Aquaculture In Bangladesh – Production Guide

Aquaculture in Bangladesh

The aquaculture industries play an important role in the Bangladeshi economy. Bangladesh is one of the world’s leading fisheries producers inland and the fishery is one of the biggest and most common sources of food. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Bangladesh is the 6th largest aquaculture-producing country in the world. The fish culture and consumption have important implications for national income and food security. The fisheries sector is a major driver for growth in Bangladesh. Marine and coastal fisheries have important potential for sustainable and higher production.

The fisheries sector in Bangladesh is divided mainly into 4 sub-sectors. Those are inland capture, inland culture, mariculture (artisanal fisheries), and marine industrial fisheries. Bangladesh has a huge water resource in the form of small ponds, ditches, lakes, canals, small and large rivers, and estuaries because it is one of the world’s leading inland fisheries producers and. Freshwater aquaculture mainly involves pond aquaculture especially the polyculture of native and exotic species.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Aquaculture In Bangladesh

Guide to Aquaculture In Bangladesh
Guide to Aquaculture In Bangladesh (Image credit: pixabay)

Main Objectives of Aquaculture in Bangladesh

Aquaculture production in Bangladesh has grown rapidly over the last 3 decades, at an average annual rate of about 10.2%, and makes a significant contribution to the country’s rural economy through farm incomes. The main characteristics of aquaculture in Bangladesh like technical, economic, and terms of environmental performance and producer behavior remain poorly understood by policymakers. This is due to the rapidity of development, and to the diversity of specialized production methods that have emerged in response to local comparative advantages in different regions of the country.

The fish production in Bangladesh has increased day by day in recent years. While the practice of aquaculture was dying in favor of more cost-effective and profit earning ways involving mass aqua-farming and draining water bodies, there has been a surge in its popularity once more as the climate movement advances and as awareness spreads on the increases in production levels that these regenerative ways can bring to the industry.

The main objectives were to promote shrimp aquaculture production to generate foreign exchange earnings, increase the fish availability for domestic consumption, and enhance incomes and employment in the rural areas.

The Main Objectives of Aquaculture in Bangladesh are;

  • Promote the growth of shrimp production from pond culture to generate foreign exchange earnings,
  • Increase the availability of fish for domestic consumption, and
  • Expand employment and also increase incomes in the rural areas.

The main objective of aquaculture especially for rural farmers living in Bangladesh is economic benefits, an influence that is undeniable when it comes to water management. In the planning stages of sustainable aquaculture, it is very important to consider social and environmental viability to achieve a balanced system. Examples such as subsistence farming and integrated farming are social benefit-oriented and the two models intersect to maximize output so that these families can have their livelihoods. The management complexity needs to be integrated into the environment that it is best suited for and ensure that it is not overburdened. Aquaculture farming has the lowest environmental footprint out of all protein sources if implemented properly.

Benefits of Fish Farming/ Aquaculture in Bangladesh

The economy of Bangladesh is dependent on agriculture and agriculture-related business. And fish farming has a great contribution and the benefits of starting fish farming in Bangladesh are;

  • The climate and environmental conditions of Bangladesh are very suitable for fish farming.
  • Various types of fish species are available which are effective for profitable fish farming business.
  • Easy source of water and necessary elements in Bangladesh.
  • A suitable market for selling the products and fish has a great demand to the people of Bangladesh. Thus, you don’t have to think about marketing the products.
  • Fish farming in Bangladesh is a major source of employment and many working facilities can be created through a high-tech commercial fish farming system. Even the unemployed educated people can contribute to this business and create a lucrative business and earning opportunity for them.
  • Developed fish farming methods can produce more and also help to earn more foreign currencies.
  • Various government and non-government fish farming training centers are available.
  • The fish farming business needs some initial investment. Some government banks also providing loans for this type of business with a very low-interest rate.
  • Fish farming in Bangladesh has many benefits. You can take this earning opportunity for making a good profit from the fish farming business.

Small-Scale fish farming/ Aquaculture in Bangladesh

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Small-Scale fish farming
Small-Scale fish farming (image credit: pixabay)

Small-scale fish farming is an important opportunity to generate income and it is an important nutritional source providing protein-rich food all year round for Bangladesh people. It comprises a wide range of options that can be adapted to people living in rural Bangladesh.

The two main approaches implemented on a small scale are;

  • Local pond fish farming
  • Open water fish farming in lakes, dams, rivers, and reservoirs

Bangladesh has flooded annually during the monsoon as water flows through the Ganga (Ganges), Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers. Then, this provides an extensive range of habitats for wild and cultivated fish species. Fishing plays an important role in the economy of rural villages with so much water.

