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I for years have been playing with the idea of opening my own aquarium store. where I live people do keep fish Northern NV Tahoe area. The problem is no one has good fish around here or plants or supplies. I drove 1 hour to find fish and only found 2 I was looking for. It is very frustrating. I have been turning to online shopping for all my fish needs now. I know others are too.

SO My idea is to open an aquarium store brick and mortar but also sell all my stuff online. I would sell livestock and supplies online but I would have a place for locals to come and buy things.

I love buying online but sometimes you want it NOW or you don't want to deal with having fish shipped. I have 18 years of fish keeping under my belt. I know what fish keeps want and need. We had this one aquarium store that was awesome 6 years ago. The owner retired and left it to her son who is well.... I think "special". So it is just a mess and I think about to close. The location of the store is awful too. I use to go into that store and always see something I wanted or made me saw wow.

Sorry for the rant but does anyone think there is a market for aquarium stores anymore?
 

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Hey I still visit the local aquarium stores here. There's definitely a market if that area is active enough. Just gotta look into local clubs, organizations, associations, etc. Become a part of those groups. Get to know them. See what their interests are.

Starting up a business is hard but with the right amount of research beforehand you can be very very successful.

Perhaps also consider a short course in business management if you don't already have experience with it?

More local stores is always a good thing IMO ;)
 

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I would say that opening an aquarium store in this day and age would be a very difficult thing to pull off. You have competition from the online suppliers which really changes things. You also have competition from the big chain stores. I'd say most of the local stores that have opened up in my area in the last few years have gone under. So have a lot of stores that were around forever.

Running you own business sounds great, but talk to anyone that's done it and they will tell you something like "you can set your own hours, and works any 80 hours a week or more that you want to".

You will also need to think like a business person rather than a hobbiest. You may not like a specific product, but you carry because it sells. This kind of business thinking can take a lot of the fun out of it. You will find little time to devote toward your own tanks.

If you still want to have a go at it, make sure you have the business background and a reasonable business plan up front.
 

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We used to have a large lfs here,that closed after the box stores moved in.sort of the "Wal-mart" effect.tough for an lfs to sell fish for 6 dollars that the box store sells for 3.Same with equipment.
 

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Sorry for the rant but does anyone think there is a market for aquarium stores anymore?
When you ask a bunch of hobbyists like us, the short answer is almost always "yeah you should and of course I'd buy from you!". But, when you break it down more; how many people on this forum are close enough to actually be a customer of yours? How many of us would stop purchasing from online sources that are cheap to actually support another hobbyist? Its nice to hear everyone say they would, but the reality of it is that its not too likely. There is a reason these stores are disappearing. There is also a reason most of these stores (the few that are left) dont seem to carry the stuff that we (planted tank enthusiasts as well as just your more seasoned hobbyist) "need" or "want". If there was a decent market for it and profits to be made, then the old shops wouldn't be closing at such an alarming rate. It sounds good on paper; but it seems that once you get into the nitty gritty you realize that you cant make ends meet if you try to price things in a way that can compete with online sources and the big chains.

I feel your pain though and this very same idea has crossed my head numerous times. In a perfect world its a fantastic idea! Then there is also the idea of enjoying a hobby but hating a job if you know what i mean.

Why don't you start selling online and from your own garage first.. grow organically and leisurely
I believe this is the only way you might be able to make something like this work! Maybe go talk to some people who have made a name for themselves in the hobby doing exactly this; and then find out why they themselves dont have a brick and mortar store! Plenty of hobbyists have tried. Many have failed. Some have had modest success with online stuff......but I've not heard many stories of someone turning that into thriving businesses.
 

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What I would do is set up a fish room, buy good stock and start breeding. Then sell on forums, aquabid, ebay, heck even Amazon. Do it in your basement or garage, or wherever you have the room for it and can control the temperature. This way, you work for yourself, you don't have a lease to sign and pay for (and other expenditures), and you can truly work your own hours. Advertise yourself on forums such as this, and if people want to buy from your directly, there's a physical location (your house) that you can sell from.

For me personally, I've only ever bought my fish locally, and that's because overnight shipping is way too expensive. I bought from a rainbowfish breeder that does just that. He has a fish room in his basement, probably about 20 tanks, has good stock of various kinds of rainbowfish, and he breeds and sells them online. I stumbled upon one of his Aquabid auctions and saw that he shipped from my area, so I PM'd him and visited his house and bought his fish, without the $30+ overnight shipping fee. Win/Win in my book.
 

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Too much risk and not enough gain for me to recommend it.
People are nice, up to the point they slip on a wet spot and that takes lots of the fun out of working your tail off. It can also ruin your fun when you look up and realize you do not run the store. The store runs you!
 

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The only stores that make it have a huge installed customer base. They maintain the tanks on a regular basis and move product with 90% of it being on the salt side where they're used to spending money. You usually need this to keep the store afloat.
 

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Demographics.

Know the market you're in.

I sell fish to 4 stores that do very well. NONE of them have either of the box stores in their respective areas.

AND they all provide additional services: Maintenance, other pets & supplies (an Agway) and online sales.

As others have pointed out, LOTS of work. But I don't know of too many self-employed's that don't work their tails off.

I think you have the right perspective though. You have to be willing to ship livestock at the very least, to make a go of it.

Bump: Forgot to add:

Access to quality wholesale sources.
 

