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FAQs About the Business of Pet-Fishing

Related Articles: Should You Join Our Industry?, Finance

Related FAQs: Aquatics Biz 1, Aquatics Biz 2, Financing/Funding A Business, Set-up for Your BusinessCollecting Marine Livestock

What's it all about... algae?

Export suggestions, SW lvstk.       9/25/15
Hey Bob
It's Tom from Aquascape Chicago did not know if you had any suggestions on solid companies that export fish and coral that I could talk to with respects to expanding my company.
Thanks again
Tom Smith
Aquascape Chicago
<Hey Tom! Yes; please read here re:
Scroll down to the "Livestock" tray.... the first set of linked files. Bob Fenner>

Re: Dormant Cryptocaryon?   Petco, LiveAquaria    8/19/15
And what really bugs me is that Petco now owns LiveAquaria.
<Mmmm; bound to happen in these times.... Sometime when you and I are tog.... maybe at an industry or hobbyist show; or better out diving; I'll tell you about the three years I spent as a consultant and their aquatics (and reptile) buyer.... I tried to talk them (took the pres. (BrianD) and my boss (LarryA, VP merch. and distr.) down to Tom and Nevin "Bailey's" trying to talk them into buying their operation (both in San Diego); to get value.... in the way of livestock....Same ole mega-problem of the mass merchandisers (Sears before them, five and dimes before then....) being.... really ripped-off by the independent wholesale biz.... short counted, substituted and worse.... A very long tale/relating>
If Petco would allow LiveAquaria to determine their fish handling protocols in their stores across the country much like their divers den quarantine protocols, think of how many fish wouldn't die needlessly. And think of how much money Petco would save.
<So much to state here as well.... NOT going to happen.... such a lack of communication and cross-over twixt mgmt. levels.... Merchandising running aspects of what Op.s should be doing.... Again, a painful and involved explanation>
It's a win-win, whereby their current protocols guarantee a lose-lose.
Maybe we can get Kevin Kohen on this.
<I doubt he has much to say re anything here; but will again bcc him. Bob Fenner>
Re: Dormant Cryptocaryon?     8/19/15

I look forward to having that conversation in person.
In the meantime, I'll keep checking in with you from time to time.
Always a pleasure.
<Thank you Matt. BobF>

Please vote for this important survey TODAY! Aquarium Industry needs support NOW   10/11/11
Can you do us all a huge favor. There is a poll that is set up to ban fishing in Hawaii. We need help with the vote. Can you go to _www.westhawaiitoday.com_ (http://www.westhawaiitoday.com/)  and vote to support the Aquarium Industry?. It has to be done today!
The poll is near the bottom right of the Home Page. Please share this with everyone you can to get the most impact from the poll and send a strong message that we support a Managed Fishery. If you didn't know, over the last 10 years, over 33% of the Kona Coastline has been off limits to Aquarium Collection, and the industry is supported by the biologists that have been surveying and monitoring the area during these past 10 years plus!
Please choose the option that starts with "A WASTE..." and then click vote.
Eric and the entire crew:)
<This is from Eric Cohen of SDC... and the resolution did indeed pass at the Council level on Kona>

MAC vs. AMDA  9/25/11
Hello Crew,
My wife and I operate a small aquatics specialty store in Pa. We are regular readers of WWM and enjoy it very much recommending it as a resource to our customers regularly.
We had been considering obtaining retail certification with MAC, however after reading thru your biz sections specifically "MAC attack et.al." were not at all sure.
<No decision necessary; the MAC is gone... only a shell funded by ChrisB of Quality Marine, an excellent individual and company in our interest>
Alternately AMDA seems a better fit for us although the AMDA website seems to not be very up to date.
<Have heard rumours of its resurrection, but do agree there is not much value in current membership... I strongly urge you to develop and adhere to good principles of your own.>
Reading through the retail guidelines of AMDA I see that we have pretty much conformed to same from the onset of opening our store some 2 1/5 years now. Just seemed good sense.
<Ah yes. I do agree>
We would like to support some organization that is at least trying to further conscientious fish-keeping (plug intended).
<Better to best that you do what you state are your present practices.
Perhaps codifying (writing these down, sharing w/ employees and your customers ala Zappo's) them will be of most benefit>
Could you make a brief comment on the currant state of either of these groups?
<I have>
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Biz discussion, retail... re lack of sophistication in the trade, links check  11/5/10
I have been reading through the pages on your site related to aquarium store business. Bob Fenner writes some very practical advise for initial considerations. FYI, the links under the following web page on your site don't work: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/aqbizsubwebindex/bizsetupfaqs.htm
<Wow, all of them? Will have to check. Thank you for this>
Where does someone that really wants to start an aquarium business find some more "concrete" and practical financial and operational information on aquarium stores, such as:
1. Who are the 3 largest aquarium products distributors/wholesalers selling exclusively for resale (not running online or other retail outlets of their own)?
<Mmm, whereabouts? Central Garden is undoubtedly the largest... at their various locations in the U.S.... Royal Pet Supplies in New York, maybe number two... Lee Mar in S. Cal. possibly third... they don't have "phony wholesaling", nor etailing>
I found two companies online that both claimed to be "one of the biggest", yet neither one seemed to be interested in answering their phones. As a future potential retailer/customer of theirs...this makes a very negative statement about what I can expect of them in the future.
OR, do most retail stores purchase direct from the manufacturers/vendors?
<This is and has been a growing trend in Europe and the U.S.>
If so, how does one get in touch with them....I couldn't find a trade directory.
<See Pet Business re: their business guide (issue as well) can be found here: http://buyersguide.petbusiness.com/>
2. Where can a person find recommended plan-o-grams for or from successful stores based on linear running shelves or units for non-livestock merchandise?
<Mmm, these you may have to pay for... there are agencies that offer such services in and outside the trade... Are you familiar w/ Streater fixtures?
Do get hold of some current industry 'zines... search the classifieds in back>
Generally these will have recommend stocking levels and turnover recommendations so the individual store can adjust the inventory as needed. But you need a place to start. I don't want to put in an 8' sectional wall unit of flake food if only 2 shelves are sufficient!
3. Where can a person find a recommended inventory list for an aquarium store offering mostly freshwater, but some marine and pond products/livestock (by range of store sq feet would be nice; such as 1,500 - 2,500; 2,500-5,000; etc)?
<Mmm, most likely and free info. such as this can be gotten from/through the big suppliers... W/ a "bag", not a grain of salt>
I know it will vary by location and emphasis or interest..but surely there is a benchmark or foundation.
<Ask your Central rep. re>
4. Where can a person locate explicit financial benchmarking data?
<Nowhere as far as I'm aware. There are some olde SBA data about... again very dated>
In the retail industry I came from, details were available and comparable based on size of operations and/or region of the country giving very specific information about gross sales by category, cost of goods sold by category, personnel and occupancy costs, sales per sq' by category, averages of space (retail, office, receiving/staging, etc), refund information by category, shrinkage, online sales, major expenses categories, comparisons of all the previous to prior years, size of store to market, market requirements, and so forth. I am having trouble finding solid information from which a person could make reasonable assumptions based on their own locale and that they could use for benchmarking. I will tell you, that as much as I love the industry, I am not going to invest $200,000 for a $20,000 salary!
<Mmm, not prudent, but your choice. How to put a response re the information you seek... the "big players"; Petco, PetSmart, et al. don't share such proprietary data, and the small players don't gather such>
5. What is the recommended level of livestock for various sized stores?
For example, it would be silly to have 1,000 tanks of fish in a market of 50,000 people! How is turnover of livestock measured and what are the recommended ratio's?
<Great questions... in that they have no simple, easily-defined responses... Best for one to conduct interviews/visits in real designated geographic/demographic markets... SEE what is being offered, confer w/ the people owning/managing these locations... attempt to discern what their most profitable elements are, what are merely decorous... and which are wasteful, to be avoided>
6. For modern retailing, what systems are recommended for maintaining the livestock?
<Centralized... commercial or custom...>
I know there was a huge controversy a few years ago between centralized continuous flow and individual tank 'closed' systems. What are modern successful stores doing to maintain healthy stock, prevent disease
contamination, yet reduce labor costs?
<More to do w/ selection of better/best suppliers, preventative
dips/baths... careful accounting of origins, troubles... future avoidance>
I tried to ask some of these questions from a larger store back east, but they didn't want to talk to me....I think I scared them. :) But, you need good information to create good plans if you are going to succeed...especially with box store and online competition pressures.
<Mmm, do consider coming out to Aquarama in May... and chatting w/ friends in tow... and/or visiting wholesalers... if you can in LA... I'll plan/join you. Really. Bob Fenner, out in Fiji currently, visiting/diving w/ friends in the trade>
Re: Biz discussion... need for biz and mktg plans... incl. quantitative analysis   11/11/10

Very much appreciated your replies. My wife, a very down to earth, roots run deep, conservative by nature person thinks that venturing into an aquarium store industry at this time is crazy, and that it can't be done without very solid numbers.
<I do agree w/ her stance... Much of the industry is run blindly, sans solid business planning, enumeration. And the times nowadays... harrowing>
She is also concerned about the excessive high cost of inventory vs. invested return...you have to sell a LOT of guppies to pay for a $2,000 per mo lease! Even if you have very high margins, you have to sell so many for any practical return, she is concerned the revenue would be too low "...otherwise..." she said, "...there would be stores like these all over the place...."
Seems this industry is very suspicious of revealing numbers, or, simply not interested and has no vested reason to gather this information.
<As previously stated, the sophisticated players are prudently number oriented, but not willing to share their data>
I talked to one small store owner, and I could see panic in his face...these were questions he never asked himself and had no idea of even how find the answers. I resisted giving him an offer of a financial statement or managerial accounting advise...I don't think he knows about these and I also suspect, now, many store owners don't.
I can assure you the "box" stores do! Maybe a convention needs to have a seminar session on "the business of business" LOL!
<These are proffered at most all industry/retailer shows... not well-attended by and large>
Ah well.
More homework. Unless I can convince my wife that this is something we should do, I doubt that I will see you in LA...but thanks for the offer.
Enjoy Fiji...it is cold and rainy here in Washington!
<Am back in S. Cal... A very nice day today! Cheers, BobF>

Your Brackish section  <...M. Maddox> 12/19/07 Hello, I was looking at the section of your website about Brackish water and converting freshwater to brackish and noticed something that was very rude. Someone had posted something about going to the pet store and being given some really dumb advice ( I agree with that part), however it also said to never trust people that work in the pet store, which is what I do. I thought that maybe they should be corrected that certain pet stores don't inform their employees on anything more than here is the fish, this is how you put them in a bag, but not all pet stores are this way. I have had very extensive training in all animals not just fish and have to learn new things everyday even though I have been there for nearly 2 years. Thank you, Serena <I am in agreement. I spent fourteen years on the floor in retail myself, and most of my life otherwise in the ornamental aquatics trade. The majority of folks I've met are honest, and to a degree competent. The individuals writing/responding are just that. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Pet and Local Fish Stores: A Disgrace to the Hobby?' 10/14/09
Interesting post, Mike. Not sure I agree 100%, but I do see what you're getting at.
One thing that surprises me in the US is that you don't have a chain of dedicated aquarium shops. We've got at least one major chain here, Maidenhead Aquatics, with something like 50 shops across the country.
They're all fairly big stores, comparable to a PetSmart type thing, but since all the staff are selling aquatics, they tend to be less clueless than the average clerk in a PetSmart. Broadly, they've been good for the hobby. By setting a standard and creating a market, they've helped to consolidate the hobby in the UK (fish are,
apparently, Britain's most popular pets).
 Bob, you spend more time with retailers than I do; what are your thoughts on Mike's piece?
 Cheers, Neale
<<My position varies obliquely to Mike's stated here and elsewhere. There is just as much variance in the quality of experience from etailers as there is amongst "brick and mortar" shops. To put it bluntly, there are crooks and incompetents in both groups... as well as earnest, informed good business folks. A further "gripe" re this sort of sensationalism (writing, declarations) is it offers no real solution for improvement, but makes the trade itself look foolish; discouraging novitiates into becoming more involved in the interest. Further, by virtue of the look of this site/blog, it passes as some sort of authority on the trade (which it is decidedly not)... To me it is a disgrace to paint such broad, negative pictures of a field one knows so little of; particularly on a site where it is obvious self-promoting. BobF>>

Re: Pet and Local Fish Stores: A Disgrace to the Hobby? 10/14/09
Yikes, Bob! No idea you felt so strongly. Mike, wasn't my intention to contrast yours and Bob's views so dramatically.
<I want to make crystal, painfully clear that my position is absolutely opposite here. There ARE excellent shops... ADG there in Houston, AquaTouch in Phoenix, Old Town Aquarium in Chicago, House of Fins in CT... I could go on and on... and some scurrilous etailers, even wholesalers, collectors... and bloggers... who do disservice to the industry, the hobby>
Mike, I don't think that mail ordering entirely solves the problem.
For one thing, a good retailer is able to tell from talking with the consumer what sorts of fish they should be buying, and when. Mail order businesses will happily ship me a Moorish idol for my 1-gallon Betta bowl.
Cheers, Neale
<It does indeed put "a bee in my bonnet" Neale, to bear such unrelenting negativism about the trade... Particularly from people who have such shallow experience. B>

Business Help, JamesL, CMA -- 07/17/09
Hello Bob and Team,
I'm taking the plunge (slowly) and going into business for myself. I had been toying around with the idea for the past five years, and I think I have found my niche. I plan to use my experience as a middle school teacher (5 years) and MBA with 3 years accounting experience as well, though my focus was marketing (will be very helpful). Without going into a long discourse on the business, one of the key components is incorporating/pairing a multidisciplinary curriculum resource workbook I'm writing with your second edition Conscientious Marine Aquarist book.
After using and constantly referring to the first edition book, I was thoroughly excited to see an updated edition recently. One problem I'm facing as I take on this entrepreneurial endeavor is getting a wholesaler to ship to me.
<I'll ask the publisher, James Lawrence, to chime in here>
I understand the need to protect legitimate retailers, but I am legitimate, albeit very small and new. I have acquired my tax ID, a web domain, and email as well. Dedicated phone is coming when the site is fully functional. From my experience working for a national retailer, I know margins for fish and equipment ranged from 25-80%. As a small operation, I would expect the lower end of the spectrum, but paying full retail is not a viable option. Right now I'm working on Phase 1, which is low overhead. Income generated from phase 1 will allow me to open a brick and mortar building that will serve Phases 2 (retail) and 3 (education center). In surveying retailers in my area, I see the better operations have specialties outside of retail, be it design/construction, maintenance, ponds, etc. I will focus on education, both in store and through hands on summer camps. It is my hope that through the camps/education I will generate life long interest (and business) in the hobby by garnering interest in children.
<A worthy goal, focus>
If you could give me some advice and/or assistance in getting distributors to sell to me that would be greatly appreciated. Also, is there a soft cover edition to your 2nd edition book?
<Is planned for, but I do not know the time frame... T.F.H. will, perhaps James>
Paying retail for the hardcover would be a nightmare, but worth it if it came to it. I know you have to get your fair share of profits from all the hard work you put into it. Had I discovered your book when I started, countless fish would have been saved (money too). Rest assured, the next generation of hobbyist will be conscientious if I have my way.
Michael Roberson
Founder - Schooling Fish, LLC
<Thank you for your efforts. Bob Fenner>

Re: Business Help, JamesL, CMA
Thanks so much for the quick response. The hobbyist community greatly appreciates all you all do.
<I am glad to assist your efforts. BobF>

UVL & Events, Help with Dubai contacts  1/3/09 Hello Bob, <Jeremy> How are you? <Fine as can be expected, thanks> I hope all is well. I'm trying to locate a distributor/dealer in Dubai and I was wondering if you would know of any contacts. <Mmm, I don't... but, if you'd like, I'll post your msg. and contact info. on WWM... and we can see if someone chimes in> If you have any input I would appreciate it. I'm trying to expand our global market and its not that easy. <Agreed... this is a very long term approach... getting out, even just as an attendee, to the larger international trade shows (InterZoo, Aquarama, CIPs...), and while there being VERY social, chatting with all...> I still push for advertisement on your site. Economy is a big flop at the moment. <Oh man! Is it EVER!> I tell hobbyists that call up asking questions to check out WWM & RC. I'll always enjoy WWM. <Me too> If you are planning to attend MACNA this year we should get together and chat. <Ah, yes. I'll be there. The folks of NJ Reefers, the sponsors, were kind to ask me to make a presentation> We had a good time in Atlanta at our reception and If we have another reception in Jersey I hope you will attend. Feel free to call or email me. Thanks, Jeremy McLellon UV Lighting Co. 1-800-435-7779x229 www.uvlco.com <Thank you for your efforts. Bob Fenner>

Thinking of Purchasing Marine Store.. Few ?'s  11/19/08 Hello Bob and Gang. As always you guys are great, huge amount of respect for doing all you do. Myself and a partner are thinking about purchasing an Established Retail marine fish store. The store is Very well established both in the retail outlet and online. I actually am pretty sure you know they name of the store but since it is not officially for sale I will keep it anonymous. They have a good client base retail and online. <Okay...> My question is this. Do you have any idea what a fair sales multiple or profit multiple as it is called is appropriate for businesses in the reef/marine industry such as this? We are trying to figure out was a fair sales price is for the business. From reading online you use a sales multiple based on the industry, and multiply it by the proven annual profits and add in assets to come up with a price. Hopefully you are able to offer some insight as to what this multiple may be and or any examples of such businesses that have sold in the past. <"Whatever the market will bear" is the general rule... formulae that have been employed include the cost of fixtures, minus depreciation, plus the cost of inventory, plus "something" for "blue-sky" (ongoing goodwill... should there be any)... plus or minus some consideration for the remaining lease... DO look into this last... I strongly suggest getting outside help for negotiating.... Factoring in profits I'm not a fan of... as much of this is intangible... to put euphemistically> Also do you happen to know about in dollars what the reef/marine industry trade is valued at in the United States, and any approximate numbers on average annual growth? <The entire "pet fish industry" is likely something near a billion dollars, marine/reef about a third of this> Tried to find some numbers but could not find anything. What is your opinion on future growth of this industry? As hobbyists ourselves this would be an amazing business venture that can offer much more then steady income. Thank you for your time, hope all is well. Thanks <The figure is only a guesstimate on my part... real values not available. Do work in this store for a few months before buying... I take it you and your partner/s will all be "on the floor", have really something to lose. Bob Fenner>

