tanks most of all.  And I love the plants and substrates.  Favorite plant is probably Didiplis diandra, with Stargrass (Zosterfolia) a close second. Yes, I'll keep reading and reading -- pretty hard though, when you have to read 600 pounds of computer manuals all the time, and practice with page after page.  I'm still trying to read about Gettysburg ... I'm still trying to watch the Mets too! Thank you for reading all this.  Please try to guide me -- pretty tough I know. << Not that hard at all for me.  I know you are looking at Tank Maintenance, but that isn't where I would go if I were you.  I think Calfo should be an icon in this hobby.  His ideas and lifestyle is where we should be going.  So with that in mind, I say become a Coral Farmer.  Set up a propagation facility in your basement/backyard/living room/bedroom wherever. >>  Can I help at WWM?  Can I be assigned as the 52 year old maintenance kid for accounts around here?  This area is lost in aquatics per se. << Well Bob will have to get back to you on that.  I'm not sure if he needs more free help.  I mean no one turns down help, but I'm not sure if/what he is looking for. >> This is all golf land around here, with rich people spending $9,000 for sofas and chairs before they'd spend $250 for a 55 gal... << Best of luck. >> Nick in NY <<  Blundell  >>

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