March 1, 2016

Cosmic Blue, Electric Green, Galactic Purple, Sunburst Orange, Moonrise Pink and Starfire Red—these snazzy names might bring to mind types of candy. In reality, they all belong to a specific kind of fish. If you’re familiar with GloFish, you’ll know these are the six colors available in the popular line of fluorescent fish, and you’ll also find it fitting that the color names inspire an out-of-this-world sense of adventure.

The attraction of the eye-catching colors is apparent to any retailer who has set up a display of GloFish.

“We have a couple of sections dedicated to GloFish in our freshwater rows, with special lighting to really highlight the colors,” said Eileen Daub, marine biologist at That Fish Place in Lancaster, Pa. “It’s a good pop of color, and certainly gets people’s attention.”

On the market for a little over ten years, GloFish have seen pretty fast growth within the fish category. What started out as just one type of fish in 2003 (Starfire Red), has turned into a category that includes 12 lines of fish from three species that come in six different colors, as well as more than 100 products designed specifically for GloFish.

“We estimate that about 10 percent of aquarium owners have GloFish,” said Alan Blake, CEO of Yorktown Technologies, which owns the license to breed and distribute these fish within the aquarium industry.

Sales from Segrest Farms, one of two licensed GloFish breeders, also attest to the success of these fish. The Electric Green and Starfire Red Danios are in the top 20 bestselling fish in terms of individual fish. Even more impressive is that, if you look at GloFish as a group, their numbers would put them up in the top 10.

The popularity of GloFish comes primarily from two factors: the vibrant color and ease of care.

“The fact that these fish are easy to care for makes them a great choice for beginners, but the vibrant color appeals to a wide range of customers, including long-time hobbyists,” Blake said. “We see a lot of people who have had aquariums for a while purchase GloFish to refresh things in their tank. They’re an easy addition to any aquarium.”

Making it Easy

A good display is an important selling tool when it comes to the GloFish category. Blake recommends setting up a tank with black gravel and blue LED lights to really highlight the colors.
“We provide free merchandising support for retailers, because we know that having the right mix of fish and the right lights is crucial to having a successful GloFish display,” Blake said.

That sentiment is echoed by Catherine Langford, product manager for environments at United Pet Group Aquatics (UPG), who said that many customers end up making an unplanned purchase of GloFish when they browse through a store and are amazed by the beautiful colors. To take advantage of those impulse sales by first-time fish owners, UPG offers GloFish kits through its Tetra brand in a variety of sizes and shapes. The kits include an aquarium, a filter, a pump, and a blue LED light stick. Some kits also include samples of food and water conditioner.

It’s also easy to add GloFish to an existing aquarium, since these species of fish get along well with other fish. In addition to kits, the GloFish product line includes a selection of ornaments, plants and gravel that fluoresce under GloFish LED lights, which makes it easy to transform a traditional tank into a “Glo” experience.

Tetra recently relaunched its entire plant line, shifting away from solid bold colors to new and brilliant fluorescent colors which react under their GloFish blue LEDs. These plants take advantage of the popularity of GloFish and make it easier to transform existing aquariums into a GloFish experience.

“With the right display, GloFish can create a tremendous upsell opportunity for independent retailers,” Blake said.

Building a Niche

GloFish are fluorescent variations of some common fish species—including zebra danios, skirt tetras and tiger barbs—which means that caring for GloFish is no different from their non-flourescent counterparts.

There are some reasons for products engineered or labeled specifically for GloFish. One is that consumers tend to shop by type of fish. Also, many GloFish products are designed to enhance the fluorescence of the fish. For example, GloFish Light Sticks are blue LED lights, which make the color of the fish pop, especially when all other lights are off. GloFish Flake Food is specially formulated to enhance the color of GloFish.

“Our teams in the United States and Germany worked together to develop a specially formulated nutrition that helps brighten the colors of the fish, and an added benefit is that some of the flakes glow under blue spectrum light,” Langford said.

With over 100 products bearing the GloFish name, it’s obvious that GloFish have become a very popular niche within the fish category, and one that is still growing.

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