*Early hobby years, *Early years in professional aquarium maintenance business, *Mentors/studies during maintenance years. *Current Experiences and research, *SEO, website work/experience, Summary
*Thanks to Tommy Butler, Steven Wright, Misti King, Devon Trigg, Man & Mollusc, Blaine Scheidegger, & others for their help.
A FEW OF OUR SPECIALTY/UNIQUE PRODUCTS;
For the latest technology in Aquarium Lighting with PROVEN Results Aquarium LED Lighting,
The very best lighting you can purchase for your aquarium with lower initial costs than Metal Halide and vastly lower operating costs as well for comparable (or even better) performance!
The premier product for a constant supply of positive mineral ions, as well as a medicated version
For the best in High Output CFL Aquarium Lights: SHO Aquarium Lights
The SHO is a light proven in Greenhouse applications with PROVEN results for plant growing applications.
Also available standard Compact Fluorescent Lights
For Reliable Efficient and Affordable Aquarium Filters: Rena Smart Aquarium HOB Filter
The Rena Smart Filter is revolutionary aquarium power filter (HOB), bringing the superior filtration of a canister filter to the back of the aquarium for simplicity of maintenance
ATI Hydro Sponge Filters
ATI Hydro Sponge Aquarium Filters for bio and mechanical aquarium filtration. New Hydrosponge Pro filter for high bio load tanks.
Also replacement sponges and parts for Hydro Sponge
Aquarium & Pond Plumbing Parts
Unique or difficult to to find plumbing parts such as the Universal Canister Filter Intake Adapter pictured to the left. Also ball valves, diverters, hose barbs, check valves, and much more!!
We strive to sell products and provide information in this manner:
Unique Website with Unique Content; the following points will expand on this, however as a summary: we have NO intention of being like every other cookie cutter aquarium/pond/fish website.
We are unique in our set up, information and mostly professionally used products.
Our articles are unique with content that is regularly updated, with both research and professional use behind much of the information. This also includes our sister website; "Aquarium & Pond Answers".
Our mission has been and will be to push our information first, any products second and even then, the majority of the products we recommend are based on our researched articles.
For those who ask us to sponsor their forums, clubs, etc; if we elect to do so, please understand this mission statement of information first will be carried over to any sponsorship as well. Please do not ask us to sponsor and then ask that we not follow our Mission Statement.
In the end, if you came here looking for a typical aquatic website and then are upset that this is not what you found, we are sorry, but again this is not our Mission in setting up this unique website with VERY unique and regularly updated content.
Quality products at a great value that we and/or our aquarium maintenance partners would use.
If you explore our website from products to information; you will find a unique mix of products and information not found anywhere else.
We sell products that are often only marketed to aquarium professionals, where cool gimmicky features are not the priority.
An example would be many TMC products such as their LED controllers which lack a lot of "flash" but more than make up for it in science based PWM electronics. As another example, we do not sell UV Sterilizers with baffles (twists), wipers or other features that our research has found to be simply gimmicks.
However you will likely not find a website that sells everything you need for your aquarium or pond as our mission is not to be everything to every aquarium or pond keeper.
Our goal is NOT to be your one stop store for all your aquatic needs; as we hope you support your local aquarium/pet store. However we do hope we are your one place for aquatic information and we do hope you support us for this information by purchasing at least a few of our either helpful or unique products if you have found our information helpful.
This includes products that are easy to find elsewhere such as API (Mars Fish Care) Filstar, Smart & SuperClean Filters, or Furan 2 where we provide information about their use not found elsewhere. This is especially true of late since Mars Fish Care has essentially thrown aquarium professionals "under the bus" that helped promote their brand in favor of discounters by selling to these discounters at lower prices that we can purchase, even in large quantities and then not answering letters we and others send asking for similar deals.
We often do not sell some products from companies where we find the majority of their products excellent. We do this because we or our professional maintenance partners have not found these particular products satisfactory.
A good example would be the Via Aqua 4900 and Stainless Steel Heater. The vast majority of Via Aqua heaters and especially pumps are of good quality and value, but not these.
Other companies such as API we do not sell all their products, or recommend their use for all applications the manufacturer (or others) may, so please read our extensive library of Aquatic Information (such as Aquarium Medications) if you have questions prior to use.
An example of a product we thought was an excellent idea, but also failed in testing was the JBJ Internal UV Sterilizer (which is also sold under alternative names).
