Walking into a large pet store, you might find that lowly endcap of freshwater betta fish has now expanded with entire aisle of shelves dedicated to the Siamese fighting fish. The rising popularity of keeping this fish is fueling the growth of betta-related products. The one question we ask, will this impact the saltwater side of the hobby?
Although often stunning, this fish is often ignored by the serious hobbyist as they gravitate to the planted aquariums, cichlids or discus fish on the freshwater side and the bright colors of fish and invertebrates on the saltwater side. But why the sudden interest from the masses?
Walk into a store and see beautiful display stations to beautifully designed aquaponic aquariums perfectly suited for this beautiful fish, you can’t help but be intrigued. Since these fish can survive in small amounts of water as well as survive in oxygen-depleted water by breathing air, the betta is a great choice for a pet in a small space with minimal maintenance requirements.
“There are so many little aquariums that people are buying to decorate their homes and betta’s are the most suitable fish to put in them,” said Helen Russel, a pet store owner from Campbelltown, Australia, in an article in a local paper. “We’ve sold a lot to students who like to put them on their desk as a kind of ‘study buddy’ but you could also put them around the house on tables or benches.”
As the overall industry has evolved, so has the equipment. With cool looking aquaponic aquariums that combine plants and fish in a mutually beneficial environment such as the Ecoxotic Vita, it is even easier to get a small aquarium that is a nice addition anywhere.
But even the simple betta aquarium is advancing with stylish choices that have dividers to keep multiple fish separated (after all, they got their nickname for a reason) to heaters, lights, foods and filters all for the betta, a fish that will set you back on average $5 or less.
“It might seem like a lot of space for a fish that costs an average of $4.99, but when you add up the other purchases that go with the fish, it’s extremely marketable,” said Matt Allen, director of marketing for Elive Pets in an article in Pet Age. “A large percentage of betta owners are first-time consumers, which is good for the aquarium category overall.”
How does this impact the saltwater customer? As many of us know firsthand from our own journey to the salty side, it often started out with a simple freshwater setup before we turned our attentions to something more challenging or visually stunning. The betta may be the first foray people have in aquariums and then want to take that next step, providing a steady stream of new hobbyists coming into the hobby.
But the cost of entry can often be too much for many people. This is where betta fish have a leg up on a larger addressable market. For larger companies like Tetra, Flual, Hagen, Aqueon and others, there may be more attention given to the entry-level aquarist in their product lines (like betta products).
The good news is, there is still plenty of revenue potential from the saltwater side that ignoring it completely is not good business. Plus, there is a whole section of the industry producing high-quality products specifically for the hardcore saltwater and reef aquarium enthusiasts that these companies cannot even come close to competing against.
Another angle is the betta fish is a refreshing change of pace from the day-to-day we face with our fish and fuzzy stick collections, making it a great choice for a spot on our desk at work, in the kids rooms or maybe in another area where you want some fish but without the hassle of cords etc. of a full-on aquarium.
For a fish we often just walked past as we went to grab food, drygoods, or other supplies, they are definitely becoming more appealing to a wide range of people. Overall, it is great to see any part of the aquarium industry thrive.