The Planted Tank Forum banner

A Niche to Fill

1562 6
There's a trick to starting a new business: find something no one else is doing, and do it well. Just having a unique product isn't enough (or even necessary). You need a unique angle. I noticed there's need for a particular kind of business in the hobby. I have no room to do this myself, but I thought I'd put it out there in case someone else wants to give it a shot.

The idea is simple: produce high quality livestock for complete newbies with cheap shipping. Just focus on the dozen easiest plants and inverts and have them all in one place. People who are just getting into planted tanks want easy plants, but they would prefer to buy everything from one seller and pay for shipping only once. Most sellers, including pet stores, will have some of these species. I haven't encountered any that have all of them for reasonable shipping.

For instance, there are about a dozen plants that are always recommended to beginners: java moss, java fern (regular, needle, trident, and windelov), anubias (nana and petite), water sprite, water wisteria, Egeria densa, hornwort, guppy grass, frogbit, duckweed/Salvinia minima, banana plant, vallisneria/dwarf sag, and Cryptocoryne wendtii (green and bronze). Even with the different varieties, you would have less than twenty species to keep track of, yet you would cover 90% of what beginners look for.

There are about a half dozen breedable inverts that are recommended to beginners: mystery snails (ivory, gold, blue, and magenta), trumpet snails, ghost shrimp, cherry shrimp (red, yellow, and blue) and ramshorn snails (red, pink, and blue; with or without leopard spots). Total varieties: 12.

You could also offer basic drystock, like gelcap root tabs, Indian almond leaves, forcepts, mini measuring spoons, and dry ferts in small portions. Beginners want these, but can rarely find them all in one place. Don't try to offer more than the bare essentials, though - you don't want piles of stuff in your house.

Most people buy fish locally, but if you wanted you could offer some higher quality strains of the easiest species: bristlenose plecos, guppies, platies, swordtails, danios, cories, longfin whiteclouds, etc. Or just some easy rare fish: Heterandria formosa, gardneri/australis killifish, endlers (black bar, tiger, chili), etc. It probably would be best to focus on plants and inverts, though, since they don't have as much bioload and aren't as hard to ship.

The shipping would be the main selling point: Everything you need, with a live arrival guarantee, for a set shipping price (no added charges for heat or cold packs). Priority shipping would be ideal.

Keep it easy for yourself to keep it easy for the buyer: don't tinker with the water, don't use special foods, standardize the shipping process, and have set prices for everything. Ideally, you would grow the plants submerged, but emersed would be fine for most of them.

Set up your tanks to hold one or two species from each category. For instance:
Tank 1: Java moss, floating water sprite; blue ramshorn snails, blue mystery snails, blue cherry shrimp, black bar endlers(?).

Tank 2: Frogbit, Egeria densa; red ramshorn snails, magenta mystery snails, red cherry shrimp; longfin cories(?).

Tank 3: Guppy grass, Salvinia minima; pink ramshorn snails, gold mystery snails, yellow shrimp; Heterandria formosa(?).

And so on.

If anyone wants to set up a profitable fishroom, I think you could make a lot of money by catering to newbies.
1 - 7 of 7 Posts

· Registered
12,433 Posts
Also it might be noted that this is not an ideal time to be bold. It might be noted how much money is moving into the stock market and where it is going. Not a real item to motivate one to take a chance. New business ventures are called ventures for good reason.
This would be a venture to try for the effort and experience but not for profit as the hobby market can turn almost overnight. A few years ago African cichlids were a rage but now the local shops have stopped giving credit for them at times. I would not want to have a tub full of plants only to find them not wanted.

· Premium Member
2,129 Posts
I just don't think there is that much demand dealing with just the beginners in a niche area of a hobby that is waning in popularity. Small profit margins on a perishible living inventory that requires a lot of space with special conditions, and one of the most important aspects (shipping cost) is totally out of your control. Sounds like one of those businesses where you could make a small fortune......if you start with a large fortune.

· Registered
1,168 Posts
I would also say there is probably no profit to be made from beginners due to the amount of time and effort it takes to explain things to them.
Agreed. The fact that 10 gallons are often sold at a loss by pet stores is telling: they are eager to bring in beginners, but only for the sake of making them into long term customers. It's the same logic behind "the first hit is free" in drug dealing! The real profit comes in when your beginners become experts. If you brand yourself as the retailer for beginners, customers will order from you once and then move on.

· Registered
1,916 Posts
The fact that 10 gallons are often sold at a loss by pet stores is telling: they are eager to bring in beginners, but only for the sake of making them into long term customers. It's the same logic behind "the first hit is free" in drug dealing! The real profit comes in when your beginners become experts. If you brand yourself as the retailer for beginners, customers will order from you once and then move on.
who says the stores sell 10 gallons at a loss? You ever see the prices they want for a "kit" thats everything you need in one box? I really doubt the stores are taking a hit on those "deals". Just because the profit margin might be slim on certain products vs another I doubt the whole industry is willing to always take that hit on whats likely their best seller. And in all reality how many people who buy a 10 gallon tank on a whim really become devoted hobbyists?

The problem with the OPs idea is that we're talking a niche within a niche within a niche. The aquarium hobby in general is not all that popular in the grand scheme of things. Then break it down to just freshwater and now break that down further to just planted tanks. We're talking relatively small percentage of what began as a small percentage. Dont get me wrong, I dont think its a bad idea, but I dont think there is enough to actually make a living from it.

There might just be a reason why no business has jumped in to fill this "void" (when there really is no void as we can all find what we need to get started in the hobby). To really do it right and be profitable you need a lot more than just a few tanks in your house. You need acres of land and gallons upon gallons of water and ways to deal with it all. If you tried it with your example of the three tanks, you'd be sold out of everything within a week if you really had any customers and were providing something thats not found anywhere else. Plus how much would you really pay for say a whole tanks worth of water sprite and java moss? Probably something like $10-$20? might spend more on electric for the lights alone just to grow it!

Plus there are plenty of people out there doing exactly what you're describing already! The classified section of this site alone is filled with it!

· Registered
459 Posts
I agree with what the others have said. But, a small scale operation selling locally at club meets and to individuals, could make enough to supplement your hobby. That being said, it would still be a big commitment for little monetary gain. The education and experience would be priceless. Places like Seagrest and such are huge because they need a large variety of products to maintain profitability. They also change products based on popularity and demand.
The idea is solid, but beginners aren't where the money is. Your market should cater to long term hobbyists, while also being patient enough to work with beginners. Our member, Method, has the best idea I have seen, he's a teacher. As part of his class, he teaches his hobby. Introducing his students to the science behind the aquatic world, but also the aquarium hobby. Those young people are the future of our hobby. Even then, the interest is only going to be carried on by a small percentage of his students.
We are a large community of enthusiasts, but in the grand scheme, we are a very small sector of the hobby world.
1 - 7 of 7 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.