What would you like to see in your LFS?

ChrissFishes01

Hey guys!

So, I'm one of the hopefuls that's planning on opening my own LFS at some point. I'm still in the saving phase, but am committed to the idea. Anything can happen, but I've wanted to do this since I was a kid, and my passion for aquatic life has never waned.

Basically, I want to run some ideas past you guys, and ask for some advice and ideas as well. A lot of these have been "borrowed" from great stores, some are from stores around me, and some are just ideas based on observing the stores around me.

1) I want the place to feel clean. Every single LFS/LPS around me feels grimy and looks super grungy - pet stores tend to have that feel. A little water on the floor, maybe some salt creep here and there, no problem. But I think running dehumidifiers and just investing in some nice air fresheners will probably go a long way in keeping the store looking and feeling fresh. Anyone got any wisdom to share with keeping humidity and smell down? I'd imagine a commercial dehumidifier and a couple of wall-plug air fresheners would be a good start!

2) Keeping a variety of dry goods in stock is a high priority. I have to order almost EVERYTHING - local stores around me will carry basic products like Prime, Flourish, Excel, and dry foods, but rarely carry any other types of fertilizer, or gel food, or frozen food (except for bloodworms, mysis, and brine shrimp). Scaping supplies are also a big thing. Stores carry slate rock, overpriced driftwood, and a bit of base rock. That's about it. I tend to think that other than fish health and customer service, a good selection is one of the most important things about a store. Do you guys have any specific products that you LOVE but you have to order in? I obviously wouldn't be able to stock stuff that won't sell, but if I can hook people onto using a certain product, it might go well for me.

3) This one should be obvious, but I want to be able to provide IN-DETAIL care for each fish/animal I carry. The one I see around here a lot is puffers (people not knowing what's true freshwater, brackish, saltwater, or needs a transition period, or knowing that they need shelled foods, etc.), but I'm sure it happens with a ton of fish. I wouldn't want to order in a ton of Axolotls, mainly because I have very little knowledge on what their care is like. I'd actually thought about providing a small pamphlet for each species (or at least family/group) of fish that I carried that outlined diet, temperature, spawning, tank size, habitat, and so on that I'd give out to everyone who bought that fish. Slip it into the bag along with the receipt. Any ideas with respects to providing people with the best information possible?

4) Online orders would start on day 1. After seeing how many people simply don't shop in-store now, I think having an online system is a must, even if it just makes me a few bucks a week at first. Even if I'm shipping orders out to local people who just can't make it into the store due to a busy work schedule, those are still customers. Selling a bottle of Flourish before I ever open the doors for the day could be a great way to start off the morning.

5) I'd like to sell my own kits. A 10 gallon "kit" might include a 10 gallon tank, an Aquaclear HOB, a Fluval heater, a hood/light, and pre-cycled media. I work at Petco, and one of the biggest things I see people do is want a fish (either for their kid, or for themselves or whatever) and they get everything they'd ever need except for good filter media and a good bacterial starter. If I can just provide people with a cycled Aquaclear sponge on day one and tell them to wring it out in tank water every couple of weeks, I think that'd put a huge dent in the amount of deaths I'd be dealing with with new fish owners. There's always the issue of the cycled media introducing disease or pests... but I can't see that being any more issue than it would be with buying plants or fish.

6) I would give a legitimate QT to everything I brought in. I know that some do 14 days, and I think that'd be the move for freshwater fish. 14 days in a back room with meds in the water, just to weed out any deaths or diseases that might make it out onto the floor. I think it'd cut down on returns, disease outbreaks in sale tanks, and just make the fish look healthier while they're being sold. Brackish stuff would get the same 14 days. Salty stuff would get longer, just because of my experiences with velvet and brooklynella. More than likely my goal would be 21 days if it's feasible. Every store around me sells sick saltwater stuff all the time, and I hate it. Fish get sick, I know, but I'm not sure if I've ever bought a healthy Saltwater fish from a LFS near me. I'd like to change that, even if it did eat into profits a little.

7) Bettas would be sold in community tanks, not in cups. It saves on space, is healthier for the fish, and educational for all the people who think that they can't be mixed with anything else. This should be an obvious one for any LFS, yet it never happens.

8) I'd like to focus more on coral frags rather than colonies. Colonies are cool, and I'd stock a few, but the saltwater hobby isn't exactly massive around here. Most people have nanos or even picos. A colony of zoas might take up half their tank - so it makes more sense, IME, to sell corals by the head or even just by the polyp.

9) The goal would be to get to a point to where I'm not ordering anything from a wholesaler. I'd just be buying from hobbyists. That's a pipe dream, sure - but it's still something to shoot for.

10) I want to provide the people who aren't into fish with entertainment as well. I'd thought about a small sitting area somewhere with a TV in a corner so that family members can chill in there for a while. I'd try to provide pop, coffee, tea, etc... If we're thinking about the customer who has to literally drag their mom/dad/husband/wife to the fish store, I think it'd make it easier on everyone if the fish store wasn't such a terrible place for the family to be.

This is just a small list of ideas I have - I've got a binder full of ideas I've been jotting down for the past 5 years or so. I'd like to hear what you guys would like to see in a new local store, as well as what you've seen local businesses do that either cause them to succeed, or fail. Even if it's not a LFS, it can still be helpful.

Oh, and my starting budget would be hopefully around $50000. I know that goes quick, but the plan would be to start with a sampling of what I'd need, and increase stock and selection from there.

Thanks!
 

coralbandit

Nice man !
 

fabienne

Hey guys!

So, I'm one of the hopefuls that's planning on opening my own LFS at some point. I'm still in the saving phase, but am committed to the idea. Anything can happen, but I've wanted to do this since I was a kid, and my passion for aquatic life has never waned.

Basically, I want to run some ideas past you guys, and ask for some advice and ideas as well. A lot of these have been "borrowed" from great stores such as Aquarium Co-Op, some are from stores around me, and some are just ideas based on observing the stores around me.

1) I want the place to feel clean. Every single LFS/LPS around me feels grimy and looks super grungy - pet stores tend to have that feel. A little water on the floor, maybe some salt creep here and there, no problem. But I think running dehumidifiers and just investing in some nice air fresheners will probably go a long way in keeping the store looking and feeling fresh. Anyone got any wisdom to share with keeping humidity and smell down? I'd imagine a commercial dehumidifier and a couple of wall-plug air fresheners would be a good start!

2) Keeping a variety of dry goods in stock is a high priority. I have to order almost EVERYTHING - local stores around me will carry basic products like Prime, Flourish, Excel, and dry foods, but rarely carry any other types of fertilizer, or gel food, or frozen food (except for bloodworms, mysis, and brine shrimp). Scaping supplies are also a big thing. Stores carry slate rock, overpriced driftwood, and a bit of base rock. That's about it. I tend to think that other than fish health and customer service, a good selection is one of the most important things about a store. Do you guys have any specific products that you LOVE but you have to order in? I obviously wouldn't be able to stock stuff that won't sell, but if I can hook people onto using a certain product, it might go well for me.

3) This one should be obvious, but I want to be able to provide IN-DETAIL care for each fish/animal I carry. The one I see around here a lot is puffers (people not knowing what's true freshwater, brackish, saltwater, or needs a transition period, or knowing that they need shelled foods, etc.), but I'm sure it happens with a ton of fish. I wouldn't want to order in a ton of Axolotls, mainly because I have very little knowledge on what their care is like. I'd actually thought about providing a small pamphlet for each species (or at least family/group) of fish that I carried that outlined diet, temperature, spawning, tank size, habitat, and so on that I'd give out to everyone who bought that fish. Slip it into the bag along with the receipt. Any ideas with respects to providing people with the best information possible?

4) Online orders would start on day 1. After seeing how many people simply don't shop in-store now, I think having an online system is a must, even if it just makes me a few bucks a week at first. Even if I'm shipping orders out to local people who just can't make it into the store due to a busy work schedule, those are still customers. Selling a bottle of Flourish before I ever open the doors for the day could be a great way to start off the morning.

