Aquaculture In The Philippines, How To Start

Introduction on How To Start Aquaculture in the Philippines: The aquaculture system contributes significantly to the country’s food security, employment, and foreign exchange earnings. Fish farming is a particular type of aquaculture. It provides a good combination of amino acids well suited to human nutritional requirements. The Philippines have a long history in aquaculture and it involves many aquatic species and farming practices in diverse ecosystems. The aquaculture sector is growing much faster than capture fisheries. Sometimes, aquaculture is also referred to as fish farming. A sustainable aquaculture strategy needs;

  • Recognition of farmers earn a fair reward from fish farming
  • To make sure that benefits and costs are shared equitably
  • To promote wealth and job creation
  • To make sure that enough food is accessible to all people
  • To achieve the environment for the benefit of future generations
  • To ensure that aquaculture growth is orderly, with both authorities and industry well organized

There are mainly two kinds of aquaculture. They are marine and freshwater. The former refers to culturing of marine species like shrimps, mussels, clams, oysters, sea bass, and salmon. These all aquatic species usually live in ponds, lakes, and rivers. Generally, aquaculture in the Philippines was initially dominated by milkfish. Tilapia fish is the 2nd important fish species in the Philippines. Fisheries growth is an important contributor to employment and income, export earnings.

A step by step guide on how to start aquaculture in the Philippines, importance and problems

Fish Farming In the Philippines
Fish Farming (Image source: pixabay)

In the Philippines, fish production from the coastal zone decreased and the fish caught were of lower commercial value. Commercial fishing farming increased in production but existing fishing boats are old and small and lack modern equipment to explore the exclusive economic zone. The Philippines has approximately 330 freshwater fish species.

The future growth of Philippine aquaculture could not be sustained unless new markets are developed, market competitiveness is strengthened, and farming risks are reduced. The Philippine government and the private sector are in the method of preparing a national fisheries development plan which includes aquaculture.

The fisheries sector in the Philippines is mainly classified into capture fisheries and aquaculture. In these, capture fisheries are subdivided into municipal, commercial, and inland fisheries. The Philippines has almost 500,000 hectares of inland bodies of water, comprising about 200,000 hectares of lakes, 246,000 hectares of swamplands, and 31,000 hectares of rivers.

Aquaculture has strong potential for further development in the availability of vast resources like 338,393 ha of swampland, 14,531 hectares of freshwater fishponds, 239,323 hectares of brackish water fishponds, and 19,000 ha of reservoirs in the Philippines. It is categorized according to the environment, farming system, farming technology, and production. For a very long time, aquaculture in the Philippines was virtually synonymous with milkfish culture definitely in brackish water ponds, relying totally on natural food.

Climate change impact in aquaculture in the Philippines

Climate change impact on fisheries is a key issue for fish farming in the Philippines. In terms of income and employment, the fisheries in the Philippines make an important contribution to the national economy. Climate change is considered an important factor for fishing nations, but its impact on fisheries is also a key issue for the Philippines.

Advantages of aquaculture in the Philippines

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Advantages of aquaculture in the Philippines
Advantages of aquaculture (pic credit: pixabay)

Aquaculture is the raising of marine fish and shellfish, which is gaining popularity in meeting this demand. The major advantages of aquaculture can be given below;

  • Source of food – Aquaculture is an effective method to meet the increasing demand for fish species. With an aquaculture system, consumers will be assured of a continuous food supply. Also, this becomes the source of food establishments and restaurants that serve seafood like prawns, clams, and salmon, among others. Also, some fish species are cultured to be fed to carnivorous fish species. Fish and other seafood are good protein sources. They have more nutritional value like the addition of natural oils into the diet, such as omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Source of Income – Aquaculture gives job opportunities for many people.
  • Increase Jobs in the Market – The aquaculture sector increases the number of possible jobs in the market. It provides new products for a market and creates job opportunities.
  • Aquaculture saves time compared to other activities. This boosts entrepreneurship and also provides more hiring possibilities and more jobs.
  • Aquaculture Helps the Economy – Aquaculture is a multibillion-dollar industry. This generates enough money to help provide funding for states, regions, and cities.

Tilapia fish farming in the Philippines

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Tilapia Fish Farming In The Philippines
Tilapia Fish Farming (Image source: pixabay)

In the Philippines, Tilapia plays an important role in food security and nutrition. In the Philippines, Tilapia fish is the 2nd most important freshwater food. Also, the important fish species in the Philippines is the Nile Tilapia (Tilapia Nolitica). Tilapia grows fast compared to other species and reaches the marketable weight of at least 200 grams in less than 6 months. Tilapia species have been introduced into local waterways. Tilapia fish pens are common in the major rivers and lakes in the Philippines.

