by George Farmer
Are you an experienced plant grower and aquascaper? Then why not put your skills to good use by setting up a planted display tank for your local fish store?
A healthy and well-aquascaped planted aquarium is one of the most attractive features there are in the fishkeeping hobby. A retailer with a decent planted display tank will provide instant impact, attraction, and longer-term interest for the potential customer. Vitally, it provides an ideal opportunity to open dialogue between staff and customer. Depending on the customer and their character, they will either ask questions if they’re interested, or if the staff have appropriate communication skills, they may strike up a conversation.
- The display tank should contain equipment and plants that the shop stocks regularly, so the customer can replicate the set-up if required.
- The staff should be trained sufficiently and able to pass on the appropriate knowledge to the customer.
- In summary a decent display tank has the potential to be the most important advertising feature and revenue generator in the entire store. Remember this fact if/when you approach the retailer.
Establishing a report with the retailer
Ideally you will know the stores’s staff already and have a good relationship with them, especially the manager. It’s unlikely that a shop will agree to you setting them up a planted tank if they don’t know you and your skill set.
If the retailer already has a planted tank(s) on display and it’s looking great then there’s probably little you can, or need to do. But let’s face it – the vast majority of stores either don’t have a planted display tank, or if they do, it contains suffering plants with algae issues, is poorly aquascaped, and is overstocked with ill-chosen fish.
This where you can step in.
Have a polite but informal chat with the staff. Explain that you’re a keen plant grower/aquascaper and ask if they’re interested in seeing any photos of your tanks, past and present. The staff will be happy to you see your work, unless they’re very rude and/or fell asleep during their customer-relations training!
Your photos should back up your claims that you know what you’re doing with plants. Of course, the photos need to do your tank justice and at the very least make them look better than the shop’s display tank. Hopefully the staff will be suitably impressed.
It may be a good idea to try a find out which member of staff set up their current display tank (if there is one), and not deal with them directly, as they may take some offence to you offering to tear it to pieces and starting again! Dealing with the manager is usually the best idea in all but the largest of stores.
Setting up the tank
Assuming you’ve got the go-ahead to set up the tank you be either setting one up from scratch, or re-doing an existing tank.
The physical processes involved go beyond the scope of this article, but as an appropriately experienced hobbyist you should be confident enough.
However, it is important to involve a member of staff with the entire setting up process. Explain everything as you are doing it and the theories behind the practical elements. Here’s some example –
“We’re not using a heater cable because there’s no evidence that they improve plant health and are an unnecessary expense.”
“We’re using this substrate because I have experience of it and it’s great”. “We slope it to the rear because it enhances the appearance of depth”.
“We’re only using 2 x T5s for 6 hours initially because more light may cause algae issues”.
“We have the CO2 come on 2hrs before the lights because….”
“We use NPK/trace dosing every day because…”
“We change 50% water twice per week in the initial few weeks because…..”
“We stock lots of algae-eating shrimp because….”
”We’re overfiltering because…”
You get the idea.
Hopefully the member of staff will be dedicated to the display tank in your absence. The idea is that they take ownership of it and this in-turn gives them a sense of achievement when they see it doing so well and creating lots of positive attention.
They can also educate the customers and most importantly for the shop, sell more plants and plant-friendly equipment.
You need to agree a maintenance schedule in your absence. This could be the biggest stumbling block and potential for the tank’s downfall. The staff involved really need to buy in to the whole requirement for regular maintenance, and this needs to be backed-up with the manager’s blessing too.
Again, the technicalities of how much maintenance is required i.e. water change quantities and frequency, pruning, dosing, filter cleaning etc. goes beyond the scope of this thread.
Setting up a display tank for a retailer should be a real win-win. You get to have fun setting up a tank with the shop’s products at no real expense to yourself. You get the reward of knowing that you’re helping to educate the staff and public. You also get to promote our wonderful hobby. In turn the shop gets a great planted display tank that soon pays for itself with the revenue generated by customers wishing to attain something similar.