Raising fish at home for profit is not as complicated as most people think. In this step-by-step fish farming guide, we will learn how new fish farmers can become backyard tilapia fish farmers at their homestead or farm or home. For many, keeping and rearing fish is simply a hobby or for fun, while to some, fish farming is a very profitable business which is not labour intensive at all.
You don’t need a dam, flowing water or a large pool of water to do fish farming at your homestead or in your backyard. The little water you trap from the roof is enough to practice fish farming, which is technically call aquaculture. You don't even need to have a large field to keep this aquatic animal. The small space in your backyard is enough to do fish farming, commercially or for personal consumption.
You can use an old bath tub to keep your fish, you can also turn an old swimming pool into a fishpond, you can buy an old water tank, cut it through the center, fill with water and stock your fish there, or you can simply buy a portable fish pond, put it on your verandah, fill the portable fish pond with water and start farming your own fish. The options are many, your space, budget, plans and expectations will determine which option you will go for.
In this tutorial we will talk about the best species of fish suitable for backyard farming, how big your pond should be, how to construct the fish pond, how many fish the pond will carry, what to feed the fish, how long they will take to grow, when they will start breeding, how to make your own fish feed and much more, so don't go anywhere, you have a lot to learn in this tutorial.
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The first thing to understand is that aquaculture or fish farming is simply intensive livestock rearing. To keep a large number of live animals in a small space, a thorough understanding of their environmental needs is essential and this must involve some biological research. Watching this fish farming tutorial is a great step towards learning about fish and how to properly raise fish.
Fish farming is a unique, profitable, and enjoyable addition to any homestead or farm. Whether you create a beautiful pond to add to the landscaping of your backyard or simply convert your family’s old swimming pool into a working aquaculture system, fish farming can be an easy and satisfying way to provide delicious fresh fish for your family and could even bring in a profit.
You can do catfish fish farming or tilapia fish farming. These two breeds are the most common ones people raise for commercial backyard fish farming. Catfish and Tilapia are two of the most cultured fish species in Africa and most parts of the world. Before choosing a fish species for culture, ensure that you do market research in order to find out if people within your market environment will buy the fish.
In this fish farming tutorial we will opt for tilapia and in other episodes to come we will look at the catfish which is also a good option in some parts of the world. Catfish is a common type of fish and it provides good fish fillet and is relatively easy to raise. Catfish can grow to be quite large and require a sizeable area in which to live. Catfish, like shrimp, is very popular, in fact, it is the biggest US seafood crop. We will make another special video for catfish, but today we are talking about the tilapia which is the second most farmed fish in the world. This is because the tilapia fish is very easy to keep and easily adapts to captivity environments, like homestead fish ponds or makeshift fish ponds like old swimming pools.
The tilapia is tolerant to a variety of living conditions. It can survive in a pond with a high stocking density, and relies on cheap feeds, such as cereals and vegetable diets. In addition, it grows fast and takes a few months to be ready for harvest. Tilapia is actually the common name for nearly a hundred species of cichlid fish from the coelotilapine, coptodonine, heterotilapine, oreochromine, pelmatolapiine and tilapiine tribes.
The main advantage of tilapia fish farming is the easy process of this business. Raising this fish is very easy. Tilapia fish has very good demand in most countries and on the international market. Tilapia fish grows very fast and the fingerlings are generally easy to find in most parts of the world.
The biggest threat to any aquaculture set up is its environment. Fish are cold-blooded, and thus completely dependent on outside temperature to dictate their survival.
Ordinarily there are very few diseases that apply to fish, and when they do contract disease it is usually due to poor care. While there are very few backyard predators that can cause risk to your fish, you should be mindful of stress on your fish. While birds, raccoons and neighborhood cats are often very curious about backyard set ups, they usually do not cause enough problems to jeopardize the harvest. Lack of oxygen, as well as a poor pH balance, can also cause fish to perish prematurely. Test your water regularly and be sure that your aeration system is functioning to ensure your fish stay healthy and alive.
The best and easiest way to control your fish pond pH as well as oxygen levels is simply to have ducks and let them play with water in your fish pond. Of course they will eat your juvenile fish, but a well fed duck usually eats not more than 5 fish per day, or about 150 fish per month. Suppose you have 10 ducks, that's 1500 fish per month. A single 3-month old female tilapia hatches more than 150 fingerlings every month, which a single 6-month old tilapia female produces over 500 fingerlings every month. This means that the fish will easily multiply such that even if ducks eat the fish, that will be way too insignificant as long as you have more than 10 female fish in your pond.