The success of tilapia farming in the Philippines may be attributed to the suitability of the fish to Philippine conditions, the locally developed technologies for production, and the presence of a vibrant market. The demand for tilapia in major markets of Metro Manila and other population centers of the Philippines is increasing. Freshwater production of Nile tilapia fish in ponds and cages will further expand. Though, the culture of salt-tolerant tilapias in brackish water ponds and sea cages will spread.

The Philippines is the most vulnerable country to extreme weather conditions. Climate and environmental stress in the Philippines have been causing a significant annual decrease in tilapia fish production. Freshwater fish ponds in the Philippines generate 50 to 55% of the total tilapia aquaculture production.

Effects of climate conditions and environmental stress are the main causes of this decrease. Extreme temperature levels and heavy rains that cause sudden changes in important water parameters, such as water temperature, pH level, and oxygen levels, affect tilapia’s growth, breeding success and can even lead to mass fish mortalities. This is supporting fish farmers in winning the race against climate change while contributing to food security.

Pampanga, Batangas, Bulacan, Laguna, and Sultan Kudarat are the top tilapia-producing provinces in the Philippines.

Tilapia production came from freshwater fishponds about 53.88%. The remainder of fish farms from freshwater fish cages about 37.85%, and freshwater fish pens (1.40%), brackish water fishponds about 6.75%, and marine fish cages (0.01%).

Land is a premium commodity in the Philippines, so it is rare to convert good agricultural land into fishponds because this could lower the land market value. Much of the country’s arable land is already being utilized for the agriculture sector, vast areas mainly marine waters, are still under-utilized for aquaculture.

Milkfish product’s popularity in de-boned and smoked forms and their export potential will help to keep the current growth pattern.

The success of tilapia production in the Philippines is attributed to the following points;

  • Government support for research and extension.
  • Cooperation between the government of the Philippines and the private sector and among researchers.
  • Cooperation of many international organizations.
  • Introduction of new breeding stock like Nile tilapia.

Step by step process for fish farming in the Philippines

Fish farming is the fastest-growing production segment in the world. In a controlled or semi-controlled environment, it is a way of raising aquatic organisms commercially to increase productivity. Fish farming is quite a process. Select the location to keep the fish until the final step where you market it.

This process will help you in identifying the best species you can farm and it will guide you on different feeds to give your fish and. While the process of starting a fish farm business is the same for small and large scale farmers. We can start a fish farming business by following these steps;

Select the type of fish farming

Selecting the right fish species plays an important role. The decision must be based on a maintenance point of view, market demand, and availability of resources, etc.

Fish species selection is the most challenging step in the fish farming business. Usually, there are different types of fish types and species. Several factors must be well-thought-out which if not taken into consideration would adversely affect productivity greatly.

Understand the target market

Business planning and feasibility analysis are very important to be done before starting a fish farming business in the Philippines. It is helpful to do deep market research before starting fish farming. Then, try to understand the local market demand. Develop an alternative marketing strategy and consumer types will differ relied on the fish type.

Learn the skills required for fish farming

It is important to have some skills for starting a fish farming business. There are some governments running fish farms that conduct training programs. It will teach you how to perform disease control, water management, and marketing, feeding, and processing for a successful fish farming business. They are given below;

  • Make sure that you have a quality water source.
  • Check if the water temperature level is suitable for raising fish species.
  • Also, we have easy access to the fish pond for harvesting and feeding.
  • Before beginning fish farming test the water carefully.
  • Recognize the modern technical way of risk management.
  • Fish feed is important for a successful business.
  • For the fish farming business, permission and legal compliance are needed.

Pond design and construction

After selecting your farm area, construct a suitable fish pond. Before constructing the pond, make a good design and make the pond according to your desired design. It is useful you can consult with the nearest fisheries institute to learn more about specific pond designs for specific fish species.

Always try to maintain a good environment in the fish pond. A good environment helps to live and grow the fish well, and it involved better production and maximum profits.

Water requirement for fish farming

For rearing fish, a constant water supply is vital. Carefully find a place where there is an interrupted source of fresh and clean water. Locate a place near the river, lake, streams, or even boreholes. Also, the fish pond must be about 0.7 meters deep so you can have successful farming.

Fish feed requirements

After selecting the right fish species, let us see how you feed them. Fish need to feed well to grow healthy for a successful business. Then, this means that buying them supplements will increase their productivity. The fish population must however be limited to ensure that they do not compete for food.

