Vendor Profile: ME coral brings innovation to the reef tank
When aquarist Mark Esquenazi founded aquarium product company ME coral, he was confident his products would stand out from among the rest.
A former stockbroker and aquarium enthusiast, Esquenazi started the business a year and a half ago after enough conversations with people in the aquarium hobby, who complained about their corals dying.
“I played with my tank,” Esquenazi says. “I had a licensed aquaculture facility and used to sell corals at swaps like this. People would come up to me and talk about their tank – and I realized they didn’t know what they were doing or how to administer simple chemistry or proper equipment to their aquarium.”
These conversations prompted Esquenazi’s search for better chemicals for the aquaculture facility. He looked only for the best suppliers, and didn’t settle until he found the right products and could share them with friends.
“Keeping an aquarium healthy is not as complicated as it needs to be,” says Esquenazi, who’s had saltwater aquariums for as long as he can remember. “Whether or not you have an aquarium, it’s simple.”
In fact, his business has grown so much over the past year that he now attends between six to eight swaps and shows across the country each year.
ME coral’s strategy
So what makes his products unique? The chemicals are ranked at pharmaceutical grade. This means they’re good enough for human consumption – without the kind of impurities that come with industrial grade chemicals.
“Most chemical aquarium businesses use industrial grade, like the stuff you put on plants, driveways or in pools,” Esquenazi says. Naturally, because industrial grade aquarium products have more impurities, corals and fish have a higher chance of becoming sick or dying.
“If you buy a calcium or magnesium pill at GNC – it’s just as good of quality as my products,” Esquenazi says. “We all knew we needed alkalinity and chloride and everything else – but you have to ask suppliers how to get better quality.”
In fact, Esquenazi’s supplier also makes pharmaceuticals for GNC.
One of his more unique offerings, however, is his dip – a product that knocks out the bacteria on a coral frag before it’s placed in a tank. Rather than using the typical iodine, which is harsher and can sometimes discolor the coral, the dip is made with lemon, pine and lavender oil.
The history of ME coral
“He’s a hobbyist that started a business in this hobby,” says Brad Beese, owner of Hobe Sound Frags. “He’s good at keeping corals alive and knows a lot about water chemistry. Plus, his products are clean; he does all the research for you. He’s doing a lot of good for the hobby.”
“I like talking to people and helping them diagnose their aquarium so they can apply the right chemicals for their system. I’m like a doctor trying to help people out. I sold corals, but people were killing them – so it goes back to letting me help people so they don’t kill them.”
The most exciting thing about the biz? Esquenazi says it’s making connections, taking home new corals and helping people.
“Aquariums are fun,” he says, whose current aquarium is about 15 years old. “Building an aquarium is a hobby; you have to enjoy it, what you buy and how you build it. Do a little research before buying – its technical, you have choices, learn what is involved so you get good results.”
The catch is accomplishing all of this – the aquarium, the successful business and helping other aquarium owners – in a responsible and sustainable way.
“If corals are just pulled out of the Pacific, we are raping the seas,” Esquenazi says. “We then will have more regulations and less corals. But it isn’t as ugly as it seems – many corals grown for aquariums are aquaculture. You’re not hurting the sea if you manage the corals properly through proper chemical balance. By not killing corals we can have successful tanks to share so the ones that are taken from the wild are minimal.”
Reefnation and ME coral
Here at ReefNation, we have been a reseller for ME coral since the spring and have been using Mark’s additives now on one of our grow out systems with great results. We leverage all the base reef elements as well as his amino acid supplement in the system we run ME Coral in now. Coral growth and coloration has been solid and the dosing is made very easy with the pre-portioned containers that Mark packages.
We look forward to catching up with him at MACNA 2016 to see how he and his business are doing. If anyone has questions regarding MEcoral, please hit us up at email@example.com and if you would like to buy any of his products, please check here.