It’s a Retail Life
Bill Wymard, marine biologist and director of operations at Aquarium Adventure in
Chillicothe, Ohio, discusses the common misconceptions hobbyists have about fish
nutrition and how his staff aims to properly educate customers about the products they
need to succeed.
to use in our Bug Bites formula. The main
source of the protein is a true sustainable
what new advances in either the indus-
try’s understanding of nutrition for fish
or on the manufacturing end are im-
pacting product development today?
CLEVERS: For us, many of the issues above
are first in our minds when we produce
something new, along with how the fish
might interact with their food in the wild.
That—coupled with the fact that long
before it was fashionable, we focused on
species-specific diets, knowing how important it is to the long-term health of the
fish—make for a long and arduous road to
bringing a new, meaningful diet to market.
probiotics are becoming more and more
popular and, as a pioneer in this area with
more than a decade of experience, we see
additional opportunity here. Additionally,
new pellet shapes offering unique benefits
are also in the mix for future diets we will
bring to market.
LEROSE: Fluval introduced the Bug Bites foods
in 2017. This was the first introduction of an
insect protein being the main ingredient in
fish food. The thought of the insect protein,
besides the sustainability, is that insects
are the staple protein of tropical fish. This
provides a more instinctive feeding for the
tropical fish in our aquariums.
where do you think the category is
CLEVERS: We are very optimistic about the
future of aquatics. it appears millennials
are prime candidates to become fish keepers as they age given their high interest
in nature and interacting with it. We see
glimmers of hope regarding them getting
married and out of their parents’ houses to
start their own family units. This may bode
well for aquatics as they start a family and
easily connect with digital overload. What
better way to reduce stress, improve your
home environment and interact with nature daily than having an aquarium?
LEROSE: i truly believe that we will start to
see more companies utilizing the insect
proteins in their food lines. Also, we will
continue to see the “filler” ingredients
start to decrease in the basic foods and be
replaced with higher-quality ingredients. ~
Pet Product News: Which fish food trends are the strongest performers at your store?
Bill Wymard: Currently, the new Bug Bite foods from Hagen utilizing insect larvae
are selling extremely well. It makes sense in that many fish species naturally seek out
insects as part of their hunt for food, especially freshwater species. On top of that, insect
larvae is a great source of protein for fish. Along with the prepared Bug Bite food, live
foods, such as brine shrimp, ghost shrimp and black worms, are an exceptional source
of nutrients and, in a natural state, that fish know and will hunt down.
PPN: How have your customers’ shopping habits for fish foods changed in the past few
years? How have you adapted to changing consumer preferences?
Wymard: I’m not sure that customers shopping habits have changed as a choice
by customers. Our customers choose and use the foods we recommend to them. At
Aquarium Adventure, we feed the foods that we suggest, as evident in the health and
quality of the species we keep.
We feed all of our fish multiple times throughout the day, and this allows us to
demonstrate to our customers many of the types of foods that can and should be used
to keep fish in prime health. Our customers see the quality of our fish and watch us feed
them and watch the fish eat well—it becomes a simple suggestion at this point for the
customer to buy the food type and brand we recommend.
PPN: What common misconceptions do hobbyists have about proper fish nutrition?
Wymard: There are several. First, the fish has to eat the food. It is surprising how many
types of foods are available that fish don’t eat. Claims are made that the food is special
due to some ingredient or formulation process, and yet the fish won’t eat [it]. In my
mind, that is the first and most important test of any food—the fish need to attack the
Second, fish in their natural environment spend a majority of their time hunting/
grazing for food. Feeding fish once a day is not sufficient and leads to over-feeding.
Over-feeding happens when [fish are] fed once a day because there is a desire to make
sure they have enough for the day. This practice can put a huge load on the biological
filter—the backbone of an aquarium—and create water-quality challenges. Instead,
fish should be fed multiple times—three or four is ideal—small amounts each time, just
enough to be eaten in its entirety and not lie on the bottom uneaten.
Third, fish should be given a varied diet to help stimulate the feeding behavior and
provide adequate nutrition. Live, frozen, freeze-dried, pelleted, wafers and flake can all
be used to meet the needs of most fish species. Monitoring the eating process is one of
the most important tasks in keeping an aquarium. When fish have a health concern, one
of their first symptoms or signs to us is they stop eating. Catching that sign early allows
us to investigate what may be wrong and gives us a chance to make corrections.
PPN: How do you work to improve customer education?
Wymard: Spending time with the customer and actually showing them how to feed,
what to feed, when to feed and where to feed—it’s our responsibility to make the
customer successful so they enjoy their aquarium.
PPN: Where do you see the category heading?
Wymard: Anything that makes feeding fun or different will encourage more and better
participation in the feeding process. Feeding tools and accessories can provide this.
Items like battery-operated auto fish feeders or auto feeders that can work off an app
from the mobile phone, or Siri or Alexa, worm feeders for live foods and floating food
rings to bring fish to one area to eat are all good examples.