Fish mostly feed on algae, manufactured fish feeds, or water insects. You can buy pellets that are made of soy, maize, vegetable product, and rice. Providing proper care and feed for fish will make them gain weight rapidly and grow fast. By adding some chicken droppings or fertilizer you can spur the growth of algae in the pond. They will grow rapidly, hence providing an additional food source for fish. Fish feeding is best in the morning hours and afternoon. Make sure that you don’t allow any uneaten food to remain in the fish pond for several hours. This is because it may become toxic. Ensure that you insist on the species that there are different supplementary foods for the different fish species.

Control diseases, parasites, and predators

Let the fishpond remain clean to prevent the entry of parasites and diseases. You can seek help and guidance from aquaculture professional on the correct medication can use when treating a sick fish.

Cultured species for aquaculture in the Philippines    

Aquaculture species cultured include milkfish, Nile tilapia, Mozambique tilapia, common carp, bighead carp, and others, walking catfish, North African catfish, snakehead murrel, giant gourami, barramundi, grouper, orange-spotted spine foot, vermiculated spine foot, spotted scat, giant tiger prawn, other penaeid prawns like Indian white prawn, banana prawn, greasy back shrimp, mud crab, giant freshwater prawn, lobsters, slipper cupped oyster, green mussel, abalone, and seaweed.

The aquaculture species in the Philippines are;

Freshwater aquaculture

  • Tilapia mainly Nile tilapia
  • Milkfish
  • Carp mainly bighead carp
  • Catfish

Brackish water aquaculture

  • Milkfish
  • Giant tiger prawn
  • Indo-Pacific swamp crab
  • White leg shrimp
  • Banana shrimp
  • Other marine finfish


  • Seaweeds
  • Milkfish
  • Green mussels
  • Slipper cupped oysters
  • Other marine finfish

Important species in the Philippines

Alumahan – These belong to the family Scombridae. They are common in the Philippines and are found in shallow coastal waters. Alumahan is also called Mackerel. It is also called “Indian mackerel” or simply mackerel is a common saltwater fish species in the Philippines

Bisugo – Bisugo is commonly found in tropical and salty waters which change in size as well. Relatively, they are popular in the Philippine market because they are versatile for many dishes. It is also called a threadfin bream. Also, they are called whiptail breams.

Salay Salay /Apahay – These are easy to catch although their meat is slightly coarse. They belong in the Scad family. This is a deep-bodied Scad known as “Salay Salay” in the Philippines.

Galunggong – Galunggong is popular in Philippine markets. They are found in salt waters. The mackerel scad is a species of fish of the Carangidae family.

Bangus – Bangus is also called milkfish. It is important seafood in the Pacific with the Philippines where there is a major milkfish aquaculture industry. This fish has olive-green skin with silvery scales with a milky white color bottom. It is an adaptable and sturdy fish that can mainly survive in confined spaces, which is the reason why it is widely available all over the Philippines.

Dilis – This is extremely popular in the Philippine market. It is common in shallow saltwater reefs.

Yellow-Fin – This is common in Philippine markets to be identified as “yellow-fin” tuna. This fish is found in the open waters of all tropical regions.

Kitang – This is a popular brackish water fish. In Philippine dishes it is cooked with vinegar, the process is called paksiw in Tagalog.

Maya-Maya – This is popular in Philippine markets. They vary in size that can either be small or big. They are known for their distinct red color and are found in salty environments.

Aquaculture practices in the Philippines

  • The Philippines is carried out in diverse ecosystems using various cultural systems. Milkfish is cultured in brackish water ponds and fish pens in freshwater lakes. Probably no other aquaculture species is produced under a wider range of environmental systems.
  • The level of aquaculture development in the Philippines varies greatly from one species to another. Within species, the culture system ranges from extensive earthen pond systems yielding only 500 kg per hectare land, to highly intensive marine cages capable of harvesting as much as 50 000 kg in an area. Milkfish production mostly comes from brackish water fishponds.
  • Shrimp farming in the Philippines uses a different variety of systems which are mainly affected by the climate, availability of capital, location, and sources of water supply, and cost of farm inputs. Shrimp farming mainly follows the traditional, semi-intensive and intensive system. The 3rd top shrimp-producing country in the world is the Philippines specifically based on the culture of the black tiger shrimp P. monodon known as sugpo. Though, high stocking densities in pursuit of high production have led to the spread of bacterial diseases.
  • Tilapia comes from freshwater ponds and cages. In the semi-intensive monoculture of Nile tilapia in 1-meter deep earthen ponds (0.25-1 ha), fingerlings (0.25-0.5 g) are stocked at 3-5/m2.
  • Oyster and mussel farming in the Philippines takes place in open coastal waters. The methods used for oyster culture are bottom, stake, and hanging either from a rack or raft-rack. The staking process is the most commonly used. In terms of productivity, the hanging process is the most productive, followed by the stake, then the bottom method. Bottom and stake systems are used in shallow or intertidal areas.
  • For seaweed farming methods can be classified under two methods like farming in shallow waters and farming in deep waters. The stake or bottom system is used in shallow waters. Monoline, raft, and spider web systems are used in deep waters. Farming in shallow waters is the simplest and cheapest process. Farming in deep waters means increased production capacity and yield, and a higher value of the seaweed species formed. One of the main disadvantages is the higher start-up capital required.

