Fish farming is simply the production of fish, shrimps and other aquatic animals. Fish Farming in Nigeria is one of the popular and lucrative agriculture that can be done on very small scale, medium scale and large scale. Some families go into this farming in small scale to provide fish for family consumption while some go into large scale production for commercial purposes and thereby providing for the family through the profits gotten from fish selling either locally or internationally by exportation.
Before I dive into the topic “how to start fish farming in Nigeria or construction of fish ponds”, let’s first of all understand what fish is and terminologies used when discussing about fish in agriculture.
Terminologies used in Fish Farming
Fisheries: This is simply the study of fish and fishes
Fish: This is a specific specie, regardless of fish type
School: It is a group of fish
Fry: Young fishes
Fingerlings: Newly hatched fishes that are usually put inside fish pond to mature
Hatchery: This is the place where fish eggs are incubated and hatched into fish.
Gears: It is an equipment used in harvesting fishes
Fish Pond: Artificially constructed water used in the keeping or rearing of fish.
Aquarium: Artificial pond kept for aesthetic purposes at home. Breeds of fish are divided into bony and cartilaginous fish based on morphology.
Bony Fish: Their skeletal axis consists of bones e.g. cichlid or tilapia, mud fish, carp, trout, cod (stockfish), mackerel, catfish, bass, salmon, perch, herring, eel (electric fish).
Cartilaginous Fish: Their skeletal axis consists of cartilages and not bones e.g. shark, salmon, dolphin, dog fish, skate, ray.
Fishery Regulations: A set of laws and runs from the government to regulate fish farming in Nigeria.
Classifications of Fish
Fishes can be classified based on (1) habitat and (2) body structure
Classification of Fish Based on Habitat:
Salt Water Fish: This water contains salt, for instance ocean and sea. The fish(es) present include the following; Tunas, Mackerel, Eel, Shark, Skate, Ray.
Fresh Water Fish: This water has no salt, for instance rivers, streams, ponds, springs, etc. The Fish(es) present are the following; trout, pike, carp, perch, tilapia, mud fish.
Classification of Fish Based on Body Structure:
Bony Fishes: These fishes possess bony skeletons. Examples include tilapia, mudfish, carps, trout, catfish, salmon, perch. Most of them are found in fresh water.
Cartilaginous Fishes: These fishes possess soft bones composed of cartilages. Majority of them are found in salt water e.g. Shark, Dolphin, Rays, etc.
Types of Fish Pond
There are basically four types of fish ponds used to keep or grow fish in Nigeria and they are:
Nursery Pond: In this type of fish pond, both male and female fish are reared to lay together.
Hatching Pond: In this type of fish pond, fertilized eggs are hatched into fry until they develop to fingerlings.
Rearing Pond: This is a type of fish pond where fingerlings are reared.
Growing Ponds: Fishes are raised here until they are matured for eating or marketing.
Importance of Fish Farming
- It serves as a rich source of food by supplying protein.
- The selling of fish and fish products can generate income to the fish farmer.
- It provides foreign exchange for a country like the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Denmark and Sweden who rely on fish and fish products.
- Fish and fish products can be processed into fish meal for feeding animals.
- It’s a good source of employment, be it direct fishing or allied industries.
- It puts our water and land into a better use.
- Fish(es) can also help us to recycle our domestic wastes.
- It provides good form of educational activities for students and researchers.
- Fish can also help to increase the dietary protein requirement at a very cheap cost in areas where animal protein may be too high to purchase.
10 Main Conditions Necessary for Siting a Fish Pond in Nigeria
To succeed in fish farming in Nigeria, you should make sure the basic conditions for siting a fish pond are met. The conditions or requirements includes:
- Availability of Water: Fish(es) are aquatic animals, as their life depends entirely on water. The water must be free from pollutants, color, smell and taste. The sources may be streams, rivers, boreholes or springs.
- Availability of Fingerlings: For better productivity, you should go for the fast-growing fingerlings types. They should have high feed convertibility. Ideally, the fingerlings must be ready to be harvested at about six months from the time of hatching.
- Vegetation of the Place: Light vegetation is ideal, preferably grassland. This will be easy to clear, stump and excavate before siting the fish pond.
- Topography: Use a flat land, there should be a gentle flow of water from a higher region to a lower region. The area must not be filled with floods, but if floody, then construct embankment and other barriers early enough.
