Put Your Best Tanks Forward

Attractive and well-designed display tanks play a vital role in driving a successful aquarium department.




Without a doubt, the best way to sell aquarium setups, as well as fish and aquarium products, in any pet store is to have displays that show off great fish and fabulous décor. These tanks will inspire customers to go set up their own aquariums at home; and for customers who are already aquarium hobbyists, attractive display tanks can inspire ideas on how to incorporate the décor and livestock that the store sells. However, it should go without saying that, in order to be effective, these aquariums must be kept clean, clear and always looking their best.

Display aquariums can come in many shapes, sizes and designs, and should house the types of fish, plants and invertebrates that are offered for sale in the store. These will usually include a reef tank with live corals, reef safe fish and invertebrates such as shrimp, a freshwater planted tank, a saltwater fish only display, and often an African cichlid tank for a brackish water set up. Trends will come and go with what fish and invertebrates are popular, and oftentimes what the store tends to favor itself will greatly influence what it will sell the most.

The following are some lovely aquarium displays that will hopefully inspire some fascinating setups at home and in the store. 




At B&B Pet Stop, Inc. in Mobile, Ala., owner Bill Trufant has four large displays set up in the fish department of his sizeable, full line pet store.

The largest tank [photo #1] is a 240-gallon reef tank that has been set up for over 22 years. This long tank houses a number of species of tangs, dwarf angelfish and a few Percula clownfish of different colorations, which have been developed in the past few years of captive breeding from the original orange with white stripe variety, including black and Picasso. Usually only a pair of clownfish can be kept together, and tangs can be known to fight as well as dwarf angelfish, but in a tank as large as this one with lots of live rock and corals, it’s possible to keep more. This aquarium has a lot of water movement as needed for reef tanks with corals, and in fact moves 10,300 gallons per hour (gph) between the powerheads and various pumps. Bright lighting—also crucial in any tank with corals—comes from high power LED fixtures that have become very popular because they give off less heat and use less energy than the usual bright reef lights such as halides, plus the bulbs never have to be changed out as they do with all other light fixtures at least every eight months to a year, which can be very expensive.

The other three large display aquariums at B&B Pet Stop include an African cichlid tank, a South/Central American fish display and a freshwater plant aquarium. Each is 135 gallons and lit by two high-output (HO) white and two HO actinic (blue) T5 bulbs to show off the fish’s coloration and keep the plants healthy in the planted aquarium.

The freshwater planted display tank [photo #2] was set up to show how beautiful and easy to keep freshwater plants can be when they are maintained properly. Every week special fertilizer is added to the tank, which also includes a substrate with laterite that helps with plant growth and survival. A wide variety of tropical fish such as tetras, barbs, angelfish and rainbows are kept in the tank that also help feed the plants with their waste. To keep the display looking fresh and interesting, the tank is redecorated with plants and fish are added or removed once a year. This is also a great way to keep the customer’s interest in the store’s displays by changing around the look of the aquarium from time to time when possible. (Note: With reefs, it is better not to redo the tank. This can hurt the corals, which are always growing and changing the topography anyway, so a reef aquarium’s look is never the same for long.)

The African cichlid aquarium [photo #3] contains mainly cichlids from Lake Malawi, as well as a group of clown loaches, including four large ones that have been in the tank from the beginning so are at least 15 years old. Four years ago, this aquarium went through a major overhaul, was recently redecorated, and some fish are exchanged as needed to keep things fresh.

The last display tank at B&B Pet Stop [photo #4] shows off Central and South American fish species such as firemouth, blackbelt, synspilum (redheaded), parrot and severum cichlids, as well as Columbian sharks, silver dollars and many other species. When the fish grow too large or get too aggressive, they are exchanged out for smaller fish. Recently, it was redecorated with an “Age of the Dinosaurs” theme, much to the delight of the store’s younger customers.