Fertilization is used to stimulate natural feed production in the pond. The vast majority of farmers followed this practice, except those practicing intensive technologies for example koi and pangas culture in ponds in which the majority of fish nutrition was derived from pelleted feeds. Supplementary feeding was common across all methods.

Fishery Resources and Production in Bangladesh

Based on the water area, Bangladesh fishery production can be divided into two types – inland fishery production and marine fishery production.

Inland fishery – Inland water area mainly contains a pond, river, stream outlet, wetland, benchland, and brackish water, etc.

Marine fishery – With the affluent marine water resources, the Bangladesh Department of Fisheries has evaluated its fishery resource to the maximum sustainable earnings and deployed vessels with a tracing and monitoring system. Also, it owns the largest mangrove protection zone (covering an area of 6,000km2 land in its territory) that not only benefits abundant fishery and other natural resources but also acts the main role in shrimp or fish seedlings growing and breeding base. Generally, fish culture in Bangladesh is characterized by the use of both extensive and semi-intensive systems.

Types of Aquaculture in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, two types of aquaculture practices are available. They are freshwater aquaculture, brackish water aquaculture, and also have very small mariculture (infant stage). Aquaculture systems are most extensive and extended extensive, with some semi-intensive and in very few cases intensive systems. The fishery culture has contributed over 55% of inland fish production. Indigenous freshwater carps (22%) and exotic carps (10%) from both the farming and capture sectors are the primary contributors to total production; and other freshwater fish include catfish, snakeheads, and small indigenous species.

The closed water cultured species through sustainable aquaculture are major and exotic carps, striped catfish, and tilapia, and Java barbe. This is carried out in the coastal regions of Bangladesh, mostly in Chattogram and Barishal, where only minimal inputs are used for the natural recruitment of fish.

Carps are the major fishes in pond culture methods. The most preferred fish in Bangladesh is the Climbing Perch (Koi), and Anabas testudineus. Although most of the perciforms are marine, a majority enters the estuaries and rivers for example Pony fishes, Jew fishes (Poa), thread-fins, mullets, and pomfrets, etc. Mixed fish farming is practiced in many freshwater bodies like ponds, lakes, and ditches, etc. Exotic carps like silver carp, common carp, grass carp, catfishes, tilapias, and prawns, etc., are also cultured in ponds to obtain high production per unit area of the waterbody.

Fish Farming Types in Bangladesh

Fish is a very important part of the diet for the people in Bangladesh providing protein calcium, fatty acids, and vitamins. Usually, a variety of local species were used in ponds, mainly carp, caught from the wild as spawn (fertilized eggs or small fish). One of the main drawbacks of this source of supply is that along with the desired fish species come several undesirable ones Most of the species currently used in the cages in Bangladesh are exotics. Though, for decades these fish have bred naturally and distributed themselves throughout the flood plains and the delta.

Common fish types

The selection of a suitable fish species will depend on several biological and economic factors, such as;

  • Market price
  • Growth rate
  • Ability to reproduce the culture of young fish
  • Match of fish and available fish feed
  • Water temperature is an important criterion in assessing which fish species is suitable.

The main types of fishes are Carp, Tilapia, and Catfish. Other fish species suitable for cultivation are eel, tawes, mullet, snakeskin, and rohu. Some fish are more suitable to pond conditions than other types; some fish will not adapt to the confined conditions while others such as the indigenous Koi have been found to thrive in cages.

Small Indigenous Species

In addition to the main cultivated species, there are several indigenous breeds of fish that play an important role in the nutrition of the population. These fish are classed as small indigenous species although not all fish within this classification are small. Common fish within the small indigenous species category are;

  • Small catfish
  • Knifefishes
  • Snakeheads
  • Needlefishes
  • Minnows, Rasboras, and bards
  • Loaches
  • Anchovies and sardines
  • Spiny eels
  • Climbing perch
  • Gobies
  • Mud Perches
  • Glassfishes
  • Freshwater prawns

Small, low-value fish are important for the extremely poor after the rice harvest when the demand for their labor declines.

Cultivated Species and Production Systems of Aquaculture in Bangladesh

There are over 255 species of brackish water and freshwater fish and about 21 species of prawns and shrimp inhabiting natural waters in the country. Carps form the most important economic group and the most common culture systems now in use are the following;

Carp culture in ponds and tanks – This is the most important aquaculture activity in the country, where several species are traditionally cultivated together in the same pond. Major commercial species are Catla catla, Labeo rohita, Cirrhina mrigala and Labeo calbasu.

