I have noticed a growing trend in the saltwater aquarium hobby over the last few years, and especially in the last few months. There is an increasing number of hobbyists turned aquarium businessmen. They get into this hobby much like any other person, as a new pastime for them to try their hand at. They make the same progressions many of us do and eventually come to the realization that “Hey, I can make some money doing this!”, and begin growing frags to sell on local forums. The natural progression from this point is to actually start ordering livestock and equipment directly from the manufacturer or a distributor. The rest is history after this point.
This is certainly a growing behavior in the aquarium world. In my local reef club, at least 5 hobbyists have gone this route within the last 6 months, with more on the way I’m sure. For the hobby, I think this is a pretty good thing. These business-minded aquarists will more than likely order aquacultured livestock. They are smaller and do a small volume of business, and are more likely to cater to their fellow hobbyists…which are constantly moving toward the aquacultured side of things.
Some potential drawbacks include undercutting prices in order to get business, which is not good for larger companies which many do business with. Additionally, the hobby-based businessman may not have the skills or equipment necessary to properly care for the livestock they are importing. Larger companies have been doing this sort of thing for years and have developed many techniques to care for difficult animals.
I’m not advocating selecting one type of retailer over another, just discussing a new trend I’ve noticed intensifying.