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>

VALUE OF FISH TANK 10/2/07 I just recently set up a new tank. I am wanting to sell my old tank. I am unable to find any information on how much it could be worth. It is an old 55 gallon with stainless steel frame and a slate bottom. Also has black metal stand. NO LEAKS! Like to here from anyone who can help. <This probably isn't the place to ask these questions. For a start, we're an international crew, and you don't say where you live. Moreover, readers don't come here looking to buy stuff (except perhaps one of Bob F's aquarium books!). Anyway, to quote Margaret Thatcher (something I don't care to do that often) "something is worth what a person is willing to pay for it". Take a look at the want-ads in your local newspaper, or via one of the many online trading sites such as Craig's List or Gumtree. See what something goes for in your neighbourhood. Second-hand fish tanks here in England don't tend to go for very much money. Perhaps a few tens of pounds. The problem is that while it might be leak-proof in your home, by the time an old tank has been transported someplace else, there's a chance the seals will be damaged in the process. With a new aquarium, you have a warranty, but with a used tank, it's "caveat emptor". So people tend to be cautious about buying such things. There really isn't much of a market for old-style "collectable" aquaria either, but you might get lucky. If it were me, I'd either keep it around for another fish tank, or else find some worthy cause, like an old folks' home or school, and donate the thing to them. Cheers, Neale>

Need stats for paper 4/5/07 Hey there, <Hi! Lynn here> Great website you have! <Why, thank you!> Do you guys know where I can get info or a stat as to how many aquariums are sold each year (in general) and how many people are actually in this hobby? (salt water only) <Hmmm, no idea of actual numbers but it's lots and lots! I would start my research with a company like Central Garden and Pet. CG&P is publicly traded and has a division that produces All-Glass and Oceanic aquariums along with a host of aquarium related products. I would also try Marineland. Finally, you might consider contacting one of the fish hobby magazines. They might be able to lend a hand> I'm writing a paper and need this data as a benchmark. <Should be interesting> -- Thank you, <You're most welcome!> Wei Yang <Lynn> Hey howdy Bob...........belated holiday greetings from Don Wolfe, coral biz on eBay   - 12/29/06 Hello there: <Hey Don!>      Sorry to be so late in getting some of my holiday things done.  Had to do a complete system restore on my puter...........and...........of course did not have things backed up. <Yikes... a good habit to get and stay into...>   Karla so thoughtfully gifted me with  a simple drive external storage for Christmas, so doubt I will have the  loss that I just experienced.        Hope you and yours had a great Christmas  and the upcoming new year will be a great one.  I regret i did not have more time to spend with you at the party. <I had a great time nonetheless>      I am about to embark on a venture with  2 partners in a going but still growing business.  One is a silent partner, the other active.  The business is Global Aquatics incorporated, dealing presently in imported live corals. <Really?> The eBay store front should be up and running the first week of January.  So far the only product has been the corals, although I am hoping to expand the product line into salt fish and maybe discus along with the essential frozen foods, salt mixes and a few other limited but essential items.  The location is in an industrial center which permits retail sales, although the access thereto is not the best, but folks will find their way there I am sure.      Should you happen to know of any tanks, pumps  and other equipment that   is for sale and could be used in such a retail setup, I would appreciate knowing about it. <Much for us to discuss... as in "our" day there are lines, makes and models of such gear that are stellar... some mediocre... and some outright bunk. I have recurring dreams of cargo containers of Tunze washing up on shore...!>      I hope I am not biting off more than i can handle but my situation here is so routine i need to do something to alleviate the ennui. <I think you will enjoy this experience> Any information, helpful hints, you might be able to give me would be greatly appreciated.      Sincerely and best regards..........Don Wolfe        <Do make it known when you're up and going and we'll help you promote your business. Bob Fenner>

Store Fish Guarantee  - 09/10/06 Hello, <Hi there> I am opening a Pet Store in Alabama with the main theme being fish. I have been in the hobby many years and have seen what other store give for fish guarantee's. <Yes... can be an important issue... secondary of course from offering good, clean livestock, "good" customer service...> I was told by a friend that you guys had an example of a fish store guarantee that he thought was both fair to the store as well as the customer on your site. I am not having any luck finding that. <Mmm, don't think we have such... I am the author of most/all the "business" article/content on WWM...> If you have any info for me it would be greatly appreciated. <Whatever you do make policy... do require a water sample... "the body"... encourage folks to call you ASAP... and track all losses... in the store of course as well as credits/replacements. I would not make this "time frame" any more than a week maximum... likely just 1-3 days for marines. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Daryl Grammer Tropical Pet Cove

Petco and the SEC 7/19/06 Something smells like a rat in Denmark! <I'll say!> http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/20060719-1233-bn19petco.html SEC looks into PetCo stock trading By Frank Green UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER <Oh, our local rag... better red than read> July 19, 2006 The U.S. Securities Exchange Commission said it thinks there was illegal insider trading in Petco Animal Supplies options before last week's announcement that the San Diego-based pet supplies company would be sold to two private equity firms for $1.8 billion. The sale price of $29 per share was a 49 percent premium over the trading price of $19.45 per share on the day before the announcement. The SEC said it has obtained a temporary restraining order on $862,000 in suspected illicit profit made by 'unknown purchasers' involved in the alleged illegal trading. 'We want to prevent the money from being taken overseas,' said Kelly Bowers, the SEC senior assistant regional director for enforcement in Los Angeles. Bowers said the SEC had yet to identify any suspects in the case. In its complaint, the SEC alleges that in June and July someone in possession of 'nonpublic' information about the upcoming deal used financial institutions in Switzerland and England to buy more than 1,400 call option contracts -- generally at prices less than the trading value of Petco stock. The contracts were set to expire within weeks. It may involve an employee at Petco 'trying to make a little profit and thinking (he or she) had a hidden identity through a Swiss account,' Bowers said. 'Or it may be legitimate trading. But we don't think so.' Happy fishing all. Marina <Mmm, the stated reason for my giving up on the equities markets... too "arbitrary" (a charitable word)... More than half the shares of all publicly traded stocks are held by non-individuals... sorry, cha-ching, no sale. BobF>

No fish in the stores? And... no stores, economy...      7/19/06 I have been noticing the big name fish stores between Detroit, MI., and Toledo, Ohio have very limited fish, or no fish at all for sale in their tanks.  Petco, PetSmart, Wal-Mart, and even a few independents are lacking fish for purchase.  I bought an black moor about a month ago, (PetSmart) and he contaminated my entire tank with septicemia. <Bunk!>   Something going on in the industry that the consumer should be aware of? Thank you for you assistance, Ann <There is a general trend to less selection with the mass merchandisers getting more involved... their worlds are contained of only a limited number of "SKUs"... and the independents are being "put out of business" by present economic conditions faster than new folks can/are recruited to open new stores, take over old ones... There are apparently a few factors at work here; the government with a big "G", over-taxing (stealing), "regulating" the U.S. economy into paralysis, more competition from competing economies that have money to buy the same livestock, folks in the new knighted states having to spend their "spare resources" (money, time...) on necessities like food, gasoline... Basically: We can't all "work" for the government. Bob Fenner, who has spoken about the end of U.S. hegemony over and over...> Wholesale Business in Midwest Ohio?  - 06/30/06 Good morning Bob, <Another hot one here in San Diego, Rob> Hopefully you can help me out here. I might be crazy.... <I might be a butterfly/fish, dreaming I'm a petfish guy...> I've been in the hobby for quite a while now and have really enjoyed it. <Is a blast, eh?> I have run a small basement hobby shop for a while and have expanded to doing some e-tailing.  Due to my size, getting quality live stock at a good price is not easy. <Yes... "economies of scale/s" definitely exist, impact here> I have been dealing with wholesalers off 104th st with some success, but I feel better service is possible. <Mmm, and worse if you catch my drift/plankton> In central Ohio we have a decent amount of local fish stores, a few high end establishments.  With the retail market tapped out I started looking at the wholesale market. There are a few wholesale locations in the near area; Dayton, Lansing, Michigan, Illinois and a few other locations. While I have not visited all of these wholesale locations the few I have seem to be running a somewhat shoddy shop.  I feel with the right relationships with exporters a higher quality livestock can be brought into this location. <I am in agreement... though... see below please> The main issue, is import locations.  To my knowledge Chicago is the nearest location live stock can be imported. <This is correct... need Customs, brokering facilities and numerous International Air-freight flights...> I heard a rumor that Detroit also allowed FWS imports?  Do you have any info on this? <I don't know for sure, but have heard this rumor as well> Am I completely out of my mind to think it would be possible to setup a wholesale location here that will cater to local retail outlets in the tri-state area? <Is possible>   Do you have any recommendations on importing? Dealing with customs brokers, freight forwarders? <A proverbial "zillion"... Not an easy business to do, be involved in... I must (just cuz it's in my nature) hasten to mention a/the "Opportunity" costs involved in such an enterprise... that is, what one might otherwise do with ones resources (e.g. money, time, patience... and so much more). My fave way of putting this, "what else might you do" that would likely grant you as much/more "return on investment", "effort" with as little acceptable "potential for loss"... at least disaster-proof large losses?  This is a germinal question... I truly enjoy our interest, both hobby, business and scientific, but chose (decidedly, as in "nothing is decided till it's done", to go another full-tilt investment route (securities and real estate) and was able to "retire" (as folks say I now can't imagine having time for a job) back in '94 as a con/subsequent possibility... I have been a part of helping design, build-out, otherwise establish such wholesale facilities (and collecting stations, retail outlets...) around the world these last four decades... and so still have sensibilities re what is involved, the players, the relatively low ROI and high risks entailed... Is the potential for "fun", enjoyment, self-satisfaction "worth" the trials, noise, trouble of such an enterprise? Each/you must decide for yourself. I would (at this juncture) only wish that you engage yourself with full knowledge of what is entailed. I would definitely visit first-hand all the wholesale operations in the area... as well as those on 104th/LAX... for ideas on their set-ups, operations... I would read (thoroughly) the brief offerings on WWM's Aquatics Business subweb, detailing for yourself the "5 critical elements" (Go Rin No Sho)... and start looking for those key personnel, set-up, location, finance, stock/sources... as well as your "operations manual" of how you intend to do what you'll do...> I plan on working on developing direct relationships with the exporters by visiting them each personally prior to selection. <In their countries of origin... a good idea>   Hopefully this will give me a small edge when it comes to the selection of livestock. <A huge and necessary one... Plan on re-visiting them annually.> Thanks for your time and I really appreciate your help. -Rob <Am very glad to help... Your and others success is critically important to me, my/our goals in aiding others in their respective success in our fields of interest, business. Bob Fenner> Home business ... a nudging  3/21/06 Hi Bob, <Eric> I'm thinking about starting a home based business in order to save on overhead costs.  Eventually, if I'm able to build a customer base, I would then open a store front.  I'm currently in the process of building up my system in my home.  I'm planning to mainly sell marine fish and corals.   <Mmm, how?> Also, I will be providing maintenance and system setup support.   <Best to start here. How will you generate business?> Do you know of any companies willing to sell to a home-based business? Thanks, Eric <Some... likely you will have to go in and sell yourself to see if the better drygoods and livestock wholesalers will sell to you... Need to "be established"... have business cards (and the license, fictitious name statement...) that go with these... Often a requirement is to have existing Yellow Page advertising... so do check with the time schedules re these... In the meanwhile the etailers like Custom Aquatic and Bayside/Marine Depot are your best buys. Best to "hit the streets" and get those service accounts accumulating... ASAP. Bob Fenner> Where can I buy your Aquarium Service Business book?  - 02/20/06 I was wondering if your book was still in print and where I could purchase a copy. <Mmm, never put into print... can download, assemble, make your own TOC... from WWM's Aquatic Business Subweb> I am looking into starting a business in Maine.  My wife and I are moving back there in July after she graduates vet school. <Congrats> If my brother-in-law decides he definitely wants to participate with me, we would probably create an aquarium and plant care service. <A wonderful occupation, adventure> Thank you for all your answers and comments an your website.  I can't wait to read your book. Mike Brzezowski <There have been attempts at compiling such... I used to send out floppies (5 1/4")... in "NewWord" format... Bob Fenner> Consumer Activism (and if you drive with your fish, be sure to belt up) - 12/1/05 Hi Bob, <John with you today filling in> This is an important letter to circulate. I thank you for sending a link when it is published so I can further circulate this..... <I honestly don't know if this will be published... I expect it might, but with no express or implied support of your views. Certainly not on my part. If it is published, you may find it on the dailies> <<All is posted unless specifically directed not to.  Marina>> Subject: Boycott Tetra -- a Bad Corporate Citizen! I first saw the call to boycott Tetra when the movie 'Finding Nemo' came out.  Tetra's spokesperson, Carol Huntley-Weber, appeared on CBS's The Early Show and plopped 2 clownfish and 2 seahorses into a bowl of tap water. She made no mention of the salt needed. No doubt, the animals died.   <This has already well publicized. I was quite appalled to hear about it.> Carol, the spokesperson for the largest fish food company in the country, obviously knows nothing about keeping fish.  Now I have discovered that Tetra spent over $100,000 to support monster truck racing. You can Google the phrase 'Tetra monster trucks' to see photos of the Tetra sponsored trucks.  Tetra's support for these gas guzzling, air polluting vehicles does absolutely nothing to help the aquarium hobby and the hobbyists who make Tetra wealthy! <Hmmmmmm> Even more astounding, Tetra spent $750,000 to purchase from Nickelodeon the manufacturing rights for children's toys. The toys were based on a TV program, Fairly Odd Parents, which shows kids riding in a car while talking to a cartoon fish in a fish bowl that was just sitting on the back seat. These toy products have received terrible ratings from consumers. <I am sure that will send a much larger message to Tetra than this rather ill-conceived letter> I wonder how many more fish may have been killed and how many more kids were misled by this nonsense. <Why? I've been driving around in monster trucks with fish in bowls on the back seat. Is there something wrong with that? The Tetra ads told me to! :P> The irony is that Tetra, with $266 million in sales a year, does absolutely nothing to support our fish hobbyist forums and websites. Yet, Tetra squanders amazing sums of money on hobbyist disinformation featuring stunningly ignorant spokespeople and ridiculous schemes that pollute the environment. <They indeed may not have the fish's best interest at heart. I cannot comment on that. But they are in the business of marketing to potential hobbyists. In attracting more newcomers to the hobby, they are directly benefiting the trade and the stores we rely on. This benefits us.> Tetra is a bad corporate citizen! That is why I am boycotting Tetra and I invite others to do the same. Circulate this letter and email to consumer@tetra-fish.com  <This may have to be edited out. Marina? Sabrina?> <<No, but I may have something even better (outside of going to their site and calling the (800) number).  http://www.tetra-fish.com/ENEWSROOM/index.asp - with a person's name and phone and everything.  Found via Google (but be careful, there is another Tetra, not at all associated with fish).  Marina>> to let them know that you are appalled by this irresponsible behavior and that you expect better from them!!! <I would encourage you to think from Tetra's viewpoint here. I am not saying or implying that I endorse (or do not endorse -- how's that for disclaimer verbiage?) what they do, simply that, in my experience, a scathing letter like this is not likely to be effective in achieving your goals.> <<Maybe not a single letter, but if it grows, it can be very effective.  However, the best vote is with your dollars.  If you disapprove of their methods, actions, etc., then don't buy Tetra products.  Marina>> Jeff Stevens <Jeff, this is all just my opinion, and I have no idea what the reaction of other WetWebMedia crew members will be. Perhaps they will comment on this also? Thanks for the e-mail. Best regards, John> <<Mmm, I guess I will... Tetra, as owned by Warner Lambert was a good company (IMO of course), supporting, growing the hobby, industry... they do (currently) have a nice, informative website, circulars... I do agree with the "Nemo incident"... RMF>>

LFS Business Plan Help 8/29/05 Mr. Fenner, <Matt> In order to complete my MBA degree, I'm writing a business plan for opening a LFS that only sells marine aquaria and supplies.  So far, I haven't found any information regarding what licenses or permits are needed. <In the U.S.? Only a general "Municipal Business License", possibly a "Fictitious Name Statement/License", Resale Permit (for tax/ed purposes)... most States you don't have to have specialty permits to sell pets, none for marine as far as I know>   If you have this information, or can point me in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you, Matt Fultz <This is about it. Cheers. Bob Fenner>

About starting up an aquatic business  08/08/2005 Hi my name is Stephen Fang and I'm representing a fledgling company that has recently opened up a mediocre pet store <!> in the New York Area. Although they've already begun i wanted to ask you a few questions on how to attain and maintain success. I realize you're a very notable and busy individual <Moi?> who's constantly providing help and advice to the aquarium hobby, which is very impressive and notable. <Glad for the interaction, service> If at all possible i would like to engage you in a few questions regarding the whole business aspect of the hobby. <Okay> These individuals that I'm helping aren't my family but i feel attached to them and want to help with their success. <Good> Because they're Chinese Americans their English is broken and i feel that, in a way, already hurts them as a business, because communication between customers is key. <Agreed> The owner, Louie is only doing freshwater currently and isn't in the most populated area. There are customers that walk through here and there and there are opposing retailers in the area (but mostly PetLand discounts and big name corporations). <Am familiar with these> My advice to him was to do his best to provide the widest and healthiest selection of freshwater fish he could, and if he wanted to, invest in the salt water trade as well. <When he is ready> I suggested that to compete with large corporations that competitively acquire goods for less and sell them at better rates, the best thing he can do is provide what they most probably can't provide through their franchising practices, and that is quality. <And if I may, as importantly, service... the big box stores have yet to figure out just how much "training" it takes to "make" decent staff... a huge amount (you can call this money, encouragement...) of time is required to develop knowledge, capacity for relating... determining if individuals are suited to this task> Also, i wanted to know how "profitable" the salt water trade itself is. <Can be very... or a much greater loss than freshwater... And, you should know, as you're trying to help these folks, that it is rare that livestock is actually profitable... it is the drygoods products that almost always generate real profits... livestock almost always only "breaks even" considering the cost of display, feeding, maintenance... Modern stores devote the least possible amount of floor space to livestock presentation therefore... They are only to serve to drive drygoods sales> As opposed to the freshwater trade, and in your own opinion, what's the money maker in the industry, because sales lately has been down for them due to the weather and heat. <A huge discussion... to put this very simply, there is a decided seasonality to the trade... with all aquarium-related sales dropping off in the warmer months (due to folks being out of the house, on holiday...) and marines in particular in the Summer... Many retailers have "other" sidelines that they emphasize during this time... particularly ponds...> Once again i thank you for your time and patience with regards to my inquiry, if you have a chance to respond then I'd be very much grateful. However, if you happen to not respond, I'll understand the same because you are, a very busy man. Sincerely, Stephen. <Everyone has exactly the same amount of time. I am happy, satisfied to share myself with you, your friends in turn. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Consultant? You guys seem to offer the most practical and knowledgeable advice about the dynamics of starting up or buying an aquarium business. Thanks for a wonderful site. <Glad to share> Do you offer paid consulting services to prospective buyers/launchers of Aquarium businesses? I am located in the NYC suburbs and looking at purchasing a high-end LFS/Install/Maintenance company, or on the flip side, potentially starting my own such endeavor. I am seeking an consultant expert in the retail industry who could help in purchase valuations and business plan creation. <Mmm, no one here has a current business in the field (as far as I'm aware), but a few of us have worked extensively "in the life" and will gladly assist you distantly... Send along what questions you wish. Bob Fenner> Any suggestions/comments welcome. Thanks in advance! David David J. Fishman <A propitious name for sure!>

