WANT TO BE A FISH FARMER ?

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SO, YOU WANT TO BE A FISH FARMER Your Water is Worth More Than You Think !

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I once had a visit from the Israeli aquaculture department. He was looking at the Australian aquaculture industry. During his visit to my fish hatchery in Queensland, he made the comment that, “Australia does so little with so much.” By that he meant that we did not use our precious water to its fullest potential.

In a country like Israel water is liquid gold. They can’t afford the luxury of only using their water resources once. Your water is worth more than you thought. You can easily use the water from your fishponds or tanks to grow vegetables. Whether you need to use your water more than once, or not, there are still questions to be asked. 

• There are several Australian freshwater fish that are ideal species for aquaculture. What fish is best for your situation? 

• Do you realise that you are starting a business? Many people have entered aquaculture without realising they are starting a business. It’s not just a “side line”, it’s a business on its own. You need to consider; do you have the time to manage another business on top of your existing agricultural activities?

• Do you have the necessary skills to grow fish? Probably not, but they can be learned. Do you have the time and commitment to learn a new skill?

Let’s look at each question, so you have an idea if you have what it takes to become, a fish farmer. 

Factors to consider. Which fish should you choose, the culture method and the climate in your area?

There are three main ways to grow fish, extensively in ponds, or intensively in ponds, or highly intensively in tanks. Extensively in ponds means no feeding, or very little feeding with very low stocking density. The number of fish in the pond is so low that it is unlikely that the fish will have any affect on the water quality. This is much like nature. A lake or river has a natural number of fish that can survive under normal conditions. There is little risk that fish can die.

Intensively in ponds, means the fish are fed regularly, and the water is usually aerated to keep the oxygen at opium levels for fish growth. The water quality is managed to keep the fish in suitable conditions to grow at a commercial rate. There is a higher risk that fish can die.

Intensively in tanks, means the fish are kept and grown in a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) designed to handle high stocking densities, and high feeding rates. Most water quality parameters are constantly monitored. The water is filtered through sophisticated systems. Oxygen is often directly injected into the water. There is much higher risk that fish can die. If your climate does not suit the fish species you must be able to manage the conditions to suit the fish. This can only be done economically in tanks, in an insulated shed, using a Recirculating Aquaculture System, or RAS. In a RAS you are able to control the fish’s environment completely, from the temperature to the oxygen level in the water. A RAS is expensive to set up, and expensive to operate, but it does allow you to culture a very large number of fish in a relatively small area. A RAS should only be chosen if you really know what you are doing. They are highly technical and unforgiving, both biologically and financially. A RAS is ideal for growing, eels, Murray cod, barramundi, jade perch, golden perch (only the strain from the Lake Eyre Basin) and sleepy cod. There may be a few other species, which could also prove suitable for production in a RAS, but the species listed above have already proven themselves. (Only Australian native freshwater fish are listed.)

The other method of production is in ponds. Pond production is more forgiving and generally cheaper to operate. They are also much cheaper to build. The limiting factor is your climate. The species you choose to grow must be suitable for your climate. For cooler climates, silver perch are best. For warm climates, jade perch or silver perch. For tropical climates, jade perch or barramundi. Even silver perch can be grown in a tropical climate in some circumstances. Murray cod are a species that prefer cooler climates and crowded conditions. Crowding is necessary because this species is territorial. When crowded they can’t form territories. These factors make Murray cod a better species for a RAS.

Choosing to enter into aquaculture is choosing to open a new business. It’s not a “side line” or a hobby. In most jurisdictions you will need to get a permit or licence to grow fish commercially. In all situations you will need to know how to produce a good quality product and most important, how to market your product. A poor-quality product will not get you a good price, and you will soon gain a bad reputation.

Consistent supply is also important. Customers need to know they can count on your ability to provide product throughout the year. Also you will need to know how to get your product ready for market. Fish need to be “market prepared.” Fresh water fish can have a muddy, or musky flavour if not properly prepared for market. This is known as “off flavour” or pond flavour. Professional fish farmers know how to prepare their fish so they don’t have “off flavour.”

You will need a purging system, appropriate harvesting equipment, water testing equipment, and a suitable supply of quality water. You probably won’t already know how to keep fish and grow them efficiently, and profitably. Learning how to do this is essential. There are many ways to do this. You could employ a manager to run your fishy business who already has the experience needed. You can also talk to people who are already in the finfish business, but whatever you do, don’t start to build your fish business until you have studied the subject thoroughly. You can start right here on this website.  YouTube is also a good source of information. For example the jadeperchman channel has three levels of information. There are many free videos, as well as two levels of pay to view content. See these webpages for details. My consulting service     About me     Premiun client videos