Betta Sales, Better Business
New and established hobbyists alike seeking simple setup and maintenance buoy sales of Siamese fighting fish habitats and related products.
By Cheryl Reeves
The market for smaller, lower-maintenance aquariums has become quite profitable for retailers; this is especially true in the popular betta-related product sector. And because so many children start off their fish-keeping experience with bettas, stores can establish rapport with these young hobbyists by offering everything from food, tanks, water conditioners, habitat décor and more.
What’s key, agreed interviewed industry insiders, is stocking and promoting the most innovative and affordable betta-specific items.
“When it comes to selling bettas, small is big,” said Paul Demas, project manager for Penn-Plax, based in Hauppauge, N.Y. “While décor and aquarium ornament resins have been a staple of the industry for decades, most recently bettas have grown in popularity. Walk into any pet store, and you will find not only numerous bettas for sale, but also many different varieties.”
More consumers want bowl dividers to safely house more than one betta, as well as lights to bring out the bright colors of fish, plants and ornaments. Penn-Plax
With this increased popularity, the demand for betta-related products also has grown, and Penn-Plax’s new versions of aquarium resins and plant decorations continue to easily achieve bestseller status, Demas said.
Toys Attract Sales
Judy Hoffa, owner of Fountains Aquarium in La Mesa, Calif., said she does a brisk betta business, routinely selling anywhere from 50 to 75 fish per week.
“Bettas are a great, easy-care choice, especially for a child who wants a first fish,” she said. “And, along with their new pet, they also want the enrichment toys that keep their bettas active and healthy.”
According to Ashley Rademacher, the animal care and education coordinator for Zoo Med Labs Inc. in San Luis Obispo, Calif., betta keepers enjoy watching their fish perform natural behaviors.
“For example, one of our most popular betta products continues to be our Betta Leaf Hammock,” Rademacher said. “This product provides the fish with a unique opportunity to rest near the surface of the water just as they would in nature. Another popular product is the Betta Exercise Mirror, which encourages natural ‘flaring.’”
Anthony Mistretta, owner of Ocean Design Aquarium in Chicago, reported that at his store, sales of enrichment toys and other décor items continue to strengthen.
“The most popular ones are the Zoo Med Leaf Hammock and Penn-Plax’s SpongeBob,” Mistretta said.
Due to the big demand for betta toys and scenery, Demas said that Penn-Plax has even more new products in the pipeline for the betta market.
“Currently, in décor, we have many miniature versions of aquarium resins designed to fit the smaller tanks used for bettas,” he said. “We have mini-replicas, which come in fun styles (some with funny sayings) including an alligator, a drog, a dish, a hippo, an Easter Island statue and different versions of Buddha. We also have many exciting licensed mini-resins that include SpongeBob SquarePants, Nemo and Little Mermaid—all geared toward making the hobby fun for the youth market.”
In addition to the resin ornaments, Demas said Penn-Plax also offers several plant lines, such as the Aqua-Plant Select Betta Silk Plants that are available in several styles and colors to jazz up betta habitats.
“We are also working on fun new decorating kits that will be perfect for betta-sized housing,” said Demas.
Betta kits that offer convenience and affordability continue to be important, said retailers. Further, more consumers want bowl dividers to house more than one betta safely, as well as lights to bring out the bright colors of fish, plants and ornaments.
“The Rolf C. Hagen Marina CUBUS Glass Betta Kit still remains one of our top-selling kits, especially for kids,” said Kathryn Kidd, sales associate at Fish Gallery’s Houston location. “This kit includes an energy-efficient LED clip-on lamp and really creates a nice display.”
At Coral Reef Aquariums in Tampa, Fla., Josh Lee, store manager, reported that customers gravitate toward Penn-Plax’s betta bowl because it comes with dividers—and LED lights.
“Everyone wants to see colors come alive, so lighting is getting more popular,” he said.
Due to this consumer demand, Rademacher said that the newest addition to Zoo Med’s full line of betta products is an LED light.
“Our betta LED light is a two-watt light that is very easy to install on a betta house or condo,” she said. “The long-lasting LEDs add visual appeal to a betta tank and can help provide the fish with a natural day and night cycle.”
Another new product from Zoo Med is a betta digital thermometer.
“Keeping these fish at the proper temperature is essential to their health,” Rademacher said, adding that thermometers are commonly overlooked products that retailers should recommend to their customers as important pieces of equipment for keeping bettas healthy.
“Our new thermometer can be used on any tank or bowl and is completely submersible, and the digital readout faces forward in the tank to make it easy to monitor the temperature of the betta’s water,” she said.
Retailers reported that standby foods are selling the best.
At Coral Reef Aquariums, the top-selling betta food continues to be Seachem Betta Basics, said Lee.
Hoffa said her strongest betta food brands are Hikari Betta Bio-Gold pellets and San Francisco Bay Brands’ Ocean Nutrition Betta Pellets.
“We also sell a lot of frozen bloodworms and some freeze-dried bloodworms,” Hoffa said.
To help young fry gain optimal health right from the beginning of life, said Nadine Burk, customer service representative for San Francisco Bay Brands Inc. and Ocean Nutrition, in Newark, Calif., her company now offers Ocean Nutrition Betta Starter Food.
“This is a top-performance larval-stage feed with high digestible energy,” said Burk. “It’s a nutritionally complete food for young fry that will help promote fast growth, optimal development and disease resistance. Free-floating crumbles are ready for use from day three until the end of the first month.”
Another innovation in the betta category from Ocean Nutrition is the design of more promotional packaging, specifically a new 15g hang card that can be used as a space-saving counter or shelf display, Burk said.
Display and Sales Strategies
Hobbyists want the best for their betta fish, and retailers can ensure they get everything they need, including care tips, by displaying products and offering superior customer service.
Mistretta said that he occasionally offers discounts on kits, but the best way to communicate to customers the importance of buying everything a betta needs for a quality life is to display a fully outfitted betta habitat in-store.
“We do a nice display that’s colorful and filled with plants so customers can immediately see how beautiful a betta habitat can be,” Mistretta said. “We also offer care sheets and one-on-one customer support.”
Hoffa said she has a table display in her store that shows off up to six betta tanks, and she also displays more betta bowls at the checkout counter.
Some retailers reported an increase in customers wanting to share the beauty of bettas at special events and then offer the fish as party favors to responsible friends and family.
“People like to purchase bettas to display at parties and will sometimes buy up to 30 fish in a variety of types and colors,” said Hoffa.
One of the best ways to promote, display and sell betta products, said Zoo Med’s Rademacher, is to put them into use in-store.
“When all the pieces come together to create a habitat, customers realize the purpose of each product,” she said. “And for online retailers or retailers with the ability to show video, we have made videos for each of our betta products that can be seen on the Zoo Med Labs YouTube channel.”