Another example are the Hydro Sponge PRO Filters in small sizes such as the #2; while the #5 PRO is an excellent filter for the environment and flow rates for which they were designed, we have found the Hydro Sponge #2 PRO to not work as well in both flow rates and bacterial loads for the smaller tanks a #2 are designed for, thus in the end the #2 Standard out performed the #2 PRO!
Most products we sell have a background in our decades of experience, this often includes science based testing and ALWAYS includes only selling products that have known ingredients that agree with the known science of aquarium keeping.
Testing; Even in selling many of the best quality products we can sell at competitive prices, we also realize that nothing is perfect and with many of our products such as the UV-C Bulbs, Aquarium Light Fixtures, UV Sterilizers, and many, many more we open and test to help our customers avoid the hassles of receiving defective merchandise.
This is a time consuming process that few of our competitors take the time to perform!
The bottom line is if the product package is open and the product looks "fired" as in the case of a UV Bulb or other light fixture, this is because it was opened and used, by us to ensure a quality product; not because we sell used products!
As well, since we test many of the products we sell, we also may make improvements based on our experience. This is to insure our customers that even with an item that can be purchased elsewhere, our customers may be getting a better product. As an example, the SunSun Canister Filter where we include a Return Elbow that we strengthen and retrofit with an outer layer of 5/8" vinyl tubing to provide the best possible product for our customer.
In fact as per the SunSun Canister Filter, we open all filters and check the parts PLUS add FREE Filter material not included by the manufacturer(including high efficiency Volcanic Rock for improved Bio Filtration)!
Unique FREEArticles/ Information as noted earlier, about many aspects of aquarium and pond care that are based on decades of experience that include our aquarium/pond maintenance partners as well as 1000s of hours of in depth research, often outside the anecdotal aquarium community.
If you have been helped with the many articles we provide here and at Aquarium Answers, please help us by providing a link in a personal blog or website to one of your favorite articles or products here and giving a "shout out".
Feedback; Our policy is to provide the BEST and most ACCURATE information possible, which our decades of hands on experience and research testifies to.
Because of this knowledge base, we do NOT allow the popular Amazon.com type feedback as we have found this to be highly inaccurate.
As an example we have seen pumps, filters, etc. given bad reviews (such as the Rena Smart Filter) based on incorrect set-up.
As well we have seen a popular Internal UV Sterilizer (Killing Machine) given some good reviews, while in reality these units have mostly failed in only months of testing. More importantly, these UVs cannot even perform level 1 sterilization, yet many purchase these and later realize the problem and blame all UV Sterilizers;
How is this accurate?
Our apologies to those who disagree as to our Feedback policy, but we care more about the truth so as keep our readers fish happy and healthy.
We are more than happy to get feedback, including constructive and accurate criticism; Please see our Contact Page/Form to leave any.
The lowest possible price; this means that many products we sell often are close to cost with profit margins as low $2 on some filters & pumps (even large aquarium or pond filters have small profits).
To keep our prices as low as possible, while not repeating mistakes prior to 2009 (resulting in business losses), we utilize multiple shipping methods and perform many tasks "In House" such as:
Much of the Internet SEO & advertising in house.
This includes using a website Platform that uses PayPal Website Pro instead of platforms such 'Magento' shopping carts which are NO MORE secure and would require $1000s in extra webmaster fees and LACK OF ABILITY for constant updates of information to our website without even more additional costs!
These constant updates and information is something we take pride in and in fact both feedback and stat counter statistics prove most of customers/readers appreciate.
When time allows such as periods of slow sales; We build as many of our boxes from scratch or recycle boxes and packing material.
This also allows us to pay our staff more or simply not lay off staff during slow periods.
In house webmasters and art work.
Even long trips (1600 miles) with our own truck to pick up products (& returns); this also results in better communication and product knowledge due to time spent in face to face transactions and discussion of products (including problems).
An extensive and constantly growing and updated information library for helping both customer and non customer alike.
Also see our Feedback Page as to how we attempt to provide the best possible customer service along with aquarium/pond keeping information that is second to none!
HOWEVER, because we spend 75% of our staff hours in research, customer help pictures, diagrams, and customer service (much in sponsored forums), this is a cost NO other online retailer bears, so we cannot always sell as cheaply or subsidize shipping costs as do mass merchandiser retailers that also spend little or no time in research as their anecdotal articles show.
So please understand why in some cases we might be a a little higher in cost as the copious amounts of information provided here and in our blog websites such as Aquarium/Pond Answers simply requires a lot of employee time and good staff does not work for free!!!
Shopping Cart: We utilize a PayPal hosted shopping cart that accepts Credit Cards without requiring a PayPal account.