Conscientious Marine Business Practices (8/8/04) Thanks for your reply. <You're welcome.> The brittle star is not of the green variety. <Good. Not to bad-mouth the greens though--I have two in a tank with fish too big for them to mess with.> It is a bluish purple on it's body and dark yellow feet. <Sounds pretty. I am a big fan of these and other echinoderms.> The reason I ask for more in-depth reading material is I own a pet shop that has sold freshwater fish for 20 years. <Congrats on the longevity of your business.> Lately we have had a large request volume for saltwater fish, so I decided I had better start up a tank and learn as much as I can so I can carry saltwater at my store and be able to properly educate my customers (we're not a "sell it so it can die and they can buy more" pet shop, we typically have less than a 10% loss rate with livestock sold to customers, because we spend copious amounts of time educating them, and explaining water chemistry and testing water for free.)  So far I have had my tank set up for 4 months, and I haven't lost anything yet, except some little "alien" like creatures that came all over a bunch of plants I got, but I think they became food. <These small things do tend to come and go depending on conditions, predation, food supply, etc.> Thanks again for your advice, and I look forward to reading more on your site. <Great to hear of your conscientious business practices. I'll bet this gives you a truly loyal customer base. The hobby needs more retailers like you. I think you'll find the books I suggested very informative. You might want to start stocking "The New Marine Aquarium" by Michael Paletta for those who are interested in SW to start learning. My LFS sells it at cost to all new SW hobbyists. Step two is "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" by Robert Fenner. These are a great start for most folks. I'd also suggest "Reef Invertebrates" by Anthony Calfo and Robert Fenner. Scott Michael's "Marine Fishes" is a great pocket guide to the most common fishes in the hobby, though many think his minimum tank-size recommendations tend to be too small. "Reef Secrets" by Nielsen & Fossa¥ is also a great beginning reef book. The others I mentioned previously are much more advanced. Best of luck to you in expanding your business. Steve Allen.>

Marine drygoods, livestock sourcing Hello I was reading you article and had a few questions. I am looking to start a small online fish store. My first question is how do you locate live fish wholesalers? None of the local stores can tell me. They don't know where they get there stock. I have to ask the owners but there never there, so I'm stuck. I search for local wholesalers in my area and nothing comes up. How do you find these people? There never listed. I'm trying to find some in northern California. Also where do I purchase the tanks for my store. I obviously don't wanna pay retail for the tanks. Where do I find dealers that sell tanks for pet stores? Anything will help. Thank you, Jeremy Johnson <Mmm, most of the large/r livestock wholesalers are clustered around the biggest airline AND Customs facilities... LAX, NY, Miami, Chicago... you can find these a few ways... one by looking at the Aquatics Business Links page on our site (WetWebMedia.com)... the drygoods folks are likely best sorted through via one of the industry publications (Pet Business, Pets Supplies Marketing, Pet Age...) "buyer's guides". You can find these in turn using the search tools on your computer using the terms "pet industry magazines". I encourage you to read through the articles, FAQs archives on the Business subweb on WWM if you're considering joining the industry, and to work for some other/s for at least a few months before going further. Bob Fenner>

A new LFS in San Diego... Hi Bob. <Bar> Just a note to say, "hey'  <G>  Are you here or on the Island? <Nope. Just back> After a lot of thought, Sherry and I have all most decided that we are going to open a store front. <Congrats! A huge adventure for sure... did suspect someone of your energy, capacity and love of public interaction, business acumen... would not stay "retired" for long. The trade can definitely use folks of your ken.> Still going to do the internet bus and hopefully will be able to expand it since we will be able to carry more livestock as well as some dry goods and also provide some of our awesome clams to the locals folks as well.  We have been working on a business plan for about a month now and it looks positive and I think that San Diego can support  another LFS. What do you think? <Can for sure do so... given attention to the "five critical elements"  (location, finance, personnel, set-up and stock). Let us indeed talk. Bob F> Cheers, Barry www.clamsdirect.com Marine Job Hi, I'm 14 years old and have a 75 gallon SPS and hard coral tank. I have been in this hobby for only a year, but it seems like longer. <Hee hee!> Anyway I have gone totally mad about marine aquariums, and would like, no, love to run a marine aquarium shop in the future. If I don't work in an marine related job in the future, really, I would not know what to do. I probably just go crazy. What are your views about all of this? Thanks, Adam <I had a similar disposition about your age... and encourage you to seek out (even volunteer for now) gainful employment at a local fish shop, or if there is one near, a public aquarium. Do you have a "marine club" nearby? If not, perhaps you can help start one... with help of the Internet (sending out a message seeking concerned parties in your vicinity)... and "share the wealth" (and pain!) of your experiences, aspirations. Do start looking, planning for your academic preparation for all this... business classes, biology, chemistry... Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Your info, not your page Hi Mr. Fenner, I was doing some research on the WetWebMedia site about anemones (Condylactis and Heteractis Malu can be hard to tell apart when they're small!) and came across the article "Anemones in Captive Systems" which you wrote, and starts with "Flowers of the sea? Hardly. Most anemones are marine; but they are definitely animals, just a step or two up from the "tissue-grade" life that is the sponges, phylum Porifera.  The trade in these stinging-celled animals is brisk, and well it should be; many species are reasonably available and hardy, undemanding aquarium fare.  This series offers an overview of aquatic life natural history, and captive care. This installment deals with the polypoid cnidarians (coelenterates) we call anemones.  Try imagining a reef system, photograph, television show, fish store without anemones. Hard to do, isn't it? Anemones are seemingly ubiquitous fixtures in all these." During the last few weeks I've visited several sites selling anemones, and I knew I'd heard that somewhere before. I had, on this site: http://www.marinedepotlive.com/1123474.html  Their descriptions of most of their anemones includes this bit of text "Flowers of the sea? Hardly. Most anemones are marine; but they are definitely animals, just a step or two up from the "tissue-grade" life that is the sponges, phylum Porifera. The trade in these stinging-celled animals is brisk, and well it should be; many species are reasonably available and hardy, undemanding aquarium fare. This series offers an overview of aquatic life natural history, and captive care. This installment deals with the polypoid cnidarians (coelenterates) we call anemones. Try imagining a reef system, photograph, television show, fish store without anemones. Hard to do, isn't it? Anemones are seemingly ubiquitous fixtures in all these. "  I don't know if they posted that quote with your permission, or if you even work for that company, but I thought I should make sure and let you know it was out there, just in case. The internet breeds the laziest kind of plagiarism. Tim Roller <Thank you for this head's up Tim. I did grant permission to Ken Wong and companies for the use of this content and we've sold them internet rights to several images. Bob Fenner> 

Your Expertise Desired Dear Bob, Thanks so much for helping me out with the project. As I mentioned earlier, I'm primarily concerned with the social, psychological, and theoretical ramifications of being an expert aquarist-- especially those aquarists who are maybe even a little obsessed. Although some theorists think that the fish's lot in the aquarium mirrors the situation of postmodern man, that's not as interesting to me as why certain people are so attracted to this 'hobby.' So here are a few questions'¦. Again, thanks so much for your help. The questions are pretty straight forward, so please rample in your answers--the more of your casual thoughts, the better! 1. What do you find most exciting about keeping your aquarium? Planning? Upkeep? <Two elements principally... the dreaming/scheming aspect of considering what might be... and secondly the relating with, chatting over the experience with others> 2. Do you consider aquarium keeping an aesthetic occupation? I.e.. Is planning a reef tank's layout like making a piece of art? Why/ why not? <Definitely is aesthetic... even for folks that are more "operationally inclined" (aka the "tinkerers" who enjoy the gadgetry, tooling around with the systems). Shades of Erica Jong's Fear of Flying... pet-fish people have a good deal to look forward in "making these small aquatic worlds". Indeed, an argument could be made that this is how many of us emulate god/s> 3. What does it mean to you that you're creating a total mini- world? Is that part of what makes it exciting and/ or different from, say, gardening? <It is more inclusive than gardening in that there is an almost total disconnection between what we allow in and leave out... with rare occasions, bugs et al. don't fly into, set up homes in our tanks> 4. Or is one of the main draws an innate attraction to underwater life? I know that I felt this'¦ What do you think this is all about? <Perhaps a good part of the fascination is the lack of apparent gravity... the hydrostatic mechanisms employed by so many of the organisms kept... so different from our general terrestrial experience> 5. What does it mean to be keeping a little slice of underwater exotica in your home---mean today in 2004? <That we and it are still here... that the folks who attempt aquatic husbandry are connected with the aquatic majority of the planets biota> 6. Do you have any reservations about the practice? <Absolutely... Involvement period entails an opportunity cost to the planet... the life taken out is rarely returned... and being a "content provider" to the interest I have a further responsibility for encouraging others. In so much that a brush with the living world fosters more careful stewardship... awareness, I am a BIG fan of aquarium keeping... to the extent that folks don't care themselves... this is a real bummer.> 7. What kind of people tend to be tropical fish enthusiasts? <All sorts of folks. There are people who engage in the hobby for sport... entertainment, some for money, some for academic desires... all ages, ability levels, economic standings, walks of life... Really, there is "something for everybody" in the interest.> Thanks Again! Paul Heyer <Thank you, Bob Fenner>

Care to post this as well? Ongoing HRA suit by IRS Hi Bob, Someone posted this news article with an interview with Mr. Axelrod.  I thought I'd link you in case you might want to put it alongside the other article(s) regarding his troubles. http://www.lanuevacuba.com/nuevacuba/notic-04-04-2320.htm Marina <Saw Steven Pro had mentioned this link on WWF... and read it... Will post.  Bob F>

Number of home aquariums I have searched high and low to find industry numbers on an approximation of number of home aquariums that are guesstimated to be in the U.S. or the average number sold per year.  If you have some numbers, I would greatly appreciate an e-mail to the following address: Thanks!! Jen <A guess, modified by hints and industry input over the years is something about 30 million households with aquariums in the U.S., with about ten percent of them being marine. Bob Fenner>

Aquatic Biz question from Critter Cabana Hey, Haven't chatted with you lately, a while back you helped me get a store going.  Just wanted to let you know that we had our grand opening last weekend and things have been going very well. <Great to hear!>   Although our fish department as expected still is under much development.  What I am wondering is if you know any place that might be able to provide live brine shrimp to the Northwest.  I know that live brine would be worth its weight in gold around here and none of my competition has a reliable supplier (most depend on San Francisco Bay Brand).  Any contacts you could recommend? <I would contact Paul Dover at Bayou, or Andy Schmidt at San Francisco Bay Brand... if there is no one local who delivers. Artemia can be easily shipped long-distance, year-round.> Also as per your recommendation I have been getting livestock out of quality marine in LA which has been going pretty well (although you need to talk them into putting scientific names on their invoices). <Very unusual... I thought they DID do this already. I assure you they track all their livestock with scientific names. Will BCC Chris Buerner, the owner/manager here> However the shipping costs on Tropic Marin are killing me, do you think stocking these high quality products is worth paying the extra 20% for shipping? <I do... if there is good acceptance of such high end level merchandise for your area, IF your "set" and assortment offers a "good", better, best philosophy... This (offering high end, best products is THE best way to set yourself apart from other retailers, the mass-merchandisers)>   I guess salt is the real killer... But it would be really nice to have a high quality salt in the Portland, OR area... Just not sure if its worth paying... Any thoughts?  Lastly... I'm really struggling with my dry fish food selection... I have read your article and found it somewhat helpful, but still not feeling like I have any products I can really recommend to people, have been pushing the gamma frozen foods like crazy, but some people want to stick to dry... What is a good line for an independent retailer IYHO (for both fresh and marine)?   <There are some excellent choices. Among others, if space and other resources allow, do look into the Spectrum (New Life) and Omega Sea lines... both very well made, fantastic for livestock acceptance, nutrition, color... and not sold to/through mass-merchandisers. Will bcc Pablo Tepoot and Denny Crews here as well re.> On another note as a suggestion for your site.  I have basic info about all my fish posted on tanks as to the fishes compatibility, selling features, do's and don'ts, feeding etc.  Currently I get a lot of information from your site but find it's a lot more time efficient to glean info from liveaquaria.com.  I was thinking you should do fish profiles on the species commonly found in the trade that are made specifically as an amount of information that would be pertinent to a window shopper/browser in a retail environment. <Thank you for your suggestion. A very good one indeed, and in process... being developed in conjunction with some dive and aquarium (book) titles. Thank you and good fortune in your new enterprise. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Matt Johnson  

Would like to request your help Hi Bob, <Duane> I would like to let you know of my site www.fishbizforums.com.  This site is dedicated to aquarium industry professionals and was created in the hope that it will serve as a tool to help them successfully work their trade.  I would like to ask that you please mention the site to your business contacts when ever you have an opportunity.  I would also like to invite you to register and check the forum out yourself.  The members would love to hear from you.  You are very busy I am sure so when ever you may have a chance, I would be honored if you told me what you think of the site. <Will try to mention. You very much are aware that "these things take time" to catch... Dr. Bob Rofen and I have chatted from time to time (over years) re starting a L-serv for professional aquarists/aquariology... we still haven't. Bob Fenner> Duane D. Clark AquaServe Aquarium Publications www.aquaserve.com www.efishtank.com www.fishbizforum.com I am very aware of the fact that these things take time to catch...no time like the present however to get started. Thanks for any help you can give. Take care. Duane D. Clark <Am glad to be of assistance here. Bob Fenner>

Aquarium Market Data Hello, Finned Friends of WetWebMedia; <Howdy Eric/Snapper> It's been away awhile so not sure who I'm chatting with: Bob, Anthony, Seamaiden????? <Bob> This is Eric Olson, AKA Snapper on RDO and other places (which we shouldn't mention here.) <All, any may be mentioned> Anyway, still simmering on ideas about developing a coral farm in Belize, and need to get some info together. <Okay> Specifically, I'm concerned about flack from the tree-hugging right (you see we do aquaculture of table shrimp as well) and I know this type of culture is BAD for reef/estuaries, et al. 1. Can you direct me to some professional reading on aquaculture impact studies on reef environments, etc... <This literature is voluminous, but not published for resale... get thee to an institutional (large college) library> 2. Are there any international watch-dog groups that would pose a concern, specifically on the reefer side of the fence? <A bunch. What's your concern?> Other than that, just plugging along. Would like to still get a trip together soon (spring/summer) to go down and fart around and think up a plan over many beers and a shrimp ceviche or two!!! <Make it known (as far in advance as you can) re specific dates, itinerary and I/we may well join you> Cheers, Eric <Bob Fenner at the HI house>

CUSTOM SEA LIFE- GOING OUT OF BUSINESS Has anyone else heard this?  If true, it is a shame. <Steve, have you called Dennis at CSL? I would. Bob Fenner> Effective immediately, Custom Sea Life (CSL) is going out of business. They are closing their doors, not because of bankruptcy or business problems, but due to a personal decision made by the owner. Through an arrangement with CSL, Champion Lighting will honor all CSL warranties on items purchased by Champion's wholesale, service, public aquarium and retail customers. This warranty will apply to all CSL products purchased in the past and for all current inventory, including refurbished items. As always, Champion will continue to inventory replacement parts for virtually all CSL products. This includes CSL PC ballasts, metal halide ballasts, fans, sockets, UV's, chillers, and lamps for both the Power Compact and Metal Halide fixtures.  We will continue to distribute and warrantee Velocity pumps. In the near future we will also be carrying replacement product lines for the PC Moon-Lite, Smart Lite, Power Compact line, Power Coolers, and UV sterilizers under the "Currents USA" brand name. We will continue to carry comparable metal halide hoods, retrofit kits, ballasts, etc.  Be assured that your Custom Sea Life fixtures, hoods, ballasts, chillers, etc. are not orphans. Customers that have purchased or are planning to purchase CSL products will be accommodated by Champion Lighting in every way. Feel free to contact us with parts needs or any concerns with CSL products. Champion Lighting and Supply Co. www.championlighting.com 800-673-7822" I forwarded the Champion email to CSL and am awaiting a response. <Steve (Allen of WWM, he's out here visiting in HI) and I both did... and his msg. bounced! Bob>

LFS start up... planning HI, I am in the process of getting prices together for a tropical fish store.  I need to know where I can get prices and info on central filtration units.  IF you could give me a few different ideas.  thank you <Please read through the Business section on WetWebMedia.com re: Bob Fenner>

Aquatic Specialists Hello, Do you have any information on what happened to John Tullock's Aquatic Specialists store? Thank you, Jim Behling <Nope, but am bcc'ing John here re. Hopefully he'll respond. Bob Fenner> Starting a Tropical fish store Hi WWM, am trying to start a tropical fish store in the small town i live in in central Texas but have no clue where to get my supplies from. I've look on the net up and down but coming up empty handed, maybe am not looking in the right places or just not getting what am reading. <Possibly... I would call a few folks here: Central Pet 800-537-3637, Lon Star Pet Supply Inc 888-477-7414, Pet Specialty Products Inc.  940-767-1603... these folks all have headquarters in TX... and there are a few more... listed in the most recent Pet Business Buyer's Guide> If your team could help guide me down the right path in would be very thankful. I will need everything from aquariums, fish, food and the supplies needed to run my store and to sale....water i got hehe. <Press on my friend, and welcome to our trade. Bob Fenner>