5) I'd like to sell my own kits. A 10 gallon "kit" might include a 10 gallon tank, an Aquaclear HOB, a Fluval heater, a hood/light, and pre-cycled media. I work at Petco, and one of the biggest things I see people do is want a fish (either for their kid, or for themselves or whatever) and they get everything they'd ever need except for good filter media and a good bacterial starter. If I can just provide people with a cycled Aquaclear sponge on day one and tell them to wring it out in tank water every couple of weeks, I think that'd put a huge dent in the amount of deaths I'd be dealing with with new fish owners. There's always the issue of the cycled media introducing disease or pests... but I can't see that being any more issue than it would be with buying plants or fish.

6) I would give a legitimate QT to everything I brought in. I know that Aquarium Co-Op does 14 days, and I think that'd be the move for freshwater fish. 14 days in a back room with meds in the water, just to weed out any deaths or diseases that might make it out onto the floor. I think it'd cut down on returns, disease outbreaks in sale tanks, and just make the fish look healthier while they're being sold. Brackish stuff would get the same 14 days. Salty stuff would get longer, just because of my experiences with velvet and brooklynella. More than likely my goal would be 21 days if it's feasible. Every store around me sells sick saltwater stuff all the time, and I hate it. Fish get sick, I know, but I'm not sure if I've ever bought a healthy Saltwater fish from a LFS near me. I'd like to change that, even if it did eat into profits a little.

7) Bettas would be sold in community tanks, not in cups. It saves on space, is healthier for the fish, and educational for all the people who think that they can't be mixed with anything else. This should be an obvious one for any LFS, yet it never happens.

8) I'd like to focus more on coral frags rather than colonies. Colonies are cool, and I'd stock a few, but the saltwater hobby isn't exactly massive around here. Most people have nanos or even picos. A colony of zoas might take up half their tank - so it makes more sense, IME, to sell corals by the head or even just by the polyp.

9) The goal would be to get to a point to where I'm not ordering anything from a wholesaler. I'd just be buying from hobbyists. That's a pipe dream, sure - but it's still something to shoot for.

10) I want to provide the people who aren't into fish with entertainment as well. I'd thought about a small sitting area somewhere with a TV in a corner so that family members can chill in there for a while. I'd try to provide pop, coffee, tea, etc... If we're thinking about the customer who has to literally drag their mom/dad/husband/wife to the fish store, I think it'd make it easier on everyone if the fish store wasn't such a terrible place for the family to be.

This is just a small list of ideas I have - I've got a binder full of ideas I've been jotting down for the past 5 years or so. I'd like to hear what you guys would like to see in a new local store, as well as what you've seen local businesses do that either cause them to succeed, or fail. Even if it's not a LFS, it can still be helpful.

Oh, and my starting budget would be hopefully around $50000. I know that goes quick, but the plan would be to start with a sampling of what I'd need, and increase stock and selection from there.

Thanks!
your plan sounds absolutely amazing!!! I was going to suggest point 3 until I read it. PLEASE EDUCATE PEOPLE!!!
No fish store ever does that like ever man
I used to have so many dead fish before knowing how to properly care for most fish and now I have had only one death in like 3 or 4 months!!! because I got educated!!! it's sO simple but no one ever told me I wasn't doing stuff right. I feel like bettas and plecos will need really detailed info about their care because they often end up as impulse buys and then die because of improper care.
Also maybe make a section with folders on common fish diseases? like with symptoms and treatments and stuff? because I feel like that would help a lot of people too. (you're also kind of living my dream man. I'm only 16 but I would LOVE to run a fish store at one point )
 

angelcraze

I don't have any suggestions except for the air freshener. But I had to say how impressed I am at your endeavor. I wish you best with it!

So the air freshener. I would look at odor eaters and air purifiers over perfumed chemical air fresheners. Seriously, they are chemical. Not a smell I'd like mixing with animals like aquatic ones especially. But I agree, a nice clean fresh LFS would be amazing! With enough maintenance, I think it's totally doable and worth it.
 

jpm995

I like your ideas but it sounds like your more of an enthusiast than potential store owner. It's a tough business to start with as the younger generation are more into social media than traditional hobbies. I would be concerned with stocking items that don't have fast turn around times, excess inventory wasts money and space. The thing is you have 2 types of customers [probably more] One is the clueless parent who gets a tank for his kids. Here your competing with the big box [Petsmart, Petco] type stores.This will be tough they buy so much stuff you'll be hard pressed to match their prices. Typically these people don't treat fish like real pets [dogs, cats]. They die from neglect or improper care and they drop out or restock a few times and drop out. The only real opportunity is if you can turn them into real hobbiests by insuring success. The cycled filter and proper instructions will help here, if they are willing to pay more for success. The second type are lifelong hobbiests who avoid big box stores because their selection is so limited. I go to lfs looking for different type fish like rarer cories, elephant noses, half beaks, and other oddballs. These stores have it tougher as they have to appease both types of customers. Good luck, the odds are against you but a lot depends on your drive and smarts to make your store a success.
 

angelcraze

Totally agree^ My trusty LFS (I have only one!) specializes and caters to nano tanks. Rarer small fish and inverts. Also their upkeeping, QT practices and prudence about suppliers gives me more confidence I'm getting healthier fish. If I want a larger fish (like angelfish), I just order them in through the LFS and pick them up when received (because they do not have the room to hold them).

It's obvious once you've been in the hobby for a bit that the fish purchased from these careful LFSs are longer lived and tbh, I never bought a sick fish from the LFS, whereas I've had major to 100% die off in the first year with Chain Fish stores. They are more expensive to buy oftentimes, but the money you save with healthier stock and the good info you receive from the informative employees is worth the extra $ to me.

If a new fish keeper has success, they are much more likely to continue in the hobby and you make returning clientele. I am one of those clients!
 

ProudPapa

I like your plan, but would offer a modification to #10. Put a big "Oh, wow" display tank in the sitting area instead of a TV.
 

e_watson09

Something I'd highly recommend if you are serious about this is learning the ins and outs of the business and business basics. If you're going to collect focus on a business type degree. That's going to help you learn how to financially run the business.

I worked for a LFS when I was about your age and it was a crazy experience. We were actually a small chain store (very small chain). We carried salt and freshwater fish, we also had a large specialty selection of dog foods as well to help with income. We had 3-6 employees staffed at all times. Big cleaning days took a minimum of 2 of those employees off the floor most of the day. So that is something to keep in mind with costs you don't expect.

Then when it comes to ordering you have to find good suppliers, good suppliers will often want you to order large quantities. As a store versus just buying for yourself you want to look at quick turn around as fish in stores are often more stressed so you want to buy things you know you can sell quickly or they could get sick and die and you will lose money.

A lot of people start in the fish business by breeding their own fish and selling them. Use your profits to buy another breeding pair and so on. That way you're kind of self funding it and building a little bit of a name for yourself!
 

rubysword

As far as the cycles media disease worries, you could maybe have a bar 10 gallon in the back with just sponges, dosed with pure ammonia. Like maybe just keeping the ammonia in that tank consistantly at 2 ppm or something.
 

e_watson09

Something else my LFS does to stand out a bit (aside from the better selection of fish obviously) but they also sell ready to go established set ups. Usually these are nano salt tanks but I have seen them do it with planted betta tanks too! They use them as a display BUT the fish/plants/coral/etc are only available if you buy the whole set up. Which is great for a newbie into the fish world!

These tanks are stunning and you can tell a lot of work goes into them. Fish are always doing amazing and super healthy in them. It really helps take a lot of the struggle of getting a nice looking tank that usually happens as you're waiting for your live plants to establish!

I've never seen them do it with larger tanks but I'm sure it could be done! This would actually be a really cool idea if you sold used tanks. Because you can use one of those. Cycle the tank, set it up pretty and boom!
 

