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How to Make Money From an Ornamental Fish Business

Updated on May 29, 2012

Why Ornamental Fish?

Ornamental fish keeping and rearing has grown over the past decades intyo a massive industry worldwide. Its popularity in Asia, USA and Europe as well as other places has ensured its place at the head of recreational industries worldwide.

Substantial international trade takes place within the ornamental fish and associated equipment industry. Therefore, as an area in which to start a business it is highly feasible with the potential for healthy profits in prosperous times and also in times of recession.

Ornamental fish keeping requires quality reliable equipment in order to keep valuable livestock healthy. Therefore, it is possible to find a niche or a general area in which to become involved that does not require many items of turnover in order to generate a reasonable income. This means that it is a business opportunity with potential to be started from a modest home base. As a way to earn extra money from home it is therefore an idea worth considering.

Do You Need a Motive to Get Started?

I first looked at the idea of rearing fish from a home base in an article about setting up a recirculation system in a garage or small spare room to rear discus fish. How to start a tropical ornamental fish farm described how to link a number of aquaria in order to create a small hatchery for these impressive fish. I estimate that for an outlay of not much more than $1000 and some careful scavenging that you could rear at least 500 two inch fish every year after an 8 month start up period - selling for anything from $3,000 and possibly up to $10,000 if your marketing skills are up to scratch!

I think it worth qualifying that this business plan is theoretical and based on results that were much along these lines but were dashed by a pollution incident. This means that the $1,000 investment is on the low side and does not include pre-water treatment etc. However, the principle is sound and the success of such a venture would depend on how much time and commitment you were prepared to put in. If you value your time at an average white collar workers level - this venture would not be profitable. If you wrote off your time, spending evenings and weekends looking after the fish, enlisting family help etc - you would make a profit. However, even $10,000 income before costs is not enough for you to give up your day job is it?

Therefore, I have revisited the whole business idea of rearing fish in your backyard/garage etc with a view to an intensive system that is easy to run and might have the chance of producing enough to pay a reasonable income. I recognise that everyone's idea of what is a reasonable income is different - and so I will use an arbitrary figure of just $50,000 per annum. You can scale it up or down as you see fit.

Is A Fifty Tank Hatchery Feasible?

In my first report I described an eight tank recirculation unit that could earn you around $3,000 each year as revenue from your hobby. What then is involved if you were to scale this up to a 50 tank unit capable of producing $50,000 profit every year?

This appears to be a six fold increase for 16 times more income. However, we are talking about increasing the tanks size, application of proper animal management techniques and efficiencies to be gained. In the eight tank system 1 or 2 of the tanks were always empty of fish waiting to take growing fish or just available - up to 25% of the available space. If only 1 or 2 tanks are available again in the 50 tank set up yopu can see that you have only 4% of the tanks unused at any one time.

In addition to 50 tanks of 100 - 250 litres each you must have a batch of small rearing tanks - say ten or so 40-50 litre tanks that will only occupy around one square meter of your hatchery space. The fifty rearing tanks could be racked in an area the size of a double gagage on secure shelving three deep. Enough space would be left over for a large primary recirculation system and a smaller early rearing tank filter - together with workbench and maybe even a little storage!

As a business opportunity expert with experience in corporate finance, accountancy and business planning, I believe that such a business run by one person, with occasional weekend relief from a relation or fellow hobbyist, could work. As a former fish farmer (the first 13 years of my career were spent farming fish intensively all around the world) and an ornamental fish hobbyist, I believe that it would be possible to rear sufficient juveniles of a number of different valuable species to meet the $50,000 profit margin noted above.

If you have the skill and access to the technology (for example knowledge how to rear live food and phytoplankton) you could potentially set up a small marine hatchery along the above lines with the possibility of raising the income level.

What a Great Challenge!

Writing about a potential ornamental fish hatchery that would make money situated in my double garage has made me focus on what a challenge it would be. Problems to overcome would be:

  • To insulate the garage so that heating costs were minimal
  • To automate the water treatment so that maintenance was not time consuming
  • To develop a feed that had a low polluting effect, was cheap to prepare and easy to store
  • To develop a maintenance routine that was easy to follow so that relief could be easily (and safely) trained to give cover
  • Generally to develop a business that required perhaps a half day input daily - less at the weekends - allowing free time to market the fish, locate stock, show stock at conferences etc.

Possibly a tall order? Possibly a project for retirement? I suspect that to achieve a successful fifty tank hatchery from a home base that does not require full time input 7 days a week will require some substantial investment in technology - filtration, feeders, lighting, systems back up etc etc. However, with these items properly sourced, a pilot scale hatchery of this size could well be a springboard for attracting proper investment in a full blown commercial ornamental fish there's a thought.


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    • Mark Jenner profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Jenner 

      6 years ago

      Many thanks for your comment

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice to read & helpful.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      hey i love this u have any pics of your recirc system.


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