Firstly, I feel I need to apologise to you all as it’s been far too long since I last wrote this feature. In fact, I was extremely shocked to learn that my last piece was way back in October of last year but needless to say, one heck of a lot has happened since then…..
Now that we seem to be finally returning to a form of normality on a week-by-week basis, some sense of this new reality is starting to feel comfortable. Thankfully, like many of you, I received my first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccination back in March, with my second one due next week. As a result, and after speaking to many of our customers, there appears to be a general feeling of optimism, and the desire to immerse one’s self in wholesome hobbies such as fishkeeping, in one guise or another, has not wilted one bit. Perhaps it is a combination of many turning homes into their regular workplace, allowing individuals more time to be at home to care for an aquarium or pond? Or perhaps it’s the realisation of not sunning ourselves on an exotic beach this summer, means that there is more time (and finances) to indulge ourselves being at home this coming year. Either way, it has been so lovely to see our shops busy with enthusiastic aquarists and pond keepers, albeit wearing masks and socially distancing from one another.
So, what new and exciting things do we have to look forward to with respect to our stores and this hobby? In all honesty, things have been rather slow with regards to product launches and innovation over the past 12 months or so. I personally believe that the lack of trade exhibitions and many of our suppliers operating on a reduced capacity with regards to any R&D has accounted for a lack of new ideas to roll off the production lines. That, along with the logistical nightmare of over-stretched supply chains and the increasing costs of raw materials make this even more challenging. BUT the wheels are slowly beginning to turn again and there are definitely some green shoots emerging. Only this week was the long awaited and rescheduled ‘Interzoo 2020’ exhibition, usually held in Nuremberg, Germany. Interzoo is a key source of inspiration for the international pet industry where trade visitors get a global market overview of all the current and latest aquatic products. However, as a result the current travel restrictions, along with the best interest of all attendees, the organiser took the decision some time ago to make this rescheduled event a virtual one. Not ideal by any means but it was step in the right direction and many of attending suppliers are making all the right noises! And looking ahead, better news is that the next event will be a physical trade fair held in May 2022. On a similar note, our very own UK aquatics trade show, AQUA 2021, is planning to go ahead as normal later this year. Like Interzoo, the AQUA event platforms ground-breaking ideas and new product launches for the UK market. Hopefully I will have more to report on these two events as soon as possible.
Like every industry, aquatics is not alone in the challenges that this pandemic has brought. Aside from how we interact with one another in the real world, the availability of both products and fish has certainly been a huge challenge for us to ensure our stores have enough stock to cater for the current demand. Luckily we have been able to ensure minimal disruption, but the advice I would give to anyone contemplating a purchase is not to delay as it may either not be available when you decide to buy, or worse still, it could be more expensive, as outlined previously with the continual rising costs of raw materials and transportation. That being said, we would always recommend only considered purchases and please do not make any impulse decisions, especially when it comes to livestock. Always take direction from the advice given by our knowledgeable staff members concerning such purchases.
In other news, last month saw the law change to introduce a charge for carrier bags across the rest of our stores (Scotland and Wales already had this in place). Whilst to some this may be frustrating, the ethics behind this move are sound and it is vital we all need to take responsibility for reducing the use of carrier bags (and plastic in general) so that the environment can recover from years of overuse. Obviously, the welfare of our livestock is paramount, so fortunately we are still able to provide carrier bags for all aquatic animal purchases in England (but not for any other goods purchased at the same time). One better way to ensure your new pets get home safely and sustainably is to purchase one of our thermal transportation bags (https://www.fishkeeper.co.uk/clownfish-aquarium-fish-thermal-transportation-bag) meaning you have years of use without the need to use any carrier bags whatsoever! And in the event you do have to purchase a carrier bag, we are donating all the proceeds to charitable organisations. There will be a variety of selected charities depending on the store, but all will have an environmental or aquatic theme, such examples are the World Land Trust (https://www.worldlandtrust.org/), LINI (https://lini.or.id/) and the River Trust (https://www.theriverstrust.org/).
One bit of exciting news in our continued effort to enhance our customer experience, is by introducing new technologies to improve how you shop with us. Therefore, we are pleased to announce a genuine ‘Click & Collect’ facility via our website, which we are hoping to launch within the next 6 weeks. Since Maidenhead Aquatics has over 150 stores throughout the UK, we are the only specialist aquatics retailer that can offer this service. Simply go onto our website and browse through a huge catalogue of products, where you will be able to see which of the local stores have these selected items in stock. A very simple and user-friendly feature ensures you can secure this real-time stock once payment is taken, and you’ll then receive a message inviting you to collect the item once it’s picked and ready! Alongside this new feature, you’ll still have the option to either buy online where it can be sent directly to your place of choice, or to send it to one of our stores from our warehouse should it be out of stock in the chosen store, giving you a true omnichannel experience.
Two new products to note in this edition are the new TMC iLumenAir+ LED light units (https://www.fishkeeper.co.uk/tmc-ilumenair-marine-aquarium-led ) and Microbe-Lift’s new NOPO Control (https://www.fishkeeper.co.uk/microbe-lift-nopo-control-473ml ). This new LED light from TMC comes in 3 sizes and features a whole new diode configuration, meaning a much-improved overall light distribution and prevents the ‘spotting’ of light that other units can cause in your aquarium. Using any smartphone, you can easily control the lighting settings such as a sunrise, moonlight, storm and cloud simulation. Plus, the new mounting kit makes it easier than ever to secure the led and position it over your aquarium.
The new NOPO Control from Microbe-Lift is a special water care product that helps to reduce the biological nitrate and phosphate levels in both freshwater and marine tanks. The carbon source contained within NOPO Control help to promote the growth of those bacteria which effectively convert nitrate and phosphate. In addition, corals are also able to utilise this carbon as a source of energy, which benefits their natural growth and enhance their colours.
Until next time, please stay safe and well, and keep enjoying this amazing hobby!
Old favourites tend to be in the hobby for a long time with good reason, usually, it’s because they combine a lot of desirable traits. The metallic form of the Gold barb (Barbodes semifasciolatus) makes an excellent aquarium fish suitable for both tropical and temperate (unheated) setups. These young fishes at our Pyle store are a perfect beginner’s choice.
It’s that time of year when the heating goes back on, and this is something that many of us have in common with our pets. To ensure they remain healthy, it’s important to know that your aquarium heater is working properly and is set to the right temperature for the fishes you keep.