Permit me to introduce you to one of the lucrative agribusinesses; it is the fish farming business. Fish is one of the free gifts of nature man has been endowed with.
The market for fish farming is very explicit and unsaturated; fish are the best and most grossly accepted rich source of protein. Aside from these, fish are part of the healthiest food on earth today; it is widely consumed and culturally accepted across all tribes. Fish farming business is, indeed, a gold mine for any astute and serious-minded business fellow.
Starting a fish farming business is quite impressive but it is not realistic when it has not been put into action. The action makes it realistic and achievable; a wrong action may lead to failure and total loss of the business.
In a bid to proffer farmers the best information to improve their practice and smoothen their experience via this website, I engaged a savvy fish farmer with over 10 years experience on fish farming, to have a glimpse of how fish farming could be profitable and why most farmers run into a great loss.
Our discussion lasted for about 2 hours and it was centered on pond preparation, management practices in a fish farm, feeding, harvesting, and marketing of fish after harvest.
After about 2 hours chat with this experienced fish farmer, I decided to come up with this piece to liberate the beginners and the practicing fish farmers; after all, no knowledge is a waste. I have also decided to treat the farmer’s details such as name, brand name, and address, as confidential as possible.
He started by emphasizing the importance of having an action plan aside from the business plan. I tried to question him on these terms, an action plan and a business plan.
He said, every farmer or business owner does have a business plan at the beginning or at the planning stage of the business but as the business progresses, especially during the tough times, they jettison the business plan and focus on the action plan. In the real sense, the business plan is the theoretical aspect of the business while the action plan is the practical aspect of the business.
Hence, it is imperative a potential fish farmer has a tractable action plan to back up the business plan; this makes the business sail and more promising.
Fish breeding scope
We delved into the breeding scope of fish domestication for a commercial purpose; he said there are different breeds of fish that can be domesticated provided their environmental condition can be met. Domesticating fish for a commercial purpose is a dicey enterprise but very profitable; here you are taking the fish to an artificial environment, outside their natural environment.
This calls for a lot of modifications; the new environment, the pond, has to be designed in such a way that it allows the fish exhibit their inherent characters if you really want to earn well. That is the trade secret of most fish farmers. Clarias and Tilapia are mostly domesticated for commercial purpose in Nigeria.
For an easy description of the management operations in a fish farm, I decided to group he into the pre-operation and post-operation practices respectively. Now let’s look into them critically:
Fish Farming Pre-operation activities
This involves the set of activities carried at the early stage of the production; they are:
- Choice of the pond
There are different types of fishponds; we have the earthen pond, concrete pond, tarpaulin pond, and plastic pond. Each with comparative advantages; but for commercial purpose, it is best to use the earthen or concrete pond. In his words:
“These two are durable and last longer. The earthen pond is just an excavation of land to a particular depth. The fishes are housed therein. However, the concrete pond is like molding bricks to a reasonable dimension to accommodate a good number of the intended fish. Most farmers prefer the earthen pond chiefly because it is easy to manage and can also occupy a good number of fish at a time. However, I have some reservations about it”
“It is not environmental compliance, you cannot construct earthen pond effectively anywhere aside from the swampy or marshy area. The advantage of the earthen pond over the concrete pond is that it provides a natural environment for fish; thereby the production quality is high at low management practices. What this means is, your fish grow bigger to control good market price in an earthen pond but in most cases, the number of stock does not always correlate with the harvest. This is as a result of several reasons such as cannibalism, attack from predators at the juvenile age, among others.”
“The concrete pond can be constructed anywhere. This pond requires a high level of management to match up with the earthen pond. In an earthen pond, you do not sort unless you want to waste your time and labor but in a concrete pond, you must sort. The number of fish stocked in the earthen pond does correlate with the harvest because of the high management practices. The concrete pond is usually secure and safe from any fish farming hazard, mostly flood but this not so in earthen ponds. Flood almost pushed me out of the business about a decade ago before I decided to delve into a concrete pond. Some of my colleagues are still affected by the loss the incurred during the flood issue that year. It was not a good experience.”
