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Ornamental Aquatics
24th June 2013

By Sandra Pearce


A monthly snapshot and analysis of a different sector within the pet & aquatics trade

Trade sources estimate that the market value for the ornamental aquatics industry falls broadly into the RSP £300-400 million bracket. The figure incorporates livestock, aquariums, equipment, decoration, supplements, test kits and fish food, excluding pond fish food.

Although the market has largely remained static, some categories are demonstrating growth as demand spurs sales, these being nano/planted tanks and LED lighting.

Dan Lowndes, Tetra UK trade marketing manager, said that aquascaping has become a hobby in its own right with many retailers having dedicated display tanks, including nano tanks. “These work well at inspiring customers with new ideas for designing tanks, and help encourage new fishkeepers into the hobby or existing features to set up a second tank.”

Manufacturers and suppliers have focused on developing products for the nano tank sector, but some feel the market is saturated. Aqua Pacific UK MD Mark Winter said: “This market is, I believe, swamped with choice for the retailer and consumer alike. For us, our total sales of small tanks has increased a fair bit overall. But where in 2006 we could get our volume through three or four tanks, now we need about 20 different models to do 1.3-times the volume. I think there must be 50 or more small aquaria/nano/lifestyle tanks on the market now.

“But perhaps it is the different styles and designs that is helping grow this impulse segment of the market. It is the home maker – normally the lady of the house – looking for a stylish addition to the home, which is attractive and easy to look after, who is buying these small aquariums.”

He thinks the next 12 months will see further interest in marine and freshwater nanos, with possibly more interest in betta and shrimp set-ups.

LED lighting, which uses less electricity than T5/T8 lights, continues to gain enthusiasts and gain market share, with innovation driving sales.

Arcadia sales manager Ben Catley said: “LED lighting is at the forefront of the aquatic trade due to rising energy costs. I think this will continue and the technology is improving at a rapid pace. The end result is the consumer will start to see much better value-for-money-and more advanced products.”

This search for energy efficiency is not lighting specific. Cyril Geoffray, JBL key account manager, says JBL is seeing rising demand for its external filters and C02 systems. “This is due to more energy-efficient models being released, and us working hard with shops who use these products as working examples.”

The specialist marine sector also continues to maintain its foothold in the market. At Aqua Pacific UK, the marine category has been ‘a huge success’. Mark elaborates: “I put this down to the success of our AquaReef range of 200-500-litre tanks. Its success proves that the serious hobbyist is still, even in these times, willing to spend big money on an aquarium if the product is right.”

Industry figures agree that the divide between premium and value-end products has become more pronounced. Says Dan: “It’s those sitting in the middle who have suffered most, and will more clearly need to define their audience.”

Ben says that while the budget end of the hobby is growing, there is ‘a definite shift towards European-quality products’. “The end consumer wants great value,” he says, “but also the quality that is associated with European manufacturing.”

And despite consumers watching their budgets, retailers cannot afford to shy away from recommending new products and talking to customers about new innovation. JBL is developing more products with fewer energy demands, such as the Greenline external and internal filters. Its Air pump ProSilent and accessories are selling well, and it recently launched the JBL Solar Marin bulbs.

It is this innovation that drives sales. Aqua Pacific has a number of products in the pipeline, including two EcoStyle tanks, a 70-litre and a 127-litre version, which include built-in LED lighting into the hood, of which Mark says: “I believe this will be the first aquarium of its type in the market to be only LED.”