How to Grow Aquarium Plants for Profit
Although caring for aquatic plants is not easy, it can be a rewarding experience. However, once your aquarium has started to flourish, and the overgrown vegetation starts to take its toll, what should you do? Is it possible to sell your extra trimmings as an extra source of income? You need to decide how much time, money and effort you are willing invest. While some people are just looking for a hobby, others want to make enough money to pay their expenses. Some are serious entrepreneurs hoping to be able to compete against large plant farms. We will discuss three methods to sell aquarium plants in order to increase effort and revenue.
Easy Mode: Selling Plants to Fish Stores
If your fish tanks are growing well and you need a place to offload your excess floating plants or stem plants, then your local fish store is the good place to start. The store is the only one that offers wholesale prices and has a great customer service team. However, most stores don’t like to buy from hobbyists because people bring in a giant bag or bucket full of trimmings, and it takes too much work to separate the plants, count them, cut them to the right length, and throw away those covered in algae.
In the general manager’s eyes, it’s a lot simpler dealing with a wholesaler because they can order whatever they want from a list and it shows up packaged in a box. Therefore, if you want to compete with the wholesaler, you need to supply the fish store with an alternative that saves them time and effort. Prepackage stem plants in bundles of 4-5 stems, each measuring 5-6 inches (12-15cm) in length. Because they can die quickly in bunches, stores tend to buy them at a very low cost. If you want to raise the price, invest the extra effort to place the plants in pots of rock wool with a 1/2 inch (1 cm) of space between each stem. This helps prevent the stems from becoming rotten and encourages roots to develop, which will help customers grow their plants more successfully at home.
Increase the value of your plants by placing them in plastic pots of rock wool that look professional and are ready to sell.
Another way you can make the store manager’s life easier is to drop off the plants at non-peak times, usually during the weekdays. Even though those times might be difficult for some people, especially if they have full-time jobs or schools, you shouldn’t bring your plants in during busy periods where they won’t be available to help. Most stores need fresh plants to sell during peak sales times. Talk to your manager to determine the best time to visit each week.
It is important to find out the exact time they are looking for plants. If they keep taking less and less of a certain plant you have, stop selling them as much of it. Do not pressure them to purchase all of your stock. If you become too difficult, it will endanger the relationship and they will cease buying from you.
Intermediate Mode: Selling Aquarium Plants Online
If your plants are more expensive than you want to sell in your store, then it may be worth looking into selling them online through AquaBid or eBay. Yes, there are a lot more buyers on the internet than store customers, but prices may sometimes be cheaper because there’s also a lot of supply from other hobbyists and importers.
When you sold to your local fish store, they made things easier because they managed all the customer interactions. However, as an online seller, you must put on the new role of salesperson. Listings should have attractive descriptions, plant photos, detailed explanations about shipping costs, and live arrival guarantees. If something goes wrong, customer support will be another responsibility. Be prepared to promptly answer questions on what kind of lighting you use, why the plants are doing badly, and how to submit a refund.
Be clear about what you are selling and meet expectations. Start building a reputation for having high-quality plants that are healthy, come with roots, have no algae, are free of duckweed, or have other benefits that differentiate you from the competition. Customers will return to you for repeat business if you do your job well.
Most plant farms that grow submersed plants cannot guarantee their plants are snail-free, so if this is the case for you, make it clear to your customers upfront to avoid disappointing their expectations.
Expert Mode: Increased Production of Aquatic Plants
Scale is what makes a professional seller different from a casual one. Instead of only selling plants that you already keep in your aquariums, now you are buying dedicated tanks and equipment to increase production. You are competing with a lot of large plant farms that primarily grow their plants emersed or out of water. Your main benefit to fish stores and online customers is that your plants are grown submersed or underwater, so you are saving the customer the time of having to convert their plants from emersed to submersed. This advantage allows you to charge more than the farms because (a) submersed plants have a higher likelihood of surviving in the customers’ aquariums and (b) stores don’t have to waste time cleaning out all the melted leaves that fall off emersed plants.
The key point when buying supplies is to spend the least amount of money as possible where it makes sense. Remember that you are also competing with other smaller plant farms like yourself who may have certain advantages like outdoor ponds, great weather, and so forth. They already have a leg up in terms of cost of production, so you need to save expenses in other areas if possible. You can purchase the following items:
– Water containers: You don’t have to just use aquariums to grow plants, so consider cheaper, bigger options like plastic tubs, hydroponic racks, and outdoor cement bins. Higher tanks need more light to reach the plants, but they are better suited to stem plants with a height of 6-8 inches (15-20cm). Shallower tanks may be suitable for plants smaller than anubias, nana petit. – Carbon dioxide (CO2): When combined with appropriate levels of lighting and nutrients, CO2 gas is an important building block that helps plants to grow faster, which means you can sell them sooner. There are several ways to inject CO2 depending on your budget. Each has its own pros and cons. The most expensive but reliable technique is pressurized CO2 injection using cylinders of CO2 gas, regulators, and manifolds to spread to multiple tanks. – Fertilizer: To make sure our plants have enough food or nutrients to grow, we add Easy Green all-in-one liquid fertilizer to our water using an automatic dosing machine. If you have experience with plant care, you can measure the water in your home to find out if there are any nutrients missing. Then choose the fertilizer that will best suit your water.
Commercial farm farms prefer to have their aquariums emersed. This allows the leaves to grow higher and faster, but they can’t do as well if the plants are submerged in water.
It depends on what market you are targeting and what plants they want to grow. If you want to sell to beginners, they usually look for easy and hardy plants like Anubias barteri, java fern, and java moss (which is hard to find as a submersed-grown product). The beginner market has a ton of buyers, but plants tend to go for cheaper prices. The high-end market prefers rare specimens, such as Anubias Naana ‘Pangolino” or the newly discovered Bucephalandra species. These plants of course sell for higher prices, which means you will have fewer customers and potentially fewer tanks to maintain. You should be aware that rare plants will eventually be picked up by commercial growers who can produce them in a greater volume than you can. Therefore, you will always need to hunt for the next species to add to you inventory.
The last tip we have for plant sellers is to make sure you don’t run out of stock as often as possible. It is better to not sell a rare plant if you can’t sell it for 6-8 months. It is not a good idea to have your website full of out-of stock products. This could cause customers to become dissatisfied or make assumptions about whether you are still in business. Stick to a handful of species and categories of plants you can mass-produce and are able to specialize in. If you do decide to expand your business, be sure that you can keep your existing products in stock. Otherwise, buyers will search for a reliable supplier.
If you are interested in selling aquarium fish and invertebrates as well, check out our article on breeding aquatic species for profit for more information on the best fish to breed, what supplies to buy, and how to sell them.