Not All Ingredients Are Equal
With all the brands and varieties of fish foods available, it can be hard to know which foods are best for your customers, not to mention the fish in your own tanks.
“There are always new buzz words and trends that come up, natural, eco-friendly, probiotics,” Kelly Randall, marketing director at OmegaSea, said. “We always encourage hobbyists and retailers to dig deeper. Beyond the buzz words, how is this food really better? The only way to truly tell is to check the ingredients. Marketing is marketing, but ingredients tell all.”
OmegaSea’s OmegaOne line of frozen fish foods offers a complete diet of frozen seafood, essential vitamins and omega fatty acids. The mini cubes create less waste in the water, and they float for easier feeding. They are available in 10 varieties, including cichlid, reef, discus and freshwater and marine veggie formulas.
Andy Schmidt, owner of Ocean Nutrition, agrees that ingredients are critical.
“Real ingredients, like 20 percent sponge in the new Frozen Angel Formula or 10 percent sea urchin in the new Frozen Trigger Formula make our foods more palatable and digestible,” he said. “Another of the major new items is probiotics in the Frozen Pygmy Angel Formula.”
Piscine Energetics is another company that pays close attention to their ingredients.
“Our Mysis are from a freshwater lake, which reduces the risk of introducing parasites to marine fish,” Kevin Gaines, vice president of sales and business development, said.
In a unique and patented process Piscine Energetics nets them into a tube feeding into a catch boat and freezing them while they are still alive and full of nutrition.
“Mysis are high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the ideal 3-to-1 ratio for marine fish,” Gaines said. “Many freshwater fish can benefit as well. The Daphnia the Mysis eat feed on algae and phytoplankton, making the Mysis themselves extremely nutritious.”
Piscine Energetics will be bringing their high-quality Mysis to the dry foods section of pet stores, starting in the spring of 2014, when they will have Mysis flakes and pellets available.
SeaChem has launched a new line of fish foods, called NutriDiet. These are highly nutritious flake foods, enriched with Chlorella algae, GarlicGuard and vitamin C. They are available exclusively at independent pet and aquarium retailers and come in eight varieties: Tropical, Marine, Cichlid, Goldfish and four specialty flakes, MarinePlus, Chlorella Algae, Shrimp and Discus.
Looking at Trends
Chris Clevers, president of Hikari, elaborated on the topic of ingredients.
“For us the new trend is the identification of novel ingredients, which we have found help the fish better utilize the uniquely balanced formulation that includes these ingredients,” he said. “Additionally, the inclusion of a proprietary probiotic also has proven to assist some fish. For this reason we have spent considerable time at the Hikari Aquatic Lab working to identifying and verify those fish which benefit from this type of ingredient in their food. We also have some new technology we’re testing that could prove to be beneficial for corals and inverts that we are hoping to introduce in 2014.”
Hikari’s line of dry foods includes something for every fish keeper. For saltwater hobbyists, Marine-A and Marine-S diets, for large and small marine fish respectively, provide most types of fish with well-rounded nutrition. Hikari’s Seaweed Extreme diet is perfect for herbivorous marine fishes. They offer a full range of pelleted, frozen and freeze-dried foods for koi, freshwater fish and goldfish, along with more specialized diets for marine angels, discus, cichlids and invertebrates.
“For us developing species specific diets has allowed us to show consumers what the proper choice and blend of specific ingredients can do to help their fish look better, be more active and live a long and health-filled life,” Clevers said. “Our keen insight from the breeding and fish wholesaling side of our business really helped us identify specific ingredients that certain species needed to really develop in to the beautiful specimens consumers are looking for.”
Cobalt Aquatics line of foods also includes some species-specific diets.
“Cobalt just recently partnered with the world famous Discus Hans and brought his hatchery recipe to the public in both a flake and pellet form and the sales have been tremendous,” Les Wilson, co-founder of Cobalt Aquatics, said. “Other niche diets like our innovative Mysis-and-spirulina, and our pro-breeder conditioning formulas are also good sellers and provide the independent dealer a point of differentiation that they can offer that is very hard to do in a big-box environment.”
Wilson offers these thoughts on innovation in the food category.
“Fish food in general has historically been a fairly steady category as far as innovation and trends go,” he said. “However, in the past year or so there have been many new innovative products, including Cobalt foods being the first to feature probiotics, along with frozen mysis shrimp, soft pellets, and the explosion of coral specific feeds have reshaped and really redefined the category of what was fish foods and now should be more accurately labeled as aquatic nutrition category.”