A customer recently told me that he felt we had a fairly narrow focus, working with natural products for biotopes and specialty aquariums. My first reaction was...elation! That's exactly what we wanted to achieve. Not being all things to all people. A real validation of our market position and business focus.
To him it seemed a bit "limiting", but to a business person, it's an essential part of creating a niche business. Do a few things really well, as opposed to a whole bunch of stuff average or less.
It made me reflect a bit on the hobby in general. Having recently sold my interest in a coral focused business, it was kind of cool to look at the contrast between the two sides of the aquarium hobby.
One of the interesting things that I noticed about the freshwater aquarium hobby, coming back to it after decades immersed in the reef aquarium "game" as both a hobbyist and business owner, is that the freshwater side is extremely diverse; highly specialized.
Something that's fun for me to ponder, given my rather unique position.
I mean, in the reef world, it's straightforward, IMHO. It's all about keeping corals and fishes. The typical distinction in a reef tank is "SPS" ("Small Polyp Stony") corals, "LPS ("Large Polyp Stony") corals, and Soft Corals. Sure, there are a few others, like Zoanthids, Mushrooms, and non-photosynthetic corals, but these tend to be "heaped" into one of the larger categories.
And that's about it, really, if we're honest with ourselves.
In freshwater, however, it's a totally different ball game! I mean, it was almost overwhelming. We have what you would think would be simple categories; for example, "Cichlids." Well, it's not THAT simple, right? Are you into South American, African Rift Lake, Central American, or African Riverine, just to name a few? Shell Dwellers or rock-dwellers? And which Rift Lake? Tanganyika, Malawi, or Victoria, or...? Oh, and the South Americans- Are we talking miscellaneous ones, Dwarf cichlids, or maybe Apistogramma? Discus? Angelfishes (oh, and which species? P. scalare,P. altum, P. leopoldi? Or Geophagus (hmm, considered "Central American", huh?)
Catfish are not generic by any stretch. Most self-respecting Loricarid keepers are all about "L Number" Plecos, and would typically not have the same obsession as they would with, say, Corydoras, or Brochius...
Anabantoids is such a broad group- I mean, you've got any Betta enthusiasts, Gourami lovers, wild-form Betta lovers, and those "other" members of the group...It goes on and on.
Don't even get me started with livebearers. It's way beyond Guppies, Mollies, Plates, and Swordtails now, isn't it? I mean, some of the obscure wild types, like Goodieds, Xenontaca, Micropoceilia, Limia, Gambusia, etc. ,etc., etc.
The freshwater world is almost stunningly diverse, in terms of habitats, fish varieties, regional variations, endemics, etc. There are so many amazing specialty groups out there it's not even funny. I love that many hobbyists are members of several different speciality groups and indulge i na bunch of different types of fishes. And I haven't even touched on planted aquariums. I mean, you've got the "ADA style", "Dutch", "Dirted", El Natural", etc., etc. etc.
As a marketer, we knew we couldn't and didn't want to try to hit every target. It's impossible to do 'em all well. It was far more beneficial for us as a business to stick to a few categories, and cater to them. Much like in the hobby itself, there is a need to specialize in order to do a good job.
I love the diversity nature affords us. I love the fact that there are hobbyists specializing in virtually every type of fish you could imagine.
And I love the sharing, the crossover curiosity, and the respect hobbyists have for each other.
I know that you do, too.
So appreciate the diversity. Celebrate the craft.