Mission Statement and Bio
Carl’s Aquarium of Southern California
American Aquarium Design
Carl Strohmeyer- Aquarium & Business Experience/Bio
*Special thanks to Tommy Butler, Steven Wright, Misti King, Devon Trigg, Blaine Scheidegger, Man & Mollusc & many others for their help.
- Early hobby years
- Early professional aquarium maintenance years
- Mentors & studies during maintenance years
- Current experiences & research
- SEO, website experience & Summary
Business Mission Statement
Our Current Staff Welcomes You:
- Carl (Website design, information research)
- Steven (Artwork, diagrams, web design, information research)
- Devon (Social outreach, web design, information research)
- Matt (Shipping/Sales)
- Michelle (Shipping/Sales)
- Kevin (Shipping/Sales)
- Til (Fill in help)
- Blaine (Fill in help, website consultation)
Early Hobby Years:
To be brief- Carl got his first aquarium in the late 1960's (1968 when he was 9 years old). It was a Metaframe 5 gallon aquarium which was different from the all glass aquariums with silicone for construction, which became more popular in the 70's forward. This aquarium had a simple "bubbler" corner filter powered by a Metaframe air pump. His first fish were Guppies, Zebra Danios, Platties and White Clouds, which were a "starter pack" given with the aqurium.
A little over a year later, Carl received a 10 gallon aquarium where again, he used a simple corner filter even with larger and a more "modern" design. In this tank, there was many types of Tetras from Neons, Head/Tail Lites, etc. Also Rasboras, Corys and his first Plecostomus (no one warned Carl how large these guys could get)...
In the early 70's, Carl purchased a 40 gallon "all glass" aquarium, which had his first HOB filter- a Dynaflo (which is a much different design than current HOB filters). He continued with similar fish, which he had before, just more of them and a little more "exotic" (such as some Buenos Aires Tetras which were exotic to him at the time).
He later (77') decided to try his hand in saltwater even though there was little information at this time about saltwater keeping. He added an Undergravel filter, the "new" Nektonics design, which at the time was considered the best. (At least by others he knew in the hobby). He added Damsels, Clown Fish, a Yellow Tang, a Batfish and some others. He later added a Brown Octopus, which was the most interesting creature he owned. Mostly due to the neat personality it had.
First years in Pet Stores/Maintenance Business
In 1977 Carl took 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 his original "boss" (he was not the owner, but ran all three stores as if he were 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.
Carl shortly there after became an assistant manager at the West Covina Store and the general manager for the fish departments.
Carl made a point during this time to inquire about all trade representatives, especially Aquatronics, which they had some of the most up to date information about aquarium water chemistry and treatments at the time. They later knew Carl personally due to his many questions and later named him the "Green Flake Man" (more later as to why).
In late 1978, Carl started his aquarium maintenance business on the side while still employed at Archie' House of Pets. In early 1979, he had an employee of the Bahooka Restaurant contact me for a sick Arowana (a restaurant, which 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 Carl made a house call and was able to save her prize fish. She was so happy, that she told her boss (Jack) and he contacted me to set up and maintain the aquariums at the Bahooka.
Unfortunately the West Covina location lost its lease, however this allowed for the Rosemead Bahooka location to expand, where Carl extended their aquarium collection to over 100, and many were over 100 gallons each.
This became a launching point for Carl's business and when problems arose at Archie's, it prompted him to start his own store in Hacienda Heights at the end of 1979. Along with his fiancé at the time Tris (who he met at Archie's House of Pets).
1980s To 2002, Including Experiments/Trade Shows
Although Carl's aquarium store started slow, it did grow and Carl did have to rent the building next door to double in size, late 1980.
However, it was the maintenance business, which really blossomed and made the name, especially since the store was in a somewhat obscure location.
During the early years, besides the Bahooka, Carl picked up many other well known accounts from the Lobster House, doctors, attorneys, Coaster Co. (which by the 1990s was the largest furniture importer in North America and the largest account with multiple locations, with many aquariums and ponds), and others.
