All About Fish Farming: The Ultimate Guide - hiseadock
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All About Fish Farming: The Ultimate Guide

December 17, 2020
Source: Unsplash

Fish has been part and parcel of the human diet for years, and the art of fishing has evolved over the years. We have gone from fighting the rough seas and oceans to rearing fish in controlled environments in our own backyards. 

Fish farming is the practice of keeping fish for food and commerce in a man-made enclosure. There are many methods of doing this, and as the days go by, technology is being brought into play, all in an attempt to make things efficient. 

We are going to explore everything that pertains to fish farming, from the types involved, the advantages one can accrue from the practice, all that it takes to set them up, and the best types of fish suited for this.

Table of Contents

Types of Fish Farming

Broadly speaking, there are about five types of fish farming being conducted in various places worldwide. They include the following.

Cage Fish Farming

This is a practice where you rear fish in enclosed floating cages placed inside a huge water body. These fish pens are more ideal than ponds as the fish get to exist in the same waters they are used to, only that they have no way of getting out. They are taken care of through feeding, and all until they are big enough to be harvested.

Pontoon fish farming cages are usually constructed out of modular plastic material for buoyancy, creating a wall high enough to stop fish from jumping out. The cages are then held at the bottom of the waterbed by wireframes covered by fishnets that stop certain sizes of fish from getting in or out.

Advantages

A controlled environment that allows problems to be resolved quickly

Construction is easy

The cages are flexible

Fish populations can be controlled easily

The existing water conditions are favorable for the fish

Fishing can be done quickly by standing on a floating platform

Disadvantages

The crowding creates an environment for diseases to spread much faster

Require constant monitoring

Feeding is irregular as some fish eat more than others

Oxygen levels can be too low at times, and this requires artificial oxygenation

Pond Fish Farming

Source: Pixabay

Pond farming involves creating an artificial pond on land, installing all the necessary equipment to create a habitable environment before rearing a select fish species for commercial and subsistence purposes. It starts by digging a deep enough ditch, lining it with waterproof material to stop the water from seeping into the ground before adding water and fish into it.

It is a self-sustaining kind of set up as the waste produced by the fish can be used as manure for crop farming.

Pond farming is very popular in places that don’t have a large water body but have the right conditions for rearing fish on small scale proportions. You can use pond floating docks to create a fish pond inside a big waterbody to save yourself the trouble of having to dig trenches.

Advantages

Faster replenishing of food which gives rise to healthier bigger fish

Setting it up is not complicated

It is a controlled environment

Provides food and employment

Disadvantages

Ponds are environmentally destructive

They require a lot of accessories to run them

Breeding ground for diseases

Feeding can be expensive

Composite Fish Culture

Source: agrifarming.in

This is an advanced form of fish farming where different non-competing species of fish are placed in the same pond to increase the utilization of food. Basically, you bring about five different species together, each with its own unique feeding habits and diets, and create a fish community where they coexist. Each fish eats what it needs and leaves what it doesn’t to the other species.

The aim behind this is to stop wastage of food that would otherwise sink to the bottom, rot away and give rise to harmful bacteria.

The fish can be reared inside a fish cage bordered by walls made out of concrete connected to the land by a floating walkway.

Advantages

Increases the fish yield

Increases food utilization and saves on food costs

There are more fish species to choose from

Disadvantages

Getting the right combination of fish species is hard

There’s always the risk of overpopulation

Requires constant monitoring

Natural biodiversity is affected

Integrated Recycling System

Integrated Recycling System
Source: m.farms.com

This is a sustainable form of fishing that aims to address the environmental problem that seems to plague every fish farming method. In this method, huge fish tanks are placed inside a greenhouse. Each fish tank has a hydroponic bed set up next to it that allows the circulation of water through the hydroponic beds that get rid of fish and food waste which in turn provide nutrients for plants that grow inside the greenhouse, which in turn provide the oxygen needed by the fish.

It is a whole system of efficiency that runs all through, and in the end, everyone gets what they need without hurting the environment.

Advantages

No damage to the environment

Creates a self-sustaining system

It is inside a controlled environment

High fish yield

Disadvantages

Expensive to set up

Requires qualified hands to run it

Limited spaces for fish to move about

Raceway System

Raceway System
Source: aquaculturealliance.org

This is a form of fish farming where a long artificial channel is created with continuously flowing water going through the culture tanks. The channels usually consist of rectangular troughs filled with fish sealed at both ends to only allow water through. This creates the same conditions you’d find in a river, which is good for certain types of fish.

You could also set this system inside a water body, if you live next to a lake for example. All you’d need is wall up a section on the shore then connect each section with a floating bridge for easier access. Itbeat having to dig up a huge trench and pump water into it.

Advantages

The quality of the water is good with natural oxygenation

There’s more space for fish to move

Can accommodate huge populations

Disadvantages

Setting it up takes a lot of work and is expensive

Disease spread is fast

It is hard to deal with fish waste

How to Start a Fish Farm Business

Starting a fish farm business may have good returns but pulling it off is not easy. There are a lot of things involved between setting it up and cashing in on it for the first time. The following are the steps you need to follow to set up a successful fish farm.