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The only stores that make it have a huge installed customer base. They maintain the tanks on a regular basis and move product with 90% of it being on the salt side where they're used to spending money. You usually need this to keep the store afloat.
In general I agree. The biggest margins these days are on the SW side. Although the FW margins will also pin your ears back. I sell to stores that are FW only, believe it or not and do quite well, and one that only has a token SW section. I've also stopped selling to a store that cut back severely on FW .......and it's barely a 20 minute drive away.

Customer base / demographics
 

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In general I agree. The biggest margins these days are on the SW side. Although the FW margins will also pin your ears back. I sell to stores that are FW only, believe it or not and do quite well, and one that only has a token SW section. I've also stopped selling to a store that cut back severely on FW .......and it's barely a 20 minute drive away.

Customer base / demographics
I was involved part-time for a while setting up aquascapes for several LFS with large installed bases. I also helped out sometime and most of the product as you mentioned with good margins were SW fish and product that went to the installed base on a regular basis. Not to say it's all of that, but vast majority. There was an Aquarium Adventure franchise near me it was nearly 9000 sq. ft had a great selection of sw and fw planted but couldn't make it when the install base fell apart.
 

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I've watched four independently owned FW/SW stores close in Charlottesville, Va. after only months of opening. The Corporate stores beat them out of business. I think that is sad, because you are correct, there is a need for the quality only a small store can provide. If you have deep pockets, and love what you do, I'd give it a shot. You'll need to match the prices of fish at the Corporate stores, which means you may have to breed many of your own stock. Out performing Corporate Business means matching or bettering their prices. I think it is possible if you breed your own and can also match equipment prices. Go kick those big box stores *ss!!!!
 

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Yep, in addition to the large Aquarium Adventure store, we also had a general pet store, a specialty exotic pets (reptile, birds, fish) and an all fish store close up in the last few years within 5 miles of me. The only stores now are the big box, otherwise road trip.
 

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There are only a handful of dedicated fish stores that I can think of in my area. A couple are relatively new and may or may not make it, a few have been around for decades and have a dedicated customer base. The few I can think of that are relatively new (less than 10 years old) and seem to be fairly successful do so by focusing on a specific, high-end area of the market, and doing it very well - two are fairly planted tank specific and one is all reef. The two planted tank shops tend to be pretty slammed on the weekends, but there's only so much money to be made, and I'm not sure if the are would support another LFS well. This is in a metropolitan area of almost 4 million (Seattle), not sure that there would be enough demand near you.

There are other successful pet stores in the area, but they make a lot of their money on dog and cat stuff. There are several that have very few animals other than fish, but lots of equipment and food for dogs, cats, small animals, etc.

-Justin
 

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I agree with most of the posters here. It's a tough business to get into. You have to worry about the costs of a lease and electricity. Not only that, your hobby now becomes "work" and that may grow tiresome. My suggestion, and I have a place in S Lake Tahoe so I kinda know the area, is to run a service company. Do fresh installs, aquascaping, and maintenance for those rich folk who have a vacation home in the area but aren't there 100% of the time. You can also charge a premium for selecting exotic fish for them. I think this alone could net you a lot of money without the big capital expenditures of a lease, tanks & equipment, supplies, electricity, etc. The margins on fish are just too low to be competitive and almost everyone buys equipment online on say Amazon. I don't even bother buying from Petsmart anymore because they are way more expensive. Anyways, I don't want to detract you from your dream but the realities are kinda harsh in this business.
 

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Everyone has shared such good insight. I agree with a lot of it, including selling online as a small-scale, home-based hobbyist, and/or doing installation/maintenance work.

I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and we have a few solid, longtime stores in the city/immediate suburbs that I love. Two stores in particular seem to do well, but that's just my impression based on customer attendance, appearance of the shop, fish supply, etc. I obviously have no clue what it's like behind the scenes.

I do like to support my two favorite shops as much as possible, and get nearly all of my tropical livestock there, but I admit that I buy a lot of major supplies (filters, LED lights) from the big box stores or online.
 

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a two are fairly planted tank specific and one is all reef. The two planted tank shops tend to be pretty slammed on the weekends,
Hoping one of those is Cory's shop; aquarium co-op. Seems like a great dude that deserves the support of anyone local to him out there. If thats not a name anyone recognizes I suggest checking out his youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/AquariumCoopas he has recently done a few videos on how to make money in this hobby and sort of touches on a lot of the things in this thread. He is a hobbyist who owns a shop and gave his insight as to what works best as another hobbyist trying to sell to a shop for profit (which seems like a good place to start if you intend on making that a full time job eventually).
 

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They say the easiest way to make a small fortune, is to start with a big fortune :)
Good luck.

Currently I have more tanks than both LFS in our town.
 

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Here's an online strategy for you.

1. Get a phd or find someone who has one. Or an artist or architect.
2. Mix up some ferts and add in food coloring.
3. Print some really nice labels and call it the 'Garden of Eden'.
4. Write a nice bio about how this revolutionary patented technology was discovered drawing inspiration from art/architecture and biologically cultivated in a specially made solar trap that fuses the suns plasma energy into the complex biological structure of the liquid.
5. Get some nice looking tank pics.
6. Create a thread called Does It Really Work?
7. Get us all to post there saying how amazing it is.
8. Ship some samples to big store.
9. Wait for orders.

😁
 
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