Fish culture in ox-bow lakes – Some sectors of rivers provide extensive areas for fish farming culture in ox-bow lakes. Though, natural stocking of fish seed takes place in these water bodies during monsoon months, supplementing natural stock with pond-reared fingerlings is necessary to augment production. Some predatory species such as Notopterus chitals, Wallago Attu, Channa Marulius, and Ompok Bimaculatus, etc., together with smaller species of carps such as Cirrhina Reba and Labeo bata are common besides major carps in these waters.

Culture of air-breathing fishes – Clarias batrachus, Freshwater catfishes, and Heteropneustes fossilis, are cultivated on a limited scale in small impoundments which are difficult to clear for carp culture. Controlled breeding and seed production technology is still not developed in the country.

Culture of exotic species of pond fishes – Tilapia nilotica, Cyprinus carpio, Ctenopharyngodon idella, and Hypophthalmichthys molitrix have been introduced into the country and some cultural practices are being developed for these species with major carps.

Culture of freshwater prawns – Usually, Macrobrachium rosenbergii and M. malcolmsoni are available and are cultivated in ponds by adopting traditional practices. Technologies like controlled breeding and seed production have yet to be developed to expand the culture of these species effectively.

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Prawn Culture
Prawn Culture (pic source: pixabay)

Culture of brackish water prawns and fish – Species of marine prawns are commercially important for export markets. The culture of these species is being practiced to a limited extent by trapping juveniles coming in with the high tide in embankments and allowing them to grow for a period of 4 to 6 months. Controlled breeding and hatchery rearing of seed have to be developed to better organize shrimp culture, and external assistance in this area is necessary to stimulate brackish water fish culture.

Nutrition Requirements for Aquaculture in Bangladesh

Process of taking in the food materials and their utilization for maintenance, activity, and fish growth. Like other animals, fish needs some organic materials obtained in the food as a respiratory substrate to provide the energy for maintenance of bodily function and activity and then remaining dietary input to be utilized for growth. Then, these dietary materials are lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates and are used as metabolic fuels by fish.

Results from laboratory studies show that dietary protein should provide about 35 to 45% of the dietary energy for proper nutrition of culture fishes e.g., major carps, other carps, cyprinids, tilapias, and catfishes, etc. So, diets formulated to contain 30-40% protein are adequate for fulfilling the dietary protein requirements of these fishes provided this protein contains all essential amino acids in a good spectrum to get a good growth of fish.

In Bangladesh, the biomass of natural annual fish production cannot meet the increasing demand of the human population and the resulting pressure on aquaculture to enhance the production into higher biomass of fish. This can be done by nourishing the fish properly with supplementary balanced diets prepared from different ingredients. The fish meal being an ideal fish food ingredient in the supplementary diets is expensive and is much more expensive for the general fish farmer of Bangladesh. Continuous efforts are being made to develop fish food from comparatively cheap, locally available ingredients such as soya bean meal, mustard oil cake, sesame meal, rice bran, wheat flour, duckweeds, and leafy grass, etc.

Fish is the main source of animal protein for the Bangladeshi population, especially poor rural households. Fishes are the main source of animal protein providing about 80% of the animal protein intake and 7% of total protein supplies. In terms of weight, fish is the 3rd most widely consumed food nationwide.

Fish Feed Farms in Bangladesh  

In an intensive culture system or even semi-intensive culture system, higher stocking densities of the fish population are maintained. Natural food being inadequate to support higher population densities, it becomes imperative to supply artificial feed for optimum growth and prevention of nutritional diseases. One of the major operational inputs in the successful aquaculture of finfish and shellfish is the fish feed. Up to 60% of the operational expenditure can be required as feed costs in these culture systems. So, considering the specific nutritional requirements of the particular cultivated species, the artificial feeds need to be formulated and prepared by scientifically applying proper processing techniques. A nutrient-balanced diet is better ingested, and is digested and metabolized more efficiently for biomass production whereas, a poor quality feed can cause a problem for growth and water quality that means building up of toxic ammonia, nitrite, and hydrogen sulfide, etc., rendering in fish and prawn/shrimp susceptible to diseases.

There exists a small number of quality fish feed farms in Bangladesh that produce pellet diets for different sized farm fish/shrimp. Then, the main reason behind this is the scarcity of quality fishmeal that constitutes a major feed ingredient. So, the farm authority has to import good quality fishmeal from abroad for producing the feed. Though, several large fish feed farms in Bangladesh produce quality (acceptable grade) fish feed, shrimp feed, special shrimp feed, and feed specially for farming catfish- Pangasias, and Clarius, etc.