We do this for the proven safety of their encrypted shopping carts. Also this integration allows for a template where by we can provide the copious amounts of information/content unique to our website that other "checkout button" templates do not allow.
This requires a drop down menu type shopping cart that while not as simple as a single shopping cart for each item, this drop down menu cart is still one of the most popular carts for internet hosting and allows for information that the popular "separate button" cart website templates do not allow.
It is also noteworthy that these drop down menu shopping cart buttons are the EXACT SAME ONES EMPLOYED BY EBAY when multiple selections of items are needed, so they are not unique to AAP!
As well, we added Quick "Jump to Cart" buttons to skip past information to our drop down menu carts; these are unique to our website and are not found on most others. Despite the few persons these seem to confuse, feedback from our many forums, clients, customers has been 97% positive for these "Jump to Cart" buttons.
More importantly, with Stat software we have installed, we show that our shopping cart abandonment rate is under 30% when the average web site is 68%, this is an EXCELLENT number (the lower the better) and proves that our checkout system is not a problem!!
Provide Customer service (to compliment our top notch researched articles) that responds to emails within an hour or two (often much less) during normal business hours.
Unlike most businesses in our field, We also check emails after hours and on weekends to provide immediate professional help for our customers or those simply asking questions about their fish or equipment.
In fact, based on statistics, the vast majority of such questions are not from customers.
PLEASE respect this unique after hours service that we provide, and not continue to ask follow up questions into the night rather than read information we provide. Please understand that this is also our family time.
Please also understand as an internet business that operates on razor thin profit margins where most of our 6000 readers per day are not our customers (or have purchased just a couple of products such as a Medicated Wonder shell where we maybe make a $2 profit). Because of this we cannot be everyone's personal answer person and continue discussions about everyone's day to day aquarium issues due to the volume of emails receive and remain a viable business (or have any personal time).
We understand that most persons (as per our Stat software), will use this advice to purchase locally, however please also respect that we cannot remain viable answering questions for other businesses customers.
Most of the questions we get are for products such as Sponge Filters that are one time purchases with a mark up of just a couple of dollars. This cannot be compared to products such as premium foods supplements where even if the mark up is also low, the odds of repeat business are much higher since the customer will keep buying this supplement unlike a filter, light, pump, etc. Our stat software shows this to be true.
Even our higher end products such as UV Sterilizers and LED Lights are sold at the lowest possible price with constant ongoing research to back these products up, as well as top notch after purchase handling of warranty issues, etc.
Please allow us to help you by reading the articles we have spent 1000s of hours in research/writing and refraining from repeat questions and discussions until after reading this content. HOWEVER please feel free to ask for clarifications, suggestions, etc., especially for unique lighting applications, etc.
In depth discussions are welcome at Everything Aquatic and the Forum Discussion Board. This is a great place to ask questions more of an opinion nature for those who desire a family like atmosphere of sharing their aquarium experiences (we sponsor, paying the bills of this forum).
Our staff including Carl often visit this forum to answer questions.
Please understand when you ask your question in our customer service email, it ONLY helps the asker. However when questions are asked in this forum, it benefits many, as these forum posts are added to Google/Bing/DuckDuckGo searches, resulting in one question/answer benefiting many (including our website SEO, thus there is a small benefit for us), as well as allowing us more efficient use of our time.
As per phone calls, we no longer accept phone questions for these reasons:
As well we have found that we can much more smoothly transitions to emails without disrupting the flow of our workload since we are forced to multi task to remain profitable, but not with phone calls.
Phone calls were answered in office, while emails are answered from multiple locations, INCLUDING AFTER hours.
We also will often research questions we do not readily have an answers for. This includes contacting staff (not otherwise readily available in shop, rather working at other locations for efficiency), vendors, sister maintenance company personnel, etc. for further information.
We can provide links to our extensive library or our many trusted outside resources for further information, this CANNOT be done via phone.
We need a written record for a variety of reasons including teaching/training of other employees or forum members.
In fact everyone here reads technical questions sent by email (even if they were not the person who answered) including Carl, and ALL questions are used to improve future questions and our articles.
We cannot efficiently improve our articles and future answers if technical questions are answered by phone (as we did in the past).
As well since fraud as at an all time high, with little merchant protection from credit card processors and other online providers, we LEGALLY need this written record in cases of proof of what we recommended or proof of the correct item sent.
We are set up to operate online;
Our business was unprofitable during the years we did not have such a policy in place as we spent much of our time in 20 minute phone calls or long email threads (we did not refer to our extensive articles) and little time managing and running our very thin profit margin business. The result was we lost money for years, of which we still are in debt for.
