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You Betta Believe It: Making the Most of This Profitable Tropical Fish Category


August 13, 2018

If there was a popularity contest for fish, bettas would win, hands down. Easy to take care of, these colorful fish with long, flowing fins make a great first pet and have introduced many people to the world of fishkeeping, helping make bettas one of the biggest sellers in the tropical fish category. And they’re not just a passing fad. The category grows bigger each year, with new products constantly being introduced to keep customers excited and provide retailers new ways to increase profits.

Focus on the Kids
Products designed specifically with kids in mind have long been a staple of the betta category.

“For many busy parents, a fish is the perfect introduction to teaching their young child responsibility and proper pet ownership, and bettas are the perfect fish for novice fish keepers, which is helping drive their popularity,” said Marissa Kactioglu, product development manager for Penn-Plax. “For that reason, many new products coming out are geared toward children.”

One of the newest items in the betta category is the Rite-Bite Aquarium from Penn-Plax. Decorated with popular SpongeBob characters, this aquarium’s lid features an integrated feeding system with individual compartments for each day of the week.

“One of the common problems with fishkeeping is overfeeding,” Kactioglu said. “This aquarium offers an easy way to portion food while also doubling as a learning tool for children who are just starting to learn the days of the week.”

Launched in the fourth quarter of 2017, the Rite-Bite aquarium is already seeing successful sales.

Betta kits are also great for getting kids involved in betta keeping. Aqueon’s Betta Castle and Princess Castle, and the SpongeBob and Finding Nemo kits from Penn-Plax not only have fun decor to grab kids’ attention, but they also come with additional items to help ensure a successful start in betta keeping. Betta kits, especially the ones with kid-themed decor, are great gift ideas for kids and therefore are a good impulse item for retail.

A Category Shift
While kids make up a large part of the betta customer base, they’re not the only hobbyists interested in this species.

“We’re starting to see a lot more people interested in bettas who are more serious about the fish care and taking things to the next level of the hobby,” said Phil Bartoszek, research and development product manager for Elive Pet. As the category has matured, so have the products offered for betta aquariums. “As people get serious about fish keeping with bettas, we’re seeing them seek out the higher priced fish, looking for larger aquariums and using the peripheral items such as heaters and filters.”

One example is the Elive Betta filter, designed specifically to filter water in small bowls and aquariums. Aqueon also has designed products specifically for small tropical environments. The Aqueon Mini Heater, completely submersible with shatterproof housing, is perfect for aquariums up to five gallons.

A more mature consumer might also call for a different type of decor. In addition to the licensed products designed to attract kids, there are new products to appeal to all ages of bettakeepers. Zoo Med’s line of Betta Bling attaches to the side of the aquarium with a suction cup and contains a variety of designs, from the traditional mermaid and skull to a tiki bar.

Decor can be enriching to the fish as well as aesthetically pleasing for the fish owners. Products such as rocks and leaves not only make the aquarium look more like a natural habitat, but they also help the bettas mimic their natural behavior. For example, the resin Betta Log from Elive provides a natural-looking hiding place specifically designed for betta fish. Zoo Med offers the Betta Bed Leaf Hammock for a place to rest near the surface of the water.

“Bettas are known to rest, and they seem to prefer a place near the surface to sit on,” said Ashley Rademacher, animal care and education director at Zoo Med Labs, Inc. “People are always amazed when they add the leaf and their betta knows just what to do with it.”

Making it Specific
It’s not just decor that is marketed toward the betta owner.

“The trend in betta food is similar to the movement we’re seeing in pet food, where brands are now competing to offer the product that is the most natural, healthy, and designed specifically for their particular type of breed or species,” said John Pailthorp, vice president of marketing for Spectrum Brands Pet LLC’s Pet, Home & Garden. “It’s easy to see why. What pet owner wouldn’t want a healthier product to help their pets live longer and experience more success with their hobby?”

There are plenty of betta foods, treats, water treatments and supplements to fill the shelves of an entire betta section, all designed to help bettas have a healthier life and environment. One of the newest offerings is Tetra’s Betta Worm Shaped Bites, which imitate the size, shape and color of bloodworms, enticing the betta’s natural hunting instinct.

Another betta-specific offering is the Natural Habitat water treatment from Elive, which mimics the conditions found in a betta’s natural habitat, with higher acidity and a higher tannin level.
Creating products specific to the betta fish is helpful for both the fish and consumers.

“Merchandising is easier when species-specific products are available,” Rademacher said. “It makes finding the items that will work best for the fish much easier, and the fish are more likely to receive the correct care when their keepers are buying the product best suited for them.”

Grabbing New Customers
In addition to stocking the shelves with products for existing betta customers, retailers can see success in continued sales of betta fish to new fishkeepers with the help of some creative merchandising techniques. Elive Pet has introduced a new Modular Betta Center sold in sections that display two betta fish cups each. The battery-powered betta center can be set up anywhere, and its LED lights equipped with a motion sensor make the display attractive to customers when they approach while conserving battery life when no one is around. The advantage to this display is its flexibility.

“This new display unit allows retailers to put bettas in a wide range of areas in the store, from the check-out counter to end caps, and even in areas like the dog collars or cat toys,” Bartoszek said. “This display solution really has the potential to grab new customers when placed in a high traffic area where they’ll be seen by customers where you’d normally not get a visual on fish.”

The modular displays are the newest addition to Elive’s betta merchandisers, which includes a larger display unit that holds anywhere from 25 to 50 fish. The Betta Center fixture is also illuminated with LED fixtures and has the option for aeration with each betta cup. The newest version of this center has areas for retail merchandising along with the fish cups.

“We have turned our Betta Center into a complete merchandising solution,” Bartoszek said.

With or without a betta merchandiser, a betta center is a good way to display all of the betta-specific items and draw attention to the new products coming out on the market. Whether you’re getting a new betta customer or just providing supplies for existing customers, the betta category is a profitable area that shouldn’t be ignored.

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