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/Go Rin No Sho of Business

Retailing Marine Macro-Algae

Bob Fenner  

The tide is in! The Living Reef craze has been largely responsible for the boom in marine sales in the eighties. Wet-dry filters, specialized lighting and other large ticket items makeup the bulk of the increase for dry-goods. Dealers in the know have pumped up dry goods sales and boosted those of livestock by catering to the mini-reef revolution's hunger for the new and unusual. How about you? Do you display and sell living reefs? If not, you should be! Sales are brisk with high dollar items and organisms virtually selling themselves.

This article offers some background information on selecting, showing and retailing marine macro-algae; a real growth area in the marine field.

The Set Up:

 Show what you sell & sell what you show. Set up at least one "wet-dry" "reef" system. It's fun, exciting and profitable. It is indeed amazing how many dollars worth of sales can be generated per square foot or gallon in these systems. Organisms look and fare better with intense broad spectrum lighting and the high water quality these set-ups afford. By all means, display at minimum one operational miniature reef and either sell out of it or a separate tank or "wall unit".

"Regular", conventional marine aquaria can be utilized for keeping many species of macro-algae alive before sale; but they pale in comparison to reef set-ups in terms of providing a viable environment, optimizing health and appearance, allowing for sudden and high density stocking.

With an attractive, functional display marine macro-algae are easy to keep and they sell themselves!


 Though there are a few "true" marine plants such as surf grass (Phyllospadix) and eel grass (Zostera) with vascular systems and flowers like the familiar terrestrial plants; here we are dealing with algae. They have no roots, leaves or flowering bodies. The classification group to which all these algae belong is called the Thallophyta; meaning all about the same plant bodies. A reference to the lack of specialization of cells; they don't absorb nutrients through their holdfast "roots".

Caulerpa, Halimeda, Valonia, Penicillus (shaving brush), Udotea are common genera of macro-algae that are readily available and saleable. Macro-algae is used to contrast with micro-algae; the microscopic green, diatom, dinoflagellate, et alia species that we more often are trying to avoid or eliminate.


Most common, desirable species are available seasonally through sources for other marine livestock. Check with your distributors, peruse industry buyer-guides and hobbyist publications for other sources.

If you get to hand-pick specimens select those that are more firm and well-colored, without dead tips or crushed parts. If available, choose those that are currently attached to substrate (if they grow that way) or at least specimens with some form of holdfast present.

Display: Contrary to some , our businesses have had little difficulty in keeping and culturing macro-algae without tremendously sophisticated filtration systems. Most species, if initially healthy, flourish, given:

1) An established, cycled, stable environment with "typical" conditions. Synthetic water is fine.

2) Adequate nutrient levels; that probably do not require augmentation.

3) Enough light. Quality, quantity and duration: balanced, broad-spectrum, 12+ hours per day, 2 to 4 watts per gallon.

4) Being careful to limit mixing species of tangs, angels, butterflies, crabs, snails and others that relish destroying and devouring macro-algae.

Selling Macro-algae:

 They have many good selling points. These algae compete with undesirable single celled algae like brownish diatom and dinoflagellate "slimes" and red, green and blue-green bubble algae "mats". They look nice, provide habitat and food, aid in filtration and gaseous conversion, and moderate pH. Macro-algae basically complete a marine environment.

Macro-algae by themselves and on "live-rock" are hot sellers. They sell themselves; display and label them properly and stand back.

Tie-In Sales:

 Here is a veritable gold mine. Filters, filtrants nutrients, specialized lighting, fixtures... the list goes on and on. Macroalgae, as with all appropriate marine life displays, inspire dry goods sales. Chemical supplements and better quality salt mixes in particular have benefited from the current macro-algae craze.

If you haven't sold miniature reef systems and macro-algae yet, get on the bandwagon. They are the wave of the nineties.

Further Reading:

Blackburn, Wayne. 1989. Plants in the Marine System. Freshwater and Marine Aquarium (FAMA), 7/89.

Thiel, Albert J. 1988. Keeping and Growing Marine Macro Algae. FAMA 8/88.

Tullock, John H. 1983. Growing Marine Plants. FAMA 3/83.


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