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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've always wanted to start a small business of doing aqua capes and tank maintenence for clients. I'm just wondering how one goes about charging?

Would you have a set price for weekly upkeep?
I figure hardscape materials bought locally at face value, exotic stuff like manzanita at a slight markup?
Who owns materials/ plants and trimmings?

I'm looking for any advice I can get. At this point I'm not exactly in it for the money, but it's a possibility down the road.

I think I just got my first client, but I said I would do the setup for free to gain experience and start a portfolio.
 

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You can't pass on goods at the same price you paid for them if you're looking to make a profit. You spent time researching, finding a source, fronted the funds and spent the time making the purchase. That shouldn't be free.
 

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You could charge a markup for each individual component, or you can provide a price list of everything and then tack on an additional labor charge (to cover the time in sourcing the materials and setup). Personally, I'd prefer the later. It feels more like a service package rather than you being a reseller. People feel "cheated" if they know that they can just go to the local Petsmart or LFS and save a few $.
 

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FIRST you have to find the clients that AREN'T willing to do this service themselves. Most that have aquariums are in it for the HOBBY, and they know what they are doing. Others buy them on the spur and cheap out on MOST stuff so therefore they are going to cheap out on the maintaince. You have to catch them DURING the purchase.
 

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Yeah, that avatar is fail-epic. I really do love it. I smile whenever I see it. :D
LOL! Just noticed.

I work at a fish shop and we charge 75 dollars per hour for whatever they want us to do to their tank. We let them know how to do everything so that they save themselves money but a lot of people still ask for us to come because they dont want to deal with it themselves. We tell them what stuff they'll need and they pay us for it. Usually whatever we do just takes an hour or less so we just charge the hour price. We get a lot of business through this service. When I first started working here I thought the charge was insane but after being here for awhile I can see that its pretty decent. You are using your gas, time, strength, brain, etc. for them and go when they need you to go.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Yeah, that avatar is fail-epic. I really do love it. I smile whenever I see it. :D
LOL! Just noticed..
omg! I love the avatars!
Aren't they awesome?

Fail-Epic... I usually say epic fail, but fail-epic is so much more... epic.

I'm sure it would be okay with VeeSe if you want to join our fail-epic avatar club. He made mine, but it's easy to make your own. Just draw your fish on a blue background. It's gotta look terrible though. :proud::icon_lol:
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
You can't pass on goods at the same price you paid for them if you're looking to make a profit. You spent time researching, finding a source, fronted the funds and spent the time making the purchase. That shouldn't be free.
You could charge a markup for each individual component, or you can provide a price list of everything and then tack on an additional labor charge (to cover the time in sourcing the materials and setup). Personally, I'd prefer the later. It feels more like a service package rather than you being a reseller. People feel "cheated" if they know that they can just go to the local Petsmart or LFS and save a few $.
Addressing these first two comments, I think things bought locally would have the same charge I spent on them. My finding fee would be charged as me going out and finding supplies/ setting up. Other hard to source items, such as manzanita, I would surely mark up. If I buy in bulk from someone like Tom, the tanks around my area with his Gnarly stuff will literally be the tanks I've added it too. Most people won't get it shipped because they don't buy enough to justify shipping. So there I can charge a fair premium, but it pretty much be a finders fee, etc. They wont really be able to know what I paid, only if they think the price is fair.

FIRST you have to find the clients that AREN'T willing to do this service themselves. Most that have aquariums are in it for the HOBBY, and they know what they are doing. Others buy them on the spur and cheap out on MOST stuff so therefore they are going to cheap out on the maintaince. You have to catch them DURING the purchase.
I will be looking for... say the loaded CEO who wants a huge tank in his penthouse office. Or the dentist who wants a baller waiting room. The clients I want to target won't see the money as a big issue. I'm thinking sorta along the lines of "I have a budget of $10 000, I want this..." and I'll do the heavy lifting.

I work at a fish shop and we charge 75 dollars per hour for whatever they want us to do to their tank. We let them know how to do everything so that they save themselves money but a lot of people still ask for us to come because they dont want to deal with it themselves. We tell them what stuff they'll need and they pay us for it. Usually whatever we do just takes an hour or less so we just charge the hour price. We get a lot of business through this service. When I first started working here I thought the charge was insane but after being here for awhile I can see that its pretty decent. You are using your gas, time, strength, brain, etc. for them and go when they need you to go.
That seems like a good idea for the standard upkeep. I'm sure after gas, taxes, business licenses and everything else, not much is left from $75.

I appreciate all the comments for far. Please keep them coming.
 

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You are going to want to target buisnesses as well. Hospitals restaurants etc. Are all good places to try. Places like that are going to be your big money, they won't mind setting up a nice tank to make their customers happy. Plus odds are they will have you do monthly or even weekly maintenance on said tank.

The per hour charge can be done a number of ways. You can set a straight fee for every hour. Or you can do something like $100 for the first hour and $70 or so for every hour after that.