ChrissFishes01

your plan sounds absolutely amazing!!! I was going to suggest point 3 until I read it. PLEASE EDUCATE PEOPLE!!!
No fish store ever does that like ever man
I used to have so many dead fish before knowing how to properly care for most fish and now I have had only one death in like 3 or 4 months!!! because I got educated!!! it's sO simple but no one ever told me I wasn't doing stuff right. I feel like bettas and plecos will need really detailed info about their care because they often end up as impulse buys and then die because of improper care.
Also maybe make a section with folders on common fish diseases? like with symptoms and treatments and stuff? because I feel like that would help a lot of people too. (you're also kind of living my dream man. I'm only 16 but I would LOVE to run a fish store at one point )
Thanks for the idea with the fish disease! That could definitely be helpful - maybe a poster with pictures and lists of symptoms and treatments would be a good idea, too.

I don't have any suggestions except for the air freshener. But I had to say how impressed I am at your endeavor. I wish you best with it!

So the air freshener. I would look at odor eaters and air purifiers over perfumed chemical air fresheners. Seriously, they are chemical. Not a smell I'd like mixing with animals like aquatic ones especially. But I agree, a nice clean fresh LFS would be amazing! With enough maintenance, I think it's totally doable and worth it.
That's a very, very good point. Plus, some people have allergic reactions to air fresheners, and I'm sure there might be some city regulation with what you can have like that, too. An odor eater would be a much better idea! Thanks.

I like your ideas but it sounds like your more of an enthusiast than potential store owner. It's a tough business to start with as the younger generation are more into social media than traditional hobbies. I would be concerned with stocking items that don't have fast turn around times, excess inventory wasts money and space. The thing is you have 2 types of customers [probably more] One is the clueless parent who gets a tank for his kids. Here your competing with the big box [Petsmart, Petco] type stores.This will be tough they buy so much stuff you'll be hard pressed to match their prices. Typically these people don't treat fish like real pets [dogs, cats]. They die from neglect or improper care and they drop out or restock a few times and drop out. The only real opportunity is if you can turn them into real hobbiests by insuring success. The cycled filter and proper instructions will help here, if they are willing to pay more for success. The second type are lifelong hobbiests who avoid big box stores because their selection is so limited. I go to lfs looking for different type fish like rarer cories, elephant noses, half beaks, and other oddballs. These stores have it tougher as they have to appease both types of customers. Good luck, the odds are against you but a lot depends on your drive and smarts to make your store a success.
You make some awesome points - but, shouldn't all store owners be enthusiasts? I mean, sure, some are - but the lack of care and education that I see in some stores around here is what I want to change. I'd wager that while other hobbies, social media, and other forms of entertainment are getting far larger than aquariums are, I think that the hobby is still growing. The money has just moved to chain stores and online shopping - which is problematic, unless you adapt your store to the times. Maybe a 50/50 split between online sales and brick-and-mortar sales are what's needed. Or an incentive to actually come into the store. The inventory issue you mention is definitely something on my mind, as I do want to stock a bunch of unique stuff, but I can't have it sitting around all day. Thanks for the advice - I think finding a medium between providing things that chain stores don't (unique fish, unique products, and good advice) and finding ways to compete with those chain stores are going to be crucial.

Totally agree^ My trusty LFS (I have only one!) specializes and caters to nano tanks. Rarer small fish and inverts. Also their upkeeping, QT practices and prudence about suppliers gives me more confidence I'm getting healthier fish. If I want a larger fish (like angelfish), I just order them in through the LFS and pick them up when received (because they do not have the room to hold them).

It's obvious once you've been in the hobby for a bit that the fish purchased from these careful LFSs are longer lived and tbh, I never bought a sick fish from the LFS, whereas I've had major to 100% die off in the first year with Chain Fish stores. They are more expensive to buy oftentimes, but the money you save with healthier stock and the good info you receive from the informative employees is worth the extra $ to me.

If a new fish keeper has success, they are much more likely to continue in the hobby and you make returning clientele. I am one of those clients!
Sounds like a store I'm trying to model after! None of the stores around me QT or keep the tanks especially clean. Nitrates in the water I bring home are usually at least 40 PPM. What I want is to have THE store around for not only unique stuff, but also just healthy common stuff. If someone has bought 30 neon tetras from Petsmart over the past year, and every single one of them has died (and they're not doing anything terribly wrong), I think there's probably money to be made in being the guy there with healthy neon tetras and the products and advice to keep them alive, even if the cost of the fish is higher.

I like your plan, but would offer a modification to #10. Put a big "Oh, wow" display tank in the sitting area instead of a TV.
I like the idea, but a lot of those parents and family members who will frequent that sitting area are probably pretty disinterested in fish because they hear about them all the time. That was my family - supportive, but sick of hearing about them. Maybe a small reef display with some clown gobies or something like that next to the TV - but I truly think making it more like a "home away from home" experience might make them willing to stay a little longer.

Something I'd highly recommend if you are serious about this is learning the ins and outs of the business and business basics. If you're going to collect focus on a business type degree. That's going to help you learn how to financially run the business.

I worked for a LFS when I was about your age and it was a crazy experience. We were actually a small chain store (very small chain). We carried salt and freshwater fish, we also had a large specialty selection of dog foods as well to help with income. We had 3-6 employees staffed at all times. Big cleaning days took a minimum of 2 of those employees off the floor most of the day. So that is something to keep in mind with costs you don't expect.

Then when it comes to ordering you have to find good suppliers, good suppliers will often want you to order large quantities. As a store versus just buying for yourself you want to look at quick turn around as fish in stores are often more stressed so you want to buy things you know you can sell quickly or they could get sick and die and you will lose money.

A lot of people start in the fish business by breeding their own fish and selling them. Use your profits to buy another breeding pair and so on. That way you're kind of self funding it and building a little bit of a name for yourself!
I'm actually starting to take some state-run business classes! They're run through a local college, so while I'm not technically working towards a degree, I'm taking a crash course in business. The dog food idea is one I've considered - selling dog food, cat food, and maybe basic pet supplies like Wee-Wee pads and kitty litter. However, with space at such a premium, it makes me wonder if that would be necessary or even worth it. As far as employees, the goal would be for it to be just me and maybe the occasional family member at first. I might look into hiring a couple of part-time enthusiasts at some point, but if I had to guess, the budget won't allow for me to be paying much of wage to anyone for at least the first year or so. It is true that finding a good supplier will take time, and I'd like to actually travel and visit to see what their product will be like before I make more than a couple of orders from them. I'm actually working on getting a pair out of a group of angels, spawning my bettas (this is my fourth batch of fry, so I'm still new to it), breeding saltwater mollies, and getting some white clouds breeding too. I've got a working relationship with most of the stores around here from just selling coral frags - but the thing is, none of the stores are very good.
As far as the cycles media disease worries, you could maybe have a bar 10 gallon in the back with just sponges, dosed with pure ammonia. Like maybe just keeping the ammonia in that tank consistantly at 2 ppm or something.
That'd be the plan! I'd probably use a storage bin full of water for that. There's always a change of contamination and such, though, and that's the reasoning I keep hearing for a lot of stores not selling cycled media. I don't see it as being a big issue, though.

Something else my LFS does to stand out a bit (aside from the better selection of fish obviously) but they also sell ready to go established set ups. Usually these are nano salt tanks but I have seen them do it with planted betta tanks too! They use them as a display BUT the fish/plants/coral/etc are only available if you buy the whole set up. Which is great for a newbie into the fish world!

These tanks are stunning and you can tell a lot of work goes into them. Fish are always doing amazing and super healthy in them. It really helps take a lot of the struggle of getting a nice looking tank that usually happens as you're waiting for your live plants to establish!

I've never seen them do it with larger tanks but I'm sure it could be done! This would actually be a really cool idea if you sold used tanks. Because you can use one of those. Cycle the tank, set it up pretty and boom!
I like that idea for freshwater stuff! Having the scape, stock, and equipment already picked out and going could be helpful in ensuring success. I'm not sure that I'd want to sell saltwater picos like that, as I can imagine a lot of them crashing due to poor care (smaller saltwater tanks are a little harder - I'm assuming we're talking tanks under 5 gallons, right?), but I guess having one around could be a fun experiment in seeing how much interest it garners. Thanks!

Thanks for all the replies!