Wade Warila, owner of Pets Pets Pets in Westford, Mass., knows how to set up a fabulous fish department, where the aquariums selling fish are well lighted but the area is not. This makes the tanks stand out and look very striking visually. All of the aquariums are also very clean, the water is clear, the fish look healthy and the décor is simple but lovely. All of these factors are important to consider when trying to sell fish and setups.

The wall of aquariums at Pets Pets Pets [photo #1] is set off beautifully with strong lights over each aquarium and subdued lighting above, which looks great on the wonderfully reflective metal ceiling. A mix of fish and other critters including African cichlids, tetras, livebearers, newts and so on are offered for sale in tanks that have all been decorated differently to demonstrate to customers how they can do their own tanks. Each tank has its own hang-on filter that moves ten times the tank’s volume per hour to keep the water clean and make it easier to care for, plus it helps prevent diseases from being spread from tank to tank.

Shimmering LED lighting lends an almost unworldly glow to a stunning freshwater tank that houses a large school of gorgeous cardinal tetras [photo #2]. The décor is simple but classic looking, with just a few rocks, some small live plants and a bit of driftwood in this long, low aquarium. What’s amazing about this 30 gallon “display” tank is that it is just one on a wall of aquariums with fish that are for sale, proving that if a store wants to sell more fish, offer them out of tanks that look like display tanks in themselves.

Pets Pets Pets also has some larger aquariums set up with fish for sale that again look more like display tanks, such as the mainly fantail goldfish setup [photo #3]. The interest of this tank comes from the fact that it can be viewed from both sides, giving it a very clean and fresh look. It’s very easy for the customers to see all the goldfish clearly and pick out their favorites.




At Fish Nook Pet Center in Acton, Mass., manager Sean Fitzgerald decided to expand the saltwater tank area and the freshwater fish wall, and add a pool with koi and pond fish in the front window after taking over for retired owner Bill Bright.

Placement of display aquariums is extremely important, and the first thing a customer sees when coming into The Fish Nook is a beautiful 76-gallon half-circle tank [photos #1 & 2]. The inhabitants of this tank, which was set up about 10 years ago using a refugium filter system, have changed over the years, but some of its occupants, including the hairy mushroom polyps that the new Picasso percula clownfish pair like to call home, have been in the tank since the very beginning. The most amazing resident is a large clam that has grown to a foot and half across over the past five years. Because of the shape of this tank, a pendant halide light is used to keep the corals and clam healthy.

Next to the register at The Fish Nook is a 56-gallon cube tank [photo #3] that now houses a beautiful mix of African cichlids with a wall of rocks that helps keep these aggressive fish from beating up on each other. This tank has gone though a number of transformations. It even once housed a long-tentacle anemone—called Noodles after a naming contest was held—for almost 15 years. Most pet stores that have mascots usually choose a bird or furry animal. But Noodles proved that a mascot can be an aquatic creature, and customers liked to come in to see how this anemone was doing. Now customers can come in and see how the tank has changed while they are at the register.

A new addition to the Fish Nook’s aquarium wall is the tall, 65-gallon freshwater plant display tank [photo #4] showing off larger freshwater plants, such as swords, and some bigger fish as well. Clean and bright, this aquarium demonstrates how taller tanks can be used to show off long plant species to the best advantage. Because of the height and having live plants, strong lighting must be used, usually at least four watts per gallon with taller aquariums as this one has done. Supplements are to keep the plants looking their best, and many aquatic plants seem to do their best when ordered and kept in their pots for resale.



Displaying a Big Trend in a Small Package

Small fish tanks have been making a hefty impact on the aquatics category, as consumers are increasingly drawn to the compact beauty that nano tanks offer. To make the most of this trend, however, retailers need to display stunning examples of these diminutive aquariums.

With this in mind, CASCO (cascoamerica.com) offers its  NANOplus+ merchandising display unit for freshwater or marine livestock. Delivered fully assembled and ready to use, the island enables retailers to capitalize on this major growth area.

The NANOplus+ comes with centralized filtration, a UV sterilizer and vibrant lighting. With two levels of cubes, the island also benefits from an upper display shelf designed for promoting retail nano tanks for customers to purchase.

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