If you love aquariums--the colorful tropical fish darting from side to side, gently waving water plants, and those funky little bubble-activated deep-sea divers--then an aquarium maintenance service is the business for you. You'll clean and maintain the tanks, feed and care for the fish on a routine basis, make additions and replacements as necessary and administer any special medications. You can also set up and stock aquariums for clients who don't already have them up and running, perform tasks like changing filtration systems, replacing plumbing and moving aquariums. And you can set up, stock and maintain ponds as well--water gardens complete with fish are the hottest new trend in residential landscaping. The advantages to this business are that you can start with a minimal investment, part time if you like, and you get all the fun of working with fish every day. If you're a fish person, this a wonderful business, but if you're not a true hobbyist, you won't be happy. Fish, especially those that live in saltwater tanks, can be very difficult to care for. You must have knowledge and experience in dealing with these delicate creatures in addition to a genuine love for them. You'll need to have a real concern for your finny charges' lives and for maintaining them at their optimum.
Your clients can be businesses that find fish to be relaxing for their customers--doctors, dentists and restaurants are all good candidates--but you'll also do work for various other businesses. You'll find that some of your clients will be private parties who love fish but don't have the time, desire or expertise to care for their finny friends. And of course, you'll have business and residential customers with ponds and water gardens. Establish relationships with fish-store and pet-store owners and ask them to refer their customers to you. You can offer them a finder's fee for each successful referral. (Don't forget to leave plenty of your business cards for them to hand out.) Place ads in the pet section of your local newspaper. Send brochures to interior designers who specialize in commercial establishments--they can refer you to their clients. And if you plan to go the pond route, get in with garden and nursery retailers, and landscape architects and contractors, who can give you referrals.
You don't need a lot to get started--some resource books and equipment like siphons, nets, algae pads, buckets, planting sticks and tongs, and plastic tarps and towels. You'll purchase fish food, saltwater test kits and any necessary medications but pass the costs along to your clients. You'll also set up aquariums for clients, so you'll need to establish relationships with fish stores or wholesalers who can give you good deals, or else stock your own home tanks from which you can draw.