Fish Farming in Africa: How to Start, A Step by Step Guide for Beginners

Fish farming or Pisciculture involves commercial fish breeding, usually for food, in fish tanks or artificial enclosures like fish ponds. In Africa, fish farming is a great way to increase nutrition and self-sufficiency. However, about 90% of farmed fish comes from Asia, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for less than 1% of world production. So let’s check out more information about fish farming in Africa.

Fish Farming in Africa
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Fish is a source of “rich food for the poor people” and could play a key role in improving Africa’s food security. Fish may be the only accessible and affordable source of animal protein for poor households in urban or peri-urban areas. In terms of nutrition, fish is a vital direct source of protein and micronutrients for millions of Africans. But fish also indirectly contributes to the national food self-sufficiency through trade and exports.

Aquaculture and small-scale fishing provide unique opportunities to develop Africa’s rural economy. The largest aquaculture producers in Africa are Egypt, Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Tunisia, Kenya, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, and South Africa. These major aquaculture producers have experienced significant growth in the last decade due to several factors such as capacity building, adoption of good governance, research and development, access to credit facilities, and the promotion of private sector-led aquaculture growth.

Private sector-led initiatives have led to investments in sound management, emerging production systems, the creation and use of aqua feed, and the emergence of dynamic and strong producer associations and service providers. 

Fisheries sector in Africa 

People have been raising fish for livelihood and commercial purposes. Africa is rich in water resources in which fish farming is a lucrative business venture. There are freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers where people can raise fish. If you can raise large quantities of freshwater fish, you can export them to most European countries. The majority of the fish eaten in Africa is derived from commercial fishing.

However, there is an increase in favor of fish farms. Prepared food sustains Africa’s growing nutritional needs, and the aquaculture industry provides local employment as a valuable regular source of income. Aquaculture has proved to be an effective stimulus for economic growth and improving the well-being of local communities. The largest aquaculture producer in Africa is Egypt, with more than 1.3 million metric tons per year.

It is ideal for African counterparts to improve their skills in sustainable fish production. Fishing in Africa can be divided into somewhat simple, large-scale, and small-scale. The small-scale sector, characterized by artisanal fishing methods, was started mostly by Africans to supply local markets. The industry represents an essential source of employment and income for vulnerable, low-income Africans.

In addition to this small-scale sector, the large-scale sector mainly targets different types of exports. The development of fishing in Africa through these water fishing fleets is partly explained by the stagnation and diminishing catches in their national waters or traditional fishing grounds. As a result, foreign fishing companies later expanded their operations to Africa to maintain supply. 

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Steps to start fish farming business in Africa

Start small

It will help you understand whether fish farming is the right business for you: It is essential because, without proper research, planning and budget. It will boost your confidence and open your eyes to understanding the market: In addition to feeding, the second challenge facing fish farmers is marketing. Yes, the market is readily available, but going to market and getting out of it with huge profits. A lot of techniques and connections are needed. 

Be patient

Patience is a virtue if you want to succeed as a fish farmer. On a serious note, if you do not have the patience, please do not go fishing. 

Don’t think of immediate profit

Unlike most businesses, profits will not come immediately. Instead, it can take a year or two years to reap the benefits.

Be prepared to work hard

Of course, fish farming is easy, but you also have to be prepared to work hard. 

Decide the nature of your fish farm

Firstly, you need to decide where to raise the fish. There are many regions where you can fish from rivers, lakes, and ponds. However, the best way to raise freshwater fish is through fish ponds. That way, you don’t have to design your fish pond. 


Depending on your budget and investment portfolio, you can use concrete pools, earthen ponds, or tarpaulin tanks. Concrete and earthen ponds will require the services of a fish specialist who will guide an architect in the construction process. Make sure that the water control structure on the tank fits well.

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Fish Pond
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Water source

You need to find a water source for the fish pond. There should be inflow and outflow of water. Inflow and outflow must be at the same rate. The inflow of water ensures a large amount of oxygen in the water. The mild water flow prevents significant algae from getting out of the pond. 

Select fish species

Catfish and tilapia are the two most cultured fish species in Africa; before choosing a type of fish for culture, make sure you do market research to find out if People will buy fish in your market environment. You also need to outline potential competitors and potential buyers, which will help you develop a framework for your marketing strategy. Once you have decided on a species based on market research, you can go to the next level and buy juvenile fish from any well-known fish farm or through a consultant. 