If you have less than 100 females in your pond, then you don't need duck there, and you don't have any aeration problem. Ducks are really helpful when you have lots of fish, 300 or more and as fish will need much more oxygen.
While fish farming has been done out doors for centuries, nowadays indoor fish farming has opened up opportunities for homesteaders to grow fish year-round. Indoor aquaculture can be done on a small scale with tubs, indoor pools, or aquariums.
Once you have a natural ecological fish habitat in place, an indoor aquaculture system will run on its own with very little input from you and will not have a negative environmental impact.
Select the best site to construct your fish pond. Ensure the site is easily accessible to facilitate free movement to and from the structure. The site should be receiving enough sunlight, which is good for algae growth. This micro-plant is a great food for tilapia. Also, choose a place that is free from floods to avoid dirt water getting into the structure. Select the best site to construct your fish pond. Ensure the site is easily accessible to facilitate free movement to and from the structure. The site should be receiving enough sunlight, which is good for algae growth. This micro-plant is a great food for tilapia. Also, choose a place that is free from floods to avoid dirt water getting into the structure.
You can start growing tilapia fish either in earthen pond or in tanks. The tanks or pond can be of any size or shape depending on your budget and needs. Earth ponds are preferred in places with soils that retain a lot of water and with low infitration rates. These types of ponds can also be constructed anywhere with the help of lining materials such as nylon paper sheets or tarpaulins. They are easy to construct, but require a lot of maintenance work. In some countries, old tarpaulins previously used as haulage truck cover is also used to construct an earthen fish pond instead of using dam liner which is not as durable as tarpaulin material.
The other pond types are a bit expensive. You will need to buy their construction materials and hire an expert to install them for you. The best thing about these structures is that they require little maintenance work.
When raising tilapia in an earthen pond, there is no size limitation, but the depth should be around 1.2 metres. In fact the best set up is to have a fish pond with both the deep end and the shallow end. The deep end should be 1.2 to 1.4 metres deep while the shallow end should be 90cm deep. This will enable fish to go to the deep end during the day when its very hot and to the shallow end early in the morning or late in the evening around sunrise or sunset.
Besides an earthen pond, you can also use a concrete pond or tarpaulin tanks depending on your budget and investment portfolio. Concrete and Earthen pond will need the service of a fish expert who will guide a mason through the construction process. Tarpaulin tanks are readily available on the market. In some countries they are known as portable fish tanks. Making your own tarpaulin fish pond is very easy, you just need a welded metal frame which will support the tarpaulin that's carrying the water. It's just that simple, unless you decide to add extra features to enhance your pond.
Pond construction at the chosen site involves a series of steps such as cleaning the site, constructing the bank or dyke, digging the pond, constructing the inlets and outlets, covering the dyke and probably fencing the fish pond for security reasons.
The inlet and outlets permit flow of water. Inlets are constructed at the top of the pond while outlets are at the pond bottom. The inlet pipes must be designed such that they do not take more than 2 days to fill. Outlets are used when dewatering of the pond to harvest the fish becomes necessary. It is also used to drain out the stale water while replacing it with freshwater so as to maintain the water quality. Efficient inlet and outlet system is very much important for the proper working of the pond system. This mostly comes in the form of a pipe through which water can enter and exit from the system. The inlet system of the pond should be placed slightly higher than the outlet system to ensure maximum water flow.
During rainy seasons some ponds experienced floods that carry away fish from the pond. So, if the pond is located in an area which is closer to the river or stream, then taller embankment or dyke is a must. It should be at least 2 to 3 feet higher than the highest level of water in the pond. This can be done easily while digging or demudding your fish pond. Sand removed during de-mudding or digging can be used to make dykes taller. Otherwise, sandbags can be used to make the dykes or embankments taller.
Aquatic weeds and insects both are very much harmful to fish farming ponds as weeds consume almost all nutrients and reduce the amount of oxygen. Their growth should be controlled efficiently so that they cannot create any problem in the pond. While they have their own advantages such as providing oxygen during the day, however, they pose more harm than good and should therefore be avoided especially when using dam liner, tarpaulin or even a concrete fish pond, to avoid leakages of water.
