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How To Start A Tropical Ornamental Fish Farming Unit

Updated on October 11, 2012

Rearing Ornamental Fish For profit

Rearing tropical fish is a satisfying hobby. You are able to watch life develop from what seems to be nothing as a result of the effort and care that you put in. It can become even more rewarding if you are able to breed fish successfully as a small business opportunity and sell the offspring to other enthusiasts.

Setting up a tropical fish rearing unit on a scale that can be profitable is not as difficult as you may imagine. There are however some areas that need special attention if you are to succeed. This article will look at the example of rearing freshwater discus fish. These are in fact moderately tricky but the resulting young fish can fetch high prices and so the effort can be well worth while.

Discus with young

The Equipment Needed

The system being described here utilises eight glass aquariaplumbed to a central filtration system. A central system reduces the amount ofwork needed to look after each tank but means that you must ensure that yourfish husbandry and hygiene procedures are top notch.

Each tank is 15 inches deep by 18 inches high by 24 incheswide and contains around 80 litres of water. The water is continually flowinginto each tank and drains out to a plastic collecting tank filled with biofiltration media. The water passes through the media and up to another smallerheader tank from which it flows by gravity back into each of the eight tanks.

Thermostatically controlled heaters are placed in thecentral collecting tank such that all water is fed to the individual tanks ataround 29 degrees centigrade. The fish room stays at not far below thistemperature and so only little power is used heating the water. Airstones areplaced in each tank and in the central collecting tank.

Stocking The Tanks

Three month old discuss are stocked into a couple of the tanks to grow on for at least nine months to become mature adults. In practice the growing fish often start pairing up and getting ready to spawn after only six months of growing on. When the fish do pair up you will need to remove them to their own tank so that they can spawn in peace. Aim to get the best five spawning pairs into their own tanks leaving a tank for the remaining fish, a tank to take juveniles and a spare tank.

Feed the adolescent fish at least twice per day and clean the bottoms of the bare tanks shortly after feeding, thus keeping the system spotlessly clean. The best food is proprietary frozen discus food or your own recipe made from beef-heart, added vitamins and other ingredients.

Soon the fish will start to demonstrate spawning behaviour. One of the benefits of the central filtration system is that the stimulating hormones secreted by maturing fish mean that when one pair begins to establish itself into a spawning ritual the other pairs will all follow suit shortly afterwards.

Eggs will be laid on the glass wall or on spawning substrate such as an inverted plant pot that you have added to the tank. It is possible to remove the fertile eggs and rear them artificially. However, to begin it is best to learn sequence by allowing the parent fish to rear their young naturally. The eggs will hatch and the little fish will slowly absorb their egg sack. Eventually they will be ready to feed and this will first be from the mucus on the parents flanks. It is an amazing sight, seeing hundreds of baby discuss swarming from one parent to the other as they feed.

Weaning The Juveniles

After around three to four weeks it will be necessary to addfood for the babies. This should initially be live food that can includerotifers and artemia. Live culture of these will need to be kept in your minihatchery and kits can be obtained from your local aquarium supplies. As thelittle fish grow, you can introduce them to fine pellet food and eventually to the same food as the parents cut very finely.

Within six to eight weeks it may be time to remove thebabies to a separate tank where they can be looked after better than when withtheir parents. The adults can also be given a rest, fed plenty of food andallowed to recover before they start all over again!

Selling The Juveniles

A breeding pair of discus may lay between 300 to 500 eggs each time but you will be lucky to rear 20 to 30 of these to juvenile stages. However, by the time they are three months old they may be worth several pounds each. You can advertise in one of the several tropical fish hobbyist magazines available, through your local aquatic stores or through a tropical fish group. Having your own web site with photos of the adults and the juveniles together with your rearing system (which must be seen to be spotless) can be a good selling forum.

In Conclusion

This article has explained the fundamental stages of setting up a small home based discus fish hatchery. A portion of a garage (so long as it is warm) or a small room can be used to house eight or more tanks easily. A unit like this can be run part time while you are working, though it is useful if there is somebody at home during the day when little juveniles are being weaned.

I have made the process sound simple. It is – but there is also a lot more to learn if you are serious about giving it a go. A good way to start would be to keep an indoor tank of six or eight discuss for a year or so to learn about their care. This time would also be spent maturing the fish into breeding pairs.

There is a lot to go wrong also. For example, at my first attempt I was able to get four breeding pairs from my first batch of bought in baby discuss. They were all laying eggs and I was getting to grips with rearing the babies – when the local water authority flushed their pipes with disinfectant. When I topped up the recirculation unit the discus unfortunately succumbed. I learned from this mistake that all water introduced to a discus recirculation system should be filtered using a combination of filters (reverse osmosis, carbon, UV etc.). A valuable lesson!

To be honest, successfully rearing baby discuss is reward in itself. However as a small business opportunity this small hatchery can both pay for itself and bring in a handy second income. Selling a couple of hundred babies every year can earn you a £1000 to £2000 ($1500 to $3000). If you are able to succeed at this scale you could consider a fully commercial unit of fifty tanks that can generate a useful income for the full time operator.However for me this will remain a hobby!


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