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In general, it's the capitalist mentality. As an individual, my goal is always to get the lowest price. Businesses respond by lowering their costs.

As a consumer, I don't make the connection that this can drive underpaid waiters, assembly line workers, or janitors to steal from me to feed their families.

There are other countries in the world where it costs $$$ to eat out, clothes cost $$$, taxis cost $$$, but the overall standard of living is the highest on the planet.

It also makes people much more conscious of quality and value, preservation and conservation.

In specific, perhaps the salt water industry has made use of the "difficulty" of their version of the hobby to create a perception of exclusivity, which they can play to with pricing and marketing? Like golf, sports cars, and other markets where prices greatly exceed the cost of manufacture?
 

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I resent that common materials, devices, tools, and chemicals triple or quadruple in price when the word "aquarium" goes on the label.
So do I. That's not an increase in value or quality, just price. Personally, I like the challenge and satisfaction of finding an equivalent alternative, or recycle/reuse, or just making something work well and look good without money. The less I spend, the more I like it -- unless I'm shortchanging a shop owner, employee, or livestock.
 

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I certainly get this, but it doesn't explain the SW side of the industry. There are the same money constraints in peoples' lives.
It may be self-selection at work. A big factor in my own choice for FW was that I couldn't afford SW. That, and I was extremely impressed by what people here could do with the art...!
 

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A good plant display, good looking plants, and good selection may work very well.
One more thing that would help. Packaging.

Imaging that aquatic plants were sold like other aquarium decorations: Just plop it in the tank. Move it if its in the way.

How?

Sell the plants in cheap glass or acrylic vases, like this:
Plant Houseplant Flowerpot Liquid Terrestrial plant


Advantages:
* More attractive than the plastic pots
* Ferts built in soil, gravel cap included.
* No substrate requirements for the tank.
* Easy to reposition, remove.
* Ideal: As easy as buying a plastic plant.
* Price point: The pots retail for under $3.00, so the range of $5-7 should be possible.

Make sure:
* Plants come with the same Easy, Medium, Hard labels as fish do. With a bright, medium, or dim bulb symbol.
* Include the APC URL on the label
* Include a "Learn More" address too, that explains in pictures how plants fit the ecosystem and shows off fully planted tanks
* On that site, include (e.g.) that great plant nutrient deficiency infographic.
 
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