Aquaculture: Fish Farming on Sustainable Homestead Farms
Aquaculture, the farming of fish and other seafood, is the technique of rearing seafood, especially fish, and is a rapidly growing homestead farming process that has become very popular, especially in the developing countries. Fish farming is the only solution for the sustenance of a healthy fish diet because this essential animal product has been slowly depleted from its natural source, for many years.
The fact that fish is a great source of high-quality animal protein, there grew an urgent need to increase the production of this essential food. Sustainable aquaculture soon became an urgent matter that required urgent attention.
Homestead farming is now responsible for the ever-increasing share of the global aquatic food production and its advantages can never be over-emphasised.
Basically, homestead fish farming is the breeding and culture of fish for both consumption and retail. The sizes of a homestead fish farms can range from a single tank installed on a concrete base in your backyard to larger scale farms that have numerous fish ponds, majorly for industrial aquaculture enterprises.
Types of Sustainable Homestead Aquaculture Farms
Sustainable aquaculture ponds required for fish farming range in size from a few square metres to several hectares. There are the smaller sized ponds used for hatchlings, spawning, or fingerlings (baby fish) production while the larger ponds hold the growing fishes at differing stages of growth.
For the growing period, the fish are transferred to larger sized ponds, where they are fed and left to grow, until harvest time. However, ponds that are excessively large will become difficult to manage by the farmers.
There are three main systems or techniques employed for sustainable aquaculture fish farming:
- Homestead farming
- Semi-intensive farming
- Intensive aquaculture
Homestead farming – This is a fish farming technique where the labour input is usually low. A family or a couple of partners can set this up and manage it efficiently, with low economic input. Natural fish production plays a major role in this system of fish farming but to increase fertility in homestead farms, fertilizers may be used. However, the system’s productivity is relatively low.
Semi-intensive farming – The techniques used is as its name describes it. Semi-intensive fish farming requires a moderate level of labour and economic inputs. Fish production is increased by using fertilizers and some form of supplementary feeding which results in a fairly higher fish yield during fish harvesting.
Intensive aquaculture – This fish farming technique requires a great amount of fish stock, baby fish or fingerlings. The system of fish farming requires a high level of labour input and running costs. Fishes are fed with supplementary feed and fertilizer mix because a large-scale yield is an objective. Natural fish food production plays a minor role in intensive aquaculture.
Constructing a Fish Pond
The type and size of a fish pond a farmer builds will depend on land availability, local resources, equipment, and climatic conditions.
The best ponds are usually located on land with a gentle slope and are mainly built in rectangular or square shapes but some fish farms have a circular pond which as some farmers believe, are best for swimming fish. However, round ponds take up more space than the square or rectangular ones, so the majority of farmers avoid building round ponds.
Other things that determine the type of pond to construct are:
- The shape of available land
- and, Depth
Shape - Square and rectangular shaped fish ponds are the fastest and easiest to build, but your pond can have a different shape, as mentioned earlier, depending on the shape of your land.
Size - An average area of 200 m² is a good size for a family fish pond and can be built without the use of machinery or extensive labour. But aquaculture ponds can be much larger than this. In smaller farms, it is better to have several small ponds rather than one large one. This will ensure that you can harvest your fish continuously.
Depth - The water depth is usually an average of 30cm at the shallow end and 150cm at the deepest end. This may vary slightly, depending on the farmland’s topography.
There are 9 major building steps required to construct fish ponds.
- Site preparation – This is done by removing trees, bushes, rocks, or grass, and the top layer of soil containing roots and leaves in the area where the pond is to be built.
- Build a clay core if you are constructing a surface pond. This will serve as the foundation for the pond dyke, and make it strong, preventing water leaks. If you are building an excavated pond, you don’t need to have a clay core.
- Dig the pond and build the dykes.
- Build the inlet and outlet.
- Protect the pond dykes.
- Fence the pond.
- Fill the pond with water
- Fertilize the pond.
- Stock the fish.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Homestead Fish Farming
Homestead fish farming has a good number of advantages and a few disadvantages. Advantages of aquaculture on a farmstead basis are:
- It can be easily integrated into an existing crop farming structure. Not only is it a good way to create an extra income, but it will also improve the water management of the farm.
- Fish provides high-quality animal protein, a food that’s required and recommended for healthy human consumption. In the event that fish supplies dwindle in the seas and rivers as they have today due to water pollution and other man-made blunders, sustainable aquaculture fish farming is the only way left to ensure the sustenance of a healthy fish diet.
- It has become a great source of nutrition, especially in developing countries with the scarcity of food issues.
- With sustainable homestead aquaculture, there is the advantage of easier farming control and the choice of which fish to breed. Harvesting can be done at will because the farm is close at hand and secure. And as long as the fish stay healthy and are well fed, the yield will be great.
- The stock is the fish farmers personal property.
- Creation of employment.
- There is an advantage of effectively using 'barren' land that is unfit or too expensive to use for any type of food agriculture and as long as this type of land is suitably prepared for sustainable aquaculture, it will turn out to be a profitable venture after all. This means you can use any available land effectively.
The disadvantages of homestead fish farming include:
- Not having much room for expansion in the farm, if all available space has ponds constructed on it.
- Not having enough space for expansion means the output at harvest time may not exceed a fixed number.
- Overstocking of ponds and keeping fish in close proximity with each other increases the chances of diseases.
- Fish farms can have a harmful effect on the local environs and can contribute to water pollution if not managed efficiently.
Aquaculture and Agency Concerns
Worldwide groups and agencies call for better ways of managing fish farms. They want the enforcement of laid down regulations to protect the consumers and are asking for more intense research on sustainable aquaculture practices, and the sharing of information on sound fish farming policies.
Worldwide, regional, including local agencies and those concerned with the welfare of animals, are all involved in this laudable effort, as are the environmentalists and food resource managers. Responsible sustainable aquaculture fish farming is achievable and will continue to become an increasingly important part of carefully maintaining the earth’s water resources.
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