According to Recent Statistics, a survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) found that in 2019/2020, 11.5 million American households owned tropical fish. And that investigation also revealed that $19.2 billion was spent on live animals and associated products.
So, with this in mind, you may be wondering if selling betta fish could be a way to turn your hobby into a profitable business. Before you become a betta fish breeder, you need to know where and how to sell your fish.
In this guide, we take a look at the requirements for fish farming and setting up a betta fish farm for profit.
Before you proceed, you need to be honest about your experience caring for and raising bettas.
Setting up a fish farm, even on a small scale, involves much more than just keeping one or two male bettas, adding a few random females, and letting nature do the rest. Most betta fish enthusiasts expect the fish to have a proven pedigree, especially if you intend to breed fish for the show circuit.
Farming fish commercially and on any kind of scale that can be profitable requires technical knowledge, a lot of space, a lot of specialized equipment and time.
You should also be prepared to discard any fish that are not up to par. Your local fish store will often purchase these unfortunate creatures from you to use as food fish.
Team and premises
In order to successfully breed enough bettas to sell as a profitable business, you need plenty of space to set up spawning tanks, fingerling tanks, a hospital tank, and separate housing for your male and female breeders.
Obviously, the space should contain enough space for your tanks, and there should also be plenty of easily accessible plugs. A nearby sink or sinks and internal drainage are essential for all the water changes and maintenance you’ll be doing, and you’ll need plenty of storage space for medications, betta fish food, and general fish keeping supplies.
You’ll also need a small office area for processing orders, billing, managing your website, etc., and a separate storage area for packing materials is also helpful.
As you can see, even a home fish farming operation requires a good chunk of capital expenditure to get it up and running. There are also ongoing overhead expenses to consider, such as rent, power, water, food, replacement filter media, water conditioner, etc.
Laws and regulations
Most local municipalities and state governments have regulations on commercial fish farming in domestic residences, and you need to understand those laws to ensure that what you plan to do is not illegal.
You may be required to have a business permit to legally operate and trade from home. In addition, your local municipal council may want to know if your operation is likely to cause increased traffic in your neighborhood.
Many fish farmers trade internationally. But you need to know your market. For example, most bettas are exported within the US from Thailand and South Asia, so you may be able to do quite well selling your fish locally, depending on where you are.
Sale of Bettas abroad
However, if you want to export your bettas to a country where they are in demand, you will need to make sure that what you are doing is legal. Therefore, check the federal regulations on the export of live fish, such as the laws imposed by the US Customs and Border Protection. If you are found to be in violation of the regulations, you will be prosecuted, so take the time to check what what you can and cannot do.
Each country in the world has its own regulations regarding the importation of live fish as pets. Some countries are easier to import than others. For example, Colombia is notoriously difficult, while in China, Hong Kong, and Australia, the import process is relatively straightforward.
where to sell
Once you have a successful betta breeding operation, you will need a place to sell your stock.
There are several potential selling points worth considering:
Local fish stores
Most fish stores source their fish from breeders through third party vendors. The fish is often imported, which drives up the price, and it doesn’t always do well in transport. Therefore, a local source could attract local fish stores in your immediate area.
However, smaller stores tend to offer hobby breeders credits instead of cash. That said, you may find that regional stores are open to dealing with you on a commercial basis, as a local supplier would save them transportation costs. Although, that might depend on you offering your bettas to the retailer at a competitive price.
Fish stores put a markup on the price of the fish they sell to make a profit. That means you can expect to only receive around 25% to 35% of the retail price, which will likely hit your profits hugely.
The rise and rise of the internet has seen a huge uptick in selling fish online. That is a market you can enter, especially if you keep your transactions local.
Selling online cuts out the middle man. You can sell your fish for current market value and any profit you make will go directly into your pocket.
sell at auction
There are several auction sites that specialize in selling live fish, and bettas are one of the most popular species. If you have a well-bred, unusual, or rare betta fish to sell, you can get a lot more at auction than at a pet store.
Several years ago, a rare golden betta fish sold for an incredible $1,500 at auction !
You will pay a commission on your sales to the auction house. However, subsequent earnings are yours.
Creating a website and promoting your home bettas through social media can be a very effective marketing tool that can lead to sales.
The main drawback of that approach is that it is very time consuming. To keep your name and face in front of potential buyers, you need to keep updating your site and social media with posts, tweets, etc. new. However, that is something you could outsource relatively cheaply.
Once again, any profit you make is yours.
guidelines for selling
Buyers like to know that their hard-earned money is being spent on healthy fish that will arrive in good condition. Also, most betta enthusiasts want to know where their prize pet came from genetically.
On your website and Facebook marketing copy, be sure to emphasize that the fish you sell are home-farmed, and include plenty of photos of your breeding setup. Emphasize the efforts you make to raise healthy fish that are kept in pristine condition.
Informative blog posts and articles on all things bettas are a great way to give your small-scale breeding operation a voice of authority. That translates into consumer confidence, which, in turn, translates into sales.
Crucially, you need to include a family tree and genetic information about each fish you sell. Buyers like to have that information, partly out of the praise of owning a well-bred specimen, but also out of their own betta-breeding aspirations at home.
It takes time, money, and effort to raise beautiful betta fish, so you should do everything you can to make sure the fish arrive at its new home in good condition.
How to pack your betta fish for shipping
- Use special, watertight fish transport bags that are big enough for bettas.
- Fill the bag about 1/3 full with water for small betta fish, or ½ full for fish over 2.5 inches long.
- Do not feed the fish for one to three days before shipment. That allows time for debris to pass through the fish before bagging so the water stays clean while the fish is in transit.
- Always bag the fish in two bags. Place the second bag upside down on top of the first. Tie the first bag, reinforcing the knot with elastic bands.
- Use sturdy boxes lined with insulating foam coolers, which keep the temperature stable inside the bags.
- Place the package padding around the bags to make sure they stay upright in the box and don’t tip over.
- Clearly label the box “This Way Up” and “Live Fish” on all sides.
Always ship your bettas overnight and make sure the buyer is home for delivery.
If the fish will be in transit for more than 48 hours, arrange for it to be re-bagged and re-oxygenated before that deadline.
Live Arrival Guarantee
The most important aspect of selling fish is that your livestock arrive with the buyer alive and in good condition.
Freight companies generally guarantee live fish to arrive with overnight deliveries, but that may not be the case for overseas exports, where customs delays can mean a multi-day hold.
Unfortunately, unforeseen transport delays and the stress of the experience mean that fish often arrive dead or do not survive more than a few days after arrival with the buyer. Therefore, you need to provide your customers with a guarantee to replace or refund them if their betta appears deceased.
Some sellers also offer a discount for the return of packaging materials, which can save you money in the long run and increase the results of your business.
If you love betta fish and want to turn your hobby into a profitable business, you may want to sell your home-farmed fish.
First, I recommend that you check the laws on running a home fish farming business in your state and municipality. Set up a website where you can advertise your beautiful bettas and use social media to market your livestock.
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