Starting up a store Hello Bob, <Matthew> First of all, I want to say that I enjoy reading your material on your webpage, and I continue to learn more and more from you.  Fish are a wonderful hobby that I have been involved in for many years, and I am now at the point where I have enough equipment set up for easing into my own venture with my brother.  We are building a shop which will provide both freshwater and marine fish, and I had just one simple question regarding stocking.  I wanted to know your thoughts on sticking to one retailer vs. purchasing fish from a variety of distributors? <Best to always have at least two for everything... for leverage, in case ones out of supply... to check pricing> Also, we are located in Connecticut, and over the years I have become very friendly with some local shops, but still am not totally certain as to what method I want to go about stocking my tanks.  My concern is that I want to stock the tanks by reducing the stress on the fish as much as possible.  By any chance, would you know of any good local fisheries or markets in the Connecticut area that are easily accessible to a starting business? <Unfortunately no. But will ask Anthony here if he is familiar with any, and will post on WWM in the hope someone will respond> If not, what do you suggest would be the best way for us to get ready to open our doors? any advice would be much appreciated.  Thanks.     matt <Many things to discuss... have you taken the opportunity to attend any trade shows in your area? Have you contacted drygoods dealers re deals, fixtures...? Have you and your brother worked in retail, in the trade at all? Bob Fenner>

Re: starting up a store thank you very much for your prompt response.  I look forward to seeing replies on WWM in regards to any information that is available to help my venture really take off in Connecticut, and I'm sure I will be in touch with you many more times. <Am looking forward to your relating your experiences. The trade, indeed planet needs more "energy", expression, involvement. Am hopeful you and your brother will add here. Bob Fenner>

Trade statistics Bob Do you know where and how I can get hold of statistics in the saltwater aquarium trade? I spoke to my sister in law's father and he has expressed interest in this business. He would like to know how much the USA is importing from Indonesia. Perry <Mmm, maybe the OFI would be able to help you here: http://www.ornamental-fish-int.org/about-ofi.asp?aid=9616&gid=4813 Otherwise there is (as far as I'm aware yet unpublished) work on marine livestock collection by nation/region assembled by Elizabeth Wood (WCMC)... Such info. is otherwise accumulated by CITES... you might be able to search the enumeration of this data... Bob Fenner>

Start Up Aquarium (in San Diego) Dear Robert, <Daniel> My name is Daniel Kwak and would like to start an Aquarium business in San Diego. I would like to hear any advice on any start up costs involved for about 3000-4000 square feet of area, i.e. plumbing, inventory, live stock, etc. I would be doing obviously Fresh and Salt water, live rock, but more on specialties that cannot be attained by anyone in the Area. Any general information that you could provide me with would be utmost appreciated. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Daniel Kwak <We have much to discuss. I would count on at least 150-200k for this venture... this given your own labor for free in designing, building out the store, shopping semi-hard for fixtures... You could spend easily twice this amount... and have it again as reserve for the first few years in which you should count on being cash negative. We live and have lived in San Diego (since the late sixties) and I've been involved in building out and running (and owning) quite a few aquatics stores here. Where do you want to start in this discussion? Have you read my "five critical elements" pieces on being in our industry (posted on WetWebMedia.com)? You have a general to specific location in mind? A working, on-the-floor equity partner? Some notion of how you intend to finance this venture? Some first-hand industry experience? It is my very strong opinion that the area can/could support a "good store" of about this size and type... but this is a VERY serious endeavor... much fraught with the REAL possibility of/for failure. I will indeed help you, and can do so... but must need know that you are in earnest and VERY likely not to fail... which in this economy and mind-set in our country (toward small business) is too easy to do. Let us keep chatting, Bob Fenner>

Fish collecting business Hi, I have been in search on information about a new business I have in mind and since I found your website I have been able to find a lot of valuable information. I will planning on starting a fish collecting business in west Africa. I know I am faced with a lot of challenges. My plan is to setup my facility, begin collection and have the facility running for a few months before I start sourcing wholesalers. <Actually, I would start this last right now. A very good idea to "go to this step" now in determining who you will sell to, what they are willing to pay, how they want to and can be shipped to (airfreight carriers, CITES, Customs, forwarders...), concurrent with your giving them some idea of what you have available. It may well be that these same folks can/will help you in gathering tools, materials, maybe even personnel to build out your collecting station and gear for shipping livestock> I am also thinking of breeding some of the local species and hoping that down the road I will be able to rely more on aquaculture for fish I supply. <... this is an entirely different business... much time, facilities, many hours involved in making a go... Do you have partner/s in this endeavor already? You will need at least one if you intend to do both collecting and aquaculture, plus employees> Well my question is a business like this still viable in today pet industry and would it be difficult to find wholesalers willing to buy. <Depends on what you have, can get, the pricing AND airfreight cost and availability... and even if your country's government will allow it. Do you know of existing businesses of your type that are in operation currently? I strongly encourage your talking with, visiting them... even working with/for them for a while> Is there any article that will answer some of the questions I might have. Thanks Dayjee <Welcome to our industry. I can and will help you if you'd like. By answering your general queries, introducing you about to some of the players in international markets. At this point, do you have a good idea of what sorts of livestock you will have available, in what numbers (sustainably)... how you're going to hold and ship them... to which countries? Bob Fenner>

Re: fish collecting business Thanks Mr. Fenner, for your response. would you happen to have anyone in the northeast that I could talk to. Dayjee <Mmm, not off hand. Is it possible for you to visit locations where collecting is a business. Maybe Hawai'i? Bob Fenner>

Saltwater fish retail biz in West Virginia? A partner and I are considering a saltwater and coral startup and I was wondering if you could advise on initial setup equipment and suppliers. Thanks for the help <Yes. Where would you like to start? Have either of you worked in the trade before? In retail period? What do you hope to gain through this experience? Is this to be your sole source of income? Bob Fenner>

Freshwater/Saltwater Ratio? Dear  WWM, Hello, how is the crew today, tonight, wherever you are? :P <Fine thanks> Do any of the crew members know if any figures have been researched regarding how many people keep freshwater compared to saltwater? How about how many freshwater aquarists convert to saltwater within certain periods of time or vice versa? <Mmm, there have been proprietary data accrual of this nature (mainly by Tetra when it was owned by WLA/Warner-Lambert), and less than accurate "survey" type questionnaire data that the industry mag.s pops out every year... Roughly speaking, leaving out the desk-top deathtraps and "bowls", there are about ten times as many freshwater systems and in terms of dollars about twice in fresh as marine> I am hoping there has been some scientific research created by someone out there that can give a good ratio (factual data) regarding those two questions. Thanks for any help you can provide! :D James <Folks converting from fresh to marine... don't know. Bob Fenner>

Bob Fenner  pet store Dear Mr. Fenner,                  I am wanting to open a pet shop where I live and I was told that you may be able to help me in this matter.  If you would please get in touch with me.  Via e-mail, or phone.                                        Thank you Starla Partin                                                e-mail   <How may I be of service? I helped put up a few dozen shops years back... much of the "written" part of how we did this is posted on the "Aquatics Business" subweb on WetWebMedia.com... Bob Fenner>

Re Bob Fenner  pet store Mr. Fenner,                   Thank you for the info I will check this out.  But, the one thing that I need is wholesalers for the pet shop.  I would really like to work with someone that I know that has a good reputation with the pets that they have.  That is very important to me I only want the healthiest pets that I can get.  So, if you can help me with this that would be wonderful! <Mmm, what sort of livestock? Where are you (geographically) located? Do you have any industry experience? A partner who has? Many, many important questions to have good answers to before "diving into" the pet business. Study where you were sent on WWM. Bob Fenner>                                         Thanks Starla Partin

Industry Financial Information? Dear Mr. Fenner: <Mr. Rosenthal> I am a first time entrepreneur and am exploring the possibility of starting a tropical fish and aquarium store. I came upon your website while doing research on the subject. Thank you very much for your informative and insightful articles and FAQs. They have proven very helpful and also confirmed the fact that I believe that I can be successful in this industry. I do however know that the best way to succeed to draw upon the experience of those more knowledgeable and that is why I am writing you. <Glad to be of assistance> I have been a long time tropical fish enthusiast and worked (albeit 25 years ago) as an assistant manager in an aquarium shop. My current business expertise is in the hospitality industry. <Good cross-experience> I have 20+ years of operational and accounting management experience in this very customer service oriented industry. I have managed staffs of more than 125 employees and have maintained financial records for as many as 12 hotels at one time. I believe that my business acumen my accounting experience all will assist in a successful endeavor. <Undoubtedly so> I am hoping that you might be able to help me or point me in the right direction in the completion of my business plan. I am familiar with the whole business plan process, I am just having a slight problem preparing a financial proforma. If I were completing one on a start-up hotel, I could complete it in a matter of minutes (okay, maybe hours) because of my previous experience. However, I don't have the first idea on how to arrive at estimates for revenues, cost of sales, etc. for the tropical fish industry. The local merchants are no help. Their reply was to stay out of the business - that there is no money in it But when I ask questions about financial items (revenues, COGS, etc.) they clam up. <I encourage you to seek out the assistance of local wholesalers (drygoods principally) in the trade in your area. They will have personnel (some likely who have been retailers) who can/will give you good input re cost of goods, "typical" mark-up structures, likely sales per square foot, merchandising... AND my usual suggestion to work in the field for a while "on someone else's dime"... to gain insight, even answer the "yes/no" question of whether you want to be in our industry. Mmm, do you have a "vested" partner in this proposed endeavor? I would seek them out concurrently if not> Where can someone find such information to prepare a proforma? Are there formulas or historical information that one can draw upon. Are there any trade associations that publish such information? <There are some "dated" and admittedly incomplete data available through the few trade "magazines" (these are listed, linked on WWM), some associations like the FTFFA and PIJAC, PIDA and the APPMA... as well as the (!) SBA.> Once sales are forecasted, is there an industry standard for cost of goods sold? Is there an industry standard for space lease as a % of sales? <Mmm, yes... for "mom and pop" (aka independent) retailers to chains to mass-merchandisers... there's a bit of "slip and slide"... W/o seeming to be too slippery myself, for your likely purposes most "inexpensive" drygoods (under a dollar or so) are trebled, ones up to a few tens of dollars are keystoned, higher priced items are marked up a few tens of percent depending on "local market" conditions (e.g. some folks give away fish tanks... and more). Livestock is typically trebled from net landed cost (a bit more for organisms that are only several cents each, much less (to about doubled) for ones that are tens to hundreds of dollars cost. Most people settle on 2-400 dollars annual sales per foot... there are formulae for promotion/advertising (about 2% of gross), lease as a percentage of sales is not usually an issue/consideration with independents but should not exceed 10 percent> I could go on and on, but I am sure that you get the idea. Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated. Alan San Antonio, TX <Much more to talk about (and will gladly do so). Do make it known if you have that elusive "on the floor" partnership. Bob Fenner>

UK Startup Dealer - 8/16/03 dear sir do you know of any one who can assist me in setting up a small import business of captive bred soft corals, I am mainly after importers addresses and phone numbers thanking you in anticipation of your help mark <From America, I'm not sure how best we can help you short of direction for you to find a trade magazine (in the US we have "Pet Business" and "Pet Age/Pet Supplies Marketing") or journal (or even contact PIJAC the industry lobbyist organization in your country). Please do browse the many links we have for aquatic business starting from the homepage at www.wetwebmedia.com. Also, be sure to make a business plan for yourself. Seek software like Business Plan Pro perhaps. Most businesses fail that do not write a plan. Best of luck. Anthony>

Retail resale in our interest Bob, <Hello> Before I write a lengthy email with my question; about starting or buying an existing Retail / Maintenance Aquarium business is this an active email address. If this an active email address any advice to my question. My second question do you consult ? <Is an active address to reach me. And don't consult per se, but will gladly help you by sharing what I would do> I really enjoyed your website 'Thanks for the information. <You are welcome. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Zachary

Industry info 7/10/03 Hi Anthony, Thanks for the info.  Do you have a direct #, website, etc. for the PIJAC journal?   <my apologies... PIJAC is not a journal per se... but our only significant trade organization and lobbyist for the pet trade. Membership buys you access to market info, demographics, business plan support, newsletters, etc. I do not have their address handy... but they advertise in most all of the trade journals. The acronym stands for Pet International (?) Joint Advisory Council> I signed up with Pet Business and will probably do Pet Age, etc. when I get more time. <good to hear> Yeah, I'd like to make the MACNA  I'll have to look into it very soon. Thank you, Rob <all good... hope to see you there. Anthony>

Stocking your books, Uncle Dom... and a new LFS in Bay Area - 7/8/03 And Cheers to you Anthony! <rock on my sister <G> Thank you for your positive response to my email...as always it has generated MORE questions and more answers...but such is life!   <'tis a good thing> We are currently in a crazy state of cycling tanks, faxing out reseller's permits...carrying rocks...and generally trying to beat the summer heat in order to have our grand opening coincide with the Crockett Art and Wine Festival (Crockett is a tiny town in the East Bay Area).  I originally was going to take it slow and set up over three months, but when I found out that on August 3rd my new shop would be surrounded by antique cars, wine drinkers, and belly dancers I figured that I couldn't pass up the opportunity.   <indeed... the antique cars and wine drinkers are enough... but the belly dancers really are the icing on the cake. I'll send my fat & hairy Uncle Dominic right over. He make not look lithe... but he truly is a wicked belly dancer. Of course, it will become all too clear why older Italian men are called silverbacks at that point, bit I digress...> Anyway... Originally I was hoping to take my time and breed my own fish and corals before shop opening, but I am now rapidly finding suppliers that are reliable sources of tank-raised livestock.   <indeed... and do be sure to tap the local hobby clubs for cottage industry frags. You have about 5 clubs in your area. SeaBAY, BARE, MARS...> I have been lucky because my hobby of refugiums...which often times become my 6th, 7th, etc. tanks instead of true inline refugiums ( I have an entire tank devoted to snails and bugs...arrrgggghhh!)...has lead me to many suppliers of tank-raised critters.  I have recently contacted Indo-Pacific, GARF, ORA Farms, and now, thanks to you...ERI.   <excellent!> I am excited about the addition of tangs to my line-up, and would like to again thank you for your help!   <always welcome my friend> My question... How does Spaghetti Coral actually taste??  haha <depends on how much wine and belly dancers you've been through before you sit down to eat> I told my mother about your families fun with your water hobby, and she reminded me of the first pond I dug without permission at the age of 8yrs, and how she would never forget our new family members, the mosquitoes.  Luckily, mosquitoes hate saltwater ; ) <Ha!> I am excited about carrying your books.  I plan to buy as many as my budget will permit after lights, tanks, rock...GAWD...what have I got myself into ; ) <no worries... in time :)> If you are up for some belly dancing and drinkin' with the local yokels come on down to Crockett on the 3rd...we can always use a few more friendly aquarists ; ) <Ahhh... would love to. But will be in/returning from a conference in Florida. A return to the Bay area soon would be lovely though> Best wishes, Heidi Petty Owner/Designer Through the Looking Glass Living Arts:  custom micro-reefs, bonsai/saikei, art and much more. info@throughglass.com <best regards, Anthony>

Aquarium Business hi wet crew. I am an E.R. physician in Puerto Rico. for the last two and 1/2 years i have been studying and keeping saltwater fish and invertebrates. I have a biology degree and found a profound love for my saltwater buddies. with the help of a local aquarium shop owner I learned how to collect, import and the husbandry of saltwater fish. (BY THE WAY ROBERTS BOOK IS PART OF MY FISH LIBRARY). trough the internet I learned plumbing, lighting, acrylic working and electrical wiring of fish tanks. currently I am taking free lessons on woodworking from a wonderful patient of mine who came to my emergency room. I have also consulted with a good friend of mine who is an electrical engineer. so you can see that I am serious about the business. if I continue it would be endless. now to the point . since I live on an island in the Caribbean i would like to know which would be the most profitable venture in the aquatic business. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the united states and we are ruled by the same laws. we  use u.s. currency. I am interested in collecting fish, growing clown fish, fabricating fish tanks, prefilters, protein skimmers, stands, canopies or cleansing business. I have also thought of starting an aquarium shop. you reply would be greatly appreciated. Dr. Richard Connelly Montesinos <Thank you for writing. The easiest, lowest-risk, simplest to get into and most profitable aspect of our interest you could indulge in in your setting is the install and service aspects. Putting in and maintaining (marine, freshwater, planted) tanks. Requires only minimal capital, a vehicle to get around, a working relationship with suppliers... I would start here, and if you find you have desires to expand, consider other aspects in turn. Bob Fenner>

LFS Bob: <David> Just wondering why there isn't some sort of license that an LFS would have to earn to be able to sell marine livestock? <Be careful what you wish for... Who would administer such? How would its regulation be paid for?> I ask because out of the 5 or so we have here in Pensacola, FL.  Only 2 seem to actually know what they're doing (This would be Reefer's Aquatics and Water World)  Neither of these sell birds, dogs and cats like the other three.   <I am a big fan of folks getting companion animals like Psittacine birds, canines and felines from breeders, not retailers... these animals need much attention and care that is not a practicality in a retail setting> In the other shops you constantly see little tanks full of dead fish all crammed together or large display tanks with rampant ICH and HLLE tearing these little guys to pieces; it's just really sad - I guess they can support it because of gullible people coming in to buy the stock before it dies. <Or are using up savings from elsewhere...> They seem to be selling a lot more since the NEMO movie is coming out, spelling tragic deaths for many Percs and Hippos  :o(  I mean these guys will gladly bag you up a Volitans with a Perc and send you on your way!  (I visit them for dog supplies if you're wondering) <What will you do to influence this situation? Perhaps mention to them what they might otherwise do? Support the folks, establishments that you are in agreement with?> Anyway, am I just being weird? <If so then we both are> I do have a soft spot for these creatures - this is the guy that got tears in his eyes watching the devastation portrayed on the IMAX film, "Coral Reef" David <All is not "doom and gloom" in this world my friend. Seek out a balance of the "good" our species does in this world... and do your part to improve poor circumstances. Life to you, Bob Fenner>

