Back in the 90s many folks got a freshwater tank and kept fish like the simple goldfish. They gradually progressed into keeping full-blown saltwater tanks and the progression from gold fish to clownfish took many years. Today, we are seeing a different behavior pattern, which has them jumping directly into keeping a saltwater tank.
The new behavior is troubling. The new aquarist needs to learn about a host of new water parameters, many of them foreign. Consumers are more informed than ever and are basically skipping an entire lifecycle of the natural progression of keeping aquariums.
The new lifecyle is also seen in other industries with progression patterns or funnels. Take for example the automotive industry where a large sales cycle would need to occur before the consumer was ready to purchase a car. Today, folks might come into the dealership asking for that black car on the lot and they just need financing. How do they know? They already did all of their research on the Internet and conducted reviews by asking friends and family which new cars they recommended.
The new reef tank consumer lifecyle is helped by several factors in the industry the largest being the media. Shows liked Tanked, Fish Tank Kings and Finding Nemo helped the masses that had no interest investing the time and maintenance to care for a reef tank to now start researching online and for better or worse walk into a local fish store or go to a popular online forum. Many store owners ask them what their budget is instead of asking them what fish have they kept before. Many forum members welcome them to the club but fail to ask what types of fish they have kept before. Saltwater fish are not and should not be recommended for beginners.
We now are dealing with a very informed consumer with a host of resources at their disposal. The new lifecyle is having a direct impact on the industry as we are seeing more and more reef tanks set up in rapid succession. As an industry it would be a great idea if we could educate the consumer and not leave us wide open to attacks from environmental groups or else face a soon-to-be regulated industry.