This account with its 100 plus aquariums would be a major testing ground for many of Carl's controlled experiments over the following years. The Bahooka was better than most accounts, since Carl was there (or had staff there) daily, so potential variables were more easily eliminated.
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.
Strohmeyer was able to work out agreements with many of his service accounts such as the Bahooka & Coaster Co. to provide 100% care and with a certain price, he used these locations for many tests (as well as some breeding).
Carl's earliest tests were with fish foods (based on many ideas provided by mentors, such as Aquatronics, and hobbyist doctors I made friends with). This is how he earned the nickname the "Green Flake Man" by Aquatronics as he found despite the popularity of many household brand names such as Tetra Fish Foods, 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 Carl called the "Green Flake" at the time (now Spirulina 20) and other foods.
Strohmeyer admits, the ideas to perform these tests were because HE LISTENED to others such as Aquatronics researchers and a representative from Sera foods of West Germany at a trade show 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". Carl figured excellent marketing, which still persists to this day.
See Carl Strohmeyer's Fish Nutrition article for more about these fish food experiments.
Along with his Spirulina Article:
"Proper Fish Nutrition".
"Spirulina Algae in Fish Food"
In the late 1980s Carl became good friends with Dr. Herzog, a well respected Endocrinologist in Whittier, which was a long term fish hobbyist (both marine and Freshwater). Carl maintained an aquarium in his office and helped with his home aquarium. During this time Herzog taught Strohmeyer LOTS about what medications can and cannot do, and how even in human treatment a doctor makes an "educated guess" at best. He taught Carl much, which contradicts to-this-day many anecdotal claims about medications, bacteria, and more that unfortunately still persist in this hobby. Often by people who blindly repeat bad information in blogs, forums, groups, or even Yahoo Answers.
Aquatronics played a major role in strohmeyer's education here as well, as he spent a great amount of time over the years in consultation with the lab techs of this company.
A recommended read for more on this subject, please see Carl's medications article:
"Aquarium Medications; Page 1"
During the late 1980s, Carl also set up many aquariums in a room of his house where he experimented and performed controlled tests of UV Sterilizers, filters, medications, and more. While his earliest experiments were with fish nutrition, he later shifted to disease prevention, then copious amounts of effort for UV Sterilizers. To this day, this still accounts as the subject Strohmeyer has spent the most of his time in research. Later, came experiments into aquarium chemistry, lighting, and finally Redox, which was the most eye opening for him in the aquarium hobby.
During the 1990s, many of these tests continued and Carl used his aquariums along with Coaster Co (which by now had become his largest service account for both aquariums and large ponds) for his tests, which would eventually contribute to his articles:
Aquarium Disease Prevention
Aquarium GH, KH, pH, Calcium
Aquarium & Pond Redox
These tests were conducted to try and explain why Strohmeyer was observing certain results with differences in care of many of his client’s aquariums and ponds.
He also conducted these tests, because it was simply NOT good business for him to make unnecessary visits due to problems with his clients aquariums or ponds (not to mention, better customer satisfaction). So, figuring out a method or methods, which keep fish alive along with equipment with the least problems was advantageous for him. Aquarium Disease prevention was so important that Carl found employing as many steps as possible were part of this "prevention puzzle" would lower the amount of disease incidence and lengthen fish longevity.
During the late 1990s, when Strohmeyer was considering re-opening his aquarium store, which he earlier had closed for personal reasons (See personal Bio). He pondered using one of Marineland's pet store bio wheel systems since he had many Penguin Filters as well. However, when discussing this with another colleague in the maintenance business (that he would occasionally see at Quality Marine). The colleague questioned Carl's reasons and quickly made him realize he was sold on the Bio wheel for anecdotal reasons. 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, methods for fish disease prevention (which resulted in his Redox research and also tied in with what would become his UV Sterilization and Chemistry article) live rock crumbles for nitrate removal in Marine Aquariums, Protein Skimmers, Veggie Filters in ponds, and many different filter combinations (including drilled canister filters), which often went against the popular filter system beliefs of the time.
