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We Catch Up With Royce Suzuki of Innovative Marine To Discuss Design, Inspiration, And The Secret To Keeping A Healthy Tank

One of the cool things about Innovative Marine is you sell an assortment of compatible accessories like skimmers and reactors that fit perfectly in your tanks. Was this a company strategy from the start or is it something you stumbled onto later in a sort of “aha!” moment?

Our original concept for the NUVO aquariums was to create a stylish rimless tank on the exterior, while creating an interior “template” to house a line of accessories that can be hidden discreetly behind a false black wall. We created three lines: the Desktop, MidSize and FullSize aquariums.

Each filtration templates are similar for each category size, which makes it easy for consumers to insert any of our AUQA gadgets into their appropriate chamber and will seamlessly fit into place.

It’s very important to us to have choices available for accessories that function and look streamlined while doing so. I think that is one of the major distinguishing differences between our NUVO AIO’s and others in the market.

Your Aluminum Profile Series (APS) aquarium stands are a game changer. They are super light and come in a small box so stores like them; they are easy to assemble and move around so hobbyists like them, too. You even offer them in a wood finish. Are wooden stands a thing of the past? Why are aluminum stands superior?

We are extremely excited about the (APS) aquarium stands. This is a project that we have been working on for over 3 1/2 years. We have made over 5 revisions since initial concept since the product didn’t meet our 5 point criteria:

1. MUST BE ATTRACTIVE
Aluminum stands are available commercially and although beautiful in its basic form, we knew the average consumer didn’t want an industrial looking aquarium stand in a residential setting so we worked hard to create a traditional warm wood finish and modern matte black finish with high gloss boards that would fit many homes and offices and would eliminate the cold look of raw metal.

2. MUST BE STURDY
Aluminum is a great raw material choice for stands… it is as strong as steel while weighing a significantly less. The extruded aluminum profiles hold an enormous amount of weight and that very crucial.

We wanted to demonstrate how strong the APS stands can be. So we pushed the limits of one of our APS stands by lowering a full pallet of aquariums on top of it weighing over 764lbs. Weight far beyond the load of rock, sand, and water in a typical aquarium.

3. MUST BE EASY TO ASSEMBLE
One of the most attractive features of the APS stand system is that we only utilize ONE type of locking mechanism to connect all the profiles. We saw how many commercial aluminum stands have so many little pieces of nuts, bolts, fasteners, etc. So we simplified it by condensing it down to internal locks that were pre-set, all you need is the included hex wrench. Most people should be able to assemble in 15-30 minutes.. And if you still need assistance we have step by step youtube videos.

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4. MUST BE CORROSION RESISTANT
Making stands out of HDF (High Density Fiberboards) has had its’ challenges over the years. Not only were they extremely heavy, they didn’t stand up to the harsh saltwater environment. Over time they would swell if water was absorbed and started degrading.  Our anodized aluminum profiles are corrosion resistant against saltwater and weigh only 1/3 of what the former HDF stands did. These new APS stands will literally outlast your aquarium.

5. MUST BE EASY TO STORE/SHIP
Our last criteria was to make the package small and light weight so it could be stored in aquarium stores with minimal footprint, but light enough so it could be shipped for lower costs. The stands actually come semi-assembled as the side frames are locked at factory. This gives the product more stability when shipping, and cuts down time when assembling.

I think the APS stands are a natural progression for furniture in our hobby. It is a great raw material that is already being utilized in light fixtures, brackets, and other accessories due to its corrosion resistance properties and light weight. We don’t think real wood stands are going anywhere soon, they are a staple in our aquarium hobby, but I think it is great that we all have another alternative when it comes to aquarium furniture.

Innovative Marine often lives up to its namesake with the AUQA Gadget product line. The Gourmet Gadgets in particular probably had a lot of hobbyists asking themselves, “Why didn’t I think of that?” when released. Is your staff constantly surveling the marketplace and asking themselves “how can we make this pre-exisiting product better?” Where else do you draw inspiration from?

Our AUQA gadget line was intended to make things easier, we all love this hobby but we are always looking at new ways to do less and enjoy more. That is our philosophy when we try to re-think existing products.

We have 5 former fish store owners that work here. Each one of them has their “fish war” stories of how things were challenging in the past. We usually have a discussion on a specific product and ask ourselves is there a “problem” with this product currently. And if so, what can we do to make it better. This leads to a whole a lot of theories and wild ideas that never become actualized. But eventually, we come up with a concept and start making some handmade prototypes here in our warehouse.

