By EthaN D. MIzEr
aquarium staples such as fish food are must-stock items for retailers, and pel-
leted or granulated options con-
tinue to increase in popularity
with customers who keep a wide
variety of fish. These food selec-
tions continue to grow their mar-
ket share, retailers reported, and
new offerings from manufactur-
ers give retailers even more to
Pelleted food sells better
than a lot of the flake foods,
said Anthony Heras, owner of
Fish Pro’s Aquarium Center in
“A lot of the fish like the sink-
ing pellets,” he said. “It seems
like there’s not as much waste
[with pelleted foods].”
He noted, however, that
most people purchase pelleted
foods in combination with flake
options to provide more variety
and target-feed fish at different
levels in the tank.
“We sell both to most peo-
ple,” he said. “We’ll sell flake
food for the top feeders, and with
flake and pellet combined, you
kind of hit them all.”
Established pelleted food
brands continue to do well with
customers, Heras said. He carries
New Life Spectrum, New Era
and Hikari pelleted offerings,
Pellets in different sizes also
provide customers with more
options for finicky fish.
“In the past six months, we’ve
been selling a fair amount of pel-
leted foods,” said Gary Knabe,
president of Elmer’s Aquarium
& Pet Center in Monroeville, Pa.
“We have a lot of success with
the pelleted foods we carry. We
have several brands now in dif-
ferent bite sizes. They’re slowly
gaining market share.”
He offers pelleted foods from
Omega 1, New Life Spectrum,
He’s had success with Sera
granulated foods, he said, as
well as varieties from Hikari and
Fish diets come in more shapes and formulations than ever,
and offer retailers new ways to increase their bottom line.
Nuggets of Nutrition
When it comes to aquarium foods, educating customers is considered part of
“It’s not like we’re drawing customers in just for [food sales],” said Leroy
Dyke, owner of Fish Safari in Virginia Beach, Va. “It’s part of the education we give
In general, it helps to make the conversation with customers about fish health
“My spiel is kind of explaining it like dog food,” said Anthony Heras, owner of Fish
Pro’s Aquarium Center in Amarillo, Texas. “With dogs, lower-quality foods tend to
go right through them. So, you’re going to have better nutrition for the fish, and less
mess in the tank. Not every fish eats the same thing. All fish aren’t the same.”
The best part about fish food education is that retailers can keep it simple.
“Customers will go with what we recommend,” said Gary Knabe, president of
Elmer’s Aquarium & Pet Center in Monroeville, Pa. “As a specialty store, we always
have the premium foods, which tend to work the best. The good news is, you don’t
have to study it too deep.”
It’s best to stress variety in fish food offerings, as well as convenience.
“The main selling points are that they are easy and convenient, and there is
a guaranteed amount of nutrition in every bite,” said Jason Oneppo, research and
development manager for San Francisco Bay Brand and Ocean Nutrition Americas,
headquartered in Newark, Calif. “Of course, retailers should always recommend
feeding a varied diet and can suggest things such as feeding pellets in the morning
and frozen in the evening.”
The trend in new products is more pellet sizes, new protein
sources and new flavors. In general, manufacturers strive to
make their products more palatable to fish, as well as to gain
market share with saltwater and reef customers.
“The newest pellet we have on the market is our Ocean
Nutrition Nano Reef Fish Food,” said Jason Oneppo, research and
development manager for San Francisco Bay Brand and Ocean
Nutrition Americas, headquartered in Newark, Calif. “Nano and
desktop aquariums continue to grow in popularity. We introduced
the Nano Reef Fish Food pellet to fill this niche … in a size suitable
for nano reefs and their small inhabitants.”
Meant for small fish, the soft pellet is formulated to sink slow-
ly, incorporates natural attractants, and contains spirulina, garlic
and highly unsaturated fatty acids and vitamins, Oneppo said.
Companies also offer new protein sources.
“We have a new pelleted food, but it doesn’t have a name
yet,” said Christopher LeRose, aquatic division manager at Rolf
C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass. “We’re still working on
it. It incorporates an insect protein.”
The new pellet offers more palatability, he said, adding that
most fish foods on the market use fish meal and krill.
Probiotic offerings for fish also come in pelleted form now.
“We’re continuing our research and product development
involving the use of probiotics when we find one that actually
provides benefits to the fish,” said Chris Clevers, president of
Hikari Sales USA in Hayward, Calif.
Probiotics are intended to help reduce water-quality issues
by mitigating waste issues, Clevers said.
“Additionally, we’re finding some specific pellet shapes
can actually improve digestion and, therefore, utilization of the
nutrients within the food,” he said.
Hikari added a miniature disk-type pellet in its new Sinking
Goldfish Excel and Sinking Cichlid Gold brands, Clevers said.
“Pelleted food is better than a lot of
the flake foods. A lot of the fish like the
sinking pellets. Some of the fish get a
little bit more, rather than having the
food go to your filter system.”—
aNthoNy hEras, owner of Fish Pro’s Aquarium
Center in Amarillo, Texas
What CoNNECtIoN shoulD rEtaIlErs MakE IN CustoMErs’
MINDs BEt WEEN PEllEtED fooDs aND WatEr qualIty?
“With fish food, you have to buy the
better quality. Otherwise, [the food]
is just going to end up as waste in
the tank.” —GarykNaBE, president
of Elmer’s Aquarium & Pet Center in
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