Sale of live and frozen foods | Current problem
Tthere is a lot to think about when it comes to selling fish feed. It’s not just prepared, frozen, live, or frozen foods, there’s a whole world of fish foods and all the thousands of different species of fish and other aquatic creatures that eat these foods. Remember when your food department said “Fish Foods?” I hope you passed this phase years ago.
All things evolve (or cease to exist), but packaged, canned, bottled and otherwise “prepared” foods are still the heart and soul of the hobby fish food segment. The reason is obvious; feeding from a container does not require any preparation. Pick up the can under your reservoir, open the lid, take a pinch of an appropriate size and swirl it in the water so that it is evenly distributed. What! You just dropped it to the surface! You will surely realize that this is not a fair distribution of food. You are doing the substrate eaters a disservice and especially ignoring the timid species that do not like to mix with the general population.
What I mean is if you don’t care about your fish, this is how you feed them. Take my word for it, after 55 years of feeding aquarium fish, it’s an art form that very few people know how to do properly. You need to select the appropriate food for the fish in a given aquarium, whether it’s your store or someone’s home. It is obvious that most fish can recognize and recognize the people who feed them. They can tell one container from another if you hold it in front of the tank every time you feed, and they know when you are going to give them frozen foods rather than prepared foods.
Here’s some great advice for you and your customers. Let’s say you are going to feed mysis shrimp in an aquarium. First, you tear off a piece of the packaging. Then you cut it into appropriately sized pieces (depending on the size of the fish) with your bare hands. Don’t cheat and wear gloves. Once you are done preparing the food, take your oily smelly hands and stick them in the tank and spin them around a bit. This alerts the olfactory senses of the fish to what is to come. Wait 30 seconds then put half of the food. Once it is consumed, add the rest of the food.
This technique works with just about any frozen food, because if a frozen food doesn’t have a noticeable smell, the fish won’t eat it with enthusiasm. Years ago, I put a sign above the freezer boxes that contained frozen fish food. It said “Frozen foods – the next best thing to cook for your fish.”
Maintain a constant supply
Aquatic leisure has evolved a lot over the years. In the 1960s, very few stores sold marine organisms. My first trip to Florida really opened my eyes when I realized that hobbyists who lived in the downstate had a lot of marine fish in their aquariums. As 2021 approaches, the COVID crisis has made it difficult to obtain a truly diverse inventory of aquatic animals. Livestock are scarce, prices are higher and demand is still strong, almost to the point of frustrating. Obtaining and keeping enough fish to sell is still a real challenge today.
So it’s more important than ever for you to store all the food you can to help your customers keep their fish healthy. This will most certainly include a wide selection of frozen foods and live foods (if you can get hold of them). Since most live food will come to you by air cargo, there may be problems due to the reduced number of flights available to carry live cargo. Depending on your location in the country, you may be lucky enough to have distributors delivering to your doorstep. Earthworms are a living food that you can always count on. They are great for medium to large sized fish. Smaller items such as brine shrimp and black worms can be a bit of a problem.
Feeder fish such as guppies or other live carriers are still plentiful on Florida farms. You can also buy glass feeder shrimp (a freshwater animal) or herbivorous shrimp (a brackish version). In cooler climates, you should be able to get feeding goldfish as well. Live foods from land sources will be your best bet. If they have to fly, the transportation costs are close to unacceptable. Bait shops might have what you need, but that just means paying retail and selling for a much higher price than normal. Use this contingency if it works for you.
Showcase the merchandise
When it comes to displaying and selling live food, I have always insisted that customers cannot select their own items. It is up to you to decide whether you want your detention facilities on display to the public. I prefer to have them in a room not open to the public. Yes customers are curious how you care for your live food, i can’t see any reason why you can’t show them, but you should always ask a salesperson to take them for a tour.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having massive filtration on live feeder fish. UV sterilizers are essential as well as good ventilation, good lighting and good water flow. Keep them hot or cold depending on what they are. This usually means that feeding goldfish will need a cooler as part of their filtration system. Frequent water changes will reduce illness, and it’s certainly a lot cheaper than having to use medication.
Adding new feeders to a system that already contains fish is like asking for trouble. Most stores don’t have the luxury of having enough space to handle two identical environments that can be alternated between shipments. Do it if you can. Also, change a percentage of the water each day; this will reduce mortality. Spending money on medicine to treat feeders is like throwing your profits in the trash.
Now, frozen foods will sell without much effort, but people frequently buy items that are inappropriate for the fish they have. You usually don’t have time to speak with every customer, which makes signage a critical “silent seller” when it comes to frozen foods. You should, at a minimum, have a sign that delineates the types of frozen foods you sell i.e. brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, bloodworms, beef heart, clams, scallops, etc.
If your marine department has a large selection of live corals and other reef invertebrates, you may want to sell live copepods, phytoplankton, macroalgae, etc. These items should be stored in proprietary refrigerators. Since these food containers are small, I recommend a lock on such a device. Prevention is better than cure.
A few stores, usually those that sell reptiles, offer crickets and mealworms as fish feed. These are acceptable because many fish in the wild will eat just about any insect or worm that comes their way. A good recommendation is to suggest that a person feed only one specimen of these non-aquatic foods at a time. All such unconsumed items should be removed after a reasonable period of time.
Overall, live feed is a great way to increase sales and provide a varied diet for fish of all sizes, large and small. PB