If you’ve never worked in an aquarium store before, there are some great reasons why you should. It doesn’t haven’t to be on a full-time basis, it doesn’t even have to be paid work, but the experience that you’ll get from it and the knowledge will prove invaluable. Here’s why:
- You get to work with hundreds of fish, corals, and inverts. Thousands maybe. And more in one day than most people keep and gain experience with, in a lifetime. You get to learn what will mix and which won’t, the different foods they eat, and you get to try before you buy. Who else gets to look after twenty different angelfish species in one go? It’s a privilege.
- You’ll be first to see and try out the latest products and equipment and by gaining real-life hands-on experience your knowledge and advice to others will become invaluable. You’ll know which products produce positive results but more importantly, which products don’t.
- You’ll get to set up, stock, and maintain high-end display tanks but you’ll also get to watch them all day as you work. Mark Twain said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” And there’s nowhere where that’s more true than in aquatics.
- If you’re really lucky you’ll get to visit a livestock wholesaler in person. These magical places are where the retail stores do their shopping, and you’ll get to spend thousands of dollars handpicking all the juiciest fish and corals to take back to your store. You’ll be like a kid in a candy store.
- You get to look at and order from import lists and choose the bounty from the world’s tropical oceans. When those boxes arrive it’s like Christmas every time and although there are always a few let downs the highs of receiving an adult Blonde Naso tang with tail streamers or an Indonesian Homewrecker Acropora tenuis more than make up for it. Endorphins will race through you every time you receive a shipment.
- You’ll get to meet customers with awesome reef tanks, some with epic proportions too. There are way more reef tanks than you know about in your area. You just haven’t met their owners yet, and not all are on social media. Many of the richest reefers with the best tanks are very private people. But you may get VIP access to their tanks via your LFS.
- You’ll get to work with industrial-sized equipment like six feet high protein skimmers and 1000+ gallon per day RO units. If pipework is your thing you’ll get to hard plumb commercial fish systems and installs and become a PVC pipe-wielding ninja. The tidiness of your joints will become legend and there will be nothing you can’t push-fit, thread-on, reduce or seal.
- Your reefing knowledge will get nitrous injected as you’ll be dealing with hundreds of reef tanks on a daily basis. You’ll become versed in everything from pests and parasites to advanced water quality management, lighting programs to what countries and suppliers to buy the best Goniopora from, and why. Some of the most knowledgeable reefers we know work in aquatic stores and the years they have spent constantly immersed in reefing makes their skill set world-class.
- You’ll get to meet other people like you and either work alongside them as colleagues or converse with them as customers. Some of our best, lifelong friends, partners even, were met while working in our LFS, and life is so much easier when you meet others who speak the same reefing language and share the same obsession that you do.
- Although stores can be crazy busy you may also find your happy place when working with tanks filled with fish and corals. We admit to being soothed by cleaning tanks and observing fish close up, window shopping as we do so, but also finding peace working amongst the fishes. We’ve advised friends struggling with mental health issues to volunteer just to clean tanks in their LFS. That led to employment, they left the rat race of their previous careers, and now they are truly thriving.
- You’ll learn how to catch, bag, and pack fish and corals properly. And how to frag on a large scale. You’ll find out what needs to be acclimated and what doesn’t, and you’ll mix up so much saltwater you’ll be calculating how much you need by weight, or even by eye.
- And we deliberately left this one until the end but you can’t ignore the big “D,” the discount that you’ll receive when you work in an LFS. If the discount is your single biggest driver then a career in the marine trade isn’t for you. But a huge increase in stock availability (as well as the chance to buy it at a discounted rate,) is the cherry on the top of LFS work for any truly addicted aquarist.
The customer is always wrong
Retail isn’t for everyone and the customer isn’t always right. They’re usually wrong in fact, and some people just don’t get it no matter how much they have their hands held throughout the process. The hours are long, the pay low, and tanks, sand, rocks, salt, and water are heavy items. But if you enjoy your time there, extract as much learning as you can, and don’t let stupid customers get to you, it’s the best job in the world.