Make it professional. Go to the jobs and have a nice invoice printed out with all of the costs that means all hardscape materials, live stock, hourly rate, etc. Be organized and plan ahead in aquarium maintenance anything can happen.

It can be quite a profitable buisness. The owner of the store I work at does it, and he has several clients a few of which are on a weekly maintenance plan

He recently set up a tank for the St. Louis Science center, and got an substantial amount of money( Not saying how much money). Not to mention it is a great way to get the store out there.
 

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I was at a LFS and was talking to the owner, he said 95% of his business is maintenance and set up. His shop is only open for like, 4 hours on saturday and sunday, the rest of the time he's out in the field doing service contracts.

He has a big operation though, multiple trucks/vans with many employees working for him, said he pulls in 40 grand a month from his 150 or so clients.

I also know of a lot of smaller guys that do it on an individual basis, not sure how they got into it though.

Also, I hope you know how to do saltwater/reefs

you're going to find a lot of folks are going to request reef tanks and you'll miss out on a lot of business if you can't do it.
 

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Addressing these first two comments, I think things bought locally would have the same charge I spent on them. My finding fee would be charged as me going out and finding supplies/ setting up. Other hard to source items, such as manzanita, I would surely mark up. If I buy in bulk from someone like Tom, the tanks around my area with his Gnarly stuff will literally be the tanks I've added it too. Most people won't get it shipped because they don't buy enough to justify shipping. So there I can charge a fair premium, but it pretty much be a finders fee, etc. They wont really be able to know what I paid, only if they think the price is fair.



I will be looking for... say the loaded CEO who wants a huge tank in his penthouse office. Or the dentist who wants a baller waiting room. The clients I want to target won't see the money as a big issue. I'm thinking sorta along the lines of "I have a budget of $10 000, I want this..." and I'll do the heavy lifting.



That seems like a good idea for the standard upkeep. I'm sure after gas, taxes, business licenses and everything else, not much is left from $75.

I appreciate all the comments for far. Please keep them coming.
Looking at your 'target' client, I think you can safely mark up everything. There is nothing you should be trading dollars on.
 

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1) I charge a per month charge. It is dependent on tank size, type(fw, sw, live rock, coral, plants).

2) Planted tanks have one of the highest charges and lowest "subscription". They are hard to make look really good when you only see them a few times a month. Plant "accent" tanks are usually a better choice.

3) I own all tanks in retail/commercial spaces. Tanks in homes are owned by customers.

4) It is a dying trade. People aren't willing to fork over the money

5) If you aren't bonded, don't even bother. One tank failure or water spill on a hardwood floor and you're done. LIke $20k out your pocket. I don't care how "iron clad" your contract is. You'll be liable.


6) and this is the big one.... the people you are going to do this aren't interested in "what it costs locally". They aren't "aquarium people". They are people who want a cute aquarium to look at. There is a difference. They also aren't going to understand the 3 month grow in. YOu'll need 10x more plants to start out than most people do at home.
 

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A few things to consider...

You probably won't be aquascaping any one tank all too often so heavily planted tanks may not be the wisest idea.

This type of service is really only for high-end homes/families/people that want the beauty of the tank but probably aren't in it for the hobby. Considering that the hobby itself isn't that large, I wouldn't think there's much of a clientele base. Most people just don't keep planted tanks. More businesses may have them.

I would hide all the costs/profits under labor - not under fetching equipment and parts. There probably aren't many professional aquascapers out there...that means you can set the price and really only have to compete with what your customers can afford and/or find reasonable.

This should probably be adopted as a service that is a part of an aquarium maintenance business rather than apart from one. I can't imagine that there's enough people with planted tanks that require regular maintenance but aren't willing to do it themselves..out there. A comprehensive service targeted for people/businesses with planted tanks is a better bet - more money too.

I think you'll find that the business will be forced to morph into a general aquarium maintenance business due in part to the low number of planted tanks and the probability that most tanks you'll be dealing with are ones people wouldn't normally maintain - large tanks in hotels, businesses, and high-end homes.
 

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Looking at your 'target' client, I think you can safely mark up everything. There is nothing you should be trading dollars on.
To be honest, I think that's the only client target there is for this type of business. How many middle class people do you think keep even normal aquarium tanks that they then outsource to maintain? Now consider planted tanks...
 

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Yea, it seems like a bad business to be in for two reasons:

1) there's just not much of a market for it
2) even if there was, the amount you can earn is low. it's like mobile pet washing services, even if you had tons of clients you would never really make much money unless you hired a group of people to do the work for you and you just did marketing/management. but, due to #1 I don't see that happening

5) If you aren't bonded, don't even bother. One tank failure or water spill on a hardwood floor and you're done. LIke $20k out your pocket. I don't care how "iron clad" your contract is. You'll be liable.
I think you'd be also be fine with decent liability coverage for this kind of work. The value of potential water damage far exceeds the damages associated with not completing a job, etc. so it's the liability piece that is more important, not the bond that the job will be completed.
 
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