How to Start a Pet Fish Store

As the proud owner of a pet fish store you not only will sell goldfish to young fish fanatics, you also have the opportunity to build a large commercial customer base tending to those interested in large aquariums in doctors offices, restaurants, and other public spaces. A wide range of accessories such as gravel, plants, and filters are offered to keep your customers' tanks clean, healthy, and unique looking. It can be a challenging business to open, but if you are passionate about fish, it can be a creative, rewarding, and profitable venture involved in customer service, design, and animal care.

Learn how to start your own Pet Fish Store and whether it is the right fit for you.

Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services.

Start a pet fish store by following these 10 steps:

  1. Plan your Pet Fish Store
  2. Form your Pet Fish Store into a Legal Entity
  3. Register your Pet Fish Store for Taxes
  4. Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
  5. Set up Accounting for your Pet Fish Store
  6. Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Pet Fish Store
  7. Get Pet Fish Store Insurance
  8. Define your Pet Fish Store Brand
  9. Create your Pet Fish Store Website
  10. Set up your Business Phone System

We have put together this simple guide to starting your pet fish store. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.

STEP 1: Plan your business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Pet Fish Store Name Generator

If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.

When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:

  • Your state's business records
  • Federal and state trademark records
  • Social media platforms
  • Web domain availability.

It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.

Want some help naming your pet fish store?

Business Name Generator

What are the costs involved in opening a pet fish store?

For a small store front, you will need $50,000 to $100,000 for the initial investment, depending on the type of fish you intend to stock. Salt-water and exotic species exponentially increase the cost of livestock. Expect to have two years of capital available while you build your customer base.

What are the ongoing expenses for a pet fish store?

Your largest constant expenses will be water and electricity. When looking for a location, keep local rates in mind. Shipping can be significant for live fish deliveries.  Otherwise, standard business costs such as the lease, payroll, and the cost of inventory will be your main concerns.

Who is the target market?

Your clients will most often be of three types: families looking for inexpensive, low-maintenance fish, lifetime fish hobbyists, and commercial clients looking to fill large aquariums. The fish hobbyist and the commercial client will provide you with the most profit per purchase, and they are also highly likely to become regular clients. Hobbyists will return on a steady basis to replenish their supply of tank maintenance products, and commercial clients will be in need of someone to perform regular maintenance duties on their aquariums.

How does a pet fish store make money?

While you can see a retail markup of 100% over wholesale on a single fish, the costs of water, electricity, loss of other livestock, and time can quickly lower that margin. The largest profit is found in in-home services supporting large commercial clients. These services can include tank cleaning, water testing, water treatment, etc. Accessories such as gravel, plants, and decorations offer the most consistent income with a general profit margin of 10-30%.

How much can you charge customers?

Most of your standard consumable supplies such as food and gravel will retail from about $5 to $40. This price applies to small live fish popular for home aquariums, as well. Special order exotic species can retail for $100 to $1000, but may not require you to stock them.  For out-of-store services, regular tank cleaning can be priced starting at $60 and rise from there according to aquarium size and any additional tasks completed for the client.

How much profit can a pet fish store make?

Your numbers can vary significantly, but a successful local pet fish store can expect to profit $100,000 to $180,000 from net sales of up to $400,000 a year with a solid customer base.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Service, knowledge, and cleanliness are the hallmarks of a successful aquarium store. While selling a new customer's first fish is exciting, it's the return trips for food and filters that will keep your business profitable. Providing exceptional customer service along with free and accurate advice will encourage your customers to keep coming back.

Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your pet fish store is sued.

Form Your LLC

Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC

Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You

Two such reliable services:

You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.

Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!

You can acquire your EIN through the IRS website. If you would like to learn more about EINs, read our article, What is an EIN?

There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Open a business bank account

Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:

  • Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • Makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.

Get a business credit card

Getting a business credit card helps you:

  • Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.

Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

In most states, it is necessary to obtain a pet store license. Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a pet fish business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

Certificate of Occupancy

A pet fish business is generally run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).  A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease a location:
    • It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a pet fish business.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build a location:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your pet fish business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

STEP 7: Get business insurance

Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.

There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.

Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.

FInd out what types of insurance your Pet Fish Store needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Pet Fish Store.

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.

Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.

If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.

How to promote & market a pet fish store

Since you have a live product to sell, you must focus on your local customer base. Consider placing ads on billboards and at local sporting venues. Reach out to popular radio stations and connect with other fish fanatics through social media networks. Commit yourself to saturating your neighborhood with your marketing materials for a whole year to raise awareness of your new location.

How to keep customers coming back

While a grand opening campaign with balloons and buy-one-get-one coupons will attract curious customers in your door, it will be your gleaming tanks full of healthy fish and your complete understanding of fish keeping that will keep those customers coming back. Your customers will be less focused on bargain fish food when they know the quality of your product is only surpassed by your care for their aquariums.

STEP 9: Create your business website

After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.

While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.

Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:

  • All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
  • Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
  • Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.

Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.

Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.

STEP 10: Set up your business phone system

Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.

There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.

Recommended Business Phone Service: is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.

Is this Business Right For You?

Opening up an aquarium store is perfect for the entrepreneur looking to support their passion for keeping beautiful and healthy aquascapes filled with exotic and common fish. Owning a pet fish store also allows owners to share such passion with their fellow aquarium enthusiasts. It's encyclopedic knowledge regarding water quality maintenance and fish health that will separate a local fish store guy from a valued member of the fish hobbyist community. Attention to detail and a commitment to maintaining a pristine, yet attractive storefront is also crucial in building a customer base that will return. Of course, the successful pet fish store owner will also have a solid understanding of good business practices.

Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?

Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!

Entrepreneurship Quiz

What happens during a typical day at a pet fish store?

When you run your own fish store, on any given day you might need to:

  • Feed and care for the fish, plants, and tanks in order to maintain attractive sales displays
  • Receive shipments of new livestock/acclimate new fish to your display tanks
  • Maintain inventory of new tanks, accessories, and food
  • Provide friendly and helpful service to any walk-in clients
  • Reconcile daily sales receipts and invoices
  • Offer in-home services for large customers with fresh or saltwater aquariums
  • Research custom orders for exotic fish and new aquascape designs
  • Maintain and train your staff

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful pet fish store?

These skills are helpful to develop in order to build a successful pet fish store:

  • Extensive knowledge and experience in the care of aquariums and fish
  • Basic accounting skills
  • Excellent customer service
  • Good housekeeping standards
  • Strong organizational and leadership skills
  • Ability to build relationships with vendors and repeat clients

What is the growth potential for a pet fish store?

It is possible to expand from a small storefront on Main St. into a larger location as you build a dedicated pool of customers. Larger metropolitan areas will be better able to support a busy location as you can offer more services for high-end clients.  Some startups have expanded into multiple locations as they built a solid reputation for healthy fish and happy customers.

TRUiC's YouTube Channel

For fun informative videos about starting a business visit the TRUiC YouTube Channel or subscribe to view later.

Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Learn from other business owners

Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.

Resources to Help Women in Business

There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a pet fish store?

First determine that your neighborhood needs a local fish store and select a high-profile location that is exposed to heavy foot-traffic. Your local hobbyists will enthusiastically tell their friends about your business, but you'll need to actively work all your connections through social media, printed, radio, and television ads to expose potential customers to your new business. A direct marketing campaign can help reach new lucrative commercial clients.

How and when to build a team

A small local storefront will still need more than just you to get the ball rolling. You'll want to hire a small team of clerks to help clean the tanks, keep the store neat, and check out customers while you're working on orders. Make sure your staff members enjoy working with live animals and that they want to learn all they can about your fish and your products. If you anticipate a large commercial client base, make sure your technicians have sufficient education and transportation.

Have a Question? Leave a Comment!