How to Breed Aquarium Fish for Profit
Fish keeping can be an expensive hobby, so many aquarists wonder if it’s possible to make money by breeding aquarium fish. Based on our experiences from running a fish store, speaking with many fish breeders, and personally breeding fish to sell, we’ve collected the most important things you need to know about the best fish to breed, what supplies to buy, and how to sell them.
Can You Make Money Breeding Fish?
The reality is that selling fish from home as a full-time job is not a very profitable venture, and most other careers can make you more money for the same amount of time and effort. Fish farms are a great way to make a lot of money selling fish for as little as $1 per piece. They produce millions upon millions of fish. That being said, breeding fish as a side gig is a great way to pay for your aquarium hobby expenses. The goal is to be profitable and not run at a loss, which means our #1 tip is to not invest a lot of money in this project. You don’t need to buy many tanks or equipment. You will need to identify any problems early on, such as how to get your fish into breeding, whether people will purchase your fish, etc.
Which fish are the best to breed for profit?
It is important to choose the most profitable fish, which are easy to breed and unload. So visit a major pet shop to see what types of fish they have in large quantities. Although they may go for a higher price, don’t breed fish like discus, stingrays, or rarer African cichlids because not enough people buy them and you’ll end up with a surplus of fish. Instead, breed assorted guppies which are more affordable but still in high demand.
Many people who visit fish shops are novices. Read articles about the best beginner fish for freshwater aquariums to find out what fish they prefer. Beginners also tend to keep smaller fish tanks, so go with nano species instead of oscars or goldfish. Smaller animals can be kept in both little and giant aquariums, so there is a higher demand for them compared to monster fish.
It is possible to breed small, hardy, and colorful fish for profit.
Finally, remember that what you think is cool is not necessarily what the public wants to buy. Although many shrimp enthusiasts like the striped pattern on rili, most people will prefer the solid red cherry shrimp. This is because they feel the rili shrimp lacks a bit of color in the midsection. Profitability is important if you want to keep unique fish for enjoyment and sell the ones that are most popular.
What should I buy to start breeding fish?
A lot of small, profitable fish can be bred in a 10 or 20 gallon tank. So let’s assume you have a 20 gallon tank with heater, filter and some guppies. each, then you would earn $25 per month. How do you increase your profit? Instead of purchasing more tanks and additional equipment to raise more puppies, let’s look for ways to make more with the same tank.
Another option is to add a plant for sale. Java moss is an excellent candidate as it is easy to grow and doubles as a cover for your guppy fry, increasing their survival rate. Local fish stores typically run out of java moss because it’s quite slow-growing, so you may be able to sell a bucketful of java moss for $20 a month. You can also breed red cherry shrimp by adding java moss into your breeding tank. Start with a high-quality stock and you may be able to sell 25 shrimp each month at $1 a head. That brings your total monthly revenue to $70 a month or $840 a year with only one aquarium.
People can set up an aquarium similar to yours by breeding complementary species and buying more products from you. You can also have angelfish with corydoras and Apistogramma Cichlids with Java Moss in a single tank. Diversifying your offerings will allow you to make additional revenue each month, even if there’s not a demand for a particular species. For example, if your local fish store can’t take any more guppies, you can still give them cherry shrimp and java moss.
Cherry shrimp and moss can both reproduce in the same tank, upping the amount of revenue you get from a single setup.
What are the Operating Costs of Breeding Fish?
You don’t want to add more aquariums, even if the equipment is free. Each tank costs money to operate each month. For now, let’s ignore certain costs like the mortgage or rent of your home and gas money to deliver fish. To find out the cost of each kilowatt and gallon of energy you use, get your electricity and water bills. Also, track how long it takes to maintain an aquarium. Then overestimate how much it costs to run each tank.
As an example, suppose you spend $10 every month on power, water, food, and maintenance for one fish tank. Also, you spend two hours per month with the tank at a rate $15/hour. This means that $30 per month is spent on labor. This means that each month, you almost double your money, from a $40 investment up to $70 in revenue. Additionally, you have already included the cost to pay yourself. This means that you can eventually hire someone else to keep the tanks stocked so you can concentrate on your business. By calculating your operating costs, you can determine whether or not your fish breeding side hustle is running at a profit or at a loss.
How Do I Sell My Fish to Fish Stores?
Going to your local fish market is the best and easiest way to sell fish. (Most big brand pet stores won’t buy fish from local breeders because they already have contracts with large fish farms.) You may be able to make a little more money by selling to individuals online or locally, but you will end up spending a lot of time on customer support, catering to each person that has a special request or problem with your fish. The store manager is your only customer in fish shops, so you can devote all of your attention to that customer.
If you have multiple local fish stores in your vicinity, commit yourself to only working with one store. Because it is usually closer to you, the fish shop closest to your home is the easiest to work with. This is done to avoid competition in the market. The reason for this is to avoid market competition. If your angelfish are sold to four different shops in the same region, one store will likely set the price and win all sales. This will damage your relationship with the three other stores. Don’t let the angelfish rest in the local fish club auctions or on classified ad sites. This will make it more difficult for them to sell your fish again.
Start small and build a long-lasting relationship with a local fish shop to sell your fish.
After you have selected a fish shop to work with, send them a sample bag with fish. Also, include a cover letter with all your contact information, and a pricing listing labelled by species. The store will give you a free sample of fish so that they can sell to customers. This donation is a show of good will so that the store can see whether or not your fish will sell at a certain price. The store will not be upset if the fish don’t sell because they didn’t lose any money. You’re giving them $30 of fish free for an $840 annual return.