I think one interesting idea that keeps popping up in forums is that LFS's tend to cater to enthusiasts more than anyone else, while beginners always go to chain stores. Which is a little true, but as a Petco employee, I tend to push more people towards local stores, even when they're not great LFS's. They're still usually better than a large chain store, IME. This isn't an original idea, but giving the people who work at Petco or Petsmart a discount for every person they recommend to my store (that comes in and buys something), could be a good way of pulling in some novice fishkeepers. Even if the prices are a little higher in my store than they might be at Petsmart, the idea is to have the difference immediately noticeable. I want it to feel more like a very built-up, well-made fish room or aquarium. Obviously budget is a constant concern, but I don't want to through some cinderblocks on top of eachother with a 2X4 on top and start selling fish from that. I'd like for people to walk into my store and know that they're some place different, I think.
 

Kevin1962

Mostly, I'd like to see staff that say things such as: "That's a good question! I'm not as up on that topic as X, who is in the back. Hang on, I'll see if he/she can help you."
 

e_watson09

The premade tanks for salt were always biocubes. Often the 29 gallon biocube to be exact. They only ever had a couple there but it was like 1 14g and 2 29 gallon biocubes with salt water set ups in them. Up until a couple years ago that store actually exclusively sold saltwater fish. Now that they do fresh I've noticed they've had some set ups with bettas or really fancy guppies in heavily planted tanks. Some people don't like to do the waiting part to get that perfect established tank but are willing to keep up with it after. I mean heck, I've had fish over 20 years now and I've been tempted by a couple of their set ups before! So its not always just for newbies either

I remember one set up its like they wanted a CRAZY amount for it but it was worth it for the coral in it. Someone had to have just taken down a really well established tank based on the corals they had in it. Huge easy to care for corals, stunning display! I want to say they listed it for like $500-600 and it literally sold in days. I'm pretty sure one of their regular customers bought it
 

ChrissFishes01

The premade tanks for salt were always biocubes. Often the 29 gallon biocube to be exact. They only ever had a couple there but it was like 1 14g and 2 29 gallon biocubes with salt water set ups in them. Up until a couple years ago that store actually exclusively sold saltwater fish. Now that they do fresh I've noticed they've had some set ups with bettas or really fancy guppies in heavily planted tanks. Some people don't like to do the waiting part to get that perfect established tank but are willing to keep up with it after. I mean heck, I've had fish over 20 years now and I've been tempted by a couple of their set ups before! So its not always just for newbies either

I remember one set up its like they wanted a CRAZY amount for it but it was worth it for the coral in it. Someone had to have just taken down a really well established tank based on the corals they had in it. Huge easy to care for corals, stunning display! I want to say they listed it for like $500-600 and it literally sold in days. I'm pretty sure one of their regular customers bought it
That's actually really smart - it makes more sense for slightly larger salty tanks or AIO's like the BioCube. Thanks for the idea! I'm sure growing out plant trimmings, coral frags, and maybe trying some DIY LED lighting for those tanks could cut down on cost and make some more profit from them. Thanks!
 

e_watson09

That's actually really smart - it makes more sense for slightly larger salty tanks or AIO's like the BioCube. Thanks for the idea! I'm sure growing out plant trimmings, coral frags, and maybe trying some DIY LED lighting for those tanks could cut down on cost and make some more profit from them. Thanks!

Exactly! PLUS it ensures your customer is buying everything from your store versus going to amazon, walmart, etc for some things LFS most often do not have the cheapest prices, just because the big box stores get bigger discounts for the high volume they order. So its always good to think about how you really draw your customer in and make them want to get everything from you!
 

ChrissFishes01

Exactly! PLUS it ensures your customer is buying everything from your store versus going to amazon, walmart, etc for some things LFS most often do not have the cheapest prices, just because the big box stores get bigger discounts for the high volume they order. So its always good to think about how you really draw your customer in and make them want to get everything from you!
That's some new stuff to think about. Thank you!
 

peddidle

Make sure there is room to move around and look at things. Our small lfs is so cramped inside, it makes it really uncomfortable to browse.

Carry stock that isn't already sold at PetCo/PetSmart. I was really disappointed when I went to our lfs in hopes of finding some neat stock only to find the same guppies and tetras I can buy from the big chain stores.

Have a section that caters to your local customers. We have hard water here and nearly everything sold in the store prefers soft water, even at the small lfs; brackish water stock would probably do well here but it's not really available (from what little I know--I could be wrong).

In the right conditions, I would think plants have a long shelf life. Have a large variety. I went to two cities--one two hours in one direction and the other two hours in the opposite direction from here--to try to find a nice selection of plants. You know where I ended up buying from? My local PetSmart.

Although many things can be bought online, people like me struggle with timing and would love to have a nice variety locally, even at a higher price. Like, my tank didn't cycle as quickly as I had hoped and now it's winter. Nighttime temps get into the teens consistently, so places can't ship to me. Consequently, despite the wonderful variety of plants and fish to be found online, I'm at the mercy of my local PetCo (who kindly is trying to order a honey gourami for me). Or, like, trying to buy rocks/wood that suits your tank but not knowing whether you'll be sent a few large rocks or a ton of small ones (fortunately, my experiences have been pretty good, but I know many have been very disappointed).

A local fish club/meeting would be nice as well. Online is great, but so is connecting with people who are facing the same water challenges and who know what the local stores carry and who might be able to give some emergency fish meds while waiting for Amazon to deliver them.

What about combining businesses or creating something unexpected? Like, lfs/coffee shop or lfs/games room or lfs/arts room. Something that brings people in for more than just purchasing fish-related things. We have a local coffee shop that is just booming here because they offer more than just a coffee shop--painting classes and beer/wine tasting and live music and games nights (and probably other stuff I forgot about).

Of course, how big your town/city is will have a direct bearing on whether a lfs would even be a successful venture. You can't make a town of 1500 all get into the fish hobby in order to support your business. I live in a small city of about 50,000 and I think our small lfs struggles to stay open (although much of that could have to do with how the business is run).

I definitely think a business degree, as mentioned by another poster, would be a wise idea, though.

ETA: I also love the idea of buying everything together, ready to go. I would have been throwing my money at any store that had a nice little betta tank already cycled and scaped!
 

jinjerJOSH22

Thanks for the idea with the fish disease! That could definitely be helpful - maybe a poster with pictures and lists of symptoms and treatments would be a good idea, too.


That's a very, very good point. Plus, some people have allergic reactions to air fresheners, and I'm sure there might be some city regulation with what you can have like that, too. An odor eater would be a much better idea! Thanks.


You make some awesome points - but, shouldn't all store owners be enthusiasts? I mean, sure, some are - but the lack of care and education that I see in some stores around here is what I want to change. I'd wager that while other hobbies, social media, and other forms of entertainment are getting far larger than aquariums are, I think that the hobby is still growing. The money has just moved to chain stores and online shopping - which is problematic, unless you adapt your store to the times. Maybe a 50/50 split between online sales and brick-and-mortar sales are what's needed. Or an incentive to actually come into the store. The inventory issue you mention is definitely something on my mind, as I do want to stock a bunch of unique stuff, but I can't have it sitting around all day. Thanks for the advice - I think finding a medium between providing things that chain stores don't (unique fish, unique products, and good advice) and finding ways to compete with those chain stores are going to be crucial.


Sounds like a store I'm trying to model after! None of the stores around me QT or keep the tanks especially clean. Nitrates in the water I bring home are usually at least 40 PPM. What I want is to have THE store around for not only unique stuff, but also just healthy common stuff. If someone has bought 30 neon tetras from Petsmart over the past year, and every single one of them has died (and they're not doing anything terribly wrong), I think there's probably money to be made in being the guy there with healthy neon tetras and the products and advice to keep them alive, even if the cost of the fish is higher.


I like the idea, but a lot of those parents and family members who will frequent that sitting area are probably pretty disinterested in fish because they hear about them all the time. That was my family - supportive, but sick of hearing about them. Maybe a small reef display with some clown gobies or something like that next to the TV - but I truly think making it more like a "home away from home" experience might make them willing to stay a little longer.


