How to Grow Aquarium Plants for Profit
It can be difficult to care for aquatic plants. But once the tank starts flourishing, how do you deal with the excess? Is it possible to sell your extra trimmings as an extra source of income? Like most side hustles you will need to consider how much time, effort, and money you are willing to put into it. 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. 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.
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 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 are looking to increase the cost of the plant, place it in pots made of rock wool that have a half inch (1 cm), 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.
Place your plants in rock wool pots that look professional and ready for sale to increase their value.
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. You may find these times difficult if you work full-time or have children, but it is best to not bring your goods in during peak hours when they are busy and won’t be able 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.
You should not only find out when they want to buy plants but also what type of plants they require. Stop selling plants that they aren’t interested in. 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 you are producing more than your store wants to sell, the next step may be to try selling live plants through AquaBid, eBay, Craigslist, Etsy, or other e-commerce websites. Although there are many more customers online than in stores, prices can sometimes be lower because of the availability of other hobbyists or importers.
When you sold to your local fish store, they made things easier because they managed all the customer interactions. You will need to assume the new role as a salesperson when selling online. Listings should have attractive descriptions, plant photos, detailed explanations about shipping costs, and live arrival guarantees. Another responsibility added to your plate is customer support if something goes wrong. If something goes wrong, be ready to quickly answer any questions you may have about what lighting you used, why the plants aren’t doing well, or how to get 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: Increasing Aquatic Plant Production
Scale is the main difference between a professional and casual seller. You are now selling more than just plants you have in your aquariums. You will be competing against large plant farms that prefer to grow their plants out of water or emersed. 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.
When buying supplies, the key is to spend as little money as possible. 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. Their production costs are already higher than yours, so it is important to reduce expenses elsewhere. There are some items you can buy:
– 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) : CO2 gas, when combined with adequate levels of nutrients and lighting, is an essential building block that allows plants to grow more quickly. It can also help you sell them faster. There are several ways to inject CO2 depending on your budget. Each has its own pros and cons. The most reliable, but expensive, method for injecting CO2 is pressurized CO2 injection. This uses cylinders of carbon dioxide gas, regulators and manifolds to spread the gas 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 experienced with plant keeping, measure your water to determine if certain nutrients are lacking and find the fertilizer that is most appropriate for 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.
As for which plants to buy and cultivate, this depends on which market you want to go after, what people in that market want to buy, and what kind of plants you are good at growing. 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 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. 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.
Our last tip for plant sellers: Avoid being “outof stock” as much 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 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.