Fish farming is an aspect of agricultural production, offering employment opportunity, creating wealth from land that is primarily considered unsuitable for conventional agriculture. Therefore, the place of fish farming in economic empowerment, poverty alleviation and wealth creation cannot be overemphasized. As human population increase, level of income continue to rise, demand for high quality foods, Fish inclusive is on the high side.
Fish farming called Aquaculture is gradually becoming a mainstay due to the recent diversification of the economy to agriculture in Nigeria.It is a highly technical enterprise suggesting that prospective investors must be armed with sufficient and relevant information before investing.This write-up therefore is about providing relevant information to both prospective and practicing fish farmers.
Many books, blogs, seminars and trainings have no doubt dwell on fish farming but my write-up stands out due to the simplicity of its format, presentation and not boring the readers with unnecessary details. Whether you are a student, farmer or have relative interest in Aquaculture you can use this valuable information to the full as every aspect of practical fish farming has been covered from the very beginning to harvesting stage and beyond.
DEFINITION OF FISH
Fish is a completely aquatic animal, a vertebrate characterised by the possession of gill for breathing, fin for swimming and a typical elongated body ending in a finned tail and usually covered with scale
Fish is a highly palatable and digestible quality food. The flesh is rich in protein (90-92% of the dry weight) and a friendly fat (less than 2.0-1.8%).It supplies the body with inorganic minerals (phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc etc) as well as Vitamins A and B complex. Fish is recommended for cardiovascular disease patients because of its unique fat composed of omega -3fatty acid. Compared to beef and pork,fish is relatively cheaper and usually there is no religious taboo against its consumption. It can be presented in menus in a variety of ways cooked by boiling, poaching, grilling, baking, smoking, shallow and deep frying.Fish plays critical roles in the normal growth of bones and teeth, development and maintenance of healthy eye structure, proper functioning of epithelial tissue and many more.
THE ACTIVITIES IN FISH FARMING
- FISH POND CONSTRUCTION
The bulk of the investment capital in fish farming goes into pond construction which are of two categories: Above-ground pond and Sunken earthen pond.
This is mostly used where space is limited e.g around the home. It may be constructed with cement-plastered stone chips, sandcrete blocks with a good plastering,pure concrete that is reinforced with iron rod, fabricated fiberglass or just simply plastic tank. As the name implies an above ground pond is like a water storage tank having an open top.
An earthen pond is created by excavating soil from a selected site in a river,valley, or fadama,marshy or swamp land or by the side of the course of a perennial spring, stream or river. The size and number of such pond in a fish farm are determined by the quantity of water that is likely to be available as well as the fund at the farmers disposal.
- PRODUCTION INPUTS
The major production inputs in a fish farm are water, seed fish, feed, liming materials, fertiliser and fishing net.
Water for filling the pond
Water for filling the pond may come from various sources, such as spring, stream, river, lake, underground, rainfall, public water supply and irrigation.
Seed fish for stocking the pond may be at any of the three stages of growth
- FRY:- The smallest sized young fish, 3-30 days after hatching
- FINGERLING:- Medium sized young fish 6-10cm long
- JUVENILE:- The largest sized young fish
Carefully sifted maggots from decaying poultry droppings and white ants from an anthill are excellent protein sources for pond fish. Securing them could be messy and their availability inconsistent.Therefore,sustainable commercial fish farming invariably depends on compounded feed for optimising fish growth and health.Such feed must provide a balanced diet containing carbohydrate, protein, fat and essential amino acids, inorganic minerals and vitamins.
Miscellaneous production inputs
Other none the less important production inputs in fish farming includes
- lime:- for neutralizing pond water acidity
- Fertiliser:-for boosting the growth of phytoplanktons and pond weeds
- Scoop–net:- for sampling pond fish
- Drag–net:- for harvesting
- others include weighing scale, plastic or metal containers.
MANAGEMENT OF THE STOCKED POND
Although a pond may be well sited and constructed,if not well managed the project will fail. Among the various pond management activities,the following are the most crucial.
Stocking the pond
Stocking the pond means putting fish into the culture medium. It is imperative that quality fingerlings be procured for stocking the pond.Ideally,there is an optimum number of fish that should be stocked in each unit volume of pond water. This is known as stocking density.
This means the combination or non-combination of different fish species or different growth stages of seed fish, for rearing in the pond. The following are the commonly used fish cultural methods:
- MONOCULTURE:- i.e stocking of the pond with fingerlings of same species and age,allowing them to grow to market size, harvesting and replacing them with another set of the same or different species.
- MONOSEX CULTURE:- i.e either only the male or the female sex of a fish species is stocked in the pond.
- POLYCULTURE OR MIXED-CULTURE:- i.e growing more than one fish species or same species but of different ages in the same pond and at the same time. for example, mixture of clarias and tilapia, carp and tilapia, clarias, snakefish and tilapia.
FISH HEALTH MATTERS
Incidence of fish diseases in the pond is not common and nothing to worry about if antibiotics and multivitamin supplements are incorporated in the compounded feed.The farmer should note however,that possible causes of fish diseases are:
- Introduction of already diseased fish to the pond
- Overstocking the pond
- Nutrient element deficiencies in the feed
- Wild birds perching on the pond water
- Over-dishing of compounded feed and use of decaying or mouldy feeding stuffs.
Keeping records of all activities and transactions is an important aspect of pond management.Record of dates, quantities, costs, purchase receipt and invoice,generated produce and revenues when neatly kept and made readily accessible, will facilitate evaluation of the economic viability of the project. Some of the relevant records to be kept includes:
- Project land documents
- Fish pond dimensions, date of construction and cost incured
- Quantity, cost and species of each seed fish
- Quantity, cost, and rate of use of compounded feeds and other feedingstuffs.
- Harvest dates, quantity and species of fish catch and proceeds from sales.
- Rate of payment and deployment of personel employed.
REGULAR POND INSPECTION
Daily attendance at the pond site needs to be emphasised. It affords the farmer to inspect for:
- Level of water in the pond
- Condition of pond fish
- Security breaches
- Burrow of dangerous pests and predators in the pond walls and under the wire net fences.
Ayelari, T.A (2005). Personal communication
Fasakin, K. (2006) Fish Farming made easy.
Harvesting, Marketing, Preservation and Contingencies to be discussed subsequently.
For questions,Observations and suggestions:- Olawole Olakunle 08162977432,firstname.lastname@example.org
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