- Soil Particles: The floor of the area must contain clay soil because this helps to retain water. Additionally, the soil must be very rich in order to survive the fingerlings.
- Size and Location: The size depends on the availability of funds, and the type of fish farming to be practiced. So, for commercial fish farming in Nigeria, a large expanse of land is necessary. The location can be either in the lowland or upland.
- Availability of Feeds: Fishes are usually supplied with supplementary feeds especially during the day. this includes kitchen products, vegetables as well as manure and fertilizers which should be supplied to enhance the growth of plankton.
- Location of the Hatchery: The hatchery should not be too far from the fish pond. fingerlings are very fragile and die off easily, hence when released from the hatchery must be sent immediately into the pond.
- Location of the Market: For peasant farmers, the distance from the pond to the market must be near because of the adequacy of storage and or processing units. In commercial farms, the distance between the market and the pond does not matter since processing and storage units are readily available.
- Availability of Labor: The availability of labor should also be considered. Fish pond should be in a place where labour supply is high, since the work is labour-intensive, that is, clearing, stumping, excavating and processing activities.
Construction and Establishment of Fish Pond
Before fish pond is built, some operations must be carried out. They include the following: (1) site selection (2) surveying of the land (3) clearing and stumping of site (4) construction of dam (5) construction of core trench (6) construction of spillway (7) impediment of pond (8) pond fertilization (9) pond inoculation (10) liming.
- Choose the best land.
- The piece of land must have a perennial stream flow.
- The soil must be fertile with clay soil in order to prevent high porosity and seepage.
- If a valley is to be selected, it must have a narrow neck.
- The site should be in a fairly open environment.
Surveying of the Land
- A detailed survey of the chosen site must be carried out.
- Extension workers are required to also carry out a generalized survey of the site.
- Surveying of the land has some benefits like:
i) determination of the height of pond.
ii) volume of the earth to be used for dyke.
iii) determination of the total water surface area.
iv) measurement of the volume of water in the pond/embankment.
Clearing and Stumping of Site
- This helps to remove trash from the site where fish pond is to be constructed.
- Trees around the area should be trimmed or cutoff.
- Stumps should be removed in this stage as well.
Construction of Dam
- The dam should be constructed across the stream
- You should use good quality building materials in constructing dam for fish pond
- Also, use clay soil for dam construction.
Construction of Core Trench
- This process involves the removal of soil
- Soil can also be excavated
- Position should be at right angle to the dam
- Consolidate walls with stones and cements.
Construction of Spillway
- Position at one end of dam
- Use wood and fire-meshed screen.
Impoundment of Pond
- Filling of pond with water
- Done by opening monk board of the reservoir
- Water released to flow and fill pond.
- Microflora grows better with fish fertilizers
- By applying organic fertilizers like poultry droppings, cow dung or use of inorganic fertilizers such as N-P-K, or super phosphate or liming.
- Fertilization should be done at least two weeks before stocking pond with fish.
- In this process, you need to introduce proper plankton species into the fish pond
- Get some water from a plankton-rich pond and pour into a newly fertilized pond
- To prevent water loss from the fish pond, you need to add calcium carbonate (CaCO3) powder to the bottom of the pond.
- Liming decreases acidity of pond water
- It helps in the growth of Planktons
What Are the Features of a Standard Fish Pond
A standard fish pond should have the following features: Dam, Core trench, Monk, Boards, distribution channel, screen, spillway and dam slopes (inner and outer)
Note: We had already discussed Dam, core trench, spillway, etc earlier on this post under the operations carried out before establishing a fish pond.
So other features of a standard fish pond are:
- Water is introduced in the pond
- All the sections of the pond gets water supplied to adequate volume
- It helps in distribution of fertilizer in the pond
- Monk helps regulate water level automatically
- It helps in the flushing of water from both surface and bottom
- It has the vertical lower and horizontal culverts or pipes and made up of concretes.
- Two pairs are provided which includes clay material inbetween in order to check leakages
- Boards are fitted either at the center of slabs at the gates
- Boards are made with suitable woods
- They help in regulation of water flow
- It can also hold water inside the fish pond
- Screens prevents unwanted fishes from entering the pond
- They also helps to control fish movement in and out of the pond
Dam – Slopes (Inner and Outer
- It ensures steady availability of water in the pond
- It is fitted at the beginning and end of the pond.