Step 1: Draw Up a Plan

Source: Pixabay

As it is with any other business, you have to start with a plan. What are your goals? Are you doing this for your own food, or are you aiming to sell this down the road? Do you plan to expand to a bigger space, or is it something temporary?

A comprehensive business plan should be able to answer all these questions. You have to figure out who your market is beforehand to avoid ending up with an overpopulated fish farm with no one to sell to. Never for one moment assume that you people will be ready come flocking. You also have to set a tentative price which reflects the ongoing economic situation. And all this will need a significant amount of funds.

Step 2: Form a Legal Entity

Legal Documents
Source: Pixabay

You have to protect your business interests from the moment you start entertaining the idea of starting one. Set up the fish farm as a legal entity recognizable in the eyes of the law as this will come in handy down the road when you have grown big enough to attract the attention of other people and competitors; there will always be someone trying to get one over you at some point.

Establishing a legal entity protects your personal being from being held liable in the event that your fish farm is sued. The registration process is quite simple; you can either do it yourself or hire someone else at a small fee to do it for you.

Step 3: Register for Taxes

Taxes
Source: Pixabay

Taxes are mandatory in every place on earth, and businesses have a greater responsibility for remitting taxes in a timely manner to avoid incurring the attention of the taxman. Depending on the country you are setting up the fish farming business, you’ll be required to pay different kinds of taxes, both for the state and the federal if you are in the United States before the business hits the ground. Your business will be given a special EIN number through which all the tax remittances will be tracked.

Step 4: Select an Apposite Land Area

Source: Pixabay

Fish farming requires lots of space with a good buffer zone around it; therefore, you’ll need to find an area that doesn’t have a lot of people with large swatches of land. If you already have that kind of land in your name, then it becomes much easier for you, otherwise, you’ll have to buy, and the land is not cheap.

When selecting the site, factor in future growth. You may start out small with one or two ponds, for instance, but there has to be space around to scale the operation up once the demand for your fish grows. The soil has to be of good quality, free of chemical contaminants that may harm the quality of your fish products.

Water is also another important factor to consider. Setting up a fish farm in dry areas will end up being expensive and unnecessary as you will have to buy water every time. You need a wetland with natural water sources or an area where you can drill wells. The average fish farm pond is usually 0.7m deep, and this requires a lot of water.

Step 5: Construction

Indoor Fish Farm
Source: Pinterest

No matter the type of fish farming you choose to go with, there will be considerable construction work involved. Cage fish farming will need fishnets and buoyant materials like quad floats, or double floats to keep the fish locked in one location. If you go for a pond, you’ll need to dig up trenches then line them up with anti-seepage material to keep the water from disappearing into the ground.

The construction will require a lot of manpower and materials, and most importantly, you will have to clear with the relevant authorities first. With environmental laws becoming tighter and harsher, you could get into a lot of trouble if you begin creating something that disruptive without getting the go-ahead from the authorities.

Step 6: Selecting the Fish Species

A Fish
Source: Pixabay

Not any kind of fish can be reared in a fish farm; you have to consider the market and what is on demand. At the moment, the most common fish reared in farms are Tilapia, Salmon, Tuna, Eels, and Catfish. There’s a huge demand for these in restaurants and fish markets around the world; therefore, stock them in separate ponds as they do not do so well together due to their highly competitive nature.

Selecting the right fish is one of the hardest challenges in fish farming. There are adaptability issues, diseases, and the time it takes for them to repopulate. These are some of the things that you cannot rush through; therefore, take your time doing research properly before deciding on the ones to go for.

Step 7: Feeding the Fish

Fish Feeding
Source: Pixabay

This is the phase that gobbles up a huge chunk of the initial capital. You have to feed the fish the right diet for them to attain the desired sizes to fetch good prices once they are ready to be sold. Depending on the fish species and their numbers, you could be looking at several pounds worth of food on a daily basis, and if you are not well prepared for this, you could go to ruin too early.

The best feeding times are either morning or evening hours; you should be careful not to overfeed the fish as this will lead to most of the food sinking to the bottom where they decompose and give rise to diseases that could endanger your investment.

Step 8: Harvesting and Selling

Source: Pixabay

Having gone through the whole process, it is time to reap the benefits of your sweat. Harvesting fish from fish farms is much easier than regular fishing. They are concentrated in one place, so it is simply a matter of throwing in a net and trawling them out.

Only the big ones are sorted out and set apart, while the small ones get thrown back into the water to continue growing. Once you have harvested enough for sale, you’ll need a good storage facility as you market them. For a startup, it will be a while before you clear the whole stock, so patience is key.

How Much Does it Take to Set up a Fish Farm?

The Cost
Source: Pixabay

As already mentioned, starting a fish farm is a huge undertaking that requires a substantial investment to get it running. The amount of money going in depends on many factors. The bigger the size of the fish farm, the more money is needed to fund the construction, the maintenance of the fish as well as storage facilities.

