Today’s fish food products aspire
to meet the nutritional needs of
aquatic pets in the most natural,
species-appropriate way possible,
CHRIS CLEVERS, president of Hikari Sales USA in Hayward, Calif.
CHRIS LEROSE, aquatic division manager for Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass.
What are the latest trends in fish food?
CHRIS CLEVERS: Mixing foods is one of the biggest recent trends that
we see among aquarium keepers. This can be a perilous process
given most hobbyists fail to understand the research, time and
effort put in to making diets like ours usable by the aquatic pet.
Once the nutrient balance is disrupted, it can cause even the best
foods to underperform compared to feeding that diet exclusively.
Hobbyists believe that because we don’t want to eat the same
thing every day, neither do their fish. What they fail to remember
is that most fish are grazing on the same stuff in the wild day
in and day out. They don’t have the luxury of the “riverside food
truck” cruising through and offering them something different
from their naturally available foods. Our recommendation here is
simple: If your customers want to mix foods, help them to stay
within the same food family to avoid bringing their best food’s
performance down to that of the lowest-quality food’s level.
CHRIS LEROSE: We are seeing more companies looking for higher-quality and sustainable sources for fish foods. There has been a
focus on the true dietary needs of tropical fish to promote health
and longevity for the fish.
How has the fish nutrition category evolved over the past sev-
CLEVERS: Consumers are more and more focused on ingredients
and information on the package labels than ever before. The ma-
jor problem with this line of thinking is that unless they have the
actual product recipe, the information on the label doesn’t really
tell them the whole story. As an example, many consumers fo-
cus in on protein levels because it is an easily compared number,
and they feel that more is better for their fish, especially if they
have carnivores, or less is better if they have herbivores. Fact of
the matter is, we could produce a lower-protein diet that performs
better than one with higher protein if we use the proper levels of
the ingredients in more digestible formats that help the fish better
utilize them, offering higher feed efficiency. Most consumers and
many retailers don’t understand this is possible. Also, many marine
aquarists focus in on phosphorus or carbs as something they want
less of. What they forget is that carbs provide energy, and fish,
unlike almost any other pet, are consuming energy non-stop as
they move around the aquarium and, therefore, need carbs to live
a health-filled life. The phosphorus number on the package should
include any of the minerals in the diet, so lower phosphorus levels
could actually point to a deficiency.
Additionally, many of the products out there are not being sold
by the people who make them and may not be finely tuned to the
species of fish that will eat them, which creates a maze of issues
that retailers and consumers really need to consider before deciding what to select.
LEROSE: There has been a decrease in the “filler” ingredients in
most of the higher-quality foods on shelf. Also, companies have
been looking for sustainable sources to be more eco-friendly. Fluval has partnered with a company that breeds the black soldier fly