According to recent statistics, a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) found that in 2019/2020, 11.5 million U.S. households owned tropical fish.
And, that research also revealed that $19.2 billion was spent on live animals and associated products. So, bearing that in mind, you might wonder whether selling betta fish could be a way of turning your hobby into a profitable business.
Before becoming 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 breeding and setting up a betta fish farm for profit.
Before you go any further, you must be honest about your experience in caring for and raising bettas.
There’s a lot more to setting up a fish farm, even on a small scale than simply keeping one or two male bettas, adding a few random females, and letting nature do the rest. Most die-hard betta enthusiasts expect fish to come with a proven pedigree, especially if you’re intending to raise fish for the show circuit.
To raise fish commercially and on any kind of scale that’s likely to be profitable takes know-how, plenty of space, lots of specialized equipment, and time.
You must also be prepared to cull any fish that don’t make the grade. Your local fish store will often buy these unfortunate creatures from you for use as feeder fish.
Equipment And Premises
To successfully raise enough bettas to sell as a profitable business, you need plenty of space to set up spawning tanks, tanks for raising fry, a hospital tank, and separate accommodation for your male and female breeding stock.
Obviously, the space must contain plenty of room for your tanks, and there must also be plenty of power sockets that are easily accessible. A nearby sink or sinks and internal drainage is essential for all those water changes and maintenance you’ll be carrying out, and you’ll need lots of storage space for medication, betta food, and general fish keeping supplies.
You will also need a small office area for processing orders, invoicing, managing your website, etc., and a separate storage area for keeping packaging materials is also useful.
As you can see, even a home fish breeding operation takes a fair chunk of capital expenditure to get it up and running. There are also the ongoing overheads to consider, such as rent, energy, water, food, replacement filter media, water conditioner, etc.
Laws And Regulations
Most local municipalities and state governments have regulations surrounding commercial fish breeding in domestic residences, and you need to understand those laws to ensure that what you’re planning to do isn’t illegal.
You might need to hold a business permit to operate and trade legally from your home. Also, your local municipal council may want to know whether your operation is likely to result in increased traffic in your neighborhood.
Many fish breeders trade internationally. But you need to know your market. For example, most bettas are exported into the U.S. from Thailand and South Asia, so you may do well enough selling your fish locally, depending on where you’re based.
Selling Bettas Abroad
However, if you do want to export your bettas to a country where there’s a demand for them, you’ll need to make sure that what you’re doing is legal. So, check the federal regulations around exporting live fish, such as the laws enforced by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. If you’re found to be in breach of the regulations, you will be prosecuted, so take the time to check what you can and cannot do.
Every country around the world has its own rules regarding the importation of live pet fish. Some countries are easier to import to than others. For example, Colombia is notoriously difficult, whereas, in China, Hong Kong, and Australia, the import process is relatively straightforward.
Where To Sell
Once you have a successful betta breeding operation, you’ll need somewhere to sell your stock.
There are several potential sales outlets that might be worth considering:
Local Fish Stores
Most fish stores obtain their fish from breeders via third party suppliers. Often, the fish are imported, which pushes the price up, and the fish don’t always fare well in transit. So, a local source might appeal to local fish stores in your immediate area.
However, small stores tend to offer credits to hobby breeders rather than cash. That said, you might find that regional stores are open to trading with you on a business footing, as a local supplier would save them haulage costs. Although, that could depend on you offering your bettas to the retailer at a competitive price.
Fish stores place a mark-up on the price of the fish they sell in order to make a profit. That means you can expect to receive only around 25% to 35% of the retail price, which is likely to make a huge dent in your profits.
The rise and rise of the internet has seen a huge uptick in the sale of fish online. That’s a market that you can get into, especially if you keep your transactions local.
Selling online cuts out the middleman. You can sell your fish for the current market value, and any profit you make goes straight into your pocket.
Selling 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 may get much more at an auction than you would from a pet store.
Several years ago, a rare golden betta fish sold for an incredible $1,500 at auction!
You will pay commission on your sales to the auction house. However, any profits after that are yours.
Setting up a website and promoting your homebred bettas via social media can be a very effective marketing tool that may result in sales.
The main drawback to that approach is that it’s time-consuming. To keep your name and face in front of prospective buyers, you need to keep updating your site and socials with fresh posts, Tweets, etc. However, that is something you could outsource relatively cheaply.
Again, any profits you make are yours.
Guidelines To Selling
Buyers like to know that their hard-earned cash is being spent on a healthy fish that will arrive in good condition. Also, most betta enthusiasts want to know where their prize pet has come from genetically.
In your website and Facebook marketing copy, make sure you stress that the fish you sell are homebred, and include lots of photographs of your breeding setup. Place emphasis on the efforts you make to breed healthy fish that are kept in pristine conditions.
Blog posts and informative articles on all things betta-related are a great way of giving your small-scale breeding operation a voice of authority. That translates to consumer confidence, which, in turn, translates into sales.
Crucially, you must include a family tree and genetic information about each fish you’re selling. Buyers like to have that information, partly for the kudos of owning a well-bred specimen but also for their own home betta breeding aspirations.
It takes time, money, and effort to raise beautiful betta fish, so you want to make every effort to ensure that the fish arrive at their new home in good condition.
How To Pack Your Betta Fish For Shipping
- Use special, leak-proof fish transport bags that are big enough for the betta.
- Fill the bag approximately 1/3 full with water for small bettas, or ½ full for fish over 2.5 inches long.
- Don’t feed the fish one to three days before shipping. That gives time for waste to pass through the fish before bagging so that the water stays clean while the fish are in transit.
- Always double-bag the fish. Put the second bag upside down over the first. Tie the first bag, reinforcing the knot with elastic bands.
- Use sturdy boxes lined with insulated foam coolers, which keeps the temperature stable inside the bags.
- Place pack filler around the bags to ensure they stand upright in the box and won’t topple over.
- Clearly label the box “This Way Up” and “Live Fish” on all sides.
Always ship your bettas overnight, and ensure that the buyer will be home to take delivery.
If the fish will be in transit for more than 48 hours, arrange for re-bagging and re-oxygenation to take place before that deadline.
Live Arrival Guarantee
The most important aspect of selling fish is that your livestock arrives with the buyer alive and in good condition.
Generally, transport companies guarantee that live fish arrive with overnight deliveries, but that might not be the case with overseas export, where customs delays can mean a hold of several days.
Unfortunately, unforeseen transport delays and the stress of the experience mean that fish often arrive dead or don’t survive for more than a few days after arrival with the buyer. So, you need to provide your customers with a guarantee to replace or refund them if their betta turns up deceased.
Some sellers also offer a discount for the return of packaging materials, which can save you money in the long-term and increase your business’ bottom line.
If you love betta fish and you want to turn your hobby into a profitable business, you may want to sell your homebred fish.
First of all, I recommend that you check the laws on running a home fish breeding business in your state and municipality. Set up a website where you can advertise your beautiful bettas, and use social media for marketing your livestock.
Did you enjoy this guide? If you did, don’t forget to share!