Fish farming basics
Many entrepreneurs are diving head first into the world of aquaculture. Fish farming has the potential of being a profitable and interesting enterprise, but there are some problems of which to be aware before making a significant investment.
Any fish or aquatic animal can be economically raised on a fish farm, right?
“Most can’t be,” said Marley Beem, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension aquaculture specialist. “The lack of control over reproduction and nutrition makes the farming of many desirable species impractical.”
Twenty-five gallons per minute of water is needed to fill and maintain each acre of production pond. In addition, soils with good water holding capacity are essential for pond construction. However, once a site is found many new fish farmers believe it will be smooth sailing.
“Fish farming is much like dairy farming—it requires close management, hard work and the ability to tolerate risk,” said Beem. “As in other types of agriculture, the level of profit is seldom excessive.”
The idea of running a fish farm may be attractive to people who have fished their entire lives. However, experience with farming will be more beneficial for skills like operating a tractor, equipment repair and welding.
New farmers will have to decide which type of production system to use. While most fish in the country are produced in smooth-bottomed ponds filled by wells that generate on the order of 1,000 gallons per minute, water resources like this are rare in Oklahoma.
“The production system that is best for your situation will depend on the water source available,” Beem said. “Existing lakes and ponds are seldom suitable for fish culture due to harvest problems.”
Wells, reservoirs and creeks can be used to fill smooth bottomed ponds, and springs or gravity flow from a reservoir can be used for continuous flow tanks and raceways. There are several other systems, which have been tested and proven successful.
“To narrow these down and finally arrive at a detailed plan for one production system, you will need to read as much information as you can and then visit with aquaculture Extension specialists and experienced fish farmers,” said Beem. “A proven species and type of production facility is almost always the best choice. Imitation, not innovation, is the key.”
With a more solid idea of the industry, those continuing their pursuit of a fish farm need to decide what types of fish and aquatic animals they wish to produce. For insight on various species, check Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet NREM-9201.
Beem suggests starting small and learning as you grow.
“No matter how well you plan your aquaculture enterprise, you will learn a great deal during your first few years of operation,” he said. “Starting small will allow you the flexibility to improve your facilities and time to develop your markets while minimizing your risk.”