Summary of 1978-2002
Later, Strohmeyer sold off his maintenance company and then opened an online business, which featured his researched articles and experience as the cornerstone of his business plan. The other cornerstone, which contributed to the growth of his business was the customer service he provided both then and now. In many interviews with his clients, he found while he certainly gained and kept many customers via his ability to keep their aquariums to their satisfaction, it was his customer service, which was the over whelming reason most clients/customers stayed with him both then and now.
2002-Present, INCLUDING Current Research, Strengths and Weaknesses
In 2002, Carl had to leave behind his aquarium maintenance business and store.
Noted in his main biography.
Strohmeyer worked at a candy factory when he first had to move to Oregon for personal reasons. For these reasons, please see Carl's personal bio.
He soon started his online aquarium information & later supply websites, in part from inspiration of a co-worker a the candy factory (Rachel Owen). He also realized many people over the years, which knew him during his maintenance business days wished he would put down on paper his Aquarium & Pond Information Knowledge. He utilized his websites for this idea.
Starting in 2005, Strohmeyer published many of his articles from AAP and have since researched further, updating, correcting and adding new content (including new articles). He cites as many references as possible, especially for new information added. Unfortunately, the sudden move in 2002 forced Strohmeyer to leave behind a lot of research documents as well.
While the original selling website was more to simply sell shells, and related ocean decor, he quickly realized (in part by urging of those who knew him for years), that he should go back to selling what he recommends. One friend bluntly stated; "why not sell some of these products that are noted in your articles?"
While now the shell/ocean decor part of the website is a very minor part of this business, it still represent a large portion of the website since Carl's original intention was to utilize his growing library of aquarium/pond keeping information to attract person to a more simple business of selling shells/ocean decor.
What Carl would like to point out to readers of this biography is, much of his success and knowledge over the years is not based on my scientific brilliance or similar, rather more to his use of management/business skills to recognize what he did and did NOT know. This allowed himself to learn from others and as well recognize in others where they could make up his deficiencies.
Strohmeyer continued to research for his articles and he generally research OUTSIDE the Aquarium industry/hobby, because he RECOGNIZED much of the popular information was often re-posted and passed around over and over. Carl would 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 too).
One of Carl's talents is that he is very good at organizing information, while at the same time, he's a poor analytical thinker (He's a much better "picture" thinker). Most who have worked with him over the years have noted that he's often open to learn and that he make up for his weaknesses with his businesses organization and similar skills.
Even during his stint of attempting a career change of becoming a professional pilot, that four VERY different flight instructors and even a very hard ass FAA examiner (for his multi-engine pilots license) noted that he was only an average pilot in his flying abilities, but his excellent cockpit organization and recognition of his weaknesses (he was not at all cocky according to one instructor) made him an excellent pilot.
What does this have to do with fish keeping?
Well, a lot of Carl's feedback over the years with clients who stated they appreciated his honesty, integrity (he would not simply sell a product, because there was a lot of money to be made or it was popular), dependability, and willingness to always learn. The fact is, another mentor over the years (Reggie) at a aquarium supply wholesaler, which finished his business career there told Strohmeyer this: "I have never seen a more dishonest and back stabbing business than the aquarium industry".
These statements are NOT to puff Carl up or put others down, rather to point out that his ability to learn is something anyone who is honest and puts their mind to it can do. What Carl is good at (as per others too), is that he's very good at organizing information, listening to others, and testing what they say, regardless of his opinion at the time (which may be then forced to change...).