After construction of the fish pond, conditioning is done by application of a layer of lime or calcium hydroxide which is spread over the bottom of the pond for two weeks. It is usually applied during or after the pond drying stage. This removes the acidity of the soil, facilitates biological, geological, and chemical cycles and prevents unwanted species. If you use a concrete pond and you want to do it the natural way, then after constructing your pond, take some dried banana leaves or dried maize stalks, enough to cover about a third or half of the whole concrete fish pond, then fill the pond with water and leave the old banana leaves or the old maize stalks in the water for two weeks.
You will need to empty the concrete pond by removing both the water and the banana leaves or the maize stalks, then put fresh water into the pond, which should be in the concrete pond for at least one week before you introduce your fish fingerlings.
Get water from a safe source, and the water should be clean. If you are using municipal water, ensure it is free from high levels of chlorine and nitrates and doesn’t have ammonia. Chlorine and ammonia will kill your fish. Ensure the water is at the right pH level. Tilapia survives in the 7 to 9 pH range. Test the pH and adjust it if it is not in this range. Use alkaline or acidic products to correct the pH.
It is advisable to have a good borehole system at your homestead or farm in order to ensure a reliable source of water. If you use borehole water, make sure the water splashes into the pond like a waterfall, whenever you put water into your fish pond. This is because borehole water does not have enough oxygen as it is water trapped underground, so by making the water splash and create bubbles you are actually adding oxygen to the water.
This becomes more critical with the fact that the water is supposed to be changed on a regular basis because the proper adequate water supply to your fish pond would ensure the survival of the fish. You don't have to change the whole water regularly. Just ensure that you drain 10% of the water from the pond every week and add fresh water to replace the drained 10%. In other words, if your pond contains 50,000 litres of water, then every week drain 5,000 litre, use it to water the garden or your greenhouse, then add 10% fresh water to the pond (in this example that would be 5,000 litres of water).
Tilapia is a freshwater fish which means that it finds it difficult to survive in saline conditions. The salt levels should be below 18 parts per thousand (PPT)
FERTILIZING THE POND
Manuring or fertilization is done in order to facilitate the growth of fish food organisms. Manure can be of organic or chemical nature. The application rate of raw cow dung for stocking pond is 2 to 3 tonnes per hectare or 2 to 3kg per 10 square metres. The application rate of poultry manure is 5000 kg per hectare or 5kg per 10 square metres. This is the same with pig manure, and pig manure makes excellent organic feed not only for fish but for your garden plants too, so consider raising pigs too. I have already made a video tutorial that teaches beginners about pig farming. Use of chemical fertilizer depends on the concentration of phosphorus and nitrogen in the soil and varies accordingly. The standard combination of NPK is 18:10:4 for freshwater ponds.
For better results and good productivity, monosex tilapia fishes should be farmed. Male tilapias grow faster and healthier and are well adapted to supplementary feeding as compared to their female counterparts. Please note that with monosex fish farming, you will need to buy new fingerlings after every harvest, if you don't want that, then do not raise male-only tilapias.
How much fish can I stock in my pond? It’s a very common question, especially for the people who want to start this business. Let me explain this. Suppose, you have a pond measuring 40 metres long and 20 metres wide, and a water depth of 1.2 meter. Such a pond can hold around 960 cubic meters of water
Now, you can stock around 10 tilapia fish per cubic meter. So, your 800 square meter pond with 1.2 meter depth is ideal for stocking and growing 9600 tilapia fish. While this is the best stocking density for excellent growth rate, however, you can still double the amount of fish and still achieve good results. In short, while 10 fish per square metre is the ideal stocking density, 20 fish per square metre will still yield good results where space or resources are limited.
Get tilapia fingerlings (the name for young fish) from a reputable source. The number of fingerlings to star with will depend on the size of your pond, using recommendations that I have just given you. While assuming that every fish pond has a depth or 90cm to 1.2 metres which is recommended for backyard fish farming, recommended number of fingerlings per square meter is 10, but there is no harm in keeping 20 fingerlings per cubic metre when resources and funds are limited.
If you can’t secure fingerlings, you will have to start with breeders. The stocking ratio for females to males is usually between 1 female per 1 male and 4 females per 1 male. For best hatchery practice it is ideal to stock one male to three females.. The breeders reproduce within 10 weeks and start providing you with fingerlings.
When transferring the fingerlings or breeders, ensure the pond water is at the same temperature with the water in the fish container. And it is recommended to stock when the weather is cold. Don't just empty the plastic bags containing the fish into the fish pond right away. Keep the fish in the plastic bags then place the plastic bags in the fish pond for 30 minutes or so, so that the water in the plastic bag gradually matches the temperature of the water in the fish pond. When you eventually open the plastic bag carrying the fingerlings, let the pond water and the water in the plastic bag mix naturally and gradually. Also let the fish swim on their own from the plastic bag to the pond.