IN FACT, we took on additional staff for 6 months in 2013 so as to allow for dedicated customer service staff (rather than multi-tasking), and again since we operate on razor thin profit margins so as to offer what we do along with the most up to date aquarium/pond information ANYWHERE, this again resulted in losses and required once again to borrow.
Please understand and respect how and why we conduct business the way we do.
We now receive over 6000 hits per day for our family of aquarium and pond care articles, to keep these accurate and fresh, this takes A LOT of time; and quite simply we do not have the time to be everyone's private answer person.
Please understand these articles and downloads of charts, etc. ARE FREE and we also cannot reply to 6000 persons about specifics we lay out in these article or can be answered in the forum we sponsor.
We have had many abusive emails from non customers who never purchase anything, yet have made many phone calls or sent many emails expecting Carl to be their personal answer person. Often these persons have been very verbally abusive when told we cannot maintain a profitable business and answer their specific questions (often with answers already in Carls's extensive articles).
By restricting questions to emails, we can at least block these very abusive emails (which is not easily done with phone calls).
We hope readers understand and respect this policy, which based on the volume of email we receive (most of which is from non customers) & 99% positive feedback; this seems to be the case.
Handle In House Warranty Returns; this means time and man hours spent testing and then often replacing or occasionally repairing products, with the majority of these returns damaged by misuse or customer equipment failures (such as Blown UV Bulbs due to a customers bad ballast or moisture damage to lights).
Many of these warranty issues would not result in replacement from the manufacture without a repair/replacement charge, yet most of the time we provide this service for free other than return shipping fees.
Abuse of our Help; While the majority of the 6000 users per day of our websites are polite; Unfortunately we occasionally receive emails from persons who are very demanding of our help, rude, condescending, making dishonest accusations, or simply disrespectful of our staff or the 1000s of hours Carl has put into the vast library of free information.
Often these persons are very thoughtless and/or simply downright hate filled in their emails.
This abuse of our help is often expecting more than is reasonably of our customer service and Carl's time spent helping many here and in the forum;
See: Customer Service
A related issue is a small percentage of persons who will make 1 or 2 purchases and then send many (often 100s) of emails, then often arguing answers while not reading articles Carl has spent so much time in research and writing, and in the end often using our help or Carl's to purchase elsewhere such as Amazon, Pet Mountain or Doctor Foster & Smith.
This abuse often includes arguing prices of products and shipping, why we do not sell certain products while selling others, despite the fact that we spend 75% of our time in research, customer service, picture diagrams, etc.
Since Carl often has little extra time and still takes little $ from this business and is in poor health while he still continues to attempt to help other fishkeepers; those who act in this manner we may choose to no longer answer questions here or in our sponsored forums.
As well, fraud is a common issue of late with customers attempting to return product purchased elsewhere, complaining about products that were not used correctly and filing claims of non receipt within a day or even hour purchase with their credit card issuer or PayPal.
Since Credit Card issuers do little to fight fraud against merchants (& in fact often encourage fraud with their policies), we have to use in-house tools to combat this problem. This includes refusing future sales to customers who have constantly misused products, refuse to pay warranty shipping, and the number one "Red Flag" is threatening or actually filing a complaint with their Credit Card issuer or PayPal.
We have found that statistically 80% of these are attempts to commit fraud against us in some form or another.
We ask that honest customers give us a chance to correct any problem they might have (which we usually do, often at our loss). By filing PayPal disputes or similar, this freezes our funds and places a "black mark" on our record, which affects our credit and ultimately our cost of doing business.
Even threatening such actions we have found is simply a "school yard bully" tactic to get their way, often for absurd or dishonest reasons. Most persons who do this, make such threats based on incorrect information.
Due to this problem of abuse of our customer service (to purchase elsewhere, etc.), rude emails, and potential fraud; We automatically place persons in a black list for refund of any future purchase and refusal of any future business transactions as well as refusal to help with future questions for the below reasons:
Persons who use our help to purchase elsewhere, especially Amazon, often to come back seeking more help since many of these sellers remove or sell modified versions to make the product cheaper (Such as the SunSun Submersible UVs that are missing the pre-filter sponge and use a low output medium pressure UV bulb instead of the high output bulb we use)
Persons who are dishonest or make false claims
Persons who are rude, threaten, or bully our staff (this includes threatening with chargebacks or PayPal claims)
Persons who file ANY PayPal Disputes or Credit Card Chargeback, or file any potentially fraudulent claim (an example: "Item significantly not as described", when in reality this is not true)
We have reversed the first three reasons for refusal of service when persons have displayed remorse of their actions (but it should be noted that we have often taken quite bit of abuse before "blacklisting" for rude, bullying, etc. behavior).