MACNA & Careers For Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob Fenner.  If you ain't Bob please pass it along to him.  :) <Hi Madison> Hey Bob, I lost your e-mail address again, I hope this a good one to use. <Yes> Are you going to speak at MACNA this year? <Not this year. Wasn't invited in time and so have scheduled a trip out of the country to dive, photograph, sight-see> I was looking at "Reef Invertebrates" on your site and it looks very nice.  What other books are going to be in the series? <Let's see... we're working on the Reef Fishes one right now... and there's a third on Cnidarians (stinging-celled animals; coral, anemones... And Jas and I are starting on a Fish Disease title> Will there be a book on biotopes (especially the Firefish rubble zone with pictures :) I hope so! <Soon my friend> I have about a month to decide what sort of schooling I want to apply my vocational rehab money to.  I could try to go back to editing on movies or I can start a new life.  Can think of any good/fun/lucrative careers?  Would you need someone to video and / or edit stuff? <For me most everything is an adventure... of jobs that I know are "currently" lucrative and relatively going to stay so, commercial real estate, selling/managing securities (stocks and bonds) are my favorites> Everyone says "follow your dream", but I feel to numb from the time and pain I have gone through getting better.  I keep thinking movies or McDonald's but maybe you can put a few more choices in.  :) <Take a break if you don't feel passionate, very sure at this point... maybe a stint with a "temp. service" will grant you insights... while you work for different fields> Where was the last place you came from? (Cuz your always just getting back :) <Hawai'i's Big Island last week. Pete, Jack and I bought a house there. It's neat!> Madison (Tie-Dye gal.  I really ought to get around to changing my e-mail slug-line name, it confused everyone.) <Good to hear from you, Bob F>

"Exploratorium" in Texas Bob     I just wanted to thank you for the amazing collection of information and advice that you have made available to all of us.  When I was young I volunteered and worked to include teaching summer classes for kids part time with reptiles amphibians fish and invertebrates at the local zoo and museum in fort worth Texas. <Outstanding> I have been running my families printing business for a number of years now, and feel that the experiences combined make me at least somewhat suited to opening a/my own store.     Unfortunately the zoo and museum in fort worth have become quite expensive this gave me the idea of opening what I am tentatively calling an "animal exploratorium".  I would have my own personal collection about 100 herps and invertebrates plus a sizable increase mainly fish and small mammals.   All of these would be on display and I would like to have activities for kids drawing tables etc.  I envision this being the majority of my space the rest being devoted to a somewhat selective (focusing on species that I am able to propagate) pet store.  It seems that I could charge much less for admission maybe free and at the same time educate/recruit hobbyist/customers.  Does this sound like a crazy idea.  I apologize for the length of the email.     Thanks in advance for any comments you might have Heath Blackmon <A neat and worthy project... Have you looked into costs for design, build-out? Would you rent space? Where? What about personnel... how would you train them? Do you intend to "bootstrap" finance this venture or borrow the funds? Maybe an outline of a business plan... and a spread sheet of guessed at revenues and expenses is a good place to start (after figuring how much area, what the fixtures, materials and labor to assemble all will cost, look like... Bob Fenner>

New Business Questions Hello Mr. Calfo,  I spoke with you before regarding a blue polyped aposymbiotic gorgonian.  My name is Timmy Nguyen.   <cheers, my friend> Your advice and guidance enabled me not to take part in the slow death of such a beautiful animal.   <good to hear> The store selling this gorgonian eventually started carrying it weekly.   <so sorry> This matter caused me to boycott this store along with many other reasons.  Anyhow, I hope you are in good health and doing well.   <with hope for you in kind> I am sorry to say I missed your visit to the Tulsa Zoo in Oklahoma recently, due to my stupidity (I thought it was the following Saturday). I was very disappointed but hope one day to make your acquaintance along with Mr. Fenner.   <in good time... do try to make it out to MACNA this year. I'm sure some folks from OMAS will be going> I am in the process of studying up on opening a fish store myself.   <congratulations! And then you simply must start attending the MACNA conferences!!! Networking, contacts, cutting edge information, etc> I want to be able to provide people with a responsible store dedicated to the well being of our seas' lovely creatures.  Through extensive research and experiments, I am gaining more and more knowledge of the husbandry and care for the animals I plan on keeping and distributing.   <all good> It may sound a little extreme but one of the things I plan on doing is screening the customers who plan on purchasing certain animals.   <can be done politely... but better still is simple honesty and education of your customers... not to mention good salesmanship: stocking only good creatures and selling what you have... and making your customers want what you have to sell!> I do love my animals like anything close to me and living and would never put any of them in harm's way.  I have been working on this for quite some time now.  Your book along with this site has been more than helpful to my dream.  It help me prepare in the best way possible and I am still trying to do so.  I appreciate your indirect help deeply.  I have the business plan completed and am now focusing on mainly the livestock.   <excellent> Right now I am mainly concerned with shipping the genus Acropora using your dry ship method mentioned in your book.  If time allows, can you please give me any additional information possible regarding this, please give me as much as possible.   <I cannot say much more than printed in BOCP1... it really is that straight forward. And also as mentioned in the shipping/receiving section of the book... I strongly suggest you try a simple test with a sample piece of coral in a packed and sealed box (as if you would be shipping or fielding it) but keep it in the garage, etc. Open it up at tested intervals over a period of time as if it was transit> I have not tried shipping a full colony using your method yet, until I am sure I know exactly all of how the procedure works.  However, I have shipped frags using moistened paper towels and plastic bail successfully.   <I really like the shredded plastic method> Also, just for reference, can you recommend to me any responsible, honest wholesalers?   <your expectations for customers ("screening") and wholesalers is too high, my friend <G>. You need to take more control of such matters. In the case of the wholesalers (again, recommended in the book... at the risk of sounding like a broken record <G>) my advice is to simply look up some jobbers/fish pickers in the LA Internet directory. Then have them in your employ to hand-select ("fish-pick") your orders from the best livestock at various wholesalers each week. There is no such thing as the "best" wholesaler singly since they all deal with volatile wild-harvested products. Expectations for flawless consistency are unrealistic. FWIW though... I like Quality Marine and Walt Smith INT (Pacific Aquafarms)> If not, for any reason, I understand.  I will be paying a visit to the facilities in L.A. in two weeks.   <your best bet!> If you will be there during the second week of May, it would be an honor to be able to take you out to lunch or dinner if your schedule admits.   <wish I was... but I will be in my home state> Once again, it is a pleasure to be able to communicate with you and I thank the whole WWM crew for their service.  Thank you my friend and may all heaven and glory be yours...just got done watching a Bruce Lee flick on the tube..Heh.  Best of luck to you all and may all your lives be rewarded as your advice and knowledge has done for me. Respectfully, Timmy Nguyen <best wishes to you in your endeavors! Kindly, Anthony>

Future retailers My husband and I are opening a Tropical fish store and are looking for supplies.  We are also looking for livestock and a Retail Live Stock unit.   Any suggestions? The Pratts Blackstone Va <Please read through the articles and FAQs archived on our Aquatics Business subweb here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm Particularly the series on "The Five Critical Elements of Retail". When you have more specific questions we will continue. Bob Fenner> Starting a wholesale aquatic plant biz Great site! I always enjoyed your articles in FAMA. <Ahh, there are a few of us who have been published there> What is your opinion of starting a small aquarium plant wholesale biz, raising plant species for resale to wholesalers, etc. <A time that has, or will (should have IMO) come to the U.S. by now! Do check out Tropica and Dennerle's sites on the WWW... I encourage you to investigate further... there are places that do, and have done such work in Fla for years> Got the water, greenhouse, etc.  just want to see if it's feasible. <Important to do due diligence here... develop "strong" business AND marketing plans... with spreadsheets taking into account monthly expenses... for power, labor (even if you consider you and yours "free"), income... perhaps some possibilities for polyculture... the production of valuable standard animals (like freshwater angelfishes, Callichthyid catfishes, Ramshorn snails...) to supplement the enterprise's income> Thanks, John Rowe <A pleasure to serve, share. Bob Fenner>

Re: starting a wholesale aquatic plant biz Thanks, Bob.  Solid advice. You got the best wet site on the web that's not porn! <Hey! We've got naked fishes!>   Glad I found ya! Probably have more questions, so I'll write. <Real good. Bob Fenner> Thanks, John

Re: starting a wholesale aquatic plant biz Has anyone ever written articles specifically about a wholesale plant startup? <Not that my files show. There are a few "trade magazines" (other than the hobbyist ones am sure you're aware of) that are produced in English... but these are very general in their content. It might well be more valuable to look into "greenhouse/terrestrial" sources for business information that can be applied to aquatics here. Much of the tissue culture, grow-out, packaging... technology employed in underwater plant business is borrowed from terrestrial/ornamental endeavors. Bob Fenner>

Starting a Pet Shop First I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my email. <Thank you for sending it along> On this coming Wednesday (4-02-03) I am meeting with my attorney to have him start our negotiating for our lease to the store that we wish to open. It is in a yet to be built strip mall down the Jersey Shore. We (my partner and myself) have been trying to start our own business for the past year. Last March we started negotiations with an established Pet Shop and six months later in September they ended when one of the owners pulled out of the deal. We started negotiations with another Pet Shop that was up for sale on the Jersey shore in December and they fizzled out because WE weren't the ones who were so sure with the business....better to be careful than to be sorry....and we just didn't believe that the owners numbers "jived" from what we witnessed. <You are wise here> We have been searching for the perfect site since September also.....and we believe that we may have found it. OK, you may ask, do we have a plan? Yes I believe that our plan has gotten stronger with each side track that we have had. Let me give you some details please. We are both government workers. My buddy for 16 years, myself for 18 years. <Have either of you worked in this field? In the "private sector" period? I would try this, even part-time, before leaving your present jobs> Over the past year when we were negotiating for the first Pet Shop I would help out in the store. <Oh! Very good!> I never asked for any type of pay. My work was simply to get a feel of how a business works....feeling that it would lead to our benefit if we bought the store. I did this work for about three months. We have the cash to start and stock a business. The money for the security for the lease....for customizing the store to our specs...to have a fish room built for us (although I will be involved in this physically also)...to stock the store....and to run the store. Because we both have full time jobs neither one of us are looking to take a single dime profit for ourselves for at least the first 12-24 months, and longer if we had to wait....also I have the benefit of having a wife with a great job and the place that I work will give me an extended leave of up to one full year with pay (nice to have a lot of sick and vacation time to work with). <Why can't we all work for the government?> We also have employees in place if and when it does happen...fortunate for us, unfortunate for the other stores that will lose a few of their employees. <Make sure these people share your values, goals> The realtor has told us that the site will be up and running some time around this fall. It is a site that doesn't have another Pet Shop around it for four miles. <Sometimes better to be near/er good competitors...> The demographics are this.....Within one mile there are over 5,000 residents around it.....over three miles there are over 33,000 people around it. <Of "pet-fish" demography I trust> The site's anchor store will be one of those large pharmacies. The building for the strip mall will be unattached from the drug store and it will be about 30 feet away from it...We like the idea of a drug store as the anchor in this location because the people who live north of the site don't have a drug store for about 4 miles. <Okay> We will specialize in Pet Supplies. We will also carry Aquariums and all of the supplies to go with the fish hobby. We will carry freshwater fish including African Cichlids. We are still unsure if we will sell Marine livestock...and if we do how much. <Wait till you are ready here> We will carry reptiles, small animals...including mice, hamsters, gerbils, rats, guinea pigs and ferrets, we will also carry a small selection of birds. The minimum amount of square footage that we can take is 1350 sq feet, but we anticipate about 2600 to 3000 sq feet for our store. <Yes. For this size line, you'll need the space> We have in place a lawyer, an accountant, a payroll company, and an insurance agent. I have talked to one of the larger wholesalers in NJ, but they will not talk numbers with me until I actually have the store. To us that is a small dilemma because we would like to figure out a hard number on how much it will cost us to stock the store. We are wondering if we will be greeted with many open arms from some of the wholesalers to try to get our business.......A bidding war from these people would be nice to try to get our business. <Our trade is a bit odd... in a few ways... as you will come to understand. No one wants to aid and abet folks "jumping in" and having trouble joining the industry (very easy to do). Do check around. There will be other distributors (likely Central Garden and Pet) whose territories overlap where you are> There are several livestock wholesalers to deal with....as of now I don't have a favorite as I have seen some of these stores fish shipments and I have been disappointed. <Learning to "pick and choose" through assortments is an ongoing science and art> We know of a breeder of African Grays and a breeder of lizards and snakes. We are also thinking about having a pet sitting service in the store. People have told us that all of our ideas and plans seem to be rock solid. We have also been told that we have not a stone unturned. Call me paranoid, but I am always thinking that there is something else that we are forgetting.  <A healthy business trait> We have a list of every type of bill that has to be paid monthly and quarterly. We have a good accountant also. <Does your Business Plan include a monthly cash-flow chart? Do make one of these with likely in/out flows of monies detailed... and use it to tract actual progress> If all goes well with our attorney and the realtor on the lease then we know that our work will be cut out for us.....one of the things that we want negotiated is the size of our sign on the road. The total size of the strip mall will be 8100 sq feet and if we get our 2600-3000 sq ft we will have the largest spot of the strip mall and would want the top and biggest sign. <I take it the square footage does not include the drug store> I believe that I know what has to be done after that, I am just not sure it what order to do those things. Some things that we will have to do are: Go to as many Pet Shops as we possibly can....there is never enough ideas to get on setting up a shop I believe....although I would still look and ask for help on this. <Good idea. There are many good inputs from "non-pet-stores" as well here> Go to any trade shows that are in the Northeast. Subscribe to ALL of the industries publications. <Yes, Pet Business, Pet Industry News...> Talk to and secure all of the employees that I am taking to my store. Checking out all advertisers...especially for their fees. Talk to wholesalers. I guess there is something that I wanted to tell you that I forgot...and I know that my email was really long-sorry----but I will take all of the help that I can get. Thank you, A Possible Future Pet Shop Owner <Keep dreaming, accumulating ideas, facts... Bob Fenner>

Re: Starting A Pet Shop In my previous letter that you answered I wrote: First I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my email. On this coming Wednesday (4-02-03) I am meeting with my attorney to have him start our negotiating for our lease to the store that we wish to open. It is in a yet to be built strip mall down the Jersey Shore. We (my partner and myself) have been trying to start our own business for the past year. Last March we started negotiations with an established Pet Shop and six months later in September they ended when one of the owners pulled out of the deal. We started negotiations with another Pet Shop that was up for sale on the Jersey shore in December and they fizzled out because WE weren't the ones who were so sure with the business....better to be careful than to be sorry....and we just didn't believe that the owners numbers "jived" from what we witnessed. We have been searching for the perfect site since September also.....and we believe that we may have found it. OK, you may ask, do we have a plan? Yes I believe that our plan has gotten stronger with each side track that we have had. Let me give you some details please. We are both government workers. My buddy for 16 years, myself for 18 years. Over the past year when we were negotiating for the first Pet Shop I would help out in the store. I never asked for any type of pay. My work was simply to get a feel of how a business works....feeling that it would lead to our benefit if we bought the store. I did this work for about three months. We have the cash to start and stock a business. The money for the security for the lease....for customizing the store to our specs...to have a fish room built for us (although I will be involved in this physically also)...to stock the store....and to run the store. Because we both have full time jobs neither one of us are looking to take a single dime profit for ourselves for at least the first 12-24 months, and longer if we had to wait....also I have the benefit of having a wife with a great job and the place that I work will give me an extended leave of up to one full year with pay (nice to have a lot of sick and vacation time to work with). We also have employees in place if and when it does happen...fortunate for us, unfortunate for the other stores that will lose a few of their employees. The realtor has told us that the site will be up and running some time around this fall. It is a site that doesn't have another Pet Shop around it for four miles. The demographics are this.....Within one mile there are over 5,000 residents around it.....over three miles there are over 33,000 people around it. The site's anchor store will be one of those large pharmacies. The building for the strip mall will be unattached from the drug store and it will be about 30 feet away from it...We like the idea of a drug store as the anchor in this location because the people who live north of the site don't have a drug store for about 4 miles. We will specialize in Pet Supplies. We will also carry Aquariums and all of the supplies to go with the fish hobby. We will carry freshwater fish including African Cichlids. We are still unsure if we will sell Marine livestock...and if we do how much. We will carry reptiles, small animals...including mice, hamsters, gerbils, rats, guinea pigs and ferrets, we will also carry a small selection of birds. The minimum amount of square footage that we can take is 1350 sq feet, but we anticipate about 2600 to 3000 sq feet for our store. We have in place a lawyer, an accountant, a payroll company, and an insurance agent. I have talked to one of the larger wholesalers in NJ, but they will not talk numbers with me until I actually have the store. To us that is a small dilemma because we would like to figure out a hard number on how much it will cost us to stock the store. We are wondering if we will be greeted with many open arms from some of the wholesalers to try to get our business.......A bidding war from these people would be nice to try to get our business. There are several livestock wholesalers to deal with....as of now I don't have a favorite as I have seen some of these stores fish shipments and I have been disappointed. We know of a breeder of African Grays and a breeder of lizards and snakes. We are also thinking about having a pet sitting service in the store. People have told us that all of our ideas and plans seem to be rock solid. We have also been told that we have not a stone unturned. Call me paranoid, but I am always thinking that there is something else that we are forgetting. We have a list of every type of bill that has to be paid monthly and quarterly. We have a good accountant also. If all goes well with our attorney and the realtor on the lease then we know that our work will be cut out for us.....one of the things that we want negotiated is the size of our sign on the road. The total size of the strip mall will be 8100 sq feet and if we get our 2600-3000 sq ft we will have the largest spot of the strip mall and would want the top and biggest sign. I believe that I know what has to be done after that, I am just not sure it what order to do those things. Some things that we will have to do are: Go to as many Pet Shops as we possibly can....there is never enough ideas to get on setting up a shop I believe....although I would still look and ask for help on this. Go to any trade shows that are in the Northeast. Subscribe to ALL of the industries publications. Talk to and secure all of the employees that I am taking to my store. Checking out all advertisers...especially for their fees. Talk to wholesalers. I guess there is something that I wanted to tell you that I forgot...and I know that my email was really long-sorry----but I will take all of the help that I can get.    Thank you, Now a follow up: First, and again, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my letter. Well, we had the first of what may be many meetings with our attorney. <Get a good idea ahead of time just "how many" of these meetings there will likely be... I strongly suggest a flat fee rather than hourly charges here> We discussed what we were looking to accomplish and what we were looking to get by having the attorney negotiate the contract. <Mmm... these matters are not generally complicated... to the point where those involved (you, your partner, spouses...) can't or even shouldn't just negotiate for yourself/ves> We went over the asking price for square feet, triple net, and yearly increases. <Do chat with other tenants in this area, strip mall... they may have very useful input as to what they did, what the consequences were in their dealings with the landlord/leasing/management company> We mentioned how we want the middle of the strip mall and the largest sign on the highway. We also talked about incorporating versus LLC's.....we are leaning towards incorporating. <Is this really advisable? What do you hope to gain by incorporating? Relief from personal liability? To share ownership in part with others? What State will you incorporate in? What are the tax consequences?> We also got a little splash of reality from our attorney......he told us that whenever the realtor says that the building will be up and running add 6months to that. We were told by the realtor October or November...so now we are thinking more like the beginning of next year. <Maybe> A few more months to plan....a few more months to save.....a few more months of thinking "when will this finally happen"? <Yes... but there is time, many things that can be done ahead of time to assure your success... gathering fixtures, information, planning for the next cycle of Yellow Page ads... much, much more> Last week when you replied to my email you mentioned having a plan...I guess like having a chart on how much money we believe will be going in and out monthly when the business is up and running. <Yes, by the month... for at least two years out... that you can/will check against> Well I have checked my paperwork from the two stores that we were looking to buy last year and I have a question about spending for you. One of the Pet Shops spent about 58% of their gross income on inventory...the other spent 64%. Is this average? <Not atypical in these times> Have you seen much lower or much higher? <Not much different... a few percent either way> We are also asking for 3000 square feet. I was wondering if after we get the final square footage of the store would you mind if I could pick your brain on a store setup. <This would be fine> I have seen in most stores that putting the less profitable (percentage wise) items like dog and cat foods in the rear of the store makes the consumer have to walk by the setups of dog and cat toys, leashes, collars, and other very profitable items. <Yes> I have sat with and talked to several Pet Shop employees and owners who have shared their ideas with me......but I would actually love to hear what you have to say. Thanking you again, A Future Pet Shop Owner.....Bill <Glad to be of service. Bob Fenner>