Even in areas of less knowledge, such as specific fish species knowledge and breeding. Carl HAS kept many of these fish in a generic sense and has applied his tests in keeping fish alive and long term fish health to these fish with excellent results. So, although he may not know the specifics of many different exotic fish, he can attest to VERY good success in long term health and care (Clients that had many different aquarium service personnel before Carl have stated this as well).
In closing, Carl is still learning and though some may criticize him or label him a fish expert guru, in reality he's somewhere in the middle and he will also point out, besides the fact he's still learning, many of those he's learning from are younger or even only a few years experience. (Suzie Q at Everything Aquatic was relatively new to the hobby, but she taught him things he didn't). He has 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 Carl if your name is left off here, even though chances are, he has learned from many posts, especially questions that made him re-check his own research or expand it!!)
Carl will also admit, while he was not treated nicely on many Google groups he was on, he still learned from some of those, which were rude and nasty. He did not let their nastiness get in the way of good information.
SEO Experience and Web Sites
Besides Strohmeyer's aquarium and pond experience, he have had to become relatively proficient in web site SEO (Search Engine Optimizations) and similar website design issues. This is due to the fact that when Carl first started aquatic information articles and a commercial web site with a “Field of Dreams” attitude that if you build it, they will come.
The difficulty in this, is keeping all the sites current and fresh. Then making sure these articles are linked and passed around the web. This as well as the occasional web site issues takes an ENORMOUS amount AMOUNT OF TIME. It's also difficult to keep up with numinous Google updates, where Google says to jump and our company jumps.
As noted earlier, if Carl's articles have been helpful, please help him by providing a link in a personal blog or website to your favorite articles/products give a "shout out".
A list of all Carl's article:
- 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 Carl 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, for their many talents, thank you Misti King & Devon Trigg.
Besides their work in improving articles, they help everyone at AAP deal with the extreme negativity and dishonesty, which is unfortunately occasionally found in the aquatics hobby/industry. We have to deal with it in emails, forums, groups, Facebook, etc. Thank you.
For Carl's Personal Biography Page, please follow this link: My Biography
We strive to sell products and provide information in this manner:
- Unique Website with Unique Content:
The following points will expand on this... however, 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, which is regularly updated. With both research and professional experience 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 and any products recommendations second. Even then, the majority of the products we recommend are based on our researched articles and experience.
For those who ask us to sponsor their forums, clubs, etc. If we elect to do so, please understand our mission statement of information first will also be carried over to any sponsorship. Please do not ask us to sponsor and then ask that we not follow our Mission Statement.
- Quality products:
At a great value that we 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 don't carry just what sells. We sell products that are often only marketed to aquarium professionals, where cool gimmicky features are not the priority.
An example would be many of TMC products, such as their LED controllers, which doesn't have a lot of "flash", but more makes up for it in science based electronics. As another example, we do not sell UV sterilizers with baffles (twists), wipers, or other features, which our research has found to be simply gimmicks, which can leads to short life span of a product.
This means, you will likely not find this website to sell 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 a one stop store for all aquatic needs. Our hope is support of local aquarium/pet stores. However, we also do hope we are one place for aquatic information and do hope there's support for this information by purchasing at least a few of our helpful or unique products, if the information is found to be helpful.
This includes products, which 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 than what a professional can purchase. Even in large quantities and then not answering letters professionals 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 there is questions prior to use.
- An example of a product we thought was an excellent idea, but 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 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, which agree with the known science of aquarium keeping.
Even in selling many of the best quality products 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 before shipping to help our customers avoid the hassles of receiving defective merchandise.
This is a time consuming process, which 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 tested, by us to ensure a non-defective product. Not because we sell used products!
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, which 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, which we strengthen and retrofit with an outer layer of 5/8" vinyl tubing to provide the best possible product for our customer.
In fact, 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 FREE:
Articles & Information as noted earlier, about many aspects of aquarium and pond care, which are based on decades of experience, which also 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".
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 with good reviews for products, which over normal use fail or bad reviews for excellent products, which were not properly used or even sold incorrectly.
