The aquarium market (which includes ornamental fish and aquarium accessories) is projected to reach $30 billion in 2025. Yes, you heard that right! It’s growing at a much higher rate than our more popular furry players: >5% higher CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) than that of cats and dogs.
While the aquarium market size represents only 10% of the entire pet industry, there are many strong signs of potential growth that are catalysed by recent trends in the industry that would surely narrow the gap between the third most popular pet in the world (fish), and the two frontrunners (dogs and cats).
In order to understand why home aquariums are getting more popular, we must examine the different layers and facets of this market. The aquarium market can be examined through different dimensions.
There are three fundamental aquarium categories - tropical freshwater aquariums, temperate freshwater aquariums and marine ornamental aquariums. Of course, those most commonly seen in Singapore are tropical freshwater aquariums. Certain trends are observed to drive demand for individual categories such as convenience of freshwater aquariums and awareness of ocean sustainability for marine aquariums.
The industry can be divided into two sectors: residential and commercial applications. While residential aquariums are the topic of focus here, commercial public aquariums can also raise general awareness and inspire more fishkeepers to join the hobby, leading to more home aquariums. Unfortunately, the recent COVID crisis has led to lockdowns in several countries, severely reducing visibility and influence of these aquariums.
In Singapore, the S.E.A Aquarium is one of the world’s largest Oceanariums. Before the pandemic, it offered a Junior Aquarist program to educate young visitors on the process of caring for marine animals.
The River Safari park contains one of the world’s largest collections of freshwater animals and has hundred of aquatic species including the world endangered manatee and Mekong giant catfish.
Aquarium products can be divided into hardscape (rocks, wood, substrate etc.), softscape (plants), aquatic animals and aquarium accessories. While some fishkeepers might be interested in fishes alone, there is an increasing trend in focus on aquascapes - a combination of hardscape and softscape. Growing interest in aquariums, which encompasses its flora and fauna components, caters to greater overlapping layers of hobbyists that are animal lovers, plant lovers, nature lovers or home decor enthusiasts.
With this understanding of the different dimensions, below are several trends that drive the growth of home aquariums.
Awareness of the importance of environmental sustainability. driving more people to take up aquarium-keeping as a hobby and a personal responsibility to save the planet. Ocean sustainability and marine biodiversity are currently popular topics not just among environmental conservationists but also among the audience of mainstream media, thanks to nature documentaries on various media channels including Netflix, Disney and HBO. Coral reef conservation is one of the more sensationalized topics due to the criticality and magnitude of the problem - It has been reported that more than half the Earth’s coral reefs have disappeared over the past 30 years and more than 60% of the current are at risk of disappearing, according to the IUCN Red List. Because of this, there has been a movement among aquarists to propagate captive-bred coral fragments in personal reef aquariums. If you would like to know more, we recommend watching Chasing Coral: a groundbreaking documentary on the global phenomenon of coral bleaching and its devastating effects.
The constant media exposure to the vulnerabilities of nature under siege by man and machines also leads to greater appreciation of nature and the desire to own and care for a piece of it at home, through an aquarium.
Biophilic Home Decor
Biophilic interior design is entering the mainstream. This is also a key driver of keeping home aquariums.
This design style incorporates natural elements such as wood, plants, water and natural lighting to create architecture and interior design that is an extension of nature. Partly due to the awareness and appreciation of nature due to sustainability trends, more and more home-owners are interested in the healing power of nature in a biophilic design. This kind of design not only makes us happier and healthier by connecting us to the natural world but also improves work productivity, especially when the current norm is working from home. An aquascape is the epitome of biophilic home decor, which does not just include hardscape and softscape but also living inhabitants. It is inevitable that due to the attraction of nature, homeowners eventually will yearn for a full aquarium ecosystem once they experience and enjoy the benefits of biophilic home decor.