Update on the Marine Aquarium industry Dear Mr. Bob, Greeting,  I am a Marine Biology Graduate from the University of San Carlos, Philippines.  I will give you a story of why I am interested in your website. I grew up and lived almost half of my life in an Aquarium business. Mr. Ramonet T. Sian  ( my father), I can say that he was the number one exporter of tropical fish in the Philippines.  I've been working as a Marine Biologist for more than two year in  his business ( Brem Marine Inc.). It would be very much appreciated, if you could give me an update of what's going on now in the Marine industry. Kind Regards Ma. Lourdes Sian The Fairmont Dubai Sheikh Zayed Road Dubai, United Arab Emirates PO Box 97555 Tel: 00971 4 332 5555 Fax: 00971 4 311 8955 <First, can't profess to knowing (much) of what is going on. Do get out to the larger trade shows in the U.S. and internationally, visit most months places involved in the trade... but am not "in the trade" per se. In large views, the western "consumption" of ornamental marines is lower now per capita than in the late sixties, much more is being captively-produced... most Clownfishes, Gobiosoma Gobies, Pseudochromids... and an appreciable amount of stony, soft corals, BTA anemones. More types/species of livestock are now collected from more sources, incidental mortalities have been reduced... there is controversy re NGO's seeking to tax/aid the trade/governments by making surveys of stocks, figuring OSY, "certifying" regions, businesses. You can see some of the correspondence re this here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/WWMAdminSubWebIndex/macattack.htm and beyond. Many good people have been making strides to "clean up" the use of destructive practices (poison-means of collecting, inappropriate species, holding, shipping...) with not much benefit to date (monetarily) to themselves. The hobby continues to "churn and burn" consumers... we still have more than 100% turnover in the U.S. every year... there are far fewer retail outlets (cost of business, other diversions, folks too busy for "hobbies") while the need for awareness, interaction with the living world continues to grow. Bob Fenner>

Drs Foster Smith and FFE Crew, Have you all seen that Drs F&S have purchased FFE?  Went to FFE this am to check something out and it's all over their main page.    <Yes> I know FFE was based in So Cal, with most of their shipping facilities on the west coast.    <Yes> Drs F&S is in Wisconsin, but do any of you know where their LiveAquaria facilities are? <There> Do any of you know if they still maintain facilities in FL from their previous purchase of ETropicals?    <Don't know> I'm curious about advantages/disadvantages of this merger for those of us on the East... will our stock be traveling a shorter distance to our homes etc? <Believe so. Have met some of the staff, looked over their site... Competent, professional folks> Any insight or "industry insider" info you may have would be appreciated.    <Will be chatting with the previous owner of FFE later today...> Also, do you think (in general) that this consolidation of the e-tailers is good or bad for the trade in general? <Mmm, better for now.>   There is less competition out there now obviously among the sites, but does that mean streamlined supply chains, etc?    <Most all the livestock going through these facilities is "funneled through" and from a very small number of agencies (collectors, breeders, transhippers, "wholesale" businesses... With size comes (hopefully) lowered freight, handling expenses... improvements in expertise, more value to the customer.> Thanks as always Rebecca Dimmick <Thank you. Bob Fenner>

Re: opening a fish store Hello I am Thomas Kellermann Jr.. my partner and my self are opening a aquarium /fish store . The store is going to be on Long Island New York, If possible we are looking for any info on grants, loans ,suppliers ,or wholesalers  if you have any info could you please forward  to my email                                        Thank You                                                           Thomas Kellermann  Jr.                                                           Scott    Miller   <I encourage you to read over the materials archived on our Aquatic Business subweb: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Advice (on starting up a LFS) Hi,    I am wanting to open a tropical fish store in Redding, Ca. (Northern California) and I am currently on workman's Comp for a firefighting injury and I am permanently disabled. Work Comp has offered to give me up to $16,000.00 to be self employed and to start my own business. Fish is something I have always enjoyed and I want to start a Fish Store in my town.  What am I looking at as far as startup costs? <Likely more than this sum of money... just in inventory. There are a few ways to approach this "answer", like, how many square feet of space will you have, how much cost per square foot in your selection? There are some substantial savings to be had from building out what you can yourself rather than purchasing fixtures, or buying used... for set-up.> I am planning on starting my business in my garage, which is residential and commercial zoned, I have a fully insulated large garage and I thought about starting here at my home until I had enough built up to open a actual store downtown.  I don't have much competition as far as tropical fish stores, except Pet-co.  So, I guess I need to know the following: 1.)  how much of a start up cost am I looking at to open a tropical fish store (Freshwater Tropical) <Good idea to start talking with local wholesalers... making a list of drygoods, livestock you'd like to carry... their costs... and leave yourself a good margin of funds for back-up> 2.)  where would I find commercial tanks or multiple tanks as seen in fish stores & Filter systems to support the tank system. <There are outfits (Marineland, SeaClear...) that make these sorts of fixtures, but I'd build your own stands, have glass tanks pre-cut (most manufacturers will do this) or cut your own acrylic if you prefer these... to make recirculating systems> 3.) Is there any internet sites I can go to buy wholesale supplies to get started such as tanks, fish, filter systems, then also my dry inventory such as ornaments, fish food, live feeders, plants, etc. <Mmm, some retailers use Custom Aquatic, Bayside... other etailer/distributors... I would check out a recent issue of one of the industry's "Buyer's Guides" (Pet Business, PSM/Pet Industry News...) to locate sources, contact them... and definitely draw up Business AND Marketing Plans for your venture> Work comp should cover my rent of a store, if I do start out in a store location instead of my garage and utilities. I am checking to see if they will purchase inventory for me also, plus still pay me my monthly benefit amount until my business is established.   I want to sell tropical fish, fish supplies, filters, ornaments, feeders, aquariums, and everything to go along with a fish store.  Could you help me and give me an idea on the startup costs of a business like this and supplies I could contact where I could get wholesale prices and also how much to mark up my inventory to make a living but also be competitive. <I will help you if I believe you have a good chance of success. Have you worked in the trade before? I STRONGLY suggest you do so ahead of any other type of investment. Consider applying, even volunteering at a close-enough store near you.> Please email me back on this, the sooner the better, I am supposed to contact Work Comp next week on a business plan and my plans and costs.  I do have a small business consultant helping me with the business plan, but she told me to contact someone on the startup costs of a store and how much I would actually need to open a nice store. It doesn't have to be big, I can always grow in the future. I just need the questions answered above if you could and point me in the right direction. thank you very much for your time and help in this matter.  I did read through you webpage but these are the things I didn't come across. thanks and if you could get back to me this week, I would greatly appreciate it!   THANK YOU !!!!!! <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Good retailer - 2/12/03 evening crew, <Paul here this evening> Found this site http://www.seacrop.com/ whilst doing a search for convict non-gobies/blennies/eels. (what the hell are they?? :-) ). <What are what? I must beg your pardon but I am not sure what you are asking here.> Thought you might like to see it, you may have already come across it.<Yes. Mary Middlebrook is an esteemed author and a very passionate marine retailer/wholesaler for 13 years or so and she is a Marine Biologist to boot! Here is a little about her outfit: http://www.seacrop.com/about.htm Bob, I am sure, knows much more about her. I feel she operates a very reputable and informative shop. See some of here glorious achievements here: http://www.seacrop.com/acheivements.htm She is a very hard worker for a responsible aquarium industry as a whole, and her achievements speak for themselves, in my opinion> let me know what you think?? and do you think it would be possible to ship to the UK. <You would have to ask her, but I am sure she will do what she can> I am not a retailer, just a very keen hobbyist whose about to set up a new 100g Hawaii reef tank.<Cool. Do send pictures when completed. I would be interested in a biotopic Hawaiian tank. Have you ever been diving there?> thanks <Thank you, Brett. Thanks for the link. Some of the WetWeb readers may not know of this fine establishment. Tank care and do let us know how your Hawaiian tank fills out. Pablo> Brent.

Store Start-up 2/13/03 Hi, First of all I would like to commend you on having a great site!   <thanks kindly> I have the opportunity to open an Aquarium shop.  My FiancĂ©© already has an established 10 year business at the site, it is a full service Salon and gift boutique, Tanning beds waxing and make-up and facial room 4 employees.  The store is located in a very prestigious section of Syracuse NY, and their are no specialized fish stores within a 20 mile radius, and that store does great business (because it is the only one around) but it is in a terrible location. What I am asking is can you lease send me in the right direction to do a Start-up! <many places to begin. First... look up the business schools at local universities. They often have free programs and advice/counseling on new businesses for the community. That will help you form an action item list of things to do in the proper order (licensing, positioning, business plan, etc). Once you have a concept of your legal identity and a license (whether you use it or not) you can then pitch to industry organizations for catalogs and data. Seek subscriptions to trade journals like Pet Business and Pet Age magazines. That will give you lists of distributors. Also, look up and join PIJAC... the Pet Joint Advisory Council. They can give you demographics and data that you will need to write a business plan (even if you don't need bank funding... you must write a business plan or you will fail, I assure you)> I have the knowledge of all species, what I need is someone to show me where to start as far as buying or building the retail tank stands.  Any or all the Wholesalers you can lead me too. And how to handle the lighting in the stores.   <Dude... you are not anywhere near ready for that yet. You need a business plan my friend to know what you need to buy and if you can afford to do it. The rest will come in due time> I know their has to be a shop start up guide  but there somewhere, I just can't seem to find it.   <FWIW... I have a whole chapter in my Book of Coral Propagation on business start-ups... also have another chapter in it on shipping and receiving livestock for merchants. Please also check our business links here on wetwebmedia.com http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm > Any information and help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Barry <Do be sure to attend the business trade shows to ASAP (after you get a license and legal name to get in the door). HH Backer and the like. Best of luck! Anthony Calfo>

Re: Career Question Bob: I know this is a bit of an unusual question, but I was wondering:  Is there an opportunity in the marketplace for what we call in our industry, 'Sales Reps'?  This being an individual who is between the manufacturer (or breeder in this case) and distributor, i.e. pet shops. <Yes indeed> I am currently the VP of an industrial technology firm that acts as a sales rep. and enjoy the work, but would be ecstatic performing the same function dealing with my passion, namely marine fish. <I encourage you to seek out excellent companies, products that you identify with (and are perhaps geographically desirable... do you want to rep. the livestock end of the industry?).> Just wondering if you have any insights into this. Much appreciated, David Groce <Mmm, there are a few industry publications you should contact, get hold of their recent "Buyer's Guide", which list most everyone in the trade and their pertinent information... How to go about this... Mmm, are you friendly with a "good" local retailer and can ask for "last year's issue"?

New LFS in SG Hi Dr Fenner <Just Bob, please> Just some quick words to let you know on the progress.  Well, I spoke to Perry, and we are looking at a possible arrangement for him to do some local harvesting on our behalf.  It should benefit both parties, he get subsidized for his diving hobby and maybe make some $$, I get cyanide free goods, though that will be somewhat limited in variety. <Sounds promising> On his importer friend, well, I believe I know who he is referring to, and unfortunately, I believe this same importer uses cyanide caught fishes, though the cyanide used in harvesting are of lesser amount relative to other importers in the country.  This information comes from the importer himself, he admitted it to me direct...... (that is if we are talking of the same guy)  Well, for the time being, it looks like I have to possibly import some of the items myself.  I will appreciate if your "net" includes such contacts :) <hint, hint> <I understand. In the meantime, do document your losses, work out a credit/replacement system as here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/lvstklscredsys.htm> Last but not least, the scale of my setup, the outfit should be the equivalent of about forty 4ft display tanks, discounting the water storage tanks etc.  Maybe this number will be useful in gauging the order amount? <Yes... but more useful will be your business and marketing plans. Have you figured out how much you need to sell to stay in business, interested... in both drygoods and livestock? Considering all expenses, including incidental losses? Bob Fenner> Best Regards n thanks again Edwin

Saltwater Aquarium Video Mr. Bob Fenner, <Hello Klaus> Let me introduce myself. My name is Klaus Henke and I'm a corporate video producer in the Chicago, Illinois area. I've been producing various types of videos for large and small corporations for 15 years. Recently, one of my cameramen and I were talking about doing a 'Special Interest Video' (retail niche videos, How-to-videos) As of now, we are researching several topics and one of our ideas is a video on how to establish and maintain a healthy saltwater aquarium. Could be a good idea, but my partner and I know nothing about the subject. <Help is available> I've been corresponding with Greg Morgan at ReefGeek.com and he suggested that I contact you. He says that you are one of the foremost experts in the field and might be able to answer some of our questions. I sincerely hope that you don't mind me e-mailing you, and asking you some questions. <Okay> We're in the initial stages of this endeavor. We're still trying to identify our subject, at the same time discovering various avenues for distribution and marketing. My partner and I have no problem producing a comprehensive and professional video - the other stuff is a whole new ballgame. The good thing is that we're learning and we recognize our shortcomings. It is not uncommon for the producers of a video to have limited knowledge of the subject matter, at least in the beginning. <I understand> The first questions I have are; Does this video exist? If so, is it current and any good? If not, is there a reasonable market for such a tape/DVD? <There have been a few attempts, some on personal initiative, others more "corporate" on general topics... like "set-up", identification... and a few of these are still available... Some series (the best, Paul Speice in WGBH's Guppies to Groupers) done on a grand scale...> Based on our limited research on saltwater aquariums, we need to keep the video basic. I understand there are various paths one could take in assembling a saltwater aquarium. My partner and I have viewed a video on how to setup a freshwater tank. The production value was very low, the pace was slow, the format was amateurish and it was done in the 80's. <The ones I have seen are all about the same in these ways> The one thing it had going for it was that it had a credible host. He was a Doctor from some New York aquarium. Unfortunately, he wasn't very compelling on camera. <Likely Paul Loiselle... and Tetra's (now part of Pfizer, formerly WLA) series... and they even over-dubbed someone else's voice...> In the perfect world, you would have an expert on the subject at hand that knows how to talk on camera. Our thought is to have an expert accompanied by a host who drives the piece and asks the pertinent questions. Much like that old home building show starring Norm and Bob.  <A winner> I'll have no problem finding our 'Bob Vila' (the host), but the challenge will be finding the expert in the Chicago area. Do you know of anyone in the Chicago area that might be interested? <Mmm, maybe close enough... I am going to cc, refer you to John Dawe of the resident marine club (hobbyist... he's good and also a pharmacist) and three of my cohorts here (WetWebMedia), Steve Pro and Anthony Calfo (in Pittsburgh, hope it's not so far), and Lorenzo Gonzalez (right in your town)... and hope they will cooperate with your project> If you have the time, I would highly appreciate some suggestions on content. What would you like to see in the video? What should be covered? (i.e.; fish compatibility, filter systems, etc.) <... this will/would take a few tens of hours... am too busy to take on such an endeavor> I think the structure should follow a set-by-set process of a potential buyer and their subsequent setup of the tank.. What are their first questions? What do they need to decide before dropping a single dime? Then get into assembling a healthy tank. What are the pitfalls? Please keep your suggestions at a laymen's level, for I'm not an expert on saltwater aquariums. <I have a popular book in print, "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist", that addresses these issues... in order... for a wide interest and ability level audience... This work parallels classes, pitches I have given for many years on set-up... I strongly encourage your perusing it as an outline> I would like this video geared toward someone who has a limited knowledge of how to establish and maintain a saltwater aquarium. It might even be somebody who is contemplating the notion of a purchase. <Good idea... the broadest market... though I would ask Anthony re a Coral Propagation, other more special interest titles as well> Be aware, we plan to put this on DVD, as well as VHS. We would like to utilize the chapter aspect of DVD. If this is successful, we might produce additional videos covering other aspects of saltwater aquariums and/or more detailed information. (A series) <There is room for this media in the West> Since my partner and I will be investing substantial amount of capital into the production and marketing of the video, and there is no guarantee we will make our money back, we will not be in the position to pay our on-camera expert or advisors, but we plan to compensate participants with product placement and/or credit (free advertising). Appearing or being mentioned in a commercially available video can prove to be quite beneficial. <Yes> Again, we are in the infancy of this, but if the planets align and we discover that there is a reasonable market for this product, I would like to move forward. I look forward to hearing from you and hope you can answer some of our questions. Your input will be extremely appreciated. <If it doesn't take much time, ask away> Feel free to visit my website. If you go to demos, you can view some of my work. Look forward to your response. Klaus Henke Elatica Productions, Inc. 847-707-2827 klaus@elatica.com www.elatica.com and .net <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Re: A business idea Thanks for your input! I was getting the same feeling but wanted to bounce the idea off of you. <Glad to be a sounding board... I have VAST experience in ideas re the interest... some of them tried and bombed...> I wanted to make it to MACNA but I didn't think to order my plane tickets far enough in advance. <We drove from San Diego! Brutal, but Di had about 1,500 pounds of merchandise to show... Maybe next time try the Last minute type tickets on Travelocity.com or such>> I would like to get into the "trade" but I don't want to sell anything. We have extensive database skills, web design skills, and programming skills. Where do you see the need? <Many possibilities... the Net is soon to change, and many co.s (including ornamental aquatics, dive/travel adventure will go to video, out of still images... I would help set up Corbis.com like businesses to sell content or its viewing... Bob F> -Jeremy