Essential factors to consider when selecting fish species
  • Types of fish with high demand in the market. 
  • Species of fish mature in a short time. 
  • Species of fish whose feed is readily available. 
  • Species of fish that can grow in climatic conditions in your area. 

Water/drainage facilities

Fish, live in the water, so depending on your culture cycle, to get good quality stock after four months or more, you need water/drainage for your fish pond. 

Fish feed

Feed is the first fish farming challenge in Africa. Most of the commercial feeds we have are very expensive, and the return on investment is always low after each growth cycle. So, in addition to commercial feeds, you have to think about how to prepare your feed while developing if you want to get maximum profit from fish farming. The fish feed you can give your fish includes crumbs, dry sinking pellets, wet sinking pellets, and floating pellets.

You can prepare fish food manually. You need to understand the essential nutrients for fish. Ensure you feed them at the right time, in the right quality, and with the right amount of nutrients. Ensure they are fed between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the fish are active and have high dissolved oxygen levels. 

Regulating aquaculture sites in Africa

Fish farms have the potential to feed the entire continent and increase economic strength. However, reaching the proper level of durability is not as easy as turning the switch. It takes time to develop the right methods and techniques to the foundation for economically and environmentally successful sites. Regular, efficient, and ongoing inspections of fish farms will ensure that each site meets the appropriate standards.

They can be based on research and standards developed to promote and protect the unique practices of African aquaculture. Analysis of the success of African aquaculture development shows that when relevant technical knowledge was available and applied in economic, institutional, and policy contexts conducive to the acquisition and expansion of technology, fish farming accelerated.

In other words, aquaculture exceeds small-scale isolated achievements and has broader provincial or sub-effects when a specific set of conditions is met. The challenge now is to help further these achievements and replicate them in other countries. We propose two major ways to do this;

  1. Support the development of small and medium aquaculture enterprises (SME aquaculture) and 
  2. Support the culture of ponds on small owner farms. 

Key challenges for fish farming in Africa 

Africa’s fish farming key challenges include the lack of affordable quality inputs, especially seeds and feed on a few species for aquaculture (currently, blue tilapia and African catfish are part of more than 95% of the crop). 

Other issues include lack of technical knowledge among aquaculture practitioners in Africa, inadequate policy and regulatory framework to support sector development, risks of climate change and biosecurity, and inadequate public and private expenditure on aquaculture development, but insufficient public and private spending. Inadequate application of local solutions and lack of information and data to influence decision-makers and financial institutions. 

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Fish Farm
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The lack of adequately trained staff to start production programs is one of the major obstacles to aquaculture development in Africa. Qualified employees are primarily involved in research or management work. Most extension services and production activities are performed by fishers who do not have the necessary practical skills in fish farming. 

Other major challenges facing the sector include the growth of fish seeds, high mortality rate and poor aquatic health management, costly fish feed (up to 60-70% farming costs), post-harvest losses, and costs including low increments. However, interventions under the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) program are expected to increase fish production over the next five years, benefiting 1.15 million aquaculture value chain actors through food security and improved income. The 5,500 km coastline of West Africa is home to some of the most diverse fishing in the world. 

proven technologies for promoting aquaculture in Africa 

The TAAT Aquaculture Compact launched aquaculture for representatives of the National Agricultural Research and Extension System (NARES) and Aquaculture Value Chain actors from all ten countries. 

AARTC, a regional center for genetic research and aquaculture innovation, has developed rapidly growing breeds of tilapia and catfish, attracting more than 2,000 government officials, university staff, farmers, and extension workers from 105 countries. Egypt is the largest producer of aquaculture in Africa. Therefore, it is ideal for African counterparts to hone their skills in sustainable fish production. 

Fish species available in Africa

The majority of the fish farming in Africa are tilapia and catfish. Sardines, anchovies, horse mackerel, and axillary seabream are popular on the African coast. In addition, Africa is known throughout the continent for farming tilapia and catfish. Nile tilapia and African catfish are likely to continue to dominate freshwater aquaculture. Other widely cultivated tilapia include the three-spotted tilapia, blue tilapia, and Mozambique tilapia. 