I'm actually starting to take some state-run business classes! They're run through a local college, so while I'm not technically working towards a degree, I'm taking a crash course in business. The dog food idea is one I've considered - selling dog food, cat food, and maybe basic pet supplies like Wee-Wee pads and kitty litter. However, with space at such a premium, it makes me wonder if that would be necessary or even worth it. As far as employees, the goal would be for it to be just me and maybe the occasional family member at first. I might look into hiring a couple of part-time enthusiasts at some point, but if I had to guess, the budget won't allow for me to be paying much of wage to anyone for at least the first year or so. It is true that finding a good supplier will take time, and I'd like to actually travel and visit to see what their product will be like before I make more than a couple of orders from them. I'm actually working on getting a pair out of a group of angels, spawning my bettas (this is my fourth batch of fry, so I'm still new to it), breeding saltwater mollies, and getting some white clouds breeding too. I've got a working relationship with most of the stores around here from just selling coral frags - but the thing is, none of the stores are very good.

That'd be the plan! I'd probably use a storage bin full of water for that. There's always a change of contamination and such, though, and that's the reasoning I keep hearing for a lot of stores not selling cycled media. I don't see it as being a big issue, though.


I like that idea for freshwater stuff! Having the scape, stock, and equipment already picked out and going could be helpful in ensuring success. I'm not sure that I'd want to sell saltwater picos like that, as I can imagine a lot of them crashing due to poor care (smaller saltwater tanks are a little harder - I'm assuming we're talking tanks under 5 gallons, right?), but I guess having one around could be a fun experiment in seeing how much interest it garners. Thanks!

Thanks for all the replies!

I think one interesting idea that keeps popping up in forums is that LFS's tend to cater to enthusiasts more than anyone else, while beginners always go to chain stores. Which is a little true, but as a Petco employee, I tend to push more people towards local stores, even when they're not great LFS's. They're still usually better than a large chain store, IME. This isn't an original idea, but giving the people who work at Petco or Petsmart a discount for every person they recommend to my store (that comes in and buys something), could be a good way of pulling in some novice fishkeepers. Even if the prices are a little higher in my store than they might be at Petsmart, the idea is to have the difference immediately noticeable. I want it to feel more like a very built-up, well-made fish room or aquarium. Obviously budget is a constant concern, but I don't want to through some cinderblocks on top of eachother with a 2X4 on top and start selling fish from that. I'd like for people to walk into my store and know that they're some place different, I think.
I agree with JettsPapa on #10, while I understand where your idea of having an area for those who are accompanying and aren't necessarily interested in the fish, the idea of "home away from home" is in my opinion flawed. Simply because you can't compare to the comfort felt at being in your own home, no one wants to kick back and watch tv while out shopping, plus a lot of people have access to everything via their phone. While If you used the space to show just what is possible in a jaw dropping display, you may generate future business.
A seating area is definitely a positive, my Mum was complaining about it last time at my LFS.
 

ChrissFishes01

Make sure there is room to move around and look at things. Our small lfs is so cramped inside, it makes it really uncomfortable to browse.

Carry stock that isn't already sold at PetCo/PetSmart. I was really disappointed when I went to our lfs in hopes of finding some neat stock only to find the same guppies and tetras I can buy from the big chain stores.

Have a section that caters to your local customers. We have hard water here and nearly everything sold in the store prefers soft water, even at the small lfs; brackish water stock would probably do well here but it's not really available (from what little I know--I could be wrong).

In the right conditions, I would think plants have a long shelf life. Have a large variety. I went to two cities--one two hours in one direction and the other two hours in the opposite direction from here--to try to find a nice selection of plants. You know where I ended up buying from? My local PetSmart.

Although many things can be bought online, people like me struggle with timing and would love to have a nice variety locally, even at a higher price. Like, my tank didn't cycle as quickly as I had hoped and now it's winter. Nighttime temps get into the teens consistently, so places can't ship to me. Consequently, despite the wonderful variety of plants and fish to be found online, I'm at the mercy of my local PetCo (who kindly is trying to order a honey gourami for me). Or, like, trying to buy rocks/wood that suits your tank but not knowing whether you'll be sent a few large rocks or a ton of small ones (fortunately, my experiences have been pretty good, but I know many have been very disappointed).

A local fish club/meeting would be nice as well. Online is great, but so is connecting with people who are facing the same water challenges and who know what the local stores carry and who might be able to give some emergency fish meds while waiting for Amazon to deliver them.

What about combining businesses or creating something unexpected? Like, lfs/coffee shop or lfs/games room or lfs/arts room. Something that brings people in for more than just purchasing fish-related things. We have a local coffee shop that is just booming here because they offer more than just a coffee shop--painting classes and beer/wine tasting and live music and games nights (and probably other stuff I forgot about).

Of course, how big your town/city is will have a direct bearing on whether a lfs would even be a successful venture. You can't make a town of 1500 all get into the fish hobby in order to support your business. I live in a small city of about 50,000 and I think our small lfs struggles to stay open (although much of that could have to do with how the business is run).

I definitely think a business degree, as mentioned by another poster, would be a wise idea, though.

ETA: I also love the idea of buying everything together, ready to go. I would have been throwing my money at any store that had a nice little betta tank already cycled and scaped!

That's a good part about a lot of stores feeling cramped - the ones here do too. I think keeping things organized, off the floor, and giving a good amount of space between rows of tanks and stock will be key.

As for unique and interesting stock, I agree! I need to stock normal stuff too, but I want to emphasize cool freshwater fish, uncommon brackish stuff, and some cool nano saltwater fish as well. I think a lot of very hardy, colorful, and unique fish get left out of the hobby due to just no one knowing much about them.

I like the idea of trying to make the store unique with something else - I especially love the coffee shop idea - but I think that's going to be almost impossible with the scenario I'm working in. A store that's 1000 sq. feet or less, along with the fact that I'm trying to start it with the fewest employees possible, means that running the fish portion of the store is going to be hard enough. Maybe this could be a great idea to explore down the road, but I don't think it's feasible for me.

As for population, I think I'd set up shop in a town of around 70000. It's near me, only has one Petsmart (and one LFS that's kinda bad), and tends to get a lot of traffic from the interstate. I think that's the best option for me to get my foot in the door, especially as income in that area is rising, so there's simply more money to be spent in that city.

I agree with JettsPapa on #10, while I understand where your idea of having an area for those who are accompanying and aren't necessarily interested in the fish, the idea of "home away from home" is in my opinion flawed. Simply because you can't compare to the comfort felt at being in your own home, no one wants to kick back and watch tv while out shopping, plus a lot of people have access to everything via their phone. While If you used the space to show just what is possible in a jaw dropping display, you may generate future business.
A seating area is definitely a positive, my Mum was complaining about it last time at my LFS.
That's a fair point - I'll think about it more. Thanks!
 

Sien

Hey guys!

So, I'm one of the hopefuls that's planning on opening my own LFS at some point. I'm still in the saving phase, but am committed to the idea. Anything can happen, but I've wanted to do this since I was a kid, and my passion for aquatic life has never waned.

Basically, I want to run some ideas past you guys, and ask for some advice and ideas as well. A lot of these have been "borrowed" from great stores such as Aquarium Co-Op, some are from stores around me, and some are just ideas based on observing the stores around me.

1) I want the place to feel clean. Every single LFS/LPS around me feels grimy and looks super grungy - pet stores tend to have that feel. A little water on the floor, maybe some salt creep here and there, no problem. But I think running dehumidifiers and just investing in some nice air fresheners will probably go a long way in keeping the store looking and feeling fresh. Anyone got any wisdom to share with keeping humidity and smell down? I'd imagine a commercial dehumidifier and a couple of wall-plug air fresheners would be a good start!

2) Keeping a variety of dry goods in stock is a high priority. I have to order almost EVERYTHING - local stores around me will carry basic products like Prime, Flourish, Excel, and dry foods, but rarely carry any other types of fertilizer, or gel food, or frozen food (except for bloodworms, mysis, and brine shrimp). Scaping supplies are also a big thing. Stores carry slate rock, overpriced driftwood, and a bit of base rock. That's about it. I tend to think that other than fish health and customer service, a good selection is one of the most important things about a store. Do you guys have any specific products that you LOVE but you have to order in? I obviously wouldn't be able to stock stuff that won't sell, but if I can hook people onto using a certain product, it might go well for me.

