Where do you go when you need to purchase products for your aquarium? If you’re like many hobbyists, you frequent your local fish store or chain pet store. If you don’t have a store nearby, you probably purchase online. Though there are numerous online retailers for cichlid hobbyists, there aren’t many like Super Cichlids of Dover, Delaware. The business began with fish, specifically breeding and selling African cichlids, something they still do today. They have built a considerable online presence where they offer some of the best deals, especially with their large selection of premium cichlid foods.
If you attend cichlid conventions, shows, expos and other such events, then you have seen Super Cichlids. You can’t miss their booth in the vendor area. It’s always one of the largest and certainly liveliest booths you’ll visit. They don’t sell fish at their booth (yet), but they provide a huge selection of other products that will interest any cichlidophile. Don’t miss their raffles, by the way!
I met owners Lisa and Martin Hoeber a couple of years ago, and they are honestly two of the friendliest people you will ever meet. At this year’s ACA convention in Detroit, I asked them if they’d be interested in doing an interview for the blog. Thankfully, they didn’t hesitate to say yes, and Lisa graciously answered a few questions.
Let’s get going!
The Cichlid Stage: For readers who are unfamiliar with Super Cichlids, can you describe the business and how you got started?
We are primarily a breeder of Rift Lake Cichlids from Africa including many C.A.R.E.S. species. Currently we only sell live fish to locals. We also sell dry goods online and various breeding supplies. We like to say, “we only sell what we use and feed.”
We started Super Cichlids when we moved to Dover, Delaware via the Air Force. My husband, Martin, was in the service. He has since retired after 22 years. When we moved to Delaware, I was ready to set up my tanks again. To my surprise, I couldn’t find any decent fish stores in the area. I am a huge aquatic hobbyist and always had tanks, so it was disappointing when I could not find a quality source for African fish. So I decided to open my own fish business where other fellow hobbyists could have access to quality fish.
TCS: What would be your top four pieces of advice for someone wanting to start up a home-based business?
My top four pieces of advice would be:
- Only do it if it’s something you are passionate about. It’s a lot of work and it’s not a 9 to 5 job. You work every day, all day.
- Be prepared for a slow build. It takes time to grow your business and don’t get discouraged if you don’t get noticed in the first 6 months or so.
- Advertising! Smart advertising in the right places is crucial. Facebook gives us 90% of our business so we focus our ads and sales/promotions there.
- You have to donate and sponsor lots of clubs and events. People love supporting businesses that give back to them. It builds a trusted relationship between you and your customer.
TCS: You have quite a cichlid breeding operation in addition to your merchandise sales. Can you describe your fish operation, including the facility, and how potential customers can buy from you?
Our fish operation consists of 3500 gallons and around 70 tanks. Our facility runs on air and sponges in a temperature controlled room. The fish room takes up our entire basement. We do “by appointment only” showings since we are not always home.
TCS: Can you tell the readers about your participation in the CARES Preservation Program?
We are proud to be associated with the C.A.R.E.S. Program. We are linked to the New England Cichlid Association (NECA) and are the liaison for the club. We document all the club’s C.A.R.E.S. fish for verification. We (Super Cichlids) have around fifteen species breeding in our facility.
TCS: You’ve recently become an authorized retailer for Piscine Energetics and Tropical freshwater foods. Can you tell the readers about these brands and why they should consider adding them to their fish food pantry?
Our two newest dry good products are Piscine mysis pellets/flakes and Tropical brand fish food from Poland. Piscine is basically the best pellet in the world. This is because it took them five years to develop a pellet that used fresh, wet mysis shrimp. All other pellets are made by using all dry ingredients and then cooked for about 20-30 minutes. It takes Piscine about 24 hours to cook their pellet never going over 100 degrees, therefore preserving all the essential fatty acids and vitamins needed to provide your fish with an optimal food. It’s probably the closest thing to fresh, frozen mysis shrimp. Now we recommend feeding Piscine to only carnivorous and omnivore fish as it’s high in protein. They also just launched and released their brand-new flake! It’s fantastic!
Tropical is a tried and true food with over 40 years of experience and success behind them. They have an extensive line for any possible fish you can imagine. It’s an extremely palatable food and the fish in our breeding facility eat it up happily. Our fish especially love their new Softline. It’s so much easier for the fish too eat, and they don’t have to chew it and spit it out like they do with hard pellets. I find that when we feed a mix of hard pellet and Tropical Softline food, they go for the Softline. I know our fish appreciate the different varieties of food we can give them.
TCS: I met you a couple of years ago at the ACA convention in Cincinnati, where you had a booth in the vendor room. I must say, your set-up is always quite impressive by its size, the number of products, and your customer interaction. What new things do you have planned for your booth at future events?
Our future booths will consist of variety and more fish! We love being able to bring different products to each booth we set up. We always have our best-selling food products like NorthFin, Piscine, Tropical and Seachem but we also like to theme our booths to who the event speakers are and to the running theme of that particular event. For example, when Chris Carpenter spoke at the Capital Cichlid Association in Maryland about shell dwellers, I made sure to bring a large variety of shells. We find that a lot of the same people attend a lot of the events we do, so it’s important to carry something new and different each time so they always come and check us out. Also, since we are involved in C.A.R.E.S., you will soon see more live fish at my table for sale in order to bring light to endangered species. That way I will be able to personally talk about the fish and encourage hobbyists to give them a try.
TCS: Talk about what Super Cichlids customers can expect, in terms of new products/merchandise, in the next 6 months.
As for the future of Super Cichlids, we are planning on launching our own food! It will start out small naturally, baby steps for us. We will release a 2mm size pellet. It will be an omnivore formula made with whole fish and spirulina. It will also have astaxanthin, which enhances color in fish. We are still in the stages of testing the food but it’s an excellent formula, and our source of the food has been known in the industry for over 30 years. We are proud to put our name on it so keep an eye out! Also, as you may know we are a family business and travel with our two young daughters Layna and Scarlett. To get them involved more we all decided that it would be awesome if they started their own side business. They chose to sell Aurora stuffed animals and they call their business Cutest Critters. Of course, they are mostly aquatic themed animals and fish, so it fits right into our theme. They did an official launch at the Aquatic Experience in Chicago, IL.
Our customers can expect extreme personalized service. Extreme in terms of we’re always there for them. We do our best to answer any questions we receive, within minutes, via the numerous channels we have setup. You don’t have to wait days for a response from an employee that doesn’t really know or even care about the information they’re giving you. This is a full-time job for us, and we take it very seriously. We are a small business so every customer is important to us. We give 110% every time we pack an order or answer a question. We pack orders in the early morning, mid-day, and just before heading off to sleep so that our customers can receive their orders as fast as possible.
TCS: If you had a 300 word limit, what would you tell readers to convince them to buy from Super Cichlids?
Our tag line is that ‘We treat your fish like family’ and we truly mean that. Our business was born from a passion for this hobby. We were nurtured and grew from love and support we received from the hobbyists. Without them we wouldn’t want to be in business.