Starting an Aquarium Maintenance Business

A home saltwater aquarium with fish and corals
Marta_Kent / Getty Images

Some fish owners hire aquarium maintenance professionals to clean their aquariums, making aquarium maintenance a potentially profitable business idea. There are several different ways to run such a business, including working from home or renting space in a pet store. The important thing is to network with as many people with aquariums as possible and establish yourself as an expert who can help them maintain healthy, thriving tanks.

The Pros

Some of the benefits of starting an aquarium maintenance business include:

  • Relatively low start-up costs. You'll need some basic supplies such as buckets, water changing tubes, faucet adaptors, and so on, but the tools to professionally maintain aquariums are not as expensive as the aquariums and equipment you'll be maintaining.
  • No storefront is needed. Your base of operations likely will be your home and the vehicle you use to travel to your clients. You'll be able to deduct these expenses when you file your taxes.
  • You can turn your love of fish into a business. If tropical fish are a passion for you, this is a great way to earn money doing what you love while sharing your expertise with others.
  • You can work as much or as little as you want. This can be a side job to earn extra income, but if you build up a large enough client base, this could be a full-time job.
  • You can expand your business into other areas such as aquarium setup or selling aquarium supplies to your clients.
  • There is a wide range of potential clients. Many businesses that have aquariums in public areas contract with someone to clean and maintain them, but there also are many individuals who like having aquariums but don't have the time or expertise to properly maintain them.
  • Extra income can be earned by selling the supplies necessary to maintain healthy aquariums. For example, if a client's water needs to be treated with a specific additive, the client should be buying the additive from you.

The Cons

Some of the potential challenges of an aquarium maintenance business include:

  • There is the potential for significant liability since you will be handling expensive tropical fish and large amounts of water in homes and offices. You'll need to invest in liability insurance to protect yourself. You need to have clearly written policies as well. For example, it should be included in your standard contract that your clients are responsible for the safety and stability of their own aquariums and equipment.
  • Marketing will be an additional cost. When just starting out, you'll need to have a strong marketing plan to start building a base of clients. Establishing a detailed website is a must, and advertising on the vehicle you'll be using also may be beneficial. You may be able to partner with local pet stores that sell fish and aquarium supplies, but that also likely will include a fee. Consider joining your local chamber of commerce.
  • Large aquarium setups or elaborate indoor or outdoor ponds may be more than a one-person job. This means you may have to hire a part-time assistant to help with some of your biggest jobs.
  • You need to have a plan for handling emergencies your clients may have. This means being available 24/7 or having a backup in place that your clients can contact if you are not available.
  • Extensive knowledge of aquariums, aquatic life, care and maintenance, diseases, and so on is a must. It's not enough just to be a hobbyist. Clients need to be confident that you can handle any issues or emergencies they may be experiencing.