All this is done to minimize stress as sudden temperature may cause the fish to die from stress.
Feeding the fish with very good quality and nutritious food is very important. Exact amount of food can vary depending on species, growing conditions and many other factors.
While feeding and rearing, care must be taken to maintain the water pH between 7 and 8 for optimal growth. The feed must provide essential nutrients for the growth, maintenance and reproduction of fish. The feed must contain essential nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and fats in addition to other minerals in sufficient quantities. It is easier to maintain natural foods in the fish pond like zooplankton, phytoplankton, insect larvae, etc. That way, the natural habitat necessary for growth of the fish is maintained to some extent. The growth of phytoplankton, also known as microalgae or simply algae, can be given a boost by adding various wastes from organic farming to the pond such as poultry droppings from poultry farming, pig manure or organic compost, etc. In addition, supplementary feed is given in moist or dry form. For fish that feed from top layers such as tilapia, floating pellets can be given. Sinking pellets are suitable for bottom feeding fish like catfish. Large fish will swallow them whole, grazing fish will suck on them, and small fish will pick at them too.
Farmed fish typically are fed 1 to 5 percent of their body weight per day. Fish can be fed by hand, by automatic feeders, and by demand feeders. Many fish farmers like to hand-feed their fish each day to ensure that the fish are healthy, feeding vigorously, and exhibiting no problems.
A perfect feed rate should be followed so that an optimum growth rate can be achieved. The feed rate should be decided as per the body weight of the fish. Fish ranging between 20-25 grams should be fed 3-4 times a day while fish weighing 50 to 100 grams should be fed at a daily feed rate of 6% to 8% of their body weight which should be distributed throughout the day, about 3 to 4 times a day. Fish with weight ranging between 100 to 200 grams should be fed 5% to 6% of their body weight and 3 times a day. All fish above 200 grams in weight should be fed 2% to 4% of their body weight and the feed should be distributed in 3 servings per day.
For instance, if you have 1,000 fish and they are generally weighing 250g each, you should give them 2% to 4% of their body weight three times a day. That becomes 2% of 250g (5g) to 4% of 250g (10g) per single fish. Since we are working with 1000 fish in this example, we will give our fish 1000 X 5g = 5kg to 1000 X 10g = 10kg per day. We will divide the 5kg to 10kg per day by three, which means we give between (5kg ÷ 3) 1.67kg and (10kg ÷ 3) 3.33kg in the morning and the same amount in the afternoon and the same amount in the evening, to bring the total per day to 5kg to 10kg, according to our example of 1,000 fish weighing around 250g each.
The tilapia breed doesn’t rely on expensive feeds. It can feed on algae or water insects. Keep adding fertilizer or chicken droppings to grow enough algae and attract insects such as termites and worms. You can also use supplement feeds, such as rice bran, flax, wheat germ, bread crumbs and vegetable products. Feed the fish every morning and afternoon. Note, do not allow food remains to stay for long in the pond as they can become toxic or change the water chemistry.
If you want your tilapia fish to lay eggs, fertilize the eggs and eventually hatch the eggs so that you get more fingerlings (baby fish) then you need to cover the bottom of your fish pond with river sand. When happens when tilapia fish breed is that a female fish will use her mouth to dig a shallow nest on the sand then lay her eggs there. She will then invite a male fish to fertilize the eggs, by literally spraying male reproductive fluid on the eggs. The Nile Tilapia, for instance, is a maternal mouth brooder. The female carries the eggs in her mouth for incubation. Hatching of eggs takes place 70-90 hours in the mouth at 27-29°C and the female holds the hatched larvae and gives parental care until the swim-up stage which might need up to 6-10 days. So the whole process from laying eggs to swim-up takes roughly 2 weeks, and within a week the female would have begun laying more eggs once more.
For this reason, female tilapia do not have much time to eat, as their mouths often work as incubators and so they don't grow faster like their male counterparts. If you don't want your fish to breed, then don't put river sand in the pond and consider buying male tilapia only since they grow faster and bigger than female ones.
If you want to have fingerlings for project perpetuity, then you can either have another small pond which you will use as a breeding pond and cover then bottom of that pond with river sand, or you can simply use one big pond with river sand at the bottom that covers all your fish farming purposes. Both methods work, and both have their own advantages and disadvantages that evolve around availability of funds and space.