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Many of products were put together using plastic cups, cardboard boxes, and just about anything we could find in our warehouse or our local dollar tree. Once we have a proof of concept, we go into molding process and full production.

I remember the very first MiniMax Reactor prototype was made from two plastic gravel siphons that slipped in one another. Many of our products come from very humble beginnings, we try to draw inspiration from everything in our daily lives. We try to challenge ourselves to produce a product that not only fits our industry but that also fits into the standard of what we expect in our daily lives.

Innovative Marine is not afraid to take risks with aquarium design. The company is generally at the forefront of making whatever is trending stylistically available to hobbyists for an affordable price. Shallow reefs, lagoons, drop-offs, and peninsulas to name a few. What’s next?

We always try to push the boundaries of sizes and shapes when it comes to aquariums. We currently have over 17 current models on the market, ranging from shallow reefs, lagoons, drop-offs and peninsulas. Each aquarium offering our signature ultra-thick high clarity glass, black silicone lines and aforementioned templated overflow system specifically designed for a plethora of accessories.

We are constantly listening to hobbyist via forums, reviews, and email feedback and we try to make an aquarium that they want to have. I know that sounds easy, but that also means adding the most important features that are mentioned, and removing the not so popular features to keep pricing affordable. In a perfect world, we would add every feature possible but that would just make the aquarium so out of reach that very few people would be able to enjoy it.

We are working on some new projects as always. We have a new line of aquariums that will be appearing early 2018. That’s all we can say for now, but we will keep you posted!

What new trends in the aquarium hobby excite you? Are there any new products or services you’ve tried recently that surprised or delighted you?

We love seeing what lights are illuminating our tanks. The lighting sector of our hobby is so diverse with different ideas, theories, styles and technology. I know it sounds gimmicky but when I see clouds rolling over the top of my tank or catch my lights randomly flashing in thunderstorm mode I chuckle how ridiculous it is but I’m glad they put it in there so I can entertain my inner child.

  • PRO TIP 1: “Disco” mode is great for house parties.
  • PRO TIP 2: Sync Lights with beat of Music
  • PRO TIP 3: Precede PRO TIP 2 with caution and don’t play any song that starts with the lyrics “Raindrop, drop tops”
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How many aquariums do you have set up in your headquarters? Tell us about them.

Being a tank manufacturer how could we not?! We are hobbyist ourselves.  However since we are constantly coming out with new tanks it’s difficult to not swap them out every few months.

The number of tanks we have keep constantly change so I cannot tell you a number, but I can tell you which ones were my favorite.

  • Fusion 40 – Damsel tank with Duncan colony
  • SR-120 – 80 assorted designer clownfish with Caribbean sponges
  • NUVO Concept Glass Series – Assorted designer clowns with fake glow in the dark plants

Should someone interested in caring for a saltwater aquarium start with a freshwater tank first to get their feet wet?

I always say “which ever one you prefer” fresh or salt they each comes with their own set of challenges. As you guys well know, when I wrote this blog post back in 2007, I had little to no experience in this hobby. But instead of saying I got my feet wet, I got my elbows wet, and dove right into the marine life and I have been loving it ever since.

Is there a secret to keeping a healthy tank? A regimen to stick to? Or must we never grow too comfortable in our maintenance practices?

I have been fortunate to be surrounded by experienced hobbyist over the years of my reef keeping. Every question that arose was answered with knowledge and understanding. Through trials and tribulations I have found that a more “natural” approach to the hobby has consistently worked for me.

Regimental monthly water changes combined with limited feeding and proactively understanding the needs of my tank has led to the success of my aquatic habitats.

What’s Terrance Pennyworth up to?

Found this pic on his Instagram up to his usual self.

There are aquarium events of all sizes in the U.S., from local frag swaps to big multi-state shows. To what degree does Innovative Marine get involved with the fishkeeping community?

Look for big things coming from Innovative Marine in 2018. While we have been absent from various shows/events this year, we have not forgotten about our fish keeping community.  Without our hobbyists, Innovative Marine would not have been who we are today. This coming year we have plans in place for sponsored contest, huge incentived discounts, a “get it first” program, and an even bigger presence at end user trade shows.

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