HOWEVER we are FIRM on reason #4 due to the how negatively this can affect this business and the dishonesty the few persons who have ever done this to our business have shown.
I will be more brief here (not all that much to say); I got my first aquarium in the late 1960's (1968 if my memory is correct when I was 9 years old). This was a Metaframe 5 gallon aquarium which is different from the all glass aquariums with silicone for construction that became more popular in the 70's forward. This aquarium had a simple "bubbler" corner filter powered by a Metaframe Air Pump. My first fish were guppies, zebra danios, Platties and white clouds.
A little over a year later I got a 10 gallon aquarium where I again used a simple corner filter, albeit larger and a more "modern" design. In this tank, I added many types of Tetras from Neons, head/tail lites, etc. Also Rasboras, Corys and my first Plecostomus (no one warned me how large these guys could get).
In the early 70's, I purchased a 40 gallon "all glass" aquarium which had my first HOB filter; a Dynaflo (which is a much different design than current HOB filters). I continued with similar fish that I had before, just more and a little more "exotic" (such as some Buenos Aires Tetras which were exotic to me at the time).
I later decided to try my hand in saltwater even though there was little good information at this time about saltwater keeping. I added an Undergravel filter, the "new" Nektonics design, which at the time was considered to be the best. (At least by persons I knew in the hobby). I added Damsels, clown fish, a Yellow Tang, a Batfish and some others that my memory fails me on. I later added a Brown Octopus which was the most interesting creature I owned as he had a neat personality.
In 1977 I got a job at Archie's House of Pets, initially their original La Puente and shortly there after at the West Covina Mall store (it was called the West Covina Fashion Plaza). Danny Digiacomo was my original "boss" (he was not the owner but ran all three stores as if he was the owner) He was a good mentor and really new his stuff from a business point of view. Later, issues between Danny and the actual owner (who was not a hands on owner) resulted in him leaving as he purchased another high end Pet Store in Orange County.
I shortly there after became an assistant manager at the West Covina Store and the general manager for the fish departments.
I made a point during this time to inquire of all trade representatives, especially Aquatronics for which they had some of the most up to date information about aquarium water chemistry, treatment at the time and they later knew me personally due to my many questions and later named me the "Green Flake Man" (more later as to why).
In late 1978 I started my Aquarium maintenance business on the side while still employed at Archie' House of Pets. In early 1979, I had an employee of the Bahooka Restaurant contact me for a sick Arowana (a restaurant that would become very well known in the LA area for its many aquariums and unique Polynesian atmosphere). She had failed to cure an infection despite many attempts from others advice, however I made a house call and was able to save her prize fish and she was so happy that she told her boss (Jack) and he contacted me to set up and maintain the aquariums at the Bahooka Restaurant.
Unfortunately the West Covina location lost its lease, however this allowed to expand the Rosemead Bahooka location where I expanded their aquariums to over 100, and many were over 100 gallons.
This became a launching point for my business and problems at Archie's prompted me to start my own store in Hacienda Heights at the end of 1979 along with my fiancé Tris (who I met at Archie's House of Pets).
Although my Aquarium store started slow, it would soon grow and we then rented the building next door to double in size in late 1980.
However it was the maintenance business that really blossomed and made our name, especially since our store was in a somewhat obscure location.
During the early years, besides the Bahooka, I picked up many other well known accounts from the Lobster House, well known Doctors, attorneys, Coaster Co. (which by the 1990s would become the largest Furniture importer in North America and our largest account with multiple locations and many aquariums and ponds), and more.
These also led to a contract with Disney to build and run the aquarium in the bar for the TV Show (pilot), "Make My Day" starring Robert Goulet
I was able to work out agreements with many of my service accounts such as the Bahooka to provide 100% care and with a certain price I used these locations for many tests (as well as some breeding).
My earliest tests were in fish foods (based on many ideas provided by mentors such as Aquatronics and hobbyist doctors I made friends with). This is how I earned the nickname the "Green Flake Man" by Aquatronics as I found despite the popularity of many household brand names such as Tetra Fish Foods that these foods may have raised generations of fish (as many anecdotal pundits of Tetra products would say), in actual controlled tests Tetra foods did not hold up to what I called Green Flake at the time (now Spirulina 20) and other foods.
