Maintaining Your Lobster Tank During the Holidays

Article by Thomas Olsen, President

The busiest season for seafood sales is upon us! Everything you’ve worked for throughout the year comes to fruition during the Christmas and New Year’s selling season. It is important not to neglect your tank and keep it in good working condition. Remember, the more activity in a tank, the more it’s at risk of “crashing”, and no one wants to have a tank down for any length of time, especially when your customers are now focusing on their Christmas Eve meal (hello Feast of the Seven Fishes) and New Year’s Celebrations. I want to share a few things I’ve learned that are proven winners in managing your department and building a loyal customer base.


Post a sign that you are now taking holiday orders

By taking advanced orders you will have a better idea of how much product to order, and when to bring it in so it’s at peak freshness…especially lobsters! Keep the pre-ordered lobsters in their shipping box and cover them with wet newspaper, bar rags, clean cloth apron, or paper towels. Keep them in the walk-in box for no more than 2 days. The key to keeping a lobster alive out of water is to store it cold and wet.


It’s best to use either a carbon copy order pad so you can have a copy and give one to your customer. If carbon pads are not available, I suggest either using your phone (text the customers’ copy to them), or get a small countertop copy machine in your department for the holiday. This will avoid confusion when the customer comes to pick up their order and will act as a reminder as the day draws nearer so they can refer to it and make changes as needed. Keep a folder or binder to hold the orders. Write down any specific custom requests (steam the lobster, clean the headfish, cut the eel in 2” sections, etc.) 


Some retailers have planned ahead and provide pre-printed numbered order forms. If you don’t have one, no problem. Simply put a numerical number in the top corner of the order sheet and log this number in an address book along with the customer’s last name. When filling the order place all the items in a bag (lobster bags are a winner, or talk to your store manager about giving a re-usable bag with every order as an incentive for the customer to place their orders early. Everyone likes to get something for free). On the bag place the order sheet with the customer order number. Place the bags in your walk-in box, or on a milk bossy in number order. This will save a lot of time trying to find the order because now you’re looking for numbers instead of names. If the customer forgot their order number, which they will, you have the address book for reference to easily find their order number.


Now is the time to make sure you are well stocked on all the necessary supplies needed to keep your tank clean and lobsters healthy. Marine salt, activated carbon, filter pads, hydrometers and much more. Check out our web store for our full selection. Order online, or with your local paper distributor. If you run out of a supply or forget to order them (don’t panic, it happens) call us and we will try to get you the needed supplies or guide you in the right direction in a pinch.


Understanding the relationship of bacteria and ammonia, be mindful not to load your tank if it has been lightly stocked prior to the holiday.  Remember lobsters create ammonia by eliminating waste in the water. Bacteria consumes ammonia. For example, if your tank has only 25 lbs. of lobsters but is large enough to hold 120 lbs., it’s safe to assume that there is only enough bacteria in the bio bed to consume 25 lbs. of lobster waste, not 120 lbs. You must slowly introduce lobsters into the tank at a rate of 10 lbs. every other day until the maximum capacity is met. If this is difficult to do, you can aid in the process by adding 1 bottle of Nitrifying Bacteria to your tank for every 25 lbs. of lobsters. Nitrifying Bacteria can be ordered with your lobster tank supplies from: 1) the preferred distributor (Bunzl, Imperial, Penn Jersey, etc.), 2) online from our web store, or 3) by calling LLS directly and we will ship it to your store. Along with the Nitrifying Bacteria, you can add 10 lbs. of lobsters everyday cutting the time to capacity in half.


By now you are all aware of the process of purging. If not, check out our previous blog post regarding purging. This is the most critical step in maintaining a healthy environment and keeping the tank from crashing. Purging is a 15-minute process that I’ve seen multiple times abused, misused, or flat out neglected. By skipping this critical step, or not doing it properly, you are risking a high fatality rate and unnecessary higher shrink. You’re busy, we get it. It’s the busiest time of the year. It’s also a time to not only meet your sales objectives, but exceed them. Purge before the surge in sales and you’ll reap greater rewards. If by chance your tank does happen to “crash”, call us to schedule a service technician. We’d like our technicians to be the proverbial “Maytag repair technician” during the holidays. Remember him?  Sitting around waiting for a call because Maytag appliances are so reliable that he’s not needed?  If you’re too young to remember this wildly successful TV ad campaign, YouTube it for a few minutes of levity!


Sell out of the box! On the peak selling days – Dec. 22, 23, 24, 30, and 31 – do your best to sell right out of the shipping box. At this busy time your tank should be the showcase, keeping all the activity out of the tank as opposed to inside it. I’ll repeat my previous statement. The more activity inside a lobster tank, the more you’re at risk of spoiling the water and “crashing” it.  Yes, lobsters will retain SOME water, adding weight which is referred to as “water weight”. However, it is minimal at best and you’re at greater risk of higher fatalities, thus negating whatever positive there is in water weight. 


LLS is the ONLY tank manufacturer in the industry that offers a 24/7/365 support line. (201) 398-0303. As much as we promote it, sadly, few take advantage of it. We always have someone on call to answer your questions, talk about your concerns, and help you mitigate water quality issues, and lobster handling atrocities. If your call goes to voice mail it’s because we are on the phone helping another customer or are frankly just not available at the moment. Leave a message and we will call you back promptly. No call is a bad call, and no question is a bad question. We’re proud of what we do and ultimately your success is our success!


On behalf of our entire team of Aquaholics I wish you a blessed Christmas and prosperous, healthy New Year. Kudos to you. You’ve busted your hump and won the race. Hard work pays off so don’t forget to thank God at the end of the day for making it through. Rest assured our prayers during this time of year are with you and your team. We are a purpose driven company and are dedicated to exceptional customer service along with providing the best aquatic products in the world!

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