Re: query (Store owner wants to sell marines... doesn't know jack... knives from carangids) Respected sir well sir i was asking that after how many months should i add fish. Suppose if i started set up today then can i add fish from today or after 2 months. I will be waiting for your reply. MONTY <My friend and industry associate... if you don't know the answer to these elementary questions, you should leave off with handling this livestock for now... They will die on you, and you are unable to help your customers. Please read through our business subweb: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm and the many linked files beyond. Bob Fenner>

LFS concerns Hello, I am concerned for my town and probably a lot of other towns in this country. I strolled into my local LFS today with the sole purpose in mind to get some crickets for our lizard. I noticed an anchor coral (Euphyllia), that had been in the shop for quite a while, that was not doing so well. I told the person that was waiting on me, that I would buy that coral because it didn't look like it was in real good shape. I was gonna try and make a better situation for the coral to exist in. I was told that they probably wouldn't sell anything out of that tank, but she'd check with the owner anyways. When she came back, she told me that " no it's not for sale and we all die sometime referring to the coral)" Needless to say, I left a little ticked off. I still haven't figured out if I even want to buy crickets in there anymore!!! Any help or advice? thanks, ce <My head aches... and heart breaks when I encounter such anecdotes... perhaps this is indicative of why the folks in Western Europe have had this genus banned from import... Please do engage this person, store... in dialogue... what is important to people? It's a beautiful world... to appreciate, use positively... the loss of a moment, a gesture, a chance for acknowledging what is... I can only imagine such a slight as being a part of a tired, disassociated person's response. Bob F>

Ooops....ECO Hello Bob, <Hey Carl> It's a new week so the adventure continues. You said to ask some specific questions, so here goes it. In demographics, what Fish Magazines do you think are worthy in advertising?  <In order... for your gear... FAMA by a long shot... your type of customer and the trade scour this zine... and then TFH (beginners mag. mainly), lastly AFM (very expensive for ad costs)... Other co- efforts at promotion (calls, trade and hobby shows, visiting distributors, large e-tailers... will greatly amplify the results of print ad.s here... Don't do one without these others.> I know they all post their subscription ratings, but are these inflated or can they be relied upon? <FAMA and TFH don't have much... Only AFM has much in the way of subscription levels... We (WWM) have many more readers, hours, exposure than all three of these combined... just to give you an idea...> What magazines have you found to be the most cost beneficial? <All for me... for many different reasons... FAMA is the biggest (most words, ad.s... you've got to read between the lines here... TFH has rack sales, occasional good to excellent content, AFM is beautifully done, but skimpy... has great content> Also, in talking with a few reps from various mag.s, there seems to be a very long waiting list as far as getting published articles about our product.  <Yes... very great lags at times... you'll miss this "season" entirely from this point> What tricks (if any) are involved in getting quicker responses? To the thick of it, what are the trade secrets? <Really? Simply contacting (calls, emails, letters... visits) the "people in charge"... I'll gladly forward, introduce you to David Boruchowitz (TFH), Sue Steele (FAMA), David Gauch (AFM)... send a draft of "introduction" and I'll forward same> We're hoping to get Sam Gamble to possibly help us in obtaining objective research to educate and avoid misunderstanding within the hobbyists community. He too, has expressed the cautions that could be faced with the many skeptics out there. <Good things to have, know> Okay, another direct question....how difficult is it to get into (say) Dr. Fosters? <If you have a "going proposition"... real product/s with packaging, draw... they and others will find you... or you can approach them pre-emptively... Met Kevin Kohen and cohort Chuck of Dr.s F&S at the last MACNA and have talked, emailed back and forth... he's sharp, and they have a good thing going... Ask them/him...> We're still not for sure in our marketing strategy, whether to distribute it ourselves with the internet power or let it get out to distributors?  <Try both IMO for now... get the product out there, see what the market thinks, hone your spiels, presentations, labeling, instructions... you'll see> We know we need more product recognition and published articles in various mag.s, and web forums, so we will be patient, but would highly consider your thoughts on distribution strategies? <Ask Bob Goemans, other "product testing" types (Craig Bingman, Dana Riddle, Randy Farley...) to try it out and write re... this takes time and AGAIN is NOT THE ONLY THING I would do (man, that's bright). Sell some units, put them on display in large/r fish stores in your area... Ask folks (with popular related websites) to link your site? Call the many hobby clubs and make offers to give talks at their meetings... not too slanted, but re water quality, and a short bit re who you are, the history of your involvement in the hobby, trade... You can find these clubs and contacts on the Net.> And how's the weather up there, we got a cold front that blew into Houston and it's freaking cold here. Everyone has the blasted sniffles. Hope all is well there!!!!!!!!!! <Too chilly for me... had to put on a tee this AM... time to get out and travel in the tropics! Bob Fenner> Cheers once again, Carl Denzer ECO-Aqualizer

Tropics do sound good! Hey Bob, Thanks once again for your wise input. We'll get an "intro" letter to you ASAP and greatly appreciate having it forwarded to those important peoples! <Glad to be of assistance> I just had this great vision, picture this...the ECO-Aqualizer placed right below the name WetWebMedia on your home page. Then a glamorous Mermaid crawls out of the ECO tube, wearing nothing but a "pink" hula skirt (much like the one that you were wearing on your 'meet the staff page'). Now that's a vision of philosophy! <What we're we thinking about? Oh... we'll be working on that concept. Be chatting. Bob F> Nice chatting, Carl

Re: shop Business plan, yes I have done that 3 years ago for my own aquarium shop. Unfortunately my very limited budget did not allow me to stay in it. <A very usual story for oh so many small business owners.> Now is a different story. Somebody offered me to manage an aquarium shop in his hydroponics warehouse/shop which I'm doing that, everything from scratch! I have been in the aquarium hobby for 14 years and in this industry for 8 years. <Good experience!> I specialize is marine-reef aquariums, but I'm planning to have about 200 fish tanks, 140 liters each, <Liters multiplied by 0.264 equals gallons, ~37 gallons in this case.> including 32 marine tanks. 18 separate filtrations systems, including protein skimmers and ozonizers for marine sections. <This sounds like a bit of a maintenance nightmare to me, 32 tanks with 18 separate filtration systems. I would prefer just a hand full. A few fish systems, one invert system, and perhaps a few coral systems, no more than a half dozen.> Each of the 8 tanks owns one filtration system which is a trickle filter - freshwater and marine - in this stage $$$ is not the issue, I think any suggestions, tips, etc. <See above and the many articles and FAQ's in the link I sent you last time.> Thanks, John from Melbourne <Good luck to you in your endeavor! -Steven Pro>

shop (New Retailer in the Land Down Under...) Hi! I just set up an aquarium shop in Australia. Do you have any suggestions about that? John <First off John, write a business plan. This will help to discover how much capital you need to get off the ground and keep things going until sales pick up. Most businesses fail because they did not write a business plan, were undercapitalize, or over exaggerated their potential. Please see here for additional information http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm Good luck to you! -Steven Pro>

ECO-Aqualizer Hi Bob, <Carl> Been searching your web site for some very important statistics....and daren't, can't find any. Actually, I've searched the entire internet and can not come up with any good info. Okay, I guess I should reveal my request before you begin to curse me. <Most such stat.s are not accumulated... those that are... are proprietary> My business planner is wanting to provide published "Statistics on Aquarium Consumers". I know the industry is a close to $4 billion industry....and researched that about $400 million in livestock imported into the USA, and Florida alone reported $99 million in livestock sales.  <Mmm sounds about right... for the whole pet trade> I've been able to find published data on livestock expenditures in the USA, BUT no where can I find any stats on aquarium products expenditures. <Tetra (was WLA now Pfizer) tries to sort this out...> The Honolulu.com published some data that expressed that for ever $1 spent on livestock equates to about $5 for aquarium supplies. Which, I assume is a good ratio for backing into an actual number of aquarium consumers. <I think you're right... and this seems like a good guesstimate> I just wanted to pick your brain and see if you could point me in a direction that I might find some statistics. If I get lucky and find some annual reports with reputable stats, I would be more than welcome to supply you the info, if you wanted to post this type of data to your website. <There are industry publications... some national some inter- so... that do gather such info... to an extent... May I ask, more specifically, what is it you want to know, or more to the point, what is the data intended to do?> And also, we have been conversing with a friend of yours, I believe a friend of yours...Sam Gamble. He's very interested in our application, as he has been playing around with magnetics for years. His new CD has a section that covers the dynamics and biotic benefits. This could be a good conceptual recognition in this industry, especially for our new company. I'm sure a wave of followers will soon creep in. <I and likely you hope so. I do know Sam... an admirable spirit> Anyway, good talking with you... and me and my partner have no doubt that you will be able to provide the most detailed, most dramatic highlights regarding the consumer stats. (sigh) , anything will be helpful. <I do get out to some of the larger manufacturer's annual (sales mainly) meetings... but purposely do not carry away any printed materials (because I am fully aware of my personal ineptitude at not spreading such about...)... only know a bit about what goes on in the trade. Ask specific questions and I will endeavor to find answers for you. Bob Fenner> Take care as always, Carl Denzer

ECO-Aqualizer Hi Bob, <Carl> Been searching your web site for some very important statistics....and daren't, can't find any. Actually, I've searched the entire internet and can not come up with any good info. Okay, I guess I should reveal my request before you begin to curse me. <Most such stat.s are not accumulated... those that are... are proprietary> My business planner is wanting to provide published "Statistics on Aquarium Consumers". I know the industry is a close to $4 billion industry....and researched that about $400 million in livestock imported into the USA, and Florida alone reported $99 million in livestock sales.  <Mmm sounds about right... for the whole pet trade> I've been able to find published data on livestock expenditures in the USA, BUT no where can I find any stats on aquarium products expenditures. <Tetra (was WLA now Pfizer) tries to sort this out...> The Honolulu.com published some data that expressed that for ever $1 spent on livestock equates to about $5 for aquarium supplies. Which, I assume is a good ratio for backing into an actual number of aquarium consumers. <I think you're right... and this seems like a good guesstimate> I just wanted to pick your brain and see if you could point me in a direction that I might find some statistics. If I get lucky and find some annual reports with reputable stats, I would be more than welcome to supply you the info, if you wanted to post this type of data to your website. <There are industry publications... some national some inter- so... that do gather such info... to an extent... May I ask, more specifically, what is it you want to know, or more to the point, what is the data intended to do?> And also, we have been conversing with a friend of yours, I believe a friend of yours...Sam Gamble. He's very interested in our application, as he has been playing around with magnetics for years. His new CD has a section that covers the dynamics and biotic benefits. This could be a good conceptual recognition in this industry, especially for our new company. I'm sure a wave of followers will soon creep in. <I and likely you hope so. I do know Sam... an admirable spirit> Anyway, good talking with you... and me and my partner have no doubt that you will be able to provide the most detailed, most dramatic highlights regarding the consumer stats. (sigh) , anything will be helpful. <I do get out to some of the larger manufacturer's annual (sales mainly) meetings... but purposely do not carry away any printed materials (because I am fully aware of my personal ineptitude at not spreading such about...)... only know a bit about what goes on in the trade. Ask specific questions and I will endeavor to find answers for you. Bob Fenner> Take care as always, Carl Denzer

Trade show (WWPSA/SuperZoo, Anaheim yesterday)    Hi Bob, I was nice to see you yesterday at the trade show. Sorry we weren't able to chat more but there was a lot going on. <Agreed... going up to these events for just a few hours on one day isn't near enough opportunity to chat, get things done...> Will be contacting Diana regarding the Knop line. <Real good. Hope to see you soon, Bob F> Barry/ (ClamsDirect)

Write offs (pet-fishing biz and the tax-man) Is it possible to write off the losses of fish that I experience in my new business? <Absolutely> I've been keeping a log of all my fish losses. In hopes of recovering my loss from the govt. Is this possible or a pipedream? <Not a pipedream. All the going businesses in the livestock field that I'm aware of charge off livestock losses... as well as electricity, rents, clothing, related travel/transportation costs... Do keep track of all expenses, and get help in detailing, doing your returns. Bob Fenner> Thanks In advance Steve Buchholz Manager Saltwater Specialties

Thinking about Starting a coral wholesale business in southeastern Michigan Hello Bob My name is Alex Gawura I don't know if you remember me but I met you in Michigan at the MASM club meeting. <I do recall> I was wondering what the range the cost of starting a wholesale operation for corals and other inverts would be? <A few to many thousands of dollars... If you have a/the location, some of the husbandry gear, a computer, a car/truck... not much for operating capital... If you wanted to (not advised) start off "running"... as opposed to "walking" in the biz, you would need a great deal of money to rent, buy all this...> I have about 7 years of experience and my partner has 10 years. We both are working in a retail store now and this idea popped into our heads that we might be able to start a wholesale operation. Any advice would be of great help. Thank you for your time Alex Gawura <Worthwhile investigating... Do start penciling, putting together a business plan and a marketing plan for your intended endeavor... If you haven't "done" these before, perhaps seek out the excellent help of your local SBA (Small Business Administration) dept. They have forms, suggestions for these processes, and even folks who can help you develop them. You will need such documents to help formulate in and between you and your partner who will do what and what all will do... and ultimately such plans to secure financing... for when your business is growing quickly... Please do read through the materials placed on WWM re the aquatics business: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/indarts.htm, try to secure some work in aspects of the wholesale ends of the trade, and determine where you want to be... livestock only, dry goods, importer/distributors... Bob Fenner>

Pet shops Bob, I hope my memory isn't failing me and you are the one who has written a series of article for FAMA related to starting a pet shop. <I am one of them, yes> I have a related question for you (if you are the one to be asking). There is a LFS who has a decent store. They seem to have a good business and deal with everything i.e. reptiles, fresh, salt, dogs, cats, rodents, birds, etc. Basically, they have it all. <Admirable. A difficult proposition> I was talking to one of the employees the other day and he said he thought the store grossed about $800K. I've always thought about opening a store (I know, there's a screw loose somewhere). When I was in there today, I jokingly asked the owner if he wanted to sell and he said he would for $1.6M which is what he says he grosses. Both of these figures seem impressive but really don't have a bearing on my questions which has a lot of variable. But basically I was wondering: If buying an established store, how does the gross receipts typically relate to the asking price? <In highly variable ways... There are stores that are profitable that have sold for little more than their stock/inventory and depreciated fixture prices... Others folks ask a fortune for, like in your example> I know that there is no hard answer but my first impressions was that if he is grossing an amount, whether it is $800K or $1.6M, then expecting to get that for it is unrealistic. I know the price all depends on the demand but what is your feeling on what a person could expect to get as a percentage of gross (or net) receipts? Thanks for your time. Kirk Pfeffer <Mmm, the gross and often net are typically employed in some fashion in estimating a sale price for a going business. In the service side of our industry some 3,4 to six times a months "take" is about right for buying actual accounts, routes. For retail stores, I would pay no more than a few months worth of sales...> Kirk R. Pfeffer <Please read over the Business part of our site: www.WetWebMedia.com for much more, particularly my re-use of Musashi's "Five Elements of Successful Retail" series. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Re: Pet shops Bob, Thank you very much for getting back to me. I realize that my question to you was loaded with so many variables, it was hard to dive into it with any degree of certainty. All in all, you told me what I wanted to hear. I have visited your site and have found it to be very good. It's loaded with useful information on a variety of subjects and is probably one of the best sites I have found. I also enjoy your articles in FAMA. Keep up the good work. Kirk <Thank you my friend. Will endeavor to do so. Bob Fenner>

Subject: Check out The National Geographic Channel @ nationalgeographic.com Ladies and Gentlemen, Take a look at this! National Geographic made a nice little show about our industry. Rob. ERI International o 202 Illinois Street o El Segundo, CA 90245 o USA o Tel: (310) 648-7258 o Fax: (310) 648-7611 o Personal Fax: (818) 222-6456 o Cell: (310) 877-8489 o Email: ERIfish@aol.com o www.erifish.com o o ><)))))))o> o <o(((((((>< <Thanks Rob, very nice. Bob Fenner>

Business start-up Hi- My name is Erin. I want to open a high end tropical fish store, selling FW and SW fish as well as reptiles/amphibians and some birds. I know set up cost are relative to space and geographic location, what kind of money might I be looking at? <Please read through the "Business Index" on our site: WetWebMedia.com> I know it will not be cheap! Do you have any words of wisdom? <Only hard-earned suggestions from experience, reflection. I will gladly share> Thanks for your time and input, Erin <Start planning my friend. Read through the FAQs files where I have sent you. Bob Fenner>