Some fish species perform well in most African countries, such as the Nile Perch, Tilapia, Trout, and Catfish. However, first, consider the diet of each fish and determine if you can get its diet. For example, the blue perch eats other fish, insects, and crustaceans. 

Tilapia fish is one of the most profitable fish for the farm due to its fast growth and one of the easiest fish to grow. Catfish are a good choice, especially for beginners, because of their taste and ability to resist diseases and parasites. It is also essential to consider the climatic conditions each fish can breed. Some perform well in cold regions and some in warm regions.

Freshwater fish species in Africa

  • Awaous aeneofuscus
  • Redigobius dewaali
  • Humpback Largemouth
  • Brown spot Largemouth
  • Chetia flaviventris
  • Oreochromis placidus
  • Sargochromis giardi
  • Tilapia ruweti

Developingf ish farming in Africa

Aquaculture will play a growing role in food security in Africa. The small-scale integrated fish farming system will provide alternative and additional employment opportunities for the growing rural population in remote areas. Opportunistic micro or small-scale businesses in peri-urban areas near urban centres will be affected by the demand of the urban population for high-quality fish products.

Finding appropriate institutional settings (public, private or public-private partnerships) that ensure the creation and maintenance of effective extension services to support these new rural and peri-urban micro-enterprises with the significant investment will be required. Improving value added through better market chains – Post-harvest losses account for more than 30% of the catch in many parts of Africa.

It doubles the impact on food security by reducing producers’ incomes and the total amount of fish available to consumers. Due to the weak market infrastructure and facilities in rural areas, most fish – especially in inland fishing – are still sold as dried and smoked products. There is an urgent need for local government and private investment to support small-scale marketing initiatives in these areas.

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Fish Farming
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Such measures can dramatically improve food and food security for producers and (rural and urban) consumers, leading to better income for producers and better quality and higher quantities for consumers, leading to rural development. It will also help motivate and empower women entrepreneurs financially. Increasing benefits of local, national, and regional fish trade – Africa’s local and regional fish trade is already very large.

Still, it has the potential to expand further and help stimulate markets on many levels. As a result, regional cooperation policies can have a significant impact on promoting trade and strengthening national and regional food security. 

Helping decision-makers with relevant information – Efforts should be made to monitor the impact of fish supply and trade (changes in market structure, price changes, etc.) on the national population’s food availability and nutritional status. ۔ This monitoring should be done in partnership with the National Health Services, requiring feedback. To improve the role of fish as an essential factor in food and nutrition security in Africa, in fisheries management systems, and other related decision-making areas.

Frequently asked questions about fish farming in Africa (FAQ)

Is Tilapia in Africa? 

The Nile Tilapia, which occurs naturally in a large part of North Africa, was civilized by the ancient Egyptians more than 3,000 years ago. However, many other tilapia species are found in different parts of Africa, many are traditional edible fish, and some have been used in aquaculture. 

Where do tilapia come from in Africa? 

Based on the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), almost all tilapia grown in Africa – especially Uganda, Nigeria, Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, and Ivory Coast – feed locally, with very limited exports. 

Which area is the most significant fish production in Africa? 

Morocco (top with 29%), Namibia (15.8%), South Africa (12.3%), Mauritius (7%), and Senegal (6.3%) – are among the top 50 global fish exporters, Morocco in world trade Contributes 1.1% and Namibia about 0.6%. 

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Tilapia Fish Farming
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How many species of fish are there in Africa? 

Africa is also home to more than 3,000 species of fish, some of them extremely cold species that are the last remnants of ancient species more than 100 million years old. 

What fish are native to Africa?

Some of the country’s endemic fish species include the Plain Squeaker, Cape Needlefish, Sixgill Hagfish, Freetail Brotula, Cape Stumpnose, Phongolo Suckermouth, Southern Dwarf Minnow, White Barbel, Hyphen Barb, and Leaden Labeo.


  1. Dear Sir, I am based in South Africa, I want to start a fish farming project. And I picked up your article and I am very much interested.

  2. I am interested to start fish farming. Please keep on sending me information about this type farming. And your given information on how to start a fish farming will be helpful.

  3. Thank you, I have learnt so much and I hope to start soon. Trusting that I will have a start up boost.


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