Advanced Aquarist: Thanks for chatting with us Ben! MarineDepotLive.com (MDL) shuttered its operations in 2009. Why has MarineDepot.com decided to restart MDL now?
Ben Ros: The timing is right. We closed MDL four years ago because the growth of MarineDepot.com necessitated a move to a larger facility. It pained us to shutdown MDL, but our new headquarters was not equipped for aquaculture at the time of our move. Our staff is mostly comprised of aquarium hobbyists, so collectively we’ve been itching to get back in the game for some time. With the economy picking up and operations at our new location running smoothly, we decided it was time to reopen MDL. We are fortunate to be in Southern California where awesome corals are plentiful. We hope to share these treasures with the rest of the country.
Advanced Aquarist: The obvious question first! What’s new with MDL “2.0”?
Ben Ros: What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) livestock will be the most noticeable change to people who shopped at MDL in the past. In its previous iteration, MDL was a one-stop shop for all aquarium livestock. We carried all the most popular marine aquarium animals available in the marketplace because we wanted to make everyone happy. This time we are taking a different approach. We consider MDL 2.0 more of a boutique than a livestock superstore. We are not going to be selling octopus here. We also lengthened our Arrive Alive Guarantee from five to 14 days, which is the industry standard now for most reputable online livestock sources.
Advanced Aquarist: We noticed MDL has stocked its virtual shelves with (gorgeous) What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get livestock. Will MDL only sell WYSIWYG livestock?
Ben Ros: That is our plan for now. With the old MDL, hobbyists would occasionally get upset the animal they were shipped didn’t exactly match the photograph shown on our website. To be clear, we weren’t advertising our livestock as WYSIWYG back then. Still, there is a certain expectation that what you receive should closely resemble the animal pictured, both in size and color.
The marketplace, as you know, has changed. Many experienced reefers have become empowered and opened up their own coral operations. Shoppers do not necessarily base their decision to buy from these farmers solely on reputation, since some of these guys haven’t been around very long. Offering WYSIWYG animals is the equalizer. It is also an honest way to do business. It is the way we want to do business. We are fortunate to have the resources available to employ experts to care for our animals, answer questions and back orders with a 14-day guarantee.
Now, will we only carry WYSIWYG animals in the future? That is up to our customers. We intend to keep our operations lean and responsive enough to adapt to what hobbyists tell us they want. If they want us to carry clean-up crews or more fish-if it is feasible and makes fiscal sense, we will do it. I can tell you we are definitely going to sell live rock again at MDL. It will be shipped via two-day service though rather than overnight.
Advanced Aquarist: We also notice MDL currently lists predominantly more expensive “premium” livestock. Should aquarists expect only these types of livestock from MDL or will MDL offer more affordable WYSIWYG items in the future?
Ben Ros: We will continue to list items of varying prices. We want to be competitive with the market and at the same time deliver quality specimens to our customers. What you’re seeing now is just a small sampling of what we will list on MarineDepotLive.com.
Advanced Aquarist: Can you describe MDL’s facilities and operations?
Ben Ros: MarineDepotLive.com’s aquaculture and holding center is located at another facility near our headquarters in Garden Grove, CA. Since we are selling mostly WYSIWYG animals, keeping them happy and healthy while they wait to be delivered to their new home is crucial. The lighting we use varies depending on the livestock, but we rely on the same technologies MarineDepot.com customers are accustomed to: metal halide, T5 fluorescent and LED. We have a few 30′ holding tanks we use to house our colorful corals and clams. We run large protein skimmers, use live rock for biological filtration and keep the water circulated using high-flow pumps. Corals are thoroughly screened so only the healthiest specimens ever reach our facility. Upon arrival, corals are dipped to remove parasites or hitchhikers then placed into quarantine for monitoring before entering our holding tanks to photograph and eventually sell to the public. Particularly lovely corals are separated to grow and be propagated again and again to lessen our impact on the world’s reefs.
Advanced Aquarist: Does MDL have plans to open your facilities to walk-in customers?
Ben Ros: MarineDepot.com’s will call service for aquarium equipment is extremely popular among hobbyists and maintenance professionals in Southern California. We get a lot of out-of-towners, too, who pick up gear to save on shipping when they visit friends and family. We’re only a few miles from Disneyland, Angel Stadium and the Honda Center, so we are pretty conveniently located for vacationers. Anyway, to your question: we do not have plans to open MDL to walk-in customers at this time. Keep in mind, though, today is only the second day MDL has been open for business. As I mentioned earlier, we want to be responsive to the needs of our customers, so we are ruling nothing out.
Advanced Aquarist: Are there any exciting plans for MDL you’d like to share with our readers?
Ben Ros: It is interesting we are even having this conversation because, in our minds, we are still in the “soft launch” phase of MDL. We are presently gathering data, gauging people’s responses to our products and pricing and, in general, making sure our website, order processing and shipping are running smoothly. There may be a few kinks and fine-tuning done during these initial weeks. We encourage everyone to be as open and honest with us as possible with feedback so we can use it to refine everything to near-perfection.
We currently have over 200 WYSIWYG corals and clams on MDL and we will be adding more soon. As people have pointed out, we do not have fish or inverts for sale quite yet, but they will be available in the coming months. We will also be offering live rock for those that want to set up a new reef.
We have a coupon available now, WELOVECORALS, hobbyists can use to take 20% off their order. We are only extending this offer to the first 20 buyers, so we anticipate this discount disappearing within days. Something I’m really excited about is a promotion we will be running soon with Innovative Marine and Seachem. We are going to include FREE with every order an Innovative Marine AuqaGadget AccuDrip Acclimator, Seachem Laboratories Reef Dip and Seachem Laboratories NutriDiet Marine Flakes. This promotion will be available for a limited time and will be advertised on our home page and social media, so we encourage AA readers to follow us on Twitter and Facebook so they can take advantage.
Advanced Aquarist: We know this is the opportunity you’ve been itching for. Pitch the new MDL to your target audience. Why should aquarist purchase from Marine Depot Live?
Ben Ros: This is going to sound like an elevator pitch, but here goes: we ship dazzling sea creatures to your door we guarantee will arrive alive and stay alive for a full 2 weeks after delivery. You can place an order today and have it delivered tomorrow for a no-nonsense flat-rate of $24.99 regardless of order size. You will always receive the EXACT animal photographed when you buy specimens with WYSIWYG listed in the product title. We screen all incoming and outgoing animals to make sure only the best are ever added to our customers’ tanks.
But enough with the marketing speak. The real reasons why you should buy from us are because we care about these animals. We are going to do everything in our power to ensure they arrive to you in perfect health. We will offer you whatever support you need, pre- and post-purchase, to ensure the animals survive and thrive in your aquarium. If that requires a dozen phone calls and emails to our support staff, no problem. If you call us for livestock advice and end up buying local, we don’t mind. We believe our quality, transparency and the success of our customers will generate favorable word-of-mouth that builds into a loyal following. We are hobbyists, too, so this is a labor of love for us. We follow the golden rule and treat others the way we would want to be treated. We also believe we can turn even the most unfortunate of circumstances into a favorable outcome if given the opportunity.
Advanced Aquarist: Thank you for talking with us about the new Marine Depot Live. Best of luck to you and your entire staff!
Disclosure: Marine Depot is a sponsor of Advanced Aquarist.