3) This one should be obvious, but I want to be able to provide IN-DETAIL care for each fish/animal I carry. The one I see around here a lot is puffers (people not knowing what's true freshwater, brackish, saltwater, or needs a transition period, or knowing that they need shelled foods, etc.), but I'm sure it happens with a ton of fish. I wouldn't want to order in a ton of Axolotls, mainly because I have very little knowledge on what their care is like. I'd actually thought about providing a small pamphlet for each species (or at least family/group) of fish that I carried that outlined diet, temperature, spawning, tank size, habitat, and so on that I'd give out to everyone who bought that fish. Slip it into the bag along with the receipt. Any ideas with respects to providing people with the best information possible?

4) Online orders would start on day 1. After seeing how many people simply don't shop in-store now, I think having an online system is a must, even if it just makes me a few bucks a week at first. Even if I'm shipping orders out to local people who just can't make it into the store due to a busy work schedule, those are still customers. Selling a bottle of Flourish before I ever open the doors for the day could be a great way to start off the morning.

5) I'd like to sell my own kits. A 10 gallon "kit" might include a 10 gallon tank, an Aquaclear HOB, a Fluval heater, a hood/light, and pre-cycled media. I work at Petco, and one of the biggest things I see people do is want a fish (either for their kid, or for themselves or whatever) and they get everything they'd ever need except for good filter media and a good bacterial starter. If I can just provide people with a cycled Aquaclear sponge on day one and tell them to wring it out in tank water every couple of weeks, I think that'd put a huge dent in the amount of deaths I'd be dealing with with new fish owners. There's always the issue of the cycled media introducing disease or pests... but I can't see that being any more issue than it would be with buying plants or fish.

6) I would give a legitimate QT to everything I brought in. I know that Aquarium Co-Op does 14 days, and I think that'd be the move for freshwater fish. 14 days in a back room with meds in the water, just to weed out any deaths or diseases that might make it out onto the floor. I think it'd cut down on returns, disease outbreaks in sale tanks, and just make the fish look healthier while they're being sold. Brackish stuff would get the same 14 days. Salty stuff would get longer, just because of my experiences with velvet and brooklynella. More than likely my goal would be 21 days if it's feasible. Every store around me sells sick saltwater stuff all the time, and I hate it. Fish get sick, I know, but I'm not sure if I've ever bought a healthy Saltwater fish from a LFS near me. I'd like to change that, even if it did eat into profits a little.

7) Bettas would be sold in community tanks, not in cups. It saves on space, is healthier for the fish, and educational for all the people who think that they can't be mixed with anything else. This should be an obvious one for any LFS, yet it never happens.

8) I'd like to focus more on coral frags rather than colonies. Colonies are cool, and I'd stock a few, but the saltwater hobby isn't exactly massive around here. Most people have nanos or even picos. A colony of zoas might take up half their tank - so it makes more sense, IME, to sell corals by the head or even just by the polyp.

9) The goal would be to get to a point to where I'm not ordering anything from a wholesaler. I'd just be buying from hobbyists. That's a pipe dream, sure - but it's still something to shoot for.

10) I want to provide the people who aren't into fish with entertainment as well. I'd thought about a small sitting area somewhere with a TV in a corner so that family members can chill in there for a while. I'd try to provide pop, coffee, tea, etc... If we're thinking about the customer who has to literally drag their mom/dad/husband/wife to the fish store, I think it'd make it easier on everyone if the fish store wasn't such a terrible place for the family to be.

This is just a small list of ideas I have - I've got a binder full of ideas I've been jotting down for the past 5 years or so. I'd like to hear what you guys would like to see in a new local store, as well as what you've seen local businesses do that either cause them to succeed, or fail. Even if it's not a LFS, it can still be helpful.

Oh, and my starting budget would be hopefully around $50000. I know that goes quick, but the plan would be to start with a sampling of what I'd need, and increase stock and selection from there.

Thanks!
That sounds amazing, if only every fish store had this concept. I think having enough variety of meds on shelf is important. Petco and PetSmart do not sell enough meds. My biggest thing, not to sound snarky, is to have people that are actually knowledgeable working. This can be hard to find. I would personally put people on register, stocking, or tank cleaning if they did not have information on fish and their needs. Then have the knowledgable people selling the fish and teaching customers. That is my biggest thing because so many pet stores put out wrong information and lead people down the wrong path, which discourages people from being apart of this amazing hobby. Honestly IMO what makes any business fail is bad customer service, employees that are now knowledgable, a dirty store, and unhealthy animals in sight. I hope your dream comes true and you are successful!
 

aussieJJDude

For me, I'd love a store that had a good range available, even if its not directly on show. For example, a white board (or book) where customers can jot down what they would like to see in the store (say, I want pearlscale (freshwater) angelfish... you don't have them, but I write it in the book and it could potentially allow you to order some in).


A good variety of fish (common, rare, usual, line-bred, high quality ect) is always a nice addition. Another good thing I like is stores that sell fish (schooling fish!) at a reduced price at 5 or more. For example, $3.99 usually, but buy over 5 and you get them at 3 each. Or $3.99 usually, but buy 5 for $15... something like that, where you're promoting schooling fish to be kept togethor as its a deal... not only that, but people are more likely (or at least I am...) to buy a larger group, meaning more sales, repeat customers and moving stock - the less time fish have to stay in your tanks, the better... energg, food and water aint cheap.


Selling premixed saltwater and/or RODI.. start traffic.

Online store is a huge plus, and would love if my local stores did so so I wouldn't have to be dissapointed to see wheb you don't have something in stock.
 

ChrissFishes01

That sounds amazing, if only every fish store had this concept. I think having enough variety of meds on shelf is important. Petco and PetSmart do not sell enough meds. My biggest thing, not to sound snarky, is to have people that are actually knowledgeable working. This can be hard to find. I would personally put people on register, stocking, or tank cleaning if they did not have information on fish and their needs. Then have the knowledgable people selling the fish and teaching customers. That is my biggest thing because so many pet stores put out wrong information and lead people down the wrong path, which discourages people from being apart of this amazing hobby. Honestly IMO what makes any business fail is bad customer service, employees that are now knowledgable, a dirty store, and unhealthy animals in sight. I hope your dream comes true and you are successful!
That's 100% true with customer service. I'd rather go to a restaurant with good food and great service than go to a restaurant with great food and okay service. Same goes for a LFS - honestly, if I didn't want to provide good service, I'd just stay where I'm at with Petco, and things would probably be easier. Sadly, there's only so much I can do as a chain store employee.

For me, I'd love a store that had a good range available, even if its not directly on show. For example, a white board (or book) where customers can jot down what they would like to see in the store (say, I want pearlscale (freshwater) angelfish... you don't have them, but I write it in the book and it could potentially allow you to order some in).


A good variety of fish (common, rare, usual, line-bred, high quality ect) is always a nice addition. Another good thing I like is stores that sell fish (schooling fish!) at a reduced price at 5 or more. For example, $3.99 usually, but buy over 5 and you get them at 3 each. Or $3.99 usually, but buy 5 for $15... something like that, where you're promoting schooling fish to be kept togethor as its a deal... not only that, but people are more likely (or at least I am...) to buy a larger group, meaning more sales, repeat customers and moving stock - the less time fish have to stay in your tanks, the better... energg, food and water aint cheap.


Selling premixed saltwater and/or RODI.. start traffic.

Online store is a huge plus, and would love if my local stores did so so I wouldn't have to be dissapointed to see wheb you don't have something in stock.
Ordering special items in is definitely something that'd I'd love to be able to do for people, especially when we're talking about large cichlids, larger saltwater fish cephalopods, lobsters, etc... A recommendation board is a good idea too!