I have to admit that the ideas to perform these tests were because I LISTENED to others such as Aquatronics researchers and a representative at a trade show from Sera foods of West Germany who, at the time made this statement: "I find it interesting how popular Tetra Foods are in America while in Germany they are considered the cheap discount food", I guess excellent marketing which still persists to this day.
See my Fish Nutrition article for more along with my Spirulina Article:
"Proper Fish Nutrition". "Spirulina Algae in Fish Food"
In the late 1980s I became a good friend with Dr. Herzog, a well respected Endocrinologist in Whittier that was a long term fish hobbyist (both marine and Freshwater). I maintained an aquarium in his office and helped with his home aquarium.
During this time he taught me MUCH about what medications can and cannot do and how even in human treatment one makes an "educated guess" at best. He taught me much that contradicts to this day what many anecdotal claims about medications, bacteria and more that unfortunately still persist in this hobby, often by persons blindly repeating bad information in blogs, forums or Yahoo Answers.
Aquatronics played a major role in my education here as well, as I spent a great amount of time over the years in consultation with the lab techs with this company.
During the late 1980s, I also set up many aquariums in a room of my house where I experimented and performed controlled tests of filters, medications and more.
During the 1990s, many of these tests continued and I used my aquariums along with Coaster Co (which by now had become my largest service account for both aquariums and large ponds as well) for my tests that would eventually contribute to my articles: "Aquarium Disease Prevention", UV Sterilization, "Aquarium GH, KH, pH, Calcium", and "Aquarium & Pond Redox".
These tests were conducted to try and explain why I was observing certain results with differences in care of many of my client’s aquariums/ponds. I also conducted these tests because it was simply good business for me to make as few unnecessary visits due to problem with my clients aquarium (not to mention better customer satisfaction), so figuring out a method or methods that keep fish alive with the least problems was advantageous for me.
Aquarium Disease prevention was so important and I found that employing as many steps that were part of this "prevention puzzle" would lower the amount of disease incidence and lengthen fish longevity.
During the late 1990s, when I was considering re-opening my aquarium store that I earlier had closed to satisfy my now ex-wife, Tris. (see my regular bio), I pondered using one of Marineland's pet store bio wheel systems since I had many Penguin Filters as well. However when discussing this with another colleague in the maintenance business (that I would occasionally see at Quality Marine), he questioned my reasons and quickly made me realize that I was sold on the Bio wheel for anecdotal reasons and this was the beginning of another controlled test about these popular bio filtration devices. please see this article for more: "Aquarium Answers; Do Bio Wheels work".
Many similar tests also were conducted around this time, including using Fluid Filtration, live rock crumbles for nitrate removal in Marine Aquariums, Protein Skimmers, Veggie Filters in ponds and many different filter combinations (including drilled canister filters) that often went against the popular filter system beliefs of the time.
SUMMARY OF 1978-2002
Later, I sold off my maintenance company and then opened an online business that featured my researched articles and experience as the cornerstone of my business plan.
The other cornerstone that contributed to the growth of my business is the customer service I provided both then and now. In many interviews with my clients, I found that while I certainly gained and kept many customers via my ability to keep their aquariums to their satisfaction, it was my customer service that was the over whelming reason most clients/customers stayed with me both then and now.
In 2002 I had to leave behind my aquarium maintenance business and store.
As noted in my main biography I worked at a Candy factory when I first had to move to Oregon to keep my family safe and pay off debts. This move was precipitated by considerable medical issues with my son and more that resulted in a breakdown by my wife. A person took advantage of her and also harmed my daughter (this along with medical expenses also put us in debt for tens of thousands of $)
I later started my online Aquarium Supply and information websites, in part from inspiration of a co-worker a the Candy Factory (Rachel Owen), and later I also realized that many persons over the years that knew me during my maintenance business days wished I would put down on paper my aquarium & pond information knowledge and I utilized my website for this idea.
What I would like to point to the readers of this aquarium/professional biography is that much of my success/knowledge over the years is NOT based on my scientific brilliance or similar, but more to my use of business skills to recognize what I did and did NOT know and allow myself to learn from others and as well recognize in others where they could make up in my deficiencies. I continue to research for my articles, and I generally research OUTSIDE the Aquarium industry/hobby because I RECOGNIZE that much of the popular information is often re-posted and passed around over and over. I will research fish farming studies, horticultural studies, medical studies, lighting innovations, water chemistry and its effects on life in general, and many other such sites (often .edu sites).
