How to get the best saltwater aquarium tech support

Everyone needs a little help with their marine aquarium once in a while. You may have a question about a water pump, test kit result or fish health. You can browse the online forums and see if you can find an answer. Many times the amount of information online can be overwhelming. When dealing with a product issue, going straight to the manufacturer can yield quick and accurate answers. I have worked as an aquarium technical support person and managed a customer support call center, handling over 800 calls a week. Many aquarists who call or e-mail with questions are not prepared to engage in the support process. They do not have the critical information required to get help or settle a warranty issue. This results in call-backs, a trail of e-mails and frustration! Follow along as I reveal what every aquarium support tech whishes you knew.

Aquarium Hardware Help

Always keep the receipt. The receipt documents proof and date of purchase for warranty issues. I suggest keeping the UPC also. Most manufacturers use both for rebates and warranty replacements.

Read the manual and make sure your equipment is set up properly, then call if you still have a problem.  As a support person the ideal service call starts like this. “Hi. I have a TurboWave pump, model 37, that won’t start up. It worked great for a month but now it stopped working.” I now know that you have the current model and it is under warranty. I can check and see if there are any known issues with this model. I’ll ask you to check and make sure the inlet is not clogged and perhaps a few more suggestions about proper set-up. Many problems are caused by user error and can be corrected by reviewing the set-up procedure. Although it may seem tedious, double-checking each step usually reveals the problem.  If these steps do not work, we will move into the replacement phase.  Normally the manufacturer will ask you to send in the item for repair or replacement. Some customers ask for the new part to be delivered before sending in the broken item. This probably will not happen. Why? The manufacturer has no proof, other than your word, that you have the product. They need to receive the proof of purchase and broken item before sending a replacement.


Treatment Chemicals and Test Kits

When discussing water treatment products it is important to know the size of your aquarium. Water treatment chemicals are dosed based on the amount of water in the tank. It is unfortunate that more than a few aquarium owners do not remember the size of their tank or miscalculate the dosage. Even seasoned aquarists have made mistakes when adding trace elements like iodine or strontium. When you call, know which product you added. Most manufacturers have multiple water conditioners, pH buffers, etc. The tech person needs to know exactly what product you added and how much. Replying with something like “I added the right dose” does not help because sometimes the “right” dose turns out to be a five times dose! Work with the Tech, they are like detectives, gathering facts then providing answers.


The same goes with test kits. The test procedure must be followed exactly in order for the kit to work properly. It is easy to get distracted when counting drops or timing the color development. Sometimes Techs will have to run the test over the telephone. Test kits have lot numbers and use-by dates. Have these ready when inquiring about an unusual test result. Don’t be insulted if you are asked how you are performed the test. It is not unusual to find out an important step was missed. Test kits rarely “go bad” so be prepared to work with the tech to figure out the cause for concern.


Medications and Sick Marine Fish

Diagnosing fish disease is difficult. We mostly see symptoms and not the actual disease-causing organisms. Medications are recommended based on fish behavior and outward symptoms such as frayed fins, cloudy eyes and heavy breathing. Not very scientific, but it is the best we can do in a home aquarium setting. Now imagine trying to diagnose a disease over the telephone or e-mail. I’ve handled thousands of fish health calls. I always start by asking about the size of the tank, number and type of fish and invertebrates and the results of your latest water test results. It is very common for concerned aquarists to reply “Can’t you just give me something to squirt in and take care of it all?” Yes, it certainly would be easy to sell a magic cure-all but it would not be ethical and might not even help. Fish and invertebrate health depends on water quality. If the water is not in good shape, health declines. If there is high ammonia in the water, stressing the fish, medicine will not help. Correct the water quality issue first and the fish and invertebrates will likely recover on their own. This is why seasoned aquatic techs always ask about your water testing and stocking density, before prescribing a medication. Be ready to provide your latest test results and a detailed description of your aquarium. Then be ready to explain what you are seeing in the aquarium, such as heavy breathing or open wounds. Saying “My fish just don’t look right” is not an adequate description. Watch your fish and write down what is wrong in the aquarium. Then call or e-mail tech support. Then the aquatic professional will be able to make informed recommendations based on accurate information.


Make Friends with Tech Support

I realize when you have a problem you want help right away. You may be frustrated with a product or troubling situation. You want fast and simple answers. Sometimes getting to the solution takes some Q&A between you and the person on the other end of the line.  Support techs really enjoy helping people solve their aquarium issues. If you come prepared with information and patiently work with the Tech, you will get the answers you need.






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