This thread is three years old but I wanted to revisit it considering that inflation is a very relevant thing today, while real wages have been flat for 50 years. Are torches going to fetch the same price they used to to a year or two ago? Are local fish stores going to survive? I bought a cannister add-on for my RO unit from BRS two months ago. I checked again today and it's 20% more expensive. Is this sustainable?
I will make some predictions. I think that you're about to see the largest exodus from this hobby that you've ever seen in the history of the hobby, and I'm not quiet sure how detrimental it will be.
1) Rising cost will push people out: This is a luxury hobby. Wages are flat across the board while inflation goes up, and that's for everything from frags to lights. This will be one of the first hobbies to go to the cutting block when money gets tight, as it should be.
2) The largest participation drop in the history of the hobby: There are more people in the hobby now than ever due to a growing pool of knowledge, better technology, and ease of accessibility. The growing participation in the hobby will produce a higher number of people calling it quits than ever before simply because so many entered that might not be able to maintain their tanks, or choose not to.
3) The coral market is beyond saturated: Corals aren't going to fetch the price they used to. I see it across the board in live sales on the national stage, every 5 minutes there's a new vendor flipping the same corals, and the prices are marching down very quickly just to sell what is for sale.
4) There are no more "new" corals": Every vendor has been buying from the same few exporters for a while and it's been two years since I've seen anything that I haven't seen before, despite a massive amount of disposable income flowing into the hobby over the last two years. There are only so many colors in the visible spectrum, there are so many variations of them, and I feel like I've seen them all. Different tanks and different parameters produce different looks for each coral, and I feel like different sellers are exploiting this as if it's a different variety, while these variations can very easily be explained by different tank parameters, different photography settings, etc.
5) Speculation: I know many people that have justified spending a lot of money on a coral with the expectation that it would grow, they could frag it, and they could sell it. If the other points I've made are true, then this collapses on its face, leaving a lot of folks as bag holders once the price collapses, and that's assuming they can grow it. At the end of the day, 90% of corals that are purchased are killed. If they weren't killed then there would be a major supply side for corals and the demand would be down near dinosaur bones. Point being, prices got as high as they did based on speculation, and it wasn't driven by consumption demand, but rather by supply demand, aka the markets are flooded with "rare" stuff that's readily available.