Another important factor to consider is the location; the license you’ll have to pay varies from one state to another. The type of fish you chose to keep also plays a significant role. Some are cheaper to acquire and maintain, while others cost a lot more when it comes to food and other daily needs. You will also need sufficient labor to run the whole farm as you cannot do it alone; this translates to salaries. The more qualified the worker is, the higher their salary demands.

You will need tanks, pumps, regular water testing, medicine, weather aerators, with most of these running on electricity. If you go the fish cage route, you will need to add floating structures like bridges, walkways and docking platforms that will provide you with access to the fish.

For a small fish farm, you are looking at a minimum of about $10,000 to get things running. This is why the business model is not practiced by many people.

Which Fish is Best for Farming?

Fish is a staple food for many people in different places across the globe; when setting up a fish farm, consider the most consumed fish species to have a chance of selling. There are certain fish species that do so well both in fish farms and in the market. They include the following:

Tilapia

Tilapia
Source: Pixabay

Tilapia is a massive freshwater fish that can grow to great lengths and is easy to rear. It reproduces very quickly as it takes about two years to reach sexual maturity. Feeding them is also an easy affair as they feed on planktons, algae, and zooplankton, all of which are easy to acquire and can also occur naturally in the water.

The optimal temperature for rearing tilapia is about 35 degrees, and they do well in a pond that receives plenty of sunlight as this stimulates the growth of algae which they live off.

However, there’s always the risk of overpopulation as they reproduce so fast once they hit sexual maturity. This could create competition for food, which may lead to stunted growth and low-quality meat.

They also don’t coexist very well with other species, and if left to their devices, they may feed on other smaller species, always keep them separate.

Catfish

Catfish
Source: Pixabay

The Catfish is another popular type of fish with explosive reproductive rates, and they can grow to huge sizes with high-quality meat yields. They do not require much attention like other fish species as they are hardy and can survive on literally anything.

There are several subspecies of catfish that are very popular in the market; they include the yellow blue head, the flathead, channel, walking catfish, brown catfish, among many others. They take about 21 months to mature and feed on anything that is readily available, with a special preference for fish rice, and soybeans.

Salmon and Trout

Source: Pixabay

These two are almost similar as far as their habitat conditions are concerned. They are both sensitive to poor quality water, which means they have high maintenance needs. Another big complication to dealing with these two fish species is that they have to be raised from eggs as opposed to transferring them from another source. They have to get used to their environment for them to be able to reproduce. The silver lining is that trouts and salmons fetch very high prices once they have reached the right size, and that will be about 20 months from the day they hatch.

Carp

Common Carp
Source: Pixabay

Carp is one of the most consumed fishes on the planet. They are tough species that can survive just about in any type of climate, and that makes them the ideal fish for the farm. They do very well in fish tanks with clean water. However, when looking for carp, be careful with the species you acquire as some have been known to be super invasive; they may take over an ecosystem within a very short period of time. You will need a special permit to rear carp in your fish farm.

Carps take about six months to hit 1 pound, which is the perfect weight to start selling them.

Perch

Perch
Source: Pixabay

The perch is another massive fish that does very well in fish farms. They never stop growing, and the more you feed them, the bigger they get and the more profitable they become. They are freshwater fish, so the water on the farm has to be of very high quality, well-aerated, and free of chemicals. Another big advantage that the perch have over other species is their ability to survive even in cold winters during winter.

One of the drawbacks they have is their invasive nature. They cannot be kept in the same pond with other fishes as they will eat them and drive their numbers down.

Fish Species you Should Avoid

A Giant Monkfish
Source: Pinterest

There are certain fish species that cannot be farmed. There are many reasons why you should avoid them, with notable ones being that they are highly invasive, are depleted, or have very high levels of contaminants in their bodies. They include the following.

Bluefin Tuna: The Bluefin tuna has been designated as an endangered species by the World Wildlife Fund. This has made it illegal to farm or fish the bluefin tuna until their numbers in the world go back to a sustainable number.

Chilean Sea Bass: The fish known for its delicious buttery meat has also been fished almost to extinction and is now on the endangered list. Fishing and farming them is now prohibited all over the world, and breaking this can land you into great trouble.

Grouper: This fish has very high mercury levels in the body, which makes it unsuitable for human consumption. Farming the grouper will only lead to losses as no one will buy them from you.

Monkfish: The monkfish has also been driven to near extinction, and laws are now in place to stop people from fishing or farming them for food around the world. The fish is famed for its great taste and has been a staple food for many people who live near coastlines.

The Common Carp: ALthough farming of this fish is allowed in most places; it is regulated very strictly owing to how invasive it can be if allowed into the wild. You will need a permit to farm the common carp, and in the event that one escapes into the wild, the cost of dealing with that will be on your dime.

Conclusion

The question of whether you should get into fish farming can be answered by a definitive yes, but there are so many things at play, which makes the answer less straightforward than it seems. There are a lot of resources at play before a fish farm becomes successful. It is not an overnight operation; it takes time.

If you have been entertained by the thought of having your own fish farm, then you should get in touch with us. We make high-quality fish cages for fish farming, and we have a team of experts who will take you through the whole process and provide all the support you need. 

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