How to Stock a Fish Pond
Stocking of fish pond can be defined as the introduction of fish into a fish pond. It also means the number of a particular species of fish a fish pond can accommodate at a time. If only one specie of fish is stocked, this is called monoculture while more than one specie is known as Poly-culture. The fish must have the same growth and other living habits.
The following species of fish are ideal for fish pond stocking:
a.) The carp e.g. cyprinus Carpio
b.) Cichlid e.g. Tilapia zilli
c.) Milk fish e.g. red mullets (mugil cephalus)
d.) Cat fish (Clarias Lazera)
When filling the pond with the fingerlings, adequate care must be taken not to kill them. The container from the hatchery should be placed inside the pond and the fingerlings allowed to swim out on their own. Do not pour them into the pond.
To succeed in Fish farming in Nigeria, you must make sure the fish pond is carefully maintained and you can do so by first following the guidelines below.
How to Maintain a Fish Pond
Fish supply from the pond should be the paramount interest of the farmer, therefore he will do anything humanly possible to stop anything that will bring sadness to him, hence he must carry out some or all of the following activities to maintain the pond.
- Supplementary feeding
- Regular weeding
- Removal of silt
- Supply of air
- Ensuring good and constant water supply
- Eradication of pests and diseases
- Application of manure and fertilizer
- regular harvesting
- control of predators.
This is very essential in commercial intensive farms. The feeds should be rich in vitamins, protein, carbohydrate and other food substances.
Weeds tend to suffocate the fishes, pollute the water and introduce pests and diseases. They should be removed regularly either by allowing animals to graze on it or by spraying certain herbicides like sodium arsenite, sodium chlorate, 2,4,D and Dalapon. Since herbicides are poisonous, they should be applied before stocking the fish pond.
Silt causes pollution, leads to dirtiness of the pond and also reduces migration of fish, so it should be removed early enough from the pond.
In order for air to circulate freely, the pond should not be overstocked, weeds should be removed, manure and fertizer should not be applied in excess.
Water supply must be adequate, the water should be slightly acidic and slightly alkaline or pH of 5 to 9 and surface temperature should be between 21 degrees Celsius and 32 degree Celcius.
Pests and Diseases:
They must be controlled by maintaining adequate stocking and application of necessary drugs like malachite green, copper sulphate, dipterex and bromex.
Manures and Fertilizers:
These are essential in order to encourage the growth of planktons in the pond, thereby making food available to the fish.
Fish normally matures as from seven months, so they should be harvested in order to avoid overcrowding, vices like cannibalism, disease outbreak and starvation. Use any recommended harvesting methods listed below.
Control of Predators:
Predators like snakes, rats, and birds should be prevented from entering the Fish pond.
Understanding Fishing Tools
Fishing tools are equipment used in fish farming and there two types of fishing tools: those that can catch all the fish at the same time and those that can catch only the mature ones at a particular time. The tools are also known as “fishing gears”. The gears to be used are listed below.
- Baskets: They are used in streams and shallow rivers. The basket is placed under some weeds and as fishes swim in, it is suddenly raised up. The water drains off and the fishes are left inside the basket.
- Hooks and Lines: The hook is tied to a long stick. The hook is curved and has a bait (something to attract fishes) which may be a small fish, earthworm or snail. While the fish is trying to eat the bait, it will be hooked in its mouth, then it is caught.
- Fishing Net: This can be made of threads, wire, or bamboo. the net has different mesh size, based on the size of fish it is meant to catch. The method involves keeping the net inside the pond and as the fishes swim into it, they are trapped. There are different types of net for harvesting fish. they include: (a) Scoop Net – which is used when the pond is being drained. as the pond is drained, the scoop net is used to collect all the fishes regardless of age and size. This may not be very good in a polycultural pond where the fish(es) may be of different maturity ages. (b) Gill Net – the mesh size is between 2 and 3 CM, and used to catch big fishes whose gills get stuck inside the net. It is selective in harvesting because it captures only mature fishes. (c) Senine Net – this is non-selective in harvesting, and used to harvest both young and mature fish(es) because it has a small mesh. it has lead sinkers (weights) and floats which are attached to the top ropes thereby forming an enclosure where fish is trapped and cannot escape. (d) Drag Net – This is a large form of the senine net. It is wider and bigger in size. the size is about 15 metres by 20 metres. It is tied to canoe or boat and can be be used in fishing in big rivers or seas and catches large quantity of fish of different sizes. (e) Cast Net – This is a conical falling net with lead weights attached along the open end. The net is between 4 – 7 meters in length and a line of about 4 – 10 meters used in retrieving the net. When fish is sighted, it is thrown into into the water. It sinks and later encloses the fish. The net is drawn carefully with the fish trapped inside.
