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/Go Rin No Sho of Business

Selling Tank Set Ups Right

Sell kits as complete as possible

Bob Fenner  

"Wouldn't that look great in your living room?! A much more productive introductory inquiry than "may I help you"?, when a prospective customer is eyeing your complete "kits".

A mainstay of the aquatics industry is the merchandising & selling of complete set-ups to novice to advanced hobbyists. Having appropriate priced and displayed aquarium kits is critical to stimulate and close sales for your store, as well as promoting further sales down the line.

Here, I'll infuse you with my ideas on what to present, how to offer it and for what rationale.


"Complete" set-ups are a standard item in our industry. You should (someone must in your area) offer kits and alternates in the following categories:

1) "Mini's"; "bowl", small novel containers, mini-hex and regular tanks.

2) Freshwater tropical and possibly coldwater set-ups.

3) Saltwater Tropical.

4) "Reef" set-ups.

We double the above possibilities at our stores by offering a basic and upgraded package comprising a "standard" glass-tank set-up and a "best" acrylic alternate with improved lighting, thermometer, heater, air pump, and filter.

What we include and not in our kits:


In "mini" and freshwater glass set-ups we provide incandescent fixtures and lamps in appropriate wattages. In upgraded and all saltwater kits, fluorescent hardware. Additionally we list an allowance for further upgraded and additional specialized lighting.


Are included for all tropical systems. For very small systems there are low wattage submersibles. For baseline "glass" set-ups a standard Pyrex tube, non-submersible heater at 3-4 watts per gallon. For top of the line set-ups, high quality submersibles are proffered with very large (150 gallon plus) systems getting two heaters instead of one of higher wattage.


We sell alcohol-containing (red) hang-on, floating and standing thermometers as separate items, but do-not include them in our store-made kits. Instead, the liquid-crystal varieties in two grades are provided. We find these project a high-tech image, costs are nominal, and they are far more accurate.

Water Conditioners & Foods:

 Included is a small "sample" size of dechloraminator and quality flake food, along with promotional literature from their manufacturer. Of note: these promoted lines are notably not carried by mass merchandisers in our area.

Air Pumps: 

Are provided in all kits; with the usual selection of less-expensive, noisier varieties for less-expensive kits. Also included is the requisite air line tubing, valving and check valve with all set-ups.


Two lines of undergravel filters are provided. For basic freshwater set-ups a simpler one, pre-installed; in the case of advanced freshwater and marine set-ups, an "advanced" undergravel with large air lift tubes and airstones. With our large advanced marine set-ups we include an outside canister filter and media, with our reef kits, a completely outfitted wet-dry system. Coldwater set-ups are provided with box filters for small set-ups and outside power filters for large ones.


We supply a sample of the @ one pound per gallon of natural, colored/epoxy coated, dolomitious, coral substrate for standard-upgraded fresh and marine systems. A note is made on the equipment included list that sand/gravel is allowed to be exchanged for another variety/color.

Books and Pamphlets: 

We use reprints and promotional materials from manufacturers and hobbyist groups extensively to help the hobbyist and get the system set-up right initially. Also included is a business card and a flyer from our Service Division.

Things We Don't Include In Our Kits:

Backgrounds, ornaments and decorations; as these are elements too subjective for us to pre-select and tend to confuse the consumer.

Livestock: We've experimented several times with allowances for some livestock with the purchase of a complete set-up with inconclusive results. Offering a 10% discount on other items, including livestock, to be picked up at a later date seems to be of more interest. We strongly discourage the sale of any livestock with an entire new purchase.

Re: Manufacturer/Distributor Made-Up Kits: 

At times we have offered these, and occasionally give them a whirl during the holiday season; but not throughout the year. Often they contain inferior or questionable assortments of gear; some items and lines that we don't even regularly stock. My advice is to be wary of these "kits". Large mass merchandisers likely offer similar set-ups, many without hoods, tops, heaters, etc.. Leave us not forget that it is our advantage in the independent pet retail trade to be the experts. That we are uniquely qualified to offer the service and advice to put together the best quality and value for the price in our own set-ups. One's that are complete and work.

How to Display These: 

On the various open, cabinet and custom stands you offer with prominent signs listing what you include, the price, alternates and advantages.

The various included items should be set up within the tank with their boxes and promotional media. We place other empty tanks with alternate colored backgrounds in the case of acrylic behind these set-ups with signs describing them mounted inside. When a set-up is sold, it's signage is utilized to make up a new kit or as a "place-marker" in our order book to act as a reminder to re-order that tank.

How about a spectacular example of some of these kits with water and livestock in them? I cannot encourage you enough to have at least one salt and freshwater system up as display only in the set-ups section in your store(s). Particularly a reef and hex system. Have these aquascaped and stocked to the limit with extra lighting if possible.

Keep It Clean: 

Do you display your aquatic livestock in a light-subdued atmosphere? We do. Our complete set-ups, on the other hand, are in full light contiguous, next to our dry goods area.

It is imperative that the set-up tanks, stands, hoods, canopies et al. be free of visible defects, dust, water spotting, etc. Keep them clean! Wipe down tanks and tops daily. A very useful technique is to lightly apply "lemon" oil to all stands on arrival and as necessary. This inexpensive application hides small ills and makes an additional appeal: olfactory.

To Summarize:

 What we have found as the most successful elements of marketing aquarium set-ups involves:

1) A concerted, cohesive, separate display area.

2) With two grades of kits.

3) In "mini", freshwater, marine and reef categories.

4) Stocked with gear we regularly carry and sell separately and use ourselves.

5) With prominent signage and listing of what's included and not.

6) Having exceptional show/display tanks mixed in the section, super-stocked.

Sell Tank Set-Ups Right.

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