Most local fish stores are independently owned, small businesses that are low on cash, and therefore they will likely offer you to pay you store credit. However, the best practice is for you to get paid in cash. This will allow you to keep a clear record of all revenue and expenses for tax reporting purposes. You can get a smartphone credit card reader if the fish store is unable pay you in cash. You can now accept credit cards, cash, and checks, making your business more professional.
You can only breed species that you are familiar with to establish a lasting, strong relationship with your local fish market. If they don’t sell African cichlids then don’t make yellow labs or Labidochromis Caeruleus. Make sure your fish are strong and healthy. If your fish keep dying at the fish store, try to solve the problem by feeding your fish the same foods, keeping them at the same temperature, and changing your water at the same frequency your fish store does. Finally, fish stores are looking for long-term breeders who always provide the same species and aren’t constantly switching up their offerings. You want to be the best supplier of red bristlenose plecos. Make sure they are always available. If your local market is overflowing with them, you can reduce the number of bristlenose pleco tanks but still keep them around as people will eventually ask for them.
How Much Should I Sell My Fish For?
Pricing is a tricky subject because you are competing against the wholesaler that the local fish store buys from and they can sell at very cheap prices. Therefore, whatever you offer to the fish store must be either at a better price than the wholesaler or at a better quality that the customer can instantly see. The customer will have a positive impression of your fish store if the fish are priced correctly, look amazing, and last forever. It becomes a win-win-win situation for everyone.
Before you visit a fish store, research how much fish costs depending on size, quantity and quality. Then, instead of asking the fish store how much they will pay you, you can make the first offer. You can then share your market data and the price that you think customers will pay for your fish with the manager of the store. The faster the store can sell them, the lower the price. Guppy lovers might pay $50 to buy a pair of special guppies online, while the general public will pay $20 to purchase those same guppies at a local store. Next, negotiate a price that is approximately 25% less than the total price for your customer. If the store does not agree with your assessment, they may offer to sell the sample fish at a lower price and then calculate your cut.
The supply and demand for different aquarium fish species is a constantly moving target. One fish may be all the rage and half a year later they are gone. Everyone has bred them, so now there is no demand for them. One day, someone might buy your marbled angelfish and breed a lot of them. Fish breeding is a long-term business. If you have your pricing correctly dialed in and the other breeder’s price is too low, eventually their business will no longer be sustainable (or they lose interest in angelfish) and they will quit breeding your species. Wait for marbled angelfish prices to plummet and then rebound. You need to be that stable person who controls the market and always has marbled angelfish available at the same constant cost.
What should I do if I have too many fish?
Fish reproduce all the time. Keep your inventory under control by not raising more fish than what you can sell. An angelfish spawn can provide enough children to last a year. If you don’t have enough, let the next spawn go natural or separate the adults. You should also research the best size for each species that you are selling. While a 2-inch oscar may be adorable and people want to bring one home, a 12-inch oscar can be difficult to rehome. You might be better to keep several smaller spawns, each with a different hatch date, so you have fish at the right size to sell in your fish store.
If you have excess fish, your local fish market may be able to help you sell it off to their wholesaler or to another fish shop that is closer than 50 miles. This will decrease the likelihood of them being a direct competition. You may have to look for another shop to partner with if the store refuses to accept any of these options.
Talk to your fish shop before you make any decisions if you have excess fish. This will ensure that you don’t lose the trust you’ve earned with them.
How do I sell fish to people who don’t live near a fish shop?
Shipping fish online is one of the most difficult ways to make money from breeding fish. Although you might be able sell them at a higher price, there are additional shipping costs. Also, your package may not arrive in time or in good condition. In our experience, 1 out of 5 orders seems to have problems, such as wrong addresses, shipping delays, connecting flights diverted to hot locations, or boxes sitting outside for hours because the customer was at work. If you want to make your customer happy, ship replacement fish at no cost to them or refund their entire order. This will cause a lot of time and money loss for both you and your customer. For more details on how to safely ship live animals, read the full article.
Selling on classified advertisement websites like Craigslist is the second hardest method. The average client is not available for scheduled meetings, or may be looking to reduce your price. If you let them come to your home to pick up the fish, be prepared to spend a lot of time with each customer because they will want to see all your tanks and talk shop about the aquarium hobby. An at-home visit can also be a great opportunity to sell additional fish or add-ons. Good ideas for value-added sales include microworm cultures, live daphnia, ramshorn snails, plants, food samples, spawning mops, and even used equipment. In case they don’t have the exact amount in cash, this is another reason for having a credit card reader. You may be able to earn a repeat customer if they are satisfied with what you offer.
It’s nice to find local fish clubs through their online social media channels. This is because they are more serious fish keepers and aren’t necessarily looking for the lowest prices. It’s also easier to form relationships with them and meet up in person. To avoid appearing spammy, you should post your fish listings no more than once per month depending on the rules of your fish club’s group. People will also compare your prices to other sellers’ listings if they are publicly posted. Instead, use private messages or direct messaging to communicate with interested buyers. Your reputation will grow over time and you’ll be referred to other hobbyists who are searching for the same fish.
Good luck with your fish breeding ventures. If you liked this article, don’t forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter and stay up to date on our latest blog posts, products, and more.