Biofloc Fish Farming In Bangladesh

Biofloc fish farming is vital for developing countries like Bangladesh to overcome challenges like a nutrients shortage, the gap between nutrient demand and supply, and competition between water and land. It is possible to produce tons of fish in aquaculture through the Biofloc fish technique with minimum water discharge and environmental degradation and therefore used by Traditional fish farmers to increase production. Though, several tools and equipment are required for Biofloc fish farming which is available in Bangladesh.

The traditional method of fish farming comes with its demerits like time consumption, dependence on nature, harmful effects on the environment, and not enough fulfillment of demands.  So many of Asia’s top shrimp industries are successfully shifting to the Biofloc method, especially in Bangladesh as it is possible to cultivate fish about 10 to 20 times more than traditional methods or any other process. It mainly provides the best utilization of land and water resource and does not compromise on the feeding resources.

Challenges for Aquaculture in Bangladesh

Aquaculture farming in Bangladesh is confronted with a range of economic and environmental concerns. Though, recurrent floods and natural disasters are believed to be the main underlying causes behind this slump. Bangladesh is a low-lying land which makes it extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise, and it is ranked first among countries to be affected by the adverse effects of climate change. The vulnerability of fishery-based livelihoods could substantially increase in the coming decades due to climate change, and in the absence of adaptation, increased frequency and intensity of cyclones result in greater damage to fishing materials. Overexploitation in the coastal region poses important challenges to marine living resources and increases the dependency on distant water fishing in the long run.

In Bangladesh, water pollution is another growing threat to the fisheries sector. Industrial effluent, fertilizer and pesticide run-off, poor sewerage infrastructure, and improper disposal of household waste are the main causes of water pollution in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, the Buriganga River that flows through the capital city is the most polluted river in the country, many parts of which have already turned coal black.

Biosafety and Disease Prevention in Aquaculture

In the rural economy, the freshwater aquaculture system is indispensable in the context of household food security, employment, and incomes for the poor. Though, at present, there are no effective biosafety measures to protect it from possible adverse impacts from future introductions of alien species and farmed organisms, particularly from the introduction of diseases and parasites.

The risks of disease propagation are high. Disease prevention capability like diagnostic and mitigation facilities needs to be developed, along with adoption and implementation of aquaculture health management. Then, such measures depend not only on political will and adequate investment, but also on the farmer’s behavior, researchers, and the general public. And, all parties need to become fully aware of what is at risk from irresponsible introductions of alien aquatic species and farmed organisms.

Loans and Management of the Aquaculture in Bangladesh        

The DoF (Department of Fisheries) was the executing agency of the Project, except for the credit line for which the Bangladesh Bank was designated as the executing agency. Bangladesh Bank channeled the credit line through Rupali Bank, Agrani Bank, and Bangladesh Krishi Bank.

The following institutional bodies are involved in aquaculture in Bangladesh;

  • In Bangladesh, the Department of Fisheries (DoF) under the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (MoFL) is the sole authority with administrative control over aquaculture farming. The Department of Fisheries is managed by a Director-General and has 2 main sub-departments namely, inland and marine. The main responsibilities held by the Fisheries Department include planning, development, extension, and training.
  • Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI) conducts research and to some extent training in aquaculture.
  • Land Administration and Land Reform Division are responsible for the leasing of public water bodies.
  • Export Promotion Bureau is responsible for fisheries products export, along with the Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association which is involved in the export of frozen shrimp, fish and fish products.
  • External Resource Division under the Finance Ministry is responsible for external aid for aquaculture development.
  • Many of the national and international NGOs mainly provide credits to the fish farmers and takes up projects for aquaculture extension and development.
  • Under the Ministry of Youth, Youth Development Training Centers deal with extension and the training of unemployed young people and fish farmers.

Fish Harvesting and Marketing in Bangladesh

Growth is rapid in the warm climate conditions of Bangladesh and the fish attain marketable size within 3-9 months, providing farmers with a rapid return on their investment and labor. Usually, the fingerling production culture cycle is between 1 and 2 months. After that, cage nursery producers can sell fingerlings to the pond farmers and ox-bow lake operators. The fish for food culture cycle is between 4 and 6 months and fish food producers consume the cage fish as well as selling them in the market.

Profitability mainly depends on some factors including the type of water body and culture, cage construction materials, the choice of fish species, fingerling size and price, stocking density, feed price, and availability of protein-rich feed, cage management, harvesting, and marketing. Another concern relates to economies of scale. The cost of the cage per kilogram of production will be higher for a small cage versus a large cage. Though co-operative use of labor can be used to realize economies of scale about labor, and this is already done in many villages. An important proportion of the fish is intended to be sold for cash rather than consumed by the farmer and his family. In those systems which use local food resources like natural foods and kitchen wastes, feed costs are low compared with those for commercial producers.


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