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Freshwater Fish Swim Up in Popularity

Posted: Jan. 14, 2013, 4:00 p.m. EST


Among new introductions, GloFish and bettas lead the aquatic sales trend.
By David Lass

Several exciting fish, both from the wild and captive-bred, are making their way into the aquatic hobby. GloFish are probably the most important new offering this year, according to industry participants. In addition, the availability of new types of GloFish coincides with significant marketing efforts that pair them with new specific tanks and accessories.

“We are doing very well with the GloFish themselves and with the range of tanks, lights and other products primarily from Tetra and KollerCraft,” said Michael Nallen, owner of Oceans of Pets in Woonsocket, R.I.

Despite initial resistance, Joe Olenik, fishroom manager for Hoffer’s Tropic Life Pets in Milwaukee reported growing enthusiasm about the GloFish craze.

Display freshwater fish tanks
Replenishing display tanks with new fish offerings, such as GloFish, bettas, gobies and danios, helps foster hobbyist interest.Sherri L. Collins/BowTie Inc. at Safari Pet Centre in Montreal
“We have the tanks on endcaps and carry the original GloFish and the green GloFish tetra, and we just brought in the new GloFish tiger barb,” he said. “At first I resisted them, being a ‘naturalist’ when it comes to fish, but soon gave in and brought all the different GloFish in. I’m going to the bank with a big smile on my face.”

One retailer said his only challenge with the GloFish is big-box stores underselling them.

“We sell all of the GloFish—zebras, tetras and tiger barbs,” said Mike Hresko, whose family owns House of Tropicals in Glen Burnie, Md. “The only problem I have with the GloFish is that Walmart is underselling the independent pet stores on price.”

Reproduction of GloFish is limited by license, despite reports about hobbyists breeding them.

Industry Voices
Are local fish stores seeing as much competition from the Internet on fish and invertebrates as they have been experiencing with high-end dry goods, such as filters and lighting systems?

“We are seeing a little competition from the Internet on livestock, but dry goods on the Internet really are killing the independent pet store.”
Mike Hresko, co-owner of House of Tropicals in Glen Burnie, Md.

“The market for oddball fish seems to be big on the Internet. We offer these fish to the local fish stores and at prices where they can compete with the Internet. People have to consider shipping costs in buying from the web.”
Mike Tuccinardi, marketing director for Segrest Farms in Gibsonton, Fla.

“Livestock will probably never be as important on the Internet as dry goods are. Hobbyists still like to see what they buy swimming in the tanks of the local fish store.”
Joe Shilkus, buyer for APet in Dundee, Ill.

“It’s getting to be more of a problem, and I’m becoming more aware of it because customers are talking to me about what they see offered on the Internet. In metropolitan areas, the local fish stores seem to still be patronized, but buying livestock on the Internet is a viable option for folks who live far from any good stores.”
Joe Olenik, fishroom manager for Hoffer’s Tropic Life Pets in Milwaukee

“Amazon, for one, sells dry goods for much less than we can. The good news, however, is that customers still want to see the fish and how nice they look in our tanks.”
Michael Nallen, owner of Oceans of Pets in Woonsocket, R.I.

“For exotic and highly specialized fish, such as discus, most hobbyists seem to go to the Internet. With the general hobbyist with one or two community tanks I don’t think the Internet is really much of a problem for us.”
Peter Ream, co-owner of Boston Pets in Peabody, Mass.

“What surprises me is the number of really big companies selling livestock on the Internet. Most stores tell us that their customers still want to see the fish in a tank in the store and pick the fish they want.”
Laura “Peach” Reid, owner of Fish Mart Inc. in West Haven, Conn.

“GloFish are really popular, and we here at Segrest are one of only two licensed producers of the fish,” said Mike Tuccinardi, marketing director for Segrest Farms in Gibsonton, Fla. “In 2012, we released the green tetra and tiger barb, and we now are working at offering them in the same colors as the original GloFish.”

There is also a veritable explosion taking place with Siamese fighting fish, distributors reported.

“Some of the new bettas are really striking, such as ‘elephant ears’ and ‘mustard gas (blue and yellow),’” said Laura “Peach” Reid, owner of Fish Mart Inc. in West Hartford, Conn.

A new goby, Stiphodon genus, is attracting attention, too, Segrest Farms reported.

“They are proving to be very popular, despite the confusion on the common names,” Tuccinardi said. “Some males and females can look completely different. The Blue Neon Stiphodon will be the best seller, as there is good supply from commercial breeders, and they are not very expensive.”

Other new fish are entering the industry from the wild as large portions of Southeast Asia are opening up to fish collecting.

“The new danios, loaches and rasboras that we are seeing from India and Myanmar are very interesting,” Hoffer’s Tropic Life Pets’ Olenik said. “The ones that prove to be most popular are soon being bred commercially.”

On the marine side of the aquatic industry, new captive-bred shrimps and corals are growing in popularity.

“More people are getting into captive-raised corals, and that is a very healthy trend,” Reid of Fish Mart said.

There also are several exciting invertebrates for the freshwater side, according to retailers.

“People are very interested in the ‘lava lobsters,’ which are the crayfish with the brilliant reddish/orange color,” said Peter Ream, co-owner with his wife, Patty, of Boston Pets in Peabody, Mass. “We also sell quite a few of the iridescent blues, and many customers will set up a small tank just for these interesting creatures.”

Small shrimps also are popular, reported Emery Kriegsman, general fishroom manager of Pet Pantry Warehouse in Greenwich, Conn., adding that some tank kits are marketed specifically for them.

“We usually carry six types of shrimps,” he said. “Some of the new shrimps being offered are really not for entry-level fishkeepers.”

Hobbyists also are hybridizing shrimp, according to Harold Cheng, owner of Los Angeles-based Always Quality Aquatics, a provider of fish and invertebrates from the Far East.

“These new hybrids are easy to keep and perfect for small tanks,” Cheng said. “The new shrimps from the wild can be difficult to keep, at least initially.”

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