- Traps: They designed with bird cages. A bait is placed inside which lures the fish until it is caught by the fishermen. Only few fishes can be caught with traps.
- Electro-Fishing: This is a non-selective method of harvesting in which electrical current is passed through the pond creating an electric field in an enclosed area and later all the fishes are shocked and killed.
- Ultrasonic: This is a noise-making device which attracts or lures fishes to a particular corner of the pond before the fisherman can then catch them.
- Impaling: This is an energy-tasking process which is also a selective method of harvesting fishes. It involves the use of spears or harpoons to attack and catch big fishes.
- Pond Draining: This method is only common in small ponds where the whole water is drained and the scoop net is used to catch all fishes.
- Trawlers: This is usually used in commercial fish farming by very big fishing companies in Nigeria. They are attached to ships and drawn into deep sea. It catches fish of very large sizes, and also has units for reserving such fishes caught. The bottom of the trawler is installed with propeller which it uses in cutting fishes. It is usually non-selective in harvesting.
Still on how to start fish farming in Nigeria …
Fish Preservation in Nigeria
There are basically seven methods of preserving fish in Nigeria which includes; (1) sun drying (2) smoking (3) refrigeration (4) canning (5) preparing into fish meal (7) frying.
1. Sun Drying:
This is the physical removal of water through evaporation. It involves the exposure of the fish to sunshine.
- It is a cheap method of preservation.
- It requires little labor in spreading the fish and removal from sunlight.
- The dried fish produces a peculiar taste and flavor preferred by local people.
- Flies may perch on it, laying eggs which developed into maggots.
- It is usually contaminated with dust, sand and other foreign particles.
This is the oldest form of fish preservation in Nigeria, Africa and the World at large. The process involves placing fish over fire for sometimes. This can be done daily, until the fish is sold or consumed. The water content of the fish also reduces in the process. My grandma still uses this process to preserve fish and in Nigerian market, it is called “smoked fish”.
- The smoked fish produces a peculiar taste and flavor preferred by local people.
- Smoked fish is used in preparing several Nigerian soups and the popular Nigerian jellof rice.
- It is also cheap, because it is done after cooking, just before the glowing charcoal goes down.
- The fish may be burnt in the process of smoking it.
- There is a tendency for it to be infested with maggot from houseflies.
- Sometimes it is contaminated with soil particles.
- Sometimes it is charred, but semi-rotten inside.
This is the application of an appreciable quantity of salt on the surface of fresh fish. It is widely used in fish producing areas.
- It produces good quality fish products.
- Can be used in preserving fish for up to 3 years.
- Maggots cannot infest the fish.
- It leads to over 80% weight loss of fish.
This is the process of keeping fish in refrigerators where cold temperature is applied to the fish until ice is formed over the fish. The frozen fish will be kept in this state until it is ready for consumption.
- The freshness of the fish is retained.
- The fish can be preserved as long as it is frozen.
- There is no weight loss in fish.
- It is the most modern form of preserving fish.
- It is very expensive to buy a refrigerator.
- It’s also expensive to buy power generator and petrol to provide electricity needed to power freezers.
- In fact, it’s not ideal for small fish farmers because they cannot afford and maintain a cold room.
- In case of power failure, fish may rot and become useless.
This is the process of placing fish in a sterile can, then sealed by machines. It is the most recent commercial process of fish preservation in this part of the world.
- There is no contamination of dust and soil particles.
- Maggot cannot infest the canned fish.
- The taste and flavor are pleasant to both local and urban people.
- Stays up to 6 months or more.
- Ideal for sardine, salmon and shrimps.
- It is very expensive to practice, hence poor fish farmers cannot go into it.
- There is tendency of food poisoning if the hygiene level is suspect and if the fish expires.
- It requires the services of highly trained personnel.
6. Fish Meal:
This is the process of converting fish and other products into fish meal which is used in feeding livestock. It involves the collection of fish, fish bones, which are later steamed or dried and then ground and stored for livestock.
