Home Fishing Tips & Advice How Profitable is Fish Farming?

How Profitable is Fish Farming?

Fish farming is generally a profitable endeavor. On one hand, fish is recognized to be healthy food and is highly requested on the market. And on the other hand, fish are excellent animals to rear. They can be supported with low-cost feed and convert most of the nourishment into flesh. However, the level of profitability depends on a few factors, some of which involve the type of fish you are rearing.

In this article, we will look into the advantages of fish farming, as well as the risks. 

What is fish farming?

Fish farming or pisciculture refers to rearing and trading a variety of aquatic animals (fish, mollusks, shrimp, etc.) in an enclosed space such as a pond or a tank. It is the main form of aquaculture, while alternative methods fall under the category of mariculture (cultivation of marine organisms in an enclosed portion of the ocean). 

Why is fish farming profitable?

First of all, feed is the dominant operational expense for most fish farms and it covers around 50%-70% of all the costs, varying according to the farming intensity. This being said, it is obvious that solving the food problem, will give a great boost to the business. The good news is that you can use cheap, but nutritious food at the lower end of the food chain. Numerous fish are herbivores, which means less money will be spent on this aspect of farming. Moreover, you can even make your own fish feeds, which will definitely help you reduce the costs. Here you will find all you need to know about preparing fish feeds for your farming business. 

According to an article published on Virginia Cooperative Extension, fish can convert 70% of their feed into body tissue, which means they are among the most profitable type of livestock from this perspective. In addition, fish have great dress-out qualities. 60% of their body weight can be turned into marketable products. That means they have a larger proportion of edible, lean tissue than the majority of animals in the farming industry. 

Another significant advantage of fish farming is the fact that this type of livestock can be effectively cultured in rather small amounts of water. The fact that the waters fish is reared in is highly controlled makes the products resulted from fish less likely to pose a health threat to consumers. Healthy farm-reared fish free of diseases, pesticides, or other harmful toxins is a better alternative to wild fish raised in potentially polluted waters. 

Risks and challenges of fish farming

Like any business, fish farming will throw quite a few challenges in the way. The level of profitability will be highly dependable on your ability to handle risks and your expertise in fish farming and farming in general. Obviously, some of the factors are feeding, water, and temperature, the type of pond you use, the selling price, and the state of the market. 

According to Sunwit, other risks include the following. Fish are very sensitive creatures, which means that even the tiniest mistakes in management might lead to degradation and death of livestock. It goes without saying that such an unfortunate situation can result in a huge loss of income. Going forward, one has to know that fish farming is capital-intensive in terms of the establishment and it is unlikely any significant profit will be made before the first two fish production cycles. 

Here are some of the capital costs:

  • Land and buildings;
  • Building ponds or raceways;
  • Trucks and tractors;
  • Plumbing and pipes;
  • Tanks and aerators;
  • Oxygen meters;
  • Nets and boots;

And here is what your expenses will go into concerning the operation:

  • Purchasing eggs or fingerlings;
  • Fish feed;
  • Electricity and fuel;
  • Labor and maintenance;
  • Chemicals and drugs;
  • Taxes and insurance;
  • Telephone and transportation.

Another risk you should be aware of is the fact that, due to the production expenses, farmed fish are more expensive than other types. This being said, your competition will be high and you need to make sure the marketing department is strong enough for your product to stand aside from all the cheaper fish. Finally, in pisciculture, there is no by-product that the farmer can benefit from. To be more exact, with fish farming, all you get is the flesh of the livestock. 

Facts vs Fiction in fish farming

There are many myths out there concerning pisciculture. Before launching your new business, it’s advisable you don’t fall into the common traps of amateurs. The Fish Site debunked the fiction and replaced it with facts. Here’s what they have to say:

  1. Many people believe that any aquatic animal can be economically raised in a fish farm, when in fact, only a handful of them can be. The reason for that is the low level of control over reproduction and nutrition in the case of many species. 
  2. Even though it’s tempting to think that sites for fish farms are easy to find, it’s far from true. Most sites cannot be used due to inadequate water or soil. 
  3. Fish farming sounds like a “piece of cake” type of business, but it actually involves a lot of hard work, close management, and the ability to tolerate risks. 
  4. Another myth is the fact that fish farming is extremely profitable. While it can be rewarding, pisciculture, like other types of agriculture, rarely brings excessive profit to the farmer. 
  5. If you’re biggest passion is fishing, you might think you’re ready to go and kick start your fish farming business. Actually, the best background is farming.
  6. Many might fall into the trap of thinking farming is a great retirement activity. They are right, if one plans to be extremely active during retirement. Fish farming requires a lot of work and can be significantly stressful, especially if you do not have a background in farming or business. 

Types of fish farming

You might be wondering what are the main types of fish farming and what are the differences between them. According to Sunwit, these are the types of pisciculture you should know about:

  • Fish Hatchery: This type of fish farming usually involves shrimp, Tilapia, Salmon, Scallops, Crap fish, and many others. The hatchery is an artificial fish-breeding spot where reproduction, hatching, and growth throughout different life-stages take place.
  • Tilapia fish farming: It’s significant protein content, fast growth, and large size make this type of fish more profitable than many other types. 
  • Shrimp farming: The list of profitable types of fish farming continues with shrimp. Being in such high demand, this kind of aquatic animal will most likely bring you money. 
  • Crab farming: With great pricing and high acceptance in the market, rearing crabs can be a wise choice. They require very little space, which will allow you to produce large quantities in a small area while reducing land and labor costs. 
  • Prawn farming: Here is another profitable niche due to the high demand for prawn on the market. 
  • Ornamental Fish farming: These are beautiful fish that charmed a great number of people. They are profitable and have a great market.
  • Cat Fish farming: This is one of the most common types of fish farming. It is very profitable and does not require high startup costs. Moreover, this type of pisciculture is profitable enough for farmers to combine it with other kinds of fish. 
  • Carp Fish farming:This type of fish has a great market attached to it. Being an omnivorous kind of fish, the Carp will not require a lot of feed costs. 
  • Salmon Fish farming:  Even though it is a carnivorous fish, this business can be very profitable due to the high demand. 
  • Indoor Fish farming: If you are not ready to dive into a huge business, it’s perfectly fine to start with a small tank in your backyard, for very little money, and do some business. 

Final advice about fish farming

Before starting your fish farming business, make sure you do your research and consult with experienced fish farmers or experts in the field. Plan well and asses correctly your resources, the costs that will come in. Do not forget to study the market for the type of fish you want to rear in order to predict success. Like any business, the risk of failure is there, so don’t jump in before you have a backup plan in case it fails.

You can start by answering the question asked in the Virginia Cooperation Extension study. These questions refer to economics, marketing, the physical aspect, the production, the legal aspect, and risk assessment. You will also find a list of well-known Fish Farming Publications that might help you in the journey of establishing a successful business in this field: magazines, newsletters, Journal/technical publications, a list of books on Fish Farming, and a list of organizations active in the field. 

To conclude, if done right, fish farming can be a very profitable and fulfilling business. However, this is should not encourage you to jump in unprepared. As we already mentioned, fish farming comes with many risks and challenges that need to be overcome for the profit to be significant.