One of my talents is that I am very good at organizing information, while at the same time I am a poor analytical thinker (I am a much better "picture" thinker). Most who have worked with me over the years have noted that I am often open to learn and that I make up for my weaknesses with my businesses organization and similar skills.
For example, even during my stint of attempting a career change of becoming a professional pilot, that 4 VERY different flight instructors and even a very hard ass FAA examiner (for my multi-engine pilots license) noted that I was only an average pilot in my flying abilities, but that my excellent cockpit organization and recognition of my weaknesses (I was not at all cocky according to one instructor) made me an excellent pilot.
What does this have to do with fish keeping you might ask? Well a lot in my feed back over the years with my clients who stated that they appreciated my honesty, integrity (I would not simply sell a product because there was a lot of money to be made or it was popular), dependability, and my willingness to always learn. In fact another Mentor over the years (Reggie) at aquarium supply wholesaler that finished his business career there (after most of his decades of business in different industries) told me this: "I have never seen a more dishonest and back stabbing business than the Aquarium industry".
I am making these statements NOT to puff myself up or put others down, but to point out them I am nothing special in my general ability to glean aquarium knowledge, only that I am very good at organizing information, listening to others and testing what they say, regardless of my opinion at the time (which may be then forced to change).
Even in areas of low knowledge such as specific fish species knowledge and breeding (such as the many African Cichlids), I HAVE kept many of these fish in a generic sense and I have applied my tests in keeping fish alive and long term fish health to these fish with excellent results, so although I may not know the specifics of many different exotic fish I can attest to VERY good success in long term care/health (at least my many clients that have had many different aquarium service personnel before employing me have stated).
Anyway, I will close for now, that I am still learning and though some may criticize me or label me fish expert guru, in reality I am somewhere in the middle balance and I will also point out that besides the fact that I am still learning, many of those I am learning from are younger or even with maybe only a few years experience (Suzie Q at Everything Aquatic is relatively new to the hobby, but she has taught me things I did not know). I have also learned from others at Everything Aquatic such as John Laffin (Murdock), Brenda, Barbara, Bill, Jon V, Eve, Parker, fishfever, and MANY others there alone (please forgive me if your name is left off here, even though chances are I have learned from many posts, especially questions that made me re-check my own research or expand it!!)
I will also admit that while I was not treated nicely on many Google Groups I was on, I still learned from some of those that were rude and nasty, as I did not let that get in the way of good information.
I will add much to this biography as I think of more and have more time, so please check again (if interested that is).
SEO EXPERIENCE, WEB SITES
Besides my aquarium/pond experience, I have had to become relatively proficient in web site SEO (Search Engine Optimizations; the field of making a web site more search engine friendly) and similar website design issues.
This is/was due to the fact that I first came into my aquatic information articles and commercial web site with a “Field of Dreams” attitude that if you build it, they will come.
Unfortunately many even so-called SEO experts would often tell me that if I presented my articles which were VERY unique in content (as what is referred to as link bait), other sites would link to me and I would grow.
Unfortunately this was NOT TRUE, as unlike some fields of endeavor (such as the more “happy” candy industry where I have done some limited SEO) where others happily link to sites with good content so as to give their readers many alternatives for information or products, this is/was NOT TRUE for the Aquarium/pond industry/hobby.
After about 18 months of nothing happening I quickly realized that sites, like the discredited DMOZ, had no interest in adding me or my many articles, only primarily spam aquarium/pond articles.
I have since started building MANY web sites & blogs (over three dozen), with some of these in categories such as Travel, Personal Experiences, etc. for which obtaining in bound links from good sites based on my good content was somewhat easier to perform and then link to my main web sites from these other sites.
As well I have written many separate article sites (such as UV Sterilizer Articles) that I would also point towards my important pages/article.
The difficulty is that keeping all these sites current and fresh, as well as the occasional web site issues takes an ENORMOUS amount AMOUNT OF TIME.
However this is unfortunately necessary, as sadly to this date, since I still count less that 1/10th of 1% of my main aquatic articles and web pages in-bound links from sites other than myself, which means that my web site presence on Google, Yahoo, Bing, still relies heavily on my keeping up with this constant building of more and more websites.
The one exception has been from my friend Tommy Butler who helped me build another new web page to promote my sites and has helped with optimization of this site and others to some degree with the little spare time he has.
As noted earlier, if you have been helped with the many articles we provide here and at Aquarium Answers, please help us by providing a link in a personal blog or website to one of your favorite articles or products here and giving a "shout out".
Other help for this website has come from Steven Wright's fantastic picture skills (he really exemplifies the expression "a picture is worth a thousand words" with his picture art).