As far as the discount for schooling fish goes, that's a good idea, and I'd love to be able to do that, but I'm not sure how that would all work out with profits and such just yet. I'm imagining I'm not going to make very much at all from selling a neon tetra at normal price - so cutting down that price very much to sell a school for cheaper might actually put me at a loss. Again, I'm not sure as I haven't seen wholesale prices (plus what I spend on meds and food while it's in QT), but it's something to think about. I think it'd work better for larger, more expensive schoolers.
 

angelcraze

Sounds like a store I'm trying to model after! None of the stores around me QT or keep the tanks especially clean. Nitrates in the water I bring home are usually at least 40 PPM. What I want is to have THE store around for not only unique stuff, but also just healthy common stuff. If someone has bought 30 neon tetras from Petsmart over the past year, and every single one of them has died (and they're not doing anything terribly wrong), I think there's probably money to be made in being the guy there with healthy neon tetras and the products and advice to keep them alive, even if the cost of the fish is higher.
They don't have a QT room in the back like your idea and meds are not available in my country, but they won't sell fish they just get in for a week or so to make sure they are healthy enough to go into the customer's tank. But if you can manage a QT back room, that would be amazing. On a small scale, it is what I do myself are home because I breed fish and sell them, plus I can't afford anything taking out my existing stock. But I also got burnt when a parasite got into my system and I lost a bunch of my precious fish. So on a small scale it works, but could prove difficult for a lot of fish. Still, I love the plan

They have 'regular' stuff, but a lot of unique stuff, yes. But what is cool is that I can order in what I want IF they can find it at one of the reputable sources. If somethimg comes in obviously sick, they will send the fish back and never buy from them again. I'm sure there are exceptions, but you get what I'm saying.

One other thing about their tanks, they are all planted. Those plants are not for sale but eat up the nitrate. They often buy stock and plants from hobbyists (like you plan) which is nice for attaining certain stem plants like stargrass that aren't usually available online because it ships so poorly. I'm a Freshwater hobbyists and they don't do SW, but I'm sure it applies to the salty side too with things like coral and such. Also passionate hobbyists like myself get a little credit stash. I'm always there buying stuff (I have lots of pets), so they are getting enough money from me haha. The credit stash just makes me feel good and I save it for something special I wouldn't normally buy. I think that adds to my enthusiasm for the LFS, the fact that I can contribute or they like my fish and plants.

In my country it's important now more than ever (since the fish med ban) to buy healthy fish from the get go. That applies to the fish the LFS gets in as well, they have to be careful where they order from.
 

ChrissFishes01

They don't have a QT room in the back like your idea and meds are not available in my country, but they won't sell fish they just get in for a week or so to make sure they are healthy enough to go into the customer's tank. But if you can manage a QT back room, that would be amazing. On a small scale, it is what I do myself are home because I breed fish and sell them, plus I can't afford anything taking out my existing stock. But I also got burnt and a parasite got into my system and I lost a bunch of my precious fish. So on a small scale it works, but could prove difficult for a lot of fish. Still, I love the plan

They have 'regular' stuff, but a lot of unique stuff, yes. But what is cool is that I can order in what I want IF they can find it at one of the reputable sources. If somethimg comes in obviously sick, they will send the fish back and never buy from them again. I'm sure there are exceptions, but you get what I'm saying.

One other thing about their tanks, they are all planted. Those plants are not for sale but eat up the nitrate. They often buy stock and plants from hobbyists (like you plan) which is nice for attaining certain stem plants like stargrass that aren't usually available online because it ships so poorly. Also passionate hobbyists like myself get a little credit stash. I'm always there buying stuff (I have lots of pets), so they are getting enough money from me haha. The credit stash just makes me feel good and I save it for something special I wouldn't normally buy. I think that adds to my enthusiasm for the LFS, the fact that I can contribute or they like my fish and plants.

In my country it's important now more than ever (since the fish med ban) to buy healthy fish from the get go. That applies to the fish the LFS gets in as well, they have to be careful where they order from.
Yeah, I wouldn't be doing a traditional hobbyist QT. The plan would be to have a back room filled with 10 gallon tanks (on a rack, sitting sideways so I can fit more onto the rack), all running individual sponge filters and heaters where needed. They'd get treated for internal and external parasites, as well as fungal stuff as soon as they came through the door. If something needed a harsher treatment (probably something saltwater), it'd probably get separated and taken home so I'm not using room at the store while I treated it.

I'm all for using plants in sale tanks, too! I'd imagine I'd probably use mainly self-potted plants, and they'd constantly be getting uprooted if they were planted into the gravel.
 

Guy25

I'd recommend you watch videos on the subject. Listen to his stories of starting the business. You can expect not to profit for a couple of years ( so he states in a couple videos ). Also a buddy of mine caught him once, and he stated a big key in his business surviving early on was a utility zoning issue...he was charged the same amount for water a month as a typical business and it never changed...no mater how much he used, which being a LFS, typically your water bill is serious $$.

IMO...50k might be enough if you are handy and can do allot of DIY...but if not, I would think you would need much more. Not to mention purchasing a decent business location, taxes etc. And would you be able to afford to live without an income for that long...or afford to hire someone to manage the business while you work etc?

They’ve done right by creating a social media presence, and he out-competes all other LFS in the region. I live 6 hours from his shop, and I make the trip bypassing 5 other local stores because of his quality of stock, customer service, and store cleanliness. If I were serious about starting a LFS, I would definitely take him as a pattern as it sounds like you are.

Number one difference to me is how clean his store is. It has a very clean restroom, the tanks are always clean and free of floaters. The carpet is vacuumed, and his employees are friendly and his stock is medicated. That's what I feel like makes a great LFS.
 

angelcraze

Yeah, I wouldn't be doing a traditional hobbyist QT. The plan would be to have a back room filled with 10 gallon tanks (on a rack, sitting sideways so I can fit more onto the rack), all running individual sponge filters and heaters where needed. They'd get treated for internal and external parasites, as well as fungal stuff as soon as they came through the door. If something needed a harsher treatment (probably something saltwater), it'd probably get separated and taken home so I'm not using room at the store while I treated it.

I'm all for using plants in sale tanks, too! I'd imagine I'd probably use mainly self-potted plants, and they'd constantly be getting uprooted if they were planted into the gravel.
Yeah but keep plants for sale and fish separate. A good LFS will do that to prevent the introduction of disease or parasites through plants. You probably knew that, just making sure that came across properly
 

Das Junge

Just a short recommendation here, I like everything you have going. Perhaps a sort of QR code to scan with the name of each fish on the glass of a tank. Pretty much everyone can now scan QR code’s on their phone’s camera, and it would be a great way to get information around.
 

ChrissFishes01

Just a short recommendation here, I like everything you have going. Perhaps a sort of QR code to scan with the name of each fish on the glass of a tank. Pretty much everyone can now scan QR code’s on their phone’s camera, and it would be a great way to get information around.
That could save on paper cost, too. Thanks.
 

jpm995

One thing I don't think you mentioned is other animals. Most stores have to carry some reptiles and birds to increase sales but I imagine its a lot more work and not always done well. Would you carry live food? I used to feed my fish live brine shrimp and tubifex worms. I doubt there's much profit but it generates constant revenue.
 

ChrissFishes01

One thing I don't think you mentioned is other animals. Most stores have to carry some reptiles and birds to increase sales but I imagine its a lot more work and not always done well. Would you carry live food? I used to feed my fish live brine shrimp and tubifex worms. I doubt there's much profit but it generates constant revenue.
The main reason I didn't mention other animals is because I'm not sure what the answer is yet. I definitely don't really want to carry hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, and stuff like that - rodents are probably more work than they're worth, in my eyes. I might carry a few dry goods for them, but not a large amount.

I think some reptiles, amphibians, and maybe larger birds might make the cut, but sparingly. Before anything else, I want this to be an aquatics store.

Live food, for sure! BBS might be a little difficult (I can hatch them, and wouldn't mind having a small hatchery in the shop, I'm just afraid I might lose money on them), and live blackworms would be the two I have the most interest in. If I could keep daphnia in stock, I'd like to try that too. For saltwater stuff, copepods in a bottle is probably what I'd try to keep. Feeder snails (pond snails) would probably be readily available too. I'm not a big fan of feeder fish, but we'll see.
 

aussieJJDude

As far as the discount for schooling fish goes, that's a good idea, and I'd love to be able to do that, but I'm not sure how that would all work out with profits and such just yet. I'm imagining I'm not going to make very much at all from selling a neon tetra at normal price - so cutting down that price very much to sell a school for cheaper might actually put me at a loss. Again, I'm not sure as I haven't seen wholesale prices (plus what I spend on meds and food while it's in QT), but it's something to think about. I think it'd work better for larger, more expensive schoolers.
Could even be buy 4, get the last one free. Even a dollar or two off (sell them individually at $5.99, but a group it all goes down to a nice 'round' number like $20 or $25. You'll make a small profit margin.