- Provides proteins, vitamins, mineral salts and lipids to livestock.
- Over 40% of the world’s fish production is converted into fish meal.
- Maggots cannot infest it.
- It is labor intensive.
- The collection of fish and fish products may not be pleasant to the eyes.
7. Fish Frying:
This is the process whereby cleaned fish is fried in its oil or in other oils. This method is more common in the Southern part of Nigeria, especially PortHarcourt, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta and Akwaibom states.
- It produces a peculiar taste and flavor which are pleasant to everybody.
- Fish can be kept for a long time after frying.
- It can be contaminated with sand particles.
- It is believed that fried foods can cause cancer.
- It is dangerous as the person may be burnt by the fish oil.
- It is time-consuming.
Still on Fish farming in Nigeria (A – Z guide)…
Fishery Regulations and Laws in Nigeria
Fishery regulations are laws or set of rules governing the exploitation and other practices of Fishery resources, especially in open access water. Fishery regulations are also laws made by the government in order to control and protect fish harvesting so that they do not go into extinction and for there to be regular supply from time to time.
Some states like Lagos, Rivers State, Akwaibom, Delta, etc have their own fishing regulation but we will list the general regulation that controls fishing activities in Nigeria in general.
Having said that, the fishery regulations decree was first promulgated in 1971 under the General Yakubu Gowon regim. The regulations are:
- No vessels (except canoes) shall fish within the first two nautical miles of the territorial waters of the Nigerian continental shelf.
- No person shall operate or navigate any motor fishing boat within the territorial waters of Nigeria unless a liscence in respect to that vessels has been issued.
- There is ban on the use of chemicals and explosives because they are not selective in killing.
- Coastal areas are to be constantly under surveillance to restrict foreign vessels from exploitation.
- Fishery personnel are usually out to land sites to restrict sale of fishes which have unacceptable fish size assessment.
- Identified breeding section of water may be restricted from fishing since this will disturb the development and breeding of fish.
- Fishing is banned during the rainy season which coincides with the breeding season of fish while active fishing is allowed during the dry season.
- Landing tax is introduced based on total catch and size of fish at landing site.
- Fishing areas are allocated to individual fishermen as to curb indiscriminate interference within large fishing areas.
- The licensing procedure is enforced in certain areas so that the number of fishermen having access to fishing areas is reduced drastically.
- Number of fishing efforts and number of fishes caught are reduced by limiting period of fishing in a particular water just for a few hours or once a week.
- Certain fishing equipment that can remove both mature and young fishes at the same time are not permitted to be used by fishermen so that the young fishes may not be destroyed e.g. scoop net, fishing trawlers.
- A fisherman is only allowed to catch a specific quantity of fish at a particular time.
- There must be a regular stocking of a compatible species in order to increase the population of fishes in water
Fishing farming has to do with all the activities concerned with the production of fish(es). Some of the terms used in fish farming include aquaculture, fishery, fish, fishes, school, fry, fingerlings, hacthery, gears, pond, aquarium, harvesting, etc.
Based on morphology, there are two major breeds of fish – bony fish and cartilaginous fish. Examples of bony fishes are orchid, tilapia, mud fish, carp, trout, cod (stock-fish), catfish, bass salmon,perch, herring, eels (electric fish). Examples of cartilaginous fishes are shark, dolphin, dog fish, skate, ray, etc.
Fish farming is important for the following reason- supply of food, income, foreign exchange, used in industries, employment, research. The condition necessary for the establishment of fish pond are- availability of water, availability of fingerlings, vegetation, nature of land, availability of feed, size and location, location of hatchery market and availability of labor.
Steps in the establishment of a fish pond are site selection, surveying of the land, clearing and stumping of site, construction of dam, construction of core trench, construction of spillway, impoundment of pond, pond fertilization, pond inoculation and liming.
Fishing tools include baskets, hooks and lines, nets, traps, electro-fishing, ultrasonic, impaling, pond draining, trawlers, etc. Fishes are preserved in the following ways – sun drying, smoking, salting, refrigeration, canning, preparation into fish meal and frying. In order to prevent the extinction of fishes in our open water and to ensure its regular supply from time to time, fishery regulations are put in place.
That is all about Fish farming in Nigeria and building and maintenance of fish ponds.