The Full Treatment

The water treatment category, more than many others, requires retailers to fully understand how various products work and in precisely what situations to use them.


The aquarium supply market is awash with water treatment products formulated to maintain clean, beautiful aquariums that provide the optimal conditions to support the living organisms residing within.

Water quality is central to the success of all aquarium hobbyists, and most will turn to their local pet specialty store for guidance and recommendations. With so many water treatment options available, it is more important than ever that retailers have a thorough understanding of the products on the market.

“Water treatment is a very general term and can encompass everything from chemical additives that alter water chemistry to mechanical filtration units that physically remove contaminants,” says Jeff Turner, owner and president of Boyd Enterprises, makers of Chemipure carbon-based water filtration treatment.

In the case of water treatment options, more is probably better—the variety means there are products to meet tank owners’ various and nuanced needs. It also means, however, that there is more room for error, manufacturers warn. “Retailers and consumers alike can make the mistake of using products that are not best suited to provide the results they are looking for,” says Turner.

Frank Mineo, president of Tropical Sciences Biolabs, says that this means retailers must be well informed in order to steer shoppers in the right direction. “The most common mistake is thinking that there are ‘one-stop shop’ conditioners to fit all environments equally,” he says, explaining that a product that works great in one scenario may be useless to a tank owner who is facing a very different situation. “It’s important to understand the benefits and applications for each treatment in a retailer’s inventory so that information can be effectively targeted and conveyed to hobbyists.”

With this in mind, time spent researching the category’s offerings will be time well spent. “With so many products on the market, it is best to gather as much information as possible about both the issue and potential treatments,” adds Turner.

As manufacturers come up with new products and fresh variations on old favorites, even the most well-schooled retailers should be sure to stay on top of the latest developments in the category. For example, Ariel Freudenthal, managing partner of Blue Life USA, says retailers should keep their eyes trained on recent developments in resin technology. “Every few years, new resins come out that far out perform others,” she says. “You really get what you pay for when looking in this category, as the prices for raw materials get exponentially higher with the better performers. Resins can take out phosphates, organics, ammonia and much more.”

From his perspective, Turner sees the advent of biological sludge reducers as one of the biggest advances in the market. “There have been great strides in the area of bacterial cultures formulated and bottled for specific purposes within the aquarium to recreate the natural occurrences of natural environments, but in a much more controlled setting,” he says.

The water treatments segment will continue to evolve, and experts predict that the category will increasingly provide more specialized products to address specific needs without throwing the aquarium off balance. Dr. Timothy Hovanec, president of Dr.Tim’s Aquatics, is among the manufacturers researching and developing such solutions. “[These products] will be going after a specific bad bacteria rather than shooting anything that moves,” he says.

Bacterial solutions, he adds, are increasingly in demand with customers seeking to address water issues organically rather than chemically. “People are using more of the natural bacterial stuff,” Hovanec says. “We are learning more and more about how to do that successfully. ”

Retailers, meanwhile, can make the most of the category by having the right assortment of products to meet their customers’ water treatment needs. Hovanec says this starts with having a tap water detoxifier, which is critical for setting up new tanks or for performing water changes. Next up, he says, is having a stress-relief product to keep fish happy and healthy—a strategy he says is particularly important for retailers that offer guarantees on livestock.

“Fish stress relief helps increase sales basically by helping to reduce your losses—anything that can reduce the loss of fish is going save you money and keep people coming back happy, and not coming back upset because their fish have died,” he says.

Beyond stress relief and tap-water detoxifiers, there remains an ocean of products with which retailers can stock their shelves and meet customers’ water treatment needs. However, the key to boosting sales and keeping customers happy still comes down knowing the category well enough to guide shoppers’ purchasing decisions. It is a category in which a sales-associate intervention is often appreciated and even required.

“Recommend the product to your customers—they have no idea until someone tells them to try it,” advises Freudenthal.

Finally, manufacturers concur that among the best way for retailers to educate themselves is to use the products themselves. “We recommend retailers call and request samples to use and view the difference our products will make in their store’s tanks,” says Mineo. “Educating your customer with first-hand knowledge and proof [that] the product works is also always a good method.”

Blue Life’s ( CLEAR Fx PRO filter media targets and removes toxins, while leaving behind essential trace elements necessary for the vitality of aquariums.

Dr.Tim’s Aquatics’ ( First Defense is designed to relieve stress and support the immune system of fish via immunostimulants and a mixture of vitamins.

Boyd Enterprises ( Chemipure Elite, which not only provides all of the benefits of the original Chemipure, but also removes phosphate and silicates.

Tropical Science Biolab’s ( Nutrimax Marine is a maximum-density blend of nitrosomonas and nitrobacter combined with oxygenating bacteria boosters for saltwater aquariums.

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