Keeping an aquarium can enhance sleep quality, reduce levels of stress and improve focus and creativity. A scientific study has shown that viewing an aquarium without fishes can reduce your heart rate by up to 3% on average, and up to 7% on average if there are several inhabitants inside the tank. By contrast, longer viewing time on your phone increases heart rate and blood pressure, exacerbated by the recent crypto-craze that stresses investors out 24 hours, 7 days a week. Due to a greater focus on mental and psychological wellness in recent years, especially during the COVID crisis, aquarium therapy is being adopted by more and more people as an effective way for stress relief and increasing happiness. On the spiritual level, there are different benefits of having an aquarium. In Indian culture, feeding fish adds to your good karma per Vastu Shastra. In Chinese culture, the aquarium can contribute to the ‘feng shui’ of the house, bringing wealth and prosperity.
Urbanization creates two problems, both of which can drive an increasing adoption of home aquariums. The first problem is stress related to urbanization. It is well known that the hustle and bustle of urbanization can affect mental health, especially in urbanised cities wiith overcrowded and polluted environments, increased violence and lack of social support. This elevates the need for a solution to improve mental health through the help of a home aquarium. The second problem is an increasing prohibition of the top two most popular pets - cats and dogs in high rise apartments, resulting in an increasing number of pet owners keeping fish instead, which is the third most popular pet in the world. Both problems lead to the rise in the number of home aquariums, especially in urbanized cities.
Feeling boxed in: We aren’t so different from fishes in an aquarium store in an urbanised overcrowded city.
Building and maintaining home aquariums has become a popular family bonding activity, especially for families with children. While it is often due to the inspiration of one family member to keep an aquarium, this hobby is perfect as a family bonding activity. Starting a home aquarium project requires decision making, coordination and teamwork. For example, deciding on the theme of the aquarium in terms of aquascape style will affect the type of materials such as substrate, plants and fishes to be chosen. It is also necessary to coordinate the procurement of items based on a timeline as starting an aquarium requires a sequence of events to happen, such as cycling then adding fishes. After that, regular maintenance is required which will test responsibility and discipline. While there is a lot of hard work involved, ultimately, the family is rewarded with a beautiful slice of nature within their home and feeling a great sense of accomplishment. While there is no lack of indoor activities such as board games or watching TV, building an aquarium is definitely one of the more meaningful and long term family bonding experiences that are increasingly popular.
Increased disposable income
Aquarium is considered a luxury lifestyle item that is more accessible to people with higher disposable income. On a global scale, disposable income has been steadily increasing over the years. With more available income, people are more willing to spend on aquariums and exotic fishes as they demand increased standards of living and better entertainment.
A custom bookcase in a luxury New York City Apartment featuring an aquarium by Okeanos Aquascaping
On the other hand, aquarium accessories and livestock have not seen much inflation in terms of pricing due to pricing wars and improvement in technology, making it more affordable for consumers to purchase. Because of these two drivers, the number of households with aquariums is growing at a faster pace than before.
Advances in aquarium technology and accessibility to information have reduced the friction and lowered the barriers for more new fishkeepers to join the hobby. One of the biggest pain points of aquarium keeping is maintenance, which can include algae control, feeding, water changes, plant sustenance. However, technology has automated and sped up the process of resolving all these problems. For example, holiday feeders can be installed to feed the fishes while the owners are on a holiday. Algae control chemicals can be utilized to treat algae bloom. Filtration technology has made tank water quality better for a longer period of time. Biotechnology advances have made some common fishes more appealing such as the glofish. In this age of convenience, starting and maintaining a home aquarium is simpler and quicker than ever, paving the way for new fishkeepers to join this hobby.
Based on the above trends, it is no surprise that home aquariums are growing in popularity and in numbers. A greater awareness of nature and benefits of aquariums, especially in the current troubled times and in the face of mass urbanization, coupled with increasing disposable income and advancement of aquarium technology has made this hobby more appealing than ever. While fishkeeping in the past could be considered as a professional hobby that needs much learning and experience, technology and accessibility to knowledge have made it very easy for beginners. Aquarium keeping is ready to go beyond the pet industry into a one-trillion dollar home decor space.
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