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A Visit With Quality Marine, L.A. Livestock Wholesaler


Bob Fenner

A look down an aisle at Quality Marine

With all the 'bad' news being spouted off in the world, it seems that "enmity rules". When's the last time you heard 'Rush' praise the 'liberals' or saw more happy stories than sad in the papers?

Alas, even the fish industry has such detractors; for whatever personal agenda, axe to grind reasons who want to slander their competitors with innuendo and anecdotal accusations that 'their' livestock is inferior to ours assertions.

Having spent thirty plus years in the trade I can assure you that the vast majority of bad news about fish, invertebrate and plant importers/distributors is fabrication. Think about this; poisoning the environment is outright outlawed in all countries. If the collection of organisms proves to be ultimately destructive to native habitats market forces here and the powers that be in these countries shut down, and confiscate the property of the perpetrators.

Enough of this angry negativity without accurate, significant and meaningful facts I say. Pointing the finger at what might be wrong without reason's) and beneficial suggestion's) is a waste of resource.

Very happily, in our industry/interest there are paragons of excellence that beyond the almighty dollar have pushed the envelope on developing and implementing ever-better technology and systems for providing the consumer with the best livestock. Herein is the company Quality Marine of Los Angeles, California, and its long-running owner/manager, Mr. Phil Shane.

A Historical Approach:

How to go about telling you the stories of this business? Quality Marine is an ever-evolving mix of ideas and experiments by Phil Shane & crew .

Mr. Shane came into the trade some twenty six years back from the high-pressure world of cosmetics manufacture, sales and distribution (Max Factor fifteen years). he paid his 'dues' by working in the retail side by first building out and operating a marine life concession at a L.A. retailer. Phil soon found himself graduating from this to his own small retail shop, and believing the marine interest to be "not a fad, but a fundamental undertaking", set out on developing his own marine livestock wholesaling business.

Checking around the LAX airport area, he had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of Allen Jones, who became a friend and guide as well as his landlord. After many Saturdays and holidays of work Phil had to choose and decide- he resigned from Max Factor and dedicated himself to his real love, the marine wholesale business.

Let me seque to some of the interesting aspects of Quality Marine, for it's more than the best of marine livestock wholesaling.

New Products Introductions/Distribution:

Sander's Products; ozonizers, skimmers, et al., Gamma Foods, Tropical Marine Center's excellent ultraviolet sterilizers, Tropic Marin salt mix, etc. Norton bio-rings were/are all brought to you via QM's efforts. Seeing the need for 'real' products for serious aquarists, the company attends international trade shows, and have brought to the U.S. markets the best they have found.

Books like Martin Moe's Beginner to Breeder and Helmut Debelius Marine Invertebrates (and other titles in honor of Roger Lubbock), came about as a consequence of their efforts; consistent with Quality's endorsement of the retailer's use of printed media as well as video.

A few notes here to give you a feel for how Quality monitors all livestock; they are good record keepers. When fishes come in their system is tagged inside and out. Receiving reports per shipment include quality of livestock, mortality, unusual events. All of this information is computerized and analyzed, shared with sources.

The company has an incredibly low shipping mortality; according to records, less than one percent. This they attribute to several factors. They pay more, know where their fish come from, help set up collecting stations... I'd also like to throw my two cents worth in regarding their staff. In the fickle world of pet-fish wholesale, many people change their jobs frequently; not at Quality. They have many good people who have been with the company for years. Having good systems and stock does you no good if your people are unwilling or unable to put them to optimal use. Quality Marine is blessed with conscientious, friendly people.

A final 'plug' for the company in it's use of Jim Mulloney as a consultant. Jim goes out to new areas and to keep check on established ones. Even though fishes are some four times the landed cost of those from the Philippines, they arrive as if from Hawaii; alive and vigorous. By hiring, training and setting up the local people as collectors/shippers Quality has pleased the government and citizenry of several countries.

Of a certainty there are many other wonderful and competent people in the wholesale part of marine aquarium keeping. For retailers, Quality Marine is definitely one that lives up to its name.

