Pond Food for a growing market
The start of the pond season is determined largely by the weather, and gets a kick start for real over the Easter Holiday weekend. Likewise, the end of the outdoor aquatic season is marked by the return of autumnal temperatures around September time.
The traditional way of managing water gardening stock to capitalise on the sudden flurry of aquatic trade at Easter is to place a pre-season order with your supplier to be delivered and on your shelves well before Easter.
The water gardening sector has seen a continued rise in popularity over recent years. A significant contributing factor has been the increased exposure of gardening TV programmes, each seeming to include a water feature. This expansion has also witnessed an incredible increase in water gardening publications and periodicals, hardware and consumables including in particular specialist pond foods.
Wherever there is sustained and rapid growth in a market, with new products and ranges being launched to keep pace with demand, there is a risk in the haste for the trade to overlook training and understanding of some of the issues of the sector. However, it is vital for a retailer to be able to advise accurately on the purchase of all pond products including pond food. There is a vast array of pond foods to accommodate the nutritional needs and feeding patterns of a wide range of fish that can be kept in a garden pond.
By simply scanning along the shelves of a typical retail outlet, the following pond foods can be found. The choice can at first seem quite daunting but the range of foods simply reflects the diversity and size of fish that are to be found in garden ponds.
|Floating Pond Pellets (1mm – 12mm)
Floating Pond Sticks
|Goldfish, Orfe, Shubs, Minnows etc|
|Floating Koi Pellets (1mm – 12mm)
- Growth Diets
- Wheatgerm Diets
- Colour Enhancer
Summer Feeding of Koi
Spring/Autumn Feeding of Koi
To enhance colours in Koi + other fish
|Pond Flake||General Pond Fish. Slow sinking diet to allow feeding at all levels.|
|Sinking Pellets||Bottom Feeding Fish – Sterlets, Tench & Catfish|
Why Stock Pond Foods? - “An established market with the potential for continued growth”.
The pond market continues to offer superb growth potential, with more first time pond owners catching the bug each year, with an existing sizeable market of pond owners who require a considerable amount of food each season. This, coupled with the statistic that there are more garden ponds without fish than with fish suggest that there are opportunities for the encouraging trends of recent years to continue.
There are many factors that determine what food is best for a particular pond owner.
Recommendation:- The chances are that if you are a retailer that stocks pond food, you also stock pond fish. It can be comforting for a novice pond keeper to be guided by the experience of a quality retailer, especially if you can recommend a food by saying that you feed the fish in the shop on it and you are happy with the results. There may also be brands that make that selling easier by providing signs stating what brand the shop fish are fed on.
Type of fish
A pond of mixed fish, such as goldfish, orfe, shubunkins, and comets requires a quality staple floating stick or pellet. A floating pellet allows a pondkeeper to feed their fish with confidence, knowing that if they are overfed, then excess food can be easily removed with a net. Floating pellets are regularly sold on the strength of this feature.
However, if a pond also contains fish that are by nature bottom feeding species such as tench, sterlets and even catfish, then a sinking pellet should be recommended to be fed in addition to a floating diet. Care must be taken though that they are not overfed, as a sinking pellet cannot easily be removed if too much is added.
These specialist diets are at the top end of the range of foods available as they are often made from top quality, highly digestible ingredients, with colour enhancing supplements to improve the skin colour of fish. These diets are regularly more expensive than a standard pond food, but then so are their consumers.
Size of fish.
It is handy to be able to introduce a pond keeper on to a reputable brand of foods, knowing that they can progress through the range as their needs require. For example, if a new fishkeeper starts there first fish on small pellets, it is valuable to be able to point out that when their fish grow, they can simply switch to a larger pellet of the same brand. The same can be said for seasonal variations in formulation. When a customer has the confidence in the reputation of a particular brand, they can enjoy complete flexibility and satisfaction without taking a ‘risk’ of moving between brands.
The food that pond fish should be fed will differ with the season (see table). Generally, a lower protein, vegetable-based diet should be fed in the spring and autumn periods either side of winter to allow the fish to digest the diet more effectively at lower temperatures.
That same customer can switch to a higher protein ‘growth’ diet in the warmer months when the fish can utilise higher levels of protein for growth.
Some foods are sold on price, where simply packaged budget or ‘economy’ diets are sold in bulk. This ‘no frills’ approach has been quite popular and it can be quite a challenge for a retailer to stock a comprehensive range of products accommodating the full pricing spectrum. Again, some of the more comprehensive brands offer this wide pricing facility within their range, making it simpler for the retailer to accommodate the requirements of the pond fish and customer.
How much to feed
Fish should be fed as much as they will eat in approximately 5 minutes on a ‘little and often’ basis. Problems will arise if too much food is offered to fish whereby the pond water will become polluted, leading to a decline in fish health.
Pond fish food sales rise and fall with the outside temperature and weather as fish will feed more when temperatures are at their greatest Expect to sell more food in the summer months.
Floating feeding rings can be supplied to prevent the food from drifting around the pond. By using a ring, it is possible for new pond owners to easily assess how much food has been eaten.
Automatic feeders are also available, where they can be filled and set to dispense or scatter food onto the pond at set intervals. These are usually low voltage or even clockwork devices and are easy to install. Handy if your customer is going away for the weekend.
Pond foods can easily be positioned to make an impressive display of product on standard retail shelving units or purpose-built branded stands. These may be freely supplied depending on the size of an order.
Customers tend to prefer to see the pellets or sticks they are buying and clear packaging both looks very attractive and allows the customer to see the product. Other packaging involves cardboard tubes or boxes which may have an image of the food size on the pack. Either way, the pack should be clearly marked with a sell-by date and be re-sealable to maintain the pellets’ freshness after opening.
In conclusion, the pond market is a significant and expanding market with a potentially daunting range of pond foods. With ever increasing demands for the efficient use of shelf-space, where a notoriously bulky product such as pond food is concerned it makes sense to stock as wide a range of reputable and popular brands as possible. Staff should grasp an understanding of the needs of pond owners and their fish while avoiding the temptation to stock as wide a range of foods as possible, problems may arise when quantities of unsold stock remain on the shelves at the end of the season.