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? It is possible to make additional income by selling your trimmings. 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. To address these different levels of commitment, let’s discuss three approaches for selling aquarium plants, in order of increasing effort and potential 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. There is not much competition, and the store provides all customer support. Most stores won’t buy from hobbyists as they don’t want to deal with large quantities of trimmings. It takes too much effort to separate and count the plants, cut them to the correct length and toss those that are covered in algae.
The general manager sees it as much easier dealing with a wholesaler. They can order from a list, and the product arrives 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 your stem plants in bunches of 4-5 stems that are 5-6 inches (12-15 cm) long. They can quickly die in groups so stores often buy them at a low price. You can increase the price by placing the plants in rock wool pots with 1/2 inch (1 cm) space between each stem. This prevents the stems from rotting and allows them to begin producing roots, which in turn helps customers to grow them more successfully at home.
Place your plants in rock wool pots that look professional and ready for sale to increase their value.
Dropping off plants at non-peak times can help store managers. This is most commonly during 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 shops need to have fresh stock ready to sell before weekend rushes when sales are high. So talk to the manager about the best times to stop by each week.
Not only should you find out when the store wants to buy plants, but also what kind of plants they need. Stop selling plants they don’t want. You should not press them to buy all your stock. This can cause a strained relationship that will result in the store stopping 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. Online sellers must assume the role of salesperson. Make sure your listings have attractive descriptions and plant photos. Include a list of water parameters and growing conditions. Also, include clear explanations of shipping costs as well as 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.
Make sure you know what you’re selling and that your expectations are met. 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. If you do your job well and customers have a good experience, they will come back to you for repeat sales.
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 selling plants that you already have in your tanks, you now buy dedicated tanks and equipment to increase your production. There are many large plant farms out there that grow plants in water, so you will be competing with them. 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 charge more than the farmers because submerged plants are more likely of living in customers’ aquariums. Also, the stores don’t have the time to clean up all the melted leaves on emersed plant.
When buying supplies, the key is to spend as little money as possible. You must remember that you will be competing with smaller farms, which may have some advantages such as outdoor ponds and great weather. 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 need to use an aquarium to grow plants. There are many cheaper options, such as plastic tubs, hydroponic racks and outdoor cement bins. For stem plants that are 6-8 inches tall (15-20 cm), taller tanks will need stronger lighting. Shallower tanks can be equipped with lower lighting and might be good for smaller plants like anubias nana petite. – 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. Depending on your budget and number of tanks, there are different methods for injecting CO2, each with their own pros and cons. Pressurized CO2 injection is the most reliable and expensive method. This involves using regulators, cylinders of CO2 gas, and manifolds that 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 are an expert in plant maintenance, measure the water and determine whether certain nutrients are missing. Next, choose the fertilizer best suited to your water.
Commercial plants farms prefer to have their aquarium plants emersed in order that the leaves can grow larger and more quickly. However, emersed plants don’t always thrive once they are submerged under water in the aquarium.
The market you’re targeting, the people who are interested in buying it, and your skills at growing plants will determine which plants you should buy or cultivate. 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 many buyers but plants are more affordable. The high-end market, on the other hand, is interested in rare specimens like Anubias nana ‘Pangolino’ or newly discovered Bucephalandra species. These plants will sell at higher prices, so you’ll have fewer customers to care for and fewer tanks. However, be aware that rare plants eventually get picked up by the commercial plant farms that can produce them in much higher volume than you can, so you will constantly need to be hunting for the next new species to add to your inventory.
The last tip we have for plant sellers is to make sure you don’t run out of stock as often as possible. You might be better off not selling a rare or endangered plant if you’re only able sell it once every six to eight months. Your website shouldn’t be full of out-of-stock products. Customers may get frustrated and assume that you are not in business. Instead, stick to a few species or categories of plants that you can mass produce and specialize in. If you decide to expand, make sure you can still keep your current offerings in stock or else buyers will look for another, more 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.