Photo/Caption Material:

1-4) The man himself, Phil Shane at work. 1-3 show Phil in his office with a terminal hooked up to everything: pumps, water level, temperature sensors... water quality, filter automatic cycles... and yes, Phil and Mike's home computers and telephones should a parameter go out of whack... all in real time. Slide 4 is Phil next to their fish systems huge fluidized bed filter (150 gallons per minute! Three minutes per week maintenance)

5-7) Marcos Luna, Head of Operations, showing us one of the foam fractionators on the main fish system, replete with automatic rinse cycle, (6) four gigantic ammonia/ring towers, (7) Quality's immaculately clean and orderly tanks. Each can be adjusted to variable height, discharge and drained completely. The cubicle system QM utilizes is one of their own design, engineering and manufacture. The cubes are produced with their molds in the orient with opaque sides to limit visibility/aggression/fear between individuals and consequent damage; perfect for clown anemone fishes, dwarf angels...

8, 9) Another view of the centralized systems fluidized bed filter and protein skimming systems. Quality uses Tropic Marin (tm) synthetic salt mix in all of it's operations, from acclimation, holding to shipping. This of course is more expensive than simply treating natural seawater which they could have gathered from the nearby Pacific coast, but is far superior in rendering a consistently high quality, stable medium, reducing the chances of parasite, pest or pollution introduction/proliferation.

10) A typical scene; a healthy tank of consistent size, ready to go Yellow-tail blue, (Hippo for you East Coasters) Paracanthurus hepatus tangs. I wish all wholesalers and retailers enjoyed and displayed the quality and diversity of life that is a standard experience here.

11) Some of the water quality parameters that are cross-checked manually (against/compared with electronics) for the various systems (fish, invertebrate, acclimation, shipping).

12) Don't you wish you had one of these at home? A air-powered acrylic tank cleaning tool in action. No wonder the place always looks so good. Hats off to Gabriel Aguilar for the innovative design and fabrication of Quality's excellent physical plant components.

13) The receiving/acclimation tables; pure genius. Pay close attention here. Note the upright blue and red discharge ports. On arrival many things must be done quickly and intelligently. On opening and sorting of new livestock care must be taken to "meet the arrivals half-way". The red outlets deliver water that has been treated with lowered pH and more to accommodate conditions "in the bag". This treated water (yes, it is Tropic Marin tm)) is vented to waste and blended slowly with the 'blue valve' water that is of 'normal' system make-up. The puffers here are being routinely isolated (as they secrete toxins when shipped) and treated with tetracycline. Check out the construction of the facility; it's made of PVC sheet. What a dream.

14-16) Some of my 'old' photos of Quality Marine from the early eighties showing the wood and fiberglass/resin tanks that Phil originally built. (16) shows the invertebrate cup system as it was, providing individual circulation while precluding fighting. The 'new' QM has done away with all block and wood artifices, replacing these with high tech materials, and many innovations. For instance the anemone quarters utilize a specialized type of carpeting which greatly aids in preventing the tearing of basal discs.

2013 MASNA Aquarist of the Year Nominations - response requested by 8/8/13    8/1/13
Hello past MASNA Aquarist of the Year Winners!
<Hey Amanda>
Attached is the nominee summary for this year's MASNA Aquarist of the Year Award.  Twelve nominees were selected:  Karen Britain, Jeremy* *Brower, Christopher Buerner, Kevin Erickson, Jason Frey, Todd Gardner, Steven Pro, Richard Ross, Tal Sweet, Ret Talbot, Tony Vargas, and Christine Williams
<Good choices all. My decided vote is for Chris Buerner; I know of his  extensive and intensive work in the industry, the last several years heading up Quality Marine... the many innovations, investment that he has seen to... that has profoundly improved the overall process of marine life collection, holding, shipping, acclimation... yielding more species in better health than the trade has seen previously. Yes, his work is "behind the scenes", but I assure you, the ripple effect of QM's "A" efforts has benefitted all.>
Please review the attached information and provide to me your selection for the winner of this year's award by Thursday, August 8th.  The person with the most votes will be presented the award at MACNA in Miami / Ft. Lauderdale, FL during the banquet Saturday evening.
<Ah yes>
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.  Thank you again for your support and willingness to participate in this process!
<And you for your involvement. BobF>
Amanda Cox
MASNA Membership Director