But even then, the sale is a little better. Lossing a dollar two two here and there is far better than spending the extra dollar or two keeping the fish in stock. They have a 'shelf life' so the more time they spend in your tank, the more you have to shell out to pay for them. :/
 

Elkwatcher

I like your ideas but it sounds like your more of an enthusiast than potential store owner. It's a tough business to start with as the younger generation are more into social media than traditional hobbies. I would be concerned with stocking items that don't have fast turn around times, excess inventory wasts money and space. The thing is you have 2 types of customers [probably more] One is the clueless parent who gets a tank for his kids. Here your competing with the big box [Petsmart, Petco] type stores.This will be tough they buy so much stuff you'll be hard pressed to match their prices. Typically these people don't treat fish like real pets [dogs, cats]. They die from neglect or improper care and they drop out or restock a few times and drop out. The only real opportunity is if you can turn them into real hobbiests by insuring success. The cycled filter and proper instructions will help here, if they are willing to pay more for success. The second type are lifelong hobbiests who avoid big box stores because their selection is so limited. I go to lfs looking for different type fish like rarer cories, elephant noses, half beaks, and other oddballs. These stores have it tougher as they have to appease both types of customers. Good luck, the odds are against you but a lot depends on your drive and smarts to make your store a success.
Did you notice while watching videos that Cory started out small and found he had to have a lot of capital to continue. He worked for the first few years around the clock with no pay, as it had to go into the business to keep it afloat. Almost all work was done by him as he didn't have the funds for employees or contractors at the time. His business is a work of love and when it took off became one of the most successful fish stores going. It's still evolving. He has an extrordinary business sense, not all people have this. In a recent video he said he still doesn't sell livestock via online, only fish products... and he probably has a good reason for that. I wish you luck, as your fish ethics and values show you could be someone who could accomplish your dream.
 

YellowGuppy

I love the idea of pre-cycled sponge sales! Nobody goes into a pet store looking to buy fish, and then comes home happy after learning "Now I just have to wait a month!", so providing a sustainable way to allow them to rush into things seems great!

The biggest thing that annoys me about my LFS is prices for things stocked elsewhere. TetraMin Tropical Flakes are literally 2-3x the price of what I can buy them for at my grocery store. If you're going to have the same items as your competitors, try to price them competitively. If you have novel stock that isn't otherwise easily obtained, them certainly charge a premium.

Also, it may be wise to explore some of the avenues your potential customers are searching to guide your stock. For example, if Cory at Aquarium Co op has recently been singing the praises of susswassertang and cryptocorynes, ensure you have them around.
 

ChrissFishes01

Thanks for all the responses so far! It's been really helpful. How do you guys think I would go about social media? I'd obviously do some basic Facebook stuff, but do you think I should attempt Youtube? Instagram? Twitter?
 

aussieJJDude

I think YouTube could work, insta would be a nice thought. But twitter, don't see the point really. Idk if its just me, but I can see how you could make twitter work for you.


A website would be a nice addition - which I assume you'll have?
 

ChrissFishes01

Yep! The idea would be to have a website set up and ready to sell dry goods from on day 1 (or pretty close to it).
 

YellowGuppy

Thanks for all the responses so far! It's been really helpful. How do you guys think I would go about social media? I'd obviously do some basic Facebook stuff, but do you think I should attempt Youtube? Instagram? Twitter?

ALL the things! Honestly, there's a waning population in Facebook— Instagram will give you better bang for your buck, but you'll want a presence on every platform. I think there are ways of automatically porting over content (e.g. if you post something on Instagram, you can have it show up on Facebook too) but I'm not entirely sure what or how.
 

86 ssinit

It’s a big endeavor opening a pet store. You’ve got some great ideas. Some funny ones. A dehumidifier in a aquarium? It would constantly be sucking in water! Constantly! I mean it’s an aquarium. You would be adding water to the tanks to feed the dehumidifier. Sorry humidity and aquariums run hand in hand. The money to run the humidifier would be taking away from your profit. Not to mention the price of the humidifier itself.
Aquarium pet stores are a dying breed. So many now buy everything online. Shipping fish is so much better now. Running a store you have to sell what you bring in. So odd ball fish really aren’t an option. You don’t want non-selling fish taking up tanks. Unfortunately there’s not that many people into aquariums. Your pet store to survive needs to sell dog and cat basics to survive. Your looking to get those people to buy your fish stuff. Many aquarium people have other pets. So a good way to get them buying from you is to have all there pet supplies at one place . This is a major reason I use my lps. I need dog food regularly. Speaking to the owners they say the store survives on these supplies. People come for there dog and cat food but walk around the aquarium part. Those that buy aquarium stuff are a bonus.
Location is the next thing. You need to be somewhere where there isn’t a pet store. But people interested. Next owning your property. I’ve seen many a pet store go under while doing good because the building owner seeing there success raised the rent. Very hard to just get up and move an aquarium. Those that survive own there buildings. Good luck!
 

ChrissFishes01

The idea with the dehumidifer would be more to make it a better environment for the people in the store (not only that, but also to help dry spills and such faster), although I do see your point. Maybe a nice rug-doctor would be a better investment.

You make a good point with carrying all pet supplies - it's something I continue to consider. I think the biggest issue I see ends up being one of space. Dog food/cat food/dry goods take a lot of space, so they'd have to pay their way. Not sure I could be competitive with chain stores on pricing, either.

As for location, I had been considering going into Western KY (or maybe Eastern KY), about an hour away from Lexington, and within 2 hours of Louisville and Richmond. That'd put me in a good spot to service the people in the smaller towns out away from the cities (there's not many petsmarts or petcos out there either, so I would sell more dry goods), and it wouldn't be too far a drive for most people to make from the bigger cities either.
 

EllsBells

Mostly, I'd like to see staff that say things such as: "That's a good question! I'm not as up on that topic as X, who is in the back. Hang on, I'll see if he/she can help you."

I am actually an employee in a fish store chain, and I found this very interesting. As I'm 17, I always felt like customers get despondent when I say "Let me check with my colleagues" or "Hey, X, what do you think about this situation?" I kept it up because I'd rather be safe than sorry with cases involving the life/death of fish. It's good to know that people such as yourself appreciate it.

Also, this is a great concept. As the 'younger generation' I 100% belive online presence is important, as well as marketing. When I started employment at my current chain store it was brand new. They struggled for a year because no one at head office promoted it! A tip - don't underestimate the design of a website. It has to feel fresh and modern. An engaging presentation of your stock is great for first-time business!

I wish you the best of luck!
 

MacZ

I only want little things:

Clean and structured facility, competent and knowledgeable staff, sustainably sourced fish.

Maybe a little corner for biotope aquarists. Thanks.
 

Dewclaw83

In addition to pamphlets on the fish themselves, maybe have pamphlets (or a booklet?) on diseases too?

I know the one thing that bugs me is I can’t find a cheap light anywhere near me. The bar lights (not sure if that’s what they’re actually called) I order off amazon are like $15 but everywhere around here, their cheapest lights are $55 which is annoying. Looking into providing some cheaper options would encourage younger fish keeps (college age included) to buy from you rather than order offline
 

GouramisAreSuperior

My Petco has an employee whos knowledgeable and always helps us stock our tank when we come
 

ChrissFishes01

Loving all the feedback!
 

mrsP

Selling already cycled sponges in general is a brilliant idea, and to be honest, I think that would be cheap to do, and would sell well.

My LFS does have male bettas in tanks with other fish (one per tank) and females in sorority tank. And it works really well.

Also if I can suggest, simply fresh colors on walls and good floor material makes all the difference compared to dull gray or greenish color.

With all your plans I read, I think you will do great. Go for it!
 

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