BY WENDY BEDWELL-WILSON
In much of the country, pond product sales—particularly in the pond food category—tend
to wane during the cold months
of winter. That’s when fish, turtles and other pond critters hunker down and hibernate, slowing
their metabolisms and fasting for
But as soon as those water
temperatures warm up in the
spring, a feeding frenzy begins
and sales in the pond food category surge, said Rick Preuss, owner
of Preuss Pets in Lansing, Mich.
“We stock cooler-season pond
food and products through the
winter, but in the spring, April or
so, we bring out the spring food
and supplies,” he said. “And
when temperatures really heat
up, the peak-season, color-en-
hancing and fast-growth formu-
las come out.”
Whether it’s spring, summer
or fall, pond food is a reliable cat-
egory for retailers who sell wa-
ter garden goods, said Damian
Hall, marketing communications
manager at Rolf C. Hagen (USA)
Corp. in Mansfield, Mass.
“Consumable pond products are steady and rising product lines for most retailers; sales
trends in this category are consistent,” Hall said. “Like any food
product, consumers are looking
for quality products that meet the
nutritional needs of their fish.”
Pond Season Is Here
After a long winter of slow sales, retailers can
boost revenue by catering to pond owners.
SEASONAL POND FOOD
Ever wonder why pond food comes in so many varieties? Manufacturers concoct
multiple menus for good reason: They’re catering to the dietary needs of koi, goldfish
and other pond fish as they change through the seasons, said Damian Hall, marketing communications manager at Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass. What
they crave during the summer differs from what they need in the spring and fall.
“Pond foods come in a variety of formulas to support the seasonal needs of pond and
cold water fish, typically goldfish and koi,” Hall said. “The dietary needs of these fish differ
throughout the season based on temperature of water and their activity level.”
In the winter, when fish are enjoying their annual torpor, they need very little
food—or no food at all in cold climates. But in transitional months when water tem-
peratures hover between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit or so, experts recommend
easy-on-the-belly wheat germ-based diets.
“Wheat germ foods are what I suggest for feeding in the spring and fall,” said
Helen Roberts, DVM, who works with Aquatic Veterinary Services of Western New
York in Orchard Park, N. Y. “They’re easy to digest and don’t have a lot of fillers. They
jump-start a fish’s gastrointestinal system; it’s analogous to when you’re sick with
the flu and you start to eat broth to get going again.”
Once summer temperatures arrive and the fish have settled back into their
regular eating routine, they can be switched to a nutrient-dense diet that promotes
growth and color, Hall said.
“As spring weather turns warm, fish should be transitioned to an all-season for-
mula that provides a steady and balanced nutritional diet,” he said. “Pondkeepers can
also feed color-enhancing or growth formulas in place of all-season diets. These are
very popular diets for hobbyists. The diets do exactly what they say: A color-enhanc-
ing diet is formulated to bring out the vibrant colors of koi and goldfish, and growth
formulas are used to help fish rapidly and safely put on weight.”
Kathie Dienes, marketing manager at The Pond Guy in Armada, Mich., agreed,
noting that anything that brings out fishes’ health and vibrancy sells.
“Color-enhancing and growth foods are usually the most popular,” she said.
“Customers love to feed their fish and see them grow quickly.”
Rick Preuss, owner of Preuss Pets in Lansing, Mich., stocks spring/fall and
summer/color-enhancing pond foods at three different price points to offer several
choices for customers.
“We have a house blend, a most-recommended brand and a higher-end diet,
because we want the very best for our customers,” he said.
Fish aren’t the only pond dwellers that hibernate over the winter. When air and water
temperatures chill, outdoor pond turtles will
slow their metabolisms and brumate, in her-petological terms, cozily tucked into the mud
until spring, said Kathie Dienes, marketing
manager at The Pond Guy in Armada, Mich.
When they wake up, they’re hungry—so retailers should point their pond customers to prepared turtle diets, said Ashley Rademacher, animal care and education
coordinator for Zoo Med Laboratories Inc. in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and recommend a
formula based on their turtle’s life stage.
“A hatchling formula is higher in protein to accommodate the rapid growth rates
of hatchling and juvenile aquatic turtles,” she said. “The growth and maintenance
formulas meet the dietary requirements of growing and adult aquatic turtles. Floating
pellets make it easier for aquatic turtles, who prefer eating at the water surface, to
locate their food.”
And don’t forget the treats, Rademacher said.
“Encourage customers to add a nice high-protein treat to their turtle’s diet,” she
said. “In nature, aquatic turtles eat animal and plant material as part of their natural
diet, so show them treats with ingredients like fish meal, shrimp and kale to simulate
their natural diet.”
EDUCATE AND INFORM
As spring approaches, retailers should be prepared to assist hobbyists with their fish
and turtle feeding routine, said Damian Hall, marketing communications manager at
Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass.
“Education is vital when caring for any animal, fish or fowl,” he said. “Beginner
pondkeepers need to understand the season cycle of ponds and how this affects the
fish, the plants and, of course, the equipment.”
Go with them through the dietary changes season by season, particularly in
regions where temperatures swing widely throughout the year, said Kathie Dienes,
marketing manager at The Pond Guy in Armada, Mich.
“If you’re in a cooler climate, knowing which type of food is suitable and when to start
and stop feeding fish is important for their survival,” she said. “Remind customers to feed a
wheat germ-based food when temperatures are between 40 and 50 degrees, and to stop
feeding completely when water temperature is below 40. During the warm summer when
fish are active, foods with a protein boost will keep them strong and healthy.”
Hall encourages retailers to display their pond food wares prominently, particu-
larly in the spring.
“Pond food should have a prominent place in every pond department in a pet
store or water gardening center,” he said. “Depending on the region, pond food can
be a year-round consumable sale for pondkeepers. Even in the northernmost garden
zones, pond food can and should be a three-season sale.”
Rick Preuss, owner of Preuss Pets in Lansing, Mich., showcases a stunning
hands-on display in his shop, and he shares his knowledge with hobbyists new and
old through classes and presentations at the local koi and watergarden club. It builds
trust—and customers, he said.
“We focus on our assets, what we know, and we give it to the public,” he said.
“We’re not into blasting ads. We’re more into building trust and confidence.”