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 sterilizer and later realize a problem and blame all UV Sterilizers.
How is this accurate?
Our apologies to those who disagree with our Feedback policy. 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 Form to leave any feedback.
We add this to our email Feedback Page as time allows. If it's preferred to leave more direct feedback, the forum we sponsor now has a public location to do this as well.
See: AAP Feedback: Products, Customer Service, Information
- The lowest possible price:
This means, 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 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, which uses PayPal website Pro instead of platforms such 'Magento' shopping carts, which are NO MORE secure and would require $1000s in extra webmaster fees. There's also 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 both feedback and stat counter statistics prove most of our customers/readers appreciate.
- When time allows, 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.
- Long trips (1600 miles) with our own trucks to pick up products (& returns). This results in better communication and product knowledge due to time spent in face to face transactions and discussion of products (including problems).
- An extensive, 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, which is second to none!
- Because we spend 75% of our staff hours in research, customer help pictures, diagrams, and customer service (including 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, which also spend little or no time in research as their anecdotal articles show.
So, please understand why in some cases we might be 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 do not work for free!!!
- Shopping Cart:
We utilize a PayPal hosted shopping cart, which 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, which other "Checkout Button" templates do not allow. This requires a drop down menu type shopping cart, which may not be 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, which the popular "separate button" cart website templates do not allow.
It's 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 this cart is 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 people 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 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 our checkout system is not a problem!!
- Provide Customer Service:
(To compliment our top notch researched articles...) We 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 we provide. Please do not continue to ask follow up questions into the night, but rather than read information we provide. Please understand that this is also our family time.
Please also understand, as an internet business, which operates on razor thin profit margins where most of our 7000 readers per day are not our customers (or have purchased just a couple of products 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. This is simply due to the volume of emails receive and remain a viable business (or have any personal time).
As well, our staff is trained to answer basic product questions, not specific aquarium/pond set-up or fish disease questions. We understand most people (as per our Stat software), will use the advice given to them to purchase locally. However, please also respect we cannot remain viable answering questions for other businesses customers.
Please allow us to help you by reading the articles we have spent 1000s of hours in research/writing, and refrain from repeat questions and discussions until after reading the article content. As well, when management level staff have to jump in and help with email questions that are already contained in our library of articles, this also detracts them from their time they spend in constant research, testing, & graphics to keep the articles updated.
HOWEVER, please feel free to ask for clarifications, etc., especially for unique lighting applications, etc.
In depth discussions are welcome at our sponsored forum Everything Aquatic with its discussion board. This is a great place to ask questions in more of an opinion nature for those who desire a family like atmosphere of sharing their aquarium experiences. Our staff, including Carl (owner of AAP), often visit this forum to answer questions and more time is spent in attempting to fine tune answers here, which our customer email staff do not have time or training for.
Please also understand, when asking questions in our customer service email, it ONLY helps the asker. When questions are asked in this forum, it benefits many in the forum and these forum posts are added to Google/Bing/DuckDuckGo searches, resulting in one question/answer benefiting many (including our website SEO, thus there's a small benefit for us too), as well as allowing us more efficient use of our time.
As per phone calls, we no longer accept phone questions for these reasons:
- We have found we can run much more smooth transitions through emails without disrupting the flow of our workload, since we are forced to multi task to remain profitable.
- Phone calls were answered in office, while emails are answered from multiple locations, INCLUDING AFTER hours.
- We 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 at AAP reads technical questions sent by email (even if they were not the person who answered) including Carl. 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 is at an all time high, with little merchant protection from credit card processors and other online providers, we LEGALLY need this written record for 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 this policy in place. We spent much of our time in 20 minute phone calls or long email threads (when we did not refer to our extensive articles) with little time managing, and running our very thin profit margin business. The result was lose of money for years
IN FACT, we took on additional staff for 6 months in 2013, so we could allow for dedicated customer service staff (rather than multi-tasking). Again, since we operate on razor thin profit margins, this again resulted in losses.