Brackish water aquaculture in the Philippines

Brackish water ponds range from small and simple water impoundments to huge excavations of complex design. Most fish ponds are built on what used to be mangrove swamps. Brackish water aquaculture is also called coastal aquaculture. It is a rapidly expanding farming activity in the overall fisheries development.

Milkfish – Most milkfish species are produced in the western Visayas, central Luzon, northwestern Luzon, and western Mindanao. Milkfish producers use the extensive culture method with stocking densities of 3,000-7,000/ha. The semi-intensive culture system is now gaining interest among milkfish farmers.

Tiger shrimp – Many shrimp hatcheries closed due to a lack of customers. But the shrimp farmers are now plagued with some serious environmental problems like self-pollution, which causes diseases, poor growth, and high mortality.

Freshwater aquaculture in the Philippines

Nile tilapia – The fish species is well established in lakes, rivers and reservoirs, and fishponds throughout the Philippines.

Milkfish, carps, catfishes – The production of carps including the bighead carp and common carp from ponds and cages.

The Philippines has about 330 freshwater fish species. An example is Sardinella tawilis is a freshwater sardine found only in Taal Lake. Other exotic fish species were also introduced to the lake.

Management applied to main fisheries in the Philippines

The National Wetlands Action Plan for the Philippines mainly identifies the following challenges of priority inland wetlands;

  • Deforestation of upland and mangrove forests
  • Lack of soil conservation for wetlands
  • Biological pollution (introduction of exotic species)
  • The prevalent practice of drainage for agriculture
  • Increasing saltwater intrusion
  • Contamination of freshwater sources

It employs a localized approach to management and community-based participation, even as it is premised on the larger framework of sustainable growth, the prevention of harm, and the continuity of a healthful ecology for the subsequent generation. To provide maximum sustainable yields from resources, the problems in the lake are probably the most complicated among the inland waters.

Care and maintenance in fish farming

  • Fisheries play an important role in food security and livelihood and are a source of income and social growth in developing countries.
  • The basic solution for obtaining better fish yields is good management practices. Some sustainable methods are chosen to make pond preparation.
  • Feed daily during morning and afternoon at one portion of the fish pond. Supplement feeds are useful to gain the total body weight of the fish.
  • By adding more fertilizer maintains the natural fish food. Then, place chicken droppings in sacks and suspend them in the water for the fish pond. Put about 2.5 kg of chicken manure per bag.
  • Maintain a water level depth of about 1 to 1.5 meters.

Fish Marketing in the Philippines

Shorter distribution channels characterize the fish marketing in the country. The system was created with the inherent characteristics of aquatic products. There are mainly four different types of middlemen engaged in fish marketing;

  • Brokers,
  • Wholesalers,
  • Wholesalers-retailers,
  • Retailers.

Tilapia fish is sold to intermediaries, restaurants, and family members. Between 5% and 19% of farmers in the Philippines can sell their fish to restaurants. Operators of small tilapia ponds keep some of the fish for home consumption. Operators of ponds for milkfish are market-oriented.

Role of credit in marketing fish

Credit has been crucial in;

  • Developing the fisheries sector, including aquaculture,
  • Alleviating rural poverty,
  • Improving employment opportunities,
  • Providing a nutritional diet,
  • Increasing export earnings.

Fish traders buy and sell types of fish from freshwater, brackish-water, and marine water fish farming. The majority of traders about 70% obtain their supply directly from fish producers and only 30% from wholesalers. By dealing directly with fish producers, traders are exploring possibilities of increasing profits.


  1. Hello, This is very informative article. It helped me a lot. I want to know about the author of this article. It will be a huge favor If you could help me . Thank you.

  2. This is regards to the Tilapia Farming in the Philippines. What are the Percolation(mm/day), Evaporation (mm/day) and Evapotranspiration (mm/day)? and also what are the farm waste/distribution of fishpond farming?


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