Actually, for professional fish farming, there are different types of ponds based on the growth stage of the fish. Although professional large scale fish farming is beyond the scope of this Best Farming Tips Fish Farming documentary, nonetheless, the different types of ponds for professional large scale fish farming include:
– Nursery Pond: 3 day old spawns are reared in this pond until they attain a length of 2-3 cm. This takes about 30 days.
– Rearing Tank: Tiny, newly-hatched fish grow and start feeding themselves. However they are not fully grown adult fish. Such fish called ‘fry’ are reared in the rearing ponds till they attain a size of 12-15 cm. These fish are called fingerlings.
– Stocking Pond: The fingerlings are grown in the stocking pond and reared into marketable sized fish. The duration varies between 8 to 10 months after which they reach a market size of between 600g and 1kg per fish. Although there is no specified rule about the pond size, the area of the pond ranges between 1-2 hectares. Nile tilapia can live longer than 10 years and reach a weight exceeding 5 kg.
– Bio Pond: Bio-ponds are settling tanks that are sometimes also used as stocking ponds. The water meant for the fishpond is biologically purified in this pond.
WEATHER AND TEMPERATURE
Tilapia does well in this temperature range, 25-30˚C. However, as very adaptive species, they will still survive in the 15˚C to 35˚C range. During the cold months, the water temperature can fall far below this range forming ice on the surface. Use a suitable heating system, like an electric heater or heat exchanger, to raise the temperature of water. If the water temperature goes above 30˚C, sprinkle cold water in the pond to keep the heat down. You can also shade the pond in the hot months.
You can expect to harvest fish when they reach harvesting weight. It’s actually not possible to tell the exact time, it’s actually depend on the species and some other factors.
For large species, you can start harvesting when the fish reach around 400 grams body weight, commonly referred to as 'palm-size' fish . You can use common harvesting methods for catching all fish.
After harvesting, sort the fish depending on their size. And try to sell as soon as possible. Fresh tilapia has a very good demand throughout the world, especially in winter when supply is low.
Farming is more exciting when you practice integrated farming. With this type of farming you raise ducks and chickens or pigs then collect duck and chicken droppings or pig manure and give the manure to your fish as fish feed. You also use the animal manure to fertilize your vegetable garden and attain a good harvest in your garden.
You will take excess vegetables and use them to feed your chickens and ducks. You can also raise rabbits, then use rabbit droppings to do maggot farming, which you will use to feed chickens, ducks and fish as well. As 10% of the water in the fish pond has to be drained once every week, you can use that water to irrigate your vegetable garden, your cabbages, your greenhouse, etc, and you will enjoy the harvest you will get.
So in short, you have made your homestead farming ecosystem where the by-products or manure from one section of your farm become ingredients or feed supplements for another section of the farm. I have previously made a video that explains this integrated farming system, you can watch it here.
Should funds permit, once you set up your fish pond, consider going an extra mile and start a special farming technique called hydroponics. This is a contemporary farming method where you grow your horticulture plants in water, without using soil as the growing media. If the water is coming from a fish pond, then it's no longer called hydroponics, it actually becomes aquaponics, though the concept is basically the same.
Aquaponics takes aquaculture one step further by incorporating a hydroponic growing element to the cycle. Aquaponics is a revolutionary way to grow your own horticulture food supplies, and in small spaces you will find it is the most productive form of growing food on the planet.
Aquaponics works like a living machine. It is a self-sufficient ecosystem, a collection of plants and animals that function together, creating food without waste or pollution. The water used to support the life of your fish and animal crops can be cycled through to provide water to the plants in your system.
Hydroponic plants grow without soil, therefore, they get all their nutrients from the water. In an aquaponic setup, the plants benefit from the animal waste in the water, providing important food for your crops, in a convenient and efficient way. Although almost any crop can be grown hydroponically, the most common are leaf lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, vegetables and some herbs.
Fish farming is an old agricultural method that modern homesteaders can use today. A great source of continuous protein, freshwater fish farms allow anyone to grow a different variety of fish that can be used for personal consumption or for commercial purposes through utilizing homestead backyards or small farms. While it may be hard work to get started, building a fish farm can be rewarding, fun, and can really pay off in the long run when you may not have a lot of money to spend on food. It could also be a good income source if you have other people around you who are in need of additional food. So consider venturing into fish farming today and enjoy a better tomorrow.