Quality Marine Comment  9/30/11
Hi Bob,
Just received a nice comment from Kurt Soderberg of Quality Marine regarding the AquaBeam review (see below). I will send him a link to it once it's published and we have one. Do you know Kurt by chance?
Re Quality Marine Comment  9/30/11
Looks great James. I think Kurt and I have met. At any length, QM and TMC are the best businesses of their kind in our interest (on the planet) and both companies are well known by me (have written reviews of them over the years)... TMC makes some phenomenal products... Vectron UVs, Gamma Foods... both have absolute "A" ratings for staff, set-up, practices... the best livestock sources. Am very happy to see you receive kudos, recognition for your work. BobF
Subject: Re: Questions/Review Intro
Hi James,
I just read your review ( Mike sent if my way ). I think you did an excellent job covering the AquaRay lights.
I was hoping that you might be able to add a link to our site. We think it offers a lot of good information in a clean and concise format.
We're planning to add a links/reviews page in the future in which we would definitely link to your article if that was ok by you.
Best Regards,
Re: Quality Marine Comment     9/30/11
Thank you, Bob. I've learned my meager writing skills from you, by reading/learning from your always well done articles.
<Heeeee! Don't be blaming me! Cheers, BobF>

Hey Bob, its Niki. Got an anemone question here. -11/19/07 Hey Bob, <Howzit Nik?> Hope this letter finds you in good health and happiness...everything here at Quality is great and just as you said it would be. (awesome company). <Yes... at the top of the best two of its kind on the planet (the other TMC in the UK)... Best set-up, folks, systems, suppliers... and livestock suppliers. Indeed, Quality> My question pertains to the ever-so-daunting task of identification. I am trying to get the pictures and the scientific names matched up with our anemones in our catalog. Our Bob here mentioned you would be just the person to ask. I did go on WWM but could not find specifically the answer to my question. I am trying to get ironed out the malu and crispa thing, is H. malu an obsolete name? Did they merge it into H. crispa? <Mmm, no... or should I remark, "not as far as I'm aware"... Same genus, different species... the Sebae is almost always readily identifiable with its "tips" coloring... and the pedicles of both are very different...> Also in our catalog we have 'Sebae' describing H. malu in our common names. Here is a link, it all just looks wrong to me. http://qualitymarineusa.com/products.asp?cls=2&scls=5&cat=50&scat=538&pg=1 Can you tell me what you think? Or refer me to a good reference online or a good book for identifying anemones? <The two pix shown look okay to me... as far as species ID goes. The best site, links period for hexacorallians are Daphne Fautin: http://hercules.kgs.ku.edu/Hexacoral/Anemone2/> Also is malu a sand anemone, or a type of LTA? <The Malu could be called a sand anemone... the LTA is a different species. Please see here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/cnidaria/anthozoa/anemones.htm> I have found indications of both. <There is MUCH mis- and dis-information about. Am asking friend/anemone guru Brenda Furtak to chime in here> Thanks so much, your friend Niki <Cheers, Bob Fenner>

QM contact info. RMF is not a directory...   9/16/06 Hi Bob, <Charles...> Do you have Quality Marine contact info? Thanks and appreciate Charles CV Reef Fish International <5420 W. 104th St. (Bldg. 2, east), Los Angeles, CA 90045. 310 645 1107, FAX 310 670 8837 URL: quality marine@worldnet.att.net
Bob Fenner>
Hi Bob again, Do you have contact info for George Fallon from Aquariums Australia P/L ? Thanks and appreciate. Charles CV Reef Fish International < http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=PCTA,PCTA:2006-31,PCTA:en&q=Aquariums+Australia+P%2fL>  

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