More copper/parasite info Hi again Bob. I don't really have a question but am just answering yours and have an amusing story. My Achilles died and had lots of white spots all over his head, my lion had/has spots on his eyes and tail/anal fins, zebra moray had/has spots and was scratching head on its cave, and puffer seems to have stuff on his skin and doesn't act normal. Pretty sure its ich or velvet. I have raised temp to 83, spg is still being lowered, eventually to 1.017. Going to hide some chopped garlic in their shrimp today and put some Selcon in the water. <Am hopeful this isn't the "amusing story" part> Here's a recount of one LFS visit yesterday. Spoke with this guy Patrick who I believe is the owner of Neptune's Tropical Fish, a little south of Denver. He calls himself the 'fish doctor' and said all of the fish stores around here call him for disease and treatment questions. He apparently has been in the business 20 years and has worked for public aquariums and zoos. A young guy, maybe late 30's so he shouldn't be too set in his ways. I was told that CopperSafe is completely ineffective and I should get it out with water changes and carbon before treatment. I decided to argue this point citing my education and the simplicity of this problem. Took a good five minutes to get him to listen/respect my opinion, very frustrating. My point was, any copper product will kill the parasites provided the free copper ion concentration is above their toxicity limit. <Yes, sigh> The problem with CopperSafe is lack of accurate testing. He scrounged up a bottle of CopperSafe in the back and read the directions. He then exclaims "This product doesn't cure velvet, this company doesn't know what their talking about" Each time I challenged him he replied "I've been coppering for 20 years" He treats his fish for 4 weeks and maintains copper in all of tanks.  <Typical... and detrimental> Fish actually looked healthy compared to other stores.  <"Just keep 'em pouring through"> I learned that Cupramine is difficult to overdose and can be raised to .6 ppm without a problem. I inquired why this is and he didn't know. He gave me more bad advice but I won't go into it. Amazing how one person could be doing so much damage to the hobby by giving out bad information. <Yes...> Do you believe the internet will put many stores out of business with cheaper prices and more convenience or will they just improve service and adapt?  <Am very much hoping the latter, but some of the former wouldn't bother me in the least. There will always be "market segments" in our industry... Quality, service, price, marginal... with outfits that can/will/should capitalize on one or the other... the "bad" stores should go (ones that don't know what they're doing, indulge in nefarious, deceptive practices... and better ones emerge, dominate... This has not happened historically however... Have campaigned to get rid of cyanide et al. poison/collection practices from all angles for decades... practice still persists... due to consumer blindness, apathy, arrogance/ignorance... My advice? Vote with your dollars, feet.> I have pondered running a fish store since I was a kid but I am skeptical of the future of most retail business. I save 20 to 30% ordering from marine depot and my stuff comes right to the door. My fish seem to be improving this morning. <There is this... but also a need, place for "good" retailers... W/o them there will be no e-tailers, I assure you. Bob Fenner> Cheers Sean from Denver

Your Aquaria Biz Articles! Bob! I really enjoyed reading your aquaria business articles on WetWebMedia. I about to take the plunge into applying for a Small Business Loan to fund my venture into online live plant sales. <Ah, very good... A propitious time to be getting into this field> However, I am lost as to how I will be able to gather research on nationwide market size and the strength of competitors online. I know I need this information for the loan process. Do you have any ideas as to how I might go about getting this info? <You're on your way... Do look through the SBA documents on how to build a business and marketing plan for help here... and use your search engines to find the few other companies in the field... and if you can, visit some of the plant farms in Florida... and come visit Aquarama in Singapore (with my entourage/friends if you'd like) this May coming... take a look on the net, and be prepared to be "blown away" at what you'll find, the very reasonable prices... Much more to share. Bob Fenner>

Aquarama 2001 Hi Robert, If you were at Aquarama 2001 on Saturday afternoon, I may have seen YOU!! Were you spending sometime at the Aqua Medic booth talking with the AquaMedic representative from Germany? <Actually yes! As you might surmise from my writing efforts I really enjoy the hobby, science and business of pet-fishing... and am a chat-a-thon at get-togethers> I did see someone talking with him at the coffee table for sometime. <Maybe was me. Sorry we didn't meet, get to talk. Perhaps at a later venue. Bob Fenner> John

LFS in Phoenix area Hello Bob - I saw this question (copied below) and your response in the "new question" section of WWM.com. I live in the Phoenix area and was wondering if you could share with me what store you are talking about. I have visited an *excellent* shop on 32nd Street in Phoenix, but can't recall the name. My guess is that's the shop (unless you're talking about a wholesaler). But if it isn't, I'd sure like to visit the one you mention! Thanks! Jay Thompson <Do believe you are right on the address here... and the three fine gentleman who own and run this retail outlet... Am up at the Western Marine Conference in Monterey right now... so can't get to other reference work... do call around and ask for Eric Amadio (a friend in common there who has a service company in Phoenix... Be chatting. Bob Fenner> (From a LFS owner in Little Rock, AR.) How is the best way to receive in the fish, acclimate them, and quarantine them? <Yikes... much to state here... wish you had time for a visit to some of my L.A. friends wholesale businesses... and to a certain excellent shop in Phoenix that does exactly what I know you need, will want to do... For now, please read over the "Acclimation" and "Guerilla Acclimation Techniques" sections posted on our website: www.WetWebMedia.com and all the business section...>

Pleased to meet you Bob It was a real pleasure to visit with you in my shop. I have talked it over with the rest of the BOD of AMDA and we think you ought to be an honorary member of AMDA( of course if you want to pay, the dues are only $50/yr) anyway, if you accept please let me know what you want your listing to say on the website under member directory, we can probably add "author" ( www.amdareef.com ).  <Yes, please... a short bio. is posted on the www.WetWebMedia.com site> We would also like to set up a link with your site. <Of a certainty! I have a link to the AMDA already on the WWM site> I haven't had a chance to really peruse your site yet but from what I've seen I like it a lot. While at the WMC please don't forget to drop off a couple of signed books off to Mary Middlebrook at the AMDA booth for us to raffle off, or you can send them if it's easier, just let me know.  <Will haul up (am giving three pitches!) and give to Mary> I have a feeling since you spent some time growing up in Japan that you are probably a Sushi fan, and I wish I had thought to tell you about a place in Palm Springs that is the best, oh well...  <Thank you... yes, big sushi fan... but fresh out of time in PS...> I would love to e-mail you some pictures of some of our work, I feel that we have some top notch aquariums that I would love to see in print, but I know you probably have tons of pics already so let me know if its ok to send some.  <I suggest you put them on your public site... and better still, try to get someone (finally!) to publish same (along with our friend/associate Jeff Turner, and so many others systems, mechanicals...) in a book! Maybe Microcosm/TFH...> Also please let me know if you ever use any of the pics you took at the shop.  <Will do so... sent off to Fuji for processing... one can only hope... And if run as covers, will send you the separations... and give credit in the captioning if I pen it...> Again Bob, I really enjoyed your company and hope you had a nice visit to the desert, let me know if you're ever out here again.  <Will do so. Meeting you, visiting your shop was the highlight of my trip. Great to see earnest, self-employed people in our trade who are "doing things right"... your shop was... almost too immaculate, organized... sort of like a "movie version"... not a working model!> I do have a few connections in the hotel industry and might be able to score you a real nice room for cheap. Looking forward to hearing from you, and hope to see you around. <Thank you my friend. Bob Fenner> Sincerely, Tim Cummings (Vicious Fishes, Palm Springs/Indio)

New LFS! hi bob...my friend and I are seriously considering opening a pet store. we want to have marine fish and corals, freshwater fish, reptiles and birds...I have read all of your articles from your website and found them to be very helpful...could you please send me some info on the types of magazines and newsprints that pet stores get that you mentioned in one of your articles...are the helpful?? <Hmm, how best to do this? Have you had the occasion, or can make it now to visit/work with an existing business of this kind? Invaluable... The second experience I can't encourage you enough to engage is to attend (all the days) an upcoming "trade show" in the industry... Take a look at the Links pages on www.WetWebMedia.com under the commercial list... at the bottom, search the ongoing resources through the shows listed...> ..I would like to read as much as I can before we do this...do you know of any other articles besides the ones on your website that a pet store owner might have written about this, sort of sharing his experience like you have??...any info would be greatly appreciated...thanks....Jeff <There are many... but they are not really "that" relevant or timely... unfortunately... due to the twin natures of the subject material (vast, diffuse, multi-disciplinary) and the dearth of real "writers" (ha!) in the field (pays little or... nothing). Do continue to gather information, drawings, outlines, contacts, develop a business and marketing plan, practice making presentations to would-be investors, lenders... all will come together soon enough. Bob Fenner, who welcomes you to the industry.>

Petco possible improvement?  Hi Bob,  The last time we spoke it was about 8-9 years ago. At the time I worked at the New York, Hicksville Petco as the aquarium specialist.  <Ah, yes... and very glad to find you're still in the trade!>  During that time I was flustered with the lack in knowledge of most of the employees that worked there.  <I understand, believe me.> Because of their lack in knowledge I was the only person who was allowed to work overtime( it was forbidden). The  reason of the allowance was not because of the store I worked, but the  other Petcos around the area. I was the troubleshooter/fish doctor of the east coast. After 3 and a half years I left to work at a different store as a manager for about 7 years and am now self employed. <Everyone should be at least once... and married at least twice... you may quote me> Recently I came into a Petco (Levittown) and to my surprise, nothing had seem to change at all: the fish were named wrong, certain systems were off, the tanks were dirty and there ! was one around. Since then, I tried calling several Petco "officials" to offer my services but seem to come to a dead end every time. The last thing I heard was that there was already a livestock coordinator handling the east coast. To cut to the point, during the time I was there you had some control, I am wondering if Petco's are looking for possible improvements of their stores because I am offering it...Please let me know, I don't want to sound brute but there is so much potential in these stores only if they improve.  Thank you for your attention, Please let me know,  sincerely, Peter Hoang (owner of Aquariums Alive!)  <Whatever "wheels" that might represent "progress" don't seem even round at the mass merchandisers... You might try contacting Petco corporate here in San Diego, California... I would suggest via snail mail, faxing, requesting some sort of audience... but on the other hand, let me just thank you for your concern for the animals' health that is endangered/lost by too much of "their" ignorance and worse, apathy... My impression is that this company will be gone out of the livestock part of the trade in short order (a few years)... a shame, for what good, exposing so many folks to the beauty, splendour, wonder of the living aquatic world... As you know, for the three years I invested there I worked endlessly to "make sense" of the livestock part of the pet-industry to the uppermost Petco management and Board... some things made better, but since then... They should have stuck with just smaller, simpler systems, beginner gear, tank sizes... a more limited width, but greater depth assortment... Real Tanks and mechanicals, controllers for their livestock holding systems... Allowed the on-site personnel to run the departments as "stand alones" profit, personnel... wise.... Well, as you know, I can/could go on... Have started to post my "Aquatics Business" efforts on the site: www.wetwebmedia.com and am hopeful of some modicum of positive influence coming from this... Will be putting on our old corporations (Nature Etc., Inc.) Operations Manuals as well, FYI... including the Service, Retail, and Construction Division's... and Finance Admin. for all... take a look from time to time... may be useful to you/your business. Be chatting. Bob Fenner> 

An Upcoming Premiere Pet-Fish Retailer Like we talked about I am very very interested in becoming a LFS. I am just outside Jacksonville Florida. We are about 30 minutes from the beach. The only real game in town is called Aqua zoo. ( WWW.jaxpets.com ) They are nice and are always busy. But to me they really do not seem to know exactly what they are doing. <Sounds like an opportunity a brewing in your head...> I got into the fish thing in may of this year and feel totally hooked. I love my tanks. I love my fish. And have since gotten several other friends into it as well. I started helping them with their tanks and thought "this could be a cool thing to do and make a living at it." and from there I just got further and further into it. <It is a fabulous interest... all-encompassing> I did my BS at FSU in Accounting and a Masters in Tax. (I know at least a little about business) The technology thing seemed a little more exciting than the number thing and I ended up really into the IT field. <Understandable> I have read your book and a couple others (......read them Before I heard of yours... You don't think that I would cheat on you do you?) So Now that we know just a little about me and that I am thinking of doing this with a Aquarium stand maker who knows the business pretty well, I have a ton of questions. <Hmm, me too> He will be able to make all the stands (at a good price too I might add) as well as design and layout of how the store and filtration systems will be. He can make anything and has made quite a bit of things for a few other stores. (He sells to PETCO as well. I noticed that you worked for them). My Questions here are this: 1. Do you have any ideas on a Centralized filtration system that works better than others or that proved to be better than others through your trial and error through the years. Do you have anything documented about this? Or is centralized even the way to go? <Centralized is definitely the way to go... maybe but for a couple of more specialized systems (e.g. Discus, Brackish...). And Build It Yourself is the best route to go... a few subsystems... Koi/goldfish/coldwater... marine invert., marine fishes...> 2. Do you like Acrylic or Glass in a Store setting (to sell fish) I know the advantages of each in the home setting but what about in a store setting? (any that I have not thought of?) <Acrylic for sure... holds value longest, easiest to work with... gives store the appearance of being "with it"... and no better way to sell then to use what you offer...> 3. What lesson in the LFS experience proved to be the hardest learned or most valuable? ( I am all ears for this one) <Oh, man! This is a huge question... Okay, that you have to/want to know most everything, about business, human nature, the fields of pet-fishing... and that this is impractical... humans don't live long enough> 4. Any thing that you have that you could "Cut and Paste" on how to do this would be great. I am really looking for the things that most people either just don't know or just never figure out. <Check out the SBA's help, their SCORE programs, work for folks in the trade first...> 5. Would you be willing to let me fly you (first class) to Jacksonville and act as a weekend consultant in the future. After we have everything set up and able to be judged and modified by what ever word fell from your lips. We could come up with some sort of Rate or something that would be to your best interest. I am not rich but realize the Hard cold cash value of someone who has walked down the road and could say here are the bumps you should watch out for and these are the things you should change or implement NOW. I am 30 minutes from the air port and of course all expenses would be paid. (If the timing was right we could visit a jags game, eat sushi or something as well.) <Willing to come out, but not 1st class... no worries, my legs are short and am used to being further back in the plane... Time allowing... and do get out that way once or twice a year already... could stop by.> Your Acolyte, Sean Warren <Bob Fenner>

The Pet-fish Industry, starting a store, service company BOB, How do people start a fish store? <A few principal routes... earnest hobbyists, entrepreneurs...> I mean can they really afford to start a business get it all together, set it all up and then sit around and wait for tanks to mature. (while still paying rent for 2 months with no business?). <More than months, more like two years in general... And "how"? Bootstrap financing, SBA et al types of business loans, family/friends, angels of different sorts on the money side...> What is the "big trick" here?  <None really. Knowing what to do, and doing it... see below> Also if you know of any cool books or sites or anything on the subject of starting a fish store would love to have more info. I am thinking of giving it a shot. Do you have a FAQ on this some where tucked away?  <Will be posting my collective insights, others input and our old companies operations manuals per your prompting... See the www.wetwebmedia.com site... have already started to make space, an index for these sections... will post "five critical elements" this week... a few hundred more files on/at your prompting... For now, do volunteer, beg to hang around a retailer and other functionary in our interest... better experience cannot be had... and is absolutely necessary... and at the same time seek out a vested partner... other individual that you trust explicitly who can/will be "on the floor" with you (you can't do retail alone, nor is it fun to try)...> Also any info on a tank service is equally appreciated. I know that there are a few lessons that some where down the line you had to learn the "hard" way and maybe you could share some. I love your site and visit almost every day. Thanks for all you do and for your previous help. I assure you that EVERY sale in my store will be accompanied by your book The Conscientious Marine Aquarist. It's just that good. Your fellow Acolyte, Sean Warren <Your wishes and hopes are live to me my friend, and help is available. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Joining in the Pet Fish Industry fray Bob, been a short while (ooh, bad oxy), but out of curiosity, as a recent realization of the lack of quality retail stores for reef biotopes, and the lack of captive propagation being a factor in the business of these "LFS's, which, from experience working at one, most likely get far more net business than most (often locally obscure) companies that revolve around propagation, what advice could you offer someone like me one the opening of a local reef-specific retail store... I still want to go to college, etc etc., yet I can't stand by much longer and watch the ignorance get all the money (well, not money, how about customers/local business), ESPECIALLY when this ignorance will sell WILD CAUGHT unhealthy LS to any yuppie with a spring-loaded wallet/check book...I know you were involved in this business quite sometime, and I come to you for advice, this has recently become a semi-unattainable dream of mine...and I have been further spurred by my resignation from my LFS due to the owners continued refusal to initiate responsible husbandry and propagation, as well as importation of stuff like chambered nautili (spell?) (most likely in the later stages of life PRIOR to purchase by people who think they can keep them in a reef tank and have NO CLUE as to their needs/behavior in the wild, MUCH LESS how to acclimate these qualities to an ecologically restricted aquarium life...please advise... (BTW, I know, I know, noble but illogical/unrealistic) thank you as always.... Chris <Ah, a worthy vocation... the best advice is 1) to work for folks in the field (which you state you have done), and 2) to partner up (as in equity-stake, on-the-floor relationship with a like minded/hearted individual... and 3) to visit excellent stores and adopt/adapt the parts of their businesses you admire... not just in the US of course... Other than these generalizations, do keep goosing me to put much more of my commercial articles/book sections on the WWM site... get your hands on the industry magazines (such as they are) and read over PIDA and APPMA's site's offerings... (Pet Industry Distributors Association), (American Pet Product Manufacturer's Association)... Have you attended any of the regional retailer shows? Plan on doing so... Contact the SBA (Small Business Association), and read through their invaluable materials... talked with your family, bank, develop business and marketing plans... Much to do my friend, and I will help you. Bob Fenner>

The Pet-Fish Industry. Joining it We are investigating the possibility of investing in a company that manufactures acrylic tanks, servicing those tanks on a regular basis and selling aquatics to the public. They focus on the high end of the business. I would like to know the size of the industry. If you could direct me to the proper sources I would be grateful Also the names and times of trade shows that would be conducive for us. Thank you Arthur Foss <You've come to the right place. Headed up a company (Nature Etc., Inc.) in California that did just these things (for twenty years, and it's still going on as a service division). But/and there are no statistics as far as I'm aware about how big these elements of the business of ornamental aquatics are... However, I will assure you there are companies making good money in these endeavors and the business is able to be much larger, more sophisticated, and is open to folks with ability, drive and integrity. Do you know business? Pet-fishing? Maybe you can be one of us.  I would contact the APPMA (American Pet Products Manufacturer's Association), PIDA (Pet Industry Distributor's Association) and subscribe to all the industry/business publications to get a good idea of what sort of trade you're getting involved in... AND very importantly, if at all possible, sign onto a going company for a few months and work for them (for free if need be) to answer the yes/no question for yourself (do you want to be associated?), and we'll be chatting.  Bob Fenner, WetWebMedia.com

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