Tommy Butler with his professional knowledge of operating systems and more has helped me much, including hosting of web sites and just his inspiration
Blaine Scheidegger also contributed much in his 8 month tenure here with vast improvements to web design, layout and simply fresh ideas.
Finally, with her/his many talents, thanks go to Misti King & Devon Trigg.
Besides their work in improving articles, they help everyone here deal with the extreme negativity and dishonesty that is unfortunately is occasionally found in the aquatics hobby/industry that we have to deal with in emails, forums, etc.
For Carl's Personal Biography Page, please follow this link: My Biography
To provide this level of service, information, price and quality, please understand we also must make our business as efficient as possible (which includes a very small advertising budget, so we must perform most of this "in house")
Many procedures we ask of our customers are not meant to make it more difficult, only to streamline our business.
The facts are most of the questions we answer (in particular Carl, including forums) are not from our customers, rather "brick & mortar" local aquarium stores & online aquarium supply business', where customer service is non existent or is often simply incorrect. (an example includes Pet Mountain).
These can usually be answered by the articles we provide, which represent literally 1000's of hours of work.
The result of people not reading our articles prior to asking questions, resulted in an inability to keep our articles as up to date as possible, provide the best possible customer service for our customers. (Most of Carls time is still spent in articles and answering questions for persons who purchase elsewhere).
Even worse, since Carl spent many hours into the evening answering question after question that he had already provided answers for in his article, DHS used this against him after vial complaints spurred by a predator that had harmed his family earlier. This resulted in the removal of his children (which included special needs children) until the courts thankfully quickly cleared this up. Please respect that when he is answering questions in the evening and even the day, he is attempting to balance his long days and family time and demands for emails/phone calls or similar are extremely disrespectful of his time!
The founder, Carl, puts in long days that we need him to use as productively as possible. This is just one of the many reasons we/he have such in depth articles! We want people to read them and learn from them. If Carl is busy answering questions that are clearly posted on the web site, such as “How much does an LED cost?” he isn't able to update articles for all the sites and groups he helps host.
As well Carl, based on the volume of work and number of customer emails he receives, cannot be everyone's personal answer person in terms of asking him "His Thoughts" on issues of aquarium care that he has addressed well in his articles.
He attempted to do this up until 2009 which resulted in business losses (& worse) due to his inability to address his business and even make orders, as well as keeping his information current.
So PLEASE have respect for his time and do NOT become angry when we ask those who have clearly abused his time and read his published articles!
The cold hard facts are, if Carl spent as much time as he does with a small number of persons with every customer, we would be out of business in quick order as our very narrow profit margin business would have more than quadruple our staff (we actually did the math).
We are an internet based business that can only make a profit by being highly efficient and operating on a volume that our previous "brick & mortar" business never had to even come close to to make the same profit.
The above said, please feel free to ask questions not in our articles or that the articles need to be more clear on (this is how we how we improve our articles too).
Examples of what we ask to respect our time for
*One example would be sending schematics/blue prints asking that we/Carl review their “project” designs for free (such as their own filter, UV Sterilizer, aquarium, pond; basically giving free design advice for their profit). Another example would be returning an international phone call to explain a pond set-up, detail by detail, for us to provide free advice that was otherwise 100% readily available in our Pond Care Article & UV Sterilization Article.
Please treat our time as valuable as you treat yours. Don't tell us you didn't have time to read and that's why you are asking questions, it is disrespectful.
*Another common question we get from many persons is simply asking for prices that are clearly on web pages, and while we answer these questions, please understand if we seem "short" with persons who repeatedly ask for a price for this and a price for that from their iPhone or similar that this takes time from the day that can be used for many tasks such as our in house advertising. Please respect that we too are attempting to make a living.
Finally we should note that even as of this page update, 75% of the emails, forum questions, or phone calls we return/answer are not from regular customers, or future customers (as per our tracking of purchases via names, phone calls, emails).
If you ask our regular customers, including the forums we sponsor such as, Everything Aquatic, or even the manufacturers we purchase from you will find that 99% of persons find our customer service second to none!
Not that we mind answering these questions as we enjoy helping aquarium and pond keepers as well as other related issues. This is why we spend literal 1000's of hours writing the most extensive aquatic information pages on the Internet and sponsor an Aquarium Forum at no charge to the members which includes 100's of volunteer hours there, often providing free products as well. We simply need to be more wise with our time as otherwise we would not be able to support our actual customers, and provide the quality products at low prices all the wh