Please understand and respect how and why we conduct business the way we do.
- We now receive over 7000 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 tech.
Please understand these articles and downloads of charts, etc. ARE FREE and we also cannot reply to 7000 people 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, yet have made many phone calls or sent many emails expecting the owner or managers to be their personal answer person. Often these people have been verbally abusive when told we cannot maintain a profitable business and answer their specific questions (often with answers already in Carl'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. This policy is in place to provide the best level of customer service.
- Handle In House Warranty Returns:
This means time and man hours spent testing and often replacing or occasionally repairing products. When the majority of these returns are 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 7000 users per day of our websites are polite, unfortunately we occasionally receive emails from people who are very demanding of our help, rude, condescending, making dishonest accusations, or simply disrespectful. This is to our staff or the 1000s of hours Carl has put into the vast library of free information.
Often these people are very thoughtless and/or simply downright hate filled in their emails. This abuse of our help is often expecting more than what 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 people who will make one or two purchases, then send many (often 100s) of emails. Often arguing answers while not reading articles Carl has spent so much time in research and writing. In the end, often using our help or Carl's articles to purchase elsewhere such as large retailer Amazon, Pet Mountain or Doctor Foster & Smith.
This abuse often includes arguing prices of products and shipping or why we do not sell certain products while selling others. Despite the fact 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 his business, 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, which were not used correctly and filing claims of non-receipt within a day or even a hour after 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, statistically 80% of these are attempts to commit fraud against us in some form or another.
We ask 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 people who do this, make such threats based on incorrect information...
Due to the 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.
Refusal of future business could be for the following reasons:
- People 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, which are missing the pre-filter sponge and use a low output medium pressure UV bulb instead of the high output bulb we use)
- People who are dishonest or make false claims
- People who are rude, threaten, or bully our staff (this includes threatening with chargebacks or PayPal claims)
- People 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 blacklists for the first three reasons for refusal of service, when persons have displayed remorse of their actions. It should be noted, 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 our business and the dishonesty the few people who have done this to our business have shown.
Please know, these are the same policies local brick and mortar stores have the right to have in place. While their policy may not be written for all to see, these are the procedures they would take in the case of a "abusive" people coming into the store.
Please also see Further Mission Statement, Policy Information at the end of the page.
A Few of our Specialty Products-
For the latest technology in Aquarium Lighting:
Aquarium LED Lighting
Best lighting for an aquarium, with lower initial costs than Metal Halide and vastly lower operating costs, with better performance!
UV Bulb Replacement Lamp:
Emperor Aquarium Smart UV Lite 25 Watt & Pondmaster Submersible Ultraviolet (UV) Clarifier, 40 watt .
Quality UVC lamps for most Sterilizers, Purifiers, Clarifiers- with 30 plus years UV Sterilization experience to back them up!
A recommended product for required aquarium constant supply of positive mineral ions. As well as AAP medicated versions.
Best high output CFL aquarium lights:
SHO Aquarium Lights
The SHO is proven in Greenhouse applications b/c of PROVEN results for plant growing applications!
Standard Compact Fluorescent Lights available!
For Reliable, Efficient, and Affordable Aquarium Filters:
Rena Smart Aquarium HOB Filter
Revolutionary aquarium power filter (HOB), bringing superior filtration of a canister filter to the back of the aquarium. Simplicity of maintenance!
ATI Hydro Sponge Filters
Patented ATI Hydro Sponge aquarium filters for bio and mechanical filtration. Hydro Sponge Pro filter for high bio load tanks.
Replacement sponges and parts as well.
Professional Grade Aquarium Silicone
Aquarium & Pond Plumbing Parts
Unique or difficult to find plumbing parts, such as the Universal Canister Filter Intake Adapter- pictured to the left.
Also Ball Valves, Diverters, Dose Barbs, Check Valves, and much more!!