How should we define Aquarium Maintenance Products? If we draw it broadly, almost everything can be tied to aquarium maintenance. If we narrow the concept to include only products that can be used directly to perform maintenance on an aquarium, there are very few items to discuss. I intend to strike a happy medium and give you both the “big picture” and the small one.
Let’s begin with the obvious. The most important physical act of aquarium maintenance is to change the water—perform frequent partial water changes. A good example would be to perform a weekly water change of 25-35 percent of the water, being certain to check water flow through any filters. If it is reduced from normal, the filter material should be changed or at least cleaned.
Now, how do you change the water? If it’s a small aquarium, you can use a siphon hose and 2-3 5-gal. buckets. Dump the dirty water in a toilet or a utility sink, but never a kitchen sink (unless you want dirty water in your kitchen sink).
If the tank is large, or you must do a massive water change, you should dispose of the old water by gravel-washing it; you can use a siphon attached to a long hose that reaches into a toilet or bucket.
Creating a Water-Changing Kit
Saving that technique, a “water-changing kit” may be used. This will consist of a long hose with a siphon on one end while the other end reaches back to a sink. I have come up with what I consider a better way and it will help you sell more aquarium maintenance products; it involves building the kit yourself.
First, you will use the typical water-changing device and hose, but this will only be used to put water back in the tank, not draw out the dirty water. That function is performed by a simple hose with a gravel washer on one end. A standard diameter siphon hose is the size you want because you can use your fingers to crimp the hose and restrict the flow to whatever flow rate works for you. You want a relatively short siphon hose, about six feet works perfectly for most people.
Of course, some tanks are tall instead of long. For those, you might wish to use an eight-foot siphon hose because you will probably be standing on a ladder or step stool. Whatever length, all siphon hoses must be clear; you need to see what is going down the hose. Any gravel sucked out by accident may form a clog.
Now, this dirty water should be directed into a container large enough to hold the amount of water you intend to remove from the tank. Let’s say it’s a 75-gal. tank and you want to take out 35 gallons, or maybe up to 50 gallons. You can do this without dumping water if you use a 55-gal. trashcan. Bear in mind, this is a clean single-purpose plastic trashcan only used for water changes. You must dry it out after you are finished using it. I prefer to use two trashcans for larger tanks: one on each side of the person performing the cleaning duties. You hardly have to move at all over the length of a 6-ft. tank if you have two trashcans.
Once a trashcan is full, the water must be removed. Remember that return hose kit you have? Using just the hose part, attach it to a sump pump, put the opposite end in the toilet and pump away. If you wish to be extra cautious, you can use the gravel washer that came with the kit to stick under the toilet seat. Yes, something must hold the siphon hose in the toilet or there will be a lot of mopping up to do. The entire process is really foolproof as long as you are cautious.
Now, why save the job of catching clean water for your tank until after you have removed the dirty water? Why not fill up one trashcan with water before you take the first drop out of your tank? This water you can prepare at precisely the water temperature you require. The replacement water will be there waiting for you once your tank cleaning is over. It will have the perfect specific gravity, the perfect temperature and the salt will be thoroughly mixed.
That being said, it’s time to look at the final picture of the perfect water-changing kit, which you as a retailer can put together and sell as a unit. The first thing to include is the standard water changing kit sold in the industry. These are available in different hose lengths, depending on individual needs.
Next, is two trashcans of equal size, so they can be stacked inside of each other when not in use. You can be creative and select large trashcans for big tanks or smaller cans for smaller setups. After that, retailers should include a sump pump which can vary in size (meaning flow rate) depending on the size of the kit.
Of course, a water or mixing pump, probably best used by people making salt water for marine/reef tanks, should be included. Last but not least, a siphon hose of no less than 6 ft. and probably no longer than 8 ft. There must be a gravel washer on the end of this.
Of course, other pieces of equipment are necessary to get the job done right. A good thermometer, a hydrometer, a water conditioner (to deactivate chloramines in the water), marine salt if the tank being cleaned is a marine tank and RO/DI water if the customer is using the water in a reef aquarium.
As you can see, aquarium maintenance products encompass a wide swath of items and these are not always easily defined, meaning they don’t sort themselves out into neat categories. One important aspect to not overlook is lighting, which is imperative for the fish’s sake and for the viewers enjoyment.
It’s important to keep in mind that for aquatic animals in aquariums, their whole lives depend on you caring enough to keep them well-fed and their homes clean. Fish also need neighbors they can co-exist with, much like cats and dogs. Just like not all people get along, neither do all fish. It is your responsibility to know what fish make good neighbors. Aquatic shops must do their part to help educate consumers.
Pet shops, aquatic and reef retailers are fighting a rising tide of big box, chain and corporate retailers who do not care about the livestock. They are there to sell product, plain and simple. Don’t be one of those stores. PB