“I do recommend the concrete ponds to most of my mentees; it is safe but requires more management to have a good harvest. If you want to be a full-time fish farmer, consider the concrete pond but if you merely want to use fish farming as an ancillary source of income, you can settle for the concrete pond”
- Water testing
“Water testing is very essential, it is the first line of action; the pH of the water has to be tested and controlled irrespective of the type of pond chosen. Water testing must be carried out to ascertain the pH of the water; a pH value of 6.5-7.5 must be attained, any value short or tall of this is detrimental to the fish, thus, requires liming to adjust the pH.”
“Soil testing should be done at every production batch to be safe from any water-related problem. Aside from testing your water, you should monitor the activities within your farm premises. This is very important if you are using the earthen pond. Runoff from the environment may contaminate the water in your pond, this has ruined a lot of fish farm business in the past. This is what led to the establishment of the fish farm estate.”
“Liming is the technique used to amend the water pH to a moderate and favorable value to suit the fish growth and development. When you test your water and observe the pH does not fall within the recommended level, it is advisable you lime the water if you want the fish to grow well. Liming can be done with quicklime or hydrated lime.”
“Fertilization is mainly done to mimic the natural habitat of the fish. When you fertilize the pond, you are simply providing the fish their natural food called the zooplankton and phytoplankton. Fertilization is very important, especially in concrete ponds. It can be done using manure or dried leaves; I use dried banana leaves because it is rich in nutrients and can spur natural fish food faster. These two materials serve as food for the fish. Please be sure you are not using kitchen waste because of the salt content; poultry manure and leaves are better.”
- Procurement of fish seeds
“At the juncture, you need to be very wary so that you do not bite your fingers at the end. Fish seeds are young fish of your desired breed, either fingerlings or juvenile, introduced to the pond for rearing.”
“You need to procure your fish seeds from a reputable hatchery; this is because some fish seeds would grow very fine at fingerlings stage but would die at the post-fingerlings stage, this is a function of the broodstock used for hatching. Do not fall prey of buying bad or unproductive fish seeds; it is best to stick to a hatchery, in case you have any problem with their fish seed, you lay your complaint.”
“The nature of the fish seeds determines their growth and well-being. Do not order fish seeds from the internet, that is the new trend, be physically present at the hatchery. Ensure you do not buy a sick or diseased fish seeds; ensure you observe the motility and activity of the fishes before evacuating them from the hatchery. Buy juvenile, they are more resistant and rugged than fingerlings.”
Fish Farming post-operation activities
Here is another stage in your production; it a very crucial state. Feeding fish is tactical; unlike poultry that eats a particular ration, tilapia fish are fed to satiation. You must not measure the feed for your fish, ensure you feed them until they are filled; this is commonly determined when a drop in their rush to feed is observed. Feeding should be done twice in a day at a particular spot.
“This is another important practice in fish farming; in earthen ponds, fish are not sorted due to the nature of the pond, once they are introduced into the pond, they only come out during harvesting. However, in a concrete pond or other ponds, they may or may not be sorted depending on the choice of the manager. Sorting fishes involves separating and arranging fish of the same size together. This will allow rapid growth and efficient feed utilization, also discourages cannibalism.”
“Though, not so common; but in case of any occurrence, like a bruise, treat sick fish with antibiotics by mixing in their water.”
“Harvesting marks the end of production: Catfish and Tilapia fish are ready for sale at about 3-4 months depending on your feeding habit and nutrient composition of the feed used. By this time, the average weight of your fishes should be 850g; they can be sold to at a cost-effective price.”
Fish farming business is undoubtedly capital intensive but has a promising return if all the necessary precautions are followed duly. Avoid overcrowding and feeding with contaminated feed; these will greatly debase the productivity of the venture. Use quality feed and ensure